Oh, The Places You'll Go

After Life

Notes: I told this story to myself in the car and made myself cry. Then I had to see if it was possible to write it and still have it be Green Wing. Fingers crossed, looks like it worked. quiesce beta'd and did a fine job for which many thanks. Set post-Special, like you couldn't guess from the title.


After Mac dies, the dreams start.

Not at first. Not in the whirlwind of immediate loss and the unfamiliar, and mostly unwelcome, role of staunch support is thrust onto Guy's shoulders, but later. Later, after some semblance of normality insists on returning. After everyday routines morph and close around the spaces Mac has left behind. After Caroline has remembered how the corners of her mouth can turn up as well as down. After days and weeks of not crying, never crying because whatever else he is, he is a man for fuck's sake.

After that, the dreams begin.

The first dreams are so real Guy can almost believe that he has found the secret to time-travel; he says as much to Mac as they stand over an unconscious patient, debating the merits of the TARDIS against H. G. Wells' time machine.

"Of course you have," scoffs Mac. "Because what countless physicists — with more genius between them than the accumulated megatons of shit you have spouted since your father foolishly encouraged you to talk, by the way — what they have failed to discover in years and years of studious research, you, the idiot love-child of Leo Sayer and Seabiscuit have discovered in the past five minutes. Too much crazy TV for you, Secretan. I'm cancelling your subscription to the Sci-Fi channel."

Caroline giggles and Guy turns to look at her, pleased that she sounds so happy. A faint smile is the best she seems to manage in his waking hours. He misses her laugh.

"Alright," he admits. "It seems unlikely, but how else do you explain that you're here now, operating on this-" he lifts the mask from the patient's face, "-this rather ugly, god, really, eugh. We're saving her why?" He puts the mask back, patting it gingerly.

"Point?" requests Mac.

"We're here. The three of us." Guy spreads his arms, expansive. "Doing what we do. You're botching the job, Caroline is tidying up after you and I'm the great overlord who makes sure that this poor excuse for femininity wakes up at the end of it. But there's a tiny flaw in this tableau." He lengthens the final vowel and his voice drops low.

"And that would be?"

Guy exchanges glances with Caroline. Sometimes Mac can be so dense, he needs it spelling out for him.

"You're D-E-A-D," spells Guy.

"I'm D-E-A-D?"

"Y-E-S."

A small wrinkle of puzzlement crosses Mac's forehead but he doesnít seem overly perturbed. Guy's always had his doubts about Mac — others see sensitive New Age Man, Guy sees an unimaginative, petrified lump of wood.

"Caroline?"

"I'm afraid Guy's correct, Doctor Macartney," and Guy loves the way her voice doesn't crack. "You are definitely dead. Yep. I had to wear black and everything and it doesn't really work with a sallow, grief-stricken complexion, so I was quite cross about that."

"Sorry. I'll try not to do it again. But the time travel element works how?"

"Get with the programme, Pinocchio," says Guy, puppetmaster. "If you're dead but you're here then we must have travelled back in time to when you were still alive. Duh! Didn't you have to pass butcher exams to get this job? Do they not teach logic in butcher school?"

"Right," says Mac, unruffled. "You don't think that this might all be a dream, then?"

"No. Why?"

"Because we're operating in the middle of the bar. It's unorthodox enough to be a Sue White-related hospital mandate I admit, but the fact that Dr. Statham is over in the corner being pleasured by a slew of women all wearing Boyce masks, suggests that this may be a product of your fevered imagination."

Guy becomes aware of an air of hubbub around him and realises that they are, in fact, operating in the middle of the bar. All around faceless people are sipping drinks and dotted here and there he sees people he knows. He catches the eye of Martin who is sitting resplendent in the middle of a mountain of yoghurt pots and raises his hand in greeting. Martin grins and shrugs.

"Ah," says Caroline. "That would explain the fish in my shoes."

*

The dreams crowd Guy's head night after night. Always the three of them: bickering in the theatre, squabbling in the bar, quarrelling in the mess and always, always laughter. The dreams are so colourful, so vivid that it's the waking world that seems unreal to Guy, with its muted tones and muted emotions and the sense that something is not quite right nor ever can be. He still swaggers, still boasts, still charms, but the air seems thicker, harder to carve his way through. He knows it's the same for Caroline and wishes he were a better doctor so he could fix it.

He thinks of Caroline a lot. He tries to keep his thoughts pure (well pureish), she is Mac's widow after all, but there's been more than one occasion when he's had to hurriedly correct the mixture of gas and air because accidentally asphyxiating a patient whilst wondering what the surgeon's hands could be doing to your boy parts was not the best way to endear yourself to the hospital board.

He thinks of her a lot. So he's not particularly surprised when his dreams relocate to the bedroom and he is bearing her backwards towards the bed, lips barely touching, a promise, firm hand planted against the small of her back. He's rather more surprised when hands come from behind her, to take her weight as he's laying her down. And that the same hands reach for him, pulling him downwards so that the three of them lie tangled, a many-limbed creature of need, of passion. There are lips and hands and cocks and cunt and somehow everything finds the right place.

Mac's being there, it's inevitable. Caroline still belongs to him, even in death. If Guy wants Caroline he's going to have to accept Mac as part of the package. He checks down below and gives a self-satisfied nod. Everything's in full working order. Looks like he's OK with it. Guy's been in threesomes before but that was all about being the centre of attention, proving himself as a great lover — two girls begging for some Secretan lovin'? Oh yeah, baby. Call 0800-GUY for all your down and dirty needs. But this one, this here, this is different. Even as he's reaching for Caroline, sliding long fingers over rounded hip, silky skin giving way to fine hair, even then Mac's mouth is pressed against his, teasing it open with an insistent tongue and Guy feels Ö Guy feels Ö Guy feels.

When he wakes and staggers out of bed to deal with his come-encrusted belly, Guy is first zoned in a blissful post-orgasmic haze, then disgruntled that he has to make an effort to clean up, then disappointed that his dream lovers are not in his bed when he returns. He is not ashamed. He should maybe think about that. Instead he wills himself back to sleep and to more dreams.

The dreams continue several times a week. Sometimes, if he's lucky, Guy rouses to the edge of sleep and holds on to the dream as he strokes himself to orgasm. Practical as ever, he takes to sleeping naked and stashing a box of tissues next to the bed. If he was a thinking man he might wonder what this all meant. But thinking only gets in the way of doing so he's just glad that he's getting some — even if it is in his dreams. He doesn't seem to have the heart for snatch-chasing these days.

Then one night it's the same old, same old and Mac's surgeon fingers are wrapped precisely around Guy's cock and are buried deep in Caroline's cunt and Guy is blissed out. He closes his eyes and listens to the gasps and moans, his and Caroline's in stuttered rhythm and fractured harmony. Mac's fingers withdraw and are replaced by the hot wetness of a mouth, tongue teasing him out along the edge. Guy feels like he could fly. It's a dream, he thinks, he probably could if he put some oomph into it. He opens his eyes to see if it's working and there is Mac moving with customary sang-froid as he drives Guy insane with a mouth that could win prizes. Caroline is nowhere to be seen. Guy barely notices she is gone.

After that, the dreams start to change. Caroline is there at the beginning but wanders off to make a cup of tea, or to check that the boiler hasn't broken again, or to untangle chewing gum from Martin's hair and she doesn't come back. Guy is left on his own with Mac and they get to it, and it's a little bit like fighting only this time Guy doesn't think he wants to win. He'd really rather lose which is strange, stranger than the fact that he wants to put his cock in another man's arse. And he does want that and it's his dream so he gets it and it's his dream so he doesn't have to think about disease or pain or anything other than the pleasure of burying himself deep inside Mac.

And then Caroline isn't there any more, it's just the two of them. Bantering and bonking, fighting and fucking. Only they don't always. Fight. Or fuck. Sometimes they just hang out, quiet, almost — Guy can hardly bear to think the word — almost snuggling. It's not right, and he tells Mac so. And Mac looks at him and says, "You know, I saw this film once."

"Well done, you," says Guy.

"Listen," says Mac, taking hold of Guy's face and kissing him, firm and warm. "This is important. You need to remember."

"Okay," says Guy, mock-exasperated, hand coming up to tangle in Mac's hair. "You saw this film once."

Mac looks into Guy's eyes and Guy sees infinity.

"And in the end it's love."

"That's what I have to remember?"

"Yes."

"Was it a gay film, you big poof?"

"Well..." Mac starts but Guy is rolling him over and kissing his way down his body.

Guy wakes with a pounding heart and the sure knowledge that Mac, as has happened far too often for Guy's liking, is right. Fuck. Love. Funny how he's never seen that coming. Although no, not funny at all. Because up till now he's just thought he'd lost his best friend and if he'd thought about the dreams at all it had been yeah, a bit kinky but everyone's grieving process is unique and all that stored up Secretan sexual energy has to go somewhere. But it's more than that, much more, and it's bigger and scarier than anything Guy's ever faced (run away) from before and he's got no clue what he's supposed to do about this. No clue at all.

*

It's strange because now he knows he feels like he's wearing a huge sign that says something like 'I have a posthumous mancrush on my best friend, please taunt me and impugn my manhood.' But no one seems to notice. Mostly he's quite pleased about that as he's running fairly low on snappy comebacks and 'fuck off, fucker' is only good for limited use. There are times though, when his insides are shredded with not-thinking about it, not-seeing Mac's face every time he closes his eyes that he wants to blurt it out, try the words on for size. I loved him. I love him. There will never be a day when I won't love that fucking useless, dead twat. But he can't speak, can't tell anyone. Certainly not Caroline, still mired in her own grief. He's feel-nothing Guy, stand-up Guy, shoulder-to-lean-on Guy. So he keeps his eyes dry and his mouth shut.

And keeps it shut. Until one night there is the bar, and Guinness and Martin and missed opportunity after missed opportunity to take the piss because honestly, what's the point if Mac isn't there to turn it round back on Guy, to rile Guy up and show him who's really the daddy? And then he can't keep it shut any more. He downs his pint and says,

"Martin, if you breathe a word of what I'm going to tell you, I swear that I will tie you down, extract each one of your pubic hairs with tweezers and then superglue them to your face. Understood?"

Martin manages to look intrigued and horrified at the same time. It's a look he's had plenty of practice pulling off.

"Understood. What is it?"

"Mac." Guy watches Martin soften at the name. "It's, oh god, I can't believe I'm telling you this, but you are my brother after all, half-brother, and you, oh god, it's, I." He stops and hits his head against the table, once, twice.

"Guy!" Martin's voice is agitated and he's pulling at Guy's shoulder. "What about Mac?"

"I loved him," moans Guy into the dark space carved out by his body. "I was in love with him." Martin's hand stills and Guy knows he's been heard. "Well?" he asks, impatient for a reaction. He isn't expecting the thump on his ear that he receives. He shoots up, clutching the side of his face.

"Martin, you little scrote, what the fuck was that for?"

But Martin's clearly not in the mood for Guy. He's furious, little vole-face bright red and fists clenched.

"No," he says. "No. We loved him. Me and Caroline and even Sue White. We loved him. Why do you always have to push your way into everything? Why does it always have to be about you? What's wrong with you that you can't let us have this?" Guy opens his mouth to argue. "Don't answer that," says Martin. "Just. Don't bother. I'm leaving."

"Well that went slightly less well than expected," says Guy, finishing Martin's Britvic and wishing it contained the vodka Martin pretended it did.

He doesn't try again.

Unable to grieve properly, instead Guy retreats and learns to live in his dreams, welcoming them in. Mac is unchangeable, never more or less than in life. Even as the rest of the world moves on, whilst Guy sleeps Mac is his constant, his lodestone, his yardstick by which everything else is measured and comes up wanting, including himself. He finds himself changing, little by little, sometimes thinking before he speaks, seeing women as more than a collection of scorable body parts, standing up for lost causes (and no cause is more lost than getting Martin through his exams).

Mac laughs at him.

"But what about the new stunner in Cardiology? Surely her breasts deserve some attention, I mean, they come into the room before she does. Don't tell me you haven't noticed. The Little General might be preoccupied these days, but he's not dead. I'd've got a memo."

"I don't care," says Guy, rolling on top of Mac and kissing him, fingers winding in the ginger mop that never needs a haircut. "I'm only interested in you."

"And Caroline."

"Er, yes. And Caroline."

"Decisive, aren't you? Good thing you're not in a life or death profession. Oh, wait."

"Don't want to wait," says Guy and takes Mac's cock in his hand.

Guy's not stupid. Generally. He knows it's weird seeking approval from a dead man, he knows that he's fast becoming a therapist's wet dream, but he feels a better man.

Caroline agrees. She says as much the day she proposes to him.

"I'm tired of missing Mac," she says. "I'm tired of waiting for him to come back when you're right here. I didn't love you then, Guy, I'm sorry. I mean, you certainly made me tingle in all the right places but it wasn't love. But I do love you now. I really do. You're a good man, Doctor Secretan of the onion layers, and I think I would quite like to be your wife. That is, if you don't mind."

Guy doesn't mind. Not at all. He takes her in his arms and kisses her slowly and thoroughly making sure she tingles in some of the wrong places as well as all the right ones and wonders if she will realise she loves him now because of just how much he loves her dead husband. And when he slides inside her and looks down at her face, which is much less pleading than he'd imagined, he feels connected to her and Mac both. It will do.

*

The years pass happily enough. There are children, Jacques and Jill (Caroline lost the bet) who light up Guy's life and drive the teachers at their local school quite demented. There's a consultancy and the much railed against greying of his hair to mark the passage of time. There's Caroline, growing more beautiful every day. But the dreams never leave him. Mac lives in the dark behind Guy's closed eyes and he can't swear him out and he can't laugh him out and he can't bitch him out and if he's honest, he doesn't want to — it took him long enough to work out what love was in the first place, stupid confusing emotion that it is — life was much easier when he followed where the Little General led, but that's not an option. Not any more.

Anniversaries are hardest for both of them. And it isn't just the anniversary of Mac's death, there's his birthday, the wedding — Mac's and Caroline's — and theirs too, because if Mac was still here things would have been so different. And all sorts of little anniversaries that they don't share with each other, Caroline's tightened lips the only clue that the constant background hum of missing Mac has spiked.

The dreams are more frequent at these times, more urgent, every time as passionate as the first. Guy often wakes drenched with sweat and hard as steel. He creeps out of bed for a furtive wank in the bathroom; it seems unfaithful to fuck Caroline with a hard-on inspired by Mac. Unfaithful to whom is a question he never tries to answer.

On the tenth anniversary of Mac's death, Guy stumbles back into consciousness, aware that he's being shaken. His bleary gaze comes to rest on the figure of his wife, kneeling by him in the bed they share.

"Oh Guy," Caroline says, tears rolling down her face. "Oh, Guy."

Guy is confused, only half-conscious. He screws up his face in question.

"You were dreaming," she says and Guy remembers Mac's tongue in his mouth, Mac's body covering his, Mac's hand encouraging him to hardness. He remembers sinking into him, the tight hotness of Mac the best home he could imagine. He remembers chanting Mac's name, cursing his melodramatic and early exit from the world and saying those three words that it had taken death to force from him.

"You said ... I heard you, you said ... Oh, Guy. All this time? All on your own?"

And that's all it takes to make Guy's world fall away. He curls himself around Caroline's legs, holding to her tightly and cries and cries and cries as though his heart will mend.

When sleep finally returns, Guy dreams he is being borne aloft by balloons, rising until he is set in the sky like a star, shining between the sun and the moon. And when he wakes he feels sad but utterly alive for the first time in ten years. Jacques and Jill rush into the bedroom and tackle him in their customary manner. Guy wrestles and giggles with them whilst Caroline looks fondly on and he takes a second to thank Mac for his family.

"See you later," he adds silently. "I hope."

Guy turns to his children.

"Right," he says, clapping his hands together and chivvying them out of bed. "What are our plans for global domination today?"


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