Saw this movie a few days ago, loved it and wrote this today before seeing the movie again and finishing my edits. I haven't seen any other fics yet; I'm hoping that the movie sees a wider release and others write some fic. As a disclaimer, of course, I own nothing.
And it's when you're tumbling through time that you feel it, that numb but growing sensation in your stomach rising up through your throat. You want to yell and vomit and cry all at once, and you didn't know you could be so scared and so happy at the same time. Maybe you're just not used to this, maybe your body just doesn't know how to handle time travel and your heart just doesn't know how to handle genuine emotion. Yeah, this big machine is taking you back in time to when you were a surly, PMSing teenager, but you've already been taken back to a moment before that, when you were an eight-year-old kid who believed that everything would work out in the end, and you weren't brought to this moment by lasers or physics or alternate universes.
Open your eyes.
You realize that your eyes are shut. When he says it again – Trust me, open your eyes. – you do, and you see. He's laughing, and those ever-present lines of worry and fatigue are gone from his face, and you suddenly understand that his laughter is full of wonder. Because the thing they don't tell you about time travel in movies or metaphysical treatises is that time travel isn't like other methods of transportation; you don't move in a straight line from A to B. It's more like you move from B to A and then A to D and then D to B and then to your final destination C; instead of going forward, forward, forward, you go forward, backward, sideways, and then forward again.
You're seeing moments from the past and future and present all at once. You see yourself as a surly, PMSing college student; you see yourself in the office of the magazine, and you see yourself with grey hair. When you see yourself pregnant you start to cry, and when you see your funeral, well attended by the look of things, you begin to smile through your tears. The entire time his arm is around you, and maybe he's whispering in your ear but when you look at him he's not. And it occurs to you that you're hearing conversations that took place long ago, or never took place at all. Your first instinct is to think, This is screwed up, but then you think about it for a moment and realize, no, it really isn't.
And when you begin to see the other realities you start to think that maybe it's screwed up that you've never seen this way before. Because that's the other thing they don't tell you. When you travel through time, you're not just traveling through your time; you're traveling through all times. Sometimes, you have to take detours through other worlds and other universes – We can never panic, even if we want to, he had told you that night by the fire, after you'd kissed him, after you'd understood (and goddammit isn't that a moment you wish you could see again) – yeah, sometimes you have to take a trip to the other side. You see realities where you never met Kenneth, and realities when you met him much sooner. You see realities where you were never born, where your mother never died, where Napoleon won at Waterloo and Tamerlane didn't turn around and kept going right on to Europe (Kenneth had to explain this one to you). You see the best of all possible worlds and the worst, and you see a universe without Earth and it's heartbreakingly beautiful.
Somewhere in there you see yourself with him. Sometimes you're happy, sometimes you're sad. That's how it goes. You want to close your eyes, because you don't want to know how this story ends, but he stops you.
I don't want to know what happens to us.
You won't. We're creating a new timeline, which…. He trails off. He grabs your shoulder, and he turns you to look him in the eye. That's not how it has to go.
How so? you want to ask. Because of physics? Or because of us? Who gets to choose?
And he stares at you and says again, Look. And you do and you see. You see and you understand: you could hate him, you could love him. It could work out, or it couldn't. You could have kids; you could adopt; you could divorce and get restraining orders. Or he could leave you on a Tuesday and you could never see him again.
There are universes in which he dies and you sob to yourself and universes in which you die and he doesn't leave his room for weeks. There are universes where you marry another man and he's horribly unhappy, or universes where you both meet someone different and are happy separately. And there are universes where you can't see what happens, other than the fact that you hurt each other and help each other and make each other whole for at least some split second, some moment and location in space-time that will always be there but that you'll never capture again.
It doesn't feel like time is working right. It doesn't feel like this journey had a true beginning, and you don't know if it's possible to quantify how long you've stood on this ramshackle ship watching the mysteries of time and space unfold before you. But apparently all things end, even a journey through and outside of time. And when it ends, you're in a hollow on a boat just like you were at the beginning, in that different life and separate universe. And you wonder if there's a different Darius still standing on that boat, or still standing outside his car, or still watching him in a supermarket.
There probably is, you decide, and you come close to envying her. But then he takes his hand off your shoulder, and then puts it back on again, and then off, like he can't decide.
So, he says. He manages something of a smile. What did you think?
I don't know. It feels inadequate as you say it. So you add, in a vain attempt to be something of your old sardonic self, I was hoping there'd be dinosaurs.
Not with the scope of this mission and the precision of our coordinates, he says seriously. He lightens, somewhat. Maybe we can try that sometime.
You bring the guns and I'm in.
You both stand there. After all the build-up, after all the foreplay, neither of you seems to know what to do. It hits you how ridiculous it is. It hits you that you're standing there stupid after you've just time traveled, for Christ's sake. And you decide, oh well, what the hell, and you hug him.
He's tense but he quickly relaxes. You hear him inhale and you think he's smelling your hair. (You're glad you used shampoo last night.)
We should get going, he says. But you should know – our mission could be dangerous. We don't know what could happen.
I thought you said you'd done this before. Once.
You look up at him and he looks at you, unblinking. And he answers: Not like this.
Maybe you should say the same, maybe you should tell him that you're just as lost. But you don't think you need to say it.
So you look at him and you say instead, I can't tell you what will happen. Do you really think you're ready to do this?
You know what he's going to say before he opens his mouth.
You pull him closer and feel his vest against your cheek. It's black and somehow warm.
Yeah, you say. I do too.