A Jules Verne story

I felt the need for some very slight Jules angst (come on, Phileas gets it all the time; why not poor adorable lil' Jules?  Hmm?), and I've always found the relationship between Jules and Rebecca interesting, so this is what I came up with...tiny, tiny mentions from "In the Beginning," "Queen Victoria and the Giant Mole," the American civil war arc, and "Secrets of the Realm," but I don't think they're too big a deal (oh, and the story takes place a while after SotR anyway).  Oh yes, I think I might have rearranged some furniture on the Aurora...but I hope not.  *sheepish grin*  Anyway, I of course don't any of the characters (or Mr Verne himself), I'm just borrowing them for an hour or two one night...and hopefully Rebecca will get a chance to catch up on her sleep later, poor dear...

Getting Rid of the Nightmares

            Rebecca woke instantly, her senses heightened by whatever sound she'd heard.  She sat up immediately and looked around her darkened room aboard the Aurora, wondering what exactly had awoken her.

            There it was again, the same sound.  A shout, a male voice, afraid and in pain.  It didn't sound like Phileas.  Or Passepartout, for that matter.  No, she knew that voice.

            She slid out of bed, pulling on a loose dressing gown over her nightdress and leaving her room to investigate.  She knew where the shouting was coming from too.

            Rebecca came across no one else as she glided soundlessly away from her room, bare feet cushioned by the rug on the floor.  She went down the spiraling staircase and stepped lightly into the main cabin.  Jules was there as she'd expected, sleeping on the couch, still wearing his leather waistcoat, his outer coat draped over his body as a poor excuse for a blanket.  Rebecca found herself wondering why the writer had never asked for a proper blanket, why Passepartout had never given him one anyway.  His skin was unusually pale, eyes flickering uneasily behind their lids, and he was shivering.

            "No!" Jules yelled out, trembling even more violently.  "NO!  That's not--you're not...stop!"

            Rebecca was by his side in an instant, resting a gentle hand on his arm.  "Jules," she whispered soothingly, "wake up.  You're having a nightmare.  Hush, Jules, it's all right."

            He flinched away from her touch and soft voice, his hands spasming, tightening onto the collar of his coat.  He seemed to be trying to burrow himself into the couch, hide away from whatever horror was haunting his sleep.

            "Jules," Rebecca repeated more insistently, wondering irritably why the younger man's crying out had bothered neither Phileas nor Passepartout.  "Jules!  Wake up."

            Verne's eyes popped open, and he gasped, staring up at Rebecca.  She was almost used to seeing that cloudy confusion in his hazel eyes, so often did he have that look on his face.  She smiled down at him as kindly and soothingly as she could, though she was damnably tired and would much rather have been back in her own comfortable bed.  She'd just finished a particularly stressful, dangerous mission, and this was the first night she'd had in a while in which she could get some real sleep.  However, she couldn't leave her friend until she knew he was all right.  "It's all right, Jules," she said again in that same warm voice, "you were only having a dream."

            Neither person knew that Phileas had woken up and come to investigate the commotion beneath his bedroom.  He stood in the shadows, unseen by either Rebecca or Jules, and watched.

            "Wh--Rebecca?" Jules's voice was soft, hoarse from his shouting and from his disorientation.  "Dream..." he fell back on the sofa, squeezing his eyes shut again and breathing hard, still shuddering and fevered.

            Rebecca's brow furrowed in concern at his unexpectedly unalleviated distress, and she sat down on the low table in front of the couch, her hand still resting lightly on her friend's arm.  He almost seemed terrified, as if the dream was playing on again behind his closed eyelids, refusing to let go of its hold over him.  "Jules," she said softly, "what was your nightmare about?"

            Jules opened his eyes again, fixing Rebecca with a furiously intense gaze.  "Nothing," he said at last, turning away from her and staring up at the ceiling doggedly, a slight blush creeping up from below his unbuttoned collar and crossing his face, bringing back some of its color.  "It doesn't matter."

            Rebecca gave him a reproving look that she knew very well Jules hated to see on her face.  He couldn't refuse her anything when she used it against him.  "I wouldn't say that was nothing," she countered, settling herself more comfortably on the table.  She had a feeling she wouldn't see her bed again for a long while.  "And I think it does rather matter, Mr Jules Verne," she added mock-sternly.  When her teasing tone failed to lighten his pensive mood, she added in a softer, coaxing voice, "What was it that you dreamed?"

            Jules shook his head, still unable to look her in the eye.  "I really don't want to talk about it Rebecca," he said quietly.  He looked very young and very vulnerable lying on that couch with his coat covering him and his unruly brown curls of hair falling over his forehead.

            Rebecca took his hand affectionately.  She loved this boy, she truly did, loved his innocence and optimism and unexpected strength.  He kept her guessing and thinking, stopped her from becoming too jaded and cynical, reminded her how wonderful human beings could be.  And she loved how he could be so utterly foolish, in a refreshingly different way from Phil.  "Don't you think it might help?" she asked him reasonably.

            He glanced at her and sighed, a wry smile crossing his haunted face and quickly disappearing.  "I don't want to bore you, Rebecca," he said.  Something flickered across his eyes, gone too soon for Rebecca to define what it was, but it still worried her.  "Or depress you."

            Rebecca squeezed his hand, needing to reassure him somehow.  "Try me.  I'm made of strong stuff, as you well know Jules."

            He smiled again, more genuinely this time, and Rebecca smiled back warmly, intensely glad to see that gentle smile on his face.  He brought out all her protective instincts, in a way different from her cousin.  Jules was more like a younger brother, needing her guidance and occasionally her ability to listen to his problems, whether they be about a girl or a new story idea.  She squeezed his hand again encouragingly and waited, knowing her sympathetic silence would only help him speak up sooner.

            Jules sat up a little on the sofa, careful not to break Rebecca's light grip.  He stared at the far wall, gathering his thoughts and utterly failing to see Phileas still standing there and observing them.  A frown of concentration creased the writer's brow; Rebecca unconsciously smiled at that familiar sight.  Already Jules seemed to be his old self again with that frown, so deep and thoughtful for such a young man.

            "It was a bunch of...images," the Frenchman said at last, looking at Rebecca again, still with that introspective frown on his face and still with a hint of fear in his wide hazel eyes.  "It's all hazy now, blurred..."  He lapsed into pensive silence again, staring into the distance over Rebecca's shoulder.

            "Already?" she asked, gently bringing him out of his reverie and his attention back to her.  "You just woke up."

            He shrugged.  "The dream itself was that way," he answered.  "I remember Count Gregory was in it, yelling bombastically as always...and Angeline D'anjou, trying to--kiss me...American soldiers were dying all around me in a field, and Arago was trying to tell me something, only I couldn't hear him, and F..." he buried his head in his hands, inadvertently taking Rebecca's hand with him.

            "And?"  Rebecca sat on the couch next to her friend, gently but with insistence forcing Jules's hands away from his face.  He looked up at her reluctantly, bruised circles around his expressive eyes.  "Jules?" she asked him again, very gently, as if just saying his name could shatter the young man into thousands of delicate pieces.

            "Phileas was there, threatening me with a sword," he sighed at last, obviously hating the words coming out of his mouth.  The room around the two was silent, comforting in its warm darkness, yet Jules remained uncomforted.  Unseen, Fogg closed his eyes and leant against the wall, wincing in sympathy with Jules's soft, hurt tone of voice.  "It was...just like when I first met him, during that business with the Mole.  And you were there...only it wasn't you, it was that other you, the one who took your place when you and Fogg and Passepartout went after Senor del Fuego and left me in London..."  Jules shrugged, struggling to appear brave and unconcerned by the nightmare images locked inside his head--and failing miserably.

            Rebecca studied her young friend, an almost overpowering sense of compassion and sympathy flooding through her.  He was so bloody young and innocent, and he'd really been through more than any normal person could expect, yet he'd handled it all so well she'd never truly considered what his actual emotional state must be.  And she was so used to control, so used to duty and coping in unusual situations by necessity that she actually felt out of her depth, trying to help Jules out of this particular quandary.  But she had to help him.

            She put her hand on his again, knowing full well that mere touch with another warm-blooded human being could begin to help.  "Jules," she said at last quietly, picking her words carefully and holding his gaze to make sure he realized her sincerity, "it was a nightmare.  Remember that.  It was a nightmare based on reality, on your own personal experiences, I know, but you cannot let them get the better of you."  The strength of passion in her own voice surprised the older woman but she had to carry on; she couldn't leave Jules alone to fall asleep and dream again.  Not like that.  All thought of needing sleep herself had fled from her mind.  "You have a beautiful soul, Jules Verne, and you cannot let your past experiences, your demons, take control of you and destroy your present or future."  She lay a gentle hand on the side of Verne's face, and he stared at her, wide-eyed and unguarded, her words sinking into his thoughts.  "You are a good, strong young man, and I am proud of you, proud of how you have handled yourself these past months, proud of how you've grown, and I am proud that I have been given a chance to know you," she finished, still holding his face and looking deep into his eyes.

            She smiled at him, a serene, beautiful smile that took his breath away with its peaceful loveliness.  "No more bad dreams tonight," she added in as firm whisper as she could muster, her voice catching, after a moment.

            He shook his head.  "No more dreams," he agreed, his words falling into the soothing silence and warmth of the ship.

            She nodded and took her hand away from his face, preparing to stand up and go back to her own bed.  He caught her hand before she could move away from the couch and kissed it gently on the knuckle.  He looked up at her again, this time his wonderful eyes unclouded by any fear or confusion.  "Thank you Rebecca," he said in his soft, deep, utterly sincere voice.

            She grinned, once again charmed by the romantic young Frenchman.  "You're welcome," she replied, almost in her old tone of voice.  "And you're lucky you didn't wake anybody else up."

            He grinned back at her and settled himself more comfortably on the couch, pulling his coat up to his chin and closing his eyes.  His brow smoothed out immediately, his breathing deepened and evened.  He was asleep already.  He looked very peaceful.  His old self again.

            Rebecca sighed heavily, closing her eyes.  She was abominably exhausted, and not just because her friend's nightmare had woken her up in the middle of the first night of real sleep she'd had in a while.  A terrible weight had entered her heart; somehow she felt guilty, as if she were responsible for Jules's nightmare.

            And perhaps she was, indirectly.  It was an uncomfortable, ugly idea.

            Resolutely Rebecca turned away from the sleeping Verne and headed for the staircase.  She didn't care what her conscience thought about it all, she was going to get some sleep tonight.

            A shadow detached itself from the other shadows.  "Good work, cousin," Fogg said in a soft, almost gruff voice.

            Rebecca managed to stifle her gasp of surprise.  "Phileas," she hissed, "what the devil are you doing, lurking about?  And how long have you been standing there?"

            "Long enough," her cousin answered with equanimity.  He could be infuriatingly inscrutable at times.  She brushed past him and swept up the stairs, hoping he would leave it at that.  She really didn't feel up to another midnight conversation at the moment.  Jules's had been draining enough.

            "I could never have handled Verne's nightmares the way you did," her cousin's voice carried on as he followed her up.  She stopped and turned to stare down at him through narrowed eyes from the top of the stairs.  He stood a couple steps below, watching her impassively, his eyes blinking.

            "How long has he been having these dreams?" she asked suspiciously.  She hadn't been spending much time on the Aurora with the others lately, but she hadn't noticed any marked differences in the young French writer that would make her concerned about his well-being.  And before this moment, neither Phileas nor Passepartout had mentioned anything to worry her.

            Phileas shrugged.  He really did have the most maddening shrug, Rebecca noticed once again and tried to put the thought out of her head as irrelevant.  "I'm not sure," he admitted.  "Passepartout mentioned something to me a week or two ago; I've heard him myself a few times, I think."  Fogg didn't mention that every time he heard Jules shouting in his sleep, he came downstairs and watched the writer from the shadows until he quieted, the nightmare seeming to let go of the young man.  Only then did Phileas go back to his own room upstairs, hopefully to fall asleep again.  "I'm not sure he's realized he's even had these dreams; he always seems well-rested and cheerful in the morning."

            Rebecca stared at her cousin.  "Oh, I think he knows about these dreams," she answered, picturing Jules's bruised-looking face looking up at her in shame and embarrassment.  "I think he remembers them very well."

            Phileas caught Rebecca's hand, the one she'd caressed Verne's face with, the one the writer had kissed in gratitude.  "Don't let your demons get the better of you either," Phileas said softly.

            Rebecca snorted.  "Perhaps you should take your own advice," she said ironically and instantly regretted her words.  Lack of sleep was loosening her self-control.

            Fogg let go of his cousin's hand.  "Perhaps you're right," he agreed lightly and slipped past Rebecca up the stairs.  He paused, his back to his cousin.  "We all choose our lives, Rebecca," he said.  "You, me, Verne as well.  We all have to deal with the consequences."  He glanced back at her.  "Don't let your nightmares get the better of you, Rebecca.  You too have a wonderful soul that would be a waste to destroy."  He gave her a quick, beautiful smile.  "Good night, cousin."

            He walked away.

            Rebecca stared after him, eyebrows raised in surprise.  "Well, this has been an interesting night indeed," she said to no one in particular.  She sighed and went back to her room.  "I'll think about it in the morning," she added as a promise to herself as she climbed back into bed, yawning.

            She was almost instantly asleep.

            No one dreamed anymore that night.