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Augustus turned slowly, taking a moment to get his bearings and to try to see a clearer image of what was around him. He felt odd, off balance, in a body that was nostalgic and yet lost to him, no longer his own, young and angular, shaped differently than he was now. The corridors looked like school hallways, he realized, pictures of old faculty on the walls, though each vanished into mists.
The room behind him was more familiar: it was a bedroom, his own from back at Twent. He knew it likely only because he’d had it both before and after the blank period, and it wasn’t likely tied to any of the things that had caused the memory loss. It was, at a glance, as he remembered it: his bed, personal belongings, wardrobe. Likely, there were secrets hidden in it, of course.
There was one more thing to do before he made his decision. Enmity? He called in his mind. Are you there?
Space warped in front of him briefly, and then a strange dragonfly appeared on his sleeve—not the outfit he was last wearing, he noticed, but a pale, tan suit more suited to a younger man. The dragonfly had too many wings lining the whole length of its body, and its legs were hooks. It bled red blood, human blood, as it crawled its way up Augustus’s sleeve to his front, leaving a long smear to mark its trail. There it perched like a brooch over his heart, wings fluttering and spraying fine droplets. “That’s cute,” the dragonfly said, a tiny whisper of Enmity’s voice. “That’s disgusting. You’re taking the time to think about me instead of exploring.”
“Don’t worry, thou lovesick mite. I’m watching. But you can’t waste time, got it, babe? With only two focus items we have some pretty damn limited space to explore.”
Augustus had relaxed a little at that familiar whiplash between high and low diction. He didn’t respond, knowing he’d get chided again if he did, but just made a decision: the thing that had to be the most important here was the person Augustus could not remember, the young man from the ambrotype. His bedroom was likely tied directly to himself and thus possibly easiest to return to if divining again; the paths into the mists was the most undefined; he already knew a little about Soren.
He turned to the left and broke into a jog to meet the young man.
The youth’s features became clearer as he approached: he was gangly and short, with long brown hair loosely tied back in a braid like he were a civil servant, and he had freckles scattered across his face. He was dressed finely but inappropriately in shirtsleeves and brocaded vest with no coat. His eyes were bright green and merry; he laughed as Augustus approached, reaching out to snag Augustus’s hand and suddenly Augustus found himself being pulled along.
It felt familiar, and he couldn’t help his heart lifting as the two of them ran together through the hallways, heedless of the noise of their shoes and laughter, to tumble into another room together. It too was a bedroom, and laid out similarly—all the dorms must have been—though Augustus didn’t remember it.
The young man threw his arms around Augustus and kissed him, laughter bubbling up against his mouth, pressing Augustus against the wall, a leg pressing between Augustus’s thighs carefully. He found himself gasping, kissing back fervently, and then his hands came up involuntarily, pushing the familiar stranger away, though only a little. “We shouldn’t,” Augustus murmured. “We don’t want to spend too much of ourselves before the ritual. We need as much energy as we have, since we don’t know what’ll happen.”
“Soren told you that.”
“I mean, he didn’t say it about fucking.”
“I bet he was thinking it,” the young man said. “I think he wants to find any excuse to keep us from fucking again.”
Augustus found himself huffing out a fond, frustrated breath. “I know you think he doesn’t like you, Vii.” Vii? Was that this youth’s name? Or simply a nickname?
“I don’t think he doesn’t like me,” Vii murmured, thumbing Augustus’s lower lip and forcing his mouth a little open. “I think he’s fascinated by me, and who can fucking blame him? I’m powerful and awesome and gorgeous and I have you. And I know for a fact he wants you, but you’re mine, aren’t you?”
“Ihh hhyhh,” Augustus said. He wished he had more insight into his past self’s thoughts, not just the whirlwind of sensations, to know how he’d intended to answer.
“Wow,” the eldritch dragonfly clinging to his chest whispered to Augustus alone. “You got a type, huh, babe?”
He must, at that. He could feel the love pounding in his chest, and knew that his younger self had been completely besotted with this person he now couldn’t remember.
“Probably we could get all over it if we just gave up on being coy about it and had a threesome,” Vii was saying thoughtfully, his thumb hooked into Augustus’s mouth, which was incredibly distracting. “But I’m really enjoying monopolizing you here. Is that fair of me? I don’t know, Auggie, you tell me.”
Augustus managed to lift a hand to gently remove Vii from his mouth. “We’ll see if it matters one way or another soon anyway,” Augustus said. “The thing we’re going to do will either fail or it’ll work, and either way, we’re all soon going to be sharing an experience that goes far beyond anything we’ve experienced before. Or we’ll die.”
“Or we’ll die,” Vii said, more somber now, resting his forehead against Augustus’s shoulder. The dragonfly should be crushed between them, but then, it wasn’t real to his past self, only to the current Augustus. “Have you made any preparations for that possibility?”
Augustus snorted. He felt scorn, and could recognize the reasons for it even before his younger self spoke. “What preparations could I make? I don’t have any family. What about you?”
“I left a message,” Vii said. “Nobody will find it unless they’re dealing with my personal belongings after I’m gone, so hopefully I can just burn it unopened later.”
Augustus shook his head, a fierce denial. “I wish you didn’t feel like you had to. I don’t think we’ll die. I won’t let you die.”
Vii pressed a hand to Augustus’s cheek and leaned up. “Oh, if only I believed I could have such a fierce defender,” he said, and kissed Augustus again. This time, Augustus didn’t resist as Vii pulled him back toward the bed. They hit the mattress and—
—Suddenly, everything was icily cold. His mouth was full, the heat of Vii’s tongue turned to ice, and he thrashed upward, gasping for air as he surfaced, finding himself in a pool of frigid water. It was dreadfully dark. The air tasted like minerals, and he could hear a slow, echoing drip.
And something else, in the distance. Someone was screaming, words he couldn’t make out due to the overlapping and distant echoes. He thought it was for him, and fear stirred inside him. He couldn’t tell whether he was afraid of the person or for them, not with the distance of his current self versus the emotions of his past self.
What were his options? He couldn’t keep treading water in this pool forever. He could, he decided, try to avoid the person, or he could try to find them. He was pretty sure he was in a cave, but he wasn’t sure how many tunnels there might be; still, the sound would be some guidance.
There might be a third option as well, he realized abruptly. A warm current had brushed his ankle; there might be an underground stream here, a below-water cave that he could try to dive down and into to see where it led.
Surely, he reminded himself, cave diving was safer when he was lost in magically-divined memories than it would be in real life.
[What should Augustus do? Comment with details.
Whichever gets the most votes will take it.
If it is split, I will pick randomly between the split votes.]