Dave meets her online.
He doesn't remember when, only that it was a long time ago, on a music website. She'd commented on one of his tracks, and he'd listened to one of hers, and they'd started to talk. He can probably look up the date she sent the message, but it doesn't really matter.
They know each other now.
After months of conversation and collaboration he could call her his friend. He didn't have many of those, and almost none of them were human. She believes him when he says he works in the entertainment industry. It's not exactly a lie. She thinks he's a producer, and he does make music, but that is not his job. He deals more with interactive multimedia, of sorts.
Dave is a Sandman. He works for the organization called Derse, which specializes in dealing out bad dreams.
One day, she asks to see his work.
what, he types. you see it all the time
no, she replies, what you do for your job
He responds with an "oh" and doesn't type anything for a few seconds.
i dont know that stuff is pretty dark
you wouldnt like it
try me, she types, and follows it with an emoticon that taunts him with an outstretched tongue.
its not something i can just give you a link to
is there any way i can see it?
maybe in your dreams
pfft wow dave
okay i get it your stuff is SUPER TOP SECRET and theres absolutely no way you can show your best and only friend in the whole wide world
i have other friends, is the first thing he thinks to type and hits send before he can really consider what he's saying.
do they get to see your work?
There's a long pause. i finished that remix, he says in an attempt to change the subject. He sends her the file. A few minutes later, he receives a reply and the subject is dropped.
i think i had a dream with you in it, she says the next day. He doesn't respond for a while.
Her house was a part of his run that night. He'd stood beside her bed for a long while, according to his standards. Dream-giving is usually a quick affair; he's in and out of a house in seconds, and he has to be, since there are so many clients that need to be reached. But he'd hesitated. He didn’t like the idea of giving Jade a nightmare.
it couldnt have been anything good, he says finally, entirely honestly, and that seems to catch her by surprise.
why would you say that?
especially since youre always going on about how youre such hot stuff!!
youre right what was i thinking, he says. tell me about how your dream was the best one you ever had thanks to my presence
did you swoon
i bet you swooned like an anime schoolgirl after bumping into the most popular guy in school
whoa wait what
let me explain GOSH
if you would stop talking so much for once i could actually tell you what happened!!
He waits. She's typing a novel, it seems, and it he feels steadily worse with each passing second. He doesn't know what happens in the dreams he gives, and he can only hope one was a mild one.
When the green wall of text finally appears on the screen, he almost doesn't want to read it. But his curiosity gets the better of him.
ok so i was in this city and it was overrun with zombies. i was running down the main road and a group of them kept chasing me. then i went inside this huge building and started climbing some stairs to get to the top level, even though that doesnt really make sense in retrospect. anyway, it seemed like the staircase went on forever, but i finally got to the top and found myself in an empty room. the wall facing the street had been completely destroyed so i could see a pretty good area of the city. then i turned back toward the staircase and there you were!! you looked just like your profile picture.
and i didnt SWOON!! but i was really dizzy because of all that running
for some reason it was really important that i had to take your sunglasses off but you wouldnt let me
whoa yeah, he types, before she can finish.
dream daves got the right idea
you dont just go grabbing a bros shades to expose his pretty peepers
theyre just shades, dave!
shades that happen to protect my secret identity
He touches his glasses. Even the mention of taking them off makes him nervous. She doesn’t know it, but they are literally the only thing keeping everyone he comes into contact with from running away screaming.
He wonders if she’d be able to see him, the real him, if she took his shades off in her dreams.
But no, that’s ridiculous. She doesn’t know. How could she?
And he plans on keeping it that way.
Thinking about it makes his stomach churn. He has to say something, something dumb, and quickly.
so what, are you some kind of superhero or something?
Hah. He’s no hero. He could never be. But he types maybe anyway, because maybe im a supervillain won’t do anything for his mood.
ugh, youre so full of it!!
Okay. This he can work with.
if by it you mean awesome then yes
i am so full of it im about to burst and get gross bits of dave everywhere
but thats okay because its cool
yeah, thats really cool, dave
i think you mean
youre such a dork!!!!
hey there those are some harsh words
anyway what else happened in your dream
we fought zombies!
i had a gun and you had a sword and together we were practically unstoppable!
in the end we were eaten :(
not exactly unstoppable then huh
i guess not
well in case there ever is a zombie apocalypse you couldnt find a better partner
i am an expert in undead extermination
ill make sure to find you then
Her house becomes a regular part of his run. He does not like it. It’s not every night he has to visit her -- Prospit does send agents to bring good dreams, after all -- but he finds himself at her house more often than he would like.
Well. More often than he would like under these circumstances.
He doesn’t know if the first dream she had with him in it was because he was the one who gave it to her, but every night he visited her, he hoped to give Jade another dream with his doppleganger. And he hoped Dream Dave would maybe make the dream a bit better.
The mornings after, Jade tells him if he is successful. In her dreams, he vexes her, helps her, and says things to make her laugh. Sometimes he can’t help but feel a bit jealous of his dream double. It starts to feel less and less like Dave joining her and more like someone else entirely.
He spends more time with her each night, as much as he can without raising suspicion. Dave’s boss doesn’t know about his relationship with Jade; he doesn’t make it his personal business to know about the private lives of the agents below him, but he could easily find out.
Dave has a feeling he wouldn’t be pleased if he did.
TT: What's the hold up?
Speak of the devil.
TG: im working
TG: do you just sit around watching monitors all the time
TG: specifically mine
TG: cuz it seems like all you do is get on my back about running behind schedule and whoa whats this
TG: it isnt even necessary because i always get my job done
TG: dont you have to go give a baby a nightmare or something
TT: I'm a manager. It's my job to make sure you do yours.
TT: And I do occasionally go give babies nightmares, for your information.
TT: It happens to be the highlight of my job.
The problem with having your primary method of communication be a pair of sunglasses you can't really take off is that it's a bit difficult to ignore any incoming messages. It's supposed to be quiet, dark, peaceful. Instead, orange and red light fills his vision, completely blocking out the rest of the bedroom.
TT: You keep pausing around the same time and location every time you go on a run.
TT: What's going on? Are you having problems getting to the client?
TG: i mean yes
TG: she has a dog
TT: A dog?
TG: its not just a dog its a creature from the pits of the underworld
TG: this thing is cerberus minus some heads with an unhealthy dose of radiation
TG: so sorry if it takes a while to sneak past an omnipotent devil dog who can practically teleport
TT: A devil dog is a snack food, you moron.
It's not entirely a lie. There is a dog, but it has nothing to do with why he takes longer than usual at this particular house. He does not pause, he stays -- and he stays because of the girl he never finds in the same place. Some nights, like tonight, she's tucked properly in her bed, her glasses on the table along the wall. Other nights she's at that table, her head resting on a book filled with formulas and diagrams, her glasses askew. And others she's half buried in a pile of stuffed animals, cocooned in fleece creatures with bright smiles.
He stays because it’s Jade, the girl he’s known for ages. It’s Jade.
But the dog thing will shut Dirk up for now. Hopefully.
TG: its not just that either
TG: this girl is never in her bed like she should be i have to hunt her down every time i come here
TG: i know some people like a little variety now and then but do you really have to sleep on top of a pile of guns to spice up your life
TG: thats what they have hobbies for
TT: Would you like me to send out another, more experienced agent to take over that house?
TG: no i can handle it you dont have to reassign anything
TG: im the best sandman you got
TT: Noir would beg to differ.
TG: you know youre making this take longer than it has to mr stay on schedule or ill put you in the corner and let a psychopath take your job
TT: Just hurry up.
Dave sighs quietly. He steps toward her bed, only to trip on something that wasn’t there a few seconds ago. He lets out a curse as he hits the ground and hopes she doesn’t wake.
Derse’s best Sandman. Yeah, right.
He looks back to see what made him fall. A furry white lump lays where his feet should have been. Where did that thing come from?
Maybe it actually can teleport.
Dave glances toward the bed and is relieved to find Jade still sleeping. He shoots the dog a glare and gets up
and his glasses are on the ground next to him.
He really is late now. He bends down to grab his shades. Scarred, jagged hands awkwardly close around them. Dave stares.
It’s been a long time since he’s taken off his glasses. He almost forgot what he really looks like. A patchwork of parts crudely stitched together, sprawling and shadowy, with dead eyes and drooping wings, like a dark angel made of everything repulsive and horrifying the imagination has to offer. He is the physical manifestation of fear.
How could he possibly have forgotten that?
He shoves the shades onto his face roughly. He’s suddenly glad most of his interaction with Jade is through a computer screen.
He doesn’t want to give her a dream. He doesn’t want to be here anymore. But he has to do his job.
i had a dream with you in it again!
He forces himself to smile.