A slightly shorter chapter this time. It is an epilogue of sorts, at least to this particular episode of WOWP. The next chapter (or story – I'm still contemplating how to organise this fic) will pick up during the next episode with the pocket elves.
Some episodes will be skipped and the amount of chapters per episode will vary. Having said that, nothing is set in stone. What episodes would you guys like to see re-written/altered by Justin's antics and what ones would you rather are ignored?
Chapter 6: Options
"To Max and his sandwich artistry," toasted Dad, raising Max's sandwich (AKA abomination) in the air.
"To Max." Everyone else followed suit.
Alex made a sarcastic clinking noise and bumped her sandwich against Justin's in a mock toast. Some popcorn fell out the side. The New York Mets chose this as their official sandwich? By smell alone, Justin was repelled.
He eyed the sandwich dubiously, trying to suss out what lurked inside (aside from popcorn that was). It was probably safer not knowing if he wanted to actually eat it and not vomit on it.
"There isn't cinnamon in this?" he asked.
"Grrmhf," said Max. His answer was incomprehensible around a large mouthful of sandwich. Seeing the half-chewed bread and fillings made the sandwich less appealing if that was somehow possible.
Justin dropped his sandwich on the plate. That sounded like a yes. Darn. Now he couldn't try Max's sandwich. Such a shame.
"Nope, no even a pinch," said Alex. She locked eyes with Justin, giving him a long, challenging look. He wasn't going to be able to wiggle out of eating the sandwich on her watch.
Unlike Justin who was allergic to cinnamon, Alex adored it. She could smell it from a mile away and taste it in anything. If there were cinnamon in the sandwich, Alex would taste it. Justin had no doubt. There went his excuse. It was probably a long shot anyway.
He picked up the sandwich again. Just one bite. Justin opened his mouth and nibbled off a bit at the end, avoiding the filling, but the gravy and peanut butter smeared over the bread was unavoidable. It would only get worse from here on in. He planned out a direct route to the bin to spit it out.
How had Alex eaten so much of it? Justin eyed her plate, watching her fidget with a knife and fork. Something wasn't right there. Alex considered cutlery optional for many foods that blatantly required cutler; she would not bother over a sandwich. Not unless she was up to something. With closer scrutiny Justin noticed her cutting up the sandwich and shifting it around the plate. She probably hadn't even touched it.
Justin had tricks up his sleeve too. Sure, Alex was a pro at hiding vegetables, but Justin had knowledge at his disposable. How could he use it to his advantage? A little fact from biology class a few years ago popped into his head: taste was mostly smell.
If he couldn't smell the sandwich, the taste wouldn't be a problem. He could eat just enough of it to show that he tried it. Justin pinched his nose closed trying to play it off as a sneeze and took a large bite out of the sandwich. The odd mixture of textures from mash potato to popcorn was enough to trigger off his gag reflex without the taste. He coughed and spluttered, but managed to swallow it.
"Awesome," Justin choked out, "perfect sandwich for the New York Mets."
Dad looked like he was about to burst from happiness. He bounced up and down on his toes like a kid, talking a hundred miles a minute. Justin caught words here and there - website, new staff, uniforms - he wasn't that bothered with the details. Only that it occurred. This hadn't happened the first time. Justin's rationale behind not using the do-over spell was completely selfish. He had forgotten about this.
How would it affect things in 2009 with the threatening recession lingering over their heads and the Sub Shop? Worst-case scenario: these alterations to time and space would prevent him returning to the future (and possible implosion of the world). There was also the possibility that he could bring these changes with him. Or perhaps nothing he would do would make a difference. Either he would be stuck here or return as if none of this ever happened.
Justin spared a sideway glance at Alex. She was completely zoned out, eyes distant and blank as she poked the sandwich. Nothing unusual. She rarely paid attention to Dad. He doubted she was just thinking about shiny stuff or high tops this time, not after she bought up the 'back to the future' topic earlier.
He didn't know whether he wanted to put that conversation off forever or demand to know Alex's thoughts right now. Justin's stomach churned and it wasn't just the sandwich. He wouldn't like Alex's conclusions. Best to get it out of the way. Like pulling off a plaster. One quick rip.
"Alex and me can look after the website," Justin blurted, interrupting Dad's spiel.
Dad turned to Justin, mouth still hanging open and eyebrows knotted together. Justin ignored him, focused on getting Alex's attention. He cast meaningful eyes at her. She blankly met his gaze for a moment; her eyes flickered to Dad and back again.
"We can?" she echoed.
Since the eyes weren't have much affect, Justin kicked out with his leg under the table.
"Ow," complained Max. "Who hit me?"
Wrong person. Max deserved it though after making that sandwich. In some cultures he would be stoned to death. Justin gave Max meaningful eyes now, but Max was too busy eying Alex suspiciously to catch the eyes. Man, he needed to work on the eyes. Clearly, not very effective. The whole situation was getting slightly ridiculous.
"Yes, we are very excited about it. Let's start right now," said Justin, hopping up from the table in the Sub Shop and pulling Alex along with him into the lair.
"What was that about?"
"Oh. I was getting impatient to hear your thoughts on my time dilemma," said Justin.
Alex rolled her eyes. "Next time text me and let me take the lead on the escape. That was pathetic."
"We're gone, aren't we?"
"Yeah but I'm not doing that website thing. I have to wash my hair or something."
"Since you have a fool-proof plan to get me back to 2009 in the next 24 hours I don't care," said Justin, aiming for flippant but it came across as somewhat desperate. He winced. He tried to play it off by casually flopping on the sofa and sprawling out.
Alex let out a sigh-hiss through her teeth and paced back and forward in front of the sofa. "Okay. The way I see it you don't have many options." She held three fingers in the air and ticked them off with her other hand as she spoke. "One: Full wizard powers and family and wand. Two: Stone of Dreams. Three…"
"Three?" Justin prompted.
"Three you wait for two years. Don't bring the family wand on vacation and I won't be able to cast the spell. I'm sorry Justin. I really am."
It really wasn't. The words were sour and metallic in his mouth. Those were the obvious options. He rapidly dismissed them and hoped that Alex's thinking outside the box skills would shed light on a 4th option.
The wizard challenge hadn't proved successful last time (but maybe if Max or Alex won…) assuming they managed to convince Dad to let it happen. Justin had already used up his one wish on the stone and it was far too dangerous for Max or Alex to use unless their lives were genuinely at stake. That just left waiting patiently. Two years was a long, long time. Safe, yes, and the best option after digging a hole with magic. Stopping digging, walk away.
"You haven't told Dad yet," Alex commented in a would-be casual way.
"I think I should wait until he has a healthy diet and a more active lifestyle in case it gives him a heart attack. It's the responsible thing to do," Justin said, only half-joking.
The irresponsible thing would involve harassing the wizard council, finding the forbidden book of spells, searching the WizWeb and WizTech library in a systematic mission to get back. It would be a lot more difficult to do that if his every move were under scrutiny.
There wasn't a question about which path Justin would pursue. Usually he would make lists, analyze the pros and cons of each option, do some equations and then come to a well thought-out answer. Not now. Justin had been responsible with magic his entire life. For once, he wanted to be reckless. Break the rules. Cast dangerous, powerful spells and go back to his real life.
"What difference will it make? If you have to wait out the two years, you might as well have some fun with it. Take the pain out if it. Dad will only stop you," Alex rationalized.
It was scary having a similar line of thought to Alex. It had to be a bad omen.
Redo. Some people dreamed of this. Usually during a mid-life crises, but Justin was an old soul, so it was almost appropriate. It mightn't be so bad. Might as well stay optimistic as he tried to get back.
Bring on 2007.
My proofreading has been very minimal for the last 2-3 chapters and because I've been so busy writing the next ones, I haven't really gotten to go over them. Since I'm between episodes now, it is a good opportunity to do so for once and for all before moving on. That's the plan. Not sure how it will affect the ETA of the next chapter, but as the cliché goes reviews always help ;)