Disclaimer: Check the end for the technical stuff. There's some allusions to Grown Up Stuff, so I guess it's PG-13, but nothing really graphic.
Author's Note: First of all, this is Kaylee's fault. She made me write mook, and since it wouldn't fit in regular continuity I had to write it into Subreality. Not the Cafe this time, just Subreality. You'll see. BTW, if you don't like Dawn and Glenn, I wouldn't advise reading this. It's their story. If you don't know who they are... well, I guess you can take your chances, but you probably won't enjoy it too much. Or you might anyway, you can never tell. This story is the answer to the question "What do fictives do when they're left in Subreality for too long?". The answer may surprise you...
"Hey, look at that. Sunrise."
"Yeah, I noticed that. How long have we been here, four days?"
"Not sure. Possibly more like four hours, knowing this place."
"Well, it's time to get up anyway." Dawn stood up, stretched, and almost took her companion's head off with one of her wings.
"Sorry. And for God's sake, please don't slip. I really, really hate Cockney."
"You make me feel so loved." Glenn rubbed the back of his head and looked at Dawn accusingly. "That's the fourth time that's happened this week. Don't make me punish you."
Dawn made a face. "Please, don't make my mind go in that direction," she pleaded, "Especially after I've talked to the Kitty from 'Dark Reflections'." She leaned over to brush an errant feather from Glenn's shoulder and sighed. "I suppose we should get to work..."
"Doing what?" Glenn got to his feet and let his eyes drift to the sun cresting over the ocean from their vantage point of a cliff currently overlooking the Shifting Sands. The location was new; the cliff seemed to wander across Subreality whenever the spirit moved it. He and Dawn had seen five new places that night alone, and they hadn't had to get up once.
Dawn rolled her shoulders, causing Glenn to back away another step or two to keep from being clothes-lined again. "You know...stuff," she said. She looked at him imploringly. "Something. *Anything.* I'm bored out of my *mind.*"
And I could probably think of more options if this setting wasn't PG, Glenn thought guiltily.
"Well, you don't want to go to the Cafe, you refuse to attend Dead Night, and basically avoid civilization altogether," Glenn shrugged. "About the only place we haven't hit is Shanty Town, and there are a few obvious problems with that. So, kiddo, you're on your own."
He was fairly sure he was safe, but he averted his eyes in case she decided to pout.
"I don't know. Maybe we should just fly for a while and see where we end up." She started doing stretches. Glenn resolutely locked his eyes on a passing cloud.
"Isn't that how we ended up in the animeverse?" he asked, and suppressed a shudder. Even after undergoing a voluntary mindwipe he still had nightmares about cold water.
"Ummm, point." Dawn straightened up and flexed her wings, chewing her lip. "Back home?"
Glenn nodded. "If you want."
"Home" was a sprawling mansion that appeared in Subreality as needed. It had been Written (a few times, actually), but not in anything released to the general public. It had appeared in the epilogue set after Ties Never Binding... and in Dawn and Glenn's wedding.
That was one of the things giving Glenn problems. Thanks to a fickle writer, they had both been written at various ages and in various stages of their relationship--out of sequence.
It wasn't so bad for Glenn. Going from nineteen to twenty-four and back again wasn't quite as bad as going from thirteen to eighteen. Glenn vaguely remembered the first, middle and ending phases of adolescence, and had long ago decided that he'd gotten the better deal by far.
And the other problem, well... technically... if you went on what was written... he and Dawn were already married.
All right, he confessed, it was a technicality. It depended on where in the continuity you wanted to start. But in Subreality continuity had the tendency to blend together if you weren't watching...
He was being silly, he knew. All this time in Subreality was starting to get to him. He was beginning to wonder if it was getting to Dawn, too.
She'd been restless lately. Not in quite the same way (as he was almost disappointed to note), but some sort of wanderlust seemed to have seized her. Glenn equated it to having been in Subreality for almost two years, barring the frequent stints into original fiction; that was enough to drive anyone over the deep end. God knew Dawn had been close enough to begin with.
Glenn watched her carefully. He wasn't sure he liked the way she was looking at the ocean. He wondered how long it would be before she tried to talk to it.
All right, it's definitely time to go home.
Glenn walked forward until he was standing clear of the cliffside. He turned back to Dawn and cocked his head. "Coming?" he asked.
"Yep." Dawn took a running leap off the cliff and lifted her arms above her head, as if diving into a swimming pool. Glenn winced.
:I really wish you wouldn't do that,: he thought, watching her plummet. He heard Dawn laughing in his mind.
:Have a little faith,: she replied teasingly. As Glenn watched her wings snapped open and caught an updraft, carrying her upwards. Her friend followed when he saw that she was finished playing.
She's gotten more reckless, too, Glenn thought, pressing to catch up. I think Tapestry snapped her brain in Ties Never Binding. People are *supposed* to fear death. That's what keeps them from arbitrarily walking into it.
Of course, Glenn (being immortal and having already warranted a season ticket beyond the Pearly Gates), was forced to exclude himself from this number. But it was the principle of the thing.
He watched Dawn execute a barrel roll, her blue and white hair tangling around her face as she laughed. Then again, he thought, her written life had consisted of pain, stress, and cynicism. She needed the temporary vacation from sanity. Glenn just hoped that her sense of self-preservation was returned fully functional before it became a moot point.
They chased one another through the sky, flying in whichever direction struck their interest. It didn't matter which way they traveled; if they were looking for it, the house always showed up eventually. Subreality was convenient like that.
Glenn watched the landscape as they flew. It was much more entertaining than real geography. For instance, real forests didn't uproot themselves and wander several miles to the east when they heard someone coming. On the downside, making maps was rather difficult. On the upside, it made a game of "Drop the Newbie in the Middle of Nowhere" a lot more interesting.
Finally, Glenn spotted the mansion in the midst of the patchwork quilt of Subreality. He leveled himself off and put his arms above his head, descending slowly and vertically. Dawn, on the other hand, spiraled down around him like a hawk, hair streaming in the wind. He could feel her presence around him, like a warm bath, rich and vibrant. It was comforting, almost tangible...
That's it, he thought firmly, First thing I do when we get back is take a cold shower.
He touched down on the front lawn, followed shortly by Dawn. He held the door for her; they never left it locked. Since most inanimate objects eventually formed a sort of sentience in Subreality the two tenants weren't especially worried about home security.
"Home 'gain," Dawn sighed, withdrawing her wings. "When's the last time we were here, anyway?"
"Don't know. Couple of weeks?" Glenn tossed his jacket onto a nearby chair and glanced around. Nothing seemed to have been moved, and the furniture wasn't talking yet, so he concluded that all was normal on the homefront. Or as normal as Subreality got, anyway.
In the meantime, Dawn wandered over to the kitchen and checked the refrigerator for notes from their housemates. "'Dear guys, gone out looking for Shi'ar spare parts in that scrapyard where every piece of technology ever used in a fic ends up,'" she read from a yellow post-it-note. "Wow, she *is* a tech-geek. She took Jason with her, too, and in absence of any other notes I'm going to assume Verney's still visiting with Monet. We've got the house to ourselves again."
"That's nice," Glenn said distractedly. His brain was offering up several less-than-acceptable (albeit highly interesting) courses of action.
"I think I'm going to go downstairs and hit the weights," Dawn continues blithely. "You?"
"I... think I'll go to my room," Glenn replied, shaking himself out of his reverie. "I've got something there I should finish up. I'll talk to you later."
Dawn nodded and headed for the weight room; Glenn sighed and started towards the stairs to the second floor, trying to pull his one-track mind out of the gutter and back onto the rails.
Glenn was having a bad feeling about today. He was in a Mood. Normally he could go for as long as three or four days without a hormonal thought entering his mind (at least not to linger long enough to build its own summer home), but today... well, he had the sinking feeling that at some point he would be talking to an officer of the Subreality PD using sentences like "Honest, officer, it was a crime of passion. I don't know where the Cool Whip came from."
Glenn considered that thought for a moment, then covered his face with his hands.
And tripped over a chair.
_You know, some days I just can't win._
After Glenn had picked himself off the floor he went to his room. It was large and reasonably well furnished, and at the moment the window offered a view of a roiling field of purple grass. Glenn picked his way across ground zero until he reached his desk, and the work thereon.
Having been MIA from his primary story for almost three years, Glenn had been forced to develop a hobby out of sheer desperation. As it so happened, it had turned out to be the art of... well, art.
Glenn settled down at the antique, hardwood desk that sat in front of the open window. It had been a gift from Cassie Cantrell; they'd gotten to talking after the first annual CBFFA, and she'd promised to keep an eye out for anything she thought he might like. You could find practically anything in Subreality, and with the varying currency sometimes quite cheaply. She'd found the desk at a flea market and, being the thoughtful woman that she was, had sent it along. It made a perfect drawing table, and Glenn was still trying to find some way of repaying her.
He settled down to look at the drawing he'd begun. It was fairly standard--a still-life of the vase of artificial flowers that was perched on his windowsill. He'd salvaged it from the downstairs living room as a model, and now it was frustrating him. He couldn't seem to get the proportions right, even if the basic design was good. Of course, working in charcoal wasn't helping; he kept getting the feeling that maybe he should have tried roughing it out in pencil, first...
And to think, he had taken up art because it *relaxed* him.
With a sigh he set the drawing aside and extracted a clean sheet of paper. He twisted a stick of charcoal between his fingers for a moment, thinking. Then, after a few seconds of contemplation, he began to sketch. Glenn knew this was escapism, but he preferred to think of it as a way of disengaging his higher functions and letting his subconscious get to work. As he drew me mulled over Dawn and his problems, which were practically synonymous with one another these days.
It wasn't just hormones that were the problem; he'd dealt with them before and would deal with them again, even if he wasn't happy about it. No, what bothered him was their relationship, or lack thereof.
Glenn would have been angry at Dawn if he hadn't been absolutely sure she didn't realize what she was doing to him. Or (and let's be honest here, Glenn thought,), what Glenn was doing to himself. Speaking frankly, Dawn was only being Dawn. She was insightful and emotionally mature, but save for rare occasions she was only fourteen. She'd never dated, and as a point of fact hadn't had much social experience. Glenn was slightly better off on both counts, but by no means an expert in either. Before meeting Dawn he'd had only two actual relationships (the one which had begun and ended platonically, and the other which had gone much further than Glenn had been ready for by the time it was crashing and burning), which was both helping and hurting him. On the one hand, he had a vague idea of how events were supposed to progress under ideal circumstances. On the other hand, having failed at both previous relationships, he had no idea how to get to there.
What was truly frustrating was Dawn's attitude. At certain times she treated him like a best friend and big brother, at others she became flirtatious and incredibly affectionate. Unfortunately, this seemed to depend on her current age and placement in continuity, and in Subreality this was totally unpredictable. Glenn wasn't sure how effective a relationship could be if the emotional maturity of one of the participants changed from day to day. It was frustrating, wearing, and he wasn't sure how much longer he could take it without going quite happily mad.
Glenn put down the charcoal stick and smudged the paper with his already stained thumb, softening the lines of the image. By the time he was finished his fingertips were almost completely black, but the finished product made it worth it.
He stared at it for a while, then sighed and pushed away from the desk. It would be best to get things out now, with no one else to interrupt. They would have the whole day to talk things out if they needed to, and today was as good as any other. Still, it did seem a little underhanded to ambush an otherwise perfectly unassuming day with a Discussion...
But still, it had to be done eventually.
Glenn sighed inwardly. It was time for the great Circle of Guilt begin.
He left the room without closing the window, leaving the charcoal image of Dawn to flutter in the wind.
Even before Glenn cleared the second floor he knew that they were no longer alone in the house. For one thing, he could hear the click of the front door closing and Dawn's muffled voice from down below.
"Who was that?" he asked as he reached the first floor. Dawn, who was standing by the threshold holding something in her arms, looked back and smiled at him.
"Siku," she replied, turning fully to face her friend. In her arms was a bundle of blankets wrapped around a tiny, familiar form. "There was a little emergency with No We're Not A Militia, and she was in the middle of babysitting for Ember, soooo..."
"We've got a house guest," Glenn concluded. He couldn't stifle the smile on his lips; ever since "Breaking Through" he and Dawn had both had a soft spot for Ember's sometimes-unborn-child. They didn't mind the occasional babysitting stint, especially since Skye was already adept at sensing and broadcasting intentions, and thus much less trouble than most infants.
"Yep," Dawn said, bouncing Skye a bit. The infant burbled happily. "Can you grab the diaper bag? It's by the door."
Glenn did so, and kissed his hopes for a serious discussion goodbye. Skye was too sensitive to emotional states to risk upsetting Dawn, because when Dawn was upset Skye started trying to make the Upset Thing Go Away. Somewhere out there was a very sorry Arclight fictive whose parts no longer quite matched one another...
"She's just been fed, so I'll put her down for a nap," Dawn said, chucking Skye under the chin. "And to think, you said it was stupid to set up a nursery."
Glenn rolled his eyes. "I didn't say the *nursery* was stupid, it was all the ducks. What is it with you and ducks? Does your taste immediately drop thirty points when in close proximity to babies?"
Dawn wrinkled her nose. "That was *not* my fault. I only put the crib in--when I went back to hang up the mobile the whole damn thing was fully furnished. At least it wasn't clowns. Can you imagine the poor kid's therapy bills? 'Can't sleep, clowns will eat me...'"
Glenn hefted the diaper bag over his shoulder. It was blue and covered with electric green sheep. Sheep and ducks. He was beginning to wonder about Ember.
"Well, you might as well take her up anyway," he said. "I don't think you can die from duck exposure, even if they are pink."
"Right." Dawn started to go, then paused. "Did you want something? You were already on your way downstairs when I was about to go get you."
Glenn glanced at his charcoal-smudged hands and considered making up a lie about soap, but stopped himself. Dawn knew a lie from him when she heard one. So instead he compromised on "Nothing that can't wait."
Dawn studied his face for a moment, then nodded and left the room. Glenn shifted uncomfortably, looking at his feet. She knew something was bothering him, but she wasn't going to force the issue until he broached the subject himself. He wasn't sure whether this was good or bad. Did she know how much the situation was bothering him? Did she even care?
With a sigh he wandered into the kitchen, deposited the diaper bag in its habitual spot on the table, and went back upstairs to wash his hands.
"So that's the story," Glenn said, resting his chin on his forearms as he peered into the depths of the crib. "What do you think, luv? Should I just go up to her and say 'We need to talk', or is starting a conversation with a line like that considered emotional abuse?"
Skye stopped chewing on a plastic ring and stared at him.
Glenn sighed. "You'll understand when you're older, trust me," he told her, and mussed her fine, downy brown hair. A sweet smile spread across her cherub-face, and she gripped at his fingers with a tiny hand.
"What'm I gonna do, sunshine?" he asked rhetorically, glancing out the window and into the night sky. Swirls of stars flecked the darkness, like a nebula of frozen fireflies. It was past two in the morning, judging from the duck-bedecked clock by Skye's bedside, and Glenn still couldn't get to sleep. Dawn had been in bed for hours, so he had decided to talk with the one person who wouldn't pass judgement on him.
"Bblp," Skye replied, and started sucking on his index finger. Glenn smiled wanly.
"That's all very well an' good for you, kiddo, but us grown-ups have got to participate in a little thing called communication," he said. "Has Dawny ever talked to you like this? Wish you were old enough to tell me."
Skye released his finger a yawned, obviously bored, tired, or both. Glenn chuckled and pulled the blankets up around her a little more securely.
"So much for the captive audience," he said, and settled himself in the bedside chair. He'd stay for a little longer, he thought. Until he was tired. Then he would get a little sleep, and rethink his strategy in the morning.
He must have dozed for at least a little while, because the next thing he knew he was jerking his eyes open at Skye's shrill wail. He left the chair so quickly it fell over, almost taking him with it, and leapt to her bedside. He scooped her into his arms and held her, murmuring comforting words and stroking her red, squinched face, for the life of him unable to figure out what was wrong. She wasn't damp, she didn't smell, and he'd fed her before he'd put her down--and even then Skye would not have fussed. Knowing that she was vocal only to emphasize her empathic sendings, Glenn concentrated on going below the noise and trying to feel what she was broadcasting.
It's fear... fear of what? A nightmare? No, that's not it...
And then they heard the scream. It set Skye off again, and Glenn had to fight to keep from dropping her right then. The source could only have been Dawn.
As calmly as he could, Glenn forced himself to project (what he hoped to be) the promise that he would get to the bottom of this and fix it, and that there was no need to be scared. It must have worked, because Skye quieted slowly and eventually settled down even despite the fact that Glenn was still tenser than a Gambit in a room full of post-Antarctic Rogues.
With painstaking care Glenn placed Skye in her crib, pulled her blankets back up, tucked her in, left the room and closed the door. Then he took off for Dawn's room at a dead run.
It wasn't far, and Glenn had no problem opening the door, which Dawn never locked. He immediately saw her in her bed, thrashing against the sheets, the stench of sweat and fear heavy in the air.
So this is what frightened Skye, he realized vaguely. Anything that happens to the one sets off the other...
For a moment Glenn stood in the threshold, an internal debate raging as his mind reeled from the sheer force of the psychic upheaval flooding the room. It was as thick as molasses, and twice as unpleasant to wade through. This close to her the taste of fear was strong enough for Glenn to roll around on his tongue.
So he did the only thing he could think of. He went to her bed, took her in his arms, and held her.
For a moment she struggled and cried out, unaware of who was touching her. Then, as slowly as Skye's quieting, her body relaxed and her rapid breathing diminished until only the intense, body-wracking shudders remained.
"Shhh, it's all right," Glenn breathed, stroking her damp hair with one hand. "I'm here. It's all right. It's all right."
"Guh... gluh..." Dawn gasped, finally waking up. She blinked at him, eyes blank and wild, as if she couldn't understand how he had come to be there.
"Yeah, me," he replied, and was almost choked as Dawn threw her arms around his neck and squeezed tight. He hadn't thought she had that kind of strength in that small, thin body. He swallowed awkwardly and snaked his arms around her body, moving his hands up and down her back in what he hoped was a comforting manner. She was still shaking.
"What happened?" Glenn asked when she had loosened her grip a little. She took a few deep, shuddering breaths and huddled closer.
"A... dream," she replied, her voice steady if slightly tight. "It was... dark. I..." She trailed off, and he could feel her face burning with embarrassment. He held her a little closer and closed his eyes, trying to think. There had to be some sort of standard operating procedure for this kind of thing, he reasoned. Okay, go at it slowly and from the top...
"Have you had it before?" he asked carefully, keeping his voice neutral. No need to embarrass her more by getting overemotional.
Dawn hesitated. "I... yes," she answered, dredging the brimey depths of memory. "Sometimes when I'm alone... sometimes when you're not nearby."
Glenn had the sudden and anatomically impossible urge to kick himself in the back for not noticing. He had excellent hearing, and he and Dawn shared a psychic bond--how could he have missed it?
Unless she's been cutting down on the rapport as much as I have to keep me from worrying.
He shoved the thought aside and firmly instructed it to sit in the corner. He'd worry about that later. Right now he had other things to think about.
"All right," moving right along "do you want to tell me what it's about?" 'Do you want to tell me.' That was good. That was safe. It gave her the option. No use pushing, after all.
"It's... hard to explain," she said. He could feel her tensing again, and subconsciously tightened his hold on her just a touch. "It's... all those events, all those feelings, all mixed up..." She shivered a little, and again he felt her flush. She didn't think she had any reason to be this disturbed, and was afraid that it made her seem weak.
All this time Glenn had thought that he had been the only one bothered by their current status in limbo, their very existence turned chaotic and uncertain. Now he saw that he had been--on the conscious level. Somewhere, deep down in the depths of the night, Dawn's subconscious mind had been giving her the same doubts and confusion and chaos that his had been, made all the worse by the fact that her conscious mind was not able to combat it. Now, holding her in his arms and feeling her shaking, seeming small and frail and so unlike herself, he knew that it was driving her mad.
"I know how you feel," Glenn murmured, burying his face in her hair. He could hear her heart beating against his chest, hear her fast, shallow breathing, and feel the shaking that wouldn't stop. "I'm confused too. I..."
"It's not just that," Dawn interrupted, so quietly he almost missed it. "I'm... afraid."
Glenn pulled away enough to look into her eyes, or at least tried to. She wouldn't look at him, or anything else for that matter; her eyes were closed and her face averted. He tried to move one of his arms to put his hand in a position to stroke her cheek, but she stopped him.
"No," she said, her voice shaking just a little bit. "I need... I need you to hold me. Please, just hold me for a little while. Please."
"...All right." He resettled his arms into their original position, and Dawn snuggled closer. She was sitting on his lap now, he realized, and suddenly he was painfully aware that she was wearing only a tank-top and boxers. And yet there was nothing provocative about it--somehow it only served to make her seem all the more young and vulnerable. He wanted to protect her, to hold her like this forever, to make the bad dreams go away... but he couldn't. He could help her, and give her his support, but in the end it was her fight, and hers alone.
"I should..." she began slowly, after a time, "I mean, I have to... I..."
"It's all right," Glenn said, realizing that she would talk in sentence fragments all night if he let her. "I'm here. You can take all the time you need."
"I know." Dawn exhaled softly, some of the tightness in her shoulders melting away. "It's just... I don't think I have the words. There's so much to tell, and it's... Skye. That's why I had the dream. It's Skye."
"Skye? You've lost me, luv."
Dawn twisted awkwardly in his grip. "It's... she's a beautiful baby, and I love watching her, but I... we could never..." She broke off, and Glenn felt a warm dampness on his shirt. She was crying.
He knew why. Dawn had lost her body long ago, no matter how solid she seemed. She was a psionic entity, and no matter how hard she wished, she would never, ever have a child of her own.
"And it's not just that," she continued, her voice strangled and choked with tears. "She hasn't really been *born* yet... and what if she never is? What if she never gets a chance? I know our story, Glenn. She's... she's in there, but that can't happen if she's never born, if *we* never get written again. I'm afraid... we'll never be finished. I'm afraid we'll leave so much undone, that we'll have to stay here forever, and we'll be Forgotten..."
Glenn risked a movement and brought his hand around to take her under the chin and gently turn her face towards him. Tears streamed down her face, and her eyes were filled with fear. He wanted so badly to take the pain away, to take away the source of the tears, but he didn't know how.
"And I don't even know where *we* stand anymore," she continued, the inadvertent echo of his own thoughts startling him. "In the stories I know. I always know. At least then we have some sort of foundation to work from. But here... it's so confusing. And I'm so tired of trying to figure it out..."
She started to cry again and Glenn comforted her as best he could, all the time wondering how he had missed the signs. Was this really the vibrant, joyous girl who had so blithely leapt off the cliffside only half a day ago, laughing all the while?
Everything seemed so unreal at night, Glenn reflected as he held her close. Subreality nights especially, of course. Everything was... softer. More dreamlike. The barriers between dreams and reality grew thin after dark, and Dawn... Dawn must be especially susceptible to the change.
Glenn suddenly felt very, very selfish. Here he was worrying about their relationship while Dawn was worrying about *everything.* Subreality, the future, everything. All on her own.
And he had missed it. How had he missed it?
By day happy and full of life, by night full of fear and uncertainty. It sounded like the setup for the world's most neurotic super hero. Did she notice the changes, or was she completely oblivious? It would be just Dawn's luck for Subreality to give her a bipolar disorder.
Best to start with the easy worries first. "Well," Glenn said after a time, "I wouldn't worry about being Forgotten. You know the Writer likes to recycle us. We'll always be around in some form or another, just not necessarily in fanfic. And anyway, we've gotten our fair share of press in our day. I'd say it's well past time to give someone else their fifteen minutes of fame."
Dawn laughed. It was a choked, forced sound. "No argument there," she said. "And I already know what's coming in our story anyway. I'm just... so tired of fighting."
Glenn smiled bitterly. "You and me both," he agreed. "Don't think either of us were cut out to be fighters in the long run. Not that we have much say in the matter."
"Yeah... but if we don't fight, who will?" Dawn shook her head. "It's not just the fighting. I want an ending. I want to be... finished. Safe. I want everything sorted out, I... I don't want my head full of scrambled events anymore. I want to look in the damn mirror in the morning and know who's going to be looking back. I'm in so many places, so many plots, I can't keep myself straight anymore!"
She started crying harder, and all Glenn could do was hold her close until it passed. He could feel her grief and frustration like it was his own as the physical contact sharpened their psychic link. Her tears made him ache inside, like barbs tearing into his heart with each pitiful sob. She was hurting, an there wasn't a bloody thing he could do about it.
But he could damn well try.
"Just hold on to me," he whispered. "If you need me, I'll be your anchor. And I'll always be here to remind you."
Dawn wiped her eyes with one hand. "I know. And that...that's what hurts the most. I don't know what we are anymore. I don't know what you are to me anymore. A friend? A lover? A husband? Damn it, it changes every hour! I want... I just want... I can't..."
Glenn stroked her hair reassuringly. "Shh. Calm down. Take a deep breath. You have time. I'm not going anywhere."
Dawn took a deep, shuddering breath, obviously forcing herself to relax. "There's... so much I'm scared of," she said, her voice soft and ragged. "And what I'm scared of the most is... is not having you anymore. I keep finding myself needing to touch you, to be with you, and it's something I can't control. I feel like if I don't touch you as much as I can you won't be there anymore... like it's all just a dream, and then you'll be gone again, and if I don't take advantage of it now I'll hate myself for the rest of my life, and I--"
"Dawn," Glenn said gently, placing both hands on her shoulders and pushing her away from him so he could look her in the eyes, "look at me. No, just look," he said as she started to turn away. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm right here. I'll always be here. I know I'm missing in Ties Never Binding, but that's the story. It's just the story. *This* is Subreality, and *this* is where you are. And where *I* am is with you. I'll always be with you. You know that, don't you?"
"I... yes, I do."
"Good." He dropped his arms and made an attempt to smile. "So that's one less thing to worry about, right?"
She reciprocated the smile, if in a slightly sickly way. "Right."
"Good," he repeated. "And as for our relationship here..." he swallowed heavily, "well, that's up to you. I'll go with whatever you decide." You've got more to lose than I do.
"No pressure, huh?" Dawn said, a ghost of her familiar sarcasm entering her voice, softened by a wry smile. She shook her head. "Glenn, I... I'm not sure. It isn't that easy. We both change so often, trying to be all these things at once... it makes it hard to focus. And I don't want to hurt you with a bad choice."
Now it was Glenn's turn for the wry smile. "I thought that was my line," he said. "Listen, sunshine, you're young...most of the time, anyway. I don't want you to bugger up your brain trying to figure this out. Don't push yourself. Just go with what you feel comfortable with."
Dawn grinned faintly. "When do I not?" she inquired. She pushed her blue and white hair away from her face, and Glenn was startled to see how old and tired her eyes seemed. "I just wish I could figure myself out. God, I must be a nightmare to live with..."
"Definitely," Glenn agreed immediately. Dawn cuffed him gently.
"Be serious," she said. "This could get really bad if we're not careful."
Glenn nodded. "Like I said, it's your choice. You know that I would never, ever do anything to hurt you, right?"
This time the smile was genuine, if somewhat sad. "I know," Dawn said. She raised up on her knees and kissed him on the forehead, then suddenly pulled back and laughed. "O, the angst of it all," she chuckled, shaking her head. "Well, it was bound to come back at some point, I just didn't think it would be now."
"Nor I," Glenn agreed, a corner of his mouth quirking. "Well, at least we both know we're both on equal footing here. When you're lost in a relationship it's nice to know you're not the only one traveling without a map." And at least they were out of the danger zone. Dawn seemed much more herself now, even if the confusion remained, and confusion was still better than debilitating paranoia. Unless you were a politician, anyway.
Dawn was silent for a long moment, then looked back at Glenn. Her pale skin and white streak seemed luminous against the darkness, her blue eyes dark holes against the glow of her face. She tilted her head to one side and studied his face just as she had earlier that day, as if searching for some hidden message, some kind cue.Her expression was suddenly solemn, and even with the psychic rapport Glenn couldn't tell what she was thinking.
"Relationships are confusing," she said quietly, "especially ours. But what isn't? I guess sometimes you just have to go on instinct." She placed one hand on his cheek and looked him straight in the eyes, her gaze unwavering. For endless seconds she scrutinized him, as if trying to come to a decision. Then, finally, she spoke.
"You know, no matter what happened, there was one thing I was always sure of," she said, stroking his cheek softly. "And now I'm not afraid to say it. I love you, Glenn."
It took him completely by surprise even though he knew it shouldn't have. He'd felt it from her, of course, but somehow hearing her say it aloud made it seem... real. She had never said it to him before. He hadn't even realized it until now.
"I..." he started to reply, but Dawn put a hand over his lips.
"I know." She pulled him down by the collar of his shirt and kissed him. Glenn, still in a mild state of shock, felt the utter, unquestionable belief behind the statement and relented. Dawn moved closer and hugged him fiercely.
"Sometimes madness shows us the way," she whispered, "and sometimes we show ourselves."
And after that there was no more need for words.
Cassie Cantrell belongs to Susan Crites.
The CBFFAs are Kielle's construction, with help from Matt Nute and a whole bunch of other people.
Sikudhani McCoy is Darqstar's.
No We're Not A Militia (IE the Peaceforce Regulators) is Paradoqz's fault.
Jason, Karen, Verney, Dawn and Glenn are mine. Duh.
Skye was from Kielle's Breaking Through, although she's technically mine. ;)
Arclight and Monet belong to Marvel Comics.
Subreality was originally created by Kielle. (Also a duh.)