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Somewhere, Somewhen I: Soaked In Scarlet

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In a sea of blood,
Your precious blood,
My heart is bleeding,
As I scream
Your name.

Jeanette Serra "Soaked In Scarlet" 1917 C.E."

Mel watched as Johnny approached, wearing a straw boater and dressed in a crisp white shirt and light-colored slacks, tinted glasses hiding his expressive eyes. He was chatting amiably with Anna Sage and Polly Hamilton, probably discussing the movie they had just watched. The irony of Johnny viewing a gangster film starring Clark Gable while the man called the Clark Gable of the Bureau waited outside to arrest him was not lost on Mel.

With a shaking hand he lit his cigar and his men began to converge, inexorably...inevitably.

Everything was moving in slow motion, the lights of the marquee too bright, the steamy July heat too thick and cloying, the chatter of the crowd too loud, Mel turning as Johnny and the women passed him, and Mel jostled against the crowd, trying to shout Johnny’s name, to warn him, his men getting closer, the words frozen in his throat, Reinecke’s gun out and aimed at Johnny, Winstead starting to take aim, Hurt right behind him, Mel desperate to shout but his voice was silent and he couldn’t move, Johnny turning to stare at Reinecke, turning away, a scream rising up in Mel as Winstead fired, blood blossoming from the back of Johnny’s head and he began to fall, Hurt firing next and the bullet tearing through Johnny’s chest as he fell bonelessly to the pavement in a macabre ballet.

Mel could move again and he barreled into the alley, sliding to his knees in a pool of Johnny’s blood, his white suit spattered with blood and brains, and he reached out a trembling hand to touch the wounded man’s disheveled hair, Johnny’s lips moving. He bent down and heard in a last gasp of breath, “Bye-bye, Beautiful,” and saw the light in soft amber eyes slowly fade and die.

He straightened up, the scream building up in him as the blood on his jacket and pants grew darker and heavier, soaking his clothes and blossoming out from the body, seeping into the concrete and staining the sinful city as the alley began to swim in blood, Johnny’s blood, and the scarlet stained his suit, his skin, his soul as the scream died away, sucked down into a black hole, a bleak future, down, down, down…

& & & & & &

Mel sat bolt upright in bed, the scream dying in his throat as strong hands clutched his shaking body.

“It’s okay, it’s okay, I’m here,” Johnny reassured him, kissing his temple, cheek and jaw, trying to soothe and comfort. Mel hung onto Johnny’s arms for dear life.

“Was it…?” Johnny asked.

“…the Bi…Biograph.” Mel’s teeth chattered as he shuddered. He felt cold, his hands and feet icy.

Johnny gently stroked his arms and back, then rubbed his hands, trying to warm him up, murmuring, “It’s all right, darlin’, you got me out of there that night.”

“So why do I keep dreaming that I didn’t?”

Johnny nuzzled his lover’s ear. “You knew what could go wrong. Your fears are catchin’ up with you. Or maybe…”

“What?” Mel shivered.

“Maybe it happened that way, somewhere, somewhen.”

Mel’s gut twisted. “I hope not, I surely do. I wouldn’t wish that sense of horror and bleak despair on my worst enemy.” He turned and buried his face in his lover’s shoulder, Johnny’s arms tightening around him as he gently lowered the two of them back to the pillows and tugged the blankets over their bodies, murmuring soft reassurances as he stroked Mel’s hair and back, Mel slowly calming down.

He sent up a fervent prayer of thanks that his nightmare was just that, but devoutly hoped that such a scenario had never played out somewhere else as he lay in the circle of Johnny’s warm and loving arms.