Alone and afraid, she prayed that he'd
Return that fateful night, oh that night
When nothing she said could keep her man
From going out to fight
- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Here’s what Dave knows:
- Dave’s in love with a man with magic powers.
- The man has no recollection of being in Texas or meeting Dave four years ago.
- Dave is going to die.
That’s the headtrip he’s been working through for almost a year now. Or, really, for the last four years.
Dave didn’t know, then, that the weird scruffy (incredibly gorgeous, enigmatic, exciting) hippy who was trying to remodel his bathroom, was telling the truth.
And then he punched him.
And Uncle Brian had laughed, and Dave tried not to throw up his breakfast. Dave signed the enlistment papers with the man’s blood still on his knuckles.
Later, when he can finally be alone and think and sort through everything that happened and realize oh shit, I just enlisted, oh shit oh shit - and then also realize that, even for a queer hippy con artist (Uncle Brian’s words, not his) the man had some really specific information. Too specific to just be guesses, right?
He’s thinking about the man. Wondering, how how how? And also thinking about how the man’s eyes are a lot like the new paint at the store emerald dream and how the man always seems to be showing so much skin . How is that allowed?
And then that god awful crash of no no no, wrong, dirty, queer, no! washes over him, right on time.
And then, like the universe wants to punish him some more, the man appears again. Not in person this time. His face is splashed across a pamphlet for a… cult?
Here’s the thing. The man, Klaus (a german name, his dad would hate it), tells him more things. The man tells him he’s a prophet.
“Yeah, but, I mean, no disrespect but this stuff isn’t real.” Mind-bendy commie propaganda , his grandpa would call it.
“Oh, okay, then how come I know everything about you?”
And Dave… is also wondering that. But knowing some information about his family being in the military is… not necessarily proof of anything. It could be a con, Uncle Brian said it was a con.
“Yeah, like what?”
Klaus looks at him, and his eyes are sad but also so intense. Determined. “Like, I know that your favorite food is a plain hamburger with two pickles.”
The man is standing close, close enough that Uncle Brian wouldn’t like it. But Dave doesn’t see anything bad in the man’s expression. He just looks sad. “Everybody likes a hamburger.”
“Oh, come on.” Klaus moves away from him. “Your favorite song is ‘ The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance .’”
Okay… it’s a good guess. But the song only just came out. A lot of people like it… “Who told you that?” Dave’s starting to get goosebumps despite the heat of the day. This whole thing is getting freakier and freakier by the minute.
“And your favorite book of all time is Dune .”
Dave relaxes. There, see? A con. “Ha. Wrong. I’ve never even heard of Dune .”
Two years later, Dave is in Vietnam, and has been for months, when he sees it. It’s sitting there in another guy’s rucksack, totally mundane, like it isn’t proof of some unknown otherworldly magic.
Dune by Frank Herbert.
“No way.” He tells himself.
“No way.” He mutters as he finishes the book.
“No way.” He whispers to himself when he realizes exactly what this means.
He reads it again and again and again. He wants to hate it. Needs to hate it. Because if he doesn’t hate it then-
February 21, 1968.
He’s going to die in less than three years.
He’s a fool really, for expecting anything else. The man, Klaus, had shown him dog tags . His dog tags. No cult leader is desperate enough to get some random kid to join them that they make custom dog tags. They even had his blood type.
He runs his thumb over the little AB-. Only one percent of the population is AB Negative. That’s not a random guess.
“They’re all I have left of ya.”
Here’s what Dave suspects:
- Klaus can time travel.
- Klaus knows that Dave is going to die.
When Klaus appears out of a flash of blue in the middle of Vietnam, Dave is surprised, but not really.
Klaus looks surprised too, but even though Dave has had quite a growth spurt, he seems to recognize him.
Klaus looks different too. But it’s him, his eyes are the same emerald dream green.
A few months pass and Dave realizes that Klaus doesn’t just look different. He’s almost an entirely different person. He’s not the sad but confident cult leader Dave met four years ago. He’s jumpy and confused and scared. He’s… younger? If that’s possible.
And Dave’s starting to think that that is definitely possible. Time travel is the only way to explain any of this.
Especially because this Klaus, with short curly hair and shaking hands, laughs when Dave calls him a prophet.
Klaus waves a hand through the air, he’s loose right now with a mostly empty flask in his other hand. He grins at Dave like it’s easy. “A prophet? If that were true I wouldn’t be here.”
Klaus also doesn’t know anything about Dave. But he listens eagerly when Dave tells him everything.
He wonders when Klaus goes back to 1963. Is it soon? It must be, no one would bother to remember everything about Dave for very long.
Of course, no one has ever kissed Dave the way Klaus kisses Dave. So maybe he’s different. Maybe, to Klaus, Dave is worth remembering.
Dave certainly thinks Klaus is worth remembering. Dave commits to memory every joke, every detail, every flirtatious comment the man lets slip. And when he gets the chance, he memorizes Klaus’ body, every swell and dip, every freckle and scar. And he thinks about how distracting Klaus had been in 1963, how his civilian clothes had left nothing to the imagination (although Dave had imagined plenty). But it wasn’t the clothes, it was just Klaus, who is still utterly hypnotic in muddy fatigues.
When Dave jokes about not getting out of ‘Nam alive, Klaus chuckles with the rest of the squad, but he looks at Dave long and hard afterwards.
It gives Dave goosebumps.
Here’s what Dave has come to terms with:
- He’s going to die in three days, but the last ten months were the best months of his life.
- Klaus is going to go back in time and try to get him to not enlist.
- Dave is always going to enlist.
Dave kisses Klaus on the morning of February 21, 1968.
“I love you.” Dave murmurs against Klaus’ mouth. Klaus pulls back, smiling and pleased and utterly calm .
Oh, Dave realizes. He doesn’t know I’m about to die, he’s going to learn that today.
Which Dave briefly thinks, is very weird, because Klaus already seems to know he dies. So why doesn’t he know that today is the day?
Here’s what Dave learns:
- Klaus Hargreeves can see ghosts.
Dave watches the small boy for years. He doesn’t approach him, doesn’t know what to say. This boy doesn’t know him.
How did Klaus find the confidence to approach Dave in ‘63? Dave doesn’t know what he can say that would change anything. So he stays close, watches quietly. He watches Klaus grow up. Sometimes the boy notices him, but he never says anything. As the years go by, it’s harder to watch. Both emotionally and physically.
Klaus hates the ghosts, Klaus hates Dave by association, and the drugs are too strong for Dave to stick around, and after a while it just seems kinder to leave.
Here’s what Klaus knows:
- Dave used to haunt him when he was a kid.
- Dave and Klaus only got to have ten months together.
- Now Klaus haunts a very young, very alive Dave.
- Dave and Klaus are never going to get any more time together.
Klaus watches Dave walk away.
“Dave. Dave, come back.”
Dave doesn’t even turn around.