Nightmares were nothing new to Curtis Craig. His past had haunted him for years in his sleeping hours, flashing before his eyes, semi-forgotten memories of the mother who had tortured him and the father who had stood by and done nothing. And it was no surprise that he was still having them now. He had seen things that no mortal man had ever seen and experienced things no mortal man should experience. Not that he was a mortal man, strictly speaking.
He'd discovered his origin in a hellish alien dimension, that he was a being drawn together from slime and rats in the image of a human grown twisted and full of hate, a creature whom he had destroyed with his own two hands. He's seen co-workers butchered, dismembered, their blood staining the walls. He'd seen his psychiatrist melted into a puddle of flesh and horror, faintly steaming, staring back at him as though it could see him for what he truly was.
He'd seen Trevor die.
And perhaps that was the worst of all.
He was happy with Jocilyn. He was. He loved Joss, he loved her, he loved her so much that his heart nearly burst when he looked at her, but there was... somebody else. Somebody he could never have. The new co-star of his nightmares.
Sometimes, the events played out just as they had in real life. He and Trevor were stood in the supply closet together, Trevor's body warm and solid in his arms, and Curtis was holding him tight enough to turn his knuckles white because he knew what was going to happen next and he wanted to stop it but his body wouldn't obey and all he could do was let the sick pantomime play out before his eyes while his mind screamed for it to stop. He leaned in, nervous, lips dry, but Trevor stopped him – why, Trev? Why stop me? You love me too, you just said – but then Trevor's breath caught in his throat and his eyes glazed over with pain. The cables – those damn cables – writhed underneath his shirt and dragged him back against the wall. Blood spread across the fabric, a deep red stain, and Trevor screamed and Curtis was moving, clawing at the cables, but it did nothing and he was helpless and then – snap. Neck broken. Trevor's body fell limp into Curtis's arms. Heavy. Lifeless. Empty as a paper bag. And Curtis was cradling him close in his arms, a scream welling up from somewhere deep inside his chest and then –
– and then his eyes would snap open and he'd wake, gasping for air, his body shaking and his skin coated in a sheen of cold sweat.
But those weren't the worst dreams.
Sometimes, Trevor didn't stop him. Curtis leaned forwards and pressed his lips shyly to Trevor's, moving slowly, unsure of himself – he'd never kissed a man before; was it different? And he rarely started kisses himself. Normally he was kissed rather than kissing. But then Trevor's tongue flicked out across his lips, coaxing his mouth open, and the tension flowed out of Curtis's body like milk from a broken jug and they were kissing, desperate, the last kiss of a dying man – except it'll be different this time, won't it? – or the kiss of two who had denied themselves too long. Trevor's mouth was hot and wet and his body was pressed so tightly against Curtis that he almost couldn't tell where he ended and Trevor began and for a brief moment he felt whole. Alive. Then Trevor gasped and his body tensed with pain. Something was writhing underneath his shirt against Curtis's belly. The cables – the fucking cables – and they dragged Trevor away and Curtis was clawing at them but they wouldn't budge, they wouldn't budge and he's so fucking helpless and – snap. And Trevor's body feel down into his arms, a heavy, useless shell, a thing, not the vibrant, happy-go-lucky man he knew and loved. And he wanted to scream, to pound the walls and floor until his hands bled, but he couldn't. He was numb. He just lowered Trevor's body to the floor, closed his hands, ran a hand gently down his cheek – still warm – and kissed the lifeless lips that tasted of blood and –
– and then he'd wake with such a jolt that he'd fear he'd woken Joss, but she'd usually just make some small, soft snuffling noises and roll over in their bed, safe and secure in her warm and comfortable dreams, leaving Curtis shivering and alone.
But those weren't the worst dreams either.
Sometimes, things went very different and they escaped. Instead of wasting time with hugs, Curtis grabbed Trevor by the wrist and dragged him out through the door, out of the Wyntech building, just out, out, out. Anywhere but here. They got to the parking lot and into Trevor's car and Trevor drove them back to Curtis's place because neither of them could think of anywhere else to go, and when they got through the door, they were both pale-faced and breathing heavily. Then standing right there in the hall, Trevor took Curtis's face gently in both hands and kissed him and everything around him dissolved, faded away until nothing existed except for lips and tongue and teeth and the scratch of beard against his skin and hands pulling at his clothes and his own voice murmuring supplications between kisses, begging Trevor for more. There was a brief tangling of fabric as shirts and jeans were pulled from their bodies and then they seemed to almost vanish in the way that things do sometimes in dreams, and then there was nothing but Trevor and his mouth and his hands and the twisting, coiling pleasure swirling deep in his belly that pulled him ever closer to the brink of climax. Between desperate whimpers and moans, Trevor's voice whispered in his ear – I love you, God I love you – and his hands and his mouth and oh God he was there and Trevor moaned with pleasure but then... with pain? Curtis's tunnel vision vanished in an instant and he looked into Trevor's face, now twisted with pain, and there were no cables but instead thick ropes of softly pulsing grey and mauve flesh have twisted around Trevor's body – no, they were coming from his body, from inside him, they were his guts, and they wrapped around him, all around him, all the way up to his neck, pulling tighter until – snap. Curtis dropped to his knees and screamed, screamed so loudly that he could feel his voice tearing through his throat and –
– and he would wake still screaming, Joss wrapping her arms around him to murmur quiet nonsense in his ears, promise him that it was just a dream and that everything was going to be okay before persuading him to lie back down. She would never notice the damp patch between his legs or the way his eyes were glazed, thinking about something else. Someone else.
But even they weren't the worst dreams.
Sometimes, he was stronger, stronger than he could ever have dreamed, and he fought against the wires harder than he'd ever fought against anything before in his life. He tore at them until his skin split and his hands bled but little by little they loosened and Trevor fell into his arms, bloodied and terrified and alive, alive, alive. And Curtis knew what to do, now: he took Trevor's hand and led him down to the basement of Wyntech, let him see everything and know everything and then when it was all over and Trevor and Joss were waiting for him to decide, here or there, them or where he came from, he didn't even hesitate. He apologised to Joss very quietly, then took Trevor's hands and kissed him until he couldn't think straight any more. Joss almost seemed to fade away, but she didn't matter any more. Nobody mattered except for him and Trevor and they were together. Time seemed to melt together and everything seemed to pass in a haze of contentment until somehow they were old men on rocking chairs on their porch and the sun was going down and Trevor was holding his hand and he was so tired that he couldn't keep his eyes open and so happy that his heart could have burst and he didn't want this to ever end – oh God don't let this end, please don't let this end – and –
– and then he would wake up and it would end. Forever.
And those were the worst dreams.
They told Curtis that he tried to kill himself, that he took a knife from the kitchen, locked himself in the bathroom and tried to carve the evil out of his belly. Maybe it was true. Maybe it wasn't. Curtis wasn't sure of much, any more. Things seemed wrong. Too soft around the edges, bleeding together, like water colour paints set too close in a palate. Maybe it was the medicines they gave him. Maybe it was something else. He didn't know.
He was back – back? – in the asylum again, back in the straitjacket in his chair in the room where nurses sat behind stations reading magazines and fellow patients rocked back and forth and muttered to themselves. And he sat there, in his chair, and tried to pull the pieces of himself back together.
It wasn't easy.
Some of the time, he managed it and he held himself together. When Joss visited him, and for a little while after. She came every day, or at least, it felt like it. He didn't have a good grasp of the time any more. And she'd kneel on the floor next to him and stroke his hand and tell him that what happened to Trevor wasn't his fault, none of it was his fault, it was all Warner, and she'd beg him to be good and to take his medicines and get better soon because she loved him so much and she missed him. She told him about their life together, what they'd made of themselves, how they'd promised to name their firstborn son after Trevor. He would perk up, the nurses said, and he would talk back, explain how much he missed Trevor, how scared he was, how reality kept slipping out of his fingers every time she left, but she couldn't stay forever and soon it would be leaving time and she'd walk out and it all came crashing back down.
Sometimes, it only hit him lightly. Everything that had happened since his first break-down would slip through his fingers like silk and he was just Curtis Craig, having a nervous breakdown, everything come apart, and he'd been dreaming for months now, wasn't that strange? And he'd sometimes tell the nurses about the dreams he'd had, how he'd been tortured here – wasn't that weird? – and about the people he'd met at this place he'd worked – Trevor had been wonderful, he wished Trevor was real – and how he'd found out that he was an alien being from another dimension made of rats – wasn't that messed up? And they'd nod and smile and give him medicines and whisper to the doctors that he was having a dissociative episode, pushing all the trauma of the Wyntech murders into the back of his mind, attributing the deaths to supernatural means to further distance himself from them. And all he did was smile.
But more often, it hit him hard and he knew why he was back here. They knew. They knew that he wasn't human and they wanted him back here for more tests. Shocks. Torment. Cut him open. He tried to escape so many times, but every time, they dragged him back kicking and screaming before plunging needles into his veins that made the world dissolve into technicolor bubbles. They locked him up in padded rooms but he still struggled. They put him in straitjackets and he dislocated his shoulders trying to break free. Then Joss would come to see him and she'd let him rest his head in her lap and sob until the walls of fear he'd built around him dissolved like salt and he whispered to her that he was so fucking scared.
They stopped letting her visit after he nearly strangled Doctor Smith. Doctor Smith who had suggested a course of electro-shock therapy might help.
Without Joss, everything just slipped out of his fingers like sand. He stopped moving. Stopped talking. Stopped eating. All he did was sit in his chair, motionless. Sometimes he heard the doctors talking, faint buzzing at the back of his mind like a hive of bees in the far distance, something about catatonia, but he soon shook it off and slipped back into a world where everything was happy and warm, the world of his dreams where Trevor survived and they lived happily ever after.
It wasn't real. But sometimes, the comfort of a false happy ending was better than the pain of reality.
And Curtis was happier there.