Warnings/spoilers: Post Sen2P2
The dream was familiar by now, but that didn't make it any less terrifying. I knew it was a dream, even inside the dream, and I knew everything that would happen, in minute detail. A remote part of my brain even recognized the dream symbols, from psychology and anthropology; my faceless father, turning me away from a garden while Raven's wings beat at my unprotected face and back; my mother clad in robes of scarlet and gold, surrounded by her acolytes, who crowd me, pushing me away; Jim, standing on the steps of Hargrove Hall, his arms folded, his expression bleak, denying me entrance, forcing me to turn and walk back toward the fountain. The path to the fountain is guarded by spirit animals, and they watch me with sad eyes as I make my way toward the murky water. Jim's black jaguar stands by him on the steps, restive, his tail lashing, voicing a barely audible rumbling growl. I see Coyote, the Trickster; Spider, the Weaver of the Web of Creation; Turtle, who let man ride on his back across the endless sea to the first land; Naga, the snake, whose body forms the circle of the world. The last animal is mine, the silver wolf -- keeper of Wisdom and the Teacher. He stands between me and the rim of the fountain, and when I reach for him, to hold tight to him and forego the fountain, he turns his head away and becomes an insubstantial wisp -- and I fall in the foul water again, feel it close over my head. My unconscious mind is not subtle.
Sometimes, if I am lucky, I can wake myself up before I hit the water. Tonight I don't even try, and I feel the cold water close over my head. I can even hear the bright tinkling sound that the water from the high, arching spray in the middle of the fountain makes as it falls back into the fountain pond -- that's a new dream feature, I don't remember that from before. Usually this is where I wake up, thrashing and struggling against the hands holding me in the water, only to find myself caught in my blankets.
But tonight I am too tired, even in a dream, and I just let myself go, just sink to the peaceful bottom without a struggle. Too tired in the dream world and too tired in the waking world to fight it anymore. The water is cold, the pressure on my chest like a vise, and I stop breathing, and then I can feel my heart start to slow. I've read that the autonomic nervous system will not allow asphyxiation if it can be prevented. But my body knows how not to breathe; knows how to stop completely, in fact. My body will obey me in this.
Then suddenly there is movement and warmth and I am no longer in the water.
I'm a little disoriented and then I realize where I am; I had fallen asleep on the couch, and Jim has pulled me off the couch, onto the floor, and I am lying against him and his arms are around me, holding me tightly enough that I am not sure I could breathe if I wanted to.
"No more, no more," he whispers. "C'mon, breathe, Blair. Draw in a breath, don't do this to me again."
"I can't," I try to say, but I haven't got the air to speak.
He hears me anyway. "Then I'll breathe for you," he says, and his mouth comes down on mine and, as he breathes out, I can feel my lungs inflate on the warm exhalation of his air into me. It's an intimate feeling, almost a caress as the breath which was his fills in my lungs. He moves his mouth away and tips my head back slightly. Opening my airway, I realize.
His arms are still there, around me, but now he is stroking my back, encouraging the tight muscles to relax, encouraging me by touch and soft murmur to breathe. I take a tiny, hitching breath and then another, and I feel the coiled tension in Jim ease slightly.
The sound of the fountain is still in my ears and I look up to see that it is raining, that what I thought was the fountain spray was really the slight tick and plink of fat raindrops as a heavy summer rainstorm beats against the glass balcony doors.
Jim settles back against the glass, pulling me to lay with my head on his bare chest, his chin resting on the top of my head. His arms are still around me, but looser now, one hand on my back, moving in warm circles.
The rainstorm is outside the loft. Here inside the loft, for now, the storm has passed and I relax into his hold as we sit and just breathe together.
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