• Andrea Anderson

Time Crunch - #2

genre: contemporary romance/magical realism

word count: 520

October, 1871

Poughkeepsie, New York


Carson hasn’t woken up someplace new—someplace different, someplace separate—since he was a little kid.


Years ago.


Years.


A decade, minimum.


It’s a lot fucking weirder than he remembers it being.

There are ominously flickering gas lamps lining the hallway—the long, creepy, shadow-infested haunted house hallway with the bruised violet wallpaper and the dark wood paneling and the huge, glittering, gilt-framed, slightly warped-looking antique mirror hanging next to a pair of firmly locked double doors.


Carson does not have a key to those firmly locked double doors.


Carson does not have a key to anything, actually, because this isn’t a timeline that he’s visited before, not even as a plucky, magically gifted, seen-but-not-heard second grader, and other than a gleaming silver pocket watch inscribed with a date—1868—that’s chained to his silk brocade waistcoat, he doesn’t have a fucking clue where he is.


And then the floorboards creak.


Groan.


Echo with the click-clack-drag of approaching footsteps, like he really has been dropped into the middle of an artsy critically acclaimed horror movie with tremendous production value as, like, dumb jock serial killer bait; except when he turns around—


That’s Dougie.


That’s upside-down, Alice in Wonderland rabbit-hole, nineteenth-century country gentleman Dougie hurrying towards him, fiddling with his cuff links, his red-blond hair slicked back and the points of his uncomfortably stiff shirt collar hitting him in the chin and his bow-tie hanging floppy around his throat like it’s made out of actual ribbon.


“Oh, thank god,” Not-Dougie hisses, sounding relieved, but also irritated, but also fond, but also desperate? It’s a lot. It’s—always a lot, with Dougie. Carson’s almost used to it. “They’re about to start, and I would’ve gone mad if I had to sit through one more blasted moment of that—that charlatan pretending to channel my dead grandmother’s spirit while his inbred criminal minions ransack my family’s wine cellar.”


Carson’s mouth opens. Closes. Opens. Closes. Opens.


Closes.


Not-Dougie tosses a quick, faux-casual glance up and down the otherwise empty hallway, seemingly unbothered by its—fucking terrifying—everything, before shifting closer to Carson, idly reaching out to smooth his fingertips over the crushed velvet sleeve of Carson’s dinner jacket.


And then he picks up Carson’s limp, sweaty, oddly callus-free hand, and threads their fingers together.


Which—okay.


Okay.


That’s not bros. Carson knows it’s not bros. Carson knows it’s quite literally never been bros, not now, not in the past, not in the future, not—ever, there is no time period or timeline or universe in which this particular gesture, this particular, specific, intimate gesture, has ever been bros. Which means—


It isn’t bros.


It isn’t intended to be bros.


“Um,” Carson says weakly, tightening his grip on Not-Dougie’s hand like he’s about to take a fucking penalty shot, like he’s about to drown, “yeah. Yes. I am . . . here. Finally?”


Not-Dougie’s lips curl into a small, private smile—comforting, familiar, even when the rest of the world is kind of a fucking nightmare.


“Yes,” Not-Dougie agrees sagely. “Finally.”


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