A/N — Spoiler alert for The Sixth Sense. You should have seen it already anyway.
They were on surveillance, and it was late. Britten was tired. He knew Rex was home- he knew, at least, that Rex was probably home, and probably even in bed. Cell phones weren't so great for reassuring parents about a kid's actual physical location.
"So what's up with your wife and that thing that was happening at her job?" Britten asked Bird.
"You still remember that? I have trouble remembering to ask her about that."
"Or we could talk about football."
"You hate football."
"I do," Britten acknowledged, "but we got to stay out here another few hours and you won't let me play the radio."
They sat there for awhile. "I have trouble," the big man said suddenly, "talking about my wife when you have lost yours."
" That's very thoughtful of you. But talking about Alicia doesn't make me feel bad."
"Does talking about Hanna make you feel bad?"
Britten thought for a few minutes. "No. Talking her about her funeral makes me feel awful, and back before the accident, sometimes that makes me really— homesick, I guess. But no, not as bad as I would expect. I still love her. That doesn't make me sad."
"They say," Bird offered, "that when someone dies, it's not that they're gone, it's that they are everywhere you are, but I also think that may be bullshit."
"Yeah, I would agree. My parents aren't 'everywhere.'"
"Mine either. Just as well."
"How's Rex coping?"
"Now that, I could feel bad talking about. Not as well as he was."
"You know all that about how people don't grieve at the same rate. In the same ways."
"Oh, I know." That, he knew.
"They make him get counselling for the kidnapping?"
"There's no one but me who could legally make him do anything, and he — ah. I know he ought to but it was coming up to be another really BIG deal and we aren't doing so well. Also I feel like I am getting enough counselling for the whole family, which is probably not true… I'm going see if Tara can talk him into it, maybe, but she doesn't want to pick on him either, he damn near quit the team."
"That'd be bad. I thought he liked it a lot."
"He does. He, his best friend.. They got into a stupid fight."
"That does not sound good."
"It is not good. Friend damaged what turned out to be one of Hanna's old racquets. Rex lost it. Maybe Tara can get him to see somebody about it."
"I hated getting the counselling. Shrink was stupid. Nice white boy."
"Mine's a nice Asian guy, only he has a chip on his shoulder. Not so nice."
"How long they gonna make you go?"
"God only knows."
"At least they let you back on the force."
"Until the captain gets sick of me. Or you." The words were lightly enough spoken.
"Mike, I am not gonna get sick of you."
"I got some pretty weird looks about that Gemini Killer."
"It didn't look good, you have to admit."
"If it were anyone but me, yeah."
"You think the shrink will help you be less, well, moody? Less weird? Because while I am not going to get sick of you like the captain, you are weirding me out."
"You could talk about that."
"I meant to the shrink."
"I'd rather talk to you, actually. You're the one putting up with the weird. The shrink just yells at me for not being realistic."
"Hell, in your position I doubt 'at I'd be realistic. Hanna was one decent woman, as much as I have ever heard." Britten nodded. They sat there a while.
"You ever see the movie 'Sixth Sense?' Britten felt himself easing into the possibility of actually talking to someone real. Not a therapist. Someone who wasn't —at least, he thought, wasn't as likely to be all about Growth and Changing him.
"I did. I knew Bruce Willis was a goner as soon as I saw that gun. Of course that depended whether the film was paying attention to the same thing I was. You seeing dead people?"
"Is that why you don't feel so bad about Hanna?"
Britten sighed. "Yeah. When I'm asleep, I dream I'm awake, with her."
"That would be why the shrink is yelling at you."
"So they're good dreams."
"Well, yeah, they're great, as far as Hanna is concerned. Except that in them, Rex is dead."
"Ow. How's Hanna taking that?"
"You're taking this awfully easy."
"I don't believe I want to walk a mile in your shoes. Why give you trouble?"
Bird thought about it. "Yeah. Really. What else is different, in your dreams?"
"Well. You. They gave me a different partner. You said they were spying on me and they knew you wouldn't."
"I got that right. So who's your partner?"
"That kid Vega."
"He any good?"
"He's not you."
"I knew you cared."
"So how's Mirror-Hanna? She have a goatee?"
"It's a Star Trek thing. You wouldn't understand. What I mean is, everyone's still the same people, but in that world Rex died, not Hanna, and you have a different partner. Different crimes?"
"Yeah. Only sometimes there's something in one that makes me notice something over here."
"And those are your hunches?"
"Yeah." Britten couldn't quite believe his luck. "You don't think I'm crazy beyond all crazy ever?"
"I don't think you are now," Bird said. "But keeping it straight could get tough."
"It was at first, but now it's just, you know, like speaking a different language is supposed to be."
"Except you don't want to tell Rex his mom is still alive."
"She's pretty messed up. I tried to tell her about how Rex is alive — for me — it didn't go over well."
"No. I can't imagine that would."
"So this happened to people in Star Trek?"
"Not exactly. Which is just as well, Mike, honest." Bird was quiet again. "Can you take things back and forth?"
"No, just me. Not even me, really. If I get hurt over there, I'm fine over here."
"Which one's ahead of the other?"
"I don't follow."
"Today's Wednesday. Tomorrow it'll be Thursday. When you dream, will it be Wednesday? Thursday? Tuesday?"
"It's whatever day it's supposed to be. I'll try to pay attention."
"Be careful, and don't be greedy. I never read a story where doing something stupid in an alternate reality worked out. But it would be interesting to see how different they are. You know, same president and so on? What I am talking about is, where do they diverge?"
"You get this from watching Star Trek?"
"Britten. I don't like to talk about this. But I figure considering your position maybe you won't make as much fun of me as you might in some other reality."
"That was a joke?"
"Yeah. Britten, in this reality, I am what is known, according to my wife, as 'a huge nerd.'" Britten's partner sighed. "Don't make me regret telling you this, but I have gone to science fiction conventions."
Britten's jaw dropped. "Tell me you weren't dressed up."
Silence filled the car.
"What — who were you, then?"
"Ever hear of Deep Space Nine?"
"Then you don't know, but Sisko was a good guy."
"I suppose that's something."
"He was sort of a Fed. You might say."
"I'm sorry about the things I said about Comicon last year."
"Everybody says things like that," said Bird. "You get used to it. It's better than it used to be."
"She's not as into it as I am. More of a unicorns and elf-maidens kinda girl. But we agree about how to raise the kids."
"How do science fiction fans raise their kids different from say, me?"
"I bet you and Hanna didn't have to have a long talk about what Star Wars movies you could have in the house."
"No. We did not." Britten realized he could actually say what he was thinking. It was an enormous relief. "I wonder what, if anything, Vega reads."
"I wonder if you can ask me what I read."
"I don't see as much of you as I did."
"Well, carry a copy of American Gods around and I bet I'll tell you. Maybe not about the cons, though."
"Who wrote that?"
"See, even here, you and I live in entirely different realities." Bird shook his head. "So okay, tell me about how you really figured out the Gemini guy."