Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel the Series, and all characters from those series belong to Mutant Enemy, Joss Whedon, 20th Century Fox Television, Kuzui Enterprises, UPN, Warner Brothers, and David Greenwalt Productions. I'm only borrowing them for the purposes of fanfiction, and only the plot and storyline, and those characters of my own creation belong to me. No profit is being made from this endeavor.

Author's Note: This is story number 3 in the "Roadverse" series. A short interlude before the next novel length story "Life is a Road" begins...


Dancing at the Dark...

by Ironbear

...

The Dream is always the same, no matter how many times you have it...

They were trying to close the Gates of Hell, because Things were boiling out, and if they opened all the way... then Hell was coming to earth and the entire world dies. And those Gates were opening, slowly, and they weren't going to close, weren't going to shut.. because human bone and human sinew didn't have the strength to prevail against that Infernal massiveness.

Trying to close the Gates of Hell, and everyone she'd ever known was fighting at her side, fighting and dying by inches. Except she didn't know any of these people, dammit. All strangers to her... She was keeling beside a man she'd never seen before, trying to patch a gory hole in his abdomen and cursing, wondering at the accepting recognition in his eyes. Working frantically with every ounce of all too inadequate medical knowledge she had and no equipment, while a young man she'd never seen before - just a teenager really, stood guard over them with a broadsword almost as long as he was. And a weird blue-brown woman stalked slowly around them with reptilian grace, killing everything that came near. Blazing brilliant blue eyes turning occasionally in their direction and sick with curiosity and concern.

There. There's the pressure point, dammit. Stop the bleeding, tie it off. No suture - what then? Use hair, for chrissakes... something.

A surge of the hellthings, breaking on and around them. And suddenly... She was there again. All black leather armor and steel, laughing dark eyes and an axe and blade that whirled death in arcs around her. Scattering and breaking hellings screaming away from her. A Black Angel... angel of death. Dancing, for crying out loud... not fighting. Dancing death and laughing. And dying by inches as well... bleeding from a half-score of wounds.

Those laughing eyes met her own, worried, and electric shock of recognition went through her. Her face. Her eyes. A spill of dark brown hair... Her mouth quirking up in a slight lopsided grin at the corners. NOT her, dammit - because here she was trying to work in the blood and ichor closing a wound that couldn't be, in a place that couldn't be. Staring up at herself gaping. Oh. Dream, right. Dreams are like that, idiot.

"You a doctor?" She heard her own voice say, but not quite hers... a low, throaty, sexy animal growl almost. Heard herself respond 'no. something like', and got a nod in return. Momentary lull in the carnage around them. "Can you help?"

Oh hell yeah, what the fuck does it look like she's trying to do? Wasn't sure if she said it out loud or not. She nodded... herself.. dammit... the woman nodded. No time to ask, never time, because the Gates were opening and they had to be closed... "Good. Let's close this fucker down." Mouth like a sailor on her dreamself, evidently.

A lifted eyebrow and quirk of a smile and heard that sexy growl again, "So.. are you ready to be Strong?" and then she whirled away, dancing into the midst of death again. Laughing. Singing for gods sake: fucking Meatloaf of all things. Dancing in the dark. Dancing against the Dark... One eyed man with an eye-patch fighting beside her, rifle and axe. Barred suddenly by a massive thing all in red, black, and green with lambent eyes and spiked chains and weird curving blades in its hands that hurled her back a dozen yards bleeding before she crouched, leapt and struck and the two halves of him fell apart sideways in a shower of gore and greenish light. Picking up his blades and moving on, still singing, still fighting... still dying by inches.

Her patient lurched to his feet with a murmured 'thanks' in a british sounding voice and staggered back in, not stopping for wounds... because if She didn't stop while dying by inches, always fighting never stopping and bleeding out, with that damned song on her damned bloody lips... who the hell were they to run?

Better move then, find someone else to try to help. Those Gates weren't closing with no warm bodies holding the gap...

...

Woke up choking back a scream, eyes wild and clutching sheets around her, head whipping around wildly. Where... just The Dream again, thank gods. Bedroom, bed, light from the bathroom, boyfriend asleep next to her. Digital clock showing 4am on the table. Just a dream...

'The Dream', she called it in her mind, because there were others. Similar... always young girls, fighting, dying in horrible ways - an endless string of them. Monsters. But this one was different, even from those.

Boyfriend not asleep, evidently... he rolled over with a murmured "huh?" and sat up. "Hey... what?"

"Nothing. Go back to sleep.. it's ok." Shook her head and took another ragged breath.

"That nightmare again?" Voice worried. She felt warm arms around her and leaned back into them, closing her eyes. Taking a chance that closed they wouldn't sweep her back into that... place. Didn't, thank gods. Held his forearm and squeezed back, hand feeling wet. Careful. Don't want bones to shatter like those glasses he'd never seen...

"Yeah. It's ok. Awake now."

"No - it's not ok, dammit." Felt his head shake. Oh gods, not now. Didn't want to have this conversation again... "That's the fifth time in a row this week." Squeezed her, holding tight. "We have to do something... you can't go on like this."

"What.. therapy?" She shook her head, "No. Won't help. They'll pass." They had to pass.

"Something? Jeeze... talk to someone. Anyone."

"Talk to you." Smile quirked up at that, tugging at her lips.

"I don't know what the hell to do to help, gods. All I can do is listen - making me crazy." Raggedy voice, gods. "Doctor... ?"

She reached up and ran a hand across her face, stopped when it left a bloody smear down her cheek. "Well, yeah... sure, why didn't I think of that?" She brought her hands around in front of her, stared at them with the sharpened night vision she seemed to have acquired at some point during the past several months, along with the freakish strength she kept carefully hidden. Stared at the blood of a stranger from a nightmare on them, black in the dim light.

"But... " She could hear the combination of exasperation, annoyance, and concern in his voice. Exasperation: because he felt frustrated at his inability to help and her refusal of suggestions. Annoyance: because she had secrets she couldn't tell him and they were wearing them apart. Concern... because underneath it all, he really did care for her.

"Go back to sleep," she said, softly. "I'll be ok. Just need to use the bathroom." She heard his mouth open again to say something, a pause, and instead a heavy sigh came out. He finally lay back down and rolled over on his side, facing away from her. She could almost hear his mind going, probably in variations of the same endless circles hers was. Different circles...

She slid out of her side of the bed, and padded silently to the bathroom. Closed the door behind her and stared at herself in the mirror before turning on the faucet. Blood... red in the bathroom light, not black. And not all of it someone else's from The Dream. There were wounds there too, carried over.

Slight wounds, not nearly as bad as they'd looked - or felt - in The Dream. They'd close up and heal in hours or at most a day, leaving no scars.

They always did. Bruises were already fading...

Recurring dreams of closing the Gates of Hell. Dreams that left her with unexplainable wounds, and covered with the blood of strangers she'd been trying to help. And dreams of a... what? Other self? Dream doppleganger? Twin? Alternate version, like from some other reality out of a Star Trek episode?

There'd been an almost palpable connection between her and her dream self - that figure who looked enough like her to be her twin, but wasn't. A... resonance between them.

'Not herself', was the conclusion she'd some to, several days after The Dream had started over a week ago. She'd never stood like that, or moved like that, with that arrogant predatory grace and confidence, and almost unconscious sexuality. And those eyes...

Ancient eyes, eyes that had seen horrors, like the eyes on combat veterans she'd met. Eyes filled with some inner pain. Laughing eyes, though: eyes that somehow still managed to find some amusement in spite of the horrors, and managed to care despite that pain.

She shook her head, and grabbed a bar of soap. Lathering it up, she carefully washed the blood from her face and hands, running the water long after she was finished to make sure that all traces were gone down the drain. Took off the bloodstained t-shirt and threw it into the hamper rolled up into a bundle where the stains didn't show, and washed the rest of the stains from herself before digging in the cabinet under the sink for the spare t-shirts she'd started keeping in here, this last week.

Heard the door open behind her while she was pulling it on. Damn - she'd forgotten to lock it.

"Christ!" She saw his eyes first thing as she finished pulling the t-shirt on over her head, wide and shocked, knew he'd seen the cuts and slashes, and the bruising.

She started laughing, involuntarily... 'Gods - don't start that. You may never stop'. "Nooo... He may not be involved..."

"What the... ?" He shook his head. Eyes and voice frightened now, not exasperated. Couldn't blame him - this was scaring hell out of her, as well.

"They carry over from The Dream. Every time." She met his eyes, defiantly. "What's a doctor going to say about that? Or a therapist? That I'm mutilating myself? I'm not, you know."

"We need to talk," he said, softly, looking down at the bloody hand print she'd left on his forearm.

"Yeah," she said, nodding finally. "Might as well. Not like I'm going to get much more sleep before I have to get up for work." Good thing she didn't seem to need as much lately. "Wanna go make us some coffee?"

He looked at her for a long time, then jerked his head, nodding, and left the bathroom. Left her alone with her thoughts while she finished up.

Taking a last look in the mirror, she shook her head and went to join him, dreading the conversation to come. A snatch of dimly remembered music came to her as she closed the bathroom door behind her. Something about sleeping in the daytime and weeping at the scene... and hauntings and dreams.

All a dream, maybe. But she had a feeling it wasn't just a dream...

The End


After Word: Main storyline continues in "Life is a Road", the sequel/next installment to Anything for Love, with possibly another short vignette or two in between.