Achava Zenon stormed into the bar, slamming the door behind her. She clutched her head with one hand. “Shit!” she said.
Achava was a volur, which was a person who was unstuck in time and traveled around fixing time paradoxes. Achava hailed from sometime in the twenty-fourth century, from what I gathered. Unfortunately, the bar we were in translated everything to a language I could understand, so I had no idea what slang was like in the future.
Elegy Flynn, the bartender and Fate who chauffeured volurs around in time, looked up from the bar. “You know, ever since I picked up Catherine, the success rate of volurs has gone way down. Don’t tell me you couldn’t stop him.”
“He hit me over the head with a lamp,” said Achava. “I’ve been unconscious. I’m lucky I even found the bar at all. The paradox is already getting started.”
I spoke up. I was sitting at the end of the bar, swiveling on a stool and sipping a rum runner through a straw. Rum runners were my favorite drinks. “Could someone explain to me how these paradoxes work exactly? Like, when we were saving Hitler, there was a paradox outside, but when we went back in time to get the time travelers into the bar, there wasn’t one. So, do the paradoxes radiate out from the future into the past or—”
“Stop trying to figure it out, Catherine,” said Elegy. She sighed. “So, you didn’t stop him,” she said to Achava.
“I tried,” said Achava, settling on a barstool. “He knocked me out.”
“So you said,” said Elegy.
“Can I have some ice?” asked Achava. “I think I’m developing a knot here. For all I know, I have a concussion. Can you take me to the sixtieth century? The medical advances during that time are really the best. After that, the whole apocalypse thing really starts to put a cramp in finding a doctor.”
“Wait,” I said. “When’s the apocalypse?”
Elegy set a bag of ice wrapped in a towel in front of Achava. “She’s exaggerating,” she told me. “It’s not really an apocalypse. It’s more of a fall of civilization.”
“You say tomato…” said Achava, putting the ice on her forehead. “Look, this guy is completely off his rocker. He’s crazed and violent. He wants that girl back really bad.”
Achava had been trying to stop some guy from going back in time to convince the girl he had a crush on in high school to date him. If he were successful, which he apparently had been, this would mean that he’d have no reason in the future to go back to the past, thus creating a time paradox. One couldn’t screw with the fabric of time. It messed everything up. That was our job—making sure time ran smoothly. I was stuck in the bar because Elegy had saved me from my abusive boyfriend killing me. I couldn’t leave, because I didn’t belong in any time stream anymore. If I did, the universe would zap me or something.
Achava was still talking. “So, I think what you’ll need to do is find someone else with more upper body strength, if you know what I mean. They can fight it out with him.”
“I thought you said this one was going to be easy,” I said to Elegy. “You said that we weren’t messing with any big historical figures this time, and it would be a piece of cake. You said you’d take me to the fiftieth century so I could communicate by mind-beaming.” Apparently, people stopped using words in the fiftieth century.
“I’m sorry,” said Elegy. “I thought it would be easy.”
“Sorry,” said Achava to me. “I didn’t know he was going to start flinging shit at me.”
“It’s okay,” I said. “I understand about violent men.” After all, my ex Richard had beat me all the time.
Elegy made a face like she was thinking very hard. “There’s no one else, Achava. Everyone’s busy right now.”
“Busy?” I said. “How could they be busy? What are they doing?”
“Fixing time paradoxes with other Fates, of course,” said Elegy.
“Hold up,” I said. “You never told me there were other Fates doing this. I thought we were the only ones. You mean there are other time traveling bars?”
“Well, not bars exactly,” said Achava. “I think the praxidae that Clothos uses looks like a hair salon a lot of the time.”
Hair salon? Seriously?
“Elegy’s is the coolest,” Achava continued. “You get free drinks here. Speaking of which, can I have Sex on the Transvids?”
“They’re like virtual reality,” Achava told me. “Everyone uses them in my time period. Actually, it’s sort of funny, because a lot of people only get virtually drunk in the 2410s, so even though there’s a real drink called Sex on the Transvids, people also order them when they actually are on the transvids, so there are all these layers of weird, right?”
I scrunched up my nose. “Um… yeah.”
“I don’t know how to make that,” said Elegy. She gestured around at the surroundings of the bar, which looked like a sports bar from the 1980s. Elegy really liked the 1980s. “I’ve told you before. Nothing that wasn’t invented before 1989.”
Achava rolled her eyes. “Fine, then. How about a Liquid Cocaine?”
Elegy made another face. She bent down under the bar and pulled out a bartender’s bible. She paged through it, looking for the recipe for Achava’s drink. Once she found it, she started to mix together various liquors in a shaker glass.
“So, there’s really no one?” Achava took the ice pack away from her head and gingerly touched the place her bump was.
Elegy scooped ice into Achava’s drink. “Well, there’s Kellen, but things are touchy between us right now.”
Elegy and Kellen were fuck buddies, but Kellen wanted more. Elegy didn’t. It was all screwed up. That was why being fuck buddies never worked. I didn’t know why people even tried it. It was a recipe for disaster.
“I can’t go back out anyway,” said Achava, “because I’d be crossing my own timeline. So, I think you’ve got to go pick him up. But, seriously, can we make a pit stop someplace with good hospitals?”
Elegy shook the drink up and strained it into a shot glass. “I’m thinking we should try something else.”
Achava picked up the drink. “This is a shot.”
“That’s what my recipe was for,” said Elegy.
“Yeah, but I wanted a whole drink.”
“Well, I only had a recipe for a shot.”
“So double the shot recipe and turn it into a drink,” said Achava.
Elegy glared at her.
Achava shrugged. She sipped at the shot. “This is fine. Thanks, Elegy.”
Elegy tapped her chin with her forefinger. “Let’s just take the bar back to right when he gets out of the time portal and try to get him inside. I’ll talk some sense into him.”
“That’s what we did when Kellen screwed up,” I said.
“Let’s not talk about him,” said Elegy.
“It’s not going to work,” said Achava, taking another sip from her drink. “He’s on a mission. He won’t come into the bar.”
“We’ll see,” said Elegy.
Elegy and I stood in the doorway to the bar, the door flung open beside us. We waved at the guy who was coming out of a time portal. The outside of the bar was a city street, pretty normal looking except for the fact that the cars parked on the street had a decidedly different look. They were smaller, squatter, more rounded and aerodynamic, and they all had big solar panels opened on top of them, pulling in sunlight. I guessed the world would eventually lose its dependence on fossil fuels. I wanted to ask Elegy about it, but she wasn’t paying any attention to me.
“Hey, you!” she yelled. “Come over here!”
The guy glanced at us, shook his head, and started walking the opposite direction.
“Let’s flash him,” said Elegy, pulling at the hem of her shirt.
“Uh…” I didn’t want to flash this strange guy. I didn’t move.
But Elegy had her shirt up to her armpits.
I looked away. I didn’t want to see Elegy’s boobs. Actually, I didn’t even understand why she had boobs. She wasn’t human. She was a Fate. Was her human-looking body really just an illusion, like everything else in the bar? If so, why didn’t she shift appearance any time she wanted? If I could look like anyone, I’ d change my body type and hair color and shape of my nose—
“Come on, dude.” Elegy was putting her shirt back in place, thank God. She stalked back inside the bar. I followed her, closing the door. Elegy sat down next to Achava. “You were right.”
“Told you,” said Achava. She finished the last sip of her drink. “Did you really flash him?”
“Of course I did,” said Elegy. “Catherine didn’t, though. Chicken.”
“I have self respect.” I plopped down next to my half-empty rum runner. “I don’t just go around showing my boobs to guys.”
“I don’t see what the big deal is,” said Elegy. “They’re just breasts. They’re big globs of fat attached to your chest that men find interesting because of a primitive instinct that chicks with bigger breasts will be better able to feed the children they hope to sire on them.”
I rolled my eyes. “That is not why guys like boobs.”
“Sure it is,” said Elegy. “What’s your other option? They miss their mommies’ breastfeeding them?”
“Eew,” I said.
“Maybe it’s just because they’re soft and round,” said Achava. “Men really aren’t very complicated.”
“Whatever,” said Elegy. “Point is, I guess we’ve got to go pick up Kellen.”
“And drop me off,” said Achava. “At a hospital.”
“You don’t have a concussion,” said Elegy.
When we picked up Kellen, he was already drunk. He stumbled into the bar, slurring his words a little. As he rambled on and on, I picked up that while several days had passed for Elegy and me, Kellen had only been away from Elegy and me for three hours after saving Hitler from dying. The volurs had different time streams than we did. Elegy had tried to explain to me why this was once, but I could hardly follow anything she explained, so I just accepted it. It was easier. Kellen was still pretty upset about the fact that Elegy didn’t want a relationship.
Elegy managed to get Kellen seated on a barstool.
“I want a drink,” said Kellen.
“You don’t need a drink,” said Elegy.
“I thought you said you’d pick him up a point in time before he got mad at you,” I said to Elegy.
“Couldn’t,” said Elegy. “He was busy in every other time stream.”
I squeezed my eyes shut. “How can he be busy? We’re in a time machine, right? So, couldn’t you go to any point in time and pick him up?”
“Sure,” said Elegy, “if he were actually in time at any point right now, which he’s not.”
“What?” Half of the things that came out of her mouth made no sense.
“Well, you know how when you’re in the bar, you’re out of time?” she said to me.
I nodded. That was why I could be alive still, but only if I stayed in the bar.
“Well, if he’s in the Clothos’ hair salon, he’s out of time too. So I can’t pick him up.”
“But, is there some kind of linear thread moving through time? Like, how can he be someplace right now, when that’s the past or the future?”
“He just is,” said Elegy.
“Doesn’t that mean there is more than one Kellen? I thought Lizzy said that was bad. I don’t understand—”
“I know you don’t understand,” said Elegy. “But I understand. That’s why you’re the sidekick.”
I hated it when she called me that. I sulked into my rum runner. The ice was melting at the bottom of it, and it wasn’t nearly as strong as it had been earlier. That was okay. I liked it that way. I sucked up the fruity yumminess through my straw.
“I want a drink,” said Kellen again.
Elegy stomped behind the bar, got a glass, filled it full of tap water, and slammed it on the bar in front of Kellen. “Sober up. I need your help. The paradox is spreading, and we have work to do.”
Kellen picked up the glass of water, took a sip, and then set it back down, sloshing water all over the bar. “This is water.”
“Yes,” said Elegy. “Yes, it is.”
Kellen was quiet for a few minutes. Then he picked up the glass of water and started taking gulps from it. “I’m sorry I’m so drunk. I was nursing my wounds when you found me. It takes a guy a little while to get over somebody like you, you know.”
Elegy rested her elbows on the bar. “You don’t have to get over me, Kellen. Things can keep on going exactly the way they were going. Forever, if you want. I thought we were having fun.”
Kellen drained the water glass. “I want to be more than fun to you.”
Elegy filled his glass back up with water and gave it back to him. “That’s all anyone can be to me, Kellen. I’m not human. You realize that, right? All this falling for each other and being devoted stuff that you mortals do—I don’t do that.”
Kellen took another gulp of water. “That’s just a fancy way of saying, ‘It’s not you, it’s me,’ you know?”
“Well, it is me,” said Elegy. “You’re a very nice guy. You’re very good at your job. You’re fucking gorgeous. You’re fantastic in the sack. I like you. What else do you want?”
Kellen contemplated his water. “Is it true that you’re sleeping with other volurs?”
“Occasionally, I suppose.”
Kellen nodded, looking defeated.
“So you want us to be exclusive, is that it?” Elegy asked.
“I want…” Kellen sat up straighter on his barstool, a strange look coming over his face. “I think I’m going to throw up.”
Elegy rolled her eyes and pointed towards the men’s room.
Kellen toppled off his stool and half-staggered, half-ran to the bathroom.
My rum runner was empty. I slurped at the remaining ice cubes. Sometimes being in this bar was better than having cable. I got to watch people argue all the time.
“This is a disaster,” said Elegy, holding out her hand for my glass.
I handed it to her.
Elegy dumped some ice into it and began making me another rum runner. “We’ve got to wait for him to get sober to do anything. I can’t believe this.”
“Does anything bad happen if the paradox goes on for too long?”
“The paradox itself is bad enough. And Kellen is being an absolute baby about this.”
I kind of thought he was just being human, but I didn’t share that with Elegy. “Would you be exclusive with Kellen?”
“Hell no,” she said. “I was going to tell him I would be, though, if it would make him feel better. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.”
Great. That was completely bitchy of her. “How many other volurs are you sleeping with anyway?”
She handed me my drink. “Only two. It’s not like there are trillions of volurs out there anyway. I don’t see why it’s such a big deal to him. I’m not doing it in front of him. And he can’t really expect me not to have sex just because he’s not around.”
I sipped some rum runner. “I think that’s exactly what most people expect from a relationship.”
“Well, that’s stupid,” said Elegy.
“It can be nice,” I said. “Sex shouldn’t be something you do just because it feels good. It should be about the bond you have with another person. It’s a way that you express love and togetherness.”
Elegy raised her eyebrows. “That how you felt about your last relationship?”
“Richard clearly took the whole thing way too far,” I said. “But that doesn’t mean the entire idea of being in a committed relationship is stupid.”
“I think sex is about fun,” said Elegy. “End of story.” She poured herself a shot of whiskey and knocked it back. Grimacing, she said, “What the hell is Kellen doing in there, anyway? How long could it take to throw up whatever’s in his stomach?”
She walked out from behind the bar and over the door to the men’s room. She knocked. “Kellen?”
He didn’t answer.
Elegy tried the knob. The door opened. She peered inside and then shut the door. “Perfect,” she said.
“What?” I said.
“He passed out in front of the toilet,” she told me. “This is great. Just great.”
It didn’t seem particularly good. “So, what do we do?”
She nodded at my drink. “Drink up. The only thing we can do.”
Two rum runners later, Kellen was still not awake, even though Elegy had dumped cold water over his head. Apparently, he’d woken up for a second, said something about polar bears, and started snoring. I mentioned to her that we should make sure he was lying on his side, so that if he vomited, he wouldn’t choke on it and die. Elegy said he was on his stomach. I guessed that was just as good.
Suddenly, one of the televisions over the bar switched on. “Elegy!” said a voice from the television screen.
I didn’t get a chance to see who was on it, though, because Elegy shoved me behind the bar, putting her finger in front of her lips.
She stepped back out in front of the television. “Um, hi,” she said.
“Is there someone in there with you?” asked the voice. It was female and old sounding.
“Yeah,” said Elegy. “Kellen the passed-out volur, who’s no good to anyone at the moment.”
There was a loud sigh from the television. “We advised you against having alcohol in your praxidikai, didn’t we?”
“Hey.” Elegy put her hands on her hips. “I didn’t get him drunk. I would never let a volur get that drunk. I’m responsible.”
“Forgive me, Elegy, but you are anything but responsible.”
Elegy swore underneath her breath.
“What was that?”
“Nothing,” said Elegy mock-sweetly.
“As I’m sure you’re aware, there’s a raging time paradox going on right now,” said the television. “It’s getting in the way of all our volurs doing their work. No one can set right anything until you set this right.”
“It’s not my fault,” said Elegy. “I sent out Achava, and she got knocked out by this guy. I tried to lure him into the bar and he—”
“You made contact with the outside world? You know that’s strictly against the rules. That’s why we have volurs in the first place.”
Elegy groaned. “Yeah, yeah. Whatever. As soon as my volur wakes up from his alcohol-induced coma, I will have him out on the streets grabbing this guy. I promise.”
“Not good enough,” said the voice. “This event is spiraling out of control at an alarming rate. You’ll need to use someone else.”
“There isn’t anyone else,” said Elegy. “All of the volurs are out working.”
“Waiting is more like it. They can’t work in a paradox. The affected area is spreading so fast that we don’t want to send out any volurs into it. But there’s one person you could go pick up to help.”
“No, there’s not.”
“Yes, there is.”
“You don’t mean…?” Elegy trailed off. When she spoke again, her voice had a very different sound to it. She sounded harsher and angrier than I’d ever heard her. “You told me I could never see him again.”
“Under normal circumstances, it would of course be wise to keep you apart. But desperate times and all that. He’s in the seventeenth century—”
“I know where he is,” Elegy muttered. “I can always sense him.”
“Good. Then you’ll do it.”
“I can’t believe you’re ordering me to go get him. You told me that if I ever laid eyes on him again, you’d have me destroyed.”
“Just keep it business, Elegy. Certainly you’re able to do that.”
Elegy snatched up a remote control from the bar and switched the TV off.
It switched back on. “Are we clear?”
“We’re fucking clear,” said Elegy. “I’ll have the paradox fixed before you know it. Now go away .”
Elegy appeared behind the bar. I was still cowering behind it.
“You can get up,” she told me, sounding annoyed.
“Who was that?” I asked, standing up.
“That was Fate Central,” she said.
“For real? There’s a Fate Central?”
“No,” she said. “That’s just what I call them. They’re sort of my bosses. And sort of my jailors. They’re the ones who put me in this bar and sentenced me to go gallivanting around in time.” She was seething. I could see the anger all over her. I’d never seen Elegy so angry, not even when she’d scrambled Shakespeare’s brains for being a jerk to Lizzy Peters.
“So, I’m going to go back to the front of the bar,” I said.
“Good,” she said. “We’re off to pick up another volur.”
“Someone you know?” Even though it was obvious from the conversation that it was someone she knew.
“Someone we both know.” Her lips were set in a firm line.
“But how could we both—”
The door swung open.
And my brother Reese walked in.
I hadn’t seen Reese in over eight months before Elegy had picked me up in the bar. He’d disappeared without leaving a note or a forwarding address. I’d spent half the year looking for him, hoping he’d turn up, but Richard had made that hard. I realized now it was because he was probably glad I didn’t have any family anymore. That way no one could realize he was beating me up.
I took off at a run for him, my arms wide. “Reese!”
His eyes got wide when he saw me. His jaw dropped.
I tackled him in a bear hug. “Oh my God! It all makes sense now. You disappeared because you’re a volur. You must have witnessed a time paradox, and they took you away. I was so worried about you.”
Belatedly, he hugged me back. “Cathy,” he said, sounding stunned. “You’re alive.”
I heard Elegy’s voice behind the bar. “You’re welcome.”
I pulled out of Reese’s arms slowly and turned to face Elegy. “Wait a second. Is that why you saved me?”
Elegy had a bottle of Jim Beam in her hand. She didn’t answer me. “Whiskey sour?” she asked Reese.
He swallowed. “Elegy.”
“Reese,” she said, no emotion in her voice. She started to tip the bottle into the glass she was holding.
“I’ll skip the drink,” said Reese.
Elegy shrugged. “Your choice.” She put the bottle of Jim Beam away. “We’ve got some business to take care of, and then you’ll be out of here, away from me. It can’t last long, because there’s a time paradox.”
“I noticed,” said Reese.
“Hold on,” I said. “How do you two know each other?”
Reese suddenly hugged me again. Hard. “How are you here?” he said into my hair.
“I was having a fight with Richard,” I said, “and I got a phone call from Elegy. She told me to come into the bar. And then I found out I couldn’t leave, because I was supposed to be dead.”
Reese held me tighter. “I’m so glad to see you.” Over my head, he addressed Elegy. “If they found out what you did—”
“They won’t.” Elegy was still sounding clipped. She must not like my brother. But then why did she save me? And how did she know him? I guessed if Reese was a volur, then they must have worked together before. But she’d complained to the person on TV that she wasn’t ever supposed to see him again. Was that because they hated each other?
Reese released me and went over to the bar. “You look good, El.”
Elegy busied herself with cleaning some glassware. She wouldn’t meet Reese’s eyes.
“Thank you for doing this for Cathy,” he said. “For me.”
Her head snapped up. “Who said I did it for you? Maybe I did it for me. Cathy’s my sidekick, right?”
“Uh…actually, I really hate it when you call me that,” I said to her.
“It’s not funny,” I said.
“You like it here, right?” Reese said.
I shrugged. “There’s lots of free booze. Oh, and I got to meet Shakespeare. But he was kind of a jerk. It’s better than being dead.”
Reese bit his lip. “God, Cathy, you have no idea how much I’ve missed you.”
“Reese,” said Elegy, “there’s a time paradox.”
Reese rolled his eyes. “There’s always a time paradox.”
“You know if we take our time, they’ll get suspicious,” said Elegy. “As bad as things are, they could always make them worse.”
Reese opened his mouth to say something, but then closed it. “Okay, fine. So, what do I need to do?”
“I’ve already moved the bar in time,” said Elegy. “You need to find the time traveler and get him in here. Achava says he’s violent, so use force if you have to. Knock him out and wrangle him back into the bar. That’s it.”
He nodded. “And when I get back, I’ll have to leave again right away, won’t I? I won’t have a chance to catch up with my sister, and I’ll probably never see her again, will I?”
“I don’t know.” Elegy looked up at him, into his eyes. “Maybe if we do a really good job of it this time, they’ll let us work together sometimes.” There was hope in her voice.
So, she didn’t hate him. What the heck?
“Okay,” said Reese. “I’ll go then. I’ll be as quick as I can.” He strode out of the bar, not saying goodbye to either of us.
I sat down on a barstool opposite Elegy. “You have some explaining to do. How do you know my brother? Why did you save me? What’s going on here?”
Elegy shot me a sour glance. “I’m not talking about it.”
“Why aren’t you and my brother allowed to work together?”
“Cathy, for once please stop it with your incessant questions.” Elegy swept out from behind the bar and disappeared into the back room. She had a bed back there, but near as I could tell, she only used it for having sex. I’d never seen her sleep. Anyway, it was totally rude of her to just walk out on me when I was in dire need of understanding what the heck was going on here.
“Not fair!” I yelled. “You never gave me a choice in any of this. I think I deserve to know why I’m here in the first place.”
Elegy’s voice was muffled. “Shut up.”
Oh, that was nice. She was telling me to shut up? Seriously? I listened to her prattle on about all kinds of stupid stuff, from what her favorite eighties movies were to why she couldn’t have relationships with volurs. Now that I wanted to know something important about my life and my family, she was hiding from me? Elegy was really freaking frustrating sometimes.
I sucked on my drink angrily. “What if I need another drink?”
“Make it yourself.”
Make it myself? What? I’d never seen Elegy let anyone else behind the bar to make drinks. In fact, once she’d kicked Kellen out when he was trying to make me a drink. Something was up with her. It had something to do with my brother. “Do you hate Reese or something?”
She didn’t say anything.
Great. So she was giving me the silent treatment, was she? Well, that was fine. I could amuse myself. I didn’t need her around to talk to all the time. I had plenty of things I could do. For instance, there were magazines. Or I could play a rousing game of nine ball with myself. Or I could make myself drinks. This was fine. Completely and totally fine.
I sucked on my drink again. I looked around the bar. It seemed dreadfully quiet. “Come on, Elegy, talk to me.”
But Elegy still didn’t respond.
The door to the bar opened and Reese came back in, grunting. He had the body of a man slung over his shoulder. I jumped off the bar stool and went over to help. Reese staggered inside, knelt down, and rolled the guy onto the floor.
“Are you okay?” I asked Reese.
“Fine,” he said, rolling his shoulders. “That guy is freaking heavy.”
The guy was completely unconscious. I nudged him to see if he’d wake up. He didn’t even move.
“Where’s Elegy?” asked Reese.
“She’s hiding in the back room,” I said. “I think she’s mad at me for asking questions.”
“You guys get along okay?”
“I guess so. She’s a freaking Goddess of Fate, so she’s not always pleasant, if you know what I mean.”
“She’s a good person,” said Reese.
I nudged the passed-out guy again. “What did you do to this guy?”
“I clubbed him over the head,” said Reese. “Achava was right. He tried to fight me. I couldn’t reason with him at all. Anyway, now that he’s in the bar, the paradox should clear up. I can stay here in his time period until someone else picks me up. But I’d kind of like to say goodbye to Elegy. Can you show me where the back room is?”
“Say goodbye?” I said. “I was starting to get the impression you guys hated each other.”
Reese laughed. “Not exactly, no.”
“So, you’ll say goodbye, and then you’ll leave?”
“I think I have to,” said Reese.
“But I just found you again. Why can’t you stay awhile?”
“It’s complicated, Cathy,” said Reese. “I wish I had time to explain, but the Fates who run everything won’t let me have that time. And they can’t ever know you exist. They’d kill you.”
“Yeah, Elegy explained that to me,” I said. “It’s not fair, Reese. None of this is fair.”
He gave me a sad smile. “I know it’s not.”
There was a clattering noise, and Kellen stumbled out of the men’s room. He rubbed a hand over his face, looking bleary-eyed and confused. “What happened?”
“You passed out by the toilet,” I told him.
“Fuck,” said Kellen, taking a few more uncertain steps out into the bar. “I’m sorry I was so drunk. I feel better now. I’ll go out and take care of the time traveler.”
“Um, that’s not a problem anymore,” I said, gesturing to the guy who was passed out. “Reese took care of it.”
Kellen noticed Reese. He cocked his head. “Who are you?”
“He’s my brother,” I said.
“I’m a volur,” said Reese.
“ I’m a volur,” said Kellen. “What do we need two volurs for?”
“Well, you were passed out,” I said, “and so this person came on the television set and Elegy said that you were passed out, so they said—”
“Fuck,” said Kellen. “The higher-ups know I was that drunk. This sucks.” He scratched the back of his head. “Wait. How is he your brother?”
“Um, we have the same parents and stuff?” I said.
“No, I mean…” He squinted at Reese. “Is that why Elegy saved Cathy? For you? Are you sleeping with Elegy too?”
What?! I looked at Reese. Elegy did sleep with all the volurs, or so she said. If Elegy and Reese were doing it, that was kind of…gross.
“Too?” said Reese. “Does that mean you’re sleeping with Elegy?”
“Oh my God,” I said. “Reese, you are not doing that! Elegy isn’t even human. She uses people for fun. You’re going to get hurt.”
Reese squeezed his eyes shut. “Okay, first of all, Cathy, you don’t know what you’re talking about, so shut up.” He turned to Kellen. “And how long has this been going on?”
“I don’t know,” said Kellen. “Our timelines are different. When I first met her, she said we’d been fucking for a really long time. But I’ve never been sure if that wasn’t just a line. Did she say something like that to you?”
“No,” said Reese. “And I’m not, anyway. I mean, not now.”
“Because you guys don’t work together,” I said. “But when you worked together before, you did?”
“No,” said Reese. “We’ve never worked together.”
“So, then, how do you know each other?” I said.
“Cathy,” said Kellen, “you’ve got to be straight with me. How many volurs have you seen her with?”
“Only you,” I said. “But the only other volurs I’ve even met have been girls, and I assume Elegy is straight.”
“Oh yeah,” said Kellen.
“Definitely,” said Reese at the same time.
I shook my head disapprovingly at my brother. “I cannot believe you slept with Elegy Flynn. I am losing all my respect for you, and you’re my big brother.”
“There’s really no chance that she’s ever going to care about me the way I care about her,” said Kellen, looking mournful.
“So, she doesn’t care about you?” said Reese.
“She doesn’t care about you either,” said Kellen. “Of course, she did rescue your sister, which is completely unlike her. She never does stuff like that. She doesn’t mess around with fate.”
Reese made a funny face. “Are you kidding? She’s a complete rebel.”
“Where am I?” said a voice.
We all whirled.
The guy was waking up. I ran over to him and knelt down beside him.
“Hi,” I said. “We’re the time police, and you caused a time paradox, so we had to bring you in here so that we could fix it.”
The guy sat up. “What?”
I tried to smile reassuringly. “Everything will be okay. If Elegy was out here, she’d make you a drink, and she always says that a good drink solves everything.”
“She does?” said Reese. “That really doesn’t sound like her.”
“Yeah, she says that all the time,” said Kellen.
“Who’s Elegy?” said the guy.
“She’s a Fate,” I said. “See, you messed with the fabric of time when you tried to go back in time and make that girl from your past like you. You can’t do that. You can’t rewrite the past.”
“The hell I can’t,” said the guy, starting to get to his feet.
“Whoa,” said Kellen, coming over to intercept him. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“What’s your name?” I said, trying to distract him.
“Billy,” he said.
“Well, Billy,” I said, “why don’t you come have a seat at the bar, and I’ll make you something. Something simple, like a rum and coke?”
Billy looked from Kellen, who was standing in his path to the door, arms folded over his chest, to me. He shuffled over to a barstool.
I went behind the bar. “Okay, rum and coke coming up!”
Kellen and Reese sat down at the bar as well.
“Do you guys want anything?” I asked.
Kellen shook his head. “No, thanks. I’m good right now.”
“Can you make a whiskey sour?” asked Reese.
I shook my head.
“Rum and coke it is,” said Reese.
Now that I was standing behind the bar, I realized how confusing everything was. There were three sinks and bunch of glassware. Which kind of glass was I supposed to use for a rum and coke? The really tall ones? The medium ones? I settled on the medium ones and set two on the bar. As I scooped ice into the drinks, I said to Billy, “So, why’d you want to make that girl like you, anyway?”
“Sheena,” said Billy. “We should have been together in high school. We both liked each other. But she was Jewish. Her parents said that she couldn’t date anyone who wasn’t a Jew. I thought if I could come back in time and make sure they thought I was a Jew, everything would be okay.”
I made a sympathetic face. “That does suck. But, I mean, don’t you think that would have come out eventually, anyway?”
“I was there to coach myself,” he said. “I spent months finding out everything there is to know about Judaism. I was feeding information to my past self. I would’ve fooled her and her parents. They’d have never have known the difference.”
I poured some rum into the two glasses. Shit. Was that too much? Oh well, the drinks were going to be a little strong. “That’s sweet that you were so devoted. But why go to the past? Couldn’t you have found her in your present?”
“No,” said Billy, “it wouldn’t have been the same. I had to fix things.”
I poured coke over the rum and handed them their drinks. “What was so bad about the present that you had to fix it?”
“Everything,” said Billy. “Everything was awful. I had a string of terrible relationships with girls who didn’t respect me. The last one threw all my stuff out of the window of our apartment. All that time, I kept thinking about Sheena. She was perfect. We were in love. We should have been together.”
“Look,” said Elegy, appearing from the back room, “just because you’re in love with someone doesn’t mean everything works out, you know. That’s not how life works.”
“Hi, Elegy,” I said.
“Get out from behind my bar,” she said.
“Okay.” I scurried around to the other side and sat down in a barstool next to Billy. “This is Elegy,” I told him.
“So what would you know about love?” asked Kellen, bitterness all through his voice.
Elegy was picking up the rum and cokes I’d made. “Did Catherine make these?”
“I did,” I said.
Elegy took them away and dumped them out.
“Hey,” I said.
“I make the drinks around here,” she said. To Reese, “Whiskey sour?”
“Please,” said Reese.
“And you?” Elegy asked Billy.
“Um, vodka tonic?”
“You got it,” said Elegy.
“So you’re not talking to me?” asked Kellen.
She filled up two new glasses with ice. “I’m not offering you a drink, because you’re barely sober. And to understand what I might know about love, maybe you should hear a little story.”
Ooh…this was starting to get good. Had I mentioned how entertaining things got in this bar?
“I was a Fate,” said Elegy. “I wove the threads of time. I was good at it. I created lives for people, set out their paths. I loved it. It was more than a job, it was who I was. I couldn’t imagine being or doing anything else. And then I was assigned the thread of Reese Marston.” She looked at Reese.
Reese looked away.
Elegy poured whiskey in a glass carelessly. She knew the right amount without thinking about it. Then she poured vodka in another glass. She was so freaking good at that. “At first, it was little things I did. I’d wander into the back of a crowded restaurant when I knew he was there. I’d ride the same bus as he did. I always thought he didn’t even see me.”
“I did see you,” said Reese.
Elegy finished the drinks. She set them in front of Reese and Billy. “I know you did. I should have realized it then. I knew I shouldn’t be entering the human world. I was a Fate. I was supposed to stay separate, not get involved. But he drew me to him. I knew him so well. I had set the threads of his life, after all.”
“I went looking for you,” said Reese, ignoring his drink and reaching across the bar for Elegy. “I saw you in my dreams. The woman always at the edge of my vision, the one I saw all the time. I had to know you were. It was my fault.”
She shook her head. “It was my fault. I let you see me. And once you found me, we had disrupted the threads of time.”
“Wait,” I said. “You were in love with my brother?”
“I still am,” said Elegy. “Why do you think I was punished to roam time in this bar—this prison?”
“And I’m a volur,” said Reese, “because I knew too much to be human anymore.”
“Reese always talked to me about his sister,” said Elegy. “When I realized you were going to die, I couldn’t let it happen.”
“Oh my God,” I said.
Reese gulped at his drink. “I really should go, Elegy. They’ll be suspicious that I’ve been here for so long.”
She nodded, but there was pain written all over her face. I’d never seen her in so much pain.
Reese’s fingers darted across the bar and brushed hers for a moment. She gazed into his eyes. And then he pulled away. He got up off the barstool and headed for the door. They exchanged one agonized glance as he stood with his hand on the doorknob. And then he pushed open the door and left.
Elegy picked up his glass from the bar and started to wash it.
No one said anything.
“I’m really confused,” said Billy finally.
“Look,” said Elegy. “You can’t change the past. Got it?”
“I guess so,” said Billy. “Why not?”
I started to explain. “There’s this thing called a paradox—”
“You just can’t,” interrupted Elegy. “Now, drink up. I’m taking you back to your present. And you’re going to stay away from time portals. And you’re going to keep pushing through your miserable life. Because that’s all any of us can do. Do you understand?”
Billy drank his vodka tonic and didn’t say anything.
We all sat in silence for a long time, watching Billy finish his drink. When he was done, Elegy escorted him out of the bar, making him promise never to mess with time portals ever again. The poor guy looked really confused still, but he left.
Elegy came back behind the bar. “Okay,” she said. “I can sense that everything’s all right now. No more paradox.”
Kellen got up off his barstool. “So, you’re in love with that guy.”
Elegy didn’t answer.
“I guess I should go too,” said Kellen. “I can hang out in this time period for a while, until I get picked up to fix another paradox.” He started for the door.
“Wait,” said Elegy.
Kellen stopped. He turned around.
“I’m sorry I can’t return whatever feelings you have,” she said. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. Ever since I got stuck in this bar, I’ve been trying to drown it all out, you know?”
“I guess it’s okay,” said Kellen. “I only wish you would have been honest with me.”
“I’m not allowed to see him,” said Elegy. “They separated us. It’s part of our punishment. We messed with time. We messed with fate. What was the point of being honest? I figured eventually, I’d stop thinking about it.”
“Is that working?” Kellen asked.
He nodded. “I’m not mad. It’s okay.” He turned to go again.
“Wait,” said Elegy.
Kellen turned around again.
“Do you want to, you know…” Elegy gestured with her head to the back room.
“What?” I said.
Elegy glared at me. “How is this any of your business, Catherine?”
“You can’t just tell me you’re in love with my brother, and then act like it’s no big deal,” I said.
“How should I act?” Elegy wanted to know. “Should I be a big mopey crybaby? It’s done. There’s nothing I can do to fix it. It sucks.”
“Well, Kellen, you’re not going to take her up on that, are you?” I asked him. “I mean, you’ve got more self respect than that, don’t you?”
“Um…” Kellen trailed off. “No, I don’t really have any self respect.” He started walking back from the door.
“But, she’s using you,” I said. “She doesn’t love you. She never will. She’s trying to distract herself from her own sadness and bitterness.”
“You’re so flattering,” said Elegy. “Is this a good time to remind you that I saved your life?”
I set my jaw. “I do not understand you. Either of you.”
Kellen shrugged. “She’s really hot.”
Men. I watched as the two of them wound their arms around each other. “Can I at least have a drink before you go?”
Reluctantly, Elegy disentangled herself and came back to the bar to make me a rum runner.
“If you’re going to be doing this,” I said, “I’m going to flirt with volurs too.”
“Please, Catherine,” said Elegy, mixing my drink, “I’m sleeping with all the volurs. What makes you think you could get them to want you instead?”
“Well, you can’t have all of them,” I said.
“Sure, I can,” said Elegy. She set my drink down in front of me.
“But what am I supposed to do? Spend the rest of eternity out of time, not aging, all alone?”
“Pretty much,” said Elegy, going back to Kellen.
“That sucks,” I said.
“That’s life,” she called over her shoulder.
“Technically, I think I’m dead.”
“No you’re not,” she said, “thanks to me.”
She and Kellen disappeared into the back room.
“At least try to keep it down this time,” I called.
The door shut.
I sipped my drink. This was completely fucked up. Completely.
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