Hee...well it's been a while since I've written Zoids fic-stuff, eh? Lots of stuff happening in real life, but anyway, here's part five of "Run With Me." Still odd as ever. ^_^

Disclaimer: I don't own Zoids or any other Zoids characters, much to my sorrow. ^^;;

Anyhow, feedback is greatly appreciated!

//Italics// is mind speech...(>_)

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Run With Me - Part 5

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There was nothing left to do but watch the rain. The tiger had disappeared into the depths of the cave, warning Brad with a single look not to follow. While ordinarily he would have balked at such a thing, for some reason Brad obeyed this one time.

Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that he was in alien territory with only the tiger as his guide. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that he had no wish to wander the stifling blackness at the back of the cave that the tiger moved through with such ease. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Brad simply had nowhere he wanted to go at the moment.

The rain, something he had had seen countless times before in the waking world, seemed threatening now. Not only because of what the tiger had told him it meant, but also because of some inner fear that Brad could find no name for. Some instinct that warned him away from the bitter cold of the rain...and the memories it might bring with it.

So he sat just inside the cave entrance and watched as the rain fell. Occasionally a flash of lightning lit the sky, followed by the deep crack of thunder fit to split the sky in two. It felt like hours had passed since they had reached the caves, and still the rain fell.

//Beautiful, isn't it?//

Starting, Brad twisted around to see the tiger watching him. How a creature as large as it was managed to move in complete silence Brad was at a loss to explain. But somehow it could, and it did.

//What are you talking about now?// Brad growled, getting to his feet as the tiger stepped out of the shadows.

The tiger cocked its head to the side, green eyes sliding shut.

//Listen, Brad. What do you hear?//

//I don't have the time or the patience to deal with you and your - //

The tiger snorted, amusement swirling through Brad's mind.

//Time? Brad, time is the one thing you have plenty of here. Time holds no meaning in the Dreamscape, save for what you give it.//

Shaking his head, Brad backed away from the tiger. There was something different about it now that made him wary of it. Where before the tiger had been a source of warmth and comfort, now it was the source of his frustration and fear. And yet he couldn't find it within himself to be surprised at the way things had turned out. He had never been able to place his trust in anyone before without having it broken in some way.

//What do you mean? We barely had enough time to get here before the storm broke. How can time have no meaning if we had to race the storm?//

Opening its eyes, the tiger took another step forward, forcing Brad to give ground before it.

//You still cling to the laws that govern the waking world, Brad. To you there is only now and ten minutes from now. The past has no meaning to you because you are afraid to face it. If you wanted, time could stop here. The surface of the lake you are so enamored of would freeze so that you could walk across it, if you chose. The rain would stop, droplets hanging in midair. Don't you understand yet, Brad? Here you are in control. Here you are the nameless god that controls the world.//

Fear clogging his throat, Brad backed away from the tiger although it had made no move towards him.

//That's impossible. No one could do something like that.//

The tiger's eyes narrowed as though in frustration at Brad's inability to comprehend what it had told him. Ears flattening against its skull, the tiger bared its fangs in a silent growl.

//Are you really so blind, Brad? Do you really want to hold on to the things you believe are true so badly that you aren't willing to let go in order to risk the impossible? Are you so willing to trust in the fact that something you can't see, or touch, or feel could be real? That Brad...that is perhaps the worst thing that could happen to any living being. That inability to simply believe.//

Tossing his head, Brad snarled as the tiger's words - so full of sympathy and pity - registered. More than being scorned as a mere mercenary, he hated being pitied for who and what he was. And now the tiger dared pity him because he did not have the qualities it thought he should? Because he had not measured up to the tiger's expectations?

//What do you know about it? You who spouts riddles and inane little bits of advice? What do you believe in that has no form, no shape, no feel? What do you believe that you can pity me the way you do? What is it that makes you able to look down on me? What gives you that right? What gives you the right to mock me with your eyes and your words?//

The tiger stared back at him, green eyes unblinking as he screamed at it, his mind voice ragged and broken. When finally he stopped chest heaving for breath, eyes wide, the tiger stepped forward to nuzzle his face gently.

//You would know if you remembered, Brad. You would know.//

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When at last the rains did stop, Brad was loath to leave the cave. The world outside was different somehow, just as the tiger was. Just as he was.

Silence laced with accusation and resentment had filled the cave after Brad's outburst and the tiger's soft words. Even now Brad could feel the weight of sorrow in the tiger's mind voice - as well as its regret.

//The world outside is different because you are beginning to remember ever so slightly, Brad. As you regain more of your memories the Dreamscape will alter itself to suit your new perception of what it should be. And as that happens, you will begin to wake up.//

Turning to look at the tiger, Brad was surprised that its mind voice should sound so tired. So drained and devoid of the fire he had come to associate with it. Looking into its eyes, he saw that they lacked their usual shine.

//What's happening to you?//

The tiger managed to dredge up a small smile in an attempt to set Brad's frayed nerves at ease. Somehow the fragile expression only served to frighten him even more. He could deal with the tiger turning on him and becoming someone he had to watch, but to lose it completely...

//What's wrong? What's wrong with you?//

Stepping past him, the tiger walked out of the cave and into the fading gloom beyond, ignoring the desperation and fear in Brad's mind voice. Giving itself a good shake, the tiger glanced back over its shoulder at Brad, something in its eyes luring him to it.

//Run with me, Brad. Run with me.//

Blinking, Brad took a step forward before he knew what he'd done. All he knew at that moment was the siren song of the tiger's words summoning him. Inviting him to shed his troubles and simply feel again.

When he did realize what he was doing, Brad planted his feet and refused to budge. He would not fall prey to the sweet poison the tiger fed him with its words and pretty turn of phrase. Would not lose himself in sensation devoid of thought. Not until he understood the ways of the Dreamscape. Not until he understood what was expected of him so that he would not be sent back to the waking world where only pain and misery awaited him.

//No. For once give me a straight answer. No more of your riddles. No more of your mysteries. Just answer me.//

The tiger stared at him, tail twitching to some inner rhythm of heart and blood and life.

//Run with me, Brad. Run with me.//

Again he resisted the tiger's call. It cost him more than he knew, to force himself to remain grounded in lucid thought and the skewed reality of the Dreamscape. It cost him to fight the side of him that craved to be released. The side of him that begged to be let loose. The side of him that cried to be free.

//You say that I am afraid of what I don't remember, and yet you fail to answer a simple question. Is it because you can't, or is it because you won't? Which is it?//

To his surprise, the tiger laughed at him, warmth and affection slipping past his guard and into his mind with effortless ease. It frightened him at the same time it left him to wonder if what he felt was real. If the affection was genuine and not some dreamed up scrap of desperate hope and desire his mind had created.

//Oh but it is real, Brad. As real as I am. // The tiger said as it walked towards him splashing through puddles left by the storm. //As to what's happening to me...I told you humans were not meant to live here forever. Bend time; even stop it completely - that they can do. But the one thing they cannot do is touch the waking world as they would here. The waking world lives on while time here flows in an endless loop controlled by the Dreamer. Controlled by you, Brad. I have already been here too long as it is. And so have you. No one can stay here forever, Brad. Not even me. //

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To Be Continued...

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