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So back in the spring of 2014, I began feeling strong waves of CFUD nostalgia. I spent many hours reading a shit-ton of threads. And thoughts about what happened post-canon began taking over my brain. I began some fic for Enjolras, but like most of my writing efforts, it was soon interfered with by life and then left to languish. Fast-forward to a couple weeks ago, and I finally stop being in denial about how my thoughts had become occupied with these stories again. So I resolved to finish this fucker and exorcise it from my life, once and for all.

Appropriately enough, I ended up finishing it on Thanksgiving. Another day to do up the HTML and do a last quick once-over, but really: Thanksgiving. And it felt right, because I am so thankful for the support and outlet that CFUD (which really means the players of CFUD) gave me and for all of the friendships and good times that resulted.

I always feel a little weird/nervous writing fic based on RP, since it feels like god-modding other people's characters. But just stating for myself that which should be needless to say: these are just my own headcanon musings for what I think happened to my own characters, which sometimes involved characters who were played by other people. I'd love to hear/read other people's own post-CFUD headcanons. And there are also so many other characters whose interactions I adored but who aren't present here due to "plot," lack of world crossover, etc.. But during the time that I have spent working on this, they have crossed my mind many times.

So: thank you, friends. For everything.




Title: Wonderful Journey
Rating: T
Words: 17400
Summary: Epilogues.
Warnings: Spoilers for Monstrous Regiment and Air Gear, reference to 9/11 (Tatsumi section)




"There are a number of theories about time. In a sense, we’re all time travelers – we’re all constantly moving, just in a seemingly fixed direction, at a speed outside of our control. However, there are those few of us who have found ourselves going backwards or sideways or diagonally. It’s not just theories; we’ve seen it with our own eyes. But are the pathways still fixed? Is time greater than our efforts could ever be? Or is it we who are greater than our own efforts, with our own intrinsic inclinations leading us always toward a similar outcome, no matter what we might profess ourselves to desire? Is it possible to simultaneously be the hero, reader, and author of one’s own story?"




"...and that was before I learned that the actual duties of the Minister of Human Resources were-"

Jack paused as his wrist started beeping. Beeping noises coming from his body were generally a bad sign, in the "I’ve been made into a human time bomb against my will" sort of way, but this was both more familiar and more unexpected.

"'Scuse me," he said to the camper he'd been regaling, "I, uh, gotta take this call. Might be my doctor."

He was already tugging up the cuff of his coat as he walked away, and indeed, his vortex manipulator was blinking and chirping to life.

"Are you for real?" he asked his wrist. "Is that you, Doctor?" he asked the air. Not receiving a single word, let alone a breathless paragraph, in response, he looked back to his vortex manipulator, which appeared to be inputting coordinates on its own.

"Wait," he said, "wait a second, let's just hold up, wha-"

And then he was in Canada.

Or at least he was next to a surprised Mountie and a less-impressed horse. A closer look at the coordinates ascertained that, yes, this was, in fact, Canada, the year 2013.

The next morning, he was wide awake before dawn, staring sleeplessly at the still live vortex manipulator in his hands, though being quiet so that he didn’t disturb Eddie the Mountie. Why now? Why at all? Was it some sort of trap? Or just Camp's "fuck you" to the Doctor? Or maybe Camp had screwed up timelines enough that it just didn't matter where he went anymore.

He needed a drink. And hell, he needed someone to talk to. Somebody who'd be able to at least half understand the shit he was talking about. Anyone work-related was right out. Who else in this little world...

He grabbed his phone from the nightstand and did a bit of searching and hacking to get him the e-mail address he wanted.

Hey, babe!

I finally got sprung from zombie prison camp, so I was thinking of swinging by Toronto. Got a night in the near future to spare for catching some drinks and catching up? Or if you had a night to spare in the recent past, I could do that, too.

And if you have no idea what I'm talking about, I'd be glad to show up anyways to explain. Not an evil ex, I promise.

-Captain Jack Harkness


Two days previously, Jack strolled through Koreatown, into a divey bar full of a colorful local population sprinkled with slumming undergrads. Heading up to the second floor, he wove his way through the crowd to a head of purple-and-turquoise hair sitting at the bar. Sliding up next to her, he nudged her elbow and flashed a smile.

"Hey there, beautiful. Can I buy you a drink?"

A couple exciting seconds later, Ramona replied, "Yeah, why don't you just, like, replace the beer I just threw on myself. I'll be right back, I'm going, paper towels, yeah."

A few minutes later, Ramona was back and Jack had another beer for her and a glass of whisky for himself, because this was not the sort of joint where you ordered a martini.

"So: hi?" she asked as she slid back onto her stool.

"Hi," Jack agreed with a nod.

"How did you know where to find me?" she asked.

"You tell me. In a couple days."

"Right. Time travel. That's your thing."

"It is. Again. For now, at least. I'd been out of commission for... a long while, but when I got out of camp, they handed me back the keys to the car, so to speak. Sorry about, uh." He gestured to her damp shirt. "Not the best form but... well, I couldn't resist."

"You're drunk on power, that's what you are," Ramona said, jabbing an accusing finger at him before taking a big swallow of her beer. "So how long have you been out? Wait, can I even ask that when linear time doesn’t apply?"

"It hasn't been too long," he offered. "I landed right in Canada – pretty much right in Canada's finest, actually. And I e-mailed you after that-"

"But I'll have had just left town. Hence you going to come back to meet me now."

"A-plus to Ramona A. Flowers."

"Don't congratulate me, English grammar did most of the work. Does this mean that you're stuck here, though?" she asked, resting her chin on her hand. "Like, in a different universe? I don't think there's any alien attacks that have happened, so I'm pretty sure we're from different realities."

"Any alien attacks of which you're aware or retain the memory," he corrected her. "But yeah, there's that. I mean, I'm pretty sure I could make it back. It's all about pinpointing the key events and making sure that things happen or don't happen."

"Isn't punching the timestream dangerous?"

"For you and everyone in it with you, yeah. But it's just existence as you know it, not, you know, existence. With each change, another little time rivulet branches off. The rest of the stream continues onward. All of the other versions, still intact. We know that they're out there. And that hopping between them isn't impossible."

"Mm-hm. So how did you have any clue that you'd ended up splashing around in my particular time rivulet?"

"Why else would I have ended up in Canada?"

"Haha, Canada joke, very funny."

"Seriously, though! Camp decided to actually be nice to me for once."

"Jack." She stared at him over the rim of her glass until he let the smile slip from his face. "Why the hell did you want to talk to me? I know you had a lot more going on so that finding a drinking buddy, even a really great drinking buddy, wouldn't be the number one first thing that you'd do."

"...because I don't know what to do," he said, his gaze dropping into the empty glass in his hand. "I want to go back. I need to go back. I've wanted to go back so many times and now I finally can... But I don't know if I can. I..." He took a deep breath and ran one hand through his hair while signaling the bartender for a refill with the other. "While I was at camp, I saw my current entire team, including the ones who died just before I got to camp. I saw my lover arrive and leave twice. I screamed at the Doctor from the future about it. I've gone through it all so many times now, gone beyond it. I need to go back but I..."

When Jack looked up again, Ramona had gotten another beer.

"So you wanted a chat with someone else who knew what it was like to be on the run," she concluded for him.

"Yeah. Yeah, something like that. The elite runners' club."

"But with less sweat and health, more alcohol and denial. I mean, I'm touched that you'd consider me an expert-"

"And also highly attractive."

"-thank you, flattery will get you everywhere. But it's different for you, isn't it? When you can always go back? Then again, it's like asking you how long you've been out of camp. It's been, what, negative two days for you now? But you've still moved through all of the events that happened."

"And Mounties."

"Yeah, through those, too. But most of us just have to sit here and deal with the guilt while other people provide encouragement and say, well, you can't change the past, there's no use in dwelling in it. Which totally doesn't apply to your case, which actually sounds pretty damn awful. But it's sounding like... you might have started to have moved on. And every pop psychology article I've read says it's normal to feel guilty about that, too, you know, guilty about not feeling guilty. Maybe it's better for you to stop listening to Cher and not think about turning back time on this one. But that's for you to figure out, not me. And it sounds like you're working on it. So really? I think that we're not actually the Elite Runners Club anymore. More like Runners Anonymous. 'Cuz the irony is that running means that you never really move forward. If you're actually starting to figure out how to move on, it means that you've stopped running. And if you have to take some time to deal with that, well. You've got it, of all people. Wow, that was a lot of talking and a lot of feelings, I need another beer."

"Yeah, I need at least a couple more hours of drinking."

"Yeah, that."

A couple hours later, Jack said, "You know, call it inspiration from all of the- hello, there- co-eds infesting this joint, but maybe some continuing education is the thing."

"Decision!" Ramona affirmed, jabbing a finger somewhere to the left of Jack's face. "Very good. I guess that means for tonight that we're wrapped up for tonight."

"Nothing like a productive brainstorming session. Hey, gimme the tab, it's on me."

"Nah, thanks, dude," Ramona said, "but I totally levelled up from that little speech I gave earlier and the payout has us covered."

"I feel really inadequate right now," Jack said.

Then they both raised their glasses and declared in unison: "Elite Inadequacy Club!"

In the fall of 2012, Jack Harkness arrived in Colorado.

"Ah, breathe in that fresh air. Just a few months until a legal Rocky Mountain high," he mused. "It's always a little difficult for me to understand why you'd want to limit your limited Earth options even more than they are already due to lack of interplanetary travel. But I suppose you don't know what you don't know. Except, of course, when you've gotten the good stuff, and it's four in the morning, you're wearing your underwear on your head, have just spent the last hour examining the space between the couch cushions, and now know the answers to everything. Man, that was a great night. But sometimes one must pursue enlightenment in a more sedate manner. Well," he admitted to the altitudinously clear blue sky, shoving his hands into his pockets with an aw-shucks grin, "I'm not exactly the kind to do anything in a sedate manner. But maybe I am taking a time-out. Just... stopping. For a little bit. On my own. And, well. I do think I'm gonna have some fun here."

With that, he strode through the gates of Greendale Community College.




The grass was soft under his back, and everything smelled of fresh, green nature, unsullied by the stench of rotting flesh. No coppery tang of dried blood in this air. The chirping of birds was light and flighty, a sharp contrast to the harsh squawks of the multitudinous ravens and those stray toucans that had still remained.

Rorschach covered his eyes with his hand before opening them, mindful of not being blinded by the sun he could feel warming his body.

"Hello, there!" chirped something else. He removed his hand to reveal a child leaning over him. "Welcome to the world of POKEMON! My name is-"

Something unintelligible, though it seemed as though he should have been able to understand it. Could he have been drugged? Heart rate normal. Breathing normal. No unusual skin sensations.

"-This world is inhabit by creatures called POKEMON! For some people, POKEMON are pets. Others use them for fights."

Animal fighting rings. 'Pokemon.' He recognized this.

"Pikachu," Rorschach said.

The child's face lit up with a smile. "I want a PIKACHU! It's so cute!"

Rorschach looked at the child. Estimated age: nine. He stood up, reversing their vertical perspectives.

"Ask your parents. Searching for a specific one."

The child tilted her head inquisitively. "Parents?"

"Adult guardian."

She raised a finger to her lips as her eyes searching skyward in thought. "Ohhh... I don't remember the last time I saw my parents!"

"Who do you stay with?"

"I stay with myself. And hunt Pokemon! Like you!"

The child held out her hand to him. He took it.

"Will find a Pikachu," he said. "We will find Pikachu."

Despite what others clearly thought, Rorschach had always been acutely aware of his social limitations. If anyone had asked him to rate his potential as a child's guardian, he would have told them not to even bother. But even he was a step above the shiftless degenerates who would leave such a young child to fend for herself – hunting monsters, no less. And one day a half-dozen (admittedly weird) otherwise guardian-less kids later, he realized that he had uncovered a new truth: hunting down Pikachu was much more fulfilling as a family endeavor.




It was on Valentine's Day, the Earth holiday of romance, over four years since his death, that it finally happened. The air was still crisp with winter, but as he walked along through the field, a warmth began to kindle within Van's core, spreading outward to his fingertips until he could no longer feel the cold. He recognized this energy... and could feel himself disconnecting from this reality, from the inside out. It was a shame. Of course he had had no particular attachment to this world, but it had been a chance, however faint and nebulous, to remedy his failure to his own. It had been the torture of having a glimmer of hope.

How foolish. He closed his eyes and let himself be taken.

For the third time, the end of his life was apparently not the end, as the impact of the back of his skull hitting the ground evidenced.

"This is starting to get a bit ridiculous," he announced.

"Do you think so?" asked a rich voice.

While running a mental inventory of his body parts, he opened his eyes and sat up. He was on a floor, not the ground, but he was blinking as his eyes adjusted to sunlight and glare from water.

"I daresay that you might find it ridiculous, yourself, for me to have intruded here so unexpectedly," he replied, clambering to his feet. Clothes and armor intact, sword hanging in its sheath.

"Oh, that's an assumption on your part," the other one continued. Distance, but not too far – across a square lily pond that centerpieced some sort of courtyard. "I knew that I would be receiving a foreign guest. One of the perks of enlightenment."

"Are you a priestess?" Van asked as he began a slow cross around the side of the water, eyes trained on his interlocutor, who sprawled haphazardly in an ornate chair yet exuded a palpable energy. It was a striking individual, pale and with masculine angles; yet clad in flowing, diaphanous white garments, accented with gold, which did little to conceal their pendulous breasts, and seemed perhaps most effective as a contrasting canvas for the long fall of night-black hair.

"I am a god," they replied with a smirk, which was either extremely ungodlike or godlike, depending on the sort of god in whom one believed. At this point in his life, Van was starting to lean heavily toward the latter. They remained silent until Van reached the foot of their chair.

"I am a god," they repeated, rising to their feet with a smoothness that spoke of power, "and I am looking for someone."

"I am afraid that my loyalty is already taken, and I am no mercenary. And while I suspect that godly compulsion is one of the many tools available to you, I promise that I shall make it as difficult as possible."

The god's laughter, incongruously boisterous and rough, echoed through the plaza. "No, no, I think that you're just the person that I need. You see, I once had some friends who made the Heavens very, very upset. And, well, long story short, now said friends are no longer in Heaven and are currently very busy preventing worldwide calamity. It's generally really entertaining to watch but... For us gods, it is not our place to interfere. However, it might be useful for my old friends to receive some assistance from someone of comparable power, which being able to hold one's own in battle against one of them would prove. Someone who just might have happened to have heard of something he could do. From source unknown."

An elegant hand slid to rest against the side of his face as the god leaned in close, violet eyes deep with a warmth that he could not identify.

"Once upon a time, there were those who upset the order of Heaven and Earth. For that, they were trapped for centuries. Vandesdelca Musto Fende, are you ready to help end some sad cycles of destiny?"

Van held the god's gaze as his hand moved to the hilt of his sword, acutely aware of the brush of the god's garment against his knuckles, such was their proximity. When he finally closed his eyes, it was to give a curt nod.

"What are the logistics of the situation?" he asked.

Again, the vulgar laughter from the velvet voice. Van's eyes popped open as he felt the god give him a kiss on the cheek. "You, my dear, definitely have a unique 'type.' Now!" The heat of the god's body pulled away, and Van opened his eyes to see them swanning toward a doorway. "Come with me, and we'll fill you in on the details."

Van lingered a moment longer, sending a silent prayer to his ancestors and for his sister. And then, with the stride of a soldier, he followed.




The shitty thing about learning your life lesson is that it doesn't make life any less shitty.

On the bright side, Sora had a lot of free time on his hands now that, for the first time in, like, fifteen years or whatever, he wasn't spending his every waking hour moving along a plot for not-world-destruction-but-maybe-a-kind-of-ill-advised-okay-very-ill-advised-world-enabling. But while that punk-ass kid saw the future as endless possibilities, open as the sky, Sora couldn't shake the nagging weight of closed roads. He couldn't see where he wanted to go. And worst of all? He was fucking BORED. Screwing around had been fun and all when he'd known what he was actually doing, what actually mattered, but just filling the time? It left him antsy. It made him angry.

And that was why he opened the laptop.

It had been a few years since they'd all been stuck in that fucked-up zombie camp. He hadn't minded it. He'd met some mildly interesting people, had some hot make-out sessions, got blue-balled way too many times, and generally was able to keep himself amused. But it was just a diversion in the big picture of things. When they got back, they'd picked up where they'd left off. And what had happened... happened.

But on the day that Sora had been mid-food fight in the mess hall one moment and throwing a handful of soylent across the deck of the ship into Nike's face the next, the laptop had stayed in his lap. He'd checked it later that night, and it was definitely his fucking Camp laptop, with all of the same laggy spyware and weird censorship. So he'd tossed it in with the rest of his shit and forgotten about it.

Until it was all over, and he was alone with shit all to do.

Let's be real: Takeuchi Sora stayed behind bars as long as Takeuchi Sora wanted to stay behind bars. If anyone had the idea that him doing things differently meant that he'd be letting other people tell him how to do things differently? Well, the fact that ninety-nine percent of humanity was a bunch of retarded rejects was one thing that definitely hadn't changed. He'd used patience before, and it was easy to use it again. And the psychiatrist the prison had him working with? Like a fucking open blank notebook, that one, and a serious security weakness. So three years, eight months, one week, and four days after walking (...well) into supermax on a life sentence, Takeuchi Sora was back on the streets, picking up the personal shit that he'd stashed and then disappearing into the woodwork.

He left his brother back there. Sorry fuck was better off that way.

He'd have to lay low, natch, but that didn't bother him. Attention was just another tool, and he didn't need it aimed toward him for what he was thinking of trying. And if he didn't aim it toward himself, wasn't nobody else gonna. National confidence was low, with the economy was going into recession, and he'd become the face of multiple embarrassments that the government would rather be forgotten. And anybody with a more personal investment either was too dead to raise shit about it or would understand.

"Tell me why I shouldn't get your sorry ass thrown back in prison right the fuck now," the punk demanded from behind where Sora sat on the sofa, working on his computer while the game played on TV.

"Over six months before I get a visit an' that's the first thing outta your mouth?"

There was an inarticulate grunt, and then Sora felt the jounce of crow-kid plopping his ass down next to him. Not pausing his typing, he looked over and saw him hunched over, head in his hands, like he'd just lost a parts war because of a dumb mistake.

"Seriously, man. What are you doing?" he asked, voice muffled.

"Just watchin' the game an' getting' some work done."

"Not fucking right now, retard, I mean-"

"I am talkin' big picture, kid."

"Don't call me that."

Sora let his hands fall still. Might as well, he thought, and he turned the computer so that the kid could see the screen.

"I am talkin' big picture. Recognize this?"

He finally looked up. The double-take was hilarious.

"Holy fuck, is that-"

"Uh-huh."

"You've got that thing here?!"

"Yup."

"From THERE?"

"Mm-hm."

"And it still fucking works?!"

"Oh, yeah."

Next thing Sora knew, the kid was crawling on top of his head.

"IF YOU'RE TRYING TO INVADE OTHER WORLDS, I WON'T LEAVE YOU TO THE PRISONS, I'LL END YOU MYSELF!"

"YA FUCKIN' RETARD, Y'EVEN LOOKIN' AT WHAT'S IN FRONT OF YA??"

The kid stayed jammed up into his space, but at least he climbed off of his head.

"It's the network, see?" Sora explained, then switched to another window. "An' this is some leftover goodies from our dear ol' Minami-sensei. Ojisan had some unfinished business. I been lookin' into that 'cuz hell if I'mma let some labcoat fucktards get ahead again, an' it's not all that surprisin' that the Camp network structure's doin' some interestin' shit with it."

"So, what? You're trying to save us all or something?"

"Nah," said Sora, staring at the screen. "Altruism's a lie. Always is. Don't go in for that one so much no more."

"...yeah."

"An' what I'm lookin' for now..." On the TV, the crowd erupted in cheers at a double-play. "So... how's Ri-"

"Don't," Ikki interrupted. "Don't ask me about them."

"...yeah." Sora closed his eyes and leaned back with a smile on his face. "You known I was here for at least a week. What took ya so long?"

"Tch. Fuck off."

"Then get the fuck offa my couch."

There was some muttered cursing, and then he was gone, out the same window that he'd come in. Without opening his eyes, Sora reached over for the remote control and turned off the game. Then he let it just fall from his hand with a clatter, and let his arm drop back across the arm of the sofa.

He needed some fresh air.

The next afternoon, he took a trip out of town.

"So you're a psychopath," Umeda said, leaning in the doorframe of the entrance of his apartment.

"Yeah," said Sora, "I mean, that's what my prison-assigned shrink told me. I'm gettin' better, though. An' my shrink'd tell ya, ya shouldn't believe me when I say that."

"Just get inside, you stupid convict," Umeda muttered, casting glances up and down the street.

Sora laughed and rolled through the doorway. "Ain't nobody after me. But I appreciate the concern."

"So how did you- ooookay, standing, right, that's a thing."

"Yeah, it's funny, most folks on the street never knew me while I was in the chair. The broadcasts was just the battles, y'know? But for most of y'all who knew me more for longer, it's this," he said, patting one of the chair's handles.

"It was sort of a surprise to see you on TV. And the whole little vacation from gravity thing, feels like that one should've been more of a shock but-"

"-but Camp, yeah, I know, right?"

"Sora?"

"Yeah?"

"Get your bony demagogue ass over here."

"Cool."

A relatively tame but still pretty satisfying fuck later, Sora was re-adjusting the hinges on his right leg and Umeda had lit a cigarette.

"So," said Umeda, "I probably should have either asked this beforehand or not be asking it all, but are you really as crazy as you seemed?"

"Crazier. You don't wanna know."

"I mean, I actually kinda would, as much as I don't. Helps me to judge how much I should be regretting this and if I should be kicking you the hell out right now."

"So what you wantin' me to tell ya?"

Umeda tossed a towel into his face. "Sure, all of that battle thing was broadcast and we got the pretty speeches, but that's pretty much it. Everything was hush-hush afterward, whiiiiiiiiiich would be why you were saying that they also aren't making a huge ruckus out of you being out now, that makes sense in a horrible political sort of way, and our criminal justice system is so fucked. But anyways: you. That was the final boss battle. Camp was a sidequest. But there's years of play before the endgame that the rest of us here on the outside never saw."

Towel still on top of his face, Sora lay on the bed, thinking. He'd been sure that none of the kids had seen Umeda from the moment that Umeda hadn't immediately slammed the door in his face or dropkicked him halfway down the road. Which was what Sora had counted on – those punks would be all over the doctor if they ran into him by chance, but chasing down random civilian Camp acquaintances wasn't going to be on their to-do lists 'cuz they were stupid kids who could barely think about next Tuesday. And since Umeda was a civilian, he wouldn't have heard anything from Spitfire or Aeon, since the A-T network was kept on lockdown because government, duh.

"Lookin' for some sorta confession, Doc?"

"Am I ever that melodramatic? Just... tch, what am I looking for, it's not honesty, either, 'cause you're you." The towel was pulled to the side. Sora made a face, but Umeda just kept staring at him. Sora looked back for a few seconds, then pulled the towel back over his face. The bed shifted, and Umeda's voice moved across the room as he talked.

"Then again, maybe I know already. You're definitely you, but you've changed. You're still angry, but the world's seen that now. So what's changed is what you're hiding. Or maybe just where you're hiding it. Whichever it is, I think you're the one who's gonna decide if you're ever coming back here. Ugh, not that I've had any shortage of uninvited guests, you'd think I was running a boardinghouse."

"Oh, yeah." Sora tugged the towel off his face. "Where's what's-his-face?"

Umeda gave him a flat you've-gotta-be-kidding-me stare. "Gonna need a few more details."

"Y'know." He indicated around his head. "Spike. Memorize-Me dude."

"You can stop trying to be cute, I know that you don't forget names if you remember that much. Axel is fine, he comes and goes. Maybe he'll answer the door next time, set you on fire, that'd be fun."

"You seen my boxers?"

"Find your own damn underwear! Want a beer?"

"Sure."

It turned out that Sora's boxers had somehow ended up tangled in a potted plant, which was kind of nostalgic, seeing underwear hanging from vegetation. Sora managed pants, too, since, lazy as he was, those had become sorta second-nature ever since the legs, but that was as far as he got before he ended up on Umeda's couch, where they watched some random reality shows for the rest of the afternoon.

"I gotta be goin'," Sora finally said, rolling onto the floor and willing his shirt to magically fly into his hand. It didn't.

"You are the most embarrassing final boss ever," Umeda said, catching the edge of Sora's shirt with his foot, then throwing it into Sora's face.

"My magic worked!" Sora crowed as he pulled his shirt on, then yelped as Umeda kicked him in the head. By the time that Sora had finished getting dressed, though, Umeda has righted his wheelchair, which had spent the entire time tipped over on its side against a wall, and was kicking things on the floor out of his way. Pulling his baseball cap down over his eyes, Sora got back into the chair.

"Good time, man," he said as he started rolling out. "Though seriously, get some new-" He stopped abruptly, Umeda having stuck a foot through the spokes of one wheel. Sora looked up at him.

"Hey. Remember what I said. 'Cause you know that I'm usually always right. After all, I called it a long time ago that you're a total bottom bitch."

Sora laughed as he turned out the door and gave Umeda the finger. And as Sora wheeled away down the street, he knew that he wouldn't be coming back here, at least not anytime soon.

When he got home, he made a beeline for the computer. After he answered the sexually revealing questions that it was using as a password today, the status bar he'd left going for the past eighteen hours popped up: 100% complete. "Here we go," he muttered to himself, clicking 'confirm' and typing in the final commands.

His entire screen went gray, then began to flicker and blur, like rain. A smile spread across Sora's face.

One man's junkyard was another man's jackpot.

He crossed it off his list. Next up: Byzantium. That one would probably take a while. But eventually...

...well. It wasn't like Spitfire was going anywhere. Or the Inorganic Net. And when it came down to it, Sora was a very patient man. Maybe even when it came to himself.




"Everything... comes to an end one day," Tatsumi said, keeping his gaze fixed on the morning glories that filled the Kurosaki courtyard.

"When the time comes," Watari persisted, "it'll be you who's gonna be hurtin', though."

"...tell me something else I don't know." The flowers were beautiful, the brilliant violet of their petals like...

"Well, if it's fine with you, then I'm fine," Watari said, his deliberate flippancy not fooling either of them as he abruptly turned the conversation back to their investigation, which was growing more and more sordid, especially now that their covers as doctor team to Nagare had painted targets on their backs.

It had been like that ever since Tatsumi had followed Tsuzuki and Kurosaki-kun back from Camp. A few careful questions had established that all three of them were back in the same timeline, just a few weeks from their initial point of departure (so still long enough to get a good chewing out), with very little irregularity. Torii, Fukiya, and Terazuma had also retained their memories of their time at Camp, and Kannuki, too, eventually. Meanwhile, Watari had just observed their conversations with a mixture of amused curiosity and semi-concealed boredom, and Tatsumi felt the final confirmation in his gut that Watari – this Watari – would never be the one he had finally started to get to know.

The memory of the flames of Kyoto felt so cool and distant to Tatsumi, but for Watari, it had not been long since he had saved Tatsumi when he had nearly been crushed beneath the ruins of his own heart. And now, Watari would attempt to reach out again, and Tatsumi would pull away, then feel guilty. It wasn't as though he was making any noble attempts at faithfulness to someone he could possibly never see again, like the self-sacrificing heroine in some folktale – he just couldn't do it, knowing from experience that he couldn't be the man that Watari needed him to be. He wasn't sure how long Watari would keep trying, until he, too, figured out that it wasn't worth it. For both their sakes, Tatsumi hoped, against his knowledge of Watari's persistent nature and the isolating nature of their profession, that it wouldn't take too long. Then again, it seemed as though whenever they couldn't be overheard, Tsuzuki would mention how they wouldn't be here for much longer, so there was always the possibility of that mercy, as much as Tatsumi harbored doubts that he never shared with Tsuzuki and that Kurosaki-kun knew existed but never mentioned.

And then, the wormholes had begun appearing. Of course they couldn't leave when reality was falling apart around them, so Tsuzuki and Kurosaki-kun had gone off to Gensoukai. And then Tatsumi found himself partnered with Watari to investigate the mystery of the Kurosaki family, working in the field for the first time in over half a century – and felt like he finally solved the mystery of the tensions that had stood between him and Watari in Camp. Hindsight always seemed to be his punishment, Tatsumi mused, and he couldn't say that it was particularly unjust.

In any case, Watari's diagnosis of Nagare's health, setting a concrete and definite time limit on a case that already seemed to be accelerating toward its conclusion at a rapid rate on its own, gave Tatsumi a perverse sort of determination that could only happen when he knew that the power of choice would eventually be taken from him. And so he stopped merely being unable to prevent himself from caring: he let himself be guided by those feelings. His nights spent at Nagare's side grew longer and more frequent. Less often would a servant girl guide the master's steps; the visiting "doctor's assistant" would be there to offer his arm. It was easier to do when he knew that it would have to end. Even the night when Tatsumi saw clearly the additional cage in which tradition had trapped Nagare – one that he recognized with sympathy and that free spirits born in later times did not understand, that sealed box into which one placed desire – it was possible to bear that knowing.

And when the waters rushed around them, the roaring of Yatanokami shaking the ancient rafters, Tatsumi reached to join their hands – Nagare and Rui's, themselves too weak – so that they could be found afterward as honorable man and wife. If his hand lingered on Nagare's, then Watari was kind enough to pretend not to have noticed when Tatsumi turned to him and said, "It's time to put an end to the curses that the gods help us to bring upon ourselves."

Returning from Kamakura, they found the Shokan Division in a panicked flurry, Tsuzuki and Kurosaki-kun not yet returned, wormholes ripping all over the place. There wasn't much they could do on this side except for fight fires (figuratively and literally) and clean up as best they could as the situation progressed. The chaos was immense – enough so, Tatsumi found, that it was possible for some tidbits of wormhole data to fall through the cracks and into a humble secretary's back pocket. It was a harrowing week, but Tsuzuki and Kurosaki-kun made it back victoriously, if not without losses. It would take time to rebuild the stability of Gensoukai, let alone find some way to fill the holes in the hearts of those who had survived. For months, it was what occupied what seemed like their every waking hour – the amount of overtime was enormous.

And when the clock struck midnight for New Year's Day of the dawning of the new millennium, Tsuzuki leaned close to Tatsumi and whispered, "We found him."

He tipped Tsuzuki's face to press his lips to his forehead and murmured, "I have some information that might be helpful afterward."

He could feel Tsuzuki's smile, which warmed one onto his own face, a smile that remained as he watched Tsuzuki rush back to Kurosaki-kun's side – until he turned around and found Watari staring at him.

Everything, Tatsumi heard echoed in his mind, comes to an end one day.

"Happy New Year, Watari-san," he said, adjusting his glasses.

"Tatsumi, just don't-"

"-Watari-san, I don't know what-"

"Tatsumi." The hubbub from the party seemed to fade as Tatsumi met Watari's eyes. He was smiling, a sad and bitter thing, and tapped his own head, still housing connections to Meifu's Mother computer. "Just don't tell me. Just don't."

Watching Watari's back as he walked away, Tatsumi realized the possibility that hadn't actually been irrevocably lost until just then.

The following months of pain and exhaustion were well worth seeing Muraki finally dead, impaled on the teeth of the corpse of one of his own demons. Tatsumi would never say something as gauche as to express how much satisfaction he expected to derive from the death of that psychotic bastard, but if he had, he certainly wouldn't have found himself recanting it when the moment came.

The main downside was that hunting down the murderous doctor as a personal side project had left them with little attention to spare for Enmadaioh-sama's tightening noose on Tsuzuki. Whatever the Meifu lord's scheme was to use Tsuzuki's power to his own ends had been temporarily derailed by the fallout of the battle in Gensoukai, but that had merely been a stumbling block, a delay. It was clear that their window of opportunity was small and rapidly closing. Were the knot of the noose to slip tight, there would be no escape. So when their connection to Gargamel-kun's signal finally made it through and the passageway was opening and the alarms were sounding and there was no way that Tsuzuki would be able to finish the incantation before the guards made it into the room-

He gripped Kurosaki-kun's shoulder, careful not to touch skin. "Make him leave," he said and hoped that his gratitude was the emotion that was felt.

Tsuzuki's head whipped around, his expression of bewilderment too quickly starting to slide into betrayal. "Tatsumi, what are you-"

"Keep working!" Tatsumi snapped, then turned on his heel and began to head out the door.

"Tatsumi-san," Kurosaki-kun called.

One hand on the doorframe, Tatsumi stopped and turned around to look. Tsuzuki had resumed working the incantation, but his hands were trembling and Tatsumi could see his focus fraying. Kurosaki-kun stood next to him, staring at Tatsumi expectantly.

Everything comes to an end one day.

It was just a few long strides to go back to Tsuzuki's side and grasp one of his upraised hands tightly.

"However far away you are, you're always... I will find you," he promised. He let go of Tsuzuki's hand and sprinted back out to the hallway, allowing himself one backwards glance to see Tsuzuki and Kurosaki standing side by side. Then he grabbed every shadow he could find and stood fast.

He wasn't able to tell the moment that they were gone. That would have required diverting focus from not allowing anyone else to reach that room. But when he felt the last of his defenses giving out, he looked behind him and saw that the room was empty. He felt suddenly light-headed, a bubbling of hysteria creeping around the edges of his vision – and turned back around to find himself face to face with Watari, closer than the two of them had stood since New Year's Day.

"This is for your own good," said Watari.

Then Tatsumi saw a large robot flying toward his head, briefly had a very bad headache, and then things just sort of went black.

He woke up in a bed in the infirmary. His head was killing him. The room was dim with evening, but the silhouette sitting next to him was familiar and tired.

"It's a shame," said Konoe, "that your judgment was compromised and you were fooled into thinking you were defending against an attack when your efforts were actually being used as a cover for that escape. But we all understand that there was a history between you and Tsuzuki-san. Even the most clear-seeing eyes can be clouded."

"...what?" It must have been the hit on the head, Tatsumi thought, because the words that were coming out of the chief's mouth weren't making any sense.

"What I'm saying, Tatsumi-san," Konoe said very deliberately, "is that you made a mistake, after having been manipulated into believing that you were protecting Enmadaioh-sama's interests by taking the actions that you did the other night."

"...no. No, that's not what-"

"Tatsumi-san, I'm saying that that is."

"I will not let you-"

"Tatsumi-san, as your direct superior, I order you to shut up and let me handle this."

And that was how Tatsumi ended up on vacation for the first time since he had joined the bureau. Well, it was technically administrative leave, but Konoe-kachou and Watari and the others around the office called it "vacation" because it was such a funny joke, that workaholic Tatsumi-san had finally taken a vacation, and they were desperate to have something to laugh about. When Tatsumi returned to work a month later, Kannuki-san brought in cupcakes and Watari spiked the punch with an experiment that reduced the friction of anyone who drank it close enough to zero that the office might as well have been an ice skating rink, which was particularly bad when it sent Terazuma sliding into Kannuki-san and then they had a friction-less giant lion shiki crashing through the walls.

Tatsumi yelled at everyone, and everyone felt a little better.

It was almost shockingly easy to fall into everyday life after that. After all, it wasn't such a foreign situation – cases took people out of the office all of the time, sometimes for weeks on end. Especially for those who had been at the bureau for decades and experienced that many times with people whom you'd always end up seeing again, this was just business as usual.

It was difficult, Tatsumi discovered, to force himself to think that it was anything more than that.

Almost a year had passed in that dreamlike manner when the attack on New York City occurred.

"I would like to please request permission to serve as a representative and support staff assisting those working at Ground Zero," said Tatsumi. "There were undoubtedly some nationals of our own among the casualties; we need to offer Japanese solidarity and support in processing and also in preventing anyone from taking advantage of the chaos of the tragedy; it will probably be more clerical duties than the Peace Protection Bureau likes to deal with and I've done work for them before; we're still short-handed in the field here so can't spare any of our own agents; and do you honestly trust anyone else that we work with with anything like a diplomatic position."

"Tatsumi-san, I'm not sure that-"

"And, aside from you, I'm the oldest one here," he finished quietly.

Konoe let his forehead rest on his steepled hands. Tatsumi remained standing at attention, knowing that he'd been understood.

"I'll start seeing to the arrangements," Konoe said finally.

"Thank you, sir."

Taking care of the fallout was an international effort. That was a faint ray of light in this terrible darkness, Tatsumi thought as he surveyed the damage, that a system of support was weaving itself together, not leaving anyone to go it alone. There were a couple dozen Japanese among the victims, and as small of a deed as it was, he was glad to be able to be here to smooth that passage. He knew, however, that his initial impulse had not sprung from any altruistic sort of intentions. He was no hero, and he had never harbored any such delusion.

Even though the 27th Precinct was located much farther uptown, it was still a relief to confirm that there were no familiar names among those who had lost their lives in the line of duty.

It was mid-December when the work finally wrapped up. On Monday, he would be returning to the Shokan Division. But for this final weekend, his U.S. supervisor had literally forbidden him – she'd put up a ward and everything – from going into the office. So he supposed that he should finally address the first impulse that had brought him all the way to New York.

"Forgive my impoliteness for stopping by so unexpectedly," Tatsumi said when the apartment door opened, "but I'm just finishing up some business in town, so I-mmmph!"

His glasses fogged up from the warmth of the apartment, blinding him as he stumbled inside, but he heard the front door slam and then felt himself slammed against a hallway wall, one of Laytner's hands still gripping him by the scarf. When Laytner eventually pulled away, Tatsumi's glasses had defogged enough for him get a good look at the other man's face, which appeared almost identical to how Tatsumi had last seen him, the new shadows of many long, hard days at least temporarily illuminated by a shit-eating grin.

"...so I wanted to say hello before I returned to Japan."

"That count as 'hello'?"

"I don't think anyone would call that 'hellompppph-'"

"Okay, how 'bout that?"

"Trying the exact same thing again does not make it any more correct!"

"Aw, c'mon, it wasn't the exact same-"

"Tatsumi-san?"

Tatsumi nearly snapped his own neck as his head whipped around toward the source of the voice – where he saw Laytner's partner peering out of what was apparently the kitchen, wearing an apron and holding a large knife in his hand. He cleared his throat. "Mr. Maclean, I am afraid that this is exactly what it looks like-"

But instead of throwing the knife at his head, Maclean just laughed. "Of course it is. Oh, I just started- would you like to stay for dinner?"

"Yeah, we finagled gettin' the kids outta the house, so we're havin' actual food and everything."

"I couldn't impose on your private evening-"

"Not an imposition at all," Maclean cut him off, then disappeared back into the kitchen. "You do like Italian food, right?"

"Yes, I- thank you very much." He turned back to glare at Laytner, who was looking infuriatingly nonplussed about everything. "What was that?" he hissed. "You with- in your own apartment, when he's right there cooking your dinner?"

"What the hell're you- oh. Ohhh, you mean thismmmmpgh." When Laytner pulled back so that his face was no longer making full contact with the palm of the hand that Tatsumi had imposed between them, his expression was more serious, still smiling but with fondness rather than mischief. "C'mon, Tatsumi, what do you take me for? Me an' Ryo, we've talked, we've got things worked out. Particularly some things regardin' some specific people. Doesn't make the two of us any less of an 'us.' Got it?"

Tatsumi stared a moment longer, then let his raised hand drop to rest on Laytner's shoulder as he nodded with a small smile of his own. "Of course. I understand."

"...hey."

"Hm?"

"You're... speakin' English?"

"Well, yes. I have heard that that is what you do in America. Or so some claim very strongly."

"I'm just realizin', I don't think I ever actually heard you speak English, it was always the Camp translator thingy, right? 'Cuz you've got a little bit of an accent- I mean- I'm not sayin'- your English is great, it's amazin'-"

It was Tatsumi's turn to laugh as he took off his coat and hung it on an empty hook. "We should not leave Mr. Maclean to do all of the work himself."

Laytner threw an arm over Tatsumi's shoulders, the weight thankfully grounding as they walked together into the kitchen, where they set about helping Maclean with dinner, which meant that Tatsumi helped Maclean with dinner, which included a lot of pushing Laytner out of the way. As the spaghetti Bolognese came together, they caught up, which meant that Tatsumi listened to the other two talk about the past year since they'd returned from camp and deflected all of their inquiries about what he'd been up to.

Tatsumi insisted on washing the dishes after they ate, and it was a relief to be able to just work with his hands, the sloshing of the warm sink of water calming. His head was a little buzzed from the wine and when was the last time that he had been with friends? His New York co-workers had been fine people, but they'd all had more on their minds than office socializing. Besides, all of them had been aware that it was just temporary situation. Even back home, though, he suddenly realized how alone he had been, ever since-

"Hey, Tatsumi-san! You drown yourself in the sink or somethin'?!"

"Just finishing," he called back, and he let the sink drain.

The three of them were on the couch together – Laytner in the middle, cozy but not crowded – halfway through a second bottle of red wine and reminiscing about Camp, when Tatsumi became aware of the way that Laytner's hand was resting on his thigh. And how Maclean wasn't not noticing but was just leaning closer into Laytner's side and-

"I should go," said Tatsumi.

"You don't have to," said Maclean. Tatsumi looked at him. His face was flushed, probably a little bit from the wine but not entirely, but there was no discomfort evident in his expression, regarding Tatsumi very levelly.

"I... need to catch a flight tomorrow morning." He stood up and bowed politely. "Dinner was delicious."

"...yeah. Yeah, lemme help you grab your stuff," Latyner said, pushing himself up off the couch and starting out to the hall.

A year passed. Then another. And another. It was just so easy to lose track of time.

One day, Konoe began making very weird faces while reading a briefing that had appeared on his desk that morning.

"Konoe-kachou?"

"Believe me, Tatsumi-san, I'm no troll under a bridge, I don't want to go back to the time before fax machines-"

"-I don't think that the office fax machine has been used in a decade-"

"-and I know that Gensoukai is supported digitally, but sometimes I think technology has gone too far. When it starts unbalancing the ledgers of life and death? Apparently the registries have been getting screwed up by some AI that some Air-Trek gangs have been using, so they're bringing it to court now to argue-"

"-now that we're on the subject, though, I wonder if the fax machine could be auctioned off as a sort of historical- wait, did you say 'Air-Trek'?"

That was how Tatsumi found himself standing in a hallway with arms crossed, staring down a smug, suit-clad Aeon Clock, who was accompanied by an equally unrepentant friend with a shock of white hair – that would be Spitfire, according to the file that Tatsumi had read, and he was pretty sure that he'd been in Camp as well – and carrying a briefcase.

"So this was the secret job that you couldn't talk about," said Aeon, adjusting his glasses with a satisfied smirk.

Tatsumi ignored him. "I hear that you'll be representing your own case, positing the legitimacy of the Air-Trek community's proprietary AI system as a new and independent domain of post-mortem existential identity. I hope that you are aware that that's not a very popular idea around here and that Juohcho's legal counsel is no bunch of slouches."

"Trust me, I've heard it."

"Apparently, they really believe in the 'good cop, bad cop' system here, so you hear it and then you get to hear the remix," Spitfire added.

"If it's been said once, it's been said five times."

"Well," said Tatsumi, "that's what you get when you take on bureaucracy. You just arrived today?"

Aeon nodded. "One of your co-workers, I believe, came to pick us up."

"And yet..." Tatsumi gave Aeon's briefcase a significant look "You already have a case prepared."

"I'm sure you recall that I was, in my younger days, rather active in the corporate world."

"You should have seen him in the tiny suit and tie, it was adorable," Spitfire murmured.

"I do, in fact, remember that," Tatsumi said as Aeon smacked Spitfire in the head. "And no fighting in the hallway, any damage does actually come out of my own budget here, and I will find a way to charge it to you."

Aeon chuckled. "You haven't changed in... how long has it been for you? Since Camp?"

"It's, ah... approaching fourteen years now, actually." He smiled. "Why don't you both join me for dinner tonight? We can... catch up."

"Are you cooking?" Aeon asked.

"What else would you expect?"

Tatsumi knew that he should find the glances that Aeon and Spitfire exchanged to be worrying, but instead, he felt almost a sort of relief when Aeon said, "It's an offer we can't refuse."

For a couple of violently-murdered juvenile delinquent gang members who were currently shaking up the registries of the dead, Aeon and Spitfire were possibly the calmest, most adult-acting dinner guests he'd ever hosted. Of course, it wasn't like he'd had many guests over the past decade other than Konoe (who had taken to stopping by every few months, though it mostly out of pity, Tatsumi suspected, so that didn't really count), so the house still sounded livelier than it had been in many years. Very little catching up happened over dinner, most of the conversation centering around the upcoming case. Tatsumi had to admit, Aeon's preparation was impressive and Spitfire was not lacking in charisma. Whether that would be enough to bring them victory remained to be seen, but if the battleground were fair, their chances would definitely have been good.

"So," said Aeon after dinner, when Spitfire had excused himself to the bathroom, leaving the two of them alone. "Seen any other Camp alumni since you've been out?"

"Mainly just my own co-workers here," Tatsumi said. "I don't know if you remember Dee Laytner and Ryo Maclean? They were counselors, cops from New York City. I visited them once, we met up again when they came to Japan a few years later. But that's it."

"So... no....?"

"...I beg your pardon?" Aeon just raised a significant eyebrow at him, and Tatsumi felt a barrier somewhere inside start to crumble. "Ah, that, no, I... I've not had any contact with Fuuma. Did either of you discover any crossover?"

"The kids did manage to find those Mafia brats. So sometimes they get up to trouble together. Nobody else I can really think of, though."

"So, not totally isolated."

"Not at all."

Aeon had removed Tatsumi's glasses and was working on his necktie by the time that Tatsumi had collected himself enough to pull back from the kiss.

"Aeon-"

"Mm-hm?"

"This really doesn't seem like-"

"You always protest so much~"

"It feels like I'm taking advantage of your being summoned here-"

"Pfft, as if you could take advantage of me!"

"Besides, it isn't being a very good host given that your friend-"

Tatsumi felt the warm solidity of another body press behind him, arms reaching around to take the tie from Aeon's hands and loop it around Tatsumi's eyes.

"Speaking for myself," said Spitfire, "I'm entirely onboard with this."

...well. He wouldn't be being a very good host if he left his guests to wander around a strange house without guidance. After so many years living here, the blindfold wasn't any impediment in that sense. "The bedroom is-"

"Oh, yes, I know, I already checked it out," Spitfire interrupted him. "What? Do you really think I spent all that time in the bathroom?"

"I just figured that you were primping your hair," snarked Aeon.

"Do you want to wake up bald? I still have my tools with me-"

"Gentlemen, if you're no longer interested, then I have some dishes that I need to-"

"WE'RE GOING!"

Tatsumi gained a new appreciation for the utility of his king-sized bedding, which had never really seen its full potential until that evening. He also discovered hitherto unused applications of his own skill for multi-tasking.

When Tatsumi woke up early the next morning, it took his brain several moments to puzzle out why he felt the heat and weight of a body on either side of him. Oddly, it stirred the memory of the autumn morning in camp when he woke up conspicuously alone, down in the lab. All of the boxes that he'd helped Watari pack after Watari had received the letter recalling him back home had still been there. He carefully sat up and gazed down at the blurry images of the two sleeping. It might have been partially due to the lack of corrective lenses, but they looked... so young. Silently, with as little jarring as possible, he moved a couple of stray hands so that he could slip out of bed, grabbed his robe, and went out to do the dishes, still dirty from last night, and make breakfast. He ended up going back to his room to yell at the two of them that they needed to wake up if they wanted food and that breakfast fed the mind and that there were only so many hours in the day and that early rising brings seven advantages, of which they would need every single one given the task they had ahead of them.

In the end, a provisional compromise was reached. Tatsumi didn't bother much with politics because it was all corrupt anyways, but the long and short of it was that the status quo would be maintained for another decade while new methods of integration were developed. Not a complete victory, but they would have their own little world for at least another handful of years and the door wasn't closed on some version of it remaining. It was enough to go out for victory drinks afterwards, then spend the night alone back at the office, getting a head start on the archiving of the decision.

Tatsumi's life fell quiet again after that. It hadn't felt particularly quiet before – the Shokan Division was still as busy as ever, they were underbudgeted and understaffed as usual, turnover rate was at its customary high – but everything seemed to lack a specific yet unnamable thing after Aeon and Spitfire had returned to their own digital afterlife. And it wasn't, Tatsumi was sure, just because his sex life had experienced an explosive, if isolated, spike after fifteen or so years of flatlining. After all: refer to the years 1954 through 1999. He found himself watching Meifu's eternal cherry blossoms drift through the air – the unending impermanence. There was something... something he was missing.

And then one day as Tatsumi was walking into work, Fuuma came bursting through a wormhole passage, and he thought to himself that maybe it wasn't so unnamable after all.

"This place does not like to be reached," Fuuma said with a laugh, the joy of a challenge shining on his face. He looked a little older but not much worse for wear, all in one piece and certainly alive.

"You just had to use a wormhole," Tatsumi sighed. "There are probably about two dozen security alarms going off right now."

"Yeah, I'm aware, this thing is not being easy to keep open."

"Do you have any idea how unhappy Meifu is with this sort of intrusion? You couldn't have picked a less antagonistic way of visiting?"

"Not if I wanted to get back out again. Or... if you wanted to go traveling as well." Fuuma's face grew serious. "I can't guarantee where we'd end up immediately after this, the exit's so unstable. But..."

He held out his hand as a question.

Seconds suddenly began rushing by so quickly, each an individual knife prick.

There were so many tasks at the office left half-finished or not yet started. On top of suddenly being left without an assistant with decades of institutional knowledge, Konoe would take the heat for yet another loss for Enmadaioh.

He had never thanked Watari for the years of patience and the sacrifice of their own friendship; a good moment just hadn't presented itself yet.

Every material possession he had was here, all he had at this moment were the clothes on his back, and it had taken so long to escape not having anything.

This place had been his life for over seventy years, and he realized that despite the conversations with Tsuzuki and the others, he had never created a single image of what life outside of here might be. He didn't think that he was capable of it. It was everything that he had ever known contrasted against the emptiest of nothing. As long as he just stayed here, he could always convince himself that one day, they would come back and he wouldn't have to face how terrified he was right now.

Everything comes to an end one day.

Tatsumi let go and reached for Fuuma's hand.




In the end, they won, for a certain sense of winning. There was a truce or something – everything from falling back through the barrier and onto the battlefield through waking up in a bed and being told that they could go home now was kind of a blur to Mal. But Ozzer had found her brother and the other girls seemed to have achieved whatever it was they'd been after, so it was winning enough, and Mal was able to go off on a meandering journey of her own with few cares troubling her mind. After having been stuck at Camp, Mal just felt this impulse to... go places. Not that any of the places in the area were particularly notable, but it wasn't the places so much as just the going itself, like shaking out a limb that you've been sitting on for too long.

So when the letter arrived, she could barely control the toothy grin that split her face, and she made her way back to The Duchess in a giddy cloud of black bats.

"Why are you making that face?" Ozzer said when Mal stuck her head in through Oz's bedroom window.

"What face?"

"Like you've just pounded back five coffees. Also get in here and close the window, it's drafty."

Mal climbed inside and brandished the letter between two long, elegant fingers as she wandered over to Ozzer's clothes bureau so that she could stop being naked (downside to bat travel).

"I," Mal announced, "have received some news. Or rather, an invitation, so to speak. It seems that our... vacation accounts were not canceled when we left." She flicked the letter over to Ozzer. "The accumulation rate is much slower, but travel is open to basically anywhere and time of departure and time of return are guaranteed simultaneous."

"So... you're saying that no time passes back home while you're away?"

"That is exactly what I'm saying." Mal turned back to Ozzer with a satisfied grin, but paused at the weird look she was giving her. "What?"

"...my clothes."

"...yes?"

"Those are just my clothes, they're working clothes, they're not supposed to look- and you put them on and it's like..."

"...what? I mean, I just threw these on."

"Never mind."

(It was totally a vampire thing.)

Mal insisted that their first trip needed to be to the city of Seattle. She'd done some research back when they were in Camp, and she remembered that it was the birthplace of a great coffee empire. Also, not that she offered it up as a reason (and not that she offered anything up as an argument, because "argument" suggested that something was vulnerable to defeat), but she'd also read that Seattle was a calm place, and that seemed like a good destination for a first trip, especially with how hard Ozzer had been working on getting The Duchess back up and running.

After all, it wasn't like Disney World was going anywhere; there'd be time for that later.

It became a yearly tradition. Sometimes it would be the only time in a year that they'd see each other, and sometimes it would be after having been leading a regiment together for months. They switched off choosing destinations, sort of. Mal had more of an itch for whimsical adventures, whereas Ozzer had more of a remarkable level of tolerance. So Disney World happened, and so did Paris and Disneyland Paris and some magical sort of China and New York City (Mal felt very at home there) and Sunnyvale (Kon and Buffy had far more minors under their care than Mal had a taste for, but Ozzer somehow made them all fall in line) and Disney World (again) and then Mickey's actual kingdom and then Japan.

"You," said Rikuou.

"Me," Mal agreed.

"You," he repeated.

Mal just took a drag on her cigarette. "Step out of the doorway, your shoulders are blocking patron traffic."

He didn't stop staring, but he did at least unfreeze and join her in leaning against the side of the Green Drugstore.

"So, uh. New lifestyle choice?"

"Call it an old lifestyle choice."

"You mean you used to- oh. Oh."

"What can I say? Sometimes a lady has to take certain... measures. Back then, well, it was just easier to maintain the façade, since you never knew just who might show up. Besides, wouldn't you agree that running around like a man can be just a little bit of fun?"

"You look like Lady Gaga at a Mafia funeral," said Rikuou.

"Well, good for her," said Mal.

"Seriously, though, is..." He gestured vaguely up and down. "...this actually vampire normal? Am I being culturally insensitive?"

"I'm maybe being a bit formal," Mal hedged. "Are you free to catch some coffee? Ozzer is off arguing with some shopkeepers and told me to go away."

"I'm assuming when you say 'some coffee,' what you actually mean is..."

Mal grinned. "Choose carefully."

The coffee shop he brought them to had a brew that was actually almost as good as Mal's own coffee, which was impressive. Even better, the atmosphere was ideal for a couple of friends who had a lot of catching up to do.

"Do you need to head back to meet your friend?" Rikuou eventually asked. "You don't exactly have cell phones, or if you did get one just for here, I'm not going to ask where you're carrying it right now."

Mal waved a hand dismissively. "We're meeting for dinner."

Rikuou paused to stare at her from over the top of his coffee cup. Mal did not squirm, thank you very much, but she might have... slightly shifted in her chair with an uncharacteristic self-consciousness.

"Being 'a bit formal,' are we?"

"It's not-" Mal started. Rikuou raised an eyebrow. She snatched up her own coffee cup with perhaps a bit of petulance. "It is. It utterly is. I just... I told you, we get these vacations yearly, and this is our tenth one. It's a milestone. These things should be signified, especially with human life expectancies being what they are-"

"-okay, morbid and creepy-"

"-but she's not the type to go in for that sort of thing, and it's just so hard, trying to figure out what to do."

"Well. Okay. So first of all, what... exactly are you two?"

"It's... we... It's complicated, alright? We each do our own thing, sometimes we work together if we're both serving, but mostly she runs her family's inn, and I spend more time in the military and am traveling most of the time outside of that. And we're both happy with how those are going. But we're also happy whenever vacation time rolls around. And no, you're not getting details."

"And the omission is the answer." Rikuou grinned. "I mean, it sounds to me like you're both very independent people. Nothing wrong with that. Just because Ryuuken and I are both busy with our own shit doesn't mean that we're not together. And, I mean, we made things legal...ish, but if that doesn't signify what you want together, it just means that it's not for you, not that what you have is anything less. So yeah, I guess that actually would make things a little more difficult, since most of the traditional gestures are meant to communicate certain expectations."

"As much as I appreciate your enlightenment in coming to agree with me, you're not helping."

"Mal, what I'm saying is... I know that you vampires are all about traditions and conventions. But if you don't fall into any of those conventions, then you just have to be yourself. No reason it can't be as simple as that."

Simple. Mal turned the word over in her mind, narrowing her eyes. Simple.

"I'm thinking of buying a castle," Mal said nonchalantly at dinner that night.

"A... castle," Ozzer repeated slowly, as if to ascertain that the sounds she had heard were indeed the words that they seemed to be.

"Just a small one. Not planning on getting tied down anytime soon. But I'm thinking it'll be nice to have a place of my own. Seems like I'm always dropping in on yours."

"I don't mind it."

"I know! I mean, I wasn't saying that I thought you did! Couldn't ask for a better host. But I was just thinking... I'd like to be able to invite you in for a change."

Ozzer stared at her. Mal wondered if she'd gone too far. Was it too much? She'd even whisked Ozzer away to a different restaurant at the last minute, where, if Mal was dressed to the nines, the average sartorial level was more around a four. She'd thought it would help to de-signify things-

"Hey," said Ozzer, "I only left you out in the rain once. And you deserved it."

Mal stared. And then reached across the table to take Ozzer's hand as they both laughed.

Maybe it wasn't so complicated after all.




He felt Grantaire’s hand slip from his, and then his back hit the wall. The report of his executioners’ guns reached his ears but had little significance; his thoughts had already flown to the silence that would follow. Where was Grantaire? Had he fallen? All was darkness, so Enjolras tried to reach his hand out to him again, but he found that his body would not obey him. He was distantly aware of an ache in his chest.

And then: agony.

His eyes flew open, the pain so great that it choked him into silence and took his sight. But it quickly faded into a sore but bearable throb, and his vision adjusted to the low light to take in his surroundings: a room of construction and décor far closer to that of a place he had been long ago rather than the battered café in which he had been just a moment before now.

'Surely, it cannot be,' he thought. Pushing himself away from the wall against which he was leaning, Enjolras walked over to a desk on which sat a closed laptop. With a mostly suppressed hiss of pain, he carefully sat himself down and opened the computer.

The screen came alive to show a Word document with four sentences, devoid of punctuation, that took up the entire page:

HEY SUCKER

GOOD JOB SAVING

THE LAPTOP AND THE DUFFLE BAG ON THE BED ARE YOUR FUCKING STARTER KIT

HAVE FUN


He sucked in a sharp breath.

The clock in the corner of the computer screen read: 2:14pm, 6/6/2014.

By the turning of the hour, Enjolras had been through all of the computer's files and catalogued the duffle bag's contents. From the computer: a browser with a host of bookmarks already set, a language-learning program, and Word documents of bank information and a list of addresses. In the duffle bag: two pairs of denim trousers, two proper shirts (white and deep blue), one plain gray t-shirt, a dark gray jacket, an assortment of socks and undergarments; a hairbrush and toothbrush; scissors, disinfectant, and a package of bandages; a couple books, a cell phone, and laptop case; a French EU passport and birth certificate stating his date of birth as 6 June 1987; plane tickets from Tokyo to Chicago and from New York to Paris; print-outs of documentation for a hotel reservation through 13 June and the same list of addresses as had been on the computer; a wallet containing 50000 yen and a debit card; and a map of Osaka.

He took the medical supplies into the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror. Era-inappropriateness aside, the shirt was a total loss. Everything else seemed salvageable. He sat on the edge of the tub and scrubbed the blood and caked mud from his boots, then began disrobing. Removing the shirt revealed that his torso had already been bandaged; which, unwrapped, revealed eight wounds, sharply red against the paleness of his skin, their fatality vanquished but still not yet completely healed. They stung under the spray of the shower, but his body felt lighter as two days-worth of grime was washed down the drain. His head, too, felt light but unpleasantly so.

After re-bandaging his injuries and dressing himself in the new trousers and blue shirt, he used one of the bookmarked websites to order dinner to be delivered. It did not take long for a plain meal of rice, vegetables, and chicken to be delivered. He opened up the language-learning program as he began dining.

He was able to keep the food down for only a few minutes before he needed to rush to the bathroom to be sick. Kneeling at the toilet, he could see a few streaks of dirt not quite rinsed away from the floor of the shower. When his hand reached to draw his fingers through it, he could see its tremors.

He lost track of how long he spent there on his knees, but when he returned to main room, it had grown dark. Switching on a lamp, he sat back down at the desk to continue learning Japanese.

A week later, he stood at the front door of the first address on the list, duffle bag over his shoulder.

"Hello," he said when the door opened. "Camp sent me. From saving when I died. May I please live on your couch for a small time?"

It only made him wince a little when he bent to pick up the cigarette that had fallen from its owner's lips to the ground. He helpfully offered it back.

"Fuck me," said Umeda.

That was a figure of speech, Enjolras could tell, and not a request. It was gratifying to discover that he would not be hopelessly lost in casual conversation.

In general, it was easier to understand than it was to speak. Even though all of the languages in Camp had been automatically translated in each individual's brain, the experience had been as though one had spent the entire time actually hearing each foreign tongue. While it had been good amount of time since he had been in Camp, seven years of immersion in the Japanese language had made a positive impact for now actively attempting to learn it. Constructing sentences on his own, however, remained a challenge.

"So you're telling me," said Umeda as he ran a hand through his hair, "that Camp apparently activated your last save when you died? And just dumped you off in the year 2014?"

Enjolras nodded from where he was sitting on Umeda's couch, watching the other man pace back and forth.

"I have means and new things," said Enjolras. As ridiculous as the notion of a "starter kit" had been, it was genuinely helpful; his situation was not materially desperate, and he did not wish to receive undeserved pity.

"Yeah, I'm sure that's plenty sufficient for fatally violent trauma and being transported over a century past everything and everyone you knew," Umeda said, rolling his eyes and taking a drag on his cigarette. "Fine, whatever, of course you can crash on my couch, it's not like I have a choice."

"Thank you." He reached into the duffle bag that sat next to him. "I read the book."

Umeda looked over and raised a delicate eyebrow. There was something searching in Umeda's hard stare before he walked over and sat himself loungingly on the couch next to Enjolras.

"So tell me what you think about evolution," Umeda said, pushing his glasses back into place and bringing his cigarette to his mouth.

It was difficult to articulate his reaction to The Origin of Species, and how natural selection impacted the notion of natural law and what that meant for society, in Japanese. But there was something enjoyable in the challenge. His sentences may have been stilted and frustratingly insufficient, but after a week of saying "Where is the grocery store?" and "The metro will arrive in fifteen minutes" to a computer screen, speaking actual thoughts to another human being loosened a knot within his breast. Despite the haze of tobacco smoke, it was somehow easier to breathe.

"We'll finish this up another time," said Umeda a couple hours later. "Fascinating, but some of us have jobs to get to in the morning."

"Of course," said Enjolras. He put the book away and took out the package of bandages, as well as the undershirt and pair of pajama pants that he had added to his wardrobe.

"What the-" Umeda pointed to the medical supplies in Enjolras's hand.

"They are almost healed," Enjolras clarified.

"Don't those not carry over with saving?"

Enjolras shrugged. "They are only a part. If the injuries are full again, I am dead."

"Ugh, Camp," Umeda groused, then began herding Enjolras out of the living room. "If I'd known, I'd've checked you out when you got here. Chrissake's, I'm a doctor."

After passing inspection, Enjolras returned to the couch in his sleepwear and fresh bandages. Umeda must have left a pillow and blanket while he had been readying himself for sleep.

"Hey." Enjolras looked back toward where Umeda stood in the doorframe. "Let me know if you need anything, all right? I'm here. Doesn't matter what time. Doesn't matter how strange. If you wake up at two in the morning and don't know where you are, I'm right in the other room. If it's too stupid, I'll let you know so you don't do it again."

"Thank you," said Enjolras and turned off the nearby floor lamp.

He laid down and heard Umeda's footsteps retreating. An exhaustion so great it was painful had suddenly settled into his bones, and it was no more than a few moments before the darkness of sleep overtook him.

It did not take long for the days to settle into a routine. Enjolras would rise early and go for a run, usually returning around the time that Umeda was leaving for work. The daytime was spent catching up on 182 years of history, reading current news articles, attempting to relearn his own nation, expanding his language lessons to English, and performing whatever household errands and chores he could (as that seemed to be the least he could do in return). If Umeda was home in the evening, some time would be spent in conversation, equally split between material about which Enjolras was more accustomed to conversing and small talk about Umeda's day, the sort that had never been of great interest to Enjolras but which did much to further his language skills. A couple hours of reading, and then taking to his bed around midnight. Umeda gave him a spare key, and they functioned largely as two people living alone in the same space.

It had been a couple weeks when Enjolras returned to the apartment late in the evening from getting groceries and walked in upon Umeda being intimately engaged with another man in the kitchen.

"Excuse me," said Enjolras, as he put the vegetables away in the refrigerator, then drew a glass of water and went back out into the living room to read.

"What the hell," he heard the other man in the kitchen say.

Enjolras reconsidered his evening activities, and put his shoes back on and walked out of the apartment.

When he returned from his stroll an hour later, he knocked on the door.

"Yeah, come in," Umeda shouted from somewhere inside.

"I hope I did not cause trouble," said Enjolras as he entered and took off his boots.

"Ehhhh, no," Umeda said. He was sitting on the couch with a glass of something in his hand. "Told him I was letting you crash as a favor to a family friend. Wasn't planning on getting far with him anyway, he was the nervous kind that takes more work than I'm feeling like tonight. Hey." Enjolras had sat down next to Umeda and looked over now to see him fixing him with a hard look that was heavier than his voice. "Did you end up taking my advice? Getting some of that Paris romance?"

"I was busy with other activities."

Umeda groaned and took a drink. "You died a virgin, didn't you?"

"To attempt overthrow of government requires a big amount of time and energy."

"That didn't stop any of your friends, did it?"

"Their priorities are different."

As soon as he heard the words escape his own lips, Enjolras could feel them both waiting for the inevitable.

"...were different," he amended.

"Did that annoying guy you told me about still like you?" Umeda asked. The light from the floor lamp glinted in his eyeglasses and the glass in his hand.

"Yes."

The silence again hung in the air like the scent of gunpowder. The stirrings in his heart felt petty and unworthy of being voiced when held against the sacrifices of his friends. But to not tell of those men when asked made him the worst Simon, one for whom Enjolras did not know if there was any redemption; he held their lives in his voice, and he alone could now let them stand or fall.

"He died with me," Enjolras said, and it felt like a confession. "He could escape and live. But he saw me at the end and stood with me. I did not die alone." He looked down at his hand, and it seemed impossible that it still remained part of him when another had grasped it with such strength. "I always rejected him. Until that time. That time, we understood each other. To love until death is the thing most important. We shared it." He balled his hand into a fist, frustration with language rising up within him almost to the point of rage. "We were last. Bahorel died at the first attack. Jehan was captured and executed. I saw Feuilly, Joly, Bossuet, and Courfeyrac fall at the last attack. I did not see Combeferre-"

The words caught in his throat. A glass was pressed into his hand, and he took a drink for something to try to free his voice. It burned, but despite that, or perhaps because of that, it succeeded.

"I knew he was gone. He always fights at my side. I reached for my weapon and it was not there. He was not there. He was gone. They all fought. And they were all my friends. No, I had no lover, but I had my work and my friends. And they were both dear to me, and I could never be accused of being lonely." He took another drink and vaguely noticed that he had switched to French, but he continued, uncaring of whether he was being understood. "They were brave men whom I was honored to know, let alone call my friends. They were my family. And I now can only continue the work we did together, but in this new world, I do not yet know how. And the vision of doing so alone is a lonely one, and I will meet so many new people to whom I will never be able to tell any of this because I have been magically transported into the future, and they deserve better. They did not do what they did to be heroes, but nevertheless, it aches to see them forgotten, despite that being the shared fate of all but the rarest of men. It is our destiny to be eclipsed by time and fade to darkness, with the hope that we have provided light to leave something growing when we are gone. But I..."

The weight of an arm draped over his shoulders, and he bowed his head.

"I am now alone," he said in Japanese.

He allowed himself to be pulled into an embrace, and found himself leaning into the solidity of another person being present next to him.

"If someone told me a month ago that I'd be sitting on my couch with a hot, virginal, probably-gay Frenchman in my arms and absolutely nothing indecent happening, I would've laughed in their dumb face," Umeda grumbled into the top of his head. "Listen. Yeah, you're alone. The way you've gotten stuck here, you're always gonna be alone, to some extent, which'll be a bigger extent than most people can understand. I can't understand it. But you can always tell me about it. Magic zombie summer camp time travel doesn't leave you with a lot of options, but you've got me. And it can be in Japanese or French or Swahili, I don't give a damn. But it's not gonna be good for you to ignore how you're feeling. Even if it's not how you think you should be feeling. Because you're eventually going to find a new purpose and work-aholic yourself to insanity over that, and find new friends because you're an awkward and weird but very good man and also really good looking. But you've still got a lonely road where you’ve got to be the one to carry yourself through it. You know you can't lie about a vulnerable spot or pretend it's not there, and just hope that it doesn't give out. You've got to face it."

They sat together in silence for a few minutes.

"Want me to stay here tonight?" Umeda asked quietly.

A few more moments passed before Enjolras knew his answer, but when he decided, his voice, though low, was firm.

"Yes," he said. "And tomorrow, I will talk about them."

Umeda's body shifted around him as he reached to turn off the light, but then settled back, like the ballast of the airship that Combeferre had showed him one bright summer day as the sunlight had glinted in his eyeglasses but not obscured the innocent wonder of his gaze, and it held him steady enough to find rest.

Their routine continued. Running and research, learning and searching, Umeda occasionally kicking Enjolras out of the apartment to accommodate personal engagements. But the evening conversations shifted in nature.

One evening, for instance:

"We did often share a bed, but it was not the same as the action is today. There was only one bed."

"Was there cuddling? Um, affectionate physical embraces. Like, in each other's arms."

"Sometimes."

"Yeah: gay."

"You mistake me if your belief is that I fight the word because I do not like it. I object to the inaccuracy for me specifically. I am not inside the current dominant societal construct, so the label does not apply."

"First of all, you are not allowed on Tumblr anymore. Second of all, you may be from a different time, but you're here now. You might think of the things you do one way, but everyone else is going to be hearing your actions in the language of 'now.' Communication is a two-way street. Not saying you've got to care about the label, but it doesn't mean others aren't going to apply it."

And then on another:

"Are you bothered that I have killed people?"

"Does it bother you that you have?"

"I would prefer not to be in the situation to kill. But if I am there again, I will do the same thing again. I mourn the necessity but do not regret the action."

"Yeah, well, and I'm pretty sure the statute of limitations for violent rebellion have all run out at this point, anyways."

"It does bother you."

"I mean... I don't usually think of you as a killer. But there's a difference between a murderer and a soldier, right? And you're the latter, not the former."

"Killing is killing. Intention does not erase the act; the act is still a sin."

"Okay, you're just talking now. What's the thing that's actually bothering you?"

"It feels... disrespectful to regret their deaths. They entered this with the same willingness to die as I."

"...this is- god. Okay. Look. You're human, alright? You can regret your own loss. It doesn't mean that you don't... You can appreciate or respect one aspect while still regretting another. Your friends being the sort of people that you respected, it makes sense that that would just make you regret losing them even more. But most of all? It doesn't have to make sense. And it doesn't have to not be selfish. You're not made out of stone, and you're better off this way. 'Cause if you're made out of stone, then you stop mourning the necessity, and then where do we all end up?"

Not too longer after that conversation –- on the morning that Enjolras woke up and his dreams had been free of the scent of blood and powder for the first time in five and a half weeks -- he knew that it was time for him to find the second address on his list. When Umeda came home from work that afternoon, Enjolras was sitting on the couch with his packed bag resting at his feet.

"Time to move on, huh?"

Enjolras nodded. "I am forever in your debt."

"You sure as hell are. I better be getting postcards from Paris for the rest of my life. Not just postcards: chocolates, wine. A hot French guy every once in a while."

And so Enjolras laid a hand to the side of his friend's face and leaned in to press their mouths together in a kiss, chaste but direct, brief but unmistakable.

"Happy July," Enjolras said, because a revolutionary has good calendar-sense.

Umeda stared. Enjolras raised an eyebrow, expression otherwise deadpan.

"You little shit," Umeda said. And then it was more difficult to keep a deadpan expression, because Umeda leaned forward slightly and paused with a hand resting warm on Enjolras' shoulder, not hesitant but asking permission without words, and that rapport was so familiar that it ached. The small nod that Enjolras returned felt like an echo. But there were no replacements, Enjolras knew, and he also knew that it was acceptable to not have yet moved on. Perhaps this layering would be present for the rest of his life: everything being in a constant state of comparison. But there was no way to know that and, thus, no sense in dwelling upon it.

Umeda fixed him with an accusing expression. "You've been practicing."

"To practice," Enjolras asked, "in the meaning of a student or a professional?" He maintained an expression of the greatest innocence. "The language barrier for me makes it best to clarify."

"And this is why people hate lawyers."

It was early evening by the time that Enjolras reached the University of Tokyo. The address was for an apartment nearby, but he wanted to first see the university itself, both to know where his friend had been spending his time and just to feel the energy that generated itself wherever youth gathered. It was, of course, different from that of his own gatherings, but in the same way that the law school had differed from the medical school – uniquely shaped by their own respective natures but of a related taxonomy.

"...Enjolras-san?"

He turned and found himself face to face with a tall, lanky young man, the dark messy bangs falling into his eyes not hiding a look of surprise.

"It is you," Shinji said. "I thought to myself, that looks like Enjolras-san but that would be impossible, but I had the feeling that I was right, so I thought, you should just call his name because if it's not him, then he won't respond and won't even know that you were wrong, but if it is him, then you'll get to say hi, which will be really interesting because it's been such a long time and I'm sure that many exciting things have happened in Enjolras-san's life since Camp, unless Enjolras-san came right from Camp to Japan, but even if that's what happened, it's still been a while for me, and anyhow, I ought to be a good host. Do you like pizza?"

They picked up a pizza from a local take-out place and brought it to Shinji's apartment. Along the way, Enjolras heard about how Shinji had returned from Camp right back into the tennis tournament and how the team had gone all the way to Nationals, where they suffered defeat, but that Shinji and his class helped to lead an even stronger team the next year and had firmly enshrined Tachibana-sempai's culture of care and development for the upcoming generations. He had continued playing tennis through high school, but it was only a side hobby now that most of his time was taken up with his classes and lab work, since he was a student in Todai's physics department and was in his penultimate year and was considering graduate studies.

"But I'm sure that Enjolras-san has been even busier," he said as he closed the apartment door behind them and toed off his shoes, Enjolras setting the pizza box down on a small table, "with lots of things that would maybe be strange to talk about outside, and it's all right if you don't want to talk about them in here, either, but I'd be interested to hear them."

Enjolras sat down and flipped open the lid of the pizza box as Shinji grabbed a jar of pickles from the refrigerator.

"When I returned to Paris, it was as though no time had happened. My friends and I continued our work and our studies. In a couple years, we overthrew the king and also I became a lawyer. However, my practice was more against than of the law. A couple years after that, we thought there was another revolution. There was not. And when I died in the fighting, Camp used its saving system to bring me here."

Silence settled, not uncomfortably, as Shinji stared into the distance, munching on a pickle. Not until he had finished eating it did he respond.

"I saw the movie with Enjolras-san in it. It was really funny to see everyone singing but it was good music and also really sad. Even if I hadn't known Enjolras-san, it would have been a very sad story. I knew from Camp that lots of different versions of people and stories exist, but what I saw in the movie seemed like something that could be right. But I thought that I would never know for sure, so I created my own story for myself where everyone lived, because if I couldn't be certain of any story, I wanted to at least have my own. When I saw Enjolras-san today, though, I knew that something in the movie had to be right, because Enjolras-san wouldn't be anywhere except home otherwise."

They finished the pizza in another comfortable silence. Cleaning up the box afterward, Enjolras turned to his next item of business.

"I have a ticket for an airplane that departs at the end of the weekend. Have you traveled by plane?"

"Oh, yeah, I've been on a plane before. I could tell you a lot about it, which would probably be the most useful, telling every little thing, since they're a new invention for you..."

So Shinji talked and Enjolras listened, like it was the most natural thing in the world. First about airplanes, then about traveling in general, then about physics. They fell asleep side by side, and the next morning, Enjolras noted with surprise that he had apparently forgotten what it was like for waking to not be a heavy task of will.

The rest of the weekend was spent together, largely with Shinji studying for tests and Enjolras studying for travel, the two of them mostly silent except for when one of them would begin to speak at great length. Shinji accompanied Enjolras to the airport, where he was glad for the company, the sprawling complex and its modern crowds threatening to be overwhelming.

"Do you plan to ever come back to Japan?" Shinji asked.

"I don't know," he said.

Shinji nodded. "Let me know if you do. I'd like that... a lot."

"I will."

He embraced his friend, then hoisted his bag over his shoulder and passed through security.

Despite the copious advice he had read on how to sleep through a long flight, Enjolras spent most of the journey staring out the window. If only Combeferre could have seen this, he thought more than once. He was, then, exhausted by the time they touched down in Chicago, and there was still a great distance to go to make it to his next destination. It required learning how to navigate the Greyhound bus system and, at some deserted rest stop in southern Illinois, punching a couple of overconfident men in the face, but he made it to the third address in one piece.

The woman who opened the door was definitely recognizable, despite some marked differences from when last he had seen her – mainly about the ears. She looked him up and down in the manner that he disliked from women but which did not cause him annoyance in this instance.

"Are you selling something?" she asked. "'Cause how about we say that I've already got it. Also, let's assume that I'm already on your e-mail list, I don’t believe in voting on the full moon, and I'm a devout member of the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Does that cover everything?"

"Hello, no, it does not. Megan from Camp, I am Enjolras, also from Camp."

Her stare took on a twist of confusion, then an edge of almost panic as her gaze snapped to his face. Her hand flew to her mouth, muffling a gasp.

"...holy crap. Oh, God, you... What..."

"I can explain," he offered.

And then she grabbed him into a hug, which was uncomfortable but not unexpected. He felt the telltale signs of quiet weeping, and reminded himself that this was just like whenever Jehan had suffered from a surfeit of feelings, which was something that had happened quite often and often considerably less quietly than this. Fortunately, she was Megan, after all, so it was not long before she pulled back, swiping a hand across her eyes.

"Come in, come inside, I'm sorry, I... wow. Just... wow."

So they, too, shared their stories together, filling in a few more of the many blank pages that Camp left scattered to the wind with each of its departures. There was a little more crying when Enjolras related the end of his time in France, though he kept that portion of his tale as brief as possible; and Enjolras felt a dull burn of disappointment when Megan told of her inability to find Marius, her Marius. But in the end, there was a satisfaction at knowing and being known.

"Are you staying here for long?" Megan asked.

"My next airplane flight is out of New York City in a couple weeks. But I have no destinations before that."

"So what you're saying is..." Megan clapped her hands together with a grin. "Enjolras, I am going to show you how we do things in America. Like, real America, not zombie camp America. Though arguably... well, anyways..."

The following week was one of cultural education. It was very different from Japan, though he could not have said that he found himself to particularly prefer one over the other. Indeed, it principally highlighted how the longing within him to return home was intensifying. There was a set amount of time before that longing could be fulfilled, however, and Megan told him that he needed to spend at least a couple days in New York before leaving the United States, so they made the plans for that travel together, though he would be taking the journey alone.

It was going to be another long bus ride, departing very early in the morning. He had always been an early riser, so the hour did not bother him, but although he was in store for many long hours of sitting and waiting – not his favorite pastimes – there was an excitement churning within him. It felt good to be alive.

Despite her not having to be up for work for hours yet, Megan arose to see him off. As he stood in the doorway, she reached up and pulled him into a hug, which was surprisingly not intolerable.

"I know you probably don't want to be anywhere but France, but you'll always have a home here. So just let me know the next time you want to come back to St. Louis, okay?"

Enjolras nodded. "I will."

Then he stepped out into a street slowly being flooded with the light of dawn, as if the sun were painting a picture of the future before his very eyes.




"Maybe it then becomes the time to burn the book," Erik replied.

"You should know better than to mention book burning to an academic," Charles scolded him, pulling up the covers. "Coming to bed?"

"Soon."

"...well, I need to get to sleep because some of us need to catch the morning speech in Fort Worth. Oh- grab my briefcase, I've brought something for you."

It wasn't enough to make Erik stop brooding (and honestly, Charles was just barely holding his own nerves at bay), but he did comply, at least, sitting on the edge of the bed and floating the briefcase over to land between the two of them, opening the latches with a flick of his hand. Charles removed a large flat square and handed it over to Erik.

"Hank was able to develop a way to transfer the music from the disc that Jesse gave me to something that's actually playable on our current technology. I just... felt like if I had to have a copy, you should, too."

"...you are ridiculous."

"I am going to sleep."

Erik caught his shoulder as he turned to lie down. "Not right now, you aren't."

He couldn't help chuckling. "You are incorrigible."

"You don't need to catch the speech, that's not where we're hearing the chatter about."

"It's not just as a security measure, it's also my being present politically-"

"Screw the politics, stay here, help me keep Dallas covered..."

And a new page turned.
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Professor Charles Xavier

May 2015

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