Chosen theme: blood.

I. I Dreamed A Dance from Next to Normal

They drip with blood as they dance. Oozing red droplets from their skin the way rain drips from the London sky, continuous and slow, an endless refrain of salty bitterness and gloom.

His hands are warm on her waist, warm with life, sticky with blood that isn't his. Will hers be next? Is the blood that runs in his veins even his anymore? Or has he shed so much blood that it no longer belongs to him? Can it ever belong to her too?

II. I Miss You Old Friend from Dreamgirls

Oh, how he's missed them. And how they've missed him. Neglect is an abuse even worse than the sting of a prison lash. Flesh cut away by lacerations can be replaced; hours spent huddled alone with one's only company their aching mind cannot ever be found again.

He's changed. But they have too. The friendship can continue.

III. What About Love by Heart

When she cuts herself on the parchment she's writing a letter on, Benjamin coddles her like it's the end of the world, kissing her fingertip and murmuring her name through aching lips.

"It's just a paper cut, darling," says Lucy, pulling away her finger from his grasp with a tinkling little laugh.

He looks up at her, eyes dark. Her smile fades. She's never seen such a sober expression upon his face. There's precious little reason for sobriety in a house filled with such light and love; there's precious little reason for unhappiness in a happily-ever-after.

"I always wanted to protect you," he says sadly.

"It's just a paper cut, Ben," she says again, but her eyes are fixed on the blood stains on his lips, and this time she can't laugh.

IV. I Don't Need Anything But You from Annie

It throbs hot and vivid and so deliciously real in his veins. He hasn't felt so real in years. So alive. His head is pounding, his heart is pounding, his life is pounding, and as the customer slides down the chute leading to the bakehouse, he realizes that this is what it is to feel alive.

Suddenly he remembers his wife without remembering her – sees her without being able to see her – and he runs to his dresser and grabs her picture and stares at it until her image is again ingrained in his mind.

Until he can pretend it's still ingrained his memory.

V. I Believe by Fantasia

He dreams in shades of red.

He used to dream in gray. He doesn't understand why it's changed and he doesn't know if he likes it or not.

It's a beautiful color, to be sure, painted over everything as it is. He wishes every day the real world were this way. Then he would not have to create his own paint; then he could admire endlessly, sit at his leisure, knowing there was already justice in the world without his administration.

But sometimes it's too beautiful. Too vivid. Sometimes it blinds him, the way sometimes he's blinded by all these happy people outside the window, or by the lust to create a wound in someone else so that his own might seal, or by the memories of Lucy that he can no longer see –

Sometimes he just wants to see a rainbow without having his vision veiled by precious rubies.

VI. Tikal by E.S. Posthumus

He should know that he's going to die tonight.

He should be able to sense it in the way the barber moves about the room. The way the barber paces like a predator with coiled muscles and tight steps, the way the barber's voice is too casual and interested in what he has to say, the way the obsidian ice blocks that the barber has for eyes flash with fire when he tells the barber he's a visitor to London with no family to his name.

He should leave.

But he didn't, and he couldn't, and he doesn't.

So he dies and becomes one more body – soon to be nameless, soon to be meatless, soon to be bloodless, lifeless, choiceless – upon the floor.

VII. Shining Time by Maren Ord

Every time his hands touch her skin, she dares to believe that they have a future beyond this. Beyond blood, beyond pies, beyond Fleet Street.

Beyond pain.

He never precisely encourages her, but he doesn't turn away her fancies either. A nod of the head here, a caress on her elbow there, a nod of acknowledgement here, a heart-breaking smile there. Enough to feed the thread-bare beliefs and convince her there's still more fabric in their future.

VIII. When The Sun Goes Down from In The Heights

When the sun goes down, he can't see blood anymore. Certainly he can keep his shop open late, and certainly an occasional man will stumble in during these late hours, but it's not the same when he can hardly see the beautiful rubies being liberated from flesh.

Perhaps that's why he starts to come to her when the sun disappears from the sky. Perhaps that's how all this starts. Perhaps that's why he almost doesn't mind wiping away her tears after another miscarriage: because her sheets are red, and she is red, and the sight is almost too beautiful to bear.

IX. I Remember/Stranger Than You Dreamt It from Phantom of the Opera

Once she had a dream that it was Sweeney Todd lying on the floor of her bakehouse.

She chopped him up like all the others. Stripped off his clothes with a more professional demeanor than a whore, put her knives into his flesh and watched the blood drip out without a flinch, didn't bother to avert her eyes for modesty's sake. Treated him no differently than the others.

She awoke gasping and shaking, clutching her bed sheets to her chest and wishing he were there to sooth away the nightmare.

X. Endgame #3/Chess Game #3 from Chess the Musical

In the end, she knows how it will end.

She knows there's no seaside waiting for her. No little cottage, no pies stuffed with strawberries rather than humans, no rolling waves. No sand between her toes.

No future without blood.

Still she tells herself there is. Still she tells herself there will be.

Still she tells herself it won't end in blood.

It has to. Deep down, she knows it must. It started in blood, they were born in blood, and so it, and so they, must end in blood. Rags to riches only happens in the fairy tales. In reality, those with riches always keep them, and those in rags can never sew their attire back together.

In reality, the only ocean she'll ever glimpse again is their own, rolling waves of salty crimson as it spills from their bodies and runs together in their last confession of pain.

A/N: Reviews make the world go 'round. And it'd be really sad if said world stopped spinning.