The Twelfth


s_aaron_icon.gif abby_icon.gif s_bao-wei_icon.gif s_logan_icon.gif s_tamsine_icon.gif nightmare_icon.gif

Scene Title The Twelfth
Synopsis The mother of one of the 36 gets an idea of what drove her daughter and so many others into committing suicide. And coming to her rescue is a whole array of fantastical creatures.
Date February 6, 2010


The first things that tug on the senses would be the sounds of crying. Then one, dark hallway that stretches on as far as the eye can see, lined with benches and chairs, where men and women, children and teens, all sit, sobbing into their hands, onto their mother's arm, into napkins and towels. Shapes and figures more than recognizable people, some give off a flicker recognition, but it fades soon, as the dream moves on. It's almost as if the floor itself moves forward, a convayer belt waiting to dump those riding on it off at their destination.

Which would be two large metal doors at the very end of the hall.

The doors open, allowing the dreamer to step inside, where a man in a long white coat stands, arms folded, face obscured, gesturing with a hand toward a set of metal slab of a bed, where a sheet covers a small body. His hand moves to pull back the sheet, so that the face can be seen. As soon as the sheet pulls back, a bright light overhead comes on, near blinding, shining down in the darkness to illuminate a young face.

Lily'd always had a darker complexion than her mother, but somehow it looks washed out, paler, looking more translucent, the imperfections in her young skin much more visible than ever.

Eyes pop open, faded and dead, ones that couldn't possibly see, but someone look directly at the face of her mother, standing nearby. The dreamer pulled into a horrible half memory. The voice is grated, hoarse, but familiar, even if it hadn't really been heard in so long, "Now that you're having another child, what makes you think you'll do it right this time?"

The doors slam shut again, a lock setting into place. Only these long mirrors can be seen on the sides, a flicker of black and white dancing along the edges, before fading out of sight.

The woman's red brows furrow as she looks at the man in the lab coat — it's not her doctor, not anyone she knows. Why is she here, and how is it possible that Lily is there, on the metal slab, looking as if she'd died just hours ago, rather than months ago, when she's pregnant? The timeline makes no sense, and even in this dreamland state, Tamsine's mind is conscious of the fact. "This isn't real," she whispers, but her pale arms move to wrap around herself for warmth as she stares at the corpse of her child, one hand moving to her still-flat stomach as if to protect the life that grows there from the unkind words of the man in the labcoat, as if she would shield it from any poisoned word that might harm it — or its opinion of her as its mother.

She looks over her shoulder, alarm in her dark eyes at the slamming of the door, before turning back to face the inquisition.

"I know better now — I won't hide anything from this baby. I'll let him or her know that being Evolved isn't something to be afraid of or ashamed of," Tamsine says, lifting her chin as if defiantly, though her trembling voice belies the courage she attempts to show.

Abigail's comes too in the corner of the room with it's mirrors and Tamsine with her dead daughter laid out on the table. One minute she was elsewhere in dreams too vauge and foggy to remember, and the next, she is coming into being like a silent mist till the southern woman in her church whites is in a corner, her breathing adding quietly to the room, blonde hair back and blue eyes watching. Recognition flaring moments later. This isn't hers, this is something else and with that realization and a glance around, it's of Hokuto's making. Best to pay attention now, and she does after another quick glance around then back to Tamsine and her back.

They'd paper-scissors-rock'd for it. The businessman had probably cheated and won. It's hard to play that game with yourselves.

One of the mirrors shimmers images across it, of red and gold and silver, senseless and shining and gone back to reflection in the next moment. The glass splits and fragments like ice as a man steps through it, spiderweb cracks making breaking sounds across the surface until he's clear of it, and the mirror reflection heals back over, leaving only a smear of blood behind. Logan is dressed in what he identifies as his Linderman best — not a leopard spot or tiger stripe to be seen, a black suit, a white shirt and a red tie making up the well-dressed employee he has ambitions and designs of being.

An effect spoiled through bruises, a black line at his lip from where someone's gone and split it, blood staining almost purpled against his white collar and one hand bandaged across the knuckles where the wound beneath already bleeds free. This places down on the wolf headed cane of which he sets the tip to the ground, all shining black and silver. Ice-pale eyes dance over the scenery, undaunted by unfamiliarity.

There is not a particular place for something not belonging to the theme of visiting a morgue- maybe a strange figure in a hallway painting, at first, but otherwise Bao-Wei as his persona- his good side- has been having quite the time zeroing in on where to insert himself. The soul of him refuses to be a man where he doesn't have to be one- and for Cong, that's enough. Besides- dreams don't always need to make sense.

Abby will sense a phantom weight hanging from her shoulder, before the air behind her gives a warped ripple and something more firm grasps onto the cloth draped on her frame. Should she actually look- she gets an eyeful of minute scales as the chihuahua-sized dragon alights there for a moment, silent and indecisive on moving onward again. Should the girl keep looking to it, the creature will eventually flick its ears and cock its head to peer back, orange eyes like little embers of coal.

Sapphire blues light up the darkness of one corner for a moment as Aaron Michaels appears, shrouded in the silhouette of a large creature with three heads— the mythical chimera. Aaron's boots touch the ground, his black duster swaying ever so slightly as he finishes materializing. For a moment, he looks somewhat dazed, still in the throes of the sensation that captivated him as he stepped through that particular mirror. Once that moment has passed, he takes in his surroundings, noting the presence of Abigail first, and then Tamsine. Of course, she's very familiar to him, having sought her out for weeks after he saw her with the black hole of despair and that young brunette. Then he realizes just where it appears he is standing in. A morgue?

We're all scared.

The voices are disembodied, coming from all directions, a mix of thirty-five voices all speaking at once. Young voices. Boys and girls.

Scared because we're different from everyone else.

The corpse on the slab-like bed looks toward those who've appeared, but then focuses attention on Tamsine. Her mother. Or at least the mother of the body she's in. The doctor suddenly has a scalpel in hand, twisted under as he turns to face the group that's trespassing.

"You should leave a mother to mourn in private," he says, voice thick, unrecognized, almost as if it's been ran through a sound mixer one too many times.

The corpse sits up on the slab-like bed, the sheet dropping away from her body, but the light somehow bright enough where it hits her skin to obscure her figure. Only her face is really visible, her sickly unclean hair. "Even if you've changed, what makes you think this world is one to bring a child into? Has it really changed since we saw no other way out, than death?"

We're too scared to stay here anymore.

The small woman who looks almost as young and frail as the corpse on the slab turns as she sees the dreamwalkers appear, her confused face pale as moonlight against hair that seems blood-red in comparison in this nightmarescape. "Who —" she begins, blinking with bewildered fear, when suddenly she hears those voices, saying those words that are forever etched on her heart, forever echoing in her ears — the words of the 36, 35 of which had died, their last message to the world they'd chosen to leave behind.

But before she can react to those voices, the corpse is moving — she doesn't see the knife as her eyes are only for her daughter. Dead or not, Lily is hers, and she can't turn away, not even in fear or revulsion.

"Lily — you know I was there for you — if you just asked… things didn't have to be this way. You told me it was okay — you told me it wasn't my fault!" Tamsine whispers, reaching out for her child. "I'll do whatever I can to keep this baby safe. You know that. The world might not be perfect, but we can't give up or they've won, don't you see?"

One hand rises as if to swat off whatever the weight is on her shoulder, hand held at bay only by the sight of something that in Abigail's world would never really be called a dragon. The green scaly form is stared at for a handspan of minutes before she's flicking attention back to the man who chastizes them all for being there. All being Logan, Aaron, and presumably this thing on her shoulder. She doens't have a shadow yet, hasn't spent time trying to find one.

"With all due respect sir, it's not your place to tell us what to do. If she doesn't want us here, then she'll just tell us and i'm sure we can all come away from here and back from when we came" She keeps her voice low to preserve respect for Tamsine and the conversation with presumably her dead daughter given the topic at hand though she moves forward to ease up behind the woman and lay a hand on the red heads shoulder and give a gentle squeeze. "I'd say hush yer mouth before I ask Logan to get his sword out and hush it for you" To the doctor. Not Tamsine or her daughter.

Logan's head tilts to the side, eyes glinting cold, nearly reptile-like and without particular change of emotion when the Baptist girl threatens his own blade against the foe. He doesn't encourage or discourage, but he does step forward, the play of light over the worsted wool of his expensively cut jacket shining up glimmers of something more silken. Looking directly at him shows only a businessman, but out his periphery, it's almost a hologram effect of something else superimposed over his form. His cane clicks along with each step.

His voice is one, though, a mix of dull apathy and sharper threat as he tells Tamsine, "That isn't your little girl."

The dragon, while not one to Abby, knows he happens to be one- the stare he gives her is Draconic in nature, and some features echo his origins. The tail behind him bumps idly against the top of her spine, mentally steadying him there when his perch moves forward towards Tamsine. While Abby gives her words of assurance and then of warning, the dragon on her shoulder casts a careful examination over the details of the room, and the table below- and finally the doctor, which earns a small flaying of orange whiskers into the air, and curling lips lifting over ivory teeth.

Orange eyes swivel towards Logan when he finally speaks for himself, the embers in his eyes shining with a new measure of steeliness. Perhaps nobody was really expecting something to come out of him- or perhaps they reserved judgment. Nevertheless, when the down-sized dragon speaks up after Logan, his rumbling voice sounds as if it were coming from a sizable beast, rather than the pint-sized one. Any of the utensils not strapped down to tables seem to vibrate with it. Abby should virtually feel it in her skull; though not uncomfortable, it is a low sound somewhat like standing too close to a subwoofer or a speaker.

"It is but a shadow of her memory." And for a second time, the dragon grits his jaw towards the mortician, lowering his skull to posture the pair of ivory horns.

Such anger is not something Aaron can recall witnessing from Abby, but then, he's not seen her in quite a long time. And he had nearly missed spotting the pint-sized dragon until it spoke. There's little more than an arched brow, however, in response. Dreams, as he has discovered, are oh-so-bizarre. He can't say 'shadow' is an appropriate word, though. "More like an insult, really," he says, stepping forward from the shadows. Whatever silhouette lingers behind him remains in the shadows, though there is a faint rustling sound and small and vague shadows appear around him on the floor. "An insult to her memory." His eyes flicker to Logan. A man he can agree with. And not that Tamsine really needs another person saying it, but he does anyway: "That's not your daughter."

We just… don't know what else to do."

"And how does she protect my memory?" Lily asks, shifting to slide her legs off the bed, while the doctor stands where he is, glancing back as if to await instruction. "How long did she wait til trying to replace me," this time her voice almost seems to become grating, like the vocal cords are starting to fall apart, like talking becomes harder. Despite the fact she's obviously naked, nothing of her is visible under the bright light.

Nothing except her face, her dead eyes, and her moving lips.

"Of course I can't be her daughter. Her daughter died."

…We're doing it like this so we can all go together.

"The twelfth of thirty-six who would rather die together than live in this world that no child should ever have to be brought into."

Tamsine's dark eyes are fixed on her daughter's — dead as they are, there is a family resemblance, especially in the eyes — despite the interruptions from the dreamwalkers who now surround her. "I can't turn my back on her, not … not if she's here and needs me," she says, her head tilting to murmur to the others, though her eyes never leave Lily's face.

"She… or he… isn't replacing you. I didn't plan for it to happen, you know that," Tamsine says, a tear streaming down her cheek, catching in the corner of her mouth as she speaks. "The world isn't all bad… there are good people in it…" That makes her falter, as she turns to look, finally at the faces surrounding her. "Good people," she echoes, faltering in her resolve to stay with her dead daughter.

Clang. That would be Logan's cane coming metallic down on a smooth surface within the morgue, after a few swift pacing steps of listening, a look of familiarity cast towards the dragon and its deep bass voice, and towards the unfamiliar shape of Aaron and the stranger shadows he has around it. For now, Tamsine gets sharp punctuation in the form of the connection of hard, metal-filled wood bouncing off against steel, before he's setting it down against the ground once more, hands primly set upon it.

"Stop talking to it," is rational advice — none of the heart-felt pleas of his teenage-self, or the blustery courage and confidence of the one that steers a unicorn bestest. Impatient pragmatism instead, which isn't necessarily helpful to someone caught grieving in a dream.

"You're not replacing her" Abigail takes Logan's words at a nod, opting to focus on and verbally support Tamsine and not flinch at the impact of cane with table. "She's there still not in body, but in memory and soul, always will be. And whatever you carry will hold a place right there beside her in your heart. Logans right. Don't look at it or talk to it. It's just the Nightmare Man. Your daughter, your real daughter i'm sure, would not begrudge you happiness if you were able to find it after" Her hand still rests on Tamsine's shoulder, Bao still clinging comfortably to hers. Something dark and smokey coalesces on her own other shoulder but has yet to form into anything specific.

For a moment or two, the dragon dips its head further to peer under the curve of Abby's neck, towards the other shoulder. He seems initially interested, but the task at hand pulls him back, and his eyes venture towards Tamsine once again. Small nostrils flare on his face, and the paws grasping onto Abby's shoulder shift to find what looks to be a better footing, back feet propped against the rear of her shoulder. It's awkward, but manageable.

"There is nothing left but to honor her real memory and move on. Do not be ashamed of such a thing." He's not.

Aaron looks towards Tamsine with a look of sadness drawn upon his face. He can understand well what she must be going through. Pain and grief are emotions he is far too familiar with. He pays particular attention to the eerie choir of voices, tilting his head towards the ceiling for a moment before looking at the phantasm, the twisted shadow of memory. The small shadows around him follow as he steps closer, the large three-headed chimera shadow still looming in the corner from whence he appeared.

"Listen to me. Whatever you may believe, this thing is not your daughter. It's just using you, trying to get you to become another one of its victims. That's how it works. It twists our memories, our fears, against us. You don't have to let it. You can fight it. Your daughter's death was not your fault." Aaron holds out a hand to the grieving mother. Unlike others, he doesn't make contact, but merely offers it.

"Wasn't it?" Lily asks, voice continuing to darken and thicken. The light in the center of the room stays bright, but the walls shadow more and more. Only a flicker of white in the background of the mirrors can be seen every so often, like someone's watching. Or waiting.

Get on the news.

"Did our deaths really make the world a better place? Did it change anything at all?"

Get it out there.

"People knew it happened, but did they do anything? It made you register mom, but what else did it do?" Even if they're saying not to talk to her, she keeps talking, she takes a bare footed step closer to her mother, reaching out with pale hands, fingernails yellowing. Splotches of decay begin to appear in certain areas— her hair seems to grow, but it's hair getting pushed out as her skin tightens.

Make it mean something okay?

"Whose fault is it, if it's not hers?"

The clang of Logan's cane makes Tamsine jump, her heart pounding as she turns toward the noise. Then that thing is growling, and Abby and Aaron — she somehow recognizes both despite the shadows, though she'd have trouble placing where — speak to her and she turns to face each in kind, backing away finally from the girl who claims to be Lily.

"I had another dream," the redhead murmurs, her face averted so she can do what they say. The words are not spoken to the Thing That Is Not Lily, but instead to Abby and Aaron, Logan and Bao-Wei's draconic form, those she can make eye contact with. "She told me this wasn't my fault. Lily wouldn't blame me. It's not Lily." There's an almost manic grin at that realization, coming all the more true as she speaks it. She repeats it. "It's not Lily."

"So how do I get out…?" Tamsine whispers, taking another frantic step away from the rotting corpse. The realization serves another purpose, however: She's now afraid of the thing in the room with them.

"You come with us." Rotting corpse, rotting corpse, just gross. "And we'll get you out of here." If others in the room have suggestions, she's sure that they'll speak up as well. Abby's other hand comes down on tamsine's other shoulder and steers her away from the corpse, interposing the blonde's own body. The shapeless shadow on her shoulder takes it's form finally, a literal shadow of a round fat bellied bird, Cardinal. "We're leaving. Aaron, Logan, … thing on my shoulder. lets get her out of here. You don't have to be afraid, it's not real, it can't hurt you and won't. We'll stop it before it can even think of it."

There's an additional sound entering the room, a thunder of feet against ground, too far away to hear the sharper impact — only the echo and the shudder of the ground as if each strike were enough to cause a minor earthquake. Logan, meanwhile, only tucks his cane under an arm and takes out his cigarette case, going about the procedure of lighting up. His attention has shifted from Tamsine to eye the characters within her personal hell with obvious distrust.


Bao-Wei's response to the now undead thing is very harsh, but the dragon speaks the truth. "Yours, for beginning all of this." The club of his tail hovers behind his frame, swaying from one side to the other. The fur on him seems to bristle, already coarse orange hackling up. The creature there threatens to crouch down and simply vault off of the young woman he has as a perch. "Utter fault lies with only one, this time. You began it, others shall finish it."

Of course, Aaron has the vague feeling that it can hurt them, given what it's managed to pull in the past. It nearly killed Peyton, so it's not that it's completely harmless. He nods to the miniature dragon, and then addresses the rotting not-Lily, "Yours and yours alone, Nightmare Man." A smile creeps on Aaron's lips and he holds his arms out at his side, "Remember us?" A golden glow of light radiates from him for a moment, and all of the small shadows that once crept along with him appear to be something else. Stuffed animals. Teddy bears, stuffed lizards and dragons and alligators. Every sort, it would seem. And then there's the large one behind him, an amalgam of them all, a chimera of plush toys.

The room seems to expand in size, walls expanding outward, except the one with the wide double doors. The locks are still firmly in place, and now the doctor moves toward the door to stand between them and it, even as the rumbling earthquakes get louder. With just a tiny scalpel, he's not going to be able to do much, but his eyes are suddenly black.

Maybe he can attack the bird, or the stuffed animals, but the dragon may not have much trouble.

The shadows also bend and flex, and more walking corpses stumble out. All teenagers, boys and girls, who have dead eyes and rotting flesh.

Shasta can make ice.

One of the corspes raises arms as the room pludges into freezing temperatures. It'd been cold before, but now uncomfortably so.

Billy … he could throw energy bolts of some kind.

Another raises a hand up, and a energy beam begins to form around his hands, crackling as he tosses it towards the army of stuffed animals.

Liliana Whitaker. 14. Telekinesis.

The daughter's hands raise higher, and begin making a grabbing motion, groping for her mother.

"They were among the first victims," the scalpel wielding doctor says finally, voice overprocessed still. "But they certainly won't be the last. All she has to do is step forward, and she can be with her daughter again."

"What—" Tamsine says, frowning at the doctor's words. "This… this was because of nightmares?" Her face grows paler still, if possible, ghostlike as she stares at the faces of the children she had known for the past decade — Lily's schoolmates. "Oh, God…" she covers her mouth, and grabs, not for her daughter's hands, but for those who are there to protect her: Logan, Abby, Aaron, Bao-Wei. "Hurry," she says, concentrating on her home — imagining being safe in her living room, safe away from this place, away from that doctor and the thirty-five corpses of children. A 'window' opens, a rip in the space of the dreamscape, and she pushes them through.

The bird on Abigail's shoulder is getting bigger, increasing in volume and more than a little scary looking in it's silouette. The cold wicks away her breath some and she maneuvers herself still to keep between Tamsine and her faux-daughter. Until the rip opens and there's a different place on the other side. Tamsine learned to open a safe place? On her own or had Hokuto been to her before and taught? Doens't matter as Abby's looking to the others then jerking her head towards the window of opportunity, pulling Tamsine along with her even as the other woman tries to push her.

Logan barely registers Tamsine's nifty little escape route, breath coming in short and sharp, steam against the icy chill of the air. As energy crackles, thrown towards the little army of plush toys, it blanches out the glow of green eyes, but that doesn't stop the blanket of negation from wrapping around the one sending the room into a deep freeze. Even as the chilliness lessens, frost makes a pattern up his sleeves that he's forced to brush off, before gripping the wolfhead of the cane and drawing the sword from its wooden sheath with a high pitched ring.

There's no particular indication as to when that distant thunder finally gains ground, except for the ring of metal against concrete, and then suddenly a gunshot like slam as hooves hit the doubledoors. They scream open, sending the doctor landing on his stomach, before golden hooves come down crushingly on his spine. The unicorn lightly continues her pace, cantering the periphery of the room, all gleaming gold and white.

"Go, I'll hold 'em off," he tells the people who are probably already going, the slender sword-cane like a giant silver needle as he moves towards the nearest teenager, a smile finally breaking across his former moody stoicism and cracking the old wound at his mouth to bleed anew.

Bao-Wei's small frame gives a shudder as the air turns frigid, the coarse fur along his spine beginning to bristle around him like a mane, which sprouts warm along his torso and limbs. As Tamsine begins her personal epiphanies, the dragon on Abby's shoulder crouches before hopping off into the air in front of them. He lands with a resounding creak on the metal table nearly in the midst of things, that chosen scaly body shedding illusion and growing in size until the steel under him threatens to buckle to one side. The dragon breaches the size of a pony, just large enough to disrupt a great many things if he chose to start bullying around.

And he does, mind you, now that he is practically in the middle of everything.

Claws dig into the steel of the table, piercing through the surface to root him; his head cranes back with a massive inhale of breath, which expands his ribcage like some monstrous toad. Under his jaw, tucked deep in that hollow where bone parts for muscle, is a single mound that seems connected to flesh- the thing is only visible when the dragon happens to lift his jowls from his neck- the cream sheen of a natural pearl, set under his chin. There is not much time to make note of it, but the white crackle that bolts under its surface like a tesla coil flashes it into attention.

Even school children know that a dragon breathes fire. But very few of them know how to avoid it when it comes; and it does come. The breath he took in rushes out of an open maw with a thunder of hot air, dragonfire spilling brightly over the shadows and undead, licking at even the far corners of the expanding room. It lights up the world in orange, as Tamsine tries to rush others the new door that she has made.

Well, that was unexpected. Aaron tightens his duster around himself as the room temperature plummets, the undead Evolved army trying to kill the plush toys of his dead girlfriend. Oh Hell no. The first ones lose their stuffing, tufts of cotton filling flitting through the air to the floor with the fuzzy husks strewn about. Their master's eyes narrow, though he is distracted as Tamsine makes her escape with the others, and the man — with the cane, sword, and … unicorn? — and monster seem intent on sticking behind, Aaron decides they can do so. Thus, the Lightbringer follows after the person whose dream has been invaded. Seems more important than wasting any energy on defeating the machinations of the Nightmare Man.

Cotton filling retracts into plush bodies, the stuffed animals restitching and forming anew. As the great plush chimera becomes a shadow once more, so do its minions, and they all follow Aaron through the window into Tamsine's living room.

Mark Dupont. 13. Pyrokinetic.

As the fire spews out among the many decomposing corpses angling toward the opening as if to follow, one of them raises a hand and the flames move around him, protecting him, and a couple of the corpses behind him. Liliana seemed to be the first one to disappear among the flames.

One stumbles through the fire, flesh burning away from his bones, as he reaches out toward Logan, a crackle of energy still gathering around his now skeletal fingers. As half pile through the whole into Tamsine's living room, some of them stay behind, as many skinless skeletal creatures rise back up, reaching toward the dragon and the unicorn and rider…

The door closes behind them.

The sword swings, lashing across the emacipated, leather-burned cheek of one of the teenagers and sending it staggering back, but not before that crackle of energy flares its light through all the fire. Logan whips his attention towards it, eyes going traffic light green but not soon enough as energy sears the air, streaking towards him. Lithely turning on its golden feet, the unicorn suddenly leaps towards him, and as it soars through the air, its glossy white coat turns to billowing silk, shining golden mane turning into coiffed blonde curls, four legs turning into two and a pair of outstretched arms as a woman wraps an embrace around his shoulders.

Those on the retreat will see the last few moments of the strip club manager getting tackled aside by the woman in white, her sandaled feet flashing as they both tumble out of the way.

But what about the living room? At first it seems normal, just like she left it (with a lot of stuffed animals crawling around) but a mirror flickers with black and white again, and footsteps can be heard approaching.

"Why are you leaving me alone, mommy?" a voice asks, no longer the teenager corpse they'd seen before, but a tiny girl, with a rope held in her hand. "You can be with me…"

"Hurry!" Tamsine cries, looking back with some gratitude for those who are staying to fight so the others can escape — unfortunately her portal only opens to another part of the dreamscape that exists in her mind, and the Nightmare Man still exists there too. The door closing on Logan and Bao-Wei does not close on him. She turns at the sound of footsteps, backing up as she sees the little girl. "She's not her. She would never ask me to kill myself," she murmurs. "It's not Lily. It's not Lily." The words are a mantra, not really spoken to Aaron or Abby, but to herself. "How do we wake up? How do I stop it?" This finally is thrown to Abby, then Aaron.

Safety seems in reach and then, it's not as the footsteps and the sounds that herald the arrival of the not-lily. Does the man ever not give up? He's just.. Aaron seems to be the only one who's actually made it through and the blonde turns to her real world counterpart. "Aaron, get those… things" Stuffed animals. Really? Stuffed animals? it's like.. the unicorn. "between us and her" She searches the walls for a mirror, looking around the room. A reflective surface, something. Mirrors lead to Hokuto's room, or… Logan knew another place. He'd been there, nightmare man had never. "Tamsine, I don't kno.. wait?"

The shadow hops up on small dark feet before jumping down and making for fake-Lily and diving at her, dark sharp claws and sharp wings ripping at her, slicing and clawing. "Aaron.. She just.. she has to acknowledge that it's a dream.. right? Tamsine, you just HAVe to want to wake up…" God, she hopes that's all the woman has to do as Abby swings out with a foot to help the cardinal and kick at Lily.

True to form, Bao-Wei is not a being that likes to be pushed around. His fire disappears when the portal snaps closed, but not that long into the new situation with the new child, orange light licks at the mirror's silver glass, before it starts to seep out from the sides of the pane. Red and orange embers sprout around its perimeter, though nothing turns to ash. The color around the mirror is reminiscent of hot metal, the dragon's presence obviously bearing force in order to try and claw his own way back into Tamsine's dreamscape.

The first thing Aaron notices when he arrives in the living room is the wall collage of photographs. It would be almost captivating if it were't immediately tainted by the presence of the small monstrosity masquerading as Tamsine's daughter. "She was beautiful," he observes. Alas, pleasantries will have to wait. "I don't really know, I just…. wing it. This whole thing doesn't exactly come with a manual." He thinks for a moment as Abby orders him to deploy the full might of the stuffed animal army. He doesn't even have to think before the shadows churn out more and more stuffed animals of every variety he's ever seen, the plush toys scattering about and forming barricades, the large amalgam of stuffed animals in the front, stuffed tiger head growling at the little rope-wielding ghoul.

"I'm not entirely sure that's enough. I think you have to find something in yourself, something powerful," he says, ignoring the fact that apparently what was strong for him was this display of childish splendour. "Something that makes your heart swell, well, with anything. Emotion is powerful. And the Nightmare Man is weak. Just see what I defeated him with. A pile of stuffed animals. He's not so tough." His black duster swirls as he turns to Tamsine and reaches to take her hand, "I believe in you. And Lily does, too."

"These toys won't protect you, mommy," the little girl says, looking down at the stuffed animals with a distaste so unlike a child's. The hands raise up, offering the rope, which has already been tied toward her. Lips pull back from her teeth, forming into a skeletal smile, baring the teeth all the way, as they set together.

"They didn't protect me. They won't protect you."

Things start to shudder around her, as if invisible hands are pushing at them, trying to shove them away.

But a new whisper can be heard, from the wall. A memory, and a dream, but unlike the other voices they've been hearing, undistorted. Clear. Natural.

"Where I am - what happened to me here feels far away, like a dream."

Some of the pictures seem to move faintly, as if breathing, blinking, suddenly alive. A hand shifts, pressing against the edge of the glass holding the pictures in frame.

"Mostly a good dream, but still a dream."

Hair shifts as if catching the air, wind that isn't actually there.

"You need to quit talking about the things you didn't do and should have done and could have done, and do them."

"Lily," Tamsine breathes, but she is not looking at the small child that is not her daughter — her daughter was all that was good and pure and brave and bright. She closes her eyes and focuses on the voice and the memory of that last dream, the voice that helped her find her way once before, that gave her the courage to face the future no matter how terrifying it is, how unknown and uncertain, a life with a new child that she wants desperately not to let down as Tamsine felt she'd let down Lily.

Suddenly, behind her mother is a girl who looks at a glance the ghoulish corpse in the other room, and a larger version of the small one here. But this Lily is not rotting. Instead of black dead eyes, her eyes shine, a liquid brown, her skin a golden hue that seems to glow. There is a hazy diffused light that seems to come from within her; it is hard to see her feet or hands, and the rest of her seems ethereal, almost translucent and yet solid enough to give confidence that she is there.

Tamsine's eyes open. "My daughter is always with me. I do not need to go with you," she tells the child. "You're a nightmare. It's all a nightmare. I want to wake up."

Aaron has the answer and Abigail defers to him, watching the shadowed bird trying to keep up with ripping the rotting corpse a new one. It's up to the woman apparently, they can't help her any more than just being support. But what can help her is the person, etheral they may be, who appears behind Tamsine and Abigail falls back to near Aaron and his army of stuffing, giving the woman the room to evict the unwanted person from her mind. "I think it's working" Abigail states the obvious to Aaron. "or it will…" Even the shadow bird is falling back.

Something seems to weaken along the seams here- the feeling permeates even behind the mirror, as a pale lizard-like palm mashes against the surface before seeping through it, followed by the muzzle and head of the dragon out of the other room. His mouth is open, long teeth pulled in a growl. The embers along the mirror start to spread, but only into what the Nightmare has created; orange color cracks fault lines over the walls, the corners, marking bright crevasses between dark splotches, just like a volcano flow.

"You want to wake up? So wake up." The dragon's words come as he lowers his nose, echoing the support that Abby and Aaron seem to still be giving her. Only Tamsine can take a knife to the seams, no matter how much each of them want to for her.

The stuffed animal army parts in the very middle of its blockade, giving Tamsine and her daughter a clear path to the enemy— the ghoulish monster conjured up by the Nightmare Man to wreak emotional havok on his victims. The toys scatter into a new formation, a corridor pitting Tamsine and her daughter against the ghoul-Lily. Now it's time for the grieving mother to fight back and dispel the foul creature out of her dream. Aaron offers a nod to Abigail, "It's working," and then he looks straight at Tamsine with his piercing sapphire eyes even as the dragon comes through the mirror, "It's all you now, Tamsine." His eyes shift to the creature — no matter what form, he'll always think of it as a creature — and he licks his lips, "Go ahead and finish him off. Will him away."

"Don't leave me here alone, mama," the young version cries out, taking a step forward, only to get herded back by the stuffed tiger and the other animals. The rope drops from her fingers, shattering like glass on the floor. Glass that seems mirrored and reflective. The black and white shimmers are scene briefly again, before the hand tightens on the shoulder of the dreamer.

The more angelic version of the girl they keep seeing, a guardian.

"She's not. We're never alone. Isn't that right, mother?" She smiles, warmth beginning to pour out into the dream, washing away all the death and fear, pushing back the shadows, unseen and otherwise, with the light from within.

The mother turns her back on the child as the rope breaks, choosing to look instead at her dream guardian. "Thank you," she murmurs, her voice full of gratitude — for Lily coming to rescue her, to Aaron and Abby and Bao-Wei who've somehow walked into her dreams. The glowing light that seems to come from Lily grows brighter, until all of the darkness is chased away. The dream disintegrates, sending each dreamer to their own consciousness or slumber. For Tamsine, it means finding herself back in her own bed — she's shocked to find she hasn't moved this time; Len is asleep undisturbed beside her, his hand stretching toward her on the mattress. She pushes back damp hair from damp cheeks, breathing deeply and trying to still her pounding heart. She sighs, a long and shuddering thing, before curling closer to Len's body. For now, her mind will mull over the words from the nightmare: the 35 were this "Nightmare Man's" first victims.

Lily tried to tell her: It wasn't her fault.

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