Disclaimer: I do not own the characters mentioned herein. This is a work of fiction.

Warnings: Some sexual undertones...

A/N: Dedicated to my Evil Cosmic Triplet :-)

A Dream within a Dream

By Edgar Alan Poe

Take this kiss upon the brow!

And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow--
You are not wrong who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.


"Dreams that do come true can be as unsettling as those that don't."

– Brett Buttler Knee Deep in Paradise

The ocean offered no break from the monotony as Jason continued to row. Though Spinelli had promised to spell him in an hour, Jason had let the younger man sleep, knowing that if he awoke he'd have to deal with his incessant chatter and not sure he could handle it at the moment. He felt bad for that thought and the thoughts that followed, but refused to dwell on them. He was stuck on a life craft in the middle of the ocean with Spinelli. He couldn't recall if Spinelli had mentioned anything about a radio in his listing of what the life boat held. He highly doubted that an S.O.S. had been sent and that meant that there would be no rescue.

They would have to plot their own rescue and he worried that, when Spinelli woke, he would have to deal, not only with his own growing sense of panic and dread, but also that of his friend. He was plum exhausted and did not have the reserves to deal with much more than his own worries, so he let Spinelli sleep and rowed because that offered him a sense, albeit a small petering sense, of peace and the illusion of control.

As long as he continued to row, he could pretend to be in control of the situation which had ceased to be under his control when he heard the first gunshot echo in the night. He lost all track of time as he rowed, and took little notice as the sky began to dawn pink, rending itself from the all consuming darkness in which it had bled into the ocean, making it now possible to distinguish one from the other.

Exhaustion did not slow him down, or at least that is the sanity-saving lie his mind told him, even though the muscles in his arms began to cramp and the pace had long ago tapered down to little more than ceasing to move backwards and yet not making much ground in the unending mass of blue. Even as his perfect posture now resembled that of a stiff hunchback, he continued to row, not willing to give into his body's betraying desire to rest.

Spinelli cracked an eyelid open. He was in an extremely uncomfortable position and couldn't quite remember how he'd gotten himself into it. He felt cramped and stiff and his body ached everywhere. He wasn't quite sure that he wanted to be awake just yet, but for some reason there was a bright light beaming down on him requesting his wakefulness and he was begrudgingly granting its wish.

Wiping the sleep from his eyes, he attempted to sit up, but for some reason his body refused to cooperate and a sharp pain exploded behind his eyes, distorting his vision. Confusion and fear comingled and he drew jagged breaths of air into his lungs much too rapidly. Completely blinded now by bright red and black spots that danced across his vision, he struggled to breathe.

The last thing he remembered was going to sleep in his bunk of the cabin he shared with Jason. His mind could not fathom why bright light would be shining in his eyes or how his body had ended up so twisted and sore on a hard, unforgiving surface. Perhaps I fell out of the bunk during a maelstrom…where's Stone Cold? What the hell is that blinding light and why doesn't someone take it away?

"Argh," so much for eloquence, Spinelli thought as the whimpered groan escaped his parched lips. He hoped his mentor was not in the vicinity even as he wished for him to come to his rescue. You are not some damned damsel in distress in need of rescue from some shining white knight; he remonstrated and attempted to right himself once more only to be blasted again by a sharp, penetrating pain at the base of his skull.

"Spinelli?" Jason had been watching his roommate come to wakefulness with a rueful smirk. The way Spinelli's eyes had fluttered and his hands had risen as though to bat away the sun had roused a chuckle from him. The chuckle, however, died in his throat at the first sign of distress and Jason, forgetting about everything else, scrambled over to the struggling young man.

Assessing the situation with a heart clenching alarm, he discovered that Spinelli's neck was twisted at an abnormal angle and his limbs were at odds with the rest of his body, making it damn near impossible for him to sit up on his own. Freeing the young man's legs from their tangled mess, he carefully resituated his neck and got a fist to the eye for his efforts. Falling back on his heels, he grasped Spinelli's flailing arms and pulled him upward, gently turning him around so that he supported the young man's head against his chest.

Getting his own breathing under control, he whispered soothingly into Spinelli's ear, "I've got you Spinelli, you're okay." His own neck and back protested his sudden movements and awkward position, but he sat that way until he felt Spinelli's body relax in his grip.

"Okay, I'm gonna let go of your arms and sit down," Jason's lips were pressed lightly against his roommate's ear. At Spinelli's slight nod, he eased out of his crouched position and leaned against the side of their lifeboat as he continued to support the young hacker's body with his own. "You okay?" Spinelli nodded.

"Stone Cold…"Spinelli's words caught on the dryness of his throat and he coughed. "What happened?" His lungs felt as they were burning and he gasped for air.

"You don't remember?" Jason asked in alarm.

Spinelli didn't think he could squeeze another word out so he chose do shake his head, regretting it almost immediately as his head was once again assaulted with a blinding pain. A groan slipped out before he could stop it and he felt something pressed to his lips.

"Here, drink this," Jason pressed the water bottle to Spinelli's lips and helped tilt his head back. He sighed in relief as the water was swallowed and then took a swig from the bottle himself, realizing how parched he was as well.

"You don't remember anything?" Jason kept his voice low.

Again, Spinelli shook his head and cracked one of his eyes open to see if his vision had decided to stop swimming in dizzying swirls. Nope, no such luck there. He drew in a hiss of breath at the pain that had started to thrum in his temple and wondered at the way his mentor seemed to tense behind him.

"Spinelli," Jason wasn't sure if he should relate all that had happened or let the young man rest some more and try to recover the memories on his own. Had he even been fully awake as the night's events had unfolded?

"Stone Cold?" Spinelli's voice was so soft Jason had to strain to hear it, "The Jackal would be most appreciative if he were to relate the events of the previous soiree. It seems that his inebriated or pummeled brain is unable to come up with a reasonable account other than coming face to face with a hammerhead shark or possibly drinking the captain under the table, though the latter is far too unlikely."

In spite of the direness of their situation, Jason couldn't stop the laugh before it came out. Spinelli felt the quaking of the chest he was propped up against and gave into his own weakened laughter.

Once their laughter subsided, Jason drew in a deep breath, unsure of how to put the previous night's events into words.

"We've been shipwrecked, haven't we?" Spinelli's words caught him off-guard. Spinelli managed to twist around so that his questioning green eyes were looking up into his, "This isn't some wild dream that my overactive imagination has concocted, is it? Jacques really is dead," unshed tears glittered in the green jeweled orbs, "I," Spinelli gulped, "the Jackal, really shot and killed a man." His voice quavered at the end and he looked away from Jason.

Unsure of what to say, Jason simply held the young man as he noiselessly cried. Resting his chin on Spinelli's head, he worked to loosen the kinks in the hacker's neck, massaging with fingers well adapted to the task. He'd done the same for Sam on numerous occasions and had been the recipient of stress-relieving massages as well.

Spinelli fell asleep as the sun grew higher in the sky. Jason drew out one of the tarps and used it to block the sun. It was hot, their bodies were slick with sweat and Jason was miserable, yet he had abandoned the idea of continuing to row.

The ocean was this vast never-ending entity content to keep them upon her belly whether he rowed or not. He and Spinelli were at her mercy and he prayed that she would be merciful and expel them upon dry, unmoving land soon.

Jason didn't even realize he'd fallen asleep until he was being jostled awake by the form sleeping on top of him. Disoriented and lost in a memory of Sam, his hands traveled along the length of the body, noting the smoothness of the skin. He brushed his lips lightly against the base of what he presumed to be Sam's neck and was summarily jolted from his state of half-sleep as a very masculine voice accosted his ears and his wandering hands were pushed away, "St…Stone Cold?"

Both men sat up abruptly, nearly banging heads in the process and Spinelli's hands fought with the tarp covering them. He moved hastily away from Jason, the resulting gap between them not large, but significant enough to allow the night air to raise goose bumps along Spinelli's naked torso as he looked at his mentor with a mixture of confusion and accusation.

"Spinelli?" Jason's voice was gruff. He was still caught up in the dream and was having difficulty understanding where his roommate fit in with all of it. Wasn't it Sam's sleek form he had been previously meshed with? Was it not her whose lithe body he had been touching and groping? Surely it had been Sam's soft as silk skin and not Spinelli's which had caused his partial arousal. Right?

"Stone Cold, the Jackal does not hold you responsible for your," Spinelli cleared his throat nervously, blushing in the waning sunlight, "no doubt dream inspired ministrations…" Spinelli attempted to back up even further but was stopped abruptly as his back met the edge of the lifeboat.

Realization of what had happened sunk in and Jason looked in mute horror at the young man who had inched as far away from him as was physically possible in the limited space of the life craft. Blanching, he looked down and attempted to regain some composure before he spoke.

"Spinelli," he began, not daring to meet the younger man's eyes, "I was dreaming…I," he stared resolutely at his hands, now clasped firmly in his lap, "I thought…Spinelli," he ventured a look over at the now shivering man who had lost his tee-shirt during their escape, "I'm sorry, I thought, I mean, I was dreaming about Sam…it just seemed so real…" he trailed off, not sure if his actions really could be excused and not sure if he could trust his wavering voice any longer.

The dream hadn't seemed like a dream at all. He could even hear Sam's laughter, smell her scent. Even now it seemed to linger in the air between them. His body had responded readily. It had been much too long since he'd had his needs met and he ached to return to the dream and follow it to its culmination. If only it hadn't been a dream, if only it had been Sam he held in his arms. If only he and Spinelli were not stranded in the middle of the fucking ocean.

"It's okay," Spinelli's smile wavered as he held his arms around himself in an attempt to regain some of the warmth he had lost when he'd moved from beneath the tarp. He'd felt safe nestled against his mentor's chest and hadn't wanted to wake at all, but his stomach was starting to get queasy and thirst was calling to him. He also had to relieve himself.

He had tried to disentangle himself from Jason's hold without waking the man. His movements, however, seemed to make the man hold onto him even more and Spinelli had stilled, waiting a heartbeat before he moved again. Wordless moans reached his ears and Spinelli groaned in frustration as Jason's arms seemed reluctant to let him go.

When Jason's fingers first started trailing along his bicep and torso, Spinelli's breath caught in his throat and his heart hammered in his chest, the touch was bordering on sensual and Spinelli was becoming steadfastly embarrassed on his mentor's behalf as well as his own. Biting his bottom lip, he attempted to extricate himself as quickly as possible without waking the sleeping man, knowing that Jason would be more than a little disconcerted by his own dream initiated actions and hoping that whatever Jason was dreaming would not lead to anything other than a little unwanted touch.

When he felt hot lips pressed against the base of his neck in a decidedly unchaste kiss, he sprung into action, no longer caring if he woke the sleeping man or not. He knew that Jason would never forgive himself if things went a little further in his dream state and doubted he'd ever be able to look his mentor fully in the eye again if he allowed things to go much further.

It wasn't that he had been repulsed by Jason's actions; actually he couldn't really determine how he felt about what had happened at the moment, he just knew that he didn't blame the man for what he had inadvertently done. It hadn't been his fault. Spinelli knew that Jason had been dreaming, had heard the faint mention of Sam's name once or twice. No, if anyone was culpable, if anyone was to blame for the current uncomfortable state they found themselves in, it was he. He should have moved away from Jason the moment he had woken up, he should never have allowed things to progress as they had.

Tears of shame, self-blame, nausea, and simple exhaustion pricked the back of his eyes and Spinelli rested his head on his knees. His legs were drawn up and his arms hugged them to himself. He couldn't bear to look in his master's eyes, couldn't bear to see the anger and disgust that he was sure would be flickering in them.

Jason was devastated as Spinelli continued to backpedal away from him and seemed to close in on himself, wrapping his arms around his drawn knees. He hadn't meant to molest the young man who looked up to him and whom he admired more than he'd ever admit. He hadn't even been aware of his actions. Certain that Spinelli would never wish to look at him again and afraid at what he would see in those wide innocent green eyes if he did, Jason looked out at the ocean. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. What the hell could he possibly say to undo what had been done? How would he ever regain the young man's trust and, more importantly, his friendship and unwavering loyalty? Had he forever lost the best friend he had?

He didn't see how they would be able to get past this. He had violated his best friend, the boy who looked up to him and respected him. True, he hadn't acted willfully or with the intent to harm, but what had happened had happened and he couldn't erase it. He couldn't pretend that nothing had happened and doubted that Spinelli would be able to forgive so great a violation in spite of his penchant for forgiveness. He'd been amazed time and time again at his roommate's ability to forgive, at his innocence and his ability to put others above himself, even to his own hurt. But this, this was too much to forgive, even though he hadn't meant it and he hadn't been acting with awareness. No, asking Spinelli to forgive so great a crime, as unintentional as it was, was too much.

His heart clenched painfully as he once more regarded the young man huddled on the opposite side of the boat. Shivers wracked the smaller frame and Jason's heart lurched with concern. Suddenly, Spinelli released his hold on his knees and Jason watched in mounting worry as Spinelli knelt next to the edge of the boat.

Jason launched himself to Spinelli's side in a split second as the young man leaned over the edge of the life craft. "No, Spinelli!" Jason caught the edge of the younger man's sweatpants fearful that he was going to jump into the inky waves of the ocean.

Terrified that Spinelli was going to be lost to him forever because of his stupid dream and subsequent actions, he clung to the hacker's waist imploring him not to jump into the ocean, "I'm sorry, I promise it won't happen again, I didn't mean to do it. Just please don't jump."

Spinelli's stomach churned and roiled and he felt a telltale pull at his navel indicating that it was going to rebel and expel the meager contents that it held. No longer thinking of anything other than not sicking up on himself or in their temporary habitat, he leaned over the edge of the life boat just in time for his stomach to issue its first abortive assault.

Vaguely aware that Jason was holding him, anchoring him to the boat, he groaned in pain as he continued to retch into the oblivious, dauntless ocean. He didn't register his master's plaintive words as his stomach continued its seemingly ceaseless clenching and emptying.

When the nausea abated, he rested his head against the edge of the boat, having no strength to move further into the safety of it. He sat there panting, unable to lift his head, unaware of anything save for the incessant, dizzying, nauseating movement of the ocean as its devilish minions lifted and dropped their life boat at irregular intervals.

Realizing that Spinelli's intention was not to toss himself headlong into the ocean, Jason held onto the young man as he retched over the edge of the lifeboat, wishing that he could've had the foresight to bring along the white pills Jacques had gifted Spinelli with. He chastised himself for thinking that Spinelli would have been foolish enough to jump into the ocean. Relief coursed through him even as a new dread fell upon him. Spinelli leaned over the edge once more and Jason doubted if there was anything left that could be brought up to expel and yet Spinelli continued to heave into the boundless ocean.

The waves swallowed his bile hungrily and danced around the edge of his vision, greedily asking for more. He couldn't help the sob that was torn from him as he continued to give the ocean what it sought of him, his very essence and being poured out into its unlimited depths. And still, it asked for more. Spinelli didn't think he had enough to satiate its endless hunger. Would it remain unsatisfied until he forfeited his life? Would it then turn its eager, ravenous eye on Jason? No, he would not let the voracious beast claim him. He'd pit himself between the beast and her lilting puppets if it was the last thing he ever did.

Darkness stole his vision and Spinelli sank blissfully into it, no longer able to hold back the ocean, he joined her in her all-consuming depths. The painful attack on his stomach ceased along with all thought.

"Spinelli," Jason dribbled water into the younger man's slightly opened mouth and coaxed it down his throat, running his thumb along it to ensure that it reached its destination, hoping that it would not merely be spit out or regurgitated as had happened countless times before throughout the night.

When Spinelli had suddenly gone slack in his arms, he'd hauled him back into the boat and tried to wake him. He found a pulse and sighed in relief as he watched the young man's chest rise and fall. He sat by his side, administering water, knowing that he would need to be rehydrated. Ignoring his own needs, he silently pled for Spinelli to wake and drank only when his parched throat demanded it. He needed to be there for Spinelli. Had to save the man who had always been there for him. Had to apologize to him for what he'd done.

Night bled into day and Jason hovered over the too still form of Spinelli. As the day waned on Spinelli awoke only to regurgitate the small amount of water Jason had managed to force into his system. Knowing there was little he could do to combat the seasickness, Jason resolved to make Spinelli as comfortable as possible.

He arranged himself into a comfortable seated position at the bottom of the life boat and placed Spinelli's head in his lap and did his best to shield him from the sun. He continued to administer water to both Spinelli and himself throughout the relentless day as the sun beat down on them and offered as much warmth as he could during the much too cold night.

Another day dawned and Jason's eyes were drawn to the horizon, knowing that if they did not reach land soon, Spinelli wouldn't make it and he would follow soon after.

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