Disclaimer: Characters, not mine, don't own a thing, they're all Marvel's. This is me simply borrowing them.
Hey all! This is my first FF fic, set after the second movie. Just a one-shot with a little bit of Johnny angst and a mystery for the gang to figure out. Hope you enjoy!
Nightmares by Robinyj
"No! Oh god! … oh, god no!"
These shouts of denial came from the bedroom of Johnny Storm and they were followed by a smoldering blanket being thrown off the bed, bare feet hitting the floor, and Johnny only barely making it to his trash can before puking his guts out.
When his stomach was empty he still continued retching for a few more minutes, bringing up bile and little else. Johnny pretty much never got sick – his body temperature burned up all bacteria and viruses that could infect him with something, and alcohol burned out of his system just as quickly as it went in, but physical sickness wasn't the reason for Johnny's current embrace with his trash can, but oh how he wished it was.
As his stomach finally settled Johnny sprawled out on his floor, catching his breath and desperately trying to will the horrific images out of his mind.
It was three days since Galactus had been destroyed. Three days since his sister, and now brother-in-law, had gotten married. Three days since they had saved the world.
And three days since the terrifying dreams had started.
Yeah, there was a coincidence for you … not!
Dreams so bad that he woke up screaming every night, terrified to go back to sleep, and sometimes so overwhelmed by disgust and horror that he ended up where he had been a few moments before, kneeling in front of his trash can, wishing he could burn his own eyes out if it would stop the images.
When his stomach felt settled enough he pulled himself off the floor and shuffled to the bathroom. He needed to brush his teeth, and he needed to take a shower, not just to feel clean again but to wake himself up so he wouldn't have to worry about seeing that again. He felt his stomach turning just thinking about it.
Sue had been dead, had really died, however briefly, but why was that making him dream …
God, he didn't think he'd ever sleep again.
This was getting ridiculous, he hadn't slept more than seven or eight hours in the last three days. He looked and felt terrible, and was always exhausted, and of course it had to happen at the peak of their popularity – just after the Fantastic Four saved the ENTIRE world!
"Life's not fair," Johnny grumbled to himself, as he left the bathroom. He skipped his bedroom completely, knowing he wasn't going to dare risk falling back to sleep, and instead headed for the living room. "I'll watch TV. Mind numbing, hopefully memory-erasing television. It has never let me down."
The sun rose several hours later and with it came the married members of the Fantastic Four. Sue Storm and Reed Richards came down the hallway together, both smiling in anticipation of the delicious smell of coffee wafting towards them. When they got to the kitchen they found Johnny already at the table, staring deep into his coffee cup.
"Johnny, you're up early," Reed noted as he sat down. "More interviews today?"
"What?" Johnny blinked; he hadn't heard them come in.
"Oh, hey," he mumbled, avoiding all eye contact.
"God Johnny, did you get any sleep at all last night?" Sue asked as she picked up the coffee pot. When she felt how light it was she looked down to see that it was practically empty. "Did you drink this whole pot? What's going on?"
"Nothing," Johnny answered too fast. "Nothing … just, nothing."
"You were up before us yesterday too," Reed pointed out.
Sitting down at the table across from her brother, Susan saw all the signs of exhaustion written on his face, despite the fact that he was doing everything in his power not to look at her.
"Johnny, what is it? Why haven't you been sleeping?" Sue asked gently, putting a comforting hand on her brother's knee.
This was exactly the wrong thing to do though as Johnny immediately sprang to his feet at her touch, toppling over his chair and backing away nervously.
"Don't! It's nothing … I don't… I can't …. I gotta go."
"Go where?" Sue demanded, following her fleeing brother out of the room.
"Anywhere!" Johnny replied, and before she could make a force field to stop him, he had jumped out the window with a hasty 'Flame On' and disappeared into the breaking day light.
"That was interesting," Reed commented, walking up behind his wife.
"What's wrong with him?" Sue asked, clearly concerned.
"I don't know, he's obviously hiding something. Do you think it could have something to do with the Surfer?"
"Like side effects?" Sue asked. Reed shrugged; without Johnny here to test, probe or question he couldn't offer much in the way of answers. Their conversation was interrupted by the not so subtle footsteps of Ben Grimm as he came into the kitchen rubbing at his eyes.
"No coffee?" He mourned as he saw the empty pot, holding back a yawn.
"Johnny drank it all," Sue replied. "He was acting strange. It looked like he didn't sleep at all last night. When I asked him about it he freaked out and took off."
"Huh, I didn't sleep so well myself last night," Ben replied offhand as he started the coffee maker up again.
"Really? Why?" Reed asked, always looking to solve puzzles.
"Had this crazy dream, third night in a row. I stayed up for awhile trying to figure it out, can't make heads or tails of it," Ben admitted as he took a seat with his teammates at the table.
"What was it about?" Reed continued prodding.
"Well … geez, this is embarrassin', but it's kinda … girly. There's this playground and some girls skipping rope, and I come out and I'm reading and this other girl, ugly with stringy black hair and a kinda butch pulls my hair, says nobody likes a tattle tale and pushes me. I fall into this big black hole from outta nowhere, and I'm falling, and I know the bottom's coming, know it's just gonna flatten me like a pancake, but I'm real calm, and then when the bottom comes …"
"You wake up." Sue finished, a knowing and mildly hurt expression on her face. "That's not funny, Ben. I didn't even know I told you about that."
"What's not funny. What are you talking about?" Ben demanded.
"My dream," Sue said firmly.
"I thought we were talking about my dream," Ben replied, clearly confused.
"Ben, you just described, in perfect detail, a recurring dream I've had since I was ten," Sue said seriously.
"Well, I guess it belongs to both of us now because that's what I been seein' Susie."
"You're saying you dreamed my dream? That's ridiculous."
"I'm a man made of rock, yet this is a crazy idea?"
"Do you know where your dream is from Sue?" Reed asked.
"In grade school, there was this bully, Ruth, she harassed a lot of kids, took their lunch money, I ratted her out one day which she wasn't too pleased about. So she …"
"Pulled your hair and called you a tattle tale," Ben finished from what he remembered of the dream.
"Yeah, it wasn't a big deal, just one of those strange, important moments that you relive every now and then."
"You've never told anyone?" Reed clarified. Sue shook her head.
"Well, if it's yours you can have it. I have to say, I've been feeling like less of a man every night it happens. You're lucky Johnny's not here or I wouldn't have said a thing," Ben admitted.
"Why don't we all go to my lab? It seems Johnny may not be the only one with some sleeping … difficulties."
"All right, let's try and figure this out," Sue agreed. She clearly wanted to learn more, but as she followed Reed and Ben down the hall, her gaze wandered towards the window where Johnny had made his hasty retreat. If there was something going on, it was definitely affecting Johnny the worst out of all of them.
Forty five minutes and three brain scans later, Johnny still hadn't returned home, but Reed summoned Ben and Sue to his work station to share what he had learned with his usual scholastic enthusiasm.
"It's fascinating really, when you compare our brain scans. Of course, none of our brains our quite exactly like a normal person's but we are admittedly … unique. But our current brain scans compared to our previous ones, before the Surfer's appearance, show even more differences."
"What kinda differences?" Ben asked cautiously, not sure if he liked where this was going.
"Look at the Hypocamthal region, the increased activity and impulses …"
"It's like they've spread," Sue observed.
"Not so much spread as … opened up. Johnny switched powers with all of us at some point during the Surfer's visit, but it's not like our powers are these separate entities that exist outside of our bodies; they're a part of us, shaped by us almost. By trading powers we switched parts of ourselves for awhile, it's not unreasonable to think that parts of our subconscious selves may have switched as well."
"So we've been dreaming each other's dreams," Sue summed up. "What have you dreamt of recently Reed?"
Reed shrugged, "They've been erratic, mostly images, not much coherency. Always moving, speeding, adrenaline pumping … sometimes there's girls."
Sue's expression made him back pedal, "But they're not … it's not my … you are so …."
"Sounds like Johnny," Sue said matter of factly, not in any way actually mad at Reed. "Now, I admit this is weird, but if that's all it is, then what about Johnny. He really freaked out back there, why would dreaming someone else's dreams affect him this badly?"
"He was the one who had direct contact with the Surfer, maybe he's dreaming all our dreams – that would have to be … discomforting." Reed hypothesized.
"Maybe," Sue mumbled, but she felt it was something more. The way he had reacted when she touched him ….
"So what, I don't get invited to Reed's famous lab parties anymore? I'm hurt."
They all turned to see Johnny in the doorway, trying to look casual. The remark had been close to his usual sense of humor, but was clearly forced and he wasn't even coming close to appearing at ease.
"Johnny, good, you're here, we've just been discussing what may be wrong with you. Have you had any strange dreams lately?"
At Reed's question Johnny looked like he might be physically ill. He paled and his eyes widened in fear.
"What?! No. No, I haven't had any dreams, why would you say that? No dreams at all, not a single sliver of even the slightest … it's been nothing, nada, zip, blank slate. Sleep like a baby, a baby with no dreams, just a void where dreams should be you know … I gotta …."
This time when he tried to escape, Sue did stop him with a force field. Johnny considered flaming on, trying to break through, anything to avoid this.
"Johnny, it's okay, we know," Sue assured him but her words had the opposite affect.
"What? You know? No, you can't know. Oh my god, you know?!! Oh god, god, you know?? Okay … look, they're not … I don't, I would never … they just … Oh god!"
Johnny was pacing and becoming frantic, he even pounded on Sue's force field in a desperate attempt to escape. God, how could they know!???!!
"All right, calm down Matchstick."
The rest of the team stood in shock for awhile trying to understand Johnny's babbling and watching as he got more and more worked up. Finally Sue stepped forward to try and calm him.
"Johnny, you have to calm down, breathe. Look, uh maybe we don't know actually, because I don't think any of us are following you right now," she said as she stepped closer.
This got Johnny's attention, "But you just said that you … knew."
Sue looked to Reed and Ben – they were just as confused as her.
"Okay Johnny, I'll tell you what we do know and then you can decide if that's what you think we know, cool?"
Her little brother was tense, but nodded his understanding.
"All right. Reed's been running some tests and we think there was a minor side effect to what the Surfer did to you. When we all switched powers we think we may have switched something else too, some part of our sub conscious. We're pretty sure we've been having each other's dreams for the past few days."
Johnny's knees gave out and he would have fallen if Sue's force field hadn't been behind him.
Everyone started forward at first but stopped when Johnny sucked in a huge breath and then let out possibly the biggest, most relieved sigh in history. It was followed by a laugh that bordered on maniacal but was packed with joy and relief.
"Each other's … so … they're not mine," Johnny whispered to himself, and grinned from ear to ear, and then shouted, "They're not mine! Of course, they're not mine. Why would they be mine? Oh thank God! Thank you God! They're not mine! Yes! Yes! Reed, thank you! Thank you. Oh, I love this brain!"
And in a flash the old Johnny was back. He jumped up onto Reed's workstation and kissed the top of the older man's head.
"Your beautiful, wonderful brain. You truly are fantastic, worthy of the namesake, a man after my own heart, now how do I get them out? They're not mine, I don't want them, let's just hit erase and get them out of there."
"Johnny, relax!" Reed ordered, holding him away at arm's length. "Just breathe. Wow, you took that pretty well."
"What are ya talking about? He took it like a mental patient off his meds," Ben commented.
"Hey, you haven't had to live with this all right, Pebbles," Johnny defended himself, then placed a hand on his chest. "Thank god they're not mine. I can breathe again. So, let's get back to getting them out, putting them back where they belong."
"Well, the dreams are still originating from our own minds, but our neural pathways seemed to have been opened up to each other, in a kind of limited telepathic link. If the pathways are closed again we should all just be seeing our own dreams again," Reed explained.
"Great," Johnny hopped up on an examining table. "I'll go first. You do whatever you have to do Reed, no matter what the risk, however crazy it sounds."
Sue finally approached her brother, concerned by his strange behavior, "Johnny, what is wrong with you? Hey, look at me. What have you been seeing the last few days that has you so terrified?"
"It's no big deal," Johnny said reflexively. "We just, should fix this, you know."
"You haven't slept in three days. This has affected you much harder than the rest of us. If we don't know what you've been seeing we might just make it worse, if you're reacting differently than us."
Johnny couldn't look his sister in the eye, "Look I … uh … it's just I … I'm pretty sure I've been having …" he cleared his throat and fidgeted – moment of truth, "… Reed's dreams."
"Reed? What?" Sue looked confused and turned to her husband, hurt. "What do you dream about that's so terrible? Why didn't you tell me? God Reed, it must be horrible if it has Johnny worked up like this."
Behind her, Johnny groaned.
"I, I don't," Reed said, confused. "I swear, I don't know what it could be. I don't really have nightmares about anything. I would tell you if I did Sue, I love you."
"I can vouch for that," Johnny mumbled, rubbing a hand over his eyes in an attempt to erase horrific, terrible sights.
"What?" Reed asked. Johnny didn't reply, he just gave Reed the 'think about it' look. Reed continued to look confused, Johnny raised his eyebrows in a 'really think about it' look. Reed's eyes widened and his elastic body stiffened as much as possible.
"Ah, I see," he breathed out slowly.
"Yeah," Johnny sighed to express the torment he had lived through. God, she was his sister for Christ's sake!
"What?" Sue asked.
Behind Johnny, Ben chuckled.
"It's not funny! It's So. Not. Funny!" Johnny exploded. The idea that the dreams had been his had genuinely terrified and sickened him for days.
"I'm sorry Matchstick, really, it must have been terrible. Genuinely, horribly terrible, but it's also funny as hell," Ben continued, being somewhat sincere, but also amused.
"Ugh," Johnny growled.
"What!?" Sue demanded with authority.
The boys all looked away awkwardly.
"Any time" Sue pushed.
Finally, Reed cleared his throat.
"Well, you see dear, one man's dream can sometimes be another man's nightmare …"
"A terrible, relentless, horrifying, beyond disturbing nightmare," Johnny mumbled.
"We get it Johnny," Reed said, exasperated. Then to Sue, awkwardly, "But many dreams are about desires and longings, and you are very … attractive Sue and I love you very much."
Sue smiled, touched, and wrapped her arms around her husband's neck, "Ah, you dream about me … wait, you dream about … me? In … that way? And Johnny?..."
"Tell me about it."
"Johnny, I'm so … Oh god, that's just so …" Sue cried again, mortified on behalf of her brother. Then, to her husband, "What … are they like?"
Reed was good enough to blush, "Well …"
"No, no! Don't need to hear it. La la la la la. I'm not hearing this, I already know way too much."
Covering his ears, Johnny made a beeline for the door, "Reed, call me when there's a cure. The second there's a cure!"
"I'm with flame boy. As entertaining as that was, I really don't need to hear any more," Ben agreed, quickly following Johnny out of the lab.
"Poor Johnny," Sue moaned. "He thought he was having dreams … about me. No wonder he freaked out when I touched him."
"It would be … unsettling, to say the least. Come on, we better find a way to shut down these pathways or I don't think any of us will risk sleeping again," Reed suggested.
Sue nodded and they both started to work on finding an answer, but it was only a few minutes before Sue spoke up again.
"You never answered my question: what are your dreams like?"
Reed blushed again and didn't look up from his monitor screen, "Let's just keep that between Johnny and I and concentrate on fixing this."
"I could ask Johnny," Sue threatened.
Reed laughed, "I'm pretty sure that what he saw about his own sister, he is never ever going to describe to anyone."
Sue shrugged nonchalantly, and then came up behind her husband to whisper in his ear, "All right, keep your secrets, but just remember Reed, some dreams do come true."
After her final teasing remark, Sue walked out of the lab playfully, turning to smile back at Reed.
Mr. Fantastic was grinning as well, marveling at how lucky he was to have Sue, the hottest woman on the planet!
"Yeah Johnny," Reed whispered, "We're gonna have to figure this out, or you're never going to sleep again."
The answer would come, it always did, and Reed already had a rough outline for a cure figured out. He couldn't erase what poor Johnny had seen but he could make sure it didn't happen again, and while he worked he had his dreams to keep him company. They may have terrified Johnny, but they were a comfort to Reed, and he had to admit, he didn't like sharing them – especially not with his wife's brother.
"Hmm, who knew one man's dreams could be such a nightmare?"
So I'm going to trust that Reed finds a cure and puts everything back to rights. Hope you enjoyed, let me know if you liked it. This was my first FF fic but I'm considering writing a multi-chapter Johnny angst fic so I'm trying to get the characters down. Hope I did all right. Thanks for reading, Robinyj!