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Cornering the Meaning of Dreams
Days and nights blurred for Ayden. Her hours at Chesterfields were so Chaotic that she ended up sleeping in her apartment most of the time. And every single time she woke to the same image and couldn't go back to sleep. The image of Connor dying. Ayden remembered her family dying, but the images never woke her from the dreams, she only knew that they had and she felt horrible. A vague memory that she was supposed to do something accompanied the dreams. But she couldn't place it. But she knew she knew what it was in the dreams.

But the dreams never came when she found time to sleep in Connor's arms. But that was rare, they could spend more than few hours together sleeping, their schedule's just didn't fit well.

Tonight Ayden and Connor's schedule had lined up perfectly. He got off work at the same time she did. He picked her up at Chesterfields and they went out for dinner and they spent the rest of the night in his apartment making up for the lost time. Not that their sex life had been disturbed by her chaotic schedule. But it would be wonderful to wake up next to Connor after a great night's sleep. And from their time alone, Ayden was rather tired when she drifted off to sleep with Connor's arms around her. She loved sleeping with him next to her.

Dreams were happy, at first. Memories and playful dreams. When the switched happened in the dreams, it was subtle at first. Ayden started to toss and turn in her sleep. Memories of her parents were tinged red with a bullet from a rifle. The scene of her parents advocating against the military when she'd gone missing, their images splattered with their blood. Other memories were changed to horrific scenes, all because Ayden hadn't done something.

The last image was the night she had shot Connor. There was some relief to the exacting need for something, something had happened that day that made things better. But as Ayden drew close the image she saw startled Ayden awake.

She sat bolt upright in bed. Her heart was pounding and sweat slicked her skin like she'd just run a marathon. Ayden's hand was clutching Connor's. She let it go abruptly, the images still in her head as she turned to look to find Connor looking concerned up at her.
<small>[[continued from The Seeker]]

Life had settled into a comfortable routine for Connor. He was very happy with that. He didn't need anything big in his life, nothing world shaking. He was content being ih love with a woman who was in love with him, having a job that he enjoyed and challenged him, and having good friends. Now that he had gotten that list to Michael he felt better. He wasn't sure what the kid would do with the list exactly, but he knew it would be something. Hoped it would be, anyway. He'd not only made peace with losing his son, he felt like he'd...well, had done something for him and Ayden and the others like them everywhere. He was happy with that.

Ayden's schedule was crazy strange, but they saw each other every chance they got. He couldn't seem to keep his hands off of her when they were together, nor could he stop being goofy around her. He felt like a kid again with her. And he noticed how hard she worked at her job, putting up with a constantly changing schedule. She was the new girl and her lack of experience put her at the bottom of the totem poll. But she stuck with it- thankfully the people at work liked her, so she wasn't being hit with crap there at least- and dealt with it.

He knew what a sacrifice it had been for her. Necessary, yes. The not-killing wasn't the sacrifice. It wasn't like killing people was a good job to have or a calling or whatever. And she could have been caught, despite her abilities. And even if she hadn't, the damage to her soul, to her humanity, would have been unavoidable especially over time. He couldn't have stayed with her, he knew that much. It hurt him to even think that, but it was true. No, the sacrifice was going from having money and security to being a waitress and a student. She had given up so many things for him and he loved her for it. In truth, it weighed on him a bit, the responsibility, that he wasn't doing enough for her after all that.

At times he still puzzled over her ability to compartmentalize what she had done- killing random people on the word of an inarguably bad paying client- with the kind of person he knew her to be. But then he would remind himself that she didn't do that anymore, that she was working as a waitress to not be a person who did that, that she'd done it for him. She wanted him enough to change that. So it wasn't something to worry about anymore. But of course, it was always there in the back of his mind. He wasn't sure it would ever go away, the wondering. Still, when it really came down to it, he was willing to take the risk, to trust in her and believe in her. He loved her. It was a simple as that. And he was willing to live with the consequences of loving her. She was worth it, completely, totally, 100 percent worth it.

Tonight was one of the few nights she was able to stay over after they had a little fun. Well, a lot of fun. She certainly had a lot of energy. It was a good thing he'd been a runner all those years. Tonight though, after, he was drowsy and drifted off to sleep with her against his chest. It was a peaceful dreamless sleep and almost no time seemed to have passed.

He woke up to Ayden thrashing about, mumbling. He was aware of cold sweat covering her. Did she have a fever? Suddenly she sat up and seemed terrified and startled. She was holding his hand and kind of swaying as if lost. She looked down at him in confusion.

He looked up at her. It'd been a long time since he'd had a dream wake him up. Softly, so as not to startle her, he said "What is it Ayden?"
He put his hand to her cheek and held it there, feeling cool her skin against his hand and smiled at her.

Edited by Connor Kent, Aug 27 2014, 04:06 PM.
"What is it Ayden?"
Connor's hand was warm against her skin. She felt almost cold from the fear. Ayden laid her head against his chest. She could feel his heart beating below. She focused on it, he was alive.

Ayden wasn't exactly sure how to begin. How to tell him dreams were always present, and always tinged with blood and death. How do you tell someone you just watched them dying in their arms and not sound crazy?

She lay there in Connor's arms trying to find the words and taking comfort in his arms. She had finally stopped shaking, her body ached not only from their prior activities but from the drop of adrenaline. Ayden tried to talk but her mouth was dry. Sitting up and grabbing the water by her bedside, she took a swallow and looked down at her love's face racked with concern and comfort.

Ayden smiled. "A bad dream. Several actually."

Ayden laid back down and put her body as close to his as possible. His arm wrapped around her back, caressing it softly. Ayden laid her head on his chest and felt his comfort. "I've always had dreams filled with what I did and with things I can't really explain. Now they are filled with blood and death and the clear impression it's my fault for not doing something."
Ayden paused and took in her own words. She knew she was crazy. What would he think? "But I have no idea what I'm not doing."
Connor felt her lay back down beside him. Her body was cold. He put his arm around her and pulled her to him, hoping to warm her against his skin. Her head was on his chest and she looked up at him as she quietly explained.

He listened to her, taking it all in. He'd had bad dreams before. But nothing like what she described. Of course, he'd never done what she did. Well, except for that once. But even then, his dreams were also tinged with the events of that night, the children, and the revelation about her. It wasn't about killing that man in partiuclar. Even now, despite intellectually knowing the magnitude of what he had done, he still could not feel bad about it.

It did confirm that he'd been right though. He felt good at the thought. It showed that he was right about her, the kind of woman she was on the inside. She was a decent person, one with a conscience. She said it had never really bothered her. Her dreams told a different tale. Quietly, he said "Given what you...used to do, it doesn't surprise me that you'd have dreams like that.
He squeezed her to him, feeling every inch of her against his body. "You're a good woman that was doing terrible things. And yet your conscience wasn't seared or scarred into unfeeling."
He smiled at her. "You know how happy that makes me?"
He stroked her hair and back tenderly, looking into her eyes. "You are the woman I thought you were. Being with you....I am just glad I am with you, Ayden. I've never felt anything like I feel for you."
Ayden did not think he was right about this. The dreams before were not like this. Something had changed, something had changed her dreams. Ayden couldn't for the life of her figure out what had changed that would make such a huge impact.

Ayden was conflicted by his words of affection. She should be angry he couldn't accept her for what she was before, that it took her to up-heave her life so that she could be with him to accept her, but she was not. The dreams had shifted after that. Not immediately, but Ayden wondered if that was part of it.

She shook her head. "These are different from then. Before my loved ones survived because of whatever it was I was doing. Now...
Ayden sat up and looked him straight in the eyes, the fear written all over her face and whispered. "Now you all die. Horrible deaths. My dreams have always been filled with blood...Now,
Ayden laid back against her pillow and stared up at the ceiling. "Now you are covered in blood, and it's my fault. But it wasn't me who hurt you, something else. Something that came because I didn't do something."
He frowned as she sat up and explained. He liked feeling her next to him and it felt like she was distancing herself. He didn't like that. But her words...they did mean something to him. They helped him. They made him think.

He was reminded of the fact that her job initially was for good old Uncle Sam, where you had to trust that your assignment was legit. Plenty of good people could do that sort of thing. Soldiers had to believe that what they were doing was right. Whether as an sniper or just as a regular boots on the ground guy, ultimately, they would be killing people based on the say so of another. That didn't mean they were inhuman or callous monsters. They had wives and husbands, children and parents and friends and were loyal to them. They were especially loyal to their brothers-in-arms. He knew from history that those bonds were among the strongest because they were forged in the heat of battle. So the ability to kill another human being who personally had not wronged you did not, in and of itself, did not mean that a person was inhuman.

It was merely a function of the human mind, a way to categorize people. Humans were good at putting people in the "people I care about" box and "people I can't or don't care about" box. It was human nature- and probably for good reason. Even aside from soldiers, doctors and aid workers and others who dealt with heart-wrenching situations and trauma had to turn off emotional reactions in order to deal practically with the problem at hand. Being emotionally distraught or worse paralyzed a person and was very counterproductive. He couldn't really fault her with being able to do that, to have that skill of compartmentalization. He'd certainly not thought about the man he'd killed, not considered his feelings or family. The man was evil, as far as he was concerned, and needed to die. He wasn't interested in his childhood or any abuse he might have suffered that might have made things more understandable. He didn't imagine the man as a kid with his own problem. As far as he was concerned, the man didn't deserve that kind of human status. In the box he went.

But her explanation showed that motivating her work was a desire to protect those she loved. She had been captured and blackmailed, her family's lives threatened. Her ability to do the job was an assett that she could use to protect them. Would he have done the same for Hayden? Probably. One was his son, the other a random stranger. As hard as it would be, he knew who he'd choose. Boxes, again. And as he thought about it, even once she gained her freedom, she still had the same ability. And while it was wrong, he could also see that it was the only thing she knew how to do, the only thing she knew how to control. It was the only way she knew to survive. It hadn't bothered her because she'd been trained that way. It was what she did. And in some way, it had been associated in her mind with protecting those she loved.

And she had given it up for him. She was working a waitressing job at a fairly average restaurant and going to school. She had made a incredible sacrifice for him. And he loved her for it.

"Now you are covered in blood, and it's my fault. But it wasn't me who hurt you, something else. Something that came because I didn't do something."
His heart ached for her, now laying on her back and looking up at the ceiling. He rolled onto his side and got close to her so it was his turn to look down at her, head propped up on his hand. He put his other hand on her stomach, feeling the flat coolness of her taut skin. He wanted to do the male thing, to get to the bottom of it, to figure out her problem, the why, and then come up with a solution. Instead, he stifled that feeling and just looked at her, smiling weakly.

"I'm sorry Ayden. I wish I knew what to say. But I'm here. Whatever you need, I'm here."
He just watched her, feeling her against him, hoping to somehow warm her up, that his presence might make a difference. "Whatever you need."

Ayden was glad Connor was there for her, but she had no idea how he could help or where to even start to figure out was was happening to her. Maybe she had broken something inside. All the killing was finally getting to her? Ayden didn't think that was it, but maybe...

The more she thought about it the less control she had, she really had no control over anything anymore. Her hours flipped everywhere at a moments notice sometime. The money was pathetic. School dictated everything else. Classes were as boring as she'd remembered them being in high school. The only control she had was what she did in her spare time. That made her happy, Connor made her happy, but everything else was out of control. Her mind spiraled. Every bit of control she had earned she gave up.

Tears started to fall and Ayden wasn't exactly sure why. Stress, fear, everything just came into her mind and overwhelmed her. Ayden was never one to break down. Not once had she done so when life got hard, not even in the depths of the dungeons in some foreign land had she succumbed, but now, being normal, living a normal life, it took it's toll on her emotions.

Ayden cried, unsure of where to go from there, except forward. But that step forward she had no idea where it was, or where it would lead. No idea how to change her dreams, and apparently her fears.
She just lay there, lost in thought. Whatever it was, he saw her face fall, and suddenly there were tears in her eyes, crying softly. His heart broke for her. He moved his arm from her stomach to her side and pulled her to him so that she was on her side. Then he put his arms around her and held her, just held her and let her cry. Inside he felt so powerless. There was nothing he could do. And even if he did think of something, she was crying right now. He couldn't fix it. And he guessed that she just wanted him to be there any way.

Softly he stroked her hair while the other arm held her. He whispered, "Shhh....It's ok Ayden. It's ok. I love you, Ayden, I love you."
Over and over again he said the words, trying to think of something to do to make her feel better. She'd done what she had to protect her family. Maybe she felt that since she'd stopped they were now in danger? "Ayden, what is it? It's a dream, love, just a dream. You saved them. They are safe. And I'm not going to die. I'm here. I'm here with you. Trust me Ayden, it's ok."
He just held on to her, hoping she heard him. "You'll see,"
he said as he held her, stroking her hair and back gently, over and over again.

Maybe he should take her somewhere, some place special. It was Friday morning. Yeah, he'd take the day off and take her some place nice for the weekend. He said nothing as she cried, hoping that it was enough for her to know that he was listening and that he cared.
Connor comforted Ayden, or tried to anyway. The fact that he was here made the difference, but she knew he didn't quite understand. And how could he, she hadn't said why she was crying. It was the struggle for life, never before had it been this hard to survive, to stay afloat. If it were not for her past career she'd not even be living this comfortably in any near future version.

Ayden didn't want to talk about it, but talking was really the only way to be honest with Connor, and there would be no more lies or hidden truths if she had anything to say about it.

Ayden cried until tears no longer fell. She snuggled closer to Connor before she spoke. "I know they are just dreams. Apparently a lot of other things are bothering me too."

She didn't want to look him in the eyes and tell, she held her head close to his chest and tried not to let the tears fall again. "This is all so very hard."
Ayden sniffled, the back lash from the prior crying still paying its toll on her nasal cavity. "I have no control over anything but where I spend what little free time I have."
Ayden sighed. "Without the money I had before, I'd be living on the streets, barely able to feed myself off the crap wages I get. I might as well sleep at the restaurant with the amount of free time I'd have just to make ends meet."

"And that's only work. Classes are boring. I'm too old to be doing this again, I don't want to sit and listen to lectures on European history or the classical literature they deem worthy to be called a classic."

Ayden pulled away from Connor in frustration. "It's all so very frustrating. I will keep doing it for you, but ..."
Ayden didn't say anything, there was nothing to voice. She might go crazy. She might go back to her old ways? No, not likely... She hoped. Ayden didn't want to lose Connor, not even for an easy ticket out of hell.
Connor listened. He understood. She had upended her life for him. That wasn't without very real and practical consequences. Her life had changed drastically. Life was hard, too. Moscow was a place of opportunity, but how could she find it when she was still just figuring herself. And it was his fault, his responsibility. She'd done it for him.

He held her and just watched her talk. Certainty was growing in his heart. This was his doing. She had done it for him, gotten into this position because of him. Well then, it was time to be there for her in more than just words, more than just being together like this. It was time he took responsibility. She had committed to him in a very real and practical way that had changed her entire life. She had committed to him even before he'd come to his senses. She'd done it based on faith. She deserved teh same. He could do the same. No more fear, no more hiding. She deserved everything from him.

When she stopped he looked her in the eye. He'd never been more sure about anything in his life. He remembered when Jamie had called him that she was pregnant with Hayden. He'd not been afraid then at all. It was what he was born for, what his life had been leading to. This was the same. Exactly the same. "Then move in here. Marry me."

Simple words, but he meant them. "Quit your job. Find something you really want to do. We can stay here or go somewhere else. But we'll do it together."
He kissed her. Inside he felt such love for her, such a desire to be her rock, to be with her. "You gave everything to me, your life for me. I want to give you the same."
He paused. He knew it was sudden. Everything about their relationship was sudden. But that didn't mean it wasn't real. It was worth it. "You don't have to answer now. But just think about it."
He watched, hoping she'd say yes, hoping to see...something in her eyes.

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