Of a Strange Arrival

Nicodemus rushed on one of his nicer coats, nothing pretentious but still enough to have him looking well-off.

"I'm telling you it's scary if you really think about it. I wouldn't have even given any of that 'magical folklore' a second glance but with the green giant from Harlem? It makes you wonder if all those stories about werewolves are about science experiments gone wrong."

He sighed; he really wanted to avoid entering the conversation. "As much as I hate to say this, Christine, I'm going to have to agree with Strange."

"You should do that more." Strange piped up, a smirk on his face.

"I regret it already." He turned to Christine. "I had my mother, old as she is, call me to ask if there have been any vampires going through our hospitals. I read an article about a magical infection turning people into monsters in Canada. Hell, I read an article about someone theorizing that Canada doesn't exist. The Hulk is making everyone jumpy; you're smarter than that, Doctor Palmer."

She snorted. "Wow. You took that way too seriously, Nick. It was more of a random thought than anything. There's a lot of interesting articles on it."

He instantly picked up what she meant and called her out on it. "You were trying to annoy Strange."

She smirked. "Saying I tried is a little unfair. I could practically see veins popping in his head."

Strange cut-in. "As much as I love jokes at my expense, Christine and I actually have places to go. You'll have to entertain yourself West."

Was the innuendo intentional?

Strange walked off, quickly followed by Christine, who muttered a quick apology to him for Doctor Magic Hands. In his own humble opinion, their relationship seemed unhealthy–it was like she spent more time as his minder than she did his partner.

Typically, his day ending would mean he'd drive home. In this case, it meant he would be having dinner with William… That sounded wrong even in his head.

He sprawled out on his Will's couch and finally allowed his nerves to relax. "Y'know, Christine was talking about a million and one crazy theories because of Harlem's giant, right?"

"Yeah, drives Strange up the wall." Will sat right next to his head. "Doesn't explain why you wanted to talk. Definitely doesn't explain why you wanted to talk in my house."

Nick started, "Well, recently–"

"If this is a confession I'm sorry to say that I don't feel that way about you." The guy had a shit-eating grin on his face.

One unamused look at Will's weighty form later, "The disinterest is mutual. It's about the rumors in Canada."

"The infection thing? Don't tell me you take that seriously."

"I just." He breathed out heavily. "I can't sleep in peace. Every single night. Every single fucking time I sleep, I dream of this place. Where there's something watching me. Creeping into our world. Like it's trying to choke out all life. And every single night, I see it working."

Nick slumped, defeated. "I just want to sleep. That's all. I just need to sleep."

There was silence for a time. "Is that why you've been sloppier than usual recently?"

Will continued before Nick could protest. "Don't get me wrong. I'm not Strange; I'm not going to call you a bad surgeon; if it wasn't for him and Palmer, you'd be the best Surgeon we have. That's why I can tell when you're… unfocused."

Nick couldn't say anything to that.

"You can stay at my place but you need to see someone. This can't keep up."

Relief washed over him. "You don't know how much this means to me, Will. I genuinely don't think you can understand."

"We're not sharing a bed."

"I wouldn't suggest it."

Nick didn't sleep well that night; dreams plagued by a horrible sickness scratching against the walls of reality.

He did, however, get to wake up comfortably.

Of a Dream Past

Nick stared down at his hands with contrite. He'd failed. He'd gone into that room knowing he would fail but tried it anyways. His stupid hands just wouldn't stop shaking. It wasn't noticable; he was too good of a surgeon for it to be.

But his control was slipping. No, they were beyond that point. At his best, he would've been able to fix Strange's hands with ease.

He was a star surgeon, regardless of what Strange says.

He felt a jolt of perverse pleasure realizing he actually would be Metro-General's star doctor with Strange out of commission. Sure, Christine was about as good as he was but he actually cozied up with his superiors. She spent time with Strange.

West wanted to vomit. He'd always wanted to beat Strange but not like this. Not because pride had him working hard when he was barely getting sleep.

He knew he shouldn't be thinking like that–Strange's life had just been ruined–but he couldn't help himself, couldn't just will the opportunistic thoughts down.

Deciding he'd head home early, consequences be damned, he found a bottle of what could push down his thoughts.

After 2 glasses he couldn't bring himself to stay awake. His consciousness slipped from and he was sleeping… He knew he was sleeping.

He'd never had a lucid dream.

He closed his (dream?)eyes and imagined himself flying in the sky. Opening them, he still only saw the same streets.

Really gloomy streets. Looking upward, he felt confident that, regardless of how real things were, he was in a dream. Nobody built a bridge between 2 buildings on opposing sides of a street; especially not one with spikes on its underside.

Then he remembered he was dreaming and truly let that sink in.

For the first time in years, his dreams weren't soul-wrenching. For the first time in years, he got to have a normal dream in a not-so-normal city.

Then he saw the bears, black fur spotted with blood and entrails. Long spindly legs growing out of their backs, sharp toenails extending and retracting like claws. They were clearly supposed human legs, despite the extra joints. Nicodemus then took a look into the white eyes of the bears.

Nicodemus was almost certainly dreaming but the bears before him were definitely real. And, in typical bear fashion, they would kill him.

He ran.

Of a Dream Past

"Nicodemus, huh? Sounds pretentious." It wasn't said scathingly but Nick still felt he should put up a token defense–he knew his name was pretentious.

"Alexander isn't much better."

The boy (Man? Thing?) chuckled. "Short for Alexis, actually. Dad wanted a girl–said he'd name me Alexis. My mom, too sentimental if you ask me, kept the name."

He processed that for a second. "My condolences?"

"Don't be sorry, never knew the guy."

There was an uneasy silence–for him, the boy was humming a tune while pouring multiple bottles of blood into a thermos then shaking.

When he'd taken a drink from the concoction, he broke the silence. "So, you don't have anything to ask? I had a million and one questions when I was in your position."

"Actually–"

Alexis talked over him. "Granted, mine was only a bad cough, nothing like a life threatening injury. Anyways, I digress, questions?"

Nick calmed his breathing–his pride grated at being ignored. "Your drink. What is it?"

Alex cocked a brow. "Of all the questions, that? It's blood, obviously; it's about the best drink you'll find around here."

"I see." He did not. "Is there a way to leave this dream city. Not that I don't appreciate your hospitality but–"

"I understand. You want out. It's simple but, then again, it isn't. Gone are your days of restful sleep."

Despite himself, Nick chuckled. "I wasn't getting any in the first place."

The boy sent him an inquisitive look so he asked the most pressing question. "Does this place have anything to do with the nightmares I've been having for the past 2 years?"

Instantly, the boy's eyes narrowed. "Are you sure they were nightmares? Not just bad dreams?"

The distinction made him pause but he nodded. "I'm sure of it."

"Fuck." He let out a long sigh. "We'll shelf that topic for now."

"What do you mean we'll–"

"If you're back here tomorrow, tell me if you had any of your nightmares. If not, well you're not my problem to deal with. You got a job?"

"Yes?" He answered, surprised by the abrupt topic change.

"Tough. Fall asleep with money–cash–and some exorcise clothes or something; something you don't mind getting scratched up."

What? "What?"

"What nothing. Case closed, good night West." He went through the room's only door, closed it behind himself and when West tried to go through the same door, the room was different.

Alone and with renewed fear. He huddled up in the rooms corner; strong incense stuffing his nose until he was jarred into wakeness. Sprawled out on his dining table, broken shards of his wine bottle scattered across the floor.

Of a Dream Past

Alex had read about Caryll Runes. Hunters would take the very essence of Godly utterings, transcribe it into a symbol, and carve it into their brains as an avenue to power.

The most consistent examples of beasts retaining their sanity were gleaned from a research hall's study on said runes.

A rune, that subjected its user to a stable beasthood. Granted, most who used the rune fell to some type of insanity but few truly devolved below sapience.

If he ever felt that he was losing the battle against Beasthood, he would perform the operation on himself.

It was a last resort for the obvious reason of him not knowing the first thing about how to perform a normal operation; let alone a magical one which he learned about through multiple contradicting sources.

In that regard, West was a godsend. He'd searched up the name and found the profile of a surgeon; not a famous one but definitely an accomplished one.

He was an avenue to some of the more clinical approaches to dealing with Beasthood and a well-off doctor who could help him deal with his financial issues.

"And you're late, again. Did you check in with the office?"

Finding his seat in his classroom he had to suppress a snarl.

"Yes," He responded, through gritted teeth. With him becoming more proactive in the waking world, it was hard to not feel like he should just run away from school and all responsibility. With math, it was worse.

If it wasn't for his mom…

He zoned out for the rest of the class, fiddling with a bone he'd snatched from a bear-Beast's carcass. Morbid, yes but a lot of beast bones had really interesting textures that he liked–it was why he collected them.

When his class was over, a boy–5'10 by his guess– came directly up to him. Alex looked down at him; the boy's feature scratching at the back of his memory. Neat, good looking and well proportioned–Comparitively, Alex was lanky and looked like a hurricane had ran through his hair.

"Alex, right? We were in a bunch of classes together, grade 10–wild to think that we've both been going to the same school and we haven't talked since, right?"

The name came to him then–Brandon.

Alex caught a whiff of him and smiled. "It is odd, isn't it?"

He walked on, knowing he would follow him. It was a childish power-play but he typically talked to people at a disadvantage or as equals. If he was right, he'd be talking to Brandon with a supernatural advantage over him.

"Yeah, 'think that's kinda my fault though."

"Not mine?"

"Nah–I mean kinda?" He was hesitant on the last bit. "You mellowed out but you used to look unhinged–no offense."

"None taken, it's understandable."

"So, yeah, there was that but I was kind of an ass back then. I like to think I matured more though."

That was sure a thing; Alex didn't actually feel like punching him. "That you did. So is that at all? I'd have thought you'd say more."

Brandon shoulders tensed and, for a second, Alex thought he'd be leaving. "That's the only thing I have planned but I do think we should talk more. You got a phone, right?"

"I'm almost offended you felt the need to ask." Sure most of his money came from freelance in the supernatural community but that didn't mean he couldn't afford a phone.

Brandon shrugged. "Some people don't like phones."

They exchanged numbers and Alex watched Brandon leave to join a group of his friends.

It was a thrilling prospect. His supernatural life spilling over to his boring one. He'd have to call Jack; tell him that money won't be so tight anymore.

He hummed a stilted tune, people parting for his imposing figure. Life was good.

(Ignoring, of course, the thing about Nightmares. That was very, very, bad).