Juniper threw up. He coughed as he awoke, half-choking on the vomit, managing to sit up as he retched into his hand, and down his front. “Egh.”
I warned you.
“You didn’t warn me that you were going to hit me with a vertigo hammer,” Juniper complains, making a face at the mess and wiping his hand on a clean part of his shirt. “Fuck, I feel like I was trampled by a tornado. What did you do to me?”
Took you somewhere.
Worried about the ominous ambiguity, Juniper looks around. “Where?”
He was in a square room cluttered with weird-looking furniture, pale yellow walls and a floor that was made out of some strange substance that was trying to look like wood. There was no actual wood in sight, and the only living thing in the room was a leafy plant in a pot in one corner. Bottles and tin cans were scattered around, paintings hung on walls behind glass. There was a large, rectangular black object to one side on a stand. Doors led off to other rooms. Curtains were drawn, blocking sunlight.
Juniper sighs, shutting his eyes. The minimal light is hurting them. “Are Hemlock and Daffodil okay?”
They’re fine. The forest is okay too.
“Okay, good.” Juniper takes a breath, starts to take off his ruined shirt. “Why do I feel hung over?”
You are hung over.
“Well, at least that makes sense…what the fuck?” Juniper’s shirt slid over his head, meeting no resistance on his back. He tosses it aside, reaching behind himself and… “Where the fuck are my wings?”
You don’t have wings here.
Juniper stood up, pitching forward almost immediately as he lost his balance. It took him a second, but he figured out how to stand. Then he tried taking a step, and fell over. “Fuck this.”
Take it slow.
Juniper fucking crawled right over to the window, pulling himself up and tearing the curtains open, shutting his eyes against the bright sunlight. Outside the window was a series of tall, square structures dotted with identical windows. Below was a black road populated by what looked like large metal insects. People walking alongside them provided scale. “What the fuck is all this?”
Give it a bit of time. You remember what all this is, you just need some time for your memories to sync up.
“What…” Juniper takes a breath, then another one, so he can avoid panicking. “Just tell me what you did to me, please.”
Juniper turns away from the window, leaning against it so he doesn’t fall. “Okay,” he says, overwhelmed. He can’t process this much at once. He’s too…
Why don’t you go get cleaned up? It should help you clear your head.
“Okay,” Juniper says. His mouth is dry. He’s scared. “Where…”
The door on your right. There’s a hallway, it’s the second door.
Juniper nods, following instructions. The first door leads to another square room with low counters and a lot of cupboards. It takes Juniper just a second to recognize it as a kitchen. The next room is a privy, he thinks. A bathroom. Toilet, sink, shower. Juniper remembered these words in succession. He used the toilet, stood in front of the sink, looking at himself in the mirror. He looked the same, bags under his eyes, hair askew, some vomit on his chin. He needed to shave. “I can…how do I make water come out of this?” Juniper knew he knew how, but he couldn’t see a pump.
Turn the tap there. The blue one gives you cold water.
Juniper nodded. Yes, he remembered that. He turned it on, watching the water pour out from the faucet. He pooled it in his hands, drank some, splashed some on his face. After that, the shower was easy enough to figure out, though he forgot to pull the curtain across. “Why do I remember all this? I’ve never been here before,” he says, as the freezing cold water runs down his body, refreshing him.
Yes, you have. I can only take you somewhere where you already exist. A version of you has lived in this world for his whole life.
“I refuse to believe there’s a version of me who’s human and has a lemon house.” Juniper is leaning against the wall of the shower so he doesn’t fall over.
And yet it’s true. If it makes you feel better, you didn’t paint the place yourself, it came this colour.
“That doesn’t make me feel better. What happened to him? The me who was already here?”
He’s you. I merged your consciousness with his. More and more of his memories will surface over the next few days. It’ll be disorienting, but you’ll get used to it after not too long.
“So what?” Juniper asks, reaching for the soap. “You just killed him to make room for me?”
No. He drank a lot last night and was about to choke on his own vomit. Putting your consciousness together with his let me save both of you.
“Great.” Juniper sighs. “So I’m just as crappy a human as I was a faery.”
It’s not about being crappy. You just need a little help.
“Right.” Juniper finishes washing. “At least maybe I’ll have a whole brain now that there are two of me. Thanks for the help.”
He turned off the shower, grabbed a towel, dried off. It went in the overflowing laundry hamper and Juniper took two of a foul-tasting drug called aspirin without knowing what they did, then walked out of the bathroom, thinking that he didn’t need help, he needed to stop sucking. He’d probably fucked everything up with Hemlock and Daffodil here, too.
Oh, right, he thought, as he went back into the main room. The drinking last night. Right. He was remembering now, pictures of them on something called an internet, kissing and looking happy. He’d started drinking to forget that too. Right. Fuck.
Juniper blinked at the man in his house, who definitely hadn’t been here before. He was old for a human, hair combed back, wearing a sleek suit, neatly trimmed beard, seated in Juniper’s collapsing wicker chair and looking at him expectantly. Juniper sighed. “You could have warned me about this.”
You know me, I love a reveal.
Juniper rolls his eyes. “Look,” he said to the old man. “I’m not in the mood. I’m having a crappy day, so if you want to rob me there’s some cash under the TV, and if you’re going to murder me, I apparently already tried it last night and it didn’t work, so I wouldn’t bother. Just go away.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that. I need your help.”
“I’m from the same world as you.”
Juniper shut his eyes. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“This will go rather a lot faster if we skip the part where you pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about,” said the man. “I understand you were instrumental in saving the forest from that demon.”
Juniper shuddered at the thought, thinking about the demon tearing at him. “I…have to go get dressed.” If he had to listen to some human, which it was safe to assume he did, he wasn’t going to give him a free show, too.
And Juniper turned and fled, not needing to be told where the bedroom was. He shut the door behind him, looking around the crowded room. “Who is that and what does he want?”
I can’t tell you that.
“You really can,” Juniper says, as he picks around looking for something to wear. There are a lot of clothes around, so he picks up some pants with the words ‘puto hada’ written across the ass and starts to pull them on. “Look, I’m here. You know I’m going to do what you want. Why don’t you just tell me?”
Because he’s going to do it.
Juniper pauses, then sighs rather dramatically, looking for a shirt. He pulls a hoodie out of a pile, and decides it’s clean enough to pull over his head. “Because you want him to do it at the end of the chapter.”
Got it in one.
“You’re so fucking obnoxious.”
Yeah. Ready to go back out?
Juniper nods, which makes his head hurt. “What happened with Hemlock and Daffodil here?” He didn’t really want to know, but he was going to remember eventually, may as well do it now when it would feel like it had happened to someone else.
You cheated on Hemlock, he dumped you, you got with Daffodil. Hemlock didn’t poison you, so Daffodil didn’t get sick, but you tried to cheat on Daffodil with Hemlock, it didn’t work, and they got together instead.
“Great,” Juniper says, putting his face in his hands. “Fabulous. Are there versions of everyone I know here?”
“Damn, I hate that guy. All right.” Juniper takes a breath. “Let’s get this fucking over with.”
He went back out into the living room, sitting on the couch, grabbing his phone by habit. It was dead, so he tossed it back onto the cushion and looked at the guy. His head was pounding, but it was slightly more tolerable now. “Okay. So you’re from my world.”
“Yes. I came here about twenty years ago. Our world is in very, very serious danger, Juniper.” The man said, leaning forward, elbows on his knees.
“The centipede demon?” Juniper could definitely see that thing threatening the whole world if nobody did something about it.
“Is one of many threats, but not the only one I’m concerned with. I’d like you to help me save it.”
“I’m really not the guy for that. Especially not as a human. I don’t even think I have powers.” Juniper frowned. Not having powers was totally unfair.
“Indeed. But you’re also someone who knows about our world, and the danger it’s in. We can help each other save it.”
“Can…” Juniper looked at his feet. “Can I go back there?”
I hope so, when this is over.
Juniper nods just slightly. “What do we have to do, then?”
“First,” said the man, smiling a little, looking apologetic, which Juniper assumed was for whatever crazy shit he was about to say. “We must save this world. I’m afraid it is also in grave danger, but it has less capacity at this time to protect itself. And the fates of our two worlds are tied intimately together.”
“Right.” Because that made a lot of sense. “I guess you’re going to explain that.”
“I am.” The man stood up. “Whilst you were dressing, I went into your kitchen and noticed the only food you have is alcohol and popcorn. May I take you out for breakfast and we’ll talk?”
Juniper was kind of starving, now that they guy said that, so he stood up as well. “Fine. I’m a vegetarian.” He knew that, but he didn’t fucking know what a vegetarian was. Maybe he’d find out.
“I know. My car is outside.” The man went to the door, and Juniper followed him. He stopped at the door, turned around again. Held out his hand. “I’m sorry, I didn’t introduce myself. My name is Giles ven Sancte.”
He said that as though Juniper should know who he was, which Juniper did not. But he shook Giles’s hand. “Nice to meet you. Guess you already know me.”
“I do. I’m looking forward to working with you, Juniper.”
Juniper just nodded and followed him out of the apartment. Apparently it was time to save the world. Again.
12 thoughts on “Game Changer”
Time travel. NOT dimensional travel. Or inter-universal travel. Time travel.
That has…interesting implications for the relationship between the main universe and the modern AU.
Also, Giles! Does he have seer powers in the modern AU, or just his memories of his other life? (Or is there a meaningful difference? Since the way between the two settings is, again, time travel. An atemporal memory could look a lot like visions of the future from anyone else’s perspective.) What’s his relationship to Modern!Yancy?
😀 Yes, the fact that it’s specifically TIME travel definitely has important implications! If nothing else, the two worlds take place in the same universe, just not at the same time.
And I’ll leave whether or not Giles still has his powers up in the air for now, but you’re right, there might not be a meaningful difference anyway. And as for his relationship with Modern Yancy, they could still be together! If nothing else, they’re for sure still in touch, I can promise that much. 😉
The future is in the past! Onwards, Aoshima!
😀 Very possible!
I suddenly understand jack shit.
😀 That was the plan!
Welp. Now Juniper is a faerie in only one sense of the word.
“Hey now…you managed to make it worse. Dammit.”
That’s the Anonymous promise.
“I’ll let you get away with it just this once because I just found out that pancakes exist. This world isn’t that terrible.”
Until I am given evidence to the contrary I will assume that the modern AU is on the verge of becoming a post-apocalyptic version of Earth courtesy of Scott and his cousins spewing out of a newly opened Gate. The survivors will flee through the Gate to another planet, seal the demons on the other side of the Gate, and construct a certain Tower to keep it closed…
“I feel like I ought to be taking notes here. You seem to have a pretty good handle on all this. Kinda tracks, considering Pen’s only ever tossed me back in time, never forward…”
Hey, they don’t need your help.
Anyway, that’s definitely one possibility! 😀 Time (heh) will tell if you’re right!