Disclaimer: I own nothing of Kim Harrison's.

Author's Note: Someone save me from this damned first person POV!! Why does it haunt me so?! Argh. I really hate writing in it, but unfortunately it felt necessary for this story (sighs).
Btw, this fic is set after FOC, but before ODW.

The Reality of Dreams

"The best thing about dreams is that fleeting moment, when you are between asleep and awake, when you don't know the difference between reality and fantasy, when for just that one moment you feel with your entire soul that the dream is reality, and it really happened." – Unknown.

Every night I dream.

It is a dream I know well.

The dream borders upon the realm of nightmares.

It never changes.

This is my dream.

Warmth surrounds my body, the luxurious heat soothing my tired muscles. I stretch languidly, feeling a pleasant pull in certain parts of my body and roll over, my arm settling over the smaller, softer, form beside me. A smile curls my lips as I breathe in the familiar scent of rosewood and cinnamon.

She's here.

A pink haze of happiness settles over me and I pull her closer, brushing aside the wonderful curtain of her fiery mane to place a kiss against the nape of her neck. She shivers delightfully against my lips, releasing a throaty moan that tugs at the primal side of me that should be satisfied by all we've done, but I know can never be. Not while she's here, safe in my arms.

A low murmur of sound escapes her and I struggle to catch the words, sliding closer until my nose is inches from her ear. Her eyes are still closed, the faint flicker of movement behind the lids telling me she is still sound asleep. My mouth creases in a tender smile I can't quite repress. She is beautiful.

Her mouth opens again and I curiously lean forward, pressing another, firmer, kiss where her shoulder and neck meet, despite the tremor of dream precognition stirring in the back of my lazy mind.

(Ivy...) She breathes, the single word –no, name– a fervent prayer falling from her full lips.

My stomach drops. My breath freezes.

She stirs then, turning in my embrace, and nuzzles closer; slowly opening her eyes, a look of sleepy adoration in their forest green depths.

It disappears when they focus on me.

My heart stops.

I can't speak, I can't think; the sensation clenching my chest overwhelming everything else.

(What...?) Rachel says hesitantly; speaking slowly as though trying to understand what I'm doing there, an undercurrent of panic lacing her question. As though she has no memory of any of the things we've done, the things we've said to each other. As though she doesn't remember that I love her. Or that she loves me.

Rachel pulls away from my embrace quickly, hastily gathering up what covers she can to shield her nude body from my gaze.

A cold wind ripples through the warmth of the room, dousing my happiness like a weak candle flame.

Don't, my heart pleads silently, please don't leave me.

I open my mouth to say something, anything to make the horrified look disappear from her eyes. Something that will make her lie back down in my arms and let me hold her close again.

(Look who's been sleeping in my bed) Drawls a low voice; smoky, not with seduction, but a barely leashed murderous rage. I swallow convulsively, all thoughts lost and slowly turn my head; knowing, dreading whom my eyes will find.

A dark goddess looms over me, her obsidian eyes promising everlasting torment. I quail against the mattress, my breath choked in my throat, unable to form a protest or even an excuse in my defence. (Little Red Riding Hood and the treacherous rodent) She sneers, deceptively delicate hands balling into white-knuckled fists by her sides. (Does that make me the big bad vampire?)

(Ivy!) Rachel exclaims and the tearful relief in her voice hurts me more than an avenging vampire will ever be able to. The dangerous look in Ivy's eyes flickers for a moment as she darts a reassuring look in Rachel's direction.

(It's alright Rachel) She promises, her words confident and calming. (I'll protect you) She outstretches a long arm in invitation and Rachel gratefully stumbles towards her; blankets still wrapped firmly around her waist as she hugs the taller woman and buries her face against Ivy's shoulder.

I'm not the one she needs protecting from, I think furiously, unable to voice my thoughts aloud thanks to the unnatural heaviness weighing down my tongue, I'm not the one after her blood.

I feel, rather than see, the heart-stopping smile filled with trust Rachel favours Ivy with, as it shines brightly from her face, lightening the very room with the strength of its sincerity and affection. It makes my heart die just a little more. The vampire's arm slides securely, possessively around Rachel's hips as she brushes another careful hand over the wild curls. All the hope I ever held shatters into a thousand pieces around me at these simple gestures of tenderness, hinting unpleasantly at a deeper level of intimacy between them. I feel a wave of nausea pass over me.

Everything is so wrong.

Then the vampire turns her attention back to me and I can't stop myself from shaking in pure fear as the gentle expression in her eyes vanishes like smoke, turning deadly with intent. The scar on my wrist pulses in remembered agony (and pleasure) –and in expectation of more to come.

(Rachel is mine) Is all she says, staring directly into my eyes, piercing the very depths of my soul. Reflected back at me in her gaze is utter loathing and disgust. My life is worth less than nothing to her.

Suddenly I am lifted by a single pale hand, as though I weigh no more than a rag doll and hurled viciously across the room. My back hits a particularly solid wall with a sickening crunch and I feel myself involuntarily cry out in pain. Coughing up crimson foam, I shakily wipe my mouth clean of the copper-tinged flecks as I struggle to rise and meet my fate like a man; I long ago swore never to kneel before another bloodsucker ever again. But Ivy is already there, a pitch black aura haloing her body like a demonic shroud as she towers above me.

Rachel has vanished.

(You should have stayed dead, Nicholas Crap-For-Brains Sparagamos) She tells me; no remorse, no hatred, no nothing in her expression anymore, despite the use of the mocking nickname I hate. It is as if I am an insect she is contemplating crushing. The blood chills in my veins. (You should have stayed away from her)

No, I think, glaring up at the vampire who has stolen everything I ever loved away from me. Rachel was mine first. I had her. She chose me. You don't deserve her.

But before I can reply her hand is already around my throat like a vice, cutting off my air with devastating ease. (You betrayed her) Ivy whispers, pale lips peeling back in an inhuman snarl to expose perfect fangs of ivory. (You gave her to me) My eyes widen in shock and I panic, struggling fruitlessly against her preternatural strength as my lungs burn and spots of white light explode in my vision.

I can't focus, can't tap a line, can't do anything but flail helplessly like a fly trapped in a spider's web.

I know I am dead.

(Rachel is mine) I faintly hear her repeat over the roaring in my ears and my frantic struggles die, my body finally going slack. I cannot see anything other than the overwhelming blackness encompassing my sight. The fire burning in my lungs spreads throughout my body, setting each nerve-ending ablaze with pain as it passes.

I dimly sense movement, then Ivy speaks again, her voice slightly clearer, though still sounding as though it is travelling over a great distance. (She is not for you) Then I feel, more than hear, the stomach-churning crunch of cartilage breaking. (She was never meant for you)

I scream.

And wake alone.

I scramble frantically onto all fours, panting like a wild animal as my eyes dart around the hauntingly empty room; bracing for an attack that does not come. The sheets surrounding me are tangled beyond recognition and I realise I am sweating like I've just run a marathon. Shaking, I wipe my damp forehead on the back my bare arm, calming slightly now I'm fully aware of my surroundings. She's not here. Neither of them are here. I draw a shuddering breath and rest my head in my hands, trying to decide if the realisation reassures or disappoints me. It disturbs me when I can't.

It was just a dream.

No, just the dream.

I slowly lie back down on the clammy bed and stare at the white ceiling above my head, willing the fierce prickling behind my eyes to fade away.

Rachel is gone.

At least until tomorrow night.

Author's Afterword:

Be honest now, how many of you thought it was Ivy?

No seriously, I'm curious. (smiles)

Originally this was going to be Marshall's POV. But I reckoned he didn't really know Rachel enough to have this level of attachment to her and well, I really hate Nick (shrugs).

I'm thinking about possibly continuing this one-shot as a series of dreams; each one with a different character (but hopefully NOT in first-person POV -grumbles-). What say you, readers? Yea, or nay?

Read and review, if you please.