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Behind the Wall of Sleep


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Ellis sat in a khaki shorts and a sage polo sipping his iced coffee on the warm summer afternoon.  The call for this 'friendly coffee' hadn't been exactly a surprise but Ellis none the less was uncertain what exactly to expect of Carson.  He supposed there was always the chance that it would be some sitcom overprotective male act but he somehow didn't see Stesha standing for that kind of posturing on her behalf as well intentioned as it might be.  Most likely it was another in a long list of friends that had seen her hurt before and was worried their exceptionally nascent romance might do so again.


He had resolved however to meet the man regardless of purpose it couldn't be worse than the dismissive sneers the dragon woman aimed his direction most times.

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Ellis didn't have to wait over-long. A red-headed young man walked in, and Ellis probably recognized him from a few group photographs of Stesha and friends on Sanctuary spending time together. Plus a few whispered (or not so whispered) discussions among some of the varied residents of said planet/dimension. He saw Ellis, gave a small wave and nod, and went to the counter to get his own drink. 


When he sat down, he had a cup that was still seaming, and took a moment to blow on it before setting it down and reaching his hand out toward Ellis, a winning smile on his face.


"Hey Ellis! It's good to meet you face-to-face finally. I'm Carson, Carson Keefe. I'm sorry we haven't really gotten a chance to talk; between our busy schedules it can be hard. How are you doing today? Work's not draining you too much?"


Well he at least seemed sincere, and he wasn't opening with a barrage of "so why are you dating my friend" or "if you hurt her I bury you". So that was probably a plus. 

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Standing as Carson approached the table to clasp hands Ellis returned to his seat as Carson sat.  "Indeed it's a pleasure certainly."  he agreed with a gentle smile, "Time is too often fleeting indeed."  Sipping his drink the doctor shrugged with a relaxed air.  "Work keeps me busy but it's a good kind of busy."  he replied happily, "Benefits of doing something I love." Setting his drink down he sighed slightly, "Not that mroe free time wouldn't be nice mind you."  he added with nod.


"I imagine you understand."  he paused as he said it and quirked a brow, "I actually don't think I overheard what you do for a living?"  he inquired carefully, "Are you in botany as well?"  which was probably a very very rough approximation of Steshas 'Day Job' he supposed.  If the mystery around the man he was meeting bothered him much it didn't show beyond the vague discomfort of trying to figure out what sort of small talk to make.

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Carson nodded with a smile at the comment about doing what you love. 


"I definitely agree. Finding your vocation instead of just a job is always rewarding."


He snorted a bit at the question about being a botanist.


"I've been gifted a couple of very low-maintenance plants by Stesha, but I am by no means a botanist. Don't try to suggest as such to her, she'll probably end up lecturing us both on some obscure aspect of it. No, I'm not really a scientist of any stripe. I'm actually a teacher at Freedom College. I'm one of the very few faculty teaching theater and drama there. It's really fantastic; a lot of the kids just...light up when things start to click. It's very rewarding, and while it's not a Broadway tour, I still get to stretch my acting muscles regularly."

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"Ah I wasn't sure if you had worked together."  Ellis replied with a mild shrug, "Stesha has quite the varied group of friends just familiarizing myself with all this has been quite something."  he admitted with a friendly laugh.  "Well there is no greater legacy than teaching the next generation I salute you sir."  the doctor answered in kind to Carsons explanation then glanced down darkly for a fraction of a second before shaking off whatever somber thought had seized him.  "The arts are too often unappreciated in academics I'm glad you're able to bring that to  the students."  Eliss complimented as he toyed with the edge of his napkin.


Looking back to the taller man Ellis paused for a moment considering his words when his eyes focused a a figure over Carsons shoulder for a moment and he let out an involuntary wince.  It was likely happenstance and perhaps the erstwhile angel that had walked in was not there seeking him out after all.  Not that he need worry he didn't need or want to impress Carson, did he.  Guarded expression was not however yet a skill Ellis had mastered so most of this likely played out on his features as the tattooed man stepped through the doors.

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"We've done some charity work together. Both here, and at her...main home."


Hm. Maybe he meant Sanctuary? 


"And it's okay if it can be overwhelming. Stesha's made a lot of friends over the years. We've helped her, she's helped us. Though I suppose with you around her stress about helping some of us when we have, ah, work accidents, might decrease."


He smiled and accepted the salute. 


"It can be tough some days, when so many want to focus on sports and STEM. Which are all well and good, don't get me wrong, but the Arts, well, one could argue they're the soul of civilization."


At Ellis's visible wince, Carson paused before he could continue. He slowly and carefully put his drink down, and without making any movements, tried to figure out which patron was making Ellis wary, just by using his unique sound-based sense of the space around him. Ultimately futile, but it made him feel better. Instead, he spoke calmly with the other man.


"Unexpected coworker? Can always be a bit of a shock."


Maybe it played his hand a bit, but that kind of reaction wasn't something you took lightly.

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Ellis didn't let his attention stray long but the characteristic artifice of heroes maintaining secret identities did not yet come easily to him.  With the suggestion of Steshas 'main home' it donned on Ellis that the other man may be from sanctuary or another hero as well and he hid the donning comprehension perhaps poorly.  With a weak smile he sipped his drink, "That must be quite the commute."  he suggested cagily but couldn't help but smile at the commentary on Steshas friendly nature, "Indeed I've always been, a, less outgoing by nature."  he admitted stiltedly, "She's an impressive woman to be certain."  he added with slight a frown as he internally screamed at himself for the decidedly unromantic term.   


His eyes drifted to Ray as he shook his head and poorly covered his discomfort with another drink.  "Couldn't say."  he replied which due to doctor patient confidentiality was technically true.  Though he was not so skilled a liar it was likely anyone couldn't piece together he knew rough around the edges tattooist in some capacity.

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Ray was tall, over six feet, and wearing a tank top, the sleeves of tattoos were easily visible in their whirls of flame and intricate chain motif that wrapped up and around from wrist to shoulder and up his neck. Hidden in the brighter colors, deliberately so, were the actual Enochian marks of the spells marked on the angel's all too human skin. He was noticeable just in looks and even more so when he stopped in the doorframe, blocking it for the patrons as he scanned the coffee shop. Ellis was generally a predictable creature and his gaze landed on the doctor and his companion. 


He frowned at Ellis's none-too-subtle attempts to warn him off. They were far, after all, from Ray's stomping grounds. The grumpy angel didn't often leave his tattoo parlor and surrounding environs unless it was for work - or, sometimes Ellis suspected - to just nettle his friend. When Ellis frowned and shook his head, Ray's gaze narrowed. Ray nodded and then, with deliberate paces, went to order the drink he'd had no intention of buying. It was not unlike having a cat stare at you just as they went to knock things off of the table. 


Coffee ordered, Ray snagged a chair and began to drag it towards their table with clear purpose. 

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"It's a bit of a hike sometimes, but I have a shortcut I like to take."


He grinned a bit at that remark, his eyes almost twinkling. 


"There's nothing wrong with not being as outgoing as some people, Ellis. The Good Lord made all types. Not everyone's a people-person sort. But yes, Stesha's impressive. And a good soul."


He sighed, set his cup down, and leaned forward a bit. He looked serious, but not angry-serious, just "I'm treating you like a fellow adult" serious.


"I know we're dancing around a couple things, but those aren't why we're here. We both know you and Stesha have a "thing". That's fine. Stesha's a grown woman, and if I tried to pull the "protective big brother" act, she'd teach me the error of my ways. But I wanted to get to know you at least a bit. You probably know by now she's had some...rough times...in her recent past. I, and others, are just concerned for her. For what it's worth, though. you seem like a good fellow. I know we've only been chatting a few minutes, but I've gotten pretty good at reading people."


He'd been about to say something else when the rather obvious movements of Ray really drew his attention. Gabriel sat back and pondered this new arrival, his own gaze intent as the man drew near. As if trying to take his measure. Not quite a challenge, but definitely letting the tattooed man know he wasn't going to be able to just completely dominate this conversation.

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Ellis pulled his attention back to the conversation at hand with some effort knowing full well his desire that Ray find another time to pester him would only encourage the infuriating angel.  He smiled weakly at the strong religious overtones having long struggled with the traditional faiths.  Then again that was largely before he inherited the mantle of supernatural guardian of dream.  That tended to put a damper on ones skepticism.  He listened carefully to the mans words and grinned despite himself at the odd nascent relationship he and Stesha shared put in words barely suppressing asking if she called it a thing.  He nodded sagely at the mans concerns and agreed, "The bits I know sound rough to say the least."  he offered carefully, "Obviously I have no intention of causing such distress myself but I hardly think that matters in the end."  Just being capable was threat enough he'd wager.


He let out a beleaguered sigh however as Ray of course joined them, "Carson, this is Ray."  He introduced politely, "Ray, Carson, a friend of Steshas."  he filled in hoping that tidbit at least would stop the angel from being too embarrassing though he felt that hope was like as not in vain.  "Ray's an artist."  he filled in helpfully and trying to glass over the details of their meeting both for sake of secret identities and reflex of doctor patient confidentiality.

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Ray drug the chair over and dropped into it with a casual wave of greeting, "Nice to meet you, Carson," he agreed amicably, meeting Carson's penetrating stare head on even as he draped one long arm across the back of Ellis' chair. Really, the angel should have been stuffed into the body of a cat rather than a person. It probably would have suited him better. Ray's words were faintly accented, although not with any easy to place accent. It certainly wasn't Jersey, but it was hard to say exactly where he'd learned the language from his inflection. 


"I like Stesha. She's nicer than you," he commented idly to Ellis before leaning over to steal a piece of the man's scone. Despite the theft, his manners were impeccable and he swallowed before adding easily, "Ellis reset my shoulder for me; and then called in his romantic interest to make sure I didn't need to be 'dealt with'." He added, the quotations audible in his speech. "So what are the two of you up to, besides mediocre coffee and interminable small talk?"

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"Wounds happen from time to time, Ellis. It's part of the human experience. The question is your intents,  and how you handle the aftermaths of wounds, giving or receiving. It makes all the difference."


He gave the nervous man a kind smile, showing that he thought Ellis had good intentions. As the man's demeanor turned to long-suffering, he kept his pleasant attitude going. When Ray met his gaze and didn't break it, Gabriel raised an eyebrow after a moment. He then smiled and nodded at the new arrival.


"That sounds like an interesting meeting. Stesha's quite good at....dealing with things...when the need arises."


That sort of wording set off a couple of mental alarms, and his eyes flicked around them for just a moment, as if assessing how bad things might be able to get. 


"I'm trying to get to know Ellis better. He and I haven't really had a chance to do so yet, and seeing as I'm sure he'll be around now and again it only seemed polite. I wasn't going full Protective Big Brother. A little, but not all the way."

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Ellis raised a brow at the stolen bite of scone and shook his head, "Yes belittle our polite conversation while playing dominance games like sullen teen.:  he scolded lightly and rolled his eyes, "I noticed some of Ray's tattoos might be of interest to one of Stesha's,"  he paused and shrugged, "Coworkers and called to get an opinion on them."  he explained cagily not wanting to reveal too much of how he'd ID'd the disguised enochian script enveloping the tattooed mans torso.


Turning his attention then to Carson he smiled warmly, "Just a little."  he agreed, "I won't tell."  he added with a small laugh, "Probably."  He shrugged and returned to the topic at hand to offer, "My sister has assured me if I mess this up she's not going to forgive me." as his younger sibling was more invested than really he felt was reasonable in him getting 'back in the game'.

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"I merely try to communicate in the ways of your people, Ellis. I have given it rigorous study and I'm aware that the time-honored interactions of a WASP in his native environment are very scone-dominance based," Ray replied flippantly, leaning back in his char with an easy going smile. There was real affection for the doctor under his banter in equal parts with his enjoyment of pushing Ellis' buttons. Ray's bemusement continued as he filled in the blanks that Ellis was hesitant to, "He wanted to see if Heyzel should check my papers."


Ray shrugged then and rubbed his wrist absently, fingers tip rubbing along one of the lines of hidden script that had caught Ellis' interest as if it itched, "Sweet kid - nice as can be, really. Just not eager for that particular reunion." Ray offered. This was exactly how the dratted angel got mistaken for demons as he didn't pay near enough attention to his turn of phrase. Disinterested with his own origins, Ray turned the topic back towards a much more favored one; Ellis' wooing habits. "You should take her out somewhere that doesn't involve kids; something more exciting than quiet dinners and coffee; like roller derby. Everyone likes roller derby."


Everyone did not like roller derby.


"I could even watch the kiddos for you, if you ask nice. They like me."


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"Well,  in Ellis's case it might be WASP but in my case I'm afraid it has to be WASC. Not quite as snappy."


Yet somehow he made it roll off his own tongue like the most natural turn of phrase in existence. Clearly Carson exercised a command of English that few could match. 


"Heyzel is one of the few people as sweet as Stesha, but he can have a bit of a...temper. I've only seen it a few times. But it's a sight for sure."


He noted the mentions of tattoos and the absent tapping, but chose to make no issue of it directly for the moment.


"He's given me a helping hand on a few occasions. Met his father a couple of times. Nice guy, married up when he met Heyzel's mother, though."


Few mortals would dare suggest that the Angel Of Death, Azrael, was the one "marrying up". But Carson was a rare sort of mortal, one supposed. At Ray's mention of dates and babysitting, Carson sat back a bit with a smile.


"I was actually going to extend a baby-sitting offer as well, Ellis. Ammy certainly knows me well enough, and she'd probably convince your kids to behave as much as she does. Which, admittedly, is a touchy proposition at times. Still, if nothing else, maybe they can start themselves a little band. Or an acting troupe? I promise no Hamlet, or Scottish Play, right off the bad. Perhaps a touch of Henry V, though?"

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Ellis let out a beleaguered sigh at Rays rejoinder, "Scone based dominance."  he replied disbelievingly.  "You're insane you know that right."  he pointed out and smiled vaguely to Carson as he took another sip of his coffee only to sputter awkwardly when Ray outed the interest as clearly otherworldly.  He was quietly thankful that Carson was in the apparent know regarding, well everything it seemed.  "Some people maintain a more circumspect public front you know."  he scolded and huffed with an apologetic shrug to Carson.  


"The offer is most appreciated gentlemen."  he assured them both though the look he gave Ray made clear that was only half true.  "My sister usually keeps an eye on the kids."  he explained quickly, "Though it might be convenient to have them all in one place certainly."  he did acknowledge and raised a brow at Ray, "No.  Not everyone likes Roller Derby Ray."  he countered and shook his head, "And frankly I imagine our day to day is plenty of excitement."  he pointed out as it was in the open now they were all in the know about the heroic side of his and Steshas lives.  Because clearly one accustomed to the daring do of day to day life in the Freedom League wanted quite dinners and mild coffee dates right?

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"He certainly seems to think so from what little I've gathered. We don't exactly move in the same circles," Ray commented with clear affection Heyzel's father, "Of course, its been a few decades since I've been in anyone's circle, after all." It was more resigned than wistful and perhaps a little disgruntled. Ray cleared his throat and moved on, "Never too young for Hamlet. D'you know, I got to catch the first performance; the one on the ship... oh, what was it called..." Ray trailed off for a long moment, clearly sifting through his memories for the name. "Oh, no matter. I've seen better versions of it, but there's something special about the first moment when an idea becomes realized."


He frowned his disagreement with Ellis and replied, "Everyone with taste likes roller derby, Ellis. Its a dying art." The angel announced with grave certainty. "As to secrets and identities, I feel comfortable assuming that anyone that considers themselves Stesha's big brother is in the know. She absorbs sunlight through her hair and is the caretaker of a small but thriving dimension. I feel it is safe to assume that your new coffee companion is comfortable with such matters." He shrugged at Carson, "And if he knows Heyzel well enough to have met his parents, he's enough in the know for me. He is probably at least less likely to assume the worst of me than you are." Ray grinned at Ellis, still not content to let Ellis early misassumption about his nature lie. "If I thought you could banish me, though, I'd be entirely game for the attempt."

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Carson shrugged at Ellis's apology for Ray's....forthright...nature.


"It's surprising how easily things fade into the background in busy places like this. And it's not like it's not fairly obvious to more observant people that something is unique about Ray. Those Enochian tattoos aren't exactly common."


He sipped his coffee for a moment.


"Though, strictly speaking, Sanctuary's dimension is no smaller than this one; it's simply that the lived-in and explored area is smaller. Either way, though, you're essentially correct. Though if I felt inclined to attempt to push you from this mortal world, rest assured it would likely be an unpleasant experience. I've the scars to prove it."




"Thought sadly, I suppose, I could have an easier time if they'd let me keep The Horse."


Ray can hear the capitalization, even if Ellis can't. 

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Ellis stared at Ray with disbelief though less in the tattooists words and more in what had happened to his life that he was sitting in a coffeeshop with an angel espousing the virtues of Roller Derby of all things.  "I'm almost positive none of that is even a little bit true."  he replied but held up a hand before he got further argument on the matter.  "Regardless I'm not taking Stesha to Roller Derby on a date."  he said firmly though glanced not as subtly as he thought at Carson to gauge if the angel might actually be right.


He was distracted enough by the concern that he didn't really pick up on the undertones of the conversation or posturing and refocused to blink at Carson in confusion, "Horse?"  he asked as he tried to work backward through the conversation, "How would a horse help with ..."  he shrugged, "You know what I probably don't need to know."  he affirmed as the only uses for animals in most rituals he was aware of was sacrificial and he wanted to like Carson.

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Ray paused for a moment at that, squinting at Carson like he was trying to make his eyes focus. With a grunt and a small shake of his head, Ray had to remind himself that he was largely confined to human senses; at least until he wanted to add to his collection. "You only keep the Horse if you keep the job," Ray said, more dryly than usual after his pronounced help. Absently, he patted Ellis at the man's palpable concern. "Oh, I can be shunted around dimensionally speaking, it just won't stick. Considerable power you might have access to, no doubt, but not enough to see me home for good. And I should say they're not common, they're quite custom."


If that bothered Ray, which on some days it did manage to do so, he covered it with a bite of Ellis's food again before he added, "Your arcane knowledge is appalling," to Ellis, conversationally, "How you manage is an utter mystery and yet, despite that, I show up to offer you leads on possible problems anyways." Ray cocked his head to one side as if considering for a moment. "I might not actually be a very good friend."

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"You have an unfair leg up on him on the matter I just brought up, Ray. None of us involved in that...affair....are advertising it; the ones chosen are perhaps not surprising in retrospect but it's not obvious to most. And I'm not sure Ellis would have reason to know."


Carson was actually a bit vague on just what it was Ellis could do, beyond "something with sleep and sand", which was kinda broad. He nodded toward the tattoos, both the powerful ones and the "camouflage" ones.


"The work is good, on both sets. My compliments to the artist. Though I'm not sure I'd ever get one; my Ma would flip her lid, and I doubt it'd agree with my complexion."


He is pretty pale, if not "pasty", white. Probably due to being, you know,a full-blooded redhead. When Ray mentioned "leads on possible problems", Carson sat up straighter and leaned in a bit.


"Is...there a possible problem? Now, that is."

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"Appalling might be overstating it."  Ellis countered with a sigh, "Shockingly we didn't cover dimensional metaphysics in pre-med."  he dryly replied.  Scooting his scone in front of Ray he smirked, "There now it's your scone." 


Ray and leads on problems was probably not a good sign though Ellis perked slightly at the suggestion as at least it mean Ray had purpose here other than ruining his afternoon, or at least an excuse for ruining it.  "That is not in question."  he pointed out with a wry smirk but gestured agreement with Carsons question.  "Well?"  he inquired looking expectantly to the angel with a raised brow.  

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"I more meant that the first thought he jumped to was animal sacrifice," Ray explained as he went to stand up, scooping up his coffee cup in one hand and his claimed scone in the other. Nettling Ellis was all well and good, but he gestured to the door and more private environments since they wanted details. He glanced down at his wrist absently then, offering Carson a genuinely friendly smile at the compliment, "Thank you. I have photographs of clients with better pieces at the studio. Tattooing yourself is not the easiest thing to manage. Had to get some help for certain, ah, areas."


He shouldered his way towards the door, holding it open for the other men. "There's always problems, but this one I thought might catch Ellis' attention." He hesitated, obviously weighing his words very carefully. "It's just a rumor, mind," he cautioned. It was clear that his earlier hassling of the shorter blonde doctor had been good nature'd as his voice had gentled. "And, remember, your nightmare creatures get miss-categorized all the time but there is rumour of a boogeyman getting set loose."

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Carson blinked at the out-loud mention of animal sacrifice, then shook his head wryly.


"Tell you what, I'll regale both of you with the story later."


He smoothly followed the other man and the earth-bound angel, his expression going serious as they walked. When Ray explained exactly what they were facing, his face darkened into a scowl, and for a moment the other two men caught the barest edges of a fury given near-physical force.


"Have children been attacked?"

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For a long moment Ellis was silent eyes hollow as he looked into the distance with a thousand yard stare.  When he finally found words again his voice was carefully measured and controlled, forced into an even cadence by pure force of will, "A Boogeyman or THE Boogeyman."  he inquired with cold emphasis before turning to look Ray letting a slow breath out, "Rumors of course so no telling really, could be any number of unrelated phenomenon."  he answered for the angel his mind jogged finally from the dark tunnel the suggestion brought to mind.


Returning to his calm gentility once more like a safety blanket he nodded subtly to Carson, "If there is any veracity to the rumor, it is virtually certain."  he looked questioningly to Ray, "Though if it had been irreparably I likely would have found out through other sources."  Injured or traumatized children through the hospitals was all too often the first sign of creatures of nightmare active in the city and Ellis had the contacts to keep a careful eye on those.  That this came to Ray first meant it was most likely a rumor in the supernatural community where Ellis was still a relative stranger.

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