"Quick, they have to be closer or the connection will sever."
Morpheus glared at his companion, panting in his efforts. "I don't see you helping."
"I'm not allowed to meddle. So unless you want a couple of sizzling thunderbolts to tear this place apart, I suggest you start lifting with your knees."
"Give me a second."
He let Frank slump back down in his chair, taking a minute to survey their surroundings and catch his breath. Frank's secret abode on earth was impressive, spacious and filled with the latest in technology and interior design. His own little apartment in the city was a closet by comparison, but he never never spent much time there anyway. He turned back to the task at hand, this time moving to grab Frank under the arms. He made a mental note to find out what kind of leather the thing was made out of since it was clearly comfortable enough to sleep in.
He rolled Frank onto the soft bed, grunting with the effort. The sleeping man was not light, and even with supernatural strength it was an onerous task. Morpheus looked down at at the sleeping couple, a sense of dread bubbling up in his stomach. Reaching into his pocket he fished out a roll of tums, chomping down on two chalky tablets before he turned back to his ethereal companion. "I'm not sure this is a good idea, Demeter. Remember the whole no meddling thing? This seems - "
He stopped short. The goddess flashed her eyes at him, sending yet another wave of nausea roiling in the pit of his stomach. He hated his earthbound form. Soft and susceptible to anxiety, he was pretty sure there was an ulcer developing in the lining of his stomach.
She huffed out a seemingly carefree response. "I'm not meddling. You are."
"You've been around long enough to know that semantics is all that really matters, at least when it comes to the bullshit rules Gods like to throw around."
That much at least was true. The Gods were worse than the slimiest lawyers when it came to finding and exploiting loopholes in agreements. Still, he felt uneasy when he gazed down upon the couple in the bed. The woman's shining blonde locks fanned out across the pillow, her face gentle and smooth in repose. It was a stark contrast to the tense and angry features of the brute lying next to her.
"It's dangerous, crossing over into other people's dreams. Especially someone like him, so full of malice and vengeance. She could be torn apart by the monsters that live in his nightmares."
"Oh, Morphy, you say that as though she doesn't have nightmares of her own."
He knew, of course. Dreams were under his sole command, nothing went on in that foggy middle place that he wasn't aware of. Karen's dreams were a strange combination of light-filled wonder and terror saturated darkness. He'd checked on her in the beginning at her mother's behest. It had been easy to take the form of a chubby blonde adolescent, sweet and unassuming, a non-threatening confidant. He had fallen a little bit in love over the years, watching her wander through the naturescapes of her happiest slumbers. Once or twice he had flicked away impending nightmares, swishing a hand across the dark smoke clouding the edges of her unconscious. He wasn't supposed to do that, but he hated knowing that she woke up crying more often than not. On the nights he held himself in check she'd come to school the next morning with tired puffy eyes and a somber look on her face. The guilt he felt on those mornings pushed him closer to her, made him act like a lovesick fool trying to draw a smile from her.
She knew him as Foggy, his preferred name while walking the planet. It seemed fitting, the fog of dreams being where he spent most of his existence. They hadn't seen one another in a long time. Demeter had sensed his growing affection, and worried that it would lead to more trouble than it was worth. He'd agreed to slowly disappear, knowing that his feelings had been unrequited regardless of what her mother thought.
But seeing her with Frank bothered him. He couldn't see the merit in twisting up Karen's fate with the God of the underworld. Frank was volatile, and if anyone had asked Foggy he would have told them the dark God was morally dubious. Centuries of pent up anger all came spilling out when he finally fell asleep, which wasn't all that often, and Foggy had vivid memories of the few times he was subjected to the hellscape that was Hades' dreams. The Gods had no real need for slumber. But being here on earth, feeling human exhaustion, was really the only thing that pushed them to it, and Frank spent more time on the earthly plane than any of the other gods. It had only taken a tiny nudge from Foggy's powers to send Frank over the edge.
Frank shifted in his sleep, and Foggy twitched. He wasn't one hundred percent sure his powers were strong enough to keep the God of the underworld asleep against his will, and he didn't care to find out what damage Frank could do to another God. His fear subsided when Frank swung his arm across Karen's waist. It was replaced by a faint zip of jealousy. He quickly pushed it away.
"What exactly do you think this will accomplish?"
"Frank likes to put on the facade of an angry asshole, but he is a protector more than anything else."
"I don't know about that."
"No you don't know, and I don't care to hear your uninformed opinion on the matter. I need him to see what Karen has lived through, what she is currently battling with, and what is coming for her. I need him… " She trailed off, sudden sadness suffusing her features. "I need him to fix my mistake, and he won't do it for me, but maybe he'll do it for her. She keeps a cage around her true self. He just needs to see."
Karen liked the feel of her hand ensconced in his. It was warm, the callouses along his palm were reassuring even if he was holding her fingers a little too tightly, as though she might float away if he let go. She might just do that. Nothing seemed fixed in place here.
They walked along the road. It was surprisingly dry after the storm, the dirt packed down hard and smooth. She liked the feel of it beneath her toes, a deep heat radiating up from the earth and into her soles. "So this is a dream… but you're not a dream?"
Frank kept striding with purpose, walking a little faster than she would have liked. What did it matter how long it took them to get to their destination (wherever that was)? It's not like time meant anything in dreams. He seemed so urgent, ignoring her question.
Thunder rumbled in the distance, dark purple clouds on the horizon building up high and higher like thunderheads ready to burst open at any moment. She wondered why they were heading toward the storm and not away from it. There was still a strange buzzing in the air behind them. Maybe that was part of it.
"Where are we going?"
This time Frank glanced at her sideways, the muscles in his jaw working as though he were trying to figure out what to say. "We're going where it happened. Whoever is doing this seems to want to show you the absolute worst moment of my entire life, and I just want to get it over with."
She frowned. "It? What is it? And what do you mean 'whoever is doing this'?"
Frank stopped abruptly, the sudden shift of momentum throwing Karen off balance. He swiftly moved to catch her, a steadying hand resting on her lower back. "Someone had drugged or enchanted the both of us. I can't make myself wake up, and that's not normal for me. And you're here in my dreams with me, the real you, not some figment of my imagination. Crossing into other people's dreams is no small thing. So obviously there's some kind of bullshit at work here. And because the Greek gods are a bunch of assholes, the only way to get to the bottom of it all is to play through the whole thing. There are no shortcuts, no emergency exits."
His words tumbled out in a rush, and for the first time since Karen woke up in this strange place she was afraid. The shutters were gone from his expression, panic riding along the edge of his voice. The pain in his eyes took her breath away. She reached up to touch him, craving a connection, yearning to offer some comfort. Laying her palm against his cheek, she asked, "What isit, Frank? What are you about to relive?"
"The murder of my wife and daughter."
a/n: again, sorry for the brevity of the update. When I have writer's block it helps to just get out whatever I can and move on, otherwise I would just slip into not writing at all. Any feedback is greatly appreciated, please feel free to let me know what you think. :D