Stopping a murder that happened forty years earlier may be the only way to heal a tortured mind ...
Six months after Jesse Madding is brutally tortured by Marcus Brooker, he is still experiencing flashbacks, panic attacks, and jumping at his own shadow. His lovers, Gideon Keel and Emma Coolidge, would do anything to help him, but Jesse refuses to be hospitalized for treatment, or even visit a therapist. Desperate for a change, Gideon and Emma suggest a radical solution.
Jesse wants to fix his life. More than anything, he wants to be normal again. He doesn't want to live in fear. He doesn't want to be ashamed of his scarred and mutilated body. He doesn't want to shy away from Gideon's touch. Certain that the holding pattern will kill him, he agrees to Gideon and Emma's proposed solution: travel to an alternative dimension and save Marcus Brooker from witnessing Mary's grisly murder ... in order to save Brooker's soul.
"Michelle and I have been talking. A lot. And reading up on post-traumatic stress disorder. And we both agreed you need to feel like you're in control again. So Marcus doesn't have that power over you anymore. Michelle suggested if you had the chance to save Marcus from turning into the monster he did, that might help."
"It might," Jesse said slowly. "But ... I don't really see what good that does anybody. Time travel isn't possible, the last time I checked."
"No, but apparently, dimension hopping is the sport of champions," Gideon said dryly.
"Dimension hopping?" Jesse knew what Gideon meant, but it still didn't make sense. What did dimension hopping have to do with them?
"You go to the point in another dimension before Brooker sold his soul," Emma provided. "Before Mary died."
Jesse's eyes widened at the mention of Mary's name, and the denial sprang to his lips immediately. "No."
Gideon's eyes were steady. "Don't say no because you think you're protecting me from seeing her again. I wouldn't have agreed to try this if I couldn't handle it."
Jesse shook his head. That wasn't his concern, but it didn't surprise him that Gideon didn't make the obvious assumption. Jesse was not a jealous person, by nature. More than that though, he had never doubted Gideon or his place in Gideon's world.
"It's not ... it's not that. It's ..." He looked to Emma helplessly. She would understand. She would have understood even if she wasn't picking up on his feelings.
"He's afraid," she said softly.
"Of what?" Gideon leaned forward. "I'm going with you, Jess. You're not doing this alone. Nobody's going to hurt you. I won't let them."
"Yeah, I figured you probably were going with me." Jesse fiddled with the plate in front of him. "But you're going with me to save the woman you love ... loved ... from death, and that sort of second chance never happens, does it?"
He couldn't bring himself to look up at Gideon, but when the silence stretched between them, he had no choice but to glance up through his lashes. Gideon was watching him, his features completely inscrutable, but it was the way his hands clenched together in front of him that gave away his tension.
"It's not a second chance for what you're thinking," he said. "I'm with you. And Emma. And this is not going to be my Mary we're going to see. I know that."
Emma touched the back of Jesse's hand. "Michelle and I thought it would be best for both of you this way. If both of you confront what you think is out of your control, maybe you'll both stop being so haunted by it. Or at least, learn how to let it go and realize it's not your fault. You did what you could."
The logic made sense to him, or about as much sense as anything made to him these days. But there were still a whole host of issues to make his stomach churn. Mary might not be Gideon's Mary, but she also wouldn't be disturbed, and disfigured, and a shadow of who she used to be. And most of all, she wouldn't drive Gideon to distraction with frustration and fear.
Emma's fingers curling around his hand told him that she could still feel his doubts. "I understand why you think that would work. But ... how would we even do it? Even John isn't powerful enough for that sort of hopping."
"No," Emma agreed. "But Michelle is. Dimensions are kind of her specialty."
"Has Michelle ever told you about what she is?" Gideon asked.
Jesse shook his head. He strongly suspected she wasn't quite human for a number of reasons. She occasionally made off-hand references to events she could not have witnessed, judging by the age she claimed. There were a few books in her shop with signed inscriptions and dedications to her that dated back over a century. In many ways, she reminded Jesse of Gideon -- though he would never, ever say so out loud. They both had a sort of tired, all-knowing look in their eyes. Like nothing they saw could surprise them.
"Michelle's never mentioned it to me. Though given the size of her book collection, I'd guess that whatever she is, she's been around for a while."
"Try more like forever." Gideon looked less than pleased with his clarification. "She's a historian. Kind of. A keeper. Basically, she sticks around to make sure nobody fucks with shit they shouldn't. Like dimensions."
"But because she's as concerned about you as we are," Emma interjected, "she suggested we do this. She guarantees she can get us where we want to go."
Jesse glanced down, pretending to be fascinated by the brown pattern of his toast. They were basically telling him that they were willing to bend the rules of reality, cross boundaries people should not cross, and possibly risk their lives in the process, on the off-chance that it would help Jesse come to terms with himself. And he was willing to tell them no thank you. Over a girl.
But it wasn't just a girl. Because he was pretty sure losing Gideon would hurt him in ways that Marcus Brooker couldn't even touch. And if there was one thing Jesse now believed more than ever, it was that you didn't go looking for trouble.