Summary: Reality is in the mind of the dreamer.

Pairings: None

Disclaimer: Tribune owns all rights to Andromeda.

Rating: PG

Spoilers: "Home Fires", "Shadows Cast by a Final Salute", and "Answers Given to Questions Never Asked"; some references from seasons 4 and 5.

Setting: Post-"Answers Given to Questions Never Asked"

Feedback: Praise and constructive criticism welcome.

Archive: Ask first and I'll probably say yes.

Author's Note: This piece actually feels to me to be somewhat unfinished, but I can't suss out what it needs to not feel that way. I have no idea how this would be resolved. For the time being, I'm considering this complete; while I may eventually come up with more, I wouldn't be holding my breath waiting for it.

Life Is But a Dream

By B.L.A. the Mouse

When Rhade came in, Beka was slumped in the chair by the medical bed. There were other crew in the room, but they were very courteously moving around her, their voices low in order to not wake her. He hated to do so, especially since she probably needed the sleep, but he did anyway with a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Captain Valentine."

"Hm, what…?" She looked up, blinking blearily. "Oh, Admiral." She looked back down at the man on the bed. "I fell asleep, didn't I?"

"Apparently. It's 0700."

She grimaced. "Last time I looked it was 0300 and he was drinking himself into a stupor."

Rhade glanced at the monitor. The man on it was sleeping as peacefully as the man on the bed appeared to be. "He doesn't seem to have been affected."

"Maybe, but I told Trance I'd sit with him until she got back." Beka leaned to get a flexi that she must have dropped, then stood and stretched. He looked back at the other man, given that it was perhaps rude to be caught appreciating the assets of an ally, especially under the circumstances. She continued, "It's been pretty quiet in his brain the last couple of days, actually, I think the… whatever they are… are gearing up for another attack."

"Harper and Trance still haven't worked it out?"

"No, not yet. Every time they get close… Something about the attacks reconfigures them every time."

One of the warning signals went off, the beeping deafening for the two of them right next to the monitor. "Oh no. Rommie?" Beka darted over to a tray of instruments and grabbed it, running it over the seizing body of the man on the bed. "Come on, Dylan, what is it this time?"

Rommie flickered in, looking worried. "Trance and Harper are on their way. She recommends the dopamine, in the blue syringe."

"Right." Beka dropped the scanner for the syringe and injected it. Almost immediately Dylan's body relaxed and the image on the screen dissolved, with what looked like a bar fight turning into the crew sitting at a table together.

Rhade blinked at the contrast between the long, multi-hued braids of the Beka on the screen with the short blonde cut of the one in front of him. "Are all the attacks so easily resolved?"

She blew out a breath and set down the empty syringe. "No. Sometimes the compounds don't work, either that fast or at all. I swear it's like his body's trying to kill him."

Trance skidded in just then, snatching the scanner up before she'd stopped running. "Did the dopamine work?" she demanded.

"This time. Just a bar fight, though."

Loud thumping heralded Harper's arrival. Rhade stepped back out of the way as the engineer reached the bed. He immediately started checking the monitor leads. "Did they change form at all on the readings?"

"No, no alterations from the last scan. The dopamine should still keep working for now." Trance looked at Beka. "Have we heard from the Perseids yet?"

Beka shook her head. She was watching the monitor as the Dylan on it left the group and strolled down a dusty street. "They'll be here tomorrow."

"The scientists from Tera Zed will be here within the hour," Rhade volunteered. The council had pledged their assistance; while they may not have been members of the Commonwealth, they wanted to remain on friendly terms.

Rommie's gaze shifted to somewhere just above their heads. "I'll direct them to the nearest docking bay."

"Good." Beka sounded authoritative, but the impression was wrecked by an enormous yawn.

"You need sleep," Trance and Rommie chorused.

"So does everyone else."

"Actually, I got about six hours. I'm good." Harper looked up from a gadget he was tapping at. Rhade had no idea what it was, just that it seemed to have magically appeared from a pocket. "If you want sleep…"

"I can meet the scientists. They'll be expecting me to be here." Rhade knew he wasn't a member of the crew, despite what he was seeing on the monitor, but he wanted to help and that seemed the most efficacious way to do it.

Beka considered the rest of them briefly before conceding defeat. "Call me if anything happens. I'll check with Command, then turn in."

Rhade waited until she had left before asking the others to fill him in.

It had been three days after the battle with the Nietzschean fleet and the rescue of Tri-Jema when Dylan had walked onto Command deck, collapsed, and begun seizing for the first time. Trance and the rest of the med staff barely kept him alive for the ensuing two days and countless seizures. Eventually they linked the seizures to synaptic activity and hit on the idea of the monitor. With the right tools and programming, they could "see" what Dylan was experiencing inside his mind.

They'd noticed that the worst activity occurred during combat in the narrative, and that the seizures weren't the only effect. Several of the injuries he sustained appeared on his physical body, something they realized when bruises started appearing in areas protected from seizure damage and untouched by procedures. With a seizure every few hours, the damage to his body was getting dangerous, even without the seizures taking their toll. With one scenario, possible death for all of them, they nearly lost him completely; it had taken hours to get him stable again. The scenarios playing out were also getting more outlandish, something Rommie was fretting over as a sign of possible brain damage. They couldn't get a reliable scan to confirm because of the things that were the source of the problem in the first place.

They were partially organic, partially technological, able to phase and reproduce, and defeated all efforts to stop them. The "feel good chemicals," as Harper referred to them, only slowed them down, and one by one each compound stopped working.

And Dylan kept getting worse.

Beka had the night shift. At least, judging by the fact that Rhade found her at 0500 this time, albeit awake. She greeted him with an exhausted wave, answering his question before he asked. "No change since last night. Just more of me acting like a bimbo and Harper being stupid."

"A bimbo?" He raised an eyebrow at the description.

"Oh, yeah. And you're a sodden drunk in his mind, too."

Rhade blinked. He hadn't expected that. "A drunk."

"Mm-hm." She pointed to the monitor. "There's a certain continuity to it. Apparently at some point you signed up with us. I guess he misses having Tyr around more than we realized."

"And I became a drunk?" He sat down in the chair next to her, realizing that yes, that was him with facial hair and a bottle in front of him on the monitor.

"Don't take it personally. We all seem to be… off. I'm hoping it's the little bastards in his brain, because if that's what he really thinks of me I think I should shoot him as soon as he's better." She looked over at him, seeming worried. "He is going to get better. I may be mad at what I'm like in this thing of his, but I want him to get better."

"He will," Rhade assured her. He may have been trying to assure himself, as well. "Just let the Perseids get here. If anyone can work it out…"

The End