Wes’ body jerks as he wakes, his left hand almost hitting the lamp as he falls out of the bowl-chair. He lands on his sketchbook, his legs twisted around a blanket he does not remember covering himself with. He blinks, trying to figure out what happened. The sight of his math textbook and workbook neatly arranged at the foot of the lamp made him look around for Lee.
His brother is still sitting on the couch, a red binder in his lap and a pencil in his left hand. “You okay?”
“Just a very weird nightmare...” Wes mumbles, reassured by a little normalcy. He untangles himself from his sheet, rubbing the shoulder Drowning had clutched. It and the ankle still feel cold, as they were soaked to the bone and had not been able to get dry yet. The memory gives Wes goosebumps. “Probably induced by homework.” He jokes.
Lee sets the binder to the side and joined Wes on the floor, pulling his brother into a hug. “You don’t usually wake up like that when you fall asleep to homework... You’re all sweaty.”
“I feel cold.” Wes leans into the hug, taking a deep breath. Lee’s familiar smell, his solid (albeit somewhat bony) body, and especially his body heat made the dreamer feel a little more alive. A little more real.
“Do you want me to call mom? Are you sick?”
“I’m fine,” the boy says quickly, but sincerely. “I just needed a hug.”
“Do you want me to sleep with you later? Like we used to?” Lee offered, tightening the hug. “All these nightmares...”
Wes stays silent, unsure. Part of him has missed Lee sleeping next to him -they had not been able to sleep apart until they turned three, shortly after Kari came into their lives. The other, more logical side of him pointed out that they would hardly be able to fit on the same bunk anymore.
“Well keep it in mind anyway.” Lee tells him, knowing the gist of what was going through his twin’s head.
“Do you want want to watch a movie?”
“I don’t know... I’m still tired.” Wes murmurs, crawling back onto the bowl-chair.
Lee just looks at him for a moment. His twin’s presence seemed smaller than usual. Wes had always been a bit distractible, thinking about a drawing or something of the sort, but he always payed the utmost attention to Lee when they talked. Now he could hardly read the emotions on Wes’ face. He touches his brother’s wrist, reaching up from his sitting position on the floor. “Are you sure you’re okay? Do you want me to call Mum?”
“I’m fine!” Wes says quickly, a smile automatically springing into place as he tried to look perfectly alright.
“You don’t have to lie to me...” The young actor could not hide the hurt. Wes was hiding something from him for the first time in their lives.
“I’m not... I’m just tired. I swear.”
“Lets go to bed then.”
Half an hour later, Wes is sleeping in Lee’s bunk with his twin at his back. He snores lightly -though he would never believe it- and mumbles occasionally in a tone so low that Lee cannot discern what was being said. All he knows is that Wes thinks he was is a conversation. The timing of the mumbling fits a conversation, and Wes’ hands twitch as he mumbles, as if he was about to do a gesture and then stops as soon as it was initiated.
With one arm under the pillow and the other flung over Wes’ hips, Lee closes his eyes. Truth be told, he is too worried to be tired and too tired to worry properly. He knows something is wrong but cannot think of anything that would be stressing Wes except his dreams. ‘Ever since he drew that monster with the claws he’s been acting funny. He’s too sleepy, too unfocussed... I think he forgot who he was when he woke up... And he never said why. He always tells me what he dreams if I’m worried. Maybe he was too sleepy to notice? I just wish I could do something!’
His hold on Wes tightens. Nobody has power over dreams, but at least he can make Wes feel better when he’s awake.
Wes is in a plain that feel like it may melt or twist at any time, and probably already did just before he arrived. “A real dream again.” He mutters, looking up into the balmy ocean water that was molesting the sky. As unnerving as that would be in the waking world, it seems perfectly natural in this dream. He looks down and notices that he is wearing a pair of swimming trunks instead of his pajamas. “... At least dreams are consistently inconsistent.”
Making sure to not move his feet, Wes twists his torso to try and see anything solid and is promptly knocked over by a blob of flying jello. He lands with a splash in something that feels like a lukewarm milkshake and looks like a runny pool of red gelatin. “Ew...”
As he watches, the air in front of his face slushes to the side and solidifies into a large window he can crawl through. Taking the hint, he does so.
The room is dark but Wes knows it. Lee is on the top bunk, clutching Wes’ pillow as he rocks back and forth, sobs escaping from his body with a shudder. “Why?!” He screams over and over, eyes firmly held shut.
Wes runs over to his brother and practically jumps onto the bed. He moves to pull Lee into a hug, but his hands meet an invisible barrier along Lee’s skin. His twin screeches, throwing his arms out in front of him in an ancient reflex to protect the neck and the face. “Lee? What’s wrong? Lee?! Let me through!” He screams, thinking of the protective power of the star he had experienced as he reaches out again.
Something flares in the back of his mind and suddenly he is prone on the ground, all the strength in his body gone.
“Dreammmmmmer.” A voice that slides down his spine and gleefully tears it apart. “Tinkerrrr.” Something swishes onto his back, silk against his bare skin. “Lossssssssst?”
“Let me go! Lee!” He manages.
“How about yes you little piece of booger!” A familiar female voice chirps just before something slices through the air along Wes’ back.
He rolls to one side before the pressure steals his strength again. He has just enough time to see the black piece of silky nightmare binding him to Lee before Tisha’s blade whips it to shreds. “Stop! It’s hurting him more!”
The blade stops in mid-air. “What did you say? Who are you talking about?”
“My brother!” He crawls over to where Lee is sitting on the floor. The bed disappeared with the rest of the room, leaving only darkness and people. The silky nightmare slinks through the ground beneath him, biding its time.
“Two dreamers in the same dream?! What is this?” Another female voice, this one older but just as confused.
“They’re linked.” Dresden mutters, walking towards the brothers. “Twins aren’t usually this close in mind.”
“He wasn’t before.” Tisha added. “This is the boy we were talking about Marie, the Dreamer that had the power of a Tinker.”
“But he cannot navigate through the dreaming without a sash!”
“Apparently he can.” Dresden’s deep voice is tinged with sarcasm.
“I don’t believe this!”
Wes finally reaches Lee, grabbing his brothers wrist tightly. Instantly, the scene changes back into the room, but this time Lee is holding Wes’ dead body in the middle of the floor. His wrists are slashed and although his eyes are only half open, they are glassy. “Why did you leave me!” Lee screams at the dead Wes. “You are me too! Come back! Why won’t you come back?”
“I’m okay! Lee I’m here!” Wes cups Lee’s face in his hands, but it does not evoke a reaction. “Lee!”
“The Dreamer can’t hear you, they can only sense what the nightmare wants them to.” The new person’s voice came from behind him, but he could not see anyone but Lee.
“LEE!” Wes hollers, ignoring the woman -Marie was it?- in favour of his brother. “I’m fine!”
“I can’t live without you...” Lee cries, picking up a knife from somewhere.
“No!” Wes tackles Lee to the ground, taking the knife from him. “You can’t!”
“You said you wouldn’t leave me...” Lee whispers, closing his eyes.
“Make it stop! Please just make it stop!”
“The only way to release a Dreamer from the hold of a Broken Nightmare is to Mend it.”
“Then do it!”
“... You are blocking it’s core from us.”
“We can’t do anything because you are shielding the nightmare from us.”
“What is it?”
“The boy’s pajamas.”
“Get off him already.” Tisha translated, twirling her chain-blade idly.
“I’m not going to let you whip him apart!”
“I only cut what I want I’ll have you know.”
“I’m not letting go of Lee!”
“Then you will only prolong his torture until his spirit gives up the fight.” Marie says coldly. “Then he will truly die.”
“Move now or I will move you.”
“I want to help!”
“You’re the reason the nightmare has such a hold on the boy. Whatever you did to get into here consumed so much of its energy it bonded itself to the Dreamer to stay in existence. With every second you waste shielding it, it deepens the bond. Now move out of the way.”
Stunned, Wes allows himself to be pulled to the side by Tisha. Immediately a purple bubble forms around Lee, and a dark blob strikes at the inside of its prison. Now Wes can only see the darkness between dreams, the Dream Hunters who travel through it, and Lee. As he watches, the dark blob is extracted bit by bit through the barrier and kept penned in place by Tisha’s blade. Meanwhile, Lee is screaming like he is being torn apart.
Wes can only sit and watch, powerless to help his brother. He cries and feels like he is also being torn apart.