The door to the bar swung open, and a man with shaggy red hair and a goatee walked in. “Well, if it isn’t my favorite bar,” he said, “and my two favorite ladies.”
“Hi, Brody,” said Elegy from the behind the bar. She was stacking rocks glasses. Elegy was a Fate. I lived with her in a time-traveling bar fixing time paradoxes.
The man who’d walked in must be Brody, and he was a volur. He sidled over to where I was sitting, nursing a rum runner. “Hey, sexy,” he said in a gravelly voice, heavy with suggestion. He kissed my temple.
I drew back, almost knocking over my rum runner. “What did you just call me?”
Elegy set down the glass she was holding with a clatter. “What did you just call her?”
Brody looked back and forth between the two of us and took a step backwards. “You guys seem different than the last time I saw you.”
By this time, I was used to volurs wandering into the bar who already knew me. Their timelines were different, and so they could have already met me, even if I hadn’t met them. “Probably different timelines,” I said. “I’ve never met you before.”
He raised his eyebrows in surprise. “You don’t know me?”
I shook my head.
“Huh,” said Brody. He looked at Elegy. “But you know me.”
She nodded. “I know you pretty well, Brody.”
“Yeah, um, what was the last thing we did together?” he asked her.
“The Titanic,” she said. “We made sure it sank.”
Brody’s mouth made a small round “O.” He laughed nervously and sat down on a bar stool. “Wow. The Titanic.” He looked back and forth between us again. “This is probably the most awkward moment of my entire life.”
Elegy and I both gave him a questioning look.
He laughed again. “Can I, um, have a shot?”
Elegy folded her arms over her chest. “Let’s go back a second, shall we, Brody? You walked into the bar, came over to Catherine, remember? Repeat what you said to her.”
“Look,” said Brody, “Elegy, you’re the person who told me that it’s better all around if we don’t know too much about our futures. I’m basically coming from your future, so I probably shouldn’t say much.”
My future? Brody knew me in my future. And he called me “sexy”? That must mean… I cocked my head to get a better look at him. He was an attractive guy. Trim. Tall. Broad shoulders. Big hands with little red hairs on his knuckles. He seemed to have freckles all over him. What was going on between Brody and me in my future?
Elegy glared at him. “See, the last time I remember that word you used coming out of your mouth, I was straddling you.”
“You were what?” I said. It was my turn to glare at Elegy. “You’re already sleeping with him?”
“I sleep with the volurs,” said Elegy. “At least the men, anyway. You already know this.”
Now that I thought about it, I did remember Elegy saying she was sleeping with two guys. One was Kellen, and I’d already met him, but I’d never met the other one. It must be Brody. But Brody was my… Well, I didn’t actually know him yet, did I?
Brody’s face had turned bright red. He turned to me. “Hey, it was before I met you, okay? And it was only a couple times.”
“Try ten,” said Elegy. “And why are you explaining yourself to her? She’s known you for all of two minutes.”
“Right,” said Brody, pointing at me. “You don’t know me.” He turned back to Elegy. “So, you seem kind of pissed off. And if I remember correctly, you were very no-strings about the whole thing. I’m a little confused.”
“I don’t want you to be faithful to me or something,” said Elegy. “I couldn’t care less about that. But Cathy? How could you want Cathy?”
“Hey,” I said. “There is nothing wrong with me.”
“I’m a goddess,” said Elegy. “You’re not.”
Brody scratched his goatee. “Maybe we should talk about the paradox I’m supposed to fix?”
“Why should I get your leftovers?” I asked Elegy. I eyed Brody. “Maybe I don’t even want him if he’s already been tainted by your touch.”
Brody took a deep breath, addressing me again. “See, I was pretty sure you already knew about Elegy and me… and I’m realizing that you did, because you found out right now, and this is a terrible way to find out, and I’m really sorry.”
“Are we like dating?” I asked him.
“Please, Cathy,” said Elegy. “It’s really not a good idea to know about your future. You could mess things up.”
“Yeah, I think I’m messing things up,” said Brody. “Maybe I should just fix the paradox and be on my way, huh?”
“Are you fucking her?” asked Elegy. “Because I’m not going to let you do that in my bar. I will never let you do that.”
Now I was blushing, because I was thinking about having sex with Brody on the couch next to the pool table and wondering if his penis had freckles on it too.
Brody swallowed. “Can I die now?” He ran a hand over his face. “The paradox, Elegy. Why am I here?”
Elegy sighed. “Oh, someone’s trying to kill Hitler again.”
“Again?” I said. “We just saved Hitler.”
“We save Hitler a lot,” said Elegy.
“I’ve saved him three times already myself,” said Brody, seeming pleased with the subject change. “Can I please have a drink, Elegy?”
“Vodka tonic?” she asked.
“Um, I’m actually I’m partial to rum runners these days,” said Brody.
Elegy gave him a withering look. “You’re kidding me.”
“Well, I tasted one of Cathy’s once, and it was really good, and—”
“You’re getting a vodka tonic,” said Elegy.
“Which I’m completely fine with,” said Brody.
Elegy began mixing Brody’s drink. “I’m moving the bar right now. The paradox happened in 1920, so I’ll drop you off there in just a minute or two.” She set the drink in front of Brody. “Drink up.”
Brody gulped at the vodka tonic, downing half of it. “So, I’m thinking maybe there should be a code word or something? Like, the next time I see you guys, I could ask you a question, and if you didn’t know the answer, then I’d know that we hadn’t lived this particular experience yet.”
I sipped on my rum runner. “Well, okay, I guess.”
“Yeah,” said Brody, drinking the rest of his drink, “because then I could avoid embarrassing myself.”
“What further damage could you possibly cause at this point?” Elegy said.
“Well, I could…” Brody trailed off. He looked at me. “I guess I already kind of screwed it up, didn’t I?”
Elegy nodded. “You said it, not me.” She looked up as if something had happened. “We’re here.” She waved a hand dismissively at Brody. “Off with you.”
Brody trundled out of the bar, hanging his head and muttering to himself.
Elegy and I stared after him for several minutes. Then I went back to my rum runner. Who was this guy? What was going on with him and me?
“Well,” said Elegy, “this means I get Gabriel.”
“How does it mean that?” I said. “Gabriel said he was glad I didn’t die. He totally flirted with me. Maybe all those volurs were only sleeping with you because there was no competition. Maybe I’m going to have the volur harem now.”
Elegy rolled her eyes. “You couldn’t handle not being monogamous, Cathy. Don’t be ridiculous.”
She was probably right. And the whole thing was weird anyway. “Well, I don’t know. I think Gabriel was more attractive than Brody. Of course, Brody does have all those intriguing freckles.”
Elegy smiled. “Yeah, they’re all over him.”
Which made me realize that Elegy already knew how all over those freckles actually were, and that made me want to punch her. I sucked the rest of my rum runner through my straw. “But don’t I get a choice here? I mean, some guy shows up and calls me sexy, and I have to be with him? By default? I don’t know anything about him.”
“I think you should take what you can get, frankly,” said Elegy. “Clearly, Brody’s lost his mind if he’s attracted to you instead of me, and I’d take advantage of it while you can.”
“You’re so rude,” I said.
Elegy picked up my glass, shrugging. “Another rum runner?”
“Please,” I said.
“You could be more grateful to me, you know,” said Elegy. “I saved your life, and I make you drinks all the time. And how do you repay me? By stealing Brody Lincoln from me.”
“I didn’t steal him,” I said. “I don’t even know him.”
“You haven’t stolen him yet,” said Elegy, “but you will. You backstabbing little hussy.”
Elegy scooped ice into my glass. “You could at least apologize.”
“I haven’t done anything,” I said. “And besides, it’s not like you don’t have enough men to screw whenever you want.”
“I have exactly one now,” said Elegy, pouring rum over the ice cubes.
“Which is enough for most people.”
“I’m not a person,” said Elegy. “I’m a Fate.”
“Right,” I said, “and I bet before you were in this bar, you didn’t have sex with anyone at all.”
“Just your brother,” she said, grinning nastily.
“Which got you sentenced to spend your life in the bar, anyway,” I said. “It’s against your nature to even have relationships with humans.”
“I don’t have relationships,” said Elegy. “I have orgasms. Get your priorities straight, Catherine.” She handed me my drink.
I took a sip. It was very good. “I’m sorry I stole Brody from you.”
She sighed. “Oh, don’t be silly, Catherine. As long as you’re both happy, I don’t really care. Besides, I’m sure you didn’t steal him. I’m sure I let you have him.”
And that was as close to nice as Elegy was going to get. I knew that by now. I grinned at her.
She smiled back.
The door to the bar banged open, and Brody came back inside. “Well, that was easy.”
Elegy surveyed him. “You’re done?”
“Yeah, bunch of stupid teenagers from the twenty-sixth century,” he said.
“It’s always teenagers,” said Elegy, making a face.
“Anyway, I scared them off and stuck them back into the time portal, and I think everything’s cool now.” Brody smiled. He was really very adorable when he smiled. And he had green eyes.
Elegy shook her head. “See? That’s what I’m talking about. Efficiency. It’s what we’re clearly lacking these days.” She turned to me. “Have any of the other volurs we’ve worked with recently been able to go out and get the job done this quickly and easily?”
I considered. Actually, usually it was a lot harder than this. “That was pretty impressive, Brody.”
“He’s good at what he does,” said Elegy. She winked at him.
I glowered at her. She didn’t get to wink at him anymore. He was my… well, I had no idea what he was to me, but I was feeling pretty possessive of him suddenly.
“You want another drink?” Elegy asked.
Brody sat down at the bar. “Love one.”
Elegy got out another glass and put some ice in it. “You know, Brody, whatever disgusting things you’re doing with Catherine in our future, you aren’t doing them now. We could have a last little fling here, you know?”
“No, you couldn’t!” I exclaimed.
Brody cleared his throat. “Elegy, you broke it off with me.” He looked at me. “Which I’m realizing is probably because you knew that I was going to be with Cathy, and…”
And what? “So, can you be more vague?” I asked him. “Do we have a fling? A kiss? Are we married?”
Brody opened his mouth to answer.
“Don’t say anything,” said Elegy. “We don’t want to know.”
“I want to know,” I said.
“No, you don’t,” said Elegy. “If you know, things might not work out properly.”
“So?” I said. “You don’t want them to work out, do you? You want Brody all to yourself.”
“I am not nearly that desperate,” said Elegy, setting a glass in front of Brody. It was another vodka tonic. “But I might be a little vindictive.”
Brody took a drink. “Vindictive?”
“I think I’m going to move the bar to feudal Germany and leave you there, since you’re refusing my charms.” She chuckled.
“Hey,” said Brody. “Are you overreacting much?” He looked at me. “So, since, you know, you don’t know really know me yet, would you mind if I—”
“What?” I said.
“You’ve never been to feudal Germany,” he said. “And it’s not like I haven’t had sex with her before.”
“Is there some reason I find you attractive in the future?” I said, feeling disgusted. “Because I have to admit, I’m not sure I’m seeing it right now.”
“You like my freckles,” said Brody, sipping at his vodka tonic.
“Yep,” said Elegy, “moving the bar right now. We’re already in Germany, so I only have to move back in time, not in space. Couple of seconds—”
Elegy choked, bending over.
Around us, the trappings of the bar suddenly began to flicker, like everything was just a television station getting bad reception. I looked to my left to see a staticky image of Kellen appear briefly and then fade out as if it had never been there.
Brody vaulted over the bar, supporting Elegy. “What’s going on?”
Elegy’s eyes bulged. “Doubled through myself,” she gasped.
“Elegy?” I said. I leaned over the bar, unsure of what to do. I’d never seen Elegy get hurt or anything.
Elegy wretched, like she was going to vomit. She clutched Brody’s arm to keep herself upright. “I can feel Meurtia Bliss. Get… get to her. She can—” Elegy broke off, coughing.
“Elegy!” I said.
“Meurtia?” said Brody. “I’ve worked with her. Where is she?”
“Close,” Elegy rasped. “She’s close. But—don’t let her see Catherine.” And she went limp in Brody’s arms.
The bar was absolutely silent.
He looked up at me, terror in his green eyes. I didn’t know what to do.
“Is Elegy…?” I didn’t want to ask if she was dead, but she wasn’t moving.
Abruptly, Elegy pushed herself away from Brody, standing up ramrod straight. She surveyed the bar, and gazed at each of us. “Where am I?” she said.
“Um…in Germany somewhere, I think?” I said.
Her gaze flitted about her surroundings. She pointed. “This isn’t Germany.” She looked down at herself. “And what am I wearing? I look some kind of Duran Duran groupie.”
“Well, I’ve always tried to tell you that,” I said. “Do you have amnesia, Elegy?”
“How do you know my name?” she said. “Who are you?”
“I’m Catherine. I’m your sidekick,” I said. Even though I hated it when she called me a sidekick. It seemed the easiest way to explain.
Elegy made a face. She turned to Brody. “And you?”
“I’m Brody. I’m a volur.”
“Volur?” Horror appeared in Elegy’s eyes. “Then I’m…in a praxidikai?”
Elegy had used that term to describe the bar before. “Yeah.”
“I must have done something wrong to be punished like this,” Elegy said, covering her mouth with her hand. “The only good thing is that I can change the way all of this looks. Right now.”
The bar had morphed into a green garden, with a sparkling stream running through it. There were ornately carve stone benches that Elegy, Brody, and I sat on. Elegy was no longer in 1980s clothing, but instead wore a long white toga that hung over one of her shoulders. Her hair was tied into an elegant bun on top of her head. She looked regal and royal, the way a goddess should, I supposed. But she was acting very, very strangely.
“Why would I do any of that?” said Elegy. “Why would I have a relationship with a mortal or make my praxidikai look like a bar or wear awful clothes?”
She did have amnesia, apparently, but it wasn’t total amnesia. She seemed to have wiped out a huge portion of her life. She knew who she was, but she didn’t remember anything besides being a Fate. She didn’t remember my brother. She didn’t remember being punished to fix time paradoxes. She didn’t remember that she loved the eighties. This was a younger Elegy Flynn.
“You’ve always been this way,” I said. “I don’t know.”
“Well, it’s positively horrid,” said Elegy. “I’ve become sordid and laughable. I never thought I’d sink so low.”
Neither Brody nor I seemed to know what to say.
“I serve alcohol?” said Elegy, looking scandalized. “I mix drinks?”
“Um, yeah,” said Brody.
“How common.” Elegy shivered. She stood up. “If you’ll excuse me, this is all a bit much to take. I’m going to walk a little.” She set off into the pretty garden she’d created for herself.
Brody and I sat on the benches and watched her go.
“What happened to her?” I said.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Something made her lose her memory, though.” He took my hand. “You okay?”
I liked the way his hand felt around mine. It was so much larger and stronger, and I peered down at the little red hairs on his knuckles. I smiled up at him.
He dropped my hand. “Sorry. I keep forgetting we’re not…”
“Not what?” I said.
“Do you remember what Elegy said before this happened? About Meurtia?”
So he was going to avoid the subject, was he? I sighed. “I sort of remember. But I don’t understand any of it.”
“Meurtia is another Fate,” said Brody. “I’ve worked with her before to fix paradoxes. Elegy said she was close, and that I had to get to her. That has to mean that her praxidikai is nearby. I’ve got to leave and go look for it.”
I peered around the garden. “Leave how? There’s no door anymore.”
Brody pointed across the garden at a rod iron gate, crawling with ivy. “I think that’s the way out, actually.”
“So, you’re just going to go? You’re going to leave me alone with Amnesiac Elegy?”
“Well, you can’t leave here,” said Brody, “so you can’t come with me. If Meurtia can help, then I have to try.”
I bit my lip. “You think Meurtia could get Elegy back to normal?”
He shrugged. “Maybe. I hope so.” He stood up. “You’ll be fine here. It’s still Elegy, even if she doesn’t remember anything.”
That was true, but Elegy seemed completely different. I stood up too. “Are you going to bring Meurtia back here?”
“I don’t know. The Fates are tied to their praxidikai. You know how Elegy can’t leave the bar? Well, Meurtia can’t leave her praxidikai either.”
“What’s hers look like? I heard that someone has a hair salon.”
Brody rolled his eyes. “Clothos.” He tapped his temple. “She’s a little nuts.”
“More nuts than Elegy? Is that possible?”
He laughed. “Meurtia’s praxidikai is just like a house. She’s got a nice parlor to receive the volurs. I’ve never seen the rest of it.”
“Boring,” I said.
He shrugged. “Yeah. Pretty much.” He shot a glance over at the gate. “Okay, I’ll be back. If for some reason Meurtia can come back here, remember that you need to stay out of sight. She can’t know you’re still alive.”
I nodded. “I’ll be careful.”
“Good.” He leaned it and kissed me quickly on the lips, as if it was as natural as breathing. “Love you.”
I put my fingers to my lips, feeling stunned.
He cringed. “Damn it, I keep forgetting you’re not my girlfriend yet.”
“I’m your girlfriend?” I murmured.
“Damn it.” He ran a hand through his hair. “So that’s the first time I kissed you, huh? That was a terrible first kiss.” He turned and started across the garden, muttering to himself.
I ran after him and grabbed him by the shoulder. “Well, maybe we should try again?” I presented my lips to him expectantly.
“No,” he said. “This is all wrong. You can’t start kissing me because I’m telling you that you’ll care about me in the future. You have to develop feelings for me.”
“I’m developing them,” I said. There was something about a hot guy telling you he loved you out of the blue that—actually, that sounded like usually it would be completely creepy. Maybe it was only that I was curious. Why did I like this guy? Why did he like me?
He smiled at me. “I can’t kiss under pressure. Watch Elegy, okay? Whatever happens, don’t let her move the bar.” He looked around. “The garden. Whatever it is.”
Brody strode through the gate and disappeared. I turned and walked through the garden until I found Elegy, who was sitting on a bench, gazing out over the garden with a mournful expression on her face.
“You okay?” I said.
She didn’t even look at me. “Who are you, anyway? The other man was a volur. You’re not. You’re just a normal human. What are you doing here?”
“Well, it’s a long story,” I said. “You saved my life, because I’m the sister of the guy you fell in love with. The one that got you sentenced to fixing time paradoxes.”
She turned to me sharply. “You’re supposed to be dead?”
I nodded. “But I’m not, thanks to you.”
Her eyes widened. “That’s awful. I changed the threads of Fate! I ruined everything. What have I become? How could I change into someone who rebels against all the very things I valued the most?”
I wasn’t sure what to say. “Well, it’s not that bad, Elegy. Fate’s cruel sometimes. You make things better.”
She put a finger in my face. “It is not about being cruel or kind. Some things simply have to happen.”
“Why?” I said. Maybe this version of Elegy would explain things without insulting me for being stupid.
But Elegy only sputtered. “Why? What a stupid question. There is no why. Fate simply is.”
Okay, clearly not. “You’re really not that different after all.”
“My future self has become infected with you humans,” said Elegy. “It’s disgusting. Fates can’t become involved with human emotion. There’s no place for that in our world. We are impartial and all-knowing. If we descend to the level of humanity, we degrade ourselves.”
“Well, there must have been something about my brother that changed your mind, I guess,” I said.
“I can’t imagine what,” said Elegy. She eyed me. “You shouldn’t even be alive. I can’t allow you to remain in my praxidikai any longer.”
“But if I leave, I’ll die,” I said.
“And you are supposed to be dead, are you not?”
I gulped. “You’re going to kill me?”
“I’m going to right the wrong that I caused by saving your life,” she said. “It’s your fate to die, so die you shall. Now tell me where and when to take you, so that you can greet your fate properly.”
“You think I’m going to tell you that?” I said. “You’re crazy.” All right, this wasn’t going well. What if Elegy threw me out of the garden gate because I wasn’t supposed to be alive? Would the Fates vaporize me right away or I would I somehow be sucked back into my old life? Would I have to experience Richard beating me to death?
Elegy stood up and advanced on me.
I backed away.
Elegy’s eyes glowed white. The garden became windy, and the sky turned black and stormy. She stretched her arms out, seeming to grow taller and more menacing.
I tripped over my feet as I tried to get away from her. “This is like what you did when you scrambled Shakespeare’s brains, isn’t it?”
Elegy sank back to normal. The sky cleared. She looked horrified. “I scrambled William Shakespeare’s brains?”
“Well, you fixed it,” I said. “But at first you did, yeah.”
“Why would I do such a thing?”
“Um, you were mad at him because he was being a huge dick to a volur.”
Elegy’s eyes widened. “But that’s absolutely idiotic. Why would I endanger the proper path of history simply to punish one mortal’s transgressions?”
“Uh, I guess you liked the volur?” I wasn’t really sure why she’d done it myself.
Elegy shuddered. “How can I have become so sickeningly human?”
“Well, you’re really not very human,” I said. “I mean, I think you’re pretty weird. And you’re not really that nice most of the time. You call me names a lot, and you don’t seem to care about the feelings of the volurs you’re sleeping with—”
“Sleeping with? You’re telling me I engage in sexual intercourse?”
I nodded. “Is that a thing most Fates don’t do?”
“Of course not.”
“So, how do you make baby Fates then?”
She gave me a withering look.
“Don’t you guys have to reproduce?” I thought about it. “Actually, are all the Fates female?”
“We are immortal beings,” said Elegy.”There is no need for reproduction.”
“Right, well, I guess you mostly do it for fun anyway, since you told me no one could get pregnant in the bar.” I shrugged.
“Stop calling it a bar,” said Elegy. “I will never let my praxidikai look like that ever again.”
I heard the sound of the gate swinging open. “Elegy?” called Brody’s voice. “I know you’re all alone in here, and Meurtia is with me. Her praxidikai is docked right up against yours.”
Crap. I needed to hide. I darted away from Elegy and crouched behind a bush a few feet away. I could watch what was happening through the leaves, but they couldn’t see me.
“Where are you going?” Elegy yelled after me. She turned to face Brody and Meurtia as they approached. Meurtia looked exactly the way Elegy did now. She was wearing a toga, had her hair in an elaborate updo. They looked like sisters. Maybe the Fates were sisters. I didn’t know. “I’m not alone, you know. That girl—”
“Of course you’re not alone anymore,” said Brody. “We’re here now.” He gave Meurtia a concerned look. “She’s pretty confused, as you can see.”
Meurtia pursed her lips, staring at Elegy. “Tell me exactly what happened again, Brody.”
“She was moving the bar,” said Brody, “and then suddenly she choked and started coughing. She said I needed to come find you.”
“I don’t understand,” said Meurtia. “What happened to her?”
“She’s not herself,” said Brody. “She seems to have lost her memory.”
“Well, it’s really fine,” said Elegy, “because I’d rather not remember all those horrible things I’ve done. Really. Sexual relations with mortals? Ugh.” Elegy gagged.
Meurtia raised her eyebrows. “Really, Elegy? You’ve been doing things like that? How?”
“The volurs,” said Elegy. “Or so they tell me, anyway.”
“They?” said Meurtia.
“She means me,” said Brody, who was turning red. “She’s confused, like I told you.”
Meurtia turned her head slowly to Brody. “You told her that she’d had sex with volurs?”
“Uh… it sort of came up in conversation,” said Brody.
Brody fidgeted. “Is this really all that important?”
Meurtia patted Elegy on the shoulder. “I think it’s just wishful thinking on this young man’s part, Elegy.” She wagged a finger in Brody’s face. “Shame on you for having fun at her expense.”
Brody folded his arms over his chest. “Right. I made it all up,” he said in a flat voice.
“It wasn’t him that told me,” said Elegy. “It was the girl.”
“There’s no girl, Elegy,” said Brody. “Just me and you here. That’s all.”
“There is a girl,” said Elegy. “She’s hiding—”
“Nope,” said Brody. He turned to Meurtia. “You see why I’m worried?”
Meurtia knitted her eyebrows. She leaned close to Brody. “ Did you make it up? Or were you really intimate with Elegy?”
Brody pulled away from her. “I thought we were done talking about that.”
“Did it work okay?” Meurtia wanted to know. “The two of you had…compatible parts?”
Brody raised his eyebrows. “Um…”
Meurtia shook her head. “And there haven’t been any consequences for her doing that, I don’t suppose. Why would there be? The volurs certainly wouldn’t complain. I suppose we could all do it if we wanted, couldn’t we?” She smiled at Brody.
Brody backed further away. “Yeah, well, you know, it really was just wishful thinking on my part, actually. I’m awful. She’s just, you know, so attractive and all that.” He shoved his hands in his pockets. “Listen, she seemed to think you could help her.”
“Elegy’s always pushing the boundaries,” said Meurtia. “Breaking all the rules.”
“I’m not a rule breaker,” said Elegy.
Meurtia threw back her head and laughed. “You really do have amnesia.”
“Well,” said Elegy. “Clearly, I’m a rule breaker now. But I don’t remember breaking any of those rules. And I want to mend my ways. Which is why we need to find that girl—”
“There’s no girl,” Brody insisted. “Meurtia, there is one other thing she said before this happened. She said something about doubling over herself or through herself… Does that mean anything?”
Meurtia considered. Then her eyes lit up. “Have she ever had the praxidikai in this general vicinity before?”
“Well, yeah,” said Brody, “we were saving Hitler again. She’s been through that tons of times.”
“The praxidikai crossed itself,” said Meurtia. “It occupied the same space and time for a brief moment. You didn’t notice it because mortals can’t feel dimensions like that, but it would have had quite an effect on Elegy. When this happens, amnesia is typical.”
“Is there anything we can do about it?” said Brody.
Meurtia nodded. “I can restore her memory. As a Fate, I have that power. Give me your hand, Elegy.”
“I don’t want my memory restored,” said Elegy, shaking her head. “I don’t want to become that horrible whore again, changing human’s fates like that girl in here, who’s supposed to be dead.”
“There’s no girl.” Brody’s voice was firm.
“There is a girl,” said Elegy. “She ran off just when you came in. She needs to be returned to her life and live out her fate. That’s the order of the universe.”
Meurtia looked at Brody. “What’s she talking about?”
Brody shrugged. “I have no idea.”
“That’s odd,” said Meurtia, “because she shouldn’t have become delusional. Crossing herself should have wiped her memory, but not made her crazy.”
“I’m not crazy,” said Elegy. “Help me find her, Meurtia. She said she’s the sister of that man I apparently fell in love with. The thing I did to get myself stuck in this praxidikai in the first place.”
Meurtia looked alarmed. “You say she’s supposed to be dead?”
“Can you just help Elegy, please?” said Brody. “Never mind her crazy talk.”
Meurtia turned to Brody. “Well, perhaps she hid this girl from you, Brody. Perhaps, if she really did interfere with her fate, she wouldn’t have wanted anyone to know. Maybe there is a girl, but you’ve never seen her.”
This wasn’t good. Behind the bush where I hid, I held my breath. What would happen if Meurtia found me? Elegy has specifically said that Meurtia shouldn’t see me, so it couldn’t be anything good. She would want to kill me, wouldn’t she? I didn’t want to die.
Brody shook his head. “Elegy’s not exactly a secretive person. I don’t think she hid anything from me.”
“Oh, he knows all about her,” said Elegy. “He’s lying to you, because he doesn’t want anything to happen to her. Humans get so attached to each other, you know?”
Meurtia’s expression grew stormy. “You’re lying to me, Brody?”
Brody clasped his hands together. “Help Elegy. If we get her back to normal, we can sort all of this out.”
Elegy stalked away from them, heading straight for me. “I’m back to normal now. Whatever I’ve done since has been a bout of madness. This is the real me. And I’m going to find this girl, so we can send her back to her fate.”
I needed to move, didn’t I? I glanced around. Where could I go? There were other bushes, but if I ran for one, I’d expose myself.
Elegy was coming closer.
I backed further into the bush. Maybe I could hide inside the branches. Maybe she wouldn’t see—
Elegy grasped me by the arm and yanked me out. “See? Here she is.”
Brody flinched. “Elegy, if you knew what you were doing, you’d never want this.”
I tried to wrench my way out of Elegy’s grasp, but she was too strong. She dragged me with her back over to Meurtia.
Meurtia was shaking her head. “Elegy, when they find out you’ve done this, you’ll never get out of the praxidikai.”
“Even if I make it right?” said Elegy. “Even if I undo what I’ve done?”
“It’s not Elegy’s fault,” spoke up Brody.
Elegy and Meurtia both looked at him.
“It’s my fault,” he said. “She’s not Elegy’s ex’s sister or anything. We told her that after she lost her memory so she’d think it was her fault and keep her mouth shut. Clearly it didn’t work. Catherine’s my girlfriend. I saved her life. I stowed her away on Elegy’s praxidikai and kept her hidden. It’s got nothing to do with Elegy. Now please fix her.”
“I didn’t save her?” Elegy asked.
“No,” said Brody. “And you never slept with volurs.”
“I never scrambled Shakespeare’s brain?”
“No,” said Brody, looking confused.
“What?” said Meurtia.
“What about my praxidikai?” said Elegy. “Why was it a bar? Why was I dressed the way I was?”
“We were heading to the 1980s,” said Brody. “You never let it look that way otherwise. Everything I told you was a lie. But you need your memories back.”
Elegy heaved a deep sigh. “Well, okay. Meurtia, go ahead.”
Meurtia was glaring at Brody in disgust. “How could have deceived her so badly?”
“I was trying to save Catherine,” said Brody.
That didn’t make any sense, of course, but Meurtia didn’t appear to be trying to puzzle out Brody’s story. I wasn’t sure I liked Brody taking the fall for this, but as soon as Elegy was back to herself, she’d fix everything. She always did.
Meurtia took Elegy’s hand. The two of them suddenly lit up bright as a gleaming star. Their bodies glowed blindingly, and there was a humming noise that emanated from the two of them. Then Meurtia released Elegy, whose body tumbled to the ground lifelessly.
“She’ll be unconscious for a little while,” said Meurtia, “but when she wakes up, she should be fine.”
“Unconscious?” said Brody, looking green.
“How long?” I said. How was Elegy supposed to help us if she wasn’t even awake?
Meurtia’s lips curled into a nasty smile. “You two, on the other hand, should be out of her hair before she even wakes up. I’m taking you to the Fates, who will decide how to punish you. You’ve violated the order of the universe, and you’ve used us to make it happen. It won’t stand.”
“Punish?” I said in a tiny voice. “What kind of punishment are we talking about here?”
Meurtia shrugged. “Well, I imagine it will culminate in death, but I’m sure it will be very painful beforehand. You can’t be allowed to get away with manipulating the very fabric of the universe.”
Brody swallowed. His face was ash. “Why can’t you leave Cathy out of it? It was my fault. I did it.”
“No, Brody,” I said. “It’s not your fault.” Why was he determined to take the blame for this?
“She’s supposed to be dead,” said Meurtia. “She can’t be ‘left out of it.’” She seized both us by the arm, and she was very strong. We couldn’t help but stumble along next to her as she yanked us toward the gate of the garden.
Brody caught my eyes. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered. The look he gave me made my heart skip a beat.
“Wait,” I said. “This can’t happen, because you’re supposed to meet me in my future. I have to have a future for that to happen. We can’t die, Brody.”
“I don’t think it works like that,” he said.
“Shut up, both of you,” said Meurtia.
“Of course it does,” I said. “How many times has Elegy told us that time is set and can’t be changed?”
“I don’t think it’s like that inside the praxidikai,” said Brody.
Meurtia stopped short in front of the gate, seeming to realize she had her hands full with both of us, and she couldn’t open it. She glared at both of us. “I’m going to let go so that I can open the portals between the praxidikai,” she said. “If either of you run off or do anything to annoy me, I guarantee you I will make sure you regret it. Understand?”
But Brody seemed distracted. “Oh,” he whispered. “This is what I did. This is why you said I saved you. This is why they came for me.”
“Do you understand?” Meurtia repeated, glowering at him.
Brody lifted his chin defiantly. “I won’t let you hurt her. Never.”
Meurtia let go of me and put both of her hands on Brody’s shoulders. She squeezed and looked directly into his eyes. Her own eyes began to glow white hot, like Elegy’s had earlier.
Brody kept eye contact with her. He fumbled with the gate with one hand. “Get out of the way, Cathy,” he said in a low voice.
“You will do as I say,” said Meurtia.
Brody’s hand pulled the gate open.
Meurtia suddenly looked panicky. She let go of Brody. “My praxidikai. It’s not open!”
I backed away, taking Brody’s advice.
Brody grabbed hold of Meurtia’s hair, pulling out her fancy topknot.
“What are you doing?” Her hands went to Brody’s hands on her. She pried at them, shrieking. “Let go!”
Brody launched himself backwards out of the gate, pulling Meurtia along with him.
There was a blood-curdling scream, following by an explosion of bright white light. I turned away, closing my eyes against it. The force of it rippled into the garden, knocking me down on the ground. The sound seemed to echo in my ears.
I lay stunned, pain jolting through the places where I’d hit the ground. I opened my eyes.
Brody was kneeling over me. “You okay?”
“What did you do?” I said.
He gathered me into his arms, pulling me tight against his chest, smoothing one hand over my hair. He was shaking. “I took her out into the world, outside of the praxidikai. It killed her. Fates like Elegy and Meurtia have to stay in the praxidikai. If they don’t…”
“Oh my God,” I murmured.
“I couldn’t let her hurt you,” he said. He loosened his grip on me, gazed down into my eyes.
I looked up into his. They were so green. I thought I might get lost in them.
And then we were kissing, and it was nothing like the little peck he’d given me before. It was fierce and urgent. One of his hands was tangled up in my hair, the other held my body tight against his chest. His mouth was on mine, nudging sweet thrills through me. I clung to him, caught up in the feel of him, how strong and male he was, how exciting and new it was to taste his lips.
“So I lose my memory one time, and you two are already making out.”
We broke away from each other.
Elegy stood over us. She was grinning. She snapped her fingers, and the garden around us faded back into the familiar bar. “God, what am I wearing?” She wrinkled up her nose. Her garments changed too, so that she was in a loose fitting t-shirt and leggings. “Who wants a drink?”
“Uh, Elegy?” said Brody. “I kind of killed Meurtia.”
Elegy’s eyes got big.
We were sitting at the bar. Even Elegy was on a bar stool. She had a bottle of tequila, and she was liberally pouring shots into our glasses every time she noticed they were empty. Elegy downed another shot and shivered. “Well, I’m absorbing her praxidikai into mine, so no one should be able to find it. Since she exploded and didn’t leave a body, it will be just like she disappeared.”
“I’m sorry I did it,” said Brody. “I liked Meurtia. She wasn’t as fun as you, of course. Kind of a stickler for rules and everything. But I didn’t want her to die.”
“I’m the one who’s sorry,” said Elegy. “I let the two of you down. Without my memories, I’m a completely different person.”
“Yeah, you are,” I said.
“I almost got you killed, Cathy,” said Elegy, looking down into her empty shot glass. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Really? Because usually I got the impression that I annoyed Elegy to the extreme.
Elegy poured us more tequila. I didn’t want any more, so I set the shot down. “So, nothing will happen to Brody because of what he did? He’s not like a Fate murderer or something?”
“I honestly don’t know,” said Elegy.
Brody hung his head. “I never wanted—”
“You had to do it,” said Elegy. “You didn’t have a choice. She was going to kill you both.”
We were all quiet for a few minutes.
Elegy picked up my shot and downed it. On unsteady legs, she got off the bar stool and shuffled back behind the bar. She picked up our shot glasses and set them in the sink to be washed. She turned on the faucet. “I meant what I said before, you know.” She looked over at us. “No sex in the bar.”
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