Nothing was the same after Scotland.
Jeff knew it, down to his bones, but he held his denial as close and tight as he could for as long as possible. Tommy, on the other hand, seemed unable to do anything but wallow in it, rehashing every moment, pining after his lost love. Jeff wanted nothing to do with it, but Tommy was his best friend, as well as the only person who wouldn't give Tommy looks like he was a madman whenever he'd start going on and on about love and a simpler life. But since he did want to forget, and figured Tommy should too, he did his best to distract him, encouraging Tommy to work harder, get out more, even spend more time with his harridan of a girlfriend, thinking maybe a wedding date would get Tommy's head out of the clouds and back to the harsh reality of life in the city. In this century.
But hard as Jeff pushed, it was obvious that Tommy was only going through the motions, his heart still stuck back in that now-empty glen. More and more he hinted at wanting to return. When Jeff pointedly ignored him, Tommy dropped the subtlety and flat out told Jeff that he had to go back, alone if he had to. Though it was the last thing he wanted to do, Jeff agreed to go with him, helpless to do otherwise.
He never told Tommy that Brigadoon had a grip on him too, a pull that felt like a noose around his neck, choking him whenever he thought about it. Drinking helped to a point, kept everything fuzzy and numb, the world a haze of faces and meaningless chatter. But everything came back to him with unforgiving clarity when he slept (which he avoided doing now, as much as possible), unwanted and unavoidable. He relived that horrible day over and over whenever he closed his eyes. Sometimes he'd see himself stay, living out his days with the all-too-eager milkmaid (or was she a goatherder? He hadn't cared enough to remember) he'd met, days quiet and mindless, nights faded into nonexistence. Other times he'd hear the crack of his gun as he shot, see the body fall, much too large to be a bird. He'd rush over to see Harry Beaton's lifeless eyes stare up at him as blood turned the stream he'd fallen into red. He wasn't sure which nightmare was worse.
So Jeff agreed to go back to Scotland, and hoped against hope that seeing the glen untouched and uninhabited would give him some sense of resolution, of peace.
Neither of them packed much, which had earned them some odd looks when they'd boarded their plane. For Jeff, it was because he wanted the trip over as quickly as possible. He worried that Tommy's reasons were different, that he really thought he'd find a way to stay, but he didn't ask. They'd barely talked to one another the entire flight, Tommy jittery enough that his knee bounced constantly, and he couldn't keep from looking out the window, as if he'd be able to see an impossible place from an impossible distance. Jeff had gotten steadily drunker as the flight progressed, not that alcohol helped anymore. At this point, having a drink in his hand was more habit than anything, though the closer they got to Scotland, the better liquid courage sounded; every mile increased the sense of dread crawling up the back of Jeff's spine.
By unspoken agreement they started toward the glen as soon as they'd landed, not even bothering to check into the inn they'd booked. When they found it, Jeff nearly sagged with relief – it was empty, just as it should be. No evidence of a village, no grieving parents sobbing over their son's body, no stupidly thankful townsfolk grateful their magical world wouldn't fade away into the mists forever. Jeff took a deep breath and tried to gather enough sobriety to him to find words of comfort for Tommy. But then, he felt it, a prickle of unease at the back of his neck, like they were being watched, or worse, judged. He saw the moment Tommy felt it too, saw his friend's eyes light up, even as Jeff's closed in despair. He tried to will away the sensation, but it was no use. He could feel the cool mist start to surround them, winding around them like an embrace. An exclamation from Tommy made Jeff open his eyes; he saw the silhouettes of buildings through the fog, growing more solid with each passing moment.
Jeff reached out a hand to keep Tommy close, but it was too late; his friend was already moving, sure steps taking him to the little stone bridge that led into the Town That Wasn't There. Jeff heard Mr. Lundie's words without understanding, and watched as Tommy found his Fiona, his back toward Jeff as he embraced her and the life she offered. He kept watching as she led him back to her cottage, and as Mr. Lundie trundled tiredly back to his own home. Watched as the village faded once again back into the mist. Stayed there for countless minutes after, a silent witness to what some would call a miracle before starting the long, lonely walk to the inn, feeling as empty as the glen he left behind.
Brigadoon had claimed two souls that fateful day. Only one had found its way home.