(This is the plotline concerning the shared dream with Willow and Fandora, it occurs shortly after Willow is rescued by Rally then Lauren in Mill 4.)
Lauren chuckled at Willow's question. "Yes… it does help, more so if properly balanced to your physiology… we'll see to that soon as well… the food's enriched so it will serve the same purpose." She stepped out of the room to make a quickl call. Willow could see her through the partially open door. A sever frown crossed her fact as she listened to whomever she was speaking to. "I will see to it that Ms. St. Clair recives the message."
Willow looked over at the food on the tray and, unable to resist any longer, walked over and took a large piece of fruit. She bit into it hungrily, trying to remember to chew slowly and not wolf it down. Why are they doing this for me? Are they fighting against the same people we are? She devoured the rest of the piece of fruit and began to lick every drop of juice from her fingers.
"The pasta salad will help as well." Lauren said standing over Willow. She hadn't even noticed her approach and the sudden voice startled her a bit. Lauren sat down beside,face distant and troubled.
"What's wrong," Willow asked as she reached for the plate of salad and a fork.
"Just a problem I thought delt with has resurfaced." Lauran said quietly.
"Sorry," Willow said, after clearing her mouth of her first taste of the pasta salad. "Habit. I'm always trying to cheer up people around me." She continued to eat, still trying to keep herself from eating too quickly. Still she picked the plate clean and moved on to the salad.
Lauren sighed. "It is the nature fo Sensitives…" She smiled slightly. "I have never been totally certain if its empathy or wanting an unpleasant mental sensation to stop."
Willow nodded, and soon the green salad plate was as empty as the one which had held the pasta. She looked at the bare plates somewhat wistfully, then started to eat the fuit. She ate that even more slowly, savoring the sweetness and texture of each piece.
Once she had finsished, Lauren pointed to the bathroom. "Feel free to take advantage of any of the facilities, and there are some clothes laid out for you in the bedroom."
"Thank you," Willow said in a heartfelt voice. "What should I do about the tray?"
"Just leave it, it will be taken care of." Lauren replied
Willow headed directly to the bathroom, trying to decide if she were going to take a shower or lounge in a nice hot bath.
The bathroom was a large and lavish most of it taken up by sunken tub.
Seeing that tub immediately made Willow's decision that much easier. She rushed forward, put the plug in and started the water, making it as hot as she could stand. While the tub was filling, she let her eyes wander around the bathroom. When her gaze fell on the mirror she paused. I wonder how horrid I must look. She tentatively walked forward and looked at herself in the mirror.
She could scarcely recognize the pale ghost that looked back at her from the mirror. Haggard eyes circled by dark rings, she seemed to have aged a decade in three days… Her hair hung limp and dry over her shoulders,her bones shown through at the shoulders and her ribs. Ever her breasts had begun to sag. The blanket hung on her shoulders like a shroud. Willow, harbinger of death. It was almost funny until she really thought about it. Shivering she turned away from the mirror. Trevor… Anvil and Laura… how many were going to die…
She watched the water fill in the tub, and when it had reached the level she wanted she turned off the taps. Willow carefully stepped into the tub and lowered herself to a sitting position. She then leaned back and let the heat of the water seep into her, banishing what was left of the cold of the Deadplane. Closing her eyes, she let her thoughts and mind drift, determined to feel nothing but pleasure from the warmth of the water and the meal in her belly.
For a moment her thoughts were disturbed, reminding herself that she must take care of herself, for if she died, the others might not survive either. She thought of what Clay would say, and how he and Gina would comfort her. A smile crossed Willow's face as she hoped they too were somewhere safe, and she imagined Clay's arms holding her as her thoughts began to drift again.
Once her body was warmed through, Willow closed her eyes, held her breath and slid down under the water. She ran her hands quickly through her hair then came back up to the surface. Hands grabbed her,pulling her further down. Willow screamed.bubbles risinsg to the surface. Dozen of hands clutching at her… dragging her down screaming….
Terrified, Willow flung her mind out, desperately seeking Lauren or Charlotte. Oh god, help me! Please! The water!
She fought to try and grab hold the side of the tub to pull herself up. I cannot drown. I will not drown… She fought back, trying to calm herself, knowing panic was her worst enemy.
There was nothing under her clutching fingers… somehow the tub had become a sea… the hands dug into her flesh, tearing… the water clouded with blood. She spilled out onto a cold hard floor. The air stank of blood and death. Looking around, Willow found herself in a club… a long runway running down the middle of it. A stifled sob caught her attention. Turning she saw a young woman kneeling over a crumpled form…Belle! She was covered in blood.
Dead. Somehow Willow knew it.
Her dreams faded from the placid images into a storm of blood and pain. Not her pain but another's… screaming through her body… tearing her apart from within. Fandora wanted to scream… to do anything to stop the terrible agony. Then it was gone. Sweating and shivering she recognized the after chill of the terrible cold of the Void. Opening her eyes, Fandora found herself staring up mirrored ceiling. The room stank of guns and blood. Rolling to her side, she felt her stomach lurched threatening to spill. Then she saw her… Belle… laying crumpled… body ravaged and bleeding from dozens of different wounds.
She closed her eyes for a moment, then stood. No rest for the weary, it seemed. She stood, and let the Spirit rise. "Now, Rutia, Light of Justice!" Nothing happened. Nothing rose to her call. She was alone… utterly alone.
Belle reached for her… bloodied hand trembling. "Help…me…" she choked coughed up a mouthful of blood and her eyes went dark…dead. Fandora wanted to scream…to call out her name. Kneeling by the body she tried to rouse, tears filling her eyes even as she knew it was too late.
The spirit wouldn't or couldn't help, but where magic failed, science might succeed, and she did have first aid training. Apply what first aid I can, then call an ambulance. Belle's pretty tough; maybe she can still be revived. As she reached to touch the body, Belle grabbed her. Yanking the girl down hard, she smiled, mouth full of razor sharp teeth only a scant inch from Fandora's face. The grin widened, splitting Belle's cheek, revealing still more fangs…
No… Willow herself sobbed. "Dear God, what has happened. Is this real? Has this actually happened?" Her words were nothing but a murmur. "I will not allow this. Too many have gotten hurt. This must stop." She moved across the floor to get a better look at Belle, and to see the woman who was with her. As she walked up, Belle moved, grabbing the girl and pulling her down. Willow saw Belle smile, face splitting in twisted leer ripping open to reveal a mouthful of needlelike teeth!
Fandora twisted to free herself before those horrible teeth could shred her; was this real or a nightmare? A glance at her arm would probably answer that. She was still in her Pyjamas, which told her nothing.
"No!" Willow cried out. "You are not Belle. You will take neither of them." As she did when she was with Jim, and when she was in that dark place with that lizard creature, she summoned what power within her she could and sent it blasting at the creature that was not Belle but wore her body. Belle lunged to her feet seizing Fandora by the throat and hurled her into the Willow. Both of them went down in a tangle of limbs.
"Not now… not here… you're mine, sweet one…" Her jaw hung loose, the gurgling voice seeming to emerge from somewhere deep within, bubbling to the surface in a vile rush. Stepping forward, she swept her gaze from one to the other, swollen tongue lolling out of her distended mouth.
"You will have no power here, just as you had no power over me in that darkness," Willow said, taking a step forward. "Be gone from this place." She took another step forward, visualizing herself as a kind of knight in armor of silvered plate with sword in hand, like the fairy tales she loved. "You will not take anyone this time." She felt a power raise in her, slight but there. But it was resisted, something fought against it, resisted her. Belle roared and lunged, striking her full in the chest. Willow was lifted and flung across the room. She landed sprawled on the runway, a little winded but the beginnings of her defense took the brunt of the attack.
Fandora stood, a bit wobbly but not down yet, and took her ready stance. She was only a beginner at judo, but that was more that the other woman seemed to be. "We are not yours. We will never be yours. Leave the woman now or we will force you out." She felt a new energy tingling in her body, a sensation of confident that added certainty to her stance and voice.
Willow shook her head and stood, trying to strengthen the armor. "You cannot harm me," she said, her voice hard and taunting. "Your power comes from fear and pain, and I am not afraid of you. Go back to that place of darkness where you belong." She stood her ground, not giving an inch, her anger at what this creature did fueling her. She still felt the strange resistance but didn't let the confusions show in her voice.
What the…?!?! "Willow? And Belle?" Jim questioned as he stood up once he saw them and began to walk towards them. As he watched Belle send Willow flying through the air, he began to charge towards Belle with his arms stretched out. Belle turned revealing a face full of needle teeth hanging from a jaw distended until the flesh of her cheeks was left torn open. She laughed, a hoarse alien gurgling that froze Jim. It wasn't human had never been.
"Ahh, another player Willow? Another one to die for you?" With that it vomited a foul stream of her ichor over Jim. Where the black slime touched his flesh it melted away…running in pustulent streams from his body baring… metal… a steel skeleton, stripped clean but for two human eyes looked terrified down the remnants of a body. "My mistake… machines don't die." The skeleton topped into a heap of metal.
Even for the young warrior-priestess, this was just too surreal; it had to be a shared dream. But whose? Worry about that later; fight now. "Hello Willow, I'm Fandora. We're sharing a nightmare and I'm here to help." I hope. "Go for position, we'll try to flank it."
"It is up to you," she said to the woman, and she sent what she could of her power to defend the other. She was the creature's first target. It must be her. Tears began to roll down her face. Oh Jim, please forgive me…
"Belle" turned back ro them her body swollen and pulsing. The leather leotard ripped away with moist tearing falling in wet flaps revealing not skin but flayed muscle and pulsing organs.
"Do it Fandora," Willow said, her head falling to look at the remains of Jim. She reached out to caress the metal. "I give my power to you." She looked up at Fandora and cupped her hand. She visualized a dagger in her hand, then tossed it hilt first towards Fandora.
She caught the dagger turning to face the slavering Belle thing. Willow gathered up the bare metal remnants of Jim and wept, closing her eyes as a rush pain washed over her. More dead… Suddenly there was a lurching sensation.
She was back in the tub, Lauren kneeling at her side gently shaking her. "Willow… you're Drifting… be calm… focus on the physical… your body's sensations… ones in the now…" Her voice was calm but held an urgency.
"Why did you bring me back," Willow asked almost angrily. "They needed me. It was my fault…" Willow whispered. She felt the tears running down her cheeks, and she could still almost feel the cold metal against her skin. She took a steadying breath. I hope Fandora will succeed.
"I… I'm fine Lauren. This happens all the time." Willow grimaced slightly as she opened her eyes, then shut them against the light. "Well, not all the time. I can't control when it happens. I'm kind of used to it." She sat up slightly. "You called Drifting? Why do you call it that?"
"That is the best way to describe it. When the conscious mind slips away, much control is lost…the sense slip free and wander unchecked latching onto particularly powerful emanations. It is something almost all sensitives experience to an extent…with your increased abilities it is only natural you experience it more intensely. But you spoke of others…what happened?"
"I was in a club of some sort. There were signs of a firefight, and I saw Belle, lying on the floor, dead. I don't know how, but I knew as soon as I saw her She was dead. There was a young woman kneeling over her, crying. When I approached, Belle's body moved, and attacked the kneeling woman. Belle turned her head and she smiled. No, it w as a leer, and her mouth was full of needle-like teeth."
"The woman managed to free herself, and I believe that… I know who it was that inhabited Belle's body. I tried to arm and protect myself as I had in that place before, but it was difficult, as if someone, or something, was trying to prevent it. It attacked me, but the defenses I raised were enough to protect me from the major force of its blow." Willow's voice broke, and the pain was fresh in her again.
"It was at that point that Jim appeared. That thing… It vomited something onto Jim, eating away at his flesh until all that was left was his skeleton of steel, and his eyes trapped in the metal skull." Willow was sobbing now. "He killed Jim. There was nothing I could do to stop it. So many people have died, and it's all my fault…"
"Willow…please…its not you're fault…this has been going on since before your birth…" Lauren stroked Willow's hair. "so strange though…most drifting is just images…bits of dream from others and impressions…this sounds more like your own dream or…some how you are within another's…" she murmured. "I've only heard vaguely of things like this happening… never confirmed."
"I can actually go into people's dreams. That's usually only when I'm asleep though." Willow sighs, and wipes her cheeks with the back of her hand, her breath still unsteady. "I have another power I cannot control. I have… Clairsentience. I can see into the past, present or
future, but I cannot tell which it is. It completely takes me over and I lose all track of what's going on around me. That usually happens when I'm doing my art."
"Clairvoyance is a power that occurs many times…its rarely controllable but triggered by certain stimuli or emotional states… have you ever studied or practiced any meditation techniques?" Lauren asks as she helps Willow from the cooled tub. Water spots the blondes flawless business suit but she doesn't seem to care, wrapping a fluffy towel around Willow drying her with a clinical detachment that belies the slight embarrassment Willow starts to feel.
"I've tried, but I've never been able to attend more than one or two classes." Willow blushed slightly. "My life always seemed to conspire against me." She took the edge of the towel from Lauren's hands. "I can finish this. Could you get me something to drink? I'm rather thirsty again."
"All right.","her reply was flat and even but there seemed to be an edge of pain in her voice. She turned and headed out of the bathroom. "I'll put it in the bedroom."
"Lauren," Willow said quickly. "I… I'm not used to being waited upon. It makes me uncomfortable…" She frowned slightly. "Please don't be hurt or upset by my foolishness."
"No, I understand." she smiled thinly. "Sometimes its difficult to understand someone from the outside so to speak…"
From the outside… A small stab of pain flashed through Willow's heart. Yes, that's what I've always been. Perhaps it's better that way. Like that thing said, so many people have died because of me. She tried to push down the rising unhappiness again. Oh, I wish Clay and Gina were here.
Willow looked at Lauren and nodded silently, then continued to dry herself. "I suppose that's true." She returned Lauren's smile weakly.
"You're with us now…we'll help." Lauren said quietly and stepped out of the room. Best leave now before you upset the girl even more…Mercy, have I been tied up with this so long I can't even be tactful anymore? Lauren shook her head as she walked toward the bedroom.
Willow finished drying herself off, and found a brush to run through her hair. She looked in the mirror again, steeling herself to see that gaunt face again. I look like a walking corpse, she thought to herself. She wrapped the towel around herself and tucked one end in to keep it in place, then padded to the bedroom.
The lighting in the bedroom was low and soothing. A tall glass had been set on the nightstand beside a large bed. Willow could make out some of the city skyline beyond the curtain covering the entry to the balcony beyond.
The bed beckoned to Willow, but she was half afraid to go to sleep. She didn't want to dream-walk again. She didn't want to see her friends die, nor that lizard thing that lurked in the darkness. She walked over to the window and pulled the curtain aside slightly.
It was dark, later than she thought it was. The skyscrapers and towers told her she was down near the financial district. She felt so tired, drained and empty. "You really should rest." Lauren said from behind her. Willow started. It was as if the woman had materialized in the room.
"I know. It's just…" Willow hugged herself. "I'm afraid to. I may walk… I mean Drift, again. In the bathtub, my mind didn't just drift off. Something pulled at me, grabbed me from where I was and took me to that club." She shivered in memory. "I felt like I was being attacked. It was never like that before. I thought someone was trying to kill me, but then I realized what was happening."
"Willow, I think that's most likely an affect of the Drifting. It can carry a sense of…loose of control." She places her hands on Willow's thin shoulders. "I will stay with you, in case it happens again."
Willow shakes her head. "It wasn't like that. Normally, I do have control. I can manipulate the dream, at least as it can affect me and the person who is dreaming. But this time… Something else was there. It was like it didn't want me there." She gave a little sigh. "In fact, the thing that was using Belle's form told me so. It hates me. No, I don't think that's it. It wants to own me. Control me. Hurt me."
Willow sat down on the edge of the bed, her eyes filling with tears. "This is the first time since I started hearing other people's thoughts and seeing things I shouldn't be seeing that I've been afraid of my powers. Of what might be happening because of my powers. And not just me."
"My parents, whom I despise with every fabric of my being, are dead because of me. So is Anvil, Trevor, Belle, Lisa, and who knows how many others. Who are these people who hate me so much? That woman who can touch the souls of the dead. Who is she? I think she hates me the most."
"But why, Lauren. I don't even know what I am anymore." The tears began to roll down her face again, and her shoulders began to shake. She wanted Clay. She wanted to be held and comforted. She wanted, no needed, his strength.
Lauren sat on the edge of the bed, slipping an arm around Willow. "Belle isn't dead….injured but not dead. As for these others…I don't know but I can try to find something about them." She took a deep breath. "The woman you speak of that talks to the dead. I doubt she has anything directly against you…this being that you speak of…the one in the dream what can you tell me of it?"
"It… It's evil and dwells in the darkness that exists between dreams, I think. It manifested as a lizardman." Willow shuddered. "It was disgusting. It said awful things. It… It knew what my father…. It wants me. Why, I don't know. I think I can harm it, for it did not like it when I tried to bring light to the darkness where it was."
"I don't know how else to explain it. Maybe… It might be easier if I showed you?" Willow looked at Lauren hesitantly.
"When you are rested--you have already been taxed to you limits and beyond." Lauren didn't need a connection to feel the girl's fear, her worry. It was a palpable sensation, as strong as any from her other senses. "Rest now and we can talk more later. I will be with you."
Willow looked at Lauren, still uncertain. So much had happened, and before three days ago, there had been no one to watch over her. Willow prayed that Lauren and Charlotte would end up paying dearly for helping her like so many others had already. She turned and picked up the glass and drained it completely, then slid out of the towel and between the covers.
She curled up child-like in the middle of the large bed, resting her head on one pillow and hugging the other to her like a child would a favorite toy. "Thank you," she whispered, and closed her eyes.