Even Time Itself Is No Barrier For Two Souls Seeking Each Other

A story I’ve had planned for a long time, but was waiting for just the right moment to post. It’s a rare one-off in this series that doesn’t introduce a new PoV character, but I think this look into Cal’s backstory will provide some interesting insights into him. Enjoy!

Ao3 Link

Cal had a small cut from climbing down the ravine, but it was just a small one and he didn’t care overly, because he could see what he was looking for.

The Involuted Clock was so mysterious it was practically a myth, and plenty of people looked for it without ever finding it. And Cal had found it—and in just a few weeks of tracking its last supposed location. Considering he’d only been at this artefact hunting business for a few months, he thought that was pretty good. He was definitely going to be awesome at this.

The Clock was about a half-metre wide and maybe that tall, though it wasn’t a square. It had a face like clocks had, though with way more hands than any of the ones Cal had seen even in the hands of the most ostentatious sailors, and some of them were moving the wrong way. All the pieces and gears and bits that made clocks work were on the outside, but the more Cal looked at them, the more he was struck with the fact that they couldn’t possibly all be moving together, and yet they were.

“You’re a big fucker, aren’t you?” Cal asked it, getting closer. He looked up the ravine walls, then back at the Clock. It was sitting there innocuously on top of some rocks as if it belonged there, as if it were waiting for him. “How the fuck am I going to get you out of here?”

He didn’t recognize the metal the clock was cast from, and it was probably heavy as fuck, but Cal was determined to make the Clock his. He’d put it in his bag and get it out of here, then hike to Endwan and sell it to his employer. It was too bad he couldn’t get on a boat and take it up north to Merket, where he could get a higher price, but he couldn’t break his contract…

As he thought through all of this, he reached out and tried to lift the Clock. Instead, the Clock lifted him.

“What the fuck?” Cal asked the Clock, as the world twirled and span around him. It stopped doing that, and he wasn’t in a ravine anymore, but in between two clay buildings in a place that smelled of animals and sweat.

The Clock was nowhere to be seen. “What the fuck?” Cal asked again, looking around. He burst out onto the street, looking for whoever had taken the Clock from him, and he saw a city he didn’t recognize, with pack-dirt roads and buildings of a make he’d never seen. There were people everywhere. Maybe Imperial, he thought, but it was hard to tell.

Fuck, had the Clock teleported him somewhere? It had better not have sent him to the Empire, it would be an absolute bitch and a half to get back from there. Cal didn’t speak very good Gronnde and he didn’t know if his money would be any good in Aergyre. He didn’t have enough coin to book passage on a ship, but he could probably get a job as a cabin boy or something. He’d have to suck dick for a month until he got home, but that was how artefact hunting went sometimes. He assumed.

The people passing by each other in the street weren’t speaking Gronnde, though. They were wearing fur and linen in styles that struck Cal as both old-fashioned and weird, and Cal didn’t recognize what they were speaking. Shit. Okay. Okay, fine. He had to look for a church or a government building or a library, or somewhere that would have a map. A map would tell him where he was.

It was dark, and he started down the street, keeping to the side. He glanced up at the stars, didn’t recognize a single constellation, and felt a profound sense of vertigo, looking back down. He was so dizzy, and hot all over too, shit. He also, now that he was paying attention to what his body was telling him, had a hell of a boner.

Someone bumped into him. “Sorry,” said Cal.

The man talked to him in that strange language, and Cal still didn’t understand a word of it. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m lost. I’m lost,” he said, signing it as well and then trying to mime being lost when that didn’t work, which cleared up shockingly little. “Can you help me?”

The man took his arm and started pulling him somewhere, which really didn’t help his nausea, fuck. But okay, they’d take him to a guardhouse or something and he’d spend the night in jail, and he could start practicing for that cabin boy job. That was also fine, right?

Suddenly they were intercepted by a boy about Cal’s age or maybe a bit younger, who spoke with the man. He was also dark-skinned, but not in the way the people here were and not in the way Cal was either. But he spoke their language, and after a minute, the man let Cal go, leaving him with the boy. “Hi,” said the boy, in Kyn.

Cal sighed. “Hi,” he said. “You are a blessing. I’m really lost.”

“I know. Come with me, okay?”

Cal nodded, though he followed only slowly. “How did you know?”

“Because I came to get you,” said the boy. “You touched the Involuted Clock, right?”

“I found it, yeah.”

“That must have been a lot of work.” The boy led him towards the city’s wall, and into a building that seemed like it might be someone’s house. But he led Cal through the building and up a ladder to the roof. “You should be proud of yourself.”

“I am, but it’s gone.”

“Yeah, it does that,” said the boy. “When you touched it, it teleported you through time and space. You’re in a city called Tell es-Sultan, about fifteen thousand years in the past.”

“Wh…what?” Cal asked. Fifteen thousand years? “Did the world even exist that long ago?”

“Yes, but that’s a different story. You’re also on a different world, called Earth. Listen, I need you to tell me how you feel.”

Cal had sat himself down without realizing it. “I…dizzy. Hot. Horny.”

“Yeah, okay. This is your first time travelling through time, so you’re experiencing what’s called temporal vertigo. It’ll pass, but it’ll help if you jerk off or something.”

“What?” What the fuck was this?

“Travelling through time abruptly throws your body’s hormone production out of whack,” the boy explained. “It’s making you super horny. That will only last a few weeks, but it would help if you did something about it. I could help, if you want.”

“You want to…” Cal was painfully hard, now that the boy said that. “Who the hell are you? Why do you know about this?”

The boy reached into his linen shirt and pulled out a metallic device with a lighted front. An illusion appeared in the air in front of him, a three-winged emblem in red and white. “Lieutenant Roberto C. Johnson, Temporal Bureau, Department of Temporal Law Enforcement.”

Cal shook his head. “I’ve never heard of a Temporal Bureau.”

“That’s because time travel isn’t a widely known phenomenon on your world. We manage and oversee time travellers who are in trouble. I’m here to help you get home, Cal.”

Fuck, fuck it, Cal was unlacing his pants. He’d jerk off on a roof in front of Roberto if he had to. They were the same age, whatever. “Then take me home.”

“You need to let some of the temporal vertigo pass first before doubling down on it, or else you’ll get really sick. At this temporal distance, you could die,” Roberto told him.

“How the fuck do I know you’re telling the truth about that?” Cal asked. “Oh, fuck.” As soon as he touched his aching dick he came, splattering his shirt.

“You don’t,” Roberto told him, watching Cal’s dick with interest. “But you really don’t have any choice but to trust me. You should do that a few more times, it should help.”

Cal sighed. He didn’t think Roberto was lying. He had one of those open faces that didn’t generally exist on people who lied frequently. “If I’m going to sit here and jerk off, you could at least take your dick out so it’s not weird,” he said. Nothing was likely to make today not weird, but this was literally worth a shot.

“Sure,” said Roberto, and he sat next to Cal, taking his own dick out, looking up at the stars now. “I don’t know if you care about astronomy, but there’s a really rare thing happening right now. A planet called Jupiter is occulting another planet called Saturn. It means that Saturn is going to be behind Jupiter for a while. I guess that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it’s never going to happen again.”

Cal looked up at the stars, which were awesome even if they were still wrong. He didn’t see anything that looked like a once-in-history event, though. He did, looking down, see that Roberto had a boner now. “Are you getting hard over astronomy?”

“No, I’m getting hard sitting next to you. Here.” Roberto handed him his device, and pointed up at the sky. “Look there.”

Cal held the device up and found it was a magnifying glass, showing him the same wrong stars but now huge. One of them was a huge red ball with white lines like clouds on it, and it was moving in front of a yellow ball. “That’s what stars look like up close?”

“Not all stars, but those lights are planets. Other worlds,” Roberto explained. “Nobody lives on them, they just circle the same sun as this world.”

Cal was jerking off watching it, but he was trying to pay attention. “And it’s never going to happen again?”

“Jupiter and Saturn will be in those positions again, but this world won’t exist by then, so nobody will see it,” Roberto told him. “I’m sorry. I know this is all really disorienting, and I probably didn’t introduce you to it in the greatest way.”

“It’s okay,” Cal said, wanting to shut his eyes but not wanting to stop looking at Jupiter. In a weird way it felt normal, calming. “It’s not your fault I touched a time travelling Clock. Where’d it go, anyway?”

“I don’t know. It’s not here.”

“Great,” Cal muttered. “Now I have to find it again.”

Roberto smiled. “Of course that’s what you’d want to do.”

Cal looked at him. “Have you been watching me?”

“Sort of,” Roberto said. “We’ve met. Or rather, I’ve met you. You haven’t met me yet.”

Oh. “Right. Time travel.” This wasn’t that hard to get the hang of, honestly. “What am I like in the future? Or can you not tell me?” In stories, people who went to the future always changed it by knowing about it.

“You’re really successful, and a lot of people love you,” Roberto told him. “I shouldn’t tell you the specifics, but…”

A pop sounded, and someone was there on the roof with them. A tall, skinny person who seemed to be made of stone was standing like a statue that had been dropped there a thousand years ago. “You are in violation of the timeline. Remain still.”

Roberto stood up. “Lieutenant Johnson, Temporal Law Enforcement. I’m handling this situation.”

The person regarded Roberto. Cal stood up too, doing up his pants even though he was still really hard. “Temporally displaced persons are within the jurisdiction of the Department of Temporal Coherence. This individual has come into contact with the Involuted Clock.”

“I’m aware of that. He’s also about to be the target of a temporal criminal, and I’m protecting him.”

“Wait, I am?”

“We have no record of this,” said the other time traveller.

“Yes, well, temporal criminals don’t often log their activities with the Bureau in advance,” said Roberto. “In ten minutes this rooftop is going to be a temporal crime scene.”

As he said that, a long light flashed above Cal’s head, and the building shook. People were screaming somewhere. “Uh.”

“Fuck, he’s early,” Roberto muttered, taking Cal’s arm. “Okay, we’re taking you home.”

“What’s going on?” Cal demanded. The whirling and spinning was starting up again, and Cal’s stomach clenched.

An explosion rocked the building, and the roof was on fire now. And they disappeared.

“Fuck,” Roberto said, hand in his hair. “Fuck.”

Cal looked around, dizzy again, so much more dizzy. “We’re not back in Kyaine,” he observed. They were in a big metal building with tall windows that was full of strange objects and…

“No, there was some temporal disturbance, and…Cal!”

Cal was laying in a soft bed on top of the blankets, a cold rag on his head. He was in a dark room with heavy curtains pulled over the only window. The walls were way too green and covered in paintings of people and things he didn’t know.

“Hi,” said a voice.

Cal looked over, bleary, and there was a boy sitting beside the bed. Right. The Clock. The city, the attack. “Roberto,” he said.

“Just call me Bob,” said Bob. “Even my parents don’t call me Roberto.”

“Then…why’d they name you that?”

Bob shrugged. “Family name. Are you okay?”

“Really hot,” Cal told him. He was totally naked and there was cool air blowing on him from a metal contraption at the foot of the bed, and he was still on fire. “Horny also.”

“Yeah,” said Bob. “We didn’t give you enough lag time between trips, so your temporal vertigo got worse. There was some interference so we didn’t end up in your home and if you travel again right now you could die. In a day or two you should be okay, but it’ll be at least two weeks before it’s safe for you to temporally travel again.”

Cal nodded, not sure what Bob was saying. “Okay. Really horny. Can we have sex?”

“No,” said Bob. “You’re delirious and can’t consent right now. Jerk off, okay? I’ll make sure nothing happens to you.”

“Okay,” Cal said, reaching down to touch his dick. He shut his eyes to stop the room spinning.

The room was still green when Cal opened his eyes again, but it wasn’t hot as hell, at least. Temporal vertigo. Whatever that was, it must have passed.

Bob was nowhere to be seen, and Cal sat up. He wouldn’t describe his feeling at the moment as good, but it was better than he had been, at least. He got out of bed and looked around the room. The curtains hid a window that looked out onto a black road lined with huge houses, most of them with what Cal thought must be an ugly carriage of some kind out front, though he didn’t see any horses. As he was watching, a carriage went by on the road, way too fast, with no horse in sight.

He stepped back from the window, found the room’s door. There were two, actually, so he picked one and pulled it open. It wasn’t locked, so he went outside, into a hallway with stairs at one end. Across the hall was an open door to a mostly white room that looked kind of like a privy, which was good, because Cal needed to pee. There was standing water in what he’d assumed was the privy itself, so he guessed that was actually the water basin. There was what looked like a low bathtub and it was empty, so Cal stood in that and peed, aiming for the drain.

When he was done he washed his hands in the basin and then cupped some water and drank it, wondering who in the world would put their basin so low to the ground so people had to kneel to get to it. Then he went back out into the hallway. “Bob?” he called.

“I’m downstairs!” Bob’s voice called up. “Sorry, I didn’t know you were awake!”

Cal headed for the stairs, going down. He smelled food and walked into what was clearly a kitchen, but it was all polished tile and metal surfaces. “We’re not still in Tell es-Sultan, right? Everything looks totally different.”

Bob nodded. “We’re in a different part of the same world, but nine thousand years later. We’re still about six thousand years in your past.” He was standing in front of what was clearly a stove, though Cal didn’t see a flame. He had some bacon frying in a pan, and was wearing a pink apron and nothing else. “Sorry, there were clothes for you in the closet but I didn’t put them out because I figured you’d snoop around everywhere as soon as you woke up, and it would be more satisfying if you found something.”

“Sorry to disappoint,” Cal said, opening a polished metallic door and stepping back when a wave of cold hit him. Inside were a bunch of shelves stocked with food and flimsy-looking cartons that had pictures of food on them. “Is this an ice box? There’s no ice.”

“It’s called a refrigerator,” Bob told him. “Can you grab the orange juice while you’re in there? It’s the container with the picture of an orange on it.”

Cal could probably have figured that out on his own, and he got on his toes and grabbed it, looking closely at the jar it was in. The glass was flexible, and it didn’t clink when he touched it against anything else. “What’s a refrigerator?”

“It’s an ice box that doesn’t use ice. This world has a type of…well, they don’t consider it magic, but they have a type of energy called electricity that they’ve harnessed so everyone can use it to do things like keep food cold.”

That was not the first thing Cal would do if every person in the world could suddenly use magic, but okay. “This is a weird place,” he said.

“Yeah,” Bob agreed. “I made you breakfast.” He put the bacon on two plates on a tall table, along with some eggs and toast, which were all organized in what Cal thought was probably not supposed to be a grimace. Bob took the orange juice from him and poured it into some glasses that seemed to be made from real glass.

Cal climbed up into the high stool, grateful that Bob also had to do this. “Thank you,” he said, picking up the fork. At least this world had forks.

“You probably have a few questions,” Bob said, putting some eggs in his mouth, watching Cal.

“Only a few million,” Cal said. The bacon didn’t taste quite like bacon and the eggs didn’t taste quite like eggs, and the orange juice tasted almost nothing like oranges, but once he’d started eating, Cal realized how hungry he was and had soon finished half of his food. “So people live on other worlds.” That wasn’t a question, it was just obvious.

“Yes,” Bob told him. He was eating more slowly. “The universe is full of worlds that are full of people. Not all of them look like us, but your world and this one both have humans on them.”


“Because at some point the humans on this world go and start living on your world.”

Cal thought about that, about what Bob had said to him on the roof. “Because this world gets destroyed.”

“Yes,” Bob said, sounding sad. “There’s nothing anyone can do about it.”

“Not even you? You can’t just go back in time a bunch and stop it?”

“No. People have tried exactly that. Smart, determined people. It doesn’t work.”

Cal sighed. That really fucking sucked. “Okay. Why’d you bring us here?”

“It was an accident,” Bob said, drinking some orange juice. “I was trying to bring you home. This planet at this time has a disturbed temporal field—time is screwed up all around it. It sucked us in.”

Well, that made no fucking sense, but Cal nodded. “I’m not getting the Clock back, am I?”

“I doubt it. The Involuted Clock goes where it wants. If it doesn’t want you to find it again, you won’t.”

“It’s alive?”

“I don’t know,” Bob admitted. “We’ve never had it in one place long enough to ask it. Do you want more?”

Cal looked down, found he’d emptied his plate. “Uh, sure.” Bob got up and got him some more eggs and bacon out of the pan while Cal poured himself some more juice. “Who was that person on the roof with us?”

“Detective Yomal Mettet Tet-tella,” Bob said promptly. “Department of Temporal Coherence. Xie thinks I don’t know xer name, because nobody knows the names of anyone in the Department of Temporal Coherence. Their department exists to ensure that the timeline isn’t disturbed or changed.”

Cal started eating again. “And you’re…law enforcement, you said. You exist to make sure people who commit crimes get…no, you make sure they never commit the crimes in the first place.”

“That’s right.”

“Why are those two different things?” Cal wondered, idly licking his fingers. “Doesn’t all time travel crime risk changing history? And isn’t changing history a crime? Seems like you guys should be one gang, not two.”

“It does seem that way,” Bob agreed, smiling bitterly. “I won’t bore you with our politics. All that matters is that there are two of us, and the Department of Temporal Coherence doesn’t necessarily have your best interests at heart.”

“But you do?”

“Of course.”


Bob shrugged. “Would it freak you out if I said I loved you?”

Cal thought about that, considering Bob, his pink apron, the bacon. “I guess not,” he said, though now he really wanted to meet Bob in his world. Though maybe he’d never met Bob in his world, and this was how they met. But then how did Bob already love him, unless he was from a future where he and Cal had already met in a different time, and…

There was no point in trying to puzzle that out. “As long as it won’t hurt your feelings if I remind you that we don’t know each other yet.”

“No problem,” Bob said. “All I want is for you to get to your home world without getting hurt, that’s all.”

Without getting hurt. “Someone wants me to get hurt. Who attacked us?”

Bob’s face scrunched up cutely. “I’m still looking into that. It’s probably the time mafia, but I’m having trouble finding accurate information. And before you ask, I don’t know what they’d want with you—nobody knows what the time mafia wants. They’ve been committing crimes for a literally uncountable period and no pattern has ever emerged. It could just be because they thought you’d still have the Clock.”

“And you can’t just explain to them that that’s not a thing,” Cal sighed.

“No, the time mafia don’t tend to be reasonable like that.” Bob smiled. “It’ll be okay. They’ll have a hell of a time finding you here with all the temporal distortion around this world, and even if they do, I’ll protect you.”

Bob looked like he might be qualified to protect a stuffed animal from another, smaller stuffed animal, but he’d done a pretty good job protecting Cal before, back when they’d both had pants on. “Okay. I trust you.” Cal inhaled, looking down at his again-empty plate and wondering what his next question should be. His eyes trailed further down. “So, uh, am I just going to be obnoxiously horny the whole time I’m here?”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Bob asked with a frown. “You’re obnoxiously horny in every timeline.”

“Oh, go fuck yourself.”

“I did that once, it was fun. Highly recommended. But to answer the question, that should wear off as you fully recover from temporal vertigo. Once you’re back to your usual levels of obnoxiously horny, you’ll be safe to go home.”

“And you said…” Cal frowned, trying to think, trying to remember what he’d heard in his delirium. “A few weeks, right?”

“Yeah,” said Bob. “Sorry, but there’s nothing I can do to speed it up. But if you want, my offer to help you with it stands. Now that you’re, pardon the phrase, coherent.”

Cal looked across the island, regarding Bob. He was cute, and eager, and he said he loved Cal. “I don’t want to take advantage of you.”

“Maybe I like being taken advantage of.”

“I’m serious. You said you loved me. I don’t love you and I don’t want to give you the wrong idea and end up hurting you. And I don’t want to fuck you knowing it’s going to mean something important to you and not to me. It’s not fair.”

Bob sighed, leaning on an elbow as he watched Cal with obvious affection in his eyes. “You’re too young to be this thoughtful,” he said. “It’s really okay. I know I’m only some boy you just met. I promise it doesn’t hurt my feelings. But.” Bob held up his hands. “If the idea makes you uncomfortable, I won’t bring it up again. You’ll be fine jerking off for two weeks if you’d rather do that.”

“That definitely doesn’t seem preferable,” Cal muttered, and his boner agreed. “As long as you promise there’s not going to be feelings, okay?”

“Promise,” Bob said, holding his fingers apart in a weird way, two together on each side with his thumb sticking out. “No feelings. You can even pay me if you want.”

“I don’t have any money.” Cal didn’t have any anything, actually.

Bob shrugged. “You can pay me by letting me give you blowjobs.”

Wait. Cal narrowed his eyes. “I can pay you for giving me blowjobs…by asking for more blowjobs?”

Bob blinked, got up and took the plates away. “When you say it like that it makes me sound like a slut. You want more or are you full?”

“I think I’m good,” Cal said, getting down too, and holding the edge of the island with one hand and his stomach in the other. “Oh.”

“Ate too much?” Bob asked with a smile. He took his apron off and hung it on a hook. He didn’t look like a time traveller, except for maybe the odd square tattoo on his right ball. But otherwise he just looked like a cute naked boy.

Cal nodded. “I was hungry,” he muttered. But he had, in fact, eaten three plates of food. Oops.

“Yeah,” Bob agreed, putting an arm around Cal and walking him into the other room, where there was a sofa facing a wall with a black box mounted on it. “If you try to fuck me like this you’re going to throw up, and that’s not my thing any more than it is yours. You want a blowjob?”

“Sure,” Cal said, sitting. Time travel would be more fun if he didn’t always feel like crap. “May as well start racking up that debt now, right?”

“Exactly,” Bob said. “And don’t worry, I’ll chase you across planets and millennia to collect. It’ll be fun.” He knelt in front of Cal, leaned forward and gave Cal’s throbbing head a lick.

Cal came immediately, splattering Bob’s face in six shots. “Uh.”

Bob snickered.

“Hey, don’t laugh! I haven’t had an orgasm in like nine thousand years!”

“Never heard that one before,” Bob teased, licking the head of Cal’s cock clean. “Okay, well, you got your blowjob. Time for me to take my payment. It’s important for the health of the timestream, trust me.”

Cal did, and nodded. Bob slid his lips over Cal’s still-hard cock, and Cal watched him go up and down, struck with the certainty that not only was Bob good at blowjobs, he was good at sucking Cal’s dick specifically.

Time travel was so weird.

Two days later, Cal had his arms wrapped around Bob’s chest and his cock buried in Bob’s ass, and he was kissing Bob’s neck from behind as he fucked him.

Bob was always responsive, noisy and happy for every touch, touching Cal in exchange, his hand holding Cal’s as he moved in tandem with Cal, squirming in place. “How come,” Cal asked, panting as he thrust hard into Bob, “you never run out of energy? Not that I’d wish this on anyone, but it’s not exactly fair for you not to have temporal vertigo and even without it you’re keeping up with me.”

“Mh,” Bob agreed. “I’m powered by a condensed antimatter reactor. I won’t run out of energy until the heat death of the universe.”

Cal nodded, though he didn’t know what any of those things were. “I might run out before then,” he warned. He was sure that was a thing that could happen. They may have been fucking for pretty much two days nonstop except to eat and clean off and occasionally move to a different room of Bob’s house, but probably Cal would stop being hard someday.

“Somehow I doubt that,” Bob said, curling up just a little.

“You’d know,” Cal said, burying himself balls-deep inside Bob over and over and over. Cal had only fucked four other people’s asses before now—one of whom he hadn’t even had to pay!—but he could already tell that Bob was way better than any of them, which was why Cal didn’t want to leave his ass; he’d spent all morning here and also most of last night, all of last night really because he’d slept here, and…

Cal groaned Bob’s name as he came, holding him tight and feeling Bob’s extra-fast heartbeat against his right hand. He slid his left down and gave Bob’s twitching dick a few strokes, getting him to add to the cum on the bed.

Bob sighed happily. “You didn’t have to do that.”

“Sure I did, it’s only polite,” Cal said, as Bob slid away from him, rolling off the bed to stand. “Besides, you have antimatter in your balls, right?”

“In my second liver, technically,” Bob said, stretching. “Okay. We have to go.” He waved his hand and the metal rectangle he called his unireader appeared in it. All the cum disappeared from his body, the bed, and Cal, all at once.

Cal pouted. “We could have showered that off.” He liked the shower, now that he’d figured out how to use it. It was like rain but warm and it stopped when he wanted it to.

“We tried that, remember? You fucked me in the shower? And then after we got out of the shower?”

Cal got up, wrapped his arms around Bob and kissed him. “I don’t remember it that way.”

“Sure you don’t,” Bob said after a second. He pulled away, opening the closet door. “I’ll be back in a few hours. There’s food in the kitchen and you remember how to order some if you want it, right?”

Cal nodded. Bob had given him a unireader of his own—apparently it was called a phone, but Cal didn’t understand the difference—and showed him how to make someone come to the house with any food he wanted. He also knew how to get a perfectly accurate map of the entire world—which had actually gotten Cal to stop fucking Bob for a whole hour so he could study it—and how to call Bob to ask for help. “And you’re sure the beetle you put in my ear will let me read your books.”

“It wasn’t a beetle, but yes, it should translate any language from this planet for you easily. Nobody will know you don’t speak them, including you.” Bob pulled out a very small shirt and a pair of tiny shorts, both with stones or pieces of metal on them. Looking in the closet, all Cal saw were tiny shirts and shorts and smallclothes that were designed to be sexy instead of useful.

“Do you own any clothes that aren’t slutty?”

“Nope!” Bob said proudly, pulling the clothes on over a tiny pair of red smallclothes. “Now listen. I know you, and I know you’re only pretending you’ll stay here until I leave, because you can’t be in a new place without exploring it.” He was going through the closet again and found a black and purple collar.

Cal smiled, sheepish. “Guilty.” He was in a whole different world, obviously he was going to explore.

“Yeah,” Bob said, pulling on a bracelet shaped like a bird. “Make sure you wear clothes, bring your phone with you, and don’t forget the wallet I gave you. Call me if you need anything and do not tell anyone who you are or where or when you’re from. If you get stuck not knowing something and people are looking at you funny, here’s what you say…”

“Sorry,” Cal said to the shopkeeper as he tried to work the device they’d requested he pay with instead of the money in his pocket. He had a card that was made out of the same not-glass as the orange juice jar, which was called plastic. Bob had taught him how to use it, but it wasn’t as intuitive as it seemed. “I’m visiting town. I’m from the west coast.”

“No worries,” said the shopkeeper, a young woman in a black shirt. She’d seemed a little frustrated for a second there, but Cal’s cover story made her nod understandingly. “Take your time.”

“Thanks,” Cal said, sighing as he managed to put the card into the slot. What was he supposed to do now? There should be a button… Oh, shit, now it was making a noise. “Uh…”

“Try again,” she said. “You can just tap it.”

Cal blinked, and he tapped the card against the device, which made a different, only slightly less disapproving sound. This was somehow equivalent to money changing hands, in a way that was, according to Bob, sort of like a writ from a bank, but without paper. He’d also mentioned that this world’s environment was under threat, so probably they were running out of trees and paper was super expensive here. “Thanks,” he said. “For being so patient.”

“Oh, it’s fine,” she said. “I hope you enjoy the rest of your time out east.”

“Thanks,” Cal said, taking the plastic bag she offered him. Half of this city seemed to be made of plastic. It must be mined nearby. “I’m enjoying it so far.” He made the split fingers gesture Bob had shown him as a farewell, and headed out.

He left the clothing store and re-entered the huge indoor marketplace called a mall. As cute as Bob’s clothes were—Cal was wearing a pair of very tight shorts made from a thin, smooth fabric he didn’t recognize and a shirt that hung off one shoulder and left his stomach bare—they weren’t really Cal’s style, especially when there was a whole city for him to be the first to explore. He was the only person from his world to have ever been here, so it was going to be up to him to make maps and learn as much about it as he could, and he needed proper adventuring clothes for that. So he’d bought some pants that covered his legs and his ass, and a shirt that covered his belly and his arms. He’d also bought several pairs of socks because the packages had had pictures of hot, naked people on them and he’d appreciated that kind of directness. He hadn’t been able to find a tailor in the shop, but there had been a ton of clothes so he’d just kept looking until something fit him, and he was pretending he hadn’t had to go to an area of the store that was obviously reserved for children much younger than him. He’d even found some of the brightly coloured smallclothes that everyone seemed to wear here. No loincloths, though. He supposed nowhen was perfect.

Now Cal headed for the privies that he’d seen a while ago, moving easily through the crowds of people thronging the mall. If he’d read and understood the maps right, this city was easily ten times the size of any city he’d ever been to, and if he’d read the other information that had popped up beside the map right, the city had three times the population of Bright Harbour, even. But the mall was no more crowded than any other crowded marketplace, and Cal got to the privies easily enough. There were signs for men and women—apparently women had triangular legs here—and Cal went into the men’s privy. There were some basins—sinks—near the doors, and then a wall of large, recessed bowls for people to pee in, and some privacy stalls for people to do other stuff in.

A man and a little boy were using two of the bowls, but that was all. Cal went over to a sink and got some water to put on his face, and then he took off his shirt, dropping it into the bag, and pushed the tight shorts down as well.

“Daddy, that boy is naked,” said the little boy, as Cal rooted around in his bag for the smallclothes he’d bought.

“He’s just changing his clothes, don’t worry about him,” said the dad, coming over and washing his hands at the sink beside Cal. Two other guys had come into the privy, but Cal only vaguely noted them in the mirror—mirrors here were so clear—while he tried to pull off some hard paper that was wrapped around his new smallclothes. He finally got them free and pulled out a green and black pair. He’d opted for the ones that didn’t have legs, having found them too similar to the Dolovin style, which he’d always found uncomfortable. These looked unlikely to bunch up, at least, mostly just some cloth to keep his perpetually-hard dick in place.

“They look good on you,” said a voice. The dad and son had left, leaving Cal with just the two guys who’d come in. They were standing at the bowls together. Twins, Cal thought.

“Thanks.” Cal grabbed the shirt he’d bought out of the bag and pulled it on too. Once it was over his head, the two guys were done and coming closer to him. Another boy had come into the privy as well.

And he made a straight line for Cal. “There you are,” he said, wrapping his arms around Cal as Cal pulled his pants on. “Play along, please,” he said quietly.

Cal didn’t answer, pulling his pants up and pulling up the fastener in the front. “I told you I’d be in here,” he said to the boy, who was about his age and a little taller than him. If they were in Cal’s world, Cal would have said he was from eastern Kyaine.

“Yeah, but you didn’t mention you’d be trying on your hot new underwear,” said the boy, reaching down and doing up Cal’s button for him. “Come on, I want to show you something!”

He pulled Cal out of the privy, barely giving Cal time to grab his bag as they practically ran past the twins. Out in the mall, the boy pulled Cal over to the series of small food booths and into a line for one of them. “Hi,” Cal said.

“Hi, sorry about that.” The boy smiled at him, tugging some hair behind an ear. “Those guys in the bathroom were following you and not in a cute way.”

Cal glanced in the direction of the privy, but he didn’t see the twins. “Oh,” he said, shuffling closer to his savior. “Thank you. I should go.”

“No,” said the boy, taking his hand. “They chose that spot because you were alone and nobody was around. Stay with me for a bit and we’ll try to lose them. And don’t be so obvious about looking for them.”

“Right,” Cal muttered, moving forward in the line. “Uh, do you do this often?”

“Kind of,” said the boy. “You’re not from around here, huh?”

“No. Uh, the west coast.”

The boy nodded. “I’m Giacomo.”

“Colin.” Bob had asked him to use a false name just in case anyone was looking for him. Which it seemed like someone was.

“What kind of pizza do you like, Colin?”

Pizza turned out to be a sort of flatbread with cheese on it that was very good, which almost made him forget that two people who probably worked for the time mafia had found him. They were around; he saw them once or twice, just walking together and talking like normal people. Maybe they weren’t from the time mafia? Maybe they were just regular creeps who’d wanted to rob him? Or fuck him? He wouldn’t have liked that, but he’d have gladly sucked them off or something if they’d returned the favour.

After eating the pizza, Giacomo walked Cal out of the mall, holding his hand. “They’re still following us,” he said.

“Yeah,” Giacomo muttered, holding a phone in his hand as he walked. He pulled Cal outside and to the side of the doors, where he pressed him against the wall and started kissing him, tongue and all. Right, nobody paid attention to two boys making out. Unless those guys really were just regular creeps.

He got right into it, hands on Giacomo’s ass and everything as they kissed. He was a good kisser, and he ground his body against Cal’s, and Cal was so horny that honestly he’d have stripped right there if Giacomo had offered to fuck. As it was, he came in his new smallclothes in just a few minutes, making Giacomo chuckle.

A metal carriage called a car had pulled up, and Giacomo slowly pulled Cal over to it. “I’m glad you enjoyed that,” he said. “Maybe we’ll enjoy it more some other time.” He opened the door and pushed Cal inside. “I’ll distract those two guys. You tell the driver where you live and he’ll get you home safe, okay?”

“Wait, Giacomo,” Cal said. He didn’t want some poor ordinary kid having to deal with time criminals, he could get killed. Or get never born, or something.

But Giacomo closed the door and the car was already moving. Fuck. Cal had been so reckless.

He didn’t tell the driver where Bob really lived, just somewhere nearby enough that he could walk. The time mafia twins didn’t show up again. Cal hoped Giacomo was safe.

“You’re a strong swimmer,” Bob observed, as Cal came up for air.

Cal smiled, leaning on the side of the square pool and splashing Bob a little. “I grew up swimming in the river with my brothers. Let’s do another lap.” Cal had never been in a standing body of water this big or clean.

Since the incident in the mall last week, neither Cal nor Bob had seen so much as the asscracks of the two time mafia goons. Bob was nervous about Cal going out alone and Cal was going crazy in the house, so they’d been going out places together. Today they were at an indoor swimming pool where the water smelled sharp but was nice and cold.

“The swim’s going to end in a minute,” Bob told Cal, looking up at the big clock on the wall. There were clocks everywhere in this world. Maybe that was why the Clock liked it so much. “They’re going to kick us out. We should go get ready to go so we’re not crowded in there with everyone else.”

“Okay,” Cal said, pulling himself out of the pool and then helping Bob out. When Bob had given him the tiny blue piece of swimwear that matched his own pink one, he’d assured Cal that this was what people on Earth wore to swim. It was smaller than smallclothes and covered almost nothing, especially in the back, and now that they were here Cal saw at least a few people wearing shorts.

They headed into the changing room, and Bob led Cal over to a wall of showers. “To wash off the chlorine,” he told Cal. “It’s a cleaning agent they use to stop the pool water from getting gross, but it dries out your skin.”

Cal nodded and pushed his swimwear off, getting under the water with Bob. When Bob started to push his down too, Cal held his hands. “You can keep yours on,” he suggested. “Since you seemed so keen on both of us wearing them here.”

Bob had the decency to look a little embarrassed at being caught out. He’d even had them change at home and then walk here like this, neglecting to tell Cal there was a whole room for changing clothes in. “Okay. That’s not as much a punishment as you think it is.”

“Not yet it isn’t,” Cal said, pulling Bob into a kiss as the water ran down their bodies. His dick wasn’t permanently hard anymore, but it still wasn’t taking him long to get there—not unusual except it was happening fifty times a day instead of forty—and he was rock-solid by the time he had Bob against the wall. “Ready?”


“Good.” Cal knew Bob wasn’t lying about that. Every time they’d gone out they’d fucked at least once or twice, and sometimes not just them. Yesterday they’d run into a boy named Darby who was very good friends with Bob, and the three of them had fucked in an aquarium bathroom, which had been fun.

Cal pulled back the bottom of Bob’s very tight swimwear and slid his dick up against Bob’s asscheek, and he started rubbing himself against it, enjoying the pressure against his dick. Bob held mostly still and let Cal work, and Cal reached around, teasing him through his swimwear. “Wouldn’t it suck if we had to walk home,” Cal muttered in his ear. “And you had all this cum in this tiny little thing, and it was all you were wearing?”

“It would suck…” Bob muttered, as Cal licked his ear. “A little bit…”

“Yeah,” Cal agreed, biting Bob’s ear for a second. “Especially if I made you wear it the rest of the day…”

“Y-yeah…” Bob shuddered, flexing all his muscles.

Cal came—he was still cumming so fast—and splattered Bob’s ass and the inside of his swimwear with cum. He took his hand off Bob’s twitching, pre-orgasm dick, and stepped back, sliding his dick out. “Let’s go home,” he said.

Bob whimpered, but Cal smacked his ass to get him going, and bent over to pick up his own swimwear, pulling it back on as Bob shut the shower off. There were some other guys in the shower with them now, and one of them, an older boy with dark hair, smiled at Cal. “That was hot,” he said, correctly.

“Thanks,” Cal told him, and he followed Bob out of the shower. Because neither of them had clothes, they didn’t linger, and Bob dried them off with a touch. They walked up some stairs and out of the building, holding hands.

Two men were standing out there, an old man with a distinguished beard and a younger one wearing clothes that kind of looked like something Cal’s brother Laslow would wear if he were in this world. They were looking right at Cal and Bob.

Bob stopped walking. “Hello, your Highness.”

Cal blinked. Bob had said this country didn’t have a king anymore, though the paper money all had a queen printed on it.

“Hello, Lieutenant,” said the old man, smiling kindly. “Could I have a moment of your time?”

Bob squeezed Cal’s hand tighter. “Not if you’re going to try and harass Cal.”

“I’ve no intention of doing that. I want to talk to you about the Clock.”

“I don’t know where it is.”

“I know. But you do know where it’s going to be,” said the man. He turned to Cal. “I’m sorry to interrupt your day. My name is Giles ven Sancte.”

Cal took a step back now. “Giles ven Sancte like…King Giles ven Sancte?” The former king of Dolovai? Who’d died like fifteen years ago? Or like nine thousand and fifteen years ago. Or six thousand minus fifteen years from now. Or something.

“The very same. I hope I don’t insult you by telling you that you are not the first person to travel from our world to this one.”

“Apparently not,” Cal said, wondering why the hell a dead king was just standing here. Cal wondered if he’d made good maps.

“It’s a little different,” Bob said. “Cal, I didn’t tell you this because I didn’t want to confuse you, but your world and this one are mirrored in a way. Most people in your world have a counterpart here. When King Giles died on Nova, his consciousness merged with his body here.”

“I…don’t really understand.”

“Don’t worry overly about it,” suggested King Giles. “What matters is that Juniper and I are here. And Lieutenant, I’m afraid I rather require use of the Clock for a few minutes.”

“Do you understand how much trouble I would get in if the Bureau found out you were here and I hadn’t said anything?” Bob asked. “Let alone this. Even if I had the Clock, which I don’t, I can’t just give you access to the most deadly temporal object in the universe.”

“You must,” Giles said. “Because if you don’t, Calvin here will not be able to rescue your grandfather when he’s older, which I do believe would imperil rather a large number of people’s existences, including but not limited to your own.”

Bob frowned. “That’s not…you interfering isn’t part of the temporal records of that event.”

“But I think you know full well that your grandfather’s various allies have ensured that the records surrounding him are extremely spotty, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I do,” Bob muttered. He let go of Cal’s hand, suddenly wearing a full-body plastic suit of white and red. “I’ll be right back.” And then he vanished.

Cal looked around at other people leaving the building, at the street behind Giles and his friend. And finally at them. “So…normally I wear pants when meeting kings,” he said.

“No doubt,” Giles said, with a kind smile. “May I ask you a small favour, Calvin?”

“You can always ask, your Highness.”

“I’m no king here. One day you will be friends with my grandson, Gavin. He will be going on a diplomatic mission to a newly discovered kingdom. I would like you to insist on accompanying him on that mission.”

“Okay?” Cal asked. Going to newly discovered kingdoms sounded pretty awesome, especially if they all had boys like Bob in them, so doing this again but without the temporal vertigo sounded fun. “Why?”

“Because his son will be murdered if you and your friends aren’t there to protect him. I’m afraid I can’t tell you any further details. Oh.” He pulled his phone out of his pocket. “I must answer this, I’m sorry.” The phone started singing a song about flying to the moon, and he put it to his ear. “Hello, love.”

He walked away a short distance, talking affectionately. Cal looked at his friend.

The friend—Giles had called him Juniper—shrugged.

Cal sighed. “Time travel is really hard.”

“Tell me about it. Least you didn’t have to die to get here.”

“That’s rough.”

“Yeah.” Juniper shrugged again. “You should listen to Giles. He knows stuff.”

“Has he been to the future too?”

“No, but he’s a seer, so.”

Oh. Cal looked at him again. “Seems like…cheating? To be able to see the future but also time travel?”

“Yeah, it’s a bit much.”

“Is he overcompensating for something? Does he have a small dick?”

“I have it on good authority that it’s large,” Juniper said, glancing at something over his shoulder. “And that he knows how to use it, which I didn’t need to know either of those. Anyway, you’ll be fine. This time travel shit doesn’t really get easier, but Bob’s a good guy to have in your corner, from what I hear.”

“You know him?”

“No, but Giles does.”

Bob reappeared at that moment, sighing. “Sorry about that,” he said. “I needed to check something in the Bureau’s archives. Giles.”

Giles came back over. “I must go,” he said to his phone. “I shall speak with you shortly. Goodbye. I love you too.” He put the phone in his pocket. “Welcome back.”

“The Clock is going to appear on the roof of the Gladstone Building on Thursday at exactly seventy-two minutes past noon,” Bob said. “It’ll only be there for forty-six linear seconds, but time may not run in a linear fashion while it’s around.”

“Understood,” Giles said. “Thank you. I shan’t take up your time any further. Have a good day.”

“You too, your Highness,” Bob said, as Giles turned to leave. Juniper waved awkwardly at Cal, who waved back, and the two of them got in a car and left. “Sorry about that.”

“It’s okay, it’s not your fault,” Cal said, taking Bob’s hand. Bob was wearing his swimwear again. “You doing okay?”

“Yeah, I just…the Department of Temporal Coherence classifies a lot of records and it makes my job hard sometimes,” Bob said, pulling Cal down the road towards his house, which was about a twenty-minute walk.

Cal nodded. “Am I really going to save your grandfather?”

“Yeah, when you’re older. He’s being held hostage by a cult, but you’re going to help him. I hope.”

“You hope?”

“It’s like Giles said, the records are spotty.” Bob sighed. “Don’t ever tell anyone I said this, but time isn’t totally solid. Lots of things aren’t decided even if they’ve already happened. The time mafia wants to change things in the timeline so the world looks different. Somehow. We all pretend that the timestream can’t change, but if that were true…”

“Then the time mafia would just be pissing in a river,” Cal muttered.

“Exactly. So. Hopefully you’ll save my grandfather.”

“If I don’t, you won’t exist anymore,” Cal said.

Bob nodded. “It’s a bit more complicated than that, but…yeah, pretty much.”

“Then I’ll rescue him.” It wasn’t more complicated than that.

“Thank you,” Bob said quietly. They walked for a bit. “I love you.”

Cal nodded. “I hope that some version of me loves you too.”

“He does, very much.” Bob closed his eyes.

“It’s the me who lives in this world, right?” If lots of people had versions of themselves here, it stood to reason.

Bob nodded. “I’ve met…a lot of versions of you. And I’ve loved all of them, Cal.”

Cal pulled Bob closer, put his arm around Bob’s waist as they walked. He kissed Bob’s cheek. “Well, we are pretty awesome,” he agreed. “Can I meet myself?”


“Why? Will it destroy the world?”

“No, it’ll just force me to erase his memory, and I’d rather not do that.”

“Okay,” Cal said. That almost definitely meant Bob was going to erase his memory too. That fucking sucked, and he didn’t want to think about it. So he kissed Bob’s cheek. “Are we still going to see that play tonight?”

“It’s called a movie, and yes. And there’s a restaurant I want to take you to first. I think you’ll really appreciate sushi…”

Athletics were weird in this world. Most athletes seemed to compete with a lot of clothes on, which was unusual to Cal.

Bob was out again but he’d be back in an hour, and he was going to take Cal to watch something called football. While he waited, Cal had wanted something to do, so he’d put on the television and found that it showed athletic events in addition to pornography and comedies. He’d figured he would watch some football so he could be confused by it and prepare a lot of questions for Bob to answer later, but he hadn’t found any and now he was watching something called baseball. It wasn’t a hard game to follow but it was interminably dull, which didn’t fill Cal with hope for football. Plus the athletes were all wearing so much clothes, which just seemed to defeat the purpose of sport to him.

He figured he’d watch to the end in case there was a winner-on-loser gangbang or something, which didn’t seem likely, but he could fantasize.

Someone knocked on Bob’s front door. Cal looked over, heartbeat picking up. The time mafia wouldn’t knock, though. It was probably just Bob’s neighbour or something.

They knocked again. Cal got up. He wasn’t going to open the door, but he wanted to see if he could see who it was. In his capacity as Bob’s houseguest, of course. He had devices called cameras everywhere to show him what was happening in the house—last night he’d shown Cal a recording of them fucking—but Cal pretended there weren’t any outside so he could justify being nosy.

A chime rang out through the house as Cal carefully approached the door, avoiding windows. There was a small hole in the door for peering through, so if he pulled a stool over, he could stand on it and look through, and…

The door unlocked, and then opened. Cal stepped back, holding the stool in front of him like a shield, looking at the intruder, who was…


Cal blinked. The Cal who was standing in front of him also blinked. He was wearing a red and white shirt with no sleeves and a dodecahedron on the front above some text that said All Natural, and a pair of white shorts that looked like silk but probably weren’t. He had some keys in his hand. “Hi,” he said.

“Hi,” said Cal, not super sure what to do. He put the stool down. He wasn’t really dressed in anything but one of Bob’s shirts and a pair of smallclothes. He held up his hand, split his fingers in greeting. “I don’t think…Bob was expecting you.”

“Clearly not,” The Other Cal said, splitting his fingers back as he came inside. He shut the door behind him. “Normally he hides the time travel stuff before I come over.”

Oh. “The way he talked about you made it seem like you didn’t know about the time travel stuff.”

“He doesn’t think I do.” The Other Cal put his hands in his pockets and smiled. He was four, maybe five years older than Cal by his face. He was hardly any taller than Cal, which was disappointing. “And I figure he’s probably got like, the temporal prime directive or something so I try not to get him in trouble. I have to say, I don’t remember ever time travelling to the future when I was your age.”

“Yeah, well.” Cal figured they could at least get out of the doorway, so he led The Other Cal into the kitchen. “I don’t think we’re technically the same person. I’m from a different world.”

“Ah.” The Other Cal opened the fridge, fished out a can of sugary drink called Coke. He offered one to Cal, who shook his head. “Like an alternate universe or something, got it.”

“Yeah, I touched a time travelling Clock and it brought me here, then someone tried to kill me and Bob rescued me. I can’t go home for a few more days because of temporal vertigo. You don’t seem all that bothered by any of this. I thought this kind of thing wasn’t normal in your world.”

“It’s not,” The Other Cal said, opening the can and drinking. “But a couple of months ago the world ended, and then Bob fixed it. He didn’t think I’d remember and at first I didn’t, but after a bit I did. So.” He shrugged. “I’ve had a little time to get used to the idea that I secretly live in an episode of Star Trek.

“I don’t know what that is,” Cal said. “But I guess I’m glad you’re not freaking out? Bob will be too. He thinks he’d have to erase your memory if this happened. He loves you.”

“Yeah. I love him too.” The Other Cal told him. It was hard not to believe him when he smiled the same small way that Cal did. “So how long are you here for?”

“Bob thinks I can go home on Thursday morning,” Cal said, following The Other Cal back into the living room and sitting on the sofa with him. “I’ve been here for about two weeks.”

“That explains what he’s been up to. So have you had an okay tour of our world?” The Other Cal asked. “Or has Bob kept you locked up here with just TV this whole time?”

“We’ve been out a bunch. He knew I’d sneak out if he tried to keep me here, so I’ve been to a mall and a swimming pool and some restaurants, and a movie theatre and a ton of museums and an art gallery, an aquarium, a gym, a government building yesterday. We’re going to see some sports today and then there’s another museum he wanted to show me.”

The Other Cal gave a snort. “He knows me really well.”

“Apparently he’s known a bunch of versions of us.”

“God, and he still chooses to hang out with us,” The Other Cal said. “What’s your world like? Different from mine?”

Cal nodded. “I’m from a kingdom called Kyaine. The people are pretty much the same, but everything is smaller. We don’t build as big as you do, and we don’t have electricity to make everything work for us, so we have to do more things by hand. Some people can use a power similar to it called magic, but most people don’t have that.”

“Oh, cool,” The Other Cal said, leaning forward. “There’s magic in your world? That’s so awesome.”

“Oh, you’ve heard of it?” Bob had told him they didn’t have magic here.

“Well, yeah. But we don’t think it’s real here, just a story. But people have it where you’re from?”

“Yeah, some people.” Cal pulled his legs up and crossed them. “Not everyone. So it’s not super useful for the rest of us.”

“What about like, I don’t know, dragons and stuff?” The Other Cal asked. “Do you have those?”

“Oh, sure,” said Cal. It seemed like The Other Cal knew more about his world than he’d expected. “Dragons are around. They’re huge and they sometimes kidnap people and steal stuff. They have these huge hoards of treasure. Or that’s what I hear. I’m a treasure hunter, but I haven’t raided any dragon caves yet.”

“Aren’t you a little young to be a treasure hunter?”

Cal scowled. “I don’t know, aren’t you a little short to be an adult?”

“Hey,” said The Other Cal. “That’s your future self you’re snarking at.”

“Nah, your growth was clearly stunted by all the sugar in your food. I’ll be a normal height when I grow up.”

“You just keep telling yourself that. Sure as hell worked for me when I was your age.”

Great. Cal tried not to pout. Time wasn’t solid, Bob had told him. He could still be tall. He sighed. “Does my dick at least get bigger?”

The Other Cal shrugged, pulled down the front of his shorts so Cal could see. “We do okay. Average, proportionate to the rest of our body.”

“That’s the sort of thing a short person says,” Cal whinged, looking at The Other Cal’s dick. It was indeed proportionate to the rest of his body. He didn’t have a lot of hair, either. More than Cal did, but not as much as Colin had, or Laslow. Maybe The Other Cal wasn’t as old as he’d thought. Maybe they were close to the same age.

Cal felt his boner twitch in his smallclothes. When had he popped that? “You like looking at yourself, huh?” The Other Cal asked.

“Shut up,” Cal muttered, looking away from his future dick. “Temporal vertigo makes you horny. You can ask Bob.”

“I will. He been helping you with that?” When Cal nodded, The Other Cal said, “Yeah, he’s a good guy like that. Plus he gets off on being a cumrag, so.”

“I’ve noticed. Pretty much all we did was fuck the first few days I was here,” Cal said. “Which, uh. Sorry. I know you’re dating him and stuff. I don’t know about here, but where I’m from it probably doesn’t count as cheating if you fuck a version of your boyfriend from another world.”

The Other Cal laughed at that. His dick, still out, was hard now too. “Don’t worry about it. Just because I own Bob doesn’t mean I own him, you know? He likes being a slut so that’s what I tell him to do. Besides, I’d have fucked you too.”

Cal nodded, wondering how similar their thoughts were. “You know what I think?”

“You think it would be a waste to travel to an alternate universe and meet yourself but not fuck him?”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

“Agreed. Come here.”

Cal crawled into The Other Cal’s lap, and The Other Cal put his drink down, putting his arms around Cal. They kissed, The Other Cal’s mouth tasting like sugar. Cal was pleased to know that this version of him was a good kisser. Hopefully that meant he’d be one too when he got a little older, though he liked to think he did okay on that front now. The Other Cal’s tongue was in his mouth, exploring him like he was a treasure cave, and Cal wrestled with him, arms around The Other Cal’s back, tugging at his shirt. Instead of pulling it up, he tugged one of the nonexistent sleeves down, pleased when The Other Cal shrugged out of it. Cal did the same for the other sleeve.

“You know,” The Other Cal said, tugging at Bob’s shirt on Cal. “I bought this for Bob. Had to go to a custom website and everything.”

Cal smiled, lifted up his arms so The Other Cal could pull the shirt over his head. “What is a glory hole, anyway?” That was what the front of the shirt said.

“It’s a place to put your dick,” The Other Cal muttered, tossing the shirt aside. He snapped the waist of Cal’s smallclothes. “Didn’t buy these for Bob, though. Too modest.”

“Bought these myself,” Cal said, letting The Other Cal stand them both up. He pulled The Other Cal’s shorts and down along with his shirt. “So I didn’t have to keep wearing only Bob’s clothes.”

The Other Cal snickered, pulling Cal’s smallclothes off. “You got a problem with how I dress Bob?”

“No, it looks great. On him.”

“Agreed,” The Other Cal told him, laying Cal down on the couch and kissing him again. Cal was vaguely aware that The Other Cal was on top of him and that it was probably going to stay that way, but that was okay. He’d never been on bottom before, but Bob seemed to like it and if Cal couldn’t trust himself to do a good job, who could he trust?

The Other Cal kissed down Cal’s neck, nipping at his collarbone and his nipple, moving down his chest and stomach, hands on Cal’s hips as he went. He stopped at Cal’s dick, smiling up at him. Cal’s dick twitched. He knew what The Other Cal was thinking, and he nodded, his mouth watering.

The Other Cal climbed up and around, knees on either side of Cal’s head. And he went down on Cal, while Cal took his dick in hand and put it into his mouth.

Suddenly he was grateful for his growth being proportionate to his height and build. The Other Cal wasn’t big but he felt like it in Cal’s mouth, especially as he thrust downwards. Cal tried to lick him and suck, though he was no expert and he knew that The Other Cal was doing a better job than him, because he could feel it first-dick.

He chose, however, to blame temporal vertigo for how fast he came, and kept sucking The Other Cal’s dick determinedly, figuring that even if he sucked—ha—at it, The Other Cal was still thrusting into his mouth, so he was obviously enjoying himself even as he kept sucking hard, really hard on Cal’s now-sensitive dick.

Cal thought he wouldn’t be able to focus on anything but that, but that was before The Other Cal’s fingers started probing around his asshole, and boy did he feel it when they slid inside. Not in a bad way at all. Cal had always worried it might hurt, but it was really nice, really firm inside him, an invasion he welcomed, bucking his hips, up into The Other Cal’s mouth and then down onto his fingers, and The Other Cal was so hot in his mouth and so hard, and he was leaking so much and then he came.

Cal choked, but only for a minute. He put all his attention towards swallowing The Other Cal’s cum, focusing on breathing through his nose and not gagging again.

By the time he was done and The Other Cal had finished twitching in his mouth, Cal had two fingers buried in his asshole, and he was a hair away from another orgasm. He came as The Other Cal was pulling off, and The Other Cal didn’t choke at all.

Panting, Cal looked down at himself. He was smiling up at himself. “How you doing?”

“Good,” Cal said, as they got oriented again, face to face. “You’re good at that.”

“Practice. I hope there are versions of my boyfriends for you in your world, because they’re perfect and they’re also really good at sex.” The Other Cal smiled at him. “I remember being nervous about being on bottom when I was your age. If you want to be on top…”

“No,” Cal said. He swallowed. “Thank you, but. Your fingers were nice. And someone has to fuck me first, may as well be me.”

The Other Cal laughed, pushing Cal’s legs apart gently. “I’ll make it one to remember,” he promised. He leaned down and kissed Cal again, his cock between Cal’s asscheeks, and they made out for another minute or so before The Other Cal started moving, but even then all he did was slide up and down Cal’s ass for a bit.

He did finally put it against Cal’s hole, once Cal was relaxed and getting into the kiss again. Cal took a breath through his nose and tried to relax, and The Other Cal gave him that time before pressing inside.

Proportionate to his height and build, Cal reminded himself as The Other Cal penetrated him, his head popping in. It wasn’t so bad, actually. It definitely didn’t hurt.

It actually, as The Other Cal started to move inside him, pushing in farther, it actually felt really nice, yeah. Cal could feel why people were into this. “It…it’s really good…” he whispered around kisses, arms around The Other Cal

The Other Cal nodded, one hand slipping down to take Cal’s red-hot dick in his hand. Every touch felt like sparks, and Cal wanted them all, the sparks that were so nice they almost hurt. He found himself biting The Other Cal’s lip, moaning for more and more and more.

The Other Cal sped up, fucking him properly now, cock ramming all the way up Cal’s ass. Cal knew there was supposed to be a spot inside him that felt amazing, but he didn’t know if that was happening because all of him felt amazing everywhere, not even just the places that The Other Cal was touching but all over the place, and it was so good.

Cal exploded in another orgasm that had him shaking, tears on his cheeks. “You okay?” The Other Cal asked, kissing them.

Cal nodded. “It’s…keep going. I like it a lot…”

“Yeah,” The Other Cal said, brushing Cal’s cheek with the back of his hand. “Me too. I’m going to cum in a second, okay?”

“Okay. Okay. Okay.” Cal didn’t think he could say anything else, but he wanted to. He wanted to say something, he wanted to…The Other Cal was coming inside him now, flooding him with warmth and oh wow, that felt nice too.

They stopped moving and just rested there, smiling at each other. “Don’t know why I was so nervous about that,” Cal said. “That was great.”

“Yeah,” The Other Cal agreed. “I know. I’m glad you liked it. Thanks for letting me be your first time.”

Cal nodded, heard a sound, and looked up. “Oh,” he said, looking past The Other Cal. “Hi, Bob.”

“Hi, Cal,” Bob said, watching them with wide eyes. He had a boner in his see-through shorts. “Hi, Cal.”

“Hey,” Cal said. “I can’t believe you had an alternate universe version of me here for two weeks and you never told me. We could have been doing this every day.”


“Hey,” Cal said. “It, uh, turns out that this world’s version of me already knows about time travel and was just not saying anything to be polite.”

“Oh. Well. Uh. Good?” Bob asked. He blinked. “Wait, how?”

“Remember Daylight Savings?” The Other Cal asked.

“You…were supposed to forget that.”

“I did. Then I remembered it. You going to join us for a threesome or what? We can talk about it after me and Short Cal double penetrate you, okay?”

Bob was already stripped down by the time The Other Cal pulled out of Cal, moving so he was half-laying on the couch. Cal scowled at him. “I’m not Short Cal. I’m normal height for my age. You’re short.”

“Normal height for my age is something short people say,” The Other Cal teased him. “And you’re shorter than me.”

“For now.”

“Sure,” said The Other Cal. Bob climbed into his lap, where he fit perfectly somehow. The Other Cal turned him so he was facing Cal, and slid Bob down on his dick. Cal paused, looking at the square tattoo on Bob’s balls. “I’ve been meaning to ask what this is.”

Bob looked over his shoulder, and The Other Cal smiled. “It’s a QR code. It’s sort of like a rune that makes sure anyone Bob meets knows how to take care of him. I’ll show you how to scan it later when we’re done using him. Come on though, I’ve seen Bob double penetrated by guys twice our size. He can take us together.”

Cal wasted no time in climbing over and lining his throbbing dick up with The Other Cal’s. He could do this. “I can see why you keep fucking me in every world you go to,” he told Bob, grunting as he pressed inside. “I’m good at it.”

“Damn right you are,” Bob said, breathless as both of Cal penetrated him. With his dick pressed up against The Other Cal’s, he didn’t feel so big, though the tingle in Cal’s ass reminded him that that was an illusion.

Cal kissed Bob, pressing him back so that he and The Other Cal could hold him in place as they fucked him together.

Cal didn’t know how long they did that. He’d cum a lot in the last hour and it was definitely a good while before he did again. It felt like time stretched into something endless while the three of them were together, and maybe it did. Maybe it didn’t. Either way, Cal was buried inside Bob with himself for a long time, and Bob hugged him and whispered in his ear that he loved him and asked for more, and Cal and The Other Cal gave him everything they had, everything they both had.

When they were done, they all lay together in a tangle on the messy couch, recovering. “So,” Bob said after a minute or ten. “I guess I owe an explanation.”

“Temporal prime directive, right?” The Other Cal asked, stroking Bob’s hair. “Don’t worry about it. You’d have told me if you were allowed.”

Bob nodded. “If the Bureau finds out you know…”

“I’m good at pretending. Fooled you, didn’t I?”


“Good. Next time there’s another me here, tell me and we can do this right away.”

Cal snickered at that. “Are all versions of me as horny as me?”

“Yes,” Bob assured him. “Some of them even moreso. In fact, you’re one of the rare ones who didn’t stick his whole hand up my ass soon after we met.”

Cal thought about that for two seconds, and smiled. Bob was already smiling too. “We could fix that, slut.”

“I knew you’d say that,” Bob said to him, holding his hand. “And not because I’ve met you before. Because you’re you and you’re just nice like that.”

“You’re going to veto introducing him to the rest of the team, huh?” The Other Cal asked Bob, who immediately nodded. “Okay. It’s too bad he can’t stay for a while longer, at least. There’s some stuff I know I’d love to see if I were new here.”

“I could…distend time for a day or two,” Bob muttered. “There’s some temporal interference around the planet at this time, so nobody would notice but us.”

“Do it,” Cal said immediately. “I’m not ready to go home just yet.”

“Okay,” Bob said, snuggling them both. “I love you.”

Cal kissed you. “You’re pretty cool too, Bob.”

They didn’t go see the football game after, but Cal didn’t mind. Athletics in this world seemed boring anyway.

“Where are we?” Cal asked, as they climbed. Bob had teleported them somewhere tonight, only saying that he wanted to show Cal something.

“Outside the city,” Bob said, pushing tree branches out of the way. “There are so many lights on all the time that it makes it hard to see at night.”

“Light makes it hard to see?”

“Yeah,” Bob said. “There’s something I want you to see on your last night here.”

Cal nodded, though Bob couldn’t see him in the fading light. Tomorrow morning he was going back home. He wasn’t sure how to feel about that. He wanted to go. But he was also enjoying himself here. His family was at home. Bob was here.

Before he could spiral too hard into thinking about that, they broke through the trees, and were clearly at the top of the hill. “Oh, wow,” he said.

The sun was just going down on the western horizon, painting the sky every shade of red and orange and purple it could. Cloud drifted through the mostly clear sky. Cal couldn’t see the lights of the city anywhere.

“I was worried we’d be late,” Bob said, taking Cal’s hand and watching the sun with him. “It’s a really good view.”

Cal nodded, watching the sun. “Yeah, it is.”

It only lasted a minute, though. The sun was already most of the way down, and as they watched, it slipped the rest of the way below the horizon, the dark covering them quickly. “Here,” Bob said, sitting down. He pointed up at the sky, where the moon was already hanging above them, half-full.

“You wanted to show me the stars?” Cal asked, sitting. His phone made a noise and he looked at it.

The Other Cal had sent him a message. Have a safe trip home. It was great to meet you.

Thank you, Cal sent to him, carefully. You too.

He put the phone in his pocket and looked up at the sky, shoulder to shoulder with Bob. The stars were already coming out. “See that one?” Bob asked, pointing. “That’s Jupiter. And that’s Saturn over there.”

Cal smiled. “They’re not so close together tonight.”

“No, and they won’t be for a while. People here call that star there the North Star, because it’s often in the north. It’s called Polaris. And those stars there form a constellation called Ursa Major. I don’t really think it looks much like a bear, personally.”

Cal squinted. “I can kind of see it. I mean, the Bear Claw on my world doesn’t look much like a bear either.”

“No,” Bob said with a snicker. “It doesn’t.”

“I wonder what it says about humans that we like to make pictures from the stars,” Cal muttered, watching more of them appear.

“I think it says our creativity can’t be contained by just one world.” Bob’s voice was quiet. “Or one lifetime. That one there is Pisces. It’s supposed to be two fish.”

“You sure it’s not a dick?”

“Pretty sure.”

“If you say so.”

Bob moved so he was between Cal’s legs, and put Cal’s arms around him. He pointed up. “You see that star right there? Not the constellation it’s in, just the one star.”

There were a fuckton of stars. Cal tried to look where Bob was pointing. “Which one?”

“This one.” Bob handed Cal his unireader, which made part of the sky bigger for him, one star clearly in the middle of the image. “See it?”

“Yeah. What’s it called?”

“I’m sure they call it something, I don’t know. Humans love to name things. But that’s your star.”


“It’s Nova’s sun,” Bob told him. “That’s where you’re from. Or will be from.”

Cal watched it, holding Bob with one arm. It was a bit chilly. “Where are you from?” he asked quietly. “You always call Nova my world. But you don’t talk about Earth like it’s your home either.”

Bob shifted a little in his arms. “I’m from Earth. I was born in a country called Germany.”

“But I’m going to save your grandfather someday.”

“Yeah. He and that side of my family are from Enjon.” Bob sighed. “Time isn’t solid. Sometimes it’s malleable. Sometimes it changes. Sometimes it splits in half.”

“That doesn’t sound good.”

“It’s not as terrible as it seems if you’re from the right half,” Bob said, looking up at Nova’s star. “I’m sorry. Is it okay if we don’t talk about this? It’s complicated and depressing and I wanted you to have a good night.”

Cal nodded, breathing in the metallic scent of Bob. “Of course. Before you send me back tomorrow, can I come with you?”

“Where am I going?”

“To see the Clock with King Giles,” Cal told him. “I’m not stupid. You said the Clock was the most dangerous thing in the universe. You’re not going to let someone just use it without supervision. That’s like your whole job, isn’t it?”

Cal didn’t need to see Bob to know he was smiling. “Okay, you can come. It’ll be easier to send you back after the Clock is out of this region of time anyway.”

Cal kissed Bob’s neck. “Thank you. What’s that star called?”

“That’s Beta Cancri. It’s in the constellation Cancer, which is supposed to look like a crab…”

They stayed up all night together, naming stars.

The Gladstone Building was a big, stupid-looking glass building that went on forever. Cal had seen it a few times while they’d been out in the city, but standing in front of it was a bit intimidating. “It’s a bit nuts that you have buildings this big.” He took a slip of money out of his pocket and gave it to a homeless person who was sitting outside.

“Yeah, a bit,” Bob agreed, fiddling with his unireader. This was the first time Cal had seen him in something that didn’t make him look like a total slut, and it was because he was wearing some of Cal’s clothes. They looked better on him than on Cal. “Come on, the Clock will be here soon.”

Cal nodded and they went inside, a huge, stone foyer filled with bright metal lights greeting them. There were some people at a desk, but Bob ignored all of them, heading for the back wall and the bank of doors there. “Elevators?” Cal asked. Some of the buildings they’d visited had them. They were little rooms that lifted people up and down so they didn’t have to climb stairs. Considering how many stairs this building must have, Cal was glad for them.

“Yeah,” Bob said, going into the one farthest from the front doors and pressing the button. The doors slid open and he and Cal went inside. Bob touched another button inside, and then tapped his unireader’s screen again. The elevator started moving, Cal getting the strange feeling of his stomach dropping even though he was doing the opposite.

Cal took Bob’s hand as they went up. “Everything okay?” His heart was pounding.


“Then why are you nervous?”

“You fucking dammit I can’t hide anything from you, can I?” Bob asked, in what might have been part of a laugh. “The time mafia will probably show up, that’s all.”

Cal nodded. “Right. They want the Clock, and if you knew it was going to appear here, then so would they.”

“Right, so…” Bob shifted his weight. “That’s not why I’m nervous. I’m nervous because I’m considering doing something technically illegal.”

“How much of a technicality is it?” Cal asked.

“Only in the technical sense that it’s a law that’s written down and I know about it and am supposed to enforce it.”

“Oh, that sounds pretty flexible, then,” Cal decided. He rubbed Bob’s back. “You know what’s best. I trust you.”

Bob squeezed his eyes shut for a second. He tapped his unireader and the elevator stopped. “Okay. I’m going to give you something.” He reached under his shirt and tapped a spot right below his left nipple.

A bunch of lights erupted around them, in the shapes of clothing and weapons similar to the one Bob had had when they’d met. “What’s this?”

“I’m just worried you’re going to get hurt,” Bob said, touching some of the lights. They separated out, a set of clothes—armour, Cal thought—and a small weapon that he could hold in one hand. He pushed the lights over to Cal, where they disappeared, along with all the other lights. Bob pulled a small metal disc out of his pocket and stuck it to Cal’s wrist. It immediately vanished. “Tap that.”

Cal tapped it, and suddenly he was wearing light, glowing armour and holding the weapon from a second ago. “This is definitely against that temporal prime direction thing, right? Giving me stuff like this?”

“The temporal prime directive isn’t a thing, but the laws about inappropriate technological transmission to temporally locked natives are,” Bob said. “If they start shooting at you, I don’t want you to get killed and I want you to be able to shoot back. The gun is easy to use, just point it at the time mafia and pull the trigger. It’s mostly automatic, so it’ll do all the work from there.”

“Okay.” Cal smiled and, at a guess, tapped the spot on his wrist again. All the gear vanished. “I’ll make sure to give it back to you before I go home, so you don’t get in trouble.”

Bob nodded, tapped his unireader. The elevator started moving again. “Technically I didn’t give it to you so much as I gave you a key to one part of my armoury. You actually have full access to the whole armoury, but without the corresponding implants…” His eyes were watering.

“Hey,” Cal said. He pulled Bob into a hug. “What’s wrong? It’s okay.”

“I’m sorry,” Bob said, hugging Cal tight. “I’m sorry. I lied. I promised there wouldn’t be feelings. But I love you and I’m worried about you and I’m going to miss you.”

Cal felt himself go soft inside at that. “I know,” he said. “But you’ll still have me. You’ll meet me again in my future, and you have another me here who loves you.”

“I know, and I love him too. But you’re different people and I’m going to miss you and I don’t care if it’s stupid or if I can go to the future and see you in five minutes. I’m going to miss you and…”

“And you’re going to erase my memory of meeting you,” Cal finished.

Bob nodded, crying openly now. “I’m sorry. I have to. I know you can keep a secret and I know you’d never say anything. But I have to.”

“I know,” Cal said quietly, feeling tears in his eyes. “It’s okay. I have to tell you something too. I also lied. I have feelings too.”

A gasp shook them both, and Bob clung tighter to Cal. “I can’t,” he whispered. “I can’t do it. I can’t erase this.”

“You have to, though,” Cal said. “Or else you’ll get in trouble and I’ll get kicked in the balls by the Department of Temporal Coherence, right?”

“Y-yeah,” Bob said, hiccoughs in his voice.

“Then that’s fine,” Cal said. He kissed Bob. “You know why? Because we’ll meet in my future and we’ll get to do this all again.”

Bob looked up at Cal, eyes wide and watering. Cal wiped his eyes for him. “Okay,” Bob said. “Okay. I’m going to try to…block your memories instead of erasing them. So that maybe you can remember someday, too. Not to undermine your emotional gesture. But I’m selfish.”

“Me too,” Cal told him. The elevator stopped. “And hey, if you’re going to do that, maybe you can come and unblock them sometimes, bring me here for a little vacation. Maybe invite a couple other Cals. As long as you’re here.”

“I’d like that,” Bob said, wiping his face clean as the elevator doors slid open, revealing a wide room with a big desk in it.

“Me too,” Cal said. He kissed Bob again and pulled him into the room. “This isn’t the roof.” It was empty, but filled with silver and glass and it was hard to look at anything in it.

“No, but it’s as high as the elevator goes.” Bob took him over to a hidden door and opened it, revealing metal stairs. “These are access stairs right here to the…” As he said that, a huge flying car with rotating blades on its roof rose into view of the windows, moving up. “Helipad.”

“What the fuck is that?” Cal demanded, nearly falling over.

“Fuck,” Bob said, watching it. “That’s a helicopter. You saw a picture of one in the aviation museum, remember?”

Yes, Cal vaguely remembered thinking there was no way something like that would fly. Apparently he’d been fucking wrong. “What’s it doing here?”

“I don’t know. That can’t be Giles. Let’s go. Don’t put your armour on or anything yet. I don’t want you being a target. Stay behind me.”

“Like hell I’m letting you get hurt either,” Cal said, as he and Bob hurried up the stairs.

“Don’t worry, there’s no weapon at this point in time that can hurt me,” Bob promised. They got to the top of the stairs and Bob pushed a door open, leading them out onto the roof, which was paved with stone, with a metal tower to one side. The helicopter was hovering over the centre. No, it was docking.

Giles was standing a few feet away with Juniper, only Juniper looking as awed as the helicopter deserved, even as their coats flapped in the wind it was kicking up. “Who is that?” Bob demanded in a shout, hurrying over with Cal.

“If I had to guess,” said Giles, equally loud. “I’d say it was your friend Giacomo.”

Cal blinked. “You know Giacomo? I mean…” Bob knew Giacomo; he’d told Cal they were friends after the time in the mall. But he’d just assumed that was because they were both cute. Maybe all time travellers knew each other?

“Only by reputation,” Giles said, watching the helicopter.

Cal took that to mean by seer magic. Cal nodded as the helicopter touched the roof. The blades were still spinning, but a door opened on the side, and Giacomo came out, dressed in a tight suit and holding a weapon not unlike one of Bob’s, but longer. “Hey, guys.”

“Hello, Giacomo,” Bob said, not seeming to mind that a weapon not from this point in time was pointed at him.

“Listen, I’m going to need to ask you all to step away from the Clock when it appears.”

“Not going to do that,” Bob said. “And you know that.”

“And you know I’ll shoot you.”

“What the fuck,” Cal asked, as the helicopter got quieter. “You were with the time mafia?”

“No,” said Giacomo. “I just want the Clock. The twins from the mall are with the time mafia. They want…”

As he said that, some white light hit the helicopter, and it caught fire. “Fuck!” Giacomo pointed his weapon upwards, at the metal tower. Bob had a weapon in his hands as well, moving in front of Cal. Two men were standing up there and jumped down, coming closer with weapons out.

“Everyone calm down,” said the first of them. They were definitely twins, though one of them was mostly blonde and one of them had reddish hair. The blonde one was speaking. “Nobody needs to get hurt.”

“Funny how it’s always the one holding the gun who says something like that,” Juniper muttered.

“The Clock is going to be here in a minute, and we’re going to take it,” the red twin said. “And then everyone goes home.”

“Sorry, Jet, but that’s only happening over my dead body,” Bob said, gun trained on Jet’s red head.

“Fuck that,” said Giacomo. “Yours is going to be the dead body.”

“Now, gentlemen,” Giles said, putting up his hands. “Surely we can resolve this situation amiably. There truly is no need for violence.”

“Right,” said Jet’s twin. “The Clock is going to appear right here in ninety seconds, and you’re going to let us take it, and there’ll be no violence.”

“Mr. Allen, surely you can see the rest of us are not going to allow that, and we do rather have you outnumbered.”

Jet snorted. “I see two kids with guns, one old man, one bum and a kid who doesn’t belong here. Looks even to me.”

The fire on the helicopter had grown worse, and it suddenly lurched to the side, prepared to fall over and land on Giacomo.

It froze: the fire, the blades, everything on the rooftop stopped moving. A dark night sky closed in above them. There was no sound, and it was blistering cold.

In between the seven of them, the Involuted Clock was floating above the roof at about waist height, its gears and mechanisms all turning.

“It’s early,” Bob said, looking at his unireader. “How the fuck is it early?”

“It knew we were coming,” Cal muttered, watching it. The Clock’s face was pointed at him, and he felt sure it was watching him back. It had known he was coming.

“Everyone get the fuck back,” said Jet, and they all stepped back. Cal was behind Bob, and as he thought that, Juniper moved so he was in front of Cal as well, blocking him totally from the twins’ view.

Giles needed the Clock to save Bob’s grandfather somehow. If they took it, Bob might never be born. Other people too, Giles had said. But Bob wouldn’t exist. Cal was sure the consequences of that would be terrible and immense for a lot of people, including him, but he didn’t think about that.

Cal tapped the spot on his wrist, the armour and weapon appearing around him. They were not going to kill Bob. He wasn’t going to let them do that.

Bob had been right, the weapon worked mostly automatically. He swung around Juniper, pointing the weapon at Jet’s brother and pulling the trigger. It depressed easily and shot a ball of light right at him, taking him in the chest. He fell back but not down, and shot Cal back, as did Jet. Both balls collided with his chest and stung like fuck, but blue light crackled around him, a shield. “Cal!”

The sun was high in the sky and the world was spinning northward. Cal fired again. Giacomo did too, hitting Jet in the leg. The Clock was rotating.

Another shield appeared around Giles and Juniper as night fell again, and Bob moved to the side. “Cal, keep them safe. I’ll handle this.” Cal nodded, firing the weapon again as Bob moved towards the twins. “You’re both under arrest,” he called.

“Juniper, you must touch the Clock,” Giles said behind Cal.

“What? I thought you were going to do it!”

“I’m afraid not. I promise you will be fine. You will be returned here in just a few seconds. Calvin, Juniper must approach the Clock.”

“Okay,” Cal said, waving Juniper to follow him.

“Don’t move,” Giacomo said, pointing his weapon at Cal now. “Don’t think I won’t…”

Cal shot him three times, staggering Giacomo. “Go!”

Juniper ran forward. The Clock’s face was turned to Cal again. The twins were shooting at Bob. The helicopter had vanished.

Juniper touched the Clock and disappeared. A beam of light was all that remained, shooting from where its face had been, hitting Cal square in the chest and knocking him back. “Cal!”

Cal got up, bleary. Fuck, that hadn’t hurt, but it sure had felt like something. Bob was hurrying towards him. Jet was taking aim at his back. “Bob!”

Cal shot the weapon again, at the same time as Jet. He was too late, it was too late for him to…

Everything stopped moving again. Everything but him. The Clock was back, Juniper at its base, unconscious. Cal stood up. Bob and Jet and the rest of them were frozen in place, the balls of light not moving, nothing moving. There were cracks in the building.

Feeling stiff all over, Cal hurried over to Bob, inches from a ball of light to his back. Would it kill him? Cal wasn’t going to risk it. He pulled Bob to the side, found him even lighter than usual. He moved him out of the path of the blast, then fired his weapon several more times at Jet and his brother, the balls of light collecting in the air.

Bob staggered beside him and everything started moving again. “Cal.”

“Bob, are you okay?”

Bob nodded. “How did you…”

“The Clock,” Cal said, looking over at it. It was gone. Juniper was groaning, wearing different clothes, and standing up. Giles hurried over to him. Giacomo looked annoyed, but had put his weapon down. “It’s gone.”

“Yeah,” Bob said, looking at his unireader. “Listen. We need to take you home right now.”

“What? But…”

“Cal, the Department of Temporal Coherence is going to be here in ten seconds.” Bob took Cal’s arm as he said that, and the world blinked. They appeared in a field at night, and Cal looked up. The stars were right where they should be. “I’m sorry,” Bob said. “I know you’re worried about what’s going to happen. But I can handle that, and I promise we’ll be fine, but if they find you there…”

“Right,” Cal said with a nod. “My memory. Okay. Do what you need to do.”

“Yeah.” Bob looked up at the sky for a minute. “See that star, right there?”

Cal looked up. “Yeah,” he said. He wanted Bob to just do it. The longer they sat here, the harder this was going to be for both of them.

“That’s Earth’s sun.” Bob smiled, and he kissed Cal. “You saved my life.”

“Of course I did,” Cal said, choking. “If you died…”

Bob put a finger to Cal’s lips. “It’s okay. I didn’t, and neither did you. I love you so much.”

“I love you too,” Cal said, hugging Bob, tears on his cheeks. “So much.” It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that he’d found someone to love and now he had to lose him, even if it was only for a while. It wasn’t fair.

“We’ll see each other again,” Bob promised, sniffing. “Close your eyes, okay?”

Cal nodded, did as he was bid. Bob’s lips touched his, gently. “I love you,” he said again, voice quiet, carrying everything he was thinking so clearly. What if Cal never heard his voice again?

“I love you too,” Cal said back. He hoped he said it back before he fell asleep, anyway.

Cal’s head hurt. He was laying in a field somewhere, and it was dark as fuck. Shit.

The Clock. He’d touched the Clock, and…

It was nowhere to be seen. He sat, then stood, looking around, and it was gone. And so was the canyon and everything. “You motherfucker,” he said. It had teleported him somewhere. Fuck. And he didn’t have his bag or his…

Cal looked down at himself. What the fuck was he wearing? A dark shirt with short sleeves and a splash of red on it and some tight pants made from a heavy fabric he didn’t recognize. Shoes with thin rubber soles. In his pockets was some folded paper that kind of put Cal in mind of the writs banks sometimes gave out to people fancier than him and also that bitch Beatrice he’d met on his last job.

Just in case, he undid the pants, taking a second to figure out the weird fastener, and checked his dick to make sure it wasn’t different. It was the same, and was hard. At least one thing was normal.

Cal sighed, looking around. According to the nearly full moon, at least a week had passed. Or a week and a month, who knew. “Well,” he said, as he started in a random direction, hoping there’d be a road there eventually. “Fuck you too, Clock. Don’t think I won’t fucking find you again. And when I do, you’ll regret this…”

As he walked, for just a second he had the strangest feeling that someone was watching him. Cal turned around, but there was nobody there.

The feeling passed and, alone, Cal looked at the sky. One star in particular drew his attention, but he didn’t know why. It was in the Arrow constellation, but Cal didn’t remember what that was supposed to represent. Prosperity or something. No, luck, it was luck.

Whatever. Cal started walking, hoping there was a town nearby. He’d lost his prize, but he wasn’t going to stay here and pout. He didn’t have time for that.

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4 thoughts on “Even Time Itself Is No Barrier For Two Souls Seeking Each Other

  1. Oh, so THAT’s how Cal ended up in a field with modern clothes and missing memories.

    …And possibly how Juniper ended up back on Nova after going to Earth?


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