Dream a Little Dream of Me - Banbury McBurg
“…in your dreams whatever they be
Dream a little dream of me…”
Blair was running late. As usual. He'd overslept, put his notes in the wrong drawer, and now he had to wait in a long line of cars in a fucking traffic jam. There wasn't even a place to park the car and run to Rainier. He reached for his cell to phone Janice and beg her to cover his ass. The line moved forward a little as he tapped in her number, and he found himself door to door with an old-fashioned Ford.
This guy at the wheel wasn’t bad, he had to admit – broad shouldered, strong jaw line, and closely cropped dark hair, definitely the warrior type. Blair wished he could see the guy’s face to confirm his suspicions – he was a sucker for beauty. Not that delight in watching it could lead to any real affair, but just out of scientific interest.
The guy turned his head and Blair stopped breathing. It was all he could ever imagine and more. Troubled blue eyes pierced through his soul like X-rays, and he believed for a moment that all his secrets were exposed. The man's eyes widened a little, then he turned to his buddy and said something.
The line began to move faster; their cars were sliding apart, and Blair only caught a slight impression of the other guy – long dark curly hair, snub nose, and high cheekbones. He seemed vaguely familiar, but Blair couldn't pinpoint where he'd seen the man before. The next moment, his phone blurted out Janice’s worried voice, and Blair fall back into his everyday routine.
At one point during the day, he thought he heard his own voice from the empty lecture room down at Hargrove, but it seemed rather unlikely and he quickly forgot about it.
Blair hadn’t thought of the random encounter for a week or so. He barely remembered it, in fact. But when he saw a man with a familiar haircut waiting for his order in the small deli outside the campus, it all came flooding back.
He moved a little and found himself almost face to face with the big guy from the Ford. His friend, who stayed with his back to Blair, had his haircut rather short this time. Blair shook his head sadly – who in his right mind would cut such beautiful hair – and tucked his own curls behind his ear.
His order was ready. Blair picked up two paper bags – sandwiches and water – and headed for the door. For a second, he played with the thought of addressing his passing acquaintances when the big guy’s cell suddenly appeared in his hand and after listening intently, he shoved the other one forward. “Let’s go, Chief. Simon’s waiting.”
Blair followed them outside and watched as they got into an old-fashioned Mustang.
The next time he saw them, it was a pure surprise.
It was a departmental evening in an exclusive Chinese restaurant and Blair did his best to look classy in order to impress the new guest professor he'd been appointed to look after. He was quite enthusiastic initially, but his charge appeared to be a rather boring person, in spite of her theme of sexually oriented rituals. Her speech was dull and lacking in wit and imagination; her bold manners and the expectant looks directed toward him made him retire into himself.
In the middle of the event, Blair took a break to wander around the room and study the photos on the walls. That was when he found them for the third time, sitting at a table.
The first thing he noticed were long auburn curls resting on a white silk shirt. They looked so soft and alive that he was tempted to go closer and touch them secretly since the guy was with his back to him. On that tail of that thought his gaze met the laughing blue eyes of the other man, staring back at him. He wore a dark gray suit, with a lighter stripe lifting it from somber.
The older man's stare held him hostage, and Blair surveyed his strange acquaintances, trying to understand who they might be. The out-of-date cars and casual clothes he remembered from their earlier encounters didn’t match their appearances here, but their relaxed air suggested that they would choose their life style as they wanted it to be, unworried by what others thought of them.
The man Blair had dubbed the warrior said something to his companion and then the long haired man turned his attention to Blair. For a moment, he thought there was something wrong with his eyes – he was looking right at himself, down to earrings and spectacles. Blair could even fancy he saw a piercing in the man's nipple, through the fine silk shirt. It was un-fucking-believable.
The other guy blinked and smiled. Now, Blair could see the difference between them. It lay in his eyes, in his smile, in his relaxed posture. This man was loved. Well loved. Thoroughly loved. Loved in a way Blair had never experienced in his life.
Blair swallowed and turned away. Thankfully, one of his friends approached with some question and he returned to their table.
He was able to forget about the couple until the next morning. The first thing he saw then was rain, overhanging gray clouds, and a pile of papers to grade. And no one around to wish him ‘good morning’ and give him a cup of coffee. Blair remembered the other guy’s eyes and felt like crying. He rarely allowed himself to feel loneliness, even if it was his constant companion. But those eyes…
The following couple of weeks were quite busy – spring break and all that jazz. Blair persuaded himself not to think of personal issues; that meant ‘don’t you dare remember these guys’. It didn’t work, though. Now and again, he caught sight of one or both of them in unexpected places like Hargrove Hall, his favorite bookstore down on Harlow Street, or the deli. But it was always just glimpses.
Then it all stopped making sense.
He'd gone to the optician’s to pick up a new pair of glasses. He stood in the corner waiting for his turn when somebody shoved him aside. Blair swung around, cursing, only to find himself staring into familiar blue eyes in the aged face of… himself?… his strange acquaintance? He stood there gaping, without a single thought in his head. The other one smiled apologetically and went past him, tapping with his crutches. One leg of his well-worn jeans was rolled up to his knee and beneath the knee, the limb was missing.
Blair shut his eyes firmly and had to breathe deeply for several minutes, riding out a wave of nausea. He wasn’t able to formulate coherent thought, let alone explain to himself what he’d just seen. He opened one eye cautiously and felt slightly lightheaded when he discovered the other man had left the shop.
He had to sit in a café for about an hour drinking some herb concoction and doing breathing exercises to calm down. This incident was almost unbelievable. He could consider it possible that he had a double, though the odds of meeting him were slim. But this one wasn’t just a look-alike; he looked like the future Blair, brushing aside the small detail of the missing limb. Or maybe he was his…
Blair began to hyperventilate and dashed for the door. It was when he turned the second corner, twisting his head around hoping to see the old man, that he realized more than an hour had passed and there was no way he was going to find the guy to ask him whether he was his father or not.
He sat heavily on the bench at a bus stop and closed his eyes. Everything began to feel unreal.
Tap, tap, tap, tap…
This “tap” sounded like crutches on the sidewalk and Blair’s eyes popped open. The street was practically deserted and he couldn’t miss that old guy, but a man crossing the road, a blind man with a white cane, looked exactly like the big guy driving the old Ford.
“Jim, man, wait for me! Please!” The tapping stopped. Both Blair and the military man, Jim, turned towards the voice. The other ‘Blair’ stood at the door of the three-level house.
“Blair?” Jim’s voice sounded apathetic and hesitant . Blair almost got up to go to him, but the other man was quicker. He slid his arm around Jim’s waist and said something in a low voice. Jim smiled and the smile changed his face dramatically, made him younger, happier, whole.
Blair followed them with his eyes until he could see nobody. He felt sick at heart all of a sudden. It was almost as if he'd caught a glimpse of heaven and then was shut out.
The nightmares began to torment him from that night.
The first one placed him in a strange golden world of moving shadows and rushing wind, then there was the sound of whirling blades of a helicopter and the sickening feeling of a fall.
Most of the nightmares were filled with shots, yells, red and gray colors. Or water. Foaming water, stagnant water, still water. Or stares. Anonymous, unfriendly stares.
And there were different kind of nightmares, where Blair was tortured with happiness. Passionate sighs in the dark, a loving voice calling his name, sun reflected on water and the silver scales of a fish; two pairs of hands working on something together. The sense of a caress. Heaven.
The nightmares were always unbearable on the days when he met them.
There was no system in their encounters.
At first, he even missed some of them – who could think that quiet serious boy about ten years old, dark-haired and blue-eyed, who raced towards Blair and then stopped suddenly and disappeared between the cars on the parking lot, was young Jim. He didn’t even believe it was possible for him to be seeing younger versions of himself and Jim until one day he saw a small curly-haired boy about three, who animatedly told a story to very tired and almost sleeping Jim. This boy was the picture of himself at that age; Blair remembered Naomi’s album vividly.
The next day, he saw himself and the young Jim once more. He knew it was Jim for sure; heard his name from the other ‘Blair’. He always thought of the other Blair as ‘Blair’ in quotation marks, as if he was unreal, an annoying mistake. He wasn’t sure when he began to think of Jim as “his”, “his own”. Maybe it was when he put an end to his attempts to explain the whole situation and just accepted it.
Sometimes a week could pass between their meetings, sometimes several hours. These encounters set the pitch for his mood, his relationships with the world and himself. His self-confidence and self-doubt were based now on Jim’s attitude towards the other ‘Blair’.
He saw them (‘us’, he thought at times, losing contact with reality) at their high and low points. He met Jim once – alone, minus one leg, cruising streets in his wheelchair. He met ‘Blair’ then, beaten, shivering on the park-bench. He met them together several times with police officers and uniforms at a crime scenes, during a shooting once. Jim was always Jim – confident, calm, and deadly dangerous. ‘Blair’ was another matter – most of the time nervous but supportive, but sometimes strangely, improbably confident and short-haired, as if he'd become a cop as well.
Blair saw them arguing, yelling at each other, apart and together, laughing, sitting quietly by the beach, playing basketball and surfing. With different women and as a couple, kissing, even vowing to each other. Hurting, kidnapped, dying. With families, and lost. But again and again as Blair watched them, there was a strange aura about them – an aura of hope.
One day, Blair panicked and escaped into his warehouse for the whole day – he’d found ‘Blair’ on the corner of the 4th and Blackpool, the gay corner of the red-light district. Obviously, ‘he’ was a hooker. It wasn’t that Blair was prejudiced. It was just…to see ‘himself’ in that role was somewhat of a shock, though he'd accepted that he was bi.
The other day, when he'd seen Jim talking with a younger ‘Blair’, he'd realized all of a sudden that he was in love with Jim. No kidding. It was a revelation. He was really, head over heels in love with a man. Not only a man, but in some sense an unreal, dreamlike man. And he wasn’t sure he’d ever have a chance to touch him, to speak to him.
His nightmares found a name.
He spent the whole summer – wet, cool, sunless – chasing his Jim through Cascade streets. He, always cold, was even unconscious of the weather – the day he was able to see Jim became sunny without need of the sun shining. Blair’s greatest concern was his uncertainty of Jim’s knowledge of him. He was sure they'd met each other's eyes off and on, but wasn’t sure Jim was aware it was him, not the other ‘Blair’. Only once, he knew it for certain, had Jim seen him – on their third encounter, at the restaurant.
He wasn’t sure what he was waiting for. Jim became his obsession. One day, at the beginning of the fall term, Blair was at the library, reading the latest anthropological articles for his opening lecture. He found himself unexpectedly in the press section looking through the local news at “The Cascade Times” and “The Cascade Herald”.
The next hint of his growing obsession came when he met one of his post-graduate friends and declined an invitation to a party. She frowned a little and asked, "Who is she? What's her name?” Blair almost laughed, and said ‘her?’, but shut down quickly and mumbled something about a new project. It sounded lame even for him, and he changed his mind and accepted the invitation hastily. The party was a total failure. He sat in the corner with his beer and wondered desperately what was wrong with him.
You fool, he mocked, you have the whole world to fall in love with and you’ve managed to find the one unavailable person. Taken person. Person as far from your grasp as if he lives in a different dimension, if he is a living person, a dream made alive somehow.
Every time the door opened to admit a new guest, he raised his head in the vain hope of seeing Jim.
His dreams were full of blue.
The picture was utterly surreal. Blair heard several shots and then was stopped by a small crowd staring at a crime scene around the corner. He hadn’t had a chance to see what happened at first, but then somebody pushed past him and dragged him farther. He saw then. It was a kind of Mexican standoff. Several police and civilian cars were scattered around the small market on the far corner of the street, people were hidden past them, and somebody lay on the ground wounded or dead. In the middle of all the mess, two people were pointing unwavering guns at each other.
One was a big Mexican in army attire with a huge Sig-Sauer in his bloodied hand. The other one – a slightly taller but slender man in a long dark wool coat had his back toward Blair. Blair couldn’t make out his face, but something in his figure and posture was familiar. Blair moved a bit and then stopped dead. The other one was Jim, his Jim, his dream-Jim, his… Blair clasped his mouth with his palm, trying to prevent himself from screaming.
No, he thought despairingly, no, it can't happen this way. I didn’t even have a chance to meet you, to know you, to say your name out loud. To hell with the other me, I don’t want to think about it, or him, I have to know you; how can I live without...? How can –?
Blair could feel his heart pounding, his breath uneven. He gulped air, trying not to faint, and then felt sick. He glanced around and attempted to spot another Blair, but there were so many police officers yelling to each other.
Then something strange happened. Jim suddenly jerked and turned his head towards the crowd. Their eyes met for a second, Jim’s widened and became horror-stricken. Blair didn’t know what he'd seen, but in the next moment it became unimportant – the Mexican moved quickly forward and pulled the trigger.
Jim didn't have time to react. He fired his gun, but a second too late. All Blair could see at that moment – and he was certain it would feature in his nightmares to the last days of his life – was bullet after bullet hit Jim on the chest, followed by bright splashes of red welling up. He saw Jim’s eyes widen the last time with a strange surprise and become hazy, then his lids fell heavily and the whole body began to crumple, fold up, and slide down to the ground.
In this last movement he made, Jim’s right arm fell toward Blair and his fingers scratched ground a little, as if even dead he'd tried to reach something or to hold onto something. Blair looked at these fingers until his own vision became blurred and something wet began steadily drip on his jacket.
There was motion around and finally several patrols began to move all civilians farther down the street. Blair turned and headed somewhere.
He came to his senses at Cascade General several hours later, not knowing for sure how he'd ended up there. He remembered with some difficulty a phone call from one of his latest dates – a nurse from the hospital – about a potential subject for his dissertation.
What for, he thought dully, dragging himself up the stairs, what's this all for? He knew he needed something to do, to go through the motion of life, but at that particular moment the amount of lonely years ahead seemed almost unbearable. You are pathetic, he chided himself, Jim’s death is a terrible loss, but for his friends and family, not for you. Not for…
He had to sit on a stair and breathe deeply for some time. For me, for me. He couldn’t tell with certainty how he knew, but somehow this death cancelled his future. For me, for me.
Finally, Blair had to get up, using the last of his strength, and go to the examination room.
Jim put his shirt back on and began to button it down. He already knew that the doctor would have nothing useful to tell him, and he couldn’t think of anybody he could turn to help.
He glanced down at his palms. It was three hours ago and he still sensed warm blood on them, still heard the kid’s last gulps of air. Jim closed his eyes and remembered oddly sharp sounds of crushed metal, of ragged breath. Sense of flesh getting cold. Smell of autumn and decay.
He didn’t know for sure what had made him stop his car and run towards the wreck. He couldn’t release the kid’s hands even when the EMT began to do mouth-to-mouth on him. He'd just chanted softly – hold on, Chief, hold on, Chief.
He didn’t know the young man, though his heartbeat, even weak and broken, seemed mysteriously familiar. Then he heard (how? he asked himself apathetically) the last beats of the kid’s heart and his world suddenly tilted. He found himself lying on his back with a worried medic hovering over him.
He'd lied and said he was okay and pushed the medic away, returning to his car without one glance back. Jim couldn’t stand to see the kid lifeless. All he felt was desperation, and this problem with his senses was only a small part of it…
“Detective Ellison! I’m Doctor McKay,” said somebody from behind his back.
“Your nametag says McCoy.” Jim began to say something, then his brain detected something strange. He couldn’t believe his eyes, but this guy, bloodless and wonderfully whole, looked exactly like the de… Jim cut that line of thought abruptly and then heard it – familiar, steady now, despite a slight elevation; the man's heartbeat. Grounding heartbeat.
“Yes, but the correct…” The man’s voice wavered and trailed off. “Jim!” he breathed almost inaudibly, eyes and voice full of happy tears and his eyes lit up as if he'd seen a miracle, or the best Christmas present ever.
Jim felt the whole world tilt and then slide neatly into a slot. All things suddenly became right. The time of dreams was left behind.
He saw the man’s mouth moving but heard nothing.
“Yes, Chief?” Jim felt the oddly familiar feeling of fingers hesitantly touching his hand.
“ Jim…” the man breathed out again.
Jim saw then – and his nightmares were chased away by the light in the kid's eyes.
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Acknowledgments: Thank you to Jane Davitt for the beta and thank you to Patt for the art.