Sydney woke up in darkness.
For a moment he panicked, but he quickly realised he was in his bedroom. Next to him was the love of his life, still deep asleep, his beautiful face facing him. Love rushed in his chest like warm water, and he barely contained a sob of joy. He gently kissed TJ on the lips, before getting out of bed. He didn't feel like sleeping after the horrid visions he'd seen, so he put on black boxers and his hat and carefully made his way out of the room.
As he walked down the stairs he swore having heard some desperate whining, though silence quickly resumed. He reasoned it was simply the wind or something, but part of him felt like it was like he was back on Echo, seeing and hearing things. He considered warning whatever that apparition was to fuck off, but with two sons and a husband asleep he decided to flip the air to the open void. If only Jane hadn't decided to spend the night with Chase, Leo and Kudzu, she'd probably be awake and they'd watch some fail compilations of his wrestling career together.
Sydney was clean, the days of steroids and other illegal drugs well done with as TJ proposed to him. But he did find that his prescribed medication had a mind calming effect, so even if he wasn't going to go to sleep for a while he'd at least get a government-approved high. Just the thought amused him deeply, as while he didn't consider himself a real rebel he did like to subvert things, and he was already feeling better before he took two green pills. He sat down the couch, doozing off and daring to fall asleep again.
Then the visions returned, and he woke up crying. He felt so pathetic, and without even the benefit of TJ's face next to him he decided to curl into a ball, his tail reaching his forehead.
"Dad?" a voice next to him said.
"R-RJ?" Sydney wiped his tears, looking up to find his olinguito son, "H-hey buddy, what're doing out of bed? You know your brother doesn't like to sleep alone."
"Is everything alright?" RJ asked sadly, kneeling down for a hug.
Sydney wasted on time taking RJ on that offer, pulling him suddenly against his chest. He couldn't resist crying a bit more, much to RJ's concern.
"Dad, you can tell me anything" RJ said, his eyes starting to get moist as well, "It helps get it out your chest."
"You're right kiddo" Sydney said, proud at TJ for teaching their kids to be so supportive, "But this isn't easy for me."
Sydney took a deep breath. It was some serious shit, and he didn't want to traumatise RJ. He thought of ways of how to vent without ruining RJ's inoccence. He noticed RJ was noticing his dilemma, looking at him while nuzzling in his chest.
"Dad, I can take it. Just tell me, I promise I can handle it."
"Alright" Sydney sighed, and he could hear his conscience roaring at him, begging him not to.
He sat upright, RJ sitting down and leaning on his side, patiently waiting for him to begin.
"Well, do you know what happened at Lake Emma?"
"Yeah, you already told me" RJ said, worry creeping into his voice, "Chase almost drowned you. You're having nightmares about that?"
"Well, kind of" Sydney said, trying to figure out what to say next, "I've been having dreams where he did drown me, for real. So many horrible things happening, to my friends and to everyone else on Echo, everyone dying horribly or traumatised. Your dad ends up sad and with guilt for having done nothing, he never finds a happy ending."
Sydney tensed up, the hardest part yet to come.
"And the worst part is that I feel that's what really happened. That I died, that my friends are suffering, that your dad is in pain, that all of this-"
"Is not real" RJ concluded, seemingly calm but Sydney could notice fear in his eyes.
Sydney sobbed, barely restraining tears anymore.
"N-not necessarily" he lied, "I mean, if I'm dead then I'm in heaven, and you guys are my little angels."
"But that's not what you believe in" RJ said, clutching his crucifix.
Sydney didn't know what to say, so he looked away shamefully. What horrible things he had said to his own son, trying to vent his nightmares by giving him an existential dread.
"Dad" RJ said, hugging him, "even if I'm not real, I still love you. And, if this is some kind of dream like you say, then I'll keep on loving you long after I'm gone, forever and always."
Sydney heard a few sniffs with that last sentence, so he looked back at RJ, stroking his face gently. They hugged each other, crying happily for a while.
"Thank you son. You really are an angel."
And though his doubt never ceased, Sydney was determined to make the most of whatever this was. It was his life, his family, and if death or some other abomination wanted to take them away from him, he'd be the one to kill it, to wrestle it into the depths of whatever shitshow it had spawned from. He certainly already had new ideas for his wrestling act, to supplement his pirate character with some lovecraftian cultist shit.
Then he noticed RJ was only wearing stained briefs. A musky smell filled the air.
"RJ, what were you doing before I came down here?"
RJ froze, his ears red.