Author's note: huge thanks to MoonGoddex on AO3 for the cover art! I still absolutely love it. :D

This fic was written for We Die Like Fen 5: Time Loop, an event over on AO3 and the Exchanges After Dark & We Die Like Fen discord servers. It was very chaotic, but a lot of fun! Other WDLF fics might be crossposted in the future, haha, but I usually forget. You can find them on my AO3 account as RCWAK, though!


The first fight does not go exactly to plan.

This is totally fine, of course. It happens. The best-laid plans, something about a mouse-man, however that goes.

Your opponent is not a mouse-man, which is good, because you don't plan on fighting a mouse-man if you can ever help it. That one time half of the Cherubim Spiral possessed a Chuck-E-Cheese mascot was close enough. (Never again.)

Anyway. No mice this time. Today's monster of the week is a furry - a literal furry, you're about 99% percent sure, based on the convention center three blocks down the road that's thronging with them. Y'know, assuming furries don't just naturally congregate for arcane rituals in downtown buildings at random (no offense, Jade.)

You know the other half of the Cherubim has to have possessed someone else, somewhere this side of the planet- the Cherubim always come in pairs, in a good-evil yin-yang sorta way, with the color scheme of a Christmas tree and the personality a pair of warring semi-benevolent alien snake deities. Cryptic bastards treating the world as a game - even the good halves aren't good news.

You don't bother looking for the good half. It's the least of your worries right now.

So there you are, Cherubim-possessed furry hot on your tail, running through the sweaty Houston streets like a dumbass who didn't have the foresight to get changed into his nice magic costume before some poor schmuck with evil in his heart and a sweet-ass replica katana got possessed by the cartoon villan half of the yin-yang ball. It's a shame you can only stop time in costume, because you could really use the chance to catch your breath.

You should probably transform now, Aradia reminds you from the clock-geared amulet around your neck, because she's helpful like that. Otherwise, he's going to kill you!

Your magical patron sounds a little too enthusiastic about the idea than you'd personally call reasonable, but she's a little too enthusiastic about a lot of things. You usually chalk it up to fucking aliens.

"Yeah, no shit," you pant. "Kinda trying not to fucking die right now though, so unless you want me to just stop here on the sidewalk and pray that the sight of my glowing nude preteen bod's gonna distract him from skewering me-"

Alleyway, on your nine o'clock! she calls out, and you're going to pretend you didn't hear that terrible pun, even if she's right about the alley. You skid into a turn, sneakers burning rubber, and duck behind a dumpster to change.

Once you're just out of the general line of sight, you grab your Aspect Pendant and start winding the gears, the clock-tick drumbeat filling your head to a crescendo until it's all you hear. The light probably catches Furry Dude's attention, but you don't care. You'll be equipped to deal with this guy in another four-and-a-sixth seconds, so long as nobody fucks this up.

Three seconds later, a pulse of magic echoes down the street, and Jade (who comes, suspiciously, from the direction of the furry convention), leaps out into the street in fully fancy-ass regalia - fancy minidress, witch hat, ruby slippers and all. If it was Houston Comicpalooza she'd pass as a cosplayer, right until she summons a rifle and shoots Furry Dude with a laser right through his snake-magic-animated left wing.

Furry Dude honest-to-god howls, whips out a tentacle he definitely didn't have a second ago to yoink around Jade's waist before either of you can blink, and throws her straight into the side of a building. You wince. Being in costume mostly protects you from the blunt impact trauma, but concrete to the face at Mach one's still gotta smart.

The bystanders start screaming around this point, because monster of the week fights aren't subtle, and this guy probably no longer looks like a regular furry anymore. You're still going to be calling him Furry Dude, though, because you have about zero better ideas. Also, calling the current embodiment of extraterrestrial evil a dumb name helps keep you sane when you have to stop it from murdering you in public with an audience.

You bolt out into the street the literal split second the transformation ends, the last wisps of magic licking off your dumb red-accented sailor suit as your armored boots hit the sidewalk. Jade's dizzy, but already on her feet again, and the initial crowd's beginning to cotton on to the fact that people who run away from monsters are less likely to die in a tragic monster accident, which clears the pavement pretty quick.

The cars are less convenient, but you'll work around them. The smarter folks are already vacating their vehicles, which will cause a really fun traffic jam an hour from now, but you're about three years too young for a license, so you actually don't care at all. (Bro can suck it. You both know he just flashsteps everywhere anyway.)

Furry Dude takes a couple more magic laser bullets to the wings, and your badass magic sword cuts through his flailing tentacles like play-dough. The costume parts don't bleed, which is great, because your reputation would probably be way worse if those post-city-saving tabloid photos had you all covered in blood and guts.

"So, do we have a plan or what?" you ask, shouting a little to be heard over the chaos.

"Wow, how about thank you Jade for distracting the big monsters so I could transform?" Jade yells back. She unleashes another round of laser beams, but Furry Dude swerves out of her line of fire, leaving scorch marks across the side of an office building wall. At least it's not glass, this time.

"I was already in the alley. I could've shaken him off," you reply.

Jade rolls her eyes. "Bluh, whatever. Just get in close and get his juju while I cover for him, okay!"

The juju is the mark of Cherubic possession - like your amulet, except instead of a magic alien death fairy offering you badass timelord powers, you just get an unwelcome full-body transformation and total loss of agency, with an optional side of being beaten up by middle schoolers in fancy costumes.

"Yeah, yeah," you say, already summoning your sword.

The first flash-step takes you within ten feet, weaving around a pickup truck with a driver still inside, his face pressed to the window like he's never seen a magical girl boy fight a possessed furry up close before. You smirk before letting time resume, then flash-step again into swinging range, darting around the hood of an abandoned sports car to avoid his line of sight.

No sign of the juju. Weird. Normally you can see the little swirly orb somewhere on the host's body, where you can grab it. Once you've got it, all you need to do is take it back to the portal and send it home - send both home, that is, but the good ones tend to come quietly, or quieter at least.

You swing for the wings - safer to cut off a body part that isn't the hosts' than to risk dismembering some regular dude, even if he is an asshole - and chop off half the left one like it's nothing but fabric and feathers. Furry Dude screams, the world erupts into light, and-


So there you are, Cherubim-possessed furry hot on your tail, running through the sweaty Houston streets like a dumbass who didn't have the foresight to get changed into his nice magic costume before some poor schmuck with evil in his heart and a sweet-ass- wait a minute.

You are definitely not supposed to be here.

More specifically, you're not supposed to be now.

You're running down the street, and not even in costume, and Jade hasn't even shown up yet. What the fuck? Furry Dude howls behind you, all wolflike, and you make a beeline for the alley before Aradia even tells you it's there.

"Am I going fucking insane, or did time reset?" you ask, grabbing the amulet and twisting the gears.

It reset, Aradia tells you, which is somehow a reassuring statement. The Cherub must be a Time Aspect. Those are really rare!

"Great," you say, as your whole body glows Sailor-Moon style, your baseball shirt and jeans vanishing into the ether. "I just love fighting rare bullshit. Really gives that extra sense of unnecessary challenges nobody fucking asked for, y'know?"

He probably realized he was losing ground when you cut off his wing, so it shouldn't be that bad, Aradia speculates.

Right around then, the alleyway explodes in a blast of angelic light. Your gaze snaps up meet Furry Dude's smouldering glare - literally smouldering, from the giant eye laser beam that just vaporized the dumpster, but also metaphorically smouldering in a way that translates a little too well through a sewn snout and gleaming glass wolf eyes.

"Fuck," you say, in the three-second pause while the dust continues to clear.

"MAGICAE THERMODYNAMIC EXCEPTION, TELEKINESIS!"

Jade's voice carries in from the street like a foghorn. More specifically, it carries an entire car, which crashes into Furry Dude at a solid forty miles an hour. It's a lot more escalation than you expected. Then again, Furry Dude just eye-lasered a dumpster out of existence, so that kind of tracks.

Furry Dude doesn't get knocked back nearly as far as you'd like, but he slides, and Jade drops into view at the alley entrance a second later.

"What the hell just happened?!" she demands, gesturing to the car, and to you, and also sort of to everything in general. "Did you do something weird? Did one of us die or something?!"

"Wait, you remember?" You assumed this was going to be a time-travelers-only problem, but apparently it's a magicae-only problem, instead. Nobody started running and panicking until the explosion, so either the general populace of Houston is a lot dumber than you've been giving them credit for, or they don't remember the last minute or so of general chaos.

"Yes? Of course? You cut off the wings, and then it all just reset!"

I think it's safe to assume the Cherub also remembers! Aradia adds.

Speaking of the devil, Furry Dude is already getting to his feet, and you're pretty attached to existing and having all your atoms stuck together in one piece. Jade seems to agree, but she has the luxury of being the long-distance sniper to your rough-and-tumble sword-swinger, so she actually gets to dash back to a safer distance to start shooting.

This isn't going to get anywhere until you find the juju, you're pretty sure. You just need to figure out where the hell it is, because you're not seeing a lick of bright fancy colors on this guy's outfit. The tentacles cleave easily on your sword, at least, but when you get in close enough to see the eyeholes on the mask, flashing every color under the rainbow and then some-


So there you are, Cherubim-possessed furry hot on your tail, running through the sweaty Houston streets like a dumbass who- seriously?

Right. Okay. Fine. Fuck this.

You don't bother bolting for the alley this time. Furry Dude'll know where you're hiding, so that won't buy you time to change. Jade should be covering you in about five seconds. All you have to do keep running.

The sidewalk behind you explodes, sending you tumbling forward, head-over-heels like you're falling down a flight of stairs, except instead of gravity it's the concussive force of laser beamed concrete.

Magic gunfire peppers and seasons the air a second later, distracting the asshole while you scramble to your feet. You're past the alley, but there's an empty-looking first floor office lobby you can duck into, and the public restrooms aren't the worst place you've ever had to transform.

Ten seconds later, you're sprinting back out of the lobby, dodging a bicycle thrown by tentacle, and tagging in for Jade again.

"So are we definitely a hundred percent sure this dude's got a juju on him, or what?"

I'm still sensing a juju on his person, so yes! Maybe check under the fursuit?

"You guys have fursuits?" Jade asks, shooting off another round of distracting laser fire over Furry Dude's head.

Aradia laughs. What kind of alien civilisation would we be if we didn't have fursuits?

"You know what, I don't want to know where this conversation is going," you announce. "Time to get up close and personal."

Furry Dude's costume is still inscrutable as ever. You're starting to wonder if the wings and tentacles were part of the original look, or if the alien possession added them in later. Like, what the fuck is he even supposed to be? Some kind of... wolf squid crow hybrid, now with added bullshit? (It's still not as bad as Chuck-E-Cheese.)

Wait. Chuck-E-Cheese. The costume.

Jade's train of thought pulls into the same station as yours simultaneously, even if she's probably taking a boat or a helicopter or some shit to get there instead. "Check under the costume!" she yells.

"Yeah, I'm about to!" you shout back, and promptly get decked in the face with the hilt of a plastic katana, in your moment of weakness.

The impact knocks you back a good ten feet, where you land sprawled over the hood of some pricey sports car, briefly winded.

Ooh, good thinking! says Aradia, like you didn't just get sucker-punched across the road.

Jade's laser fire finally does enough damage to magically empowered fursuit to start visibly tearing it, which is a great sign until Furry Dude flaps his wings like a stomping bull, eyeholes flashing, and-


So there you are, Cherubim-possessed furry hot on your tail, running through the sweaty Houston streets like- goddammit.

"God, you assholes are the worst at picking loop points," you bitch, stumbling a little as your running rhythm gets thrown by the whiplash of being winded.

It looks like you'll have to get the juju as quickly as possible to avoid another loop. Aradia observes, as cheerfully as ever.

Furry Dude seems ready to cut you a break this time, though, because he slows down enough you actually outrun him into the alley. You barely sidestep behind the dumpster before you start winding the gears on the amulet.

You should really have noticed something was up when the screaming started moving the other way.

By the time you're out in the street again, the fight's raging two blocks down. The giant death lasers scorch up the side of an office high-rise, shattering windows and raining glass down on the crown, and Jade's pulling double duty trying to dodge and get civilians out of the way in time. You leap into the fray as she shouts her usual catchphrase to telekinetically grab a falling billboard ten feet shy of crushing a crowd of pedestrians, and Furry Dude's attention splits between you both.

The eyebeams don't seem to be sustainable for more than a few seconds, so you take advantage of the cooldown to get the hell in there and, in a moment of boldness that would be steel-balls suicidal if you weren't the star of a goddamn western mahou shoujo anime, you grab the fursuit by the ears and pull.

Lucky for you, your guesswork about fursuit anatomy is right on the money. The head comes clean off, and you do an acrobatic backflip away from the flailing tentacles, prize in hand like furry con Hercules fresh from slaying anthro wolf Medusa. The guy underneath is kinda scruffy looking and way less classically nerdy than you'd expected, but you're not paying a lot of attention to that, because you're a little stuck on his eyes.

Furry Dude's unmasked eyes don't just glow. They're filled with a rapid-flashing lightshow with colors like a pool table met a strobe light, and you've got a pretty solid idea where the lasers were coming from now. They start lighting up brighter, and you've seen this happen too many times to think it's going anywhere good.

Two can play at time-travel, though - or at least, it's worth a shot. With a split second sigh to express your usual level of dying inside whenever you have to do this shit, you grab your amulet, raise it up in the air, and shout-

"MAGICAE CLOCKWORK POWER, TIME STOP!"

The air fills with a corona of red astrological runes, and the world stops. It's just you and Aradia, the two breathing actors in a perfect still tableau.

Furry Dude twitches in slow motion, like he's fighting the magic but can't quite no-sell it right away. That's promising. You're not sure you can go toe-to-toe with him for long with time magic, but if it buys you a few seconds to grab the juju before he loops, that's all you need.

You step closer again, holding out the amulet like Aradia is some kind of juju dowsing rod. Which she kind of is, but it's not really necessary, and you stop, because it probably looks dumb as fuck. Whatever. You're just doing it for the benefit of your imaginary anime audience or something.

I'm sensing the juju in his left eye! Aradia reports, making the amulet vibrate a little in your grasp.

"What."

The eye is glass, she clarifies. You just need to pop it out!

"Great," you say. "That doesn't sound creepy as fuck at all."

You didn't plan to spend your Saturday afternoon feeling up some dude's unwashed sweaty face, scrabbling at the surface of a fake eye and trying not to ask too many questions you don't want Aradia answering, but this is your life now. It's been your life since you picked up a magic amulet off the sidewalk last month and a goddamn fairy popped out and made it your job to deal with any and all extraterrestrial interlopers in a hundred-mile radius, because magic amulets apparently work on the basis of "you break it, you buy it" and no take-backs.

The eye comes surprisingly easy once you get a grip, and it practically falls out into your hand. You decide not to think too hard about where it's been.

"And now, to reveal your true form," you intone, in the flattest voice you can muster, because you refuse to sound this corny unironically.

The amulet around your neck glows, floating to chin level like the eye's a magnet drawing it in, and then bursts into gyroscopic clockwork chaos as the eye heats up like an incandescent lightbulb between your fingers. The nonexistent wind howls and screams through the frozen street - probably the cherub having a tantrum over getting popped out of its host like a lollipop from the mouth of a whiny-ass baby

"Yeah, yeah," you mutter. The eye flares a little brighter, and then, with a burst, reveals itself to be a... pool ball?

Yeah, that's some kind of a pool ball alright. It's way too small, since obviously the dude had to be able to shove it into his eye socket, and it's flashing through the design of every pool ball at once available like it's trying for a new form of revenge by epileptic seizure, but the colors and numbers look right, at least when you can actually make them out.

Great! says Aradia. Now we just have to find the other one!

The other one. Right. Fuck. You were so caught up the stupid time loop you almost dimensional-sidehopped in a world where Cherubs didn't come in pairs like the galaxy's most inconvenient magical snake assholes.

Time fades back in like a wide-shot film transition, still scenery blurring into life as the red filter fades, and Furry Dude pitches forward to faceplant into the road at your feet. You should probably get out of here before he comes around.

"Did you get it?" Jade asks.

"Yeah," you call back. "Fake eye, under the mask."

"Great!" She grins, the way you picture Aradia would if she had a human face, and knocks a two-ton chunk of still-falling debris away from some lady with a baby stroller, who screams and runs the other way. It hits the pavement lightly like paper-mache, which someone on a city cleanup crew will probably be thanking her for later.

The building above you both creaks ominously.

"Do you have enough magic to rewind the building back to an undamaged state?" Jade asks, scrutinizing it with a picture-frame gesture like she's contemplating shrinking the whole thing pocket-sized.

Not without rewinding everything else inside, says Aradia, which would be pretty expensive, and maybe not all that helpful?

"Darn." Another piece of rubble diverts in midair, floating airily into the side of a skyscraper before bouncing onto the sidewalk. Around you, traffic has started to pick up again, drivers complaining left and right about the newly congested intersection clogged with abandoned vehicles and debris.

Your phone buzzes from somewhere in your pants. You can't remember your sailor suit having pockets, but you decide, just this once, not to look the gift horse in the mouth.

The buzzing turns out to be texts from John. He's back in Washington again, away from most of this nonsense, except when his cousin Jane gets caught up in it, because if there's one other thing that proves your life is a magical girl anime, it's that your superpowers run in friend-groups. Awkward, extended-family friend-groups.

EB: hey dave

EB: i think we found the other half of your cherub?

EB: there are some problems though

You roll your eyes, invisible to everyone but except maybe Aradia, and type out a reply.

TG: what kind of problems

EB: uhhhhhhhh

EB: maybe it's better if i just show you

The next text is a picture of Jane, dressed in so much neon you're half a second from assuming John ran the photo through a shitty SBaHJ filter.

TG: what the hell am i looking at

It's a rhetorical question. You already know exactly what's in the picture.

EB: so long story short can you guys make it up here to washington or should we come to you?

Goddammit.

"John found the other half of the Cherub," you report, looking up from your phone and mentally thanking Jade for being the main reason you haven't been clocked in the head by falling rubble while squinting at your phone under a building that's still raining debris like mini-meteor Armageddon.

"Oh, good!" says Jade. "Where is it?"

She's probably hoping what you're hoping: that you'll have this handled within the hour, without a spiral portal spitting you out in bugfuck bloodcaste town or wherever else your long-distance alien frenemies call home. The photo is... not conducive to that.

"Oh," she says. "Awkward."

"Yeah." After a moment, you add, "All in favor of going for slushies and letting John deal with that one?"

Jade looks at the photo again. And then back at Furry Dude, still passed out on the pavement. And then back at the building.

(For what it's worth, the slushies taste delicious.)