Godric meets Salazar for the first time when he's six years old, and Salazar is thirty six. They were born two years apart. They meet in the bushes behind Godric's house.
"Hello," Godric says, swinging the plastic sword in his hands. "How do you do?" Salazar's hiding awkwardly behind a bush, hands cupped between his legs. "Why are you in my garden?"
There's a long, awkward pause where Salazar tries to figure out how to explain this to a small child holding a sword.
"Are you lost?" Godric says. "I could draw you a map. I'm good at maps." The sword swings again and scores a line in the dirt. "I'm a pirate." He points at his hat, which is sitting a few feet away. "Pirates have maps."
"It's nice to meet you," Salazar finally settles on saying, and hopes desperately that nobody looks out of the window.
"You're naked." Godric's head is cocked, and his sword stops swinging. "I don't like clothes."
"They're not very nice," Salazar says and, finally, feels the tingle in his skin that means he's going, finally, thankfully. "Good bye," he says, and the next time he blinks he's standing in his living room. Godric, now thirty four, is looking at him from the sofa with a tired expression. A sword hangs on the wall, not plastic, but Godric is still prone to swinging it around, especially when drunk.
"I think I just met you for the first time," Salazar says, and picks up his clothes from the floor. "You were a pirate."
Salazar meets Godric for the first time when they're, respectively, twenty two and twenty and neither of them have time traveled. He's working in a bar when Godric sits in front of him, cocky grin on his face and a shirt that reveals more than it covers.
"You were my imaginary friend growing up," Godric says, and Salazar looks up sharply. "You were my first kiss and I pretended I lost my virginity to you." He glances over his shoulder for a second, and a girl with bright red hair sticks her thumbs up. "Also, can I have a pint and a vodka and coke?"
"What?" Salazar says.
"Hi, I'm Godric." His grin fades, just a little, to an almost sympathetic smile. "You travelled naked into my garden a lot."
"When?" His hands are shaking, he can't even reach for the glasses, can't pour drinks. He's glad it's a Wednesday.
"When I was six. Until I was eighteen." Godric's leaning against the bar, toying with the edge of the towel beneath his hands. "I'm twenty now. You must be twenty two."
"I am," Salazar says. "This is so weird." Godric nods, and he's grinning again, and waving over his shoulder for the woman with the red hair. He laughs when she whispers something in his ear, and wraps his arm around her shoulder and Salazar wonders what makes his future self visit this man - this past child - so much.
They end up in Godric's cupboard of a flat. Salazar can't remember when it was decided, sometime after the woman with the red hair introduced herself ("Helga," she said, smiling brightly, "After my mam.") and after Godric leaned in too close and after Helga left, whispering something in Godric's ear that made him laugh. Before Salazar walked with him to the bus station, before Godric held his hand and smiled, smiled so brightly, before they'd kissed beneath a street lamp, slow and teasing and promising.
"The things I could tell you," Godric says, as they twist together on dark sheets. His shirt is somewhere by the door, along with Salazar's jumper. His got a tattoo on his bicep, a lion, mid-roar. "About you, about me, about us." His hips roll against Salazar's and they breathe, sharply and harshly and it's too loud, too loud in the stillness of the flat.
"I don't want to know," Salazar says, his hands on his shirt, on Godric, in his hair, on his trousers, everywhere and nowhere is right. "Not yet."
"I know." Godric's not smiling, but he radiates something as he undoes Salazar's shirt, as he leans down to pepper kisses to Salazar's shoulder, as he nips lightly at the skin. "You told me not to tell." He kisses Salazar, sloppy and lazy and all together perfect, before he scooches back, sits with his back pressed to Salazar's raised knees and frowns down at him. "It sucks," he says. "Hurry up and live it."
Salazar doesn't answer him, just rolls them over on the bed and tries to make Godric smile again.
Godric is still asleep when Salazar wakes up, on his stomach with his hands by his face. The sheets are low around his hips, and there's another tattoo on his back. In the daylight streaming through the window, out of the smoky darkness of the bar, of the night time and the lights they didn't bother to turn on, Salazar can finally look at him. He's got bruises and scars across his body and stubble on his jaw. He's muscular and tight and Salazar can make out the individual ridges of his spine.
The flat is a mess, a bed shoved in a corner, a sofa covered in clothes, a kitchen with counters covered in empty mugs. When Salazar gets out of bed to rifle through the cupboards, he finds a loaf of bread, a pot of Marmite and fifty pounds under a packet of tea bags. There's a note stuck to the fridge door that reads 'you're a disgusting pig, - Ebba'. He wonders who Ebba is, and wonders if a Marmite sandwich constitutes a healthy, balanced breakfast.
In the bathroom, he finds three tubes of toothpaste and a dress hanging from the door.
"That's Helga's." Godric's voice is muffled with sleep, nothing like the bright, sharp consonants from the night before. "She comes to whinge about how messy it is and leaves all her shit here."
"Are you-" Salazar watches Godric through the doorway, watches as he rolls onto his back and stretches, fists colliding with the wall as he pushes his shoulders downwards, his hips arching upwards.
"Friends," he says. "Kept me sane when I thought I was going crazy." He turns his head towards Salazar and smiles. "It's hard having an imaginary friend."
Salazar doesn't say anything. Godric pushes himself out of bed, stands for a moment in the warmth of the sun. Dust motes dance around him, and he scratches at his thigh. He stumbles when he walks, like his legs haven't woken up quite yet. He leans against Salazar for a moment as he passes him, presses against him and kisses him, slow and sleepy.
"You taste like my Marmite," he says, when he pulls aways. "And sleep."
"Sorry." Salazar's hand trails against Godric as he pushes through to the bathroom. Salazar watches as he washes his hands, frowns at himself in the mirror and picks at his skin. "You look good," Salazar says, and smiles when Godric laughs.
"I look like shit," he says. "Make me a cuppa."
As the water boils, Salazar listens to Godric in the bathroom. The tap's running, but over the sound of the water, Salazar can hear Godric singing to himself, something about humps or lumps or lady lumps. Salazar's not sure he wants to know.
Salazar travels for the first time when he's five years old. One minute, he's stepping out into the road and the next, his skin is tingling and his stomach lurches and he's somewhere else, he's somewhere else and he doesn't have any clothes on and there's a man frowning at him.
"Remember the Green Cross Code," the man says. "Look both ways when crossing the road." Before Salazar can do anything, can say anything or even maybe start to cry because he's got no clothes on and he doesn't know where he is and, and, and, his skin is tingling and his stomach lurches again and he's back on the pavement, his clothes at his feet and his mother staring down at him like he's got horns.
He starts traveling a lot after that - once every couple of months, at first, but by the time he's eight it's up to at least once every week.
His parents call it is "talent", with their mouths screwed up like they're sucking on lemons. Until a sixteen year old version of himself teaches him how to control it, just a bit, he calls it his "shit", a word he's not even meant to know.
The only time he even vaguely likes it is when he meets his future selves, and they teach him things.
When he's twelve, he'll turn up in a his future bedroom, and get, quite possibly, scarred for life.
The first time Godric kisses Salazar, he's seventeen, a little bit drunk and Salazar's sitting under a tree in a too-small pair of trackie bottoms and a t-shirt Godric might have taken from Ebba's bedroom, out of spite.
"I hate you," Godric says, sitting down on his knees in front of Salazar, who just raises his eyebrow at him. "You should fuck off."
"You know that's not how it works." Salazar's face is hard to read, not that Godric ever could read it. "I could be sunbathing in the Bahamas right now, but instead I'm listening to your drunken ranting."
"Fuck you," Godric snaps.
"Are you even legal to drink?"
"Fuck you." Salazar isn't going to shut up. He's about to open his mouth, say something that'll make Godric want to punch him, slam his fist into his face and listen for the crunch of bone and cartilage, feel the sting in his knuckles.
Godric kisses him before it can get to that, kisses him so hard it's more like a bite, kisses him with anger and passion and something that's very much neither.
Salazar pulls away first, with a shake of his head, and looks everywhere but Godric, with the flush high in his cheek and his teeth pulling at his lip.
"Don't do that," Salazar says. "It's not even vaguely okay."
"Why not?" There's no anger in his voice anymore, no anything Salazar can latch onto.
"Because," Salazar says. He wonders if this is why Godric sometimes huffs laughter against his neck, back in the right time, when they talk about what Godric's past holds, what Salazar's got to wait for. It's probably not. This is probably one of the things that leaves Godric with a tight expression on his face and a hard look in his eyes. "Because I'm older than you."
"When were you born?" Godric's sitting back now, his arms wrapped around his knees and focusing on Salazar like he's hiding the answers to every question in his face.
"Eighty-four," Salazar says. "Two years before you. But that doesn't matter."
"Fuck yes, it does. Two years is nothing." There's that bite of anger in Godric's voice, and Salazar is glad for it.
"Right now, I'm nearly thirty." There's a sound from Godric, something like laughter and a sigh and a grunt. "That's a problem."
"I don't care." Godric sounds exactly like the teenager he is, full of rebellion and the sureness that he's right, that he's always right. "That doesn't bother me. You've been coming here since I was six, for fucks sake."
"I know," Salazar says. "And there's enough issues with that alone."
"Are you dating someone?" The question comes just as Salazar's skin starts to buzz, as his stomach starts to churn but he manages to nod.
"Yeah," he says, and then he's gone, and he's naked in front of Helga who's got her eyebrows raised and a smile on her face.
"You're lucky, Godric," she says. "I can't believe I've never seen him naked before."
Five months after Godric had looked at Salazar over a mug of tea and asked if he was seeing someone, Salazar comes back from stealing clothes from washing lines, and pick pocketing just to get some food and gets punched in the face.
"You prick," Godric says, shaking his fist and scowling up at Salazar. "You've been gone for two fucking weeks, except not really, because sixteen year old you has been here and he's a fucking arse."
"I'm sorry," Salazar says, and before he can say anything more, Godric's holding onto him and kissing him hard and fast and sharp and it's only been a day or two for him but he can feel how long it's been for Godric and he can feel everything in that kiss. "I'm sorry."
"Shit yeah, you are." Godric leans his forehead against Salazar's shoulder, talks against the ridge of his collar bone. "I don't know how this works. I thought you'd fucking died or something, and, and, how does that even work, if you die now, when I know you when you're older?"
"It doesn't," Salazar says. "I can't die now, not if you've seen me older," he says, and hopes that it's true.
Salazar meets Rowena when he's eighteen, sees her wink into existence from the corner of his eye. He sees her look around the bar, sees the look of resignation of her face, sees her trying to blend in with the shadows because the bar is busy, and she's naked.
He lends her his coat, and buys her a drink, and they hide in a shadowy corner and discuss philosophy, red wine versus white and time travelling.
"When did you start?" He asks, and she pauses for a moment, looks at her drink, and then she smiles at him.
"Nobody's ever asked me that before," she says. "I was ten. I was about to fall from a tree."
"I was going to be hit by a car," he says. "I was five."
"Did another you shout at you?" Rowena's sitting on the chair with her legs crossed under her, and she rocks, slightly, as she talks, still grinning. "I can never remember what I said, I was too busy being distracted by the fact I, she, was naked."
"Mine was dressed," he says. "I think I have some time to find some clothes before I get to me."
"This is the most confusing conversation," Rowena says, and then she disappears, leaving a half empty glass of lemonade and Salazar's coat behind.
Salazar finds her, in real time, after that. She's older when she opens the door to her flat, with grey streaking her hair, but she remembers him.
"Salazar!" She pulls him into a hug, presses a kiss to either cheek. "Have we just met?" She asks, and invites him in when he nods a yes.
There's a little girl sitting on the sofa, with hair like her Rowena's and a book in her hands.
"That's my daughter," Rowena says, as Salazar takes a seat. "Helena. She travels too." Helena peers over her book, square at Salazar and he's struck by how much she looks like Rowena.
"Hello," she says, before looking back to her book.
"Sorry about her," Rowena says, "She's gotten a new obsession with the 1940's. Can't tear her away from anything about it."
"I'm going to travel there, one day." She still doesn't look up from her book.
"Can she control it?" Salazar says, and his eyebrows furrow, because he can make it happen less often if he avoids television and alcohol, but control is far from possible.
"Yes." Rowena grins when she speaks, big and wide and full of pride. "It's amazing."
"Ro," Salazar says, when she answers the phone. He keeps an eye on Godric, camped out on the sofa with the remote in his hand, and tries to keep his voice lower than the television. "I have a question."
"Oh?" He can hear Helena in the background, ten years old and as smart and quick witted as ever. He can make out vague words, a theory on how far back in time she can travel, interspersed with mentions of dolphins.
"Have you ever...fixated on somebody?" Godric laughs at something on the TV, loud and clear and happy. "Traveling, I mean? Have you ever visited one person regularly?"
"After Helena's father died," Rowena says, and Salazar hears a door shut, and can no longer hear Helena. "I visited him nearly every day for a month."
"I'm sorry." Salazar rakes a hand through his hair, scratches at his jaw. He needs to shave. "It's just, I met this guy last night, and he says I'll visit him for, like, twelve years."
"It could be a joke or-"
"I thought that too, but he knows things, Ro." He sighs, leans back against the wall and he's sure he already knows what Rowena's going to say.
"It's never happened to me," she says. "Maybe he's special."
"I hoped you wouldn't say that."
They stand above the Thames. Godric's playing with his phone, some game that leaves him frustrated and snapping swear words at the screen. They're waiting for Helga, Salazar thinks, but knowing Godric, the plan's changed.
"How old am I when we meet?" He asks, staring down into the depths of the river. He feels Godric shift beside him, feels the press of his hip against the edge of his thigh, and sees him when he leans into the edges of his vision.
"For the first time?" Salazar nods. "Thirty six."
"What's the youngest you've ever seen me?" He looks up at Godric, watches him bite at his lip, watches him tap his fingers against the railing like he's counting back years in his head.
"About twenty six, I think," he says. He slips his hands into his pockets, sways against Salazar and knocks their elbows together. "You looked pretty young, but not like you did in your thirties. You're pretty vague with ages, you only ever told me a few." He pauses. "I saw you with grey hair, once. Nearly all grey."
Twenty six, he thinks. Not long until he can start figuring this out.
On their year anniversary, Godric takes Salazar home. He meets Ebba, who's just back from six months in Africa, who only looks barely related to Godric but smiles like him and laughs like him too. He meets Godric's mum, who bustles around them and pinches at Godric's sides and asks if he's eating nearly enough, and frowns at Salazar and says he's far too skinny. Godric's dad is hiding in the garage, but when he finally ventures out, he shakes Salazar's hand with a rough grip and asks what he does for a living. There's a frown when he admits he's a bartender, and raised eyebrows when Godric pipes up with "but his parents are loaded".
After an awkward dinner that leaves Salazar unsure of what he's supposed to say while Godric and Ebba laugh together, cackling joyfully and slightly madly at every one's expense, they stand in the garden, side by side, with Godric's hand wrapped around his own.
"So, this is where we met," Godric says, gesturing vaguely towards some bushes, an unruly looking rose bush.
"Where we'll meet," Salazar corrects, to be pedantic, and Godric snorts. He glances back at the house, at the wide patio doors and the windows overlooking the garden. "Don't I ever get caught?"
"You'll have to find out, won't you?" Godric's pulling him across the grass, his shoes catching against hillocks. "This is where I kept clothes for you," he says, nudging with his foot at a bush. There's nothing there now. "In a Tupperware box. Sometimes some food, in case I wasn't around."
"You're like a boy scout," Salazar says. Godric laughs again, and then Ebba's shouting at them from the house. something about public sex, and scandalizing the neighbours and Salazar has to wonder how both of the Gryffindor children ended up that way, with their parents so completely opposite from them.
Salazar's thirteen when he comes out to himself. His other self, twenty four, is hungover, headachey and had disappeared in the middle of an argument with Godric, but Salazar doesn't know that part.
"Are we gay?" He snaps, with all the ferocity of someone who's straddling puberty. "Because if we're not, I'd like to know now."
"We are," his other self says, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. "Is that what you wanted to hear?"
"Is it going to be a problem?" Salazar swings his legs, drums them back against the edge of the bed and stares out of the window.
"You'll have to punch someone in a few years." A pause, and a sigh. "And mother won't be happy with it, but you don't tell her until you have to bring someone home anyway."
"Do we have sex? Like, with people?" Salazar says, and his older self groans, flops back on the bed and pulls a pillow over his face.
"Yes," he says, his voice muffled and barely audible. "Yes, we have sex."
They argue a lot, Godric and Salazar. An older version appears in the middle of an argument one time, looks at them both and says, quite wisely, "it's not a relationship if you like each other". This doesn't make it better, but Godric drinks a little less after the particularly bad ones.
They argue about that, about Godric's drinking. They argue about Salazar's travelling. They argue about the colours of the sheets on the bed, about the food in the fridge, how Godric never rinses out the shower after he's finished and how Salazar always moves their things under the guise of organization.
They argue about Godric's tiny apartment, and their shitty jobs, and how they both have enough money to get a better one.
More than once, Salazar disappears mid-argument. More than once, he comes back and his CD collection is back to front and Godric's using his favourite mug as an ashtray.
They make up every time, between the sheets neither of them like, or on the sofa, trying not to stain Godric's clothes. They kick at each other as they watch Eastenders and share baked beans straight from the tin. They don't say sorry, except for that one time when Godric accidentally headbutts Salazar and breaks his nose.
Salazar will never admit to it, but more than once he's asked older versions of himself whether or not it works out. When he travels, into the future this time, and finds a slightly softer Godric on the same sofa, arguing with a version of himself that's got more lines around his eyes about sharks, he stops asking.
He doesn't tell Godric about that trip. He figures that there need to be some things kept as a surprise.
Godric meets Salazar's parents, and for the first time in his life, Salazar wishes he could leave this moment in time, travel somewhere else, anywhere else. He can see everything his mother's not saying in her eyes, can tell by the set of his father's mouth that he's not impressed. Not for the first time in his life, Salazar wishes he didn't care.
Godric seems oblivious as he rattles on about the flower beds, the begonias and the pansies, the sudden segue into a ramble about Spring. Salazar watches his parents expressions tighten.
They're silent over tea, Godric doesn't ramble or anything or, God forbid, go on one of his rants about the many great injustices of the world. Every so often, he nudges his foot against Salazar's ankle, catches him with a barely there smile that crinkles the corners of his eyes and kicks until Salazar smiles back.
When the front door closes behind them, Salazar exhales and Godric laughs.
"They hate me," Godric says, practically giggling as they kick up pebbles when they walk. Dust from the pathway turns the toes of Salazar's shoes grey. He's always hated that. "I think I offended their tender sensibilities."
"They hate everyone," Salazar says, and doesn't complain when Godric gets into the drivers side of his car.
"Fuck you, Sal." Godric's still laughing. "I wanted to be special."
"They don't hate anyone." Salazar rolls his eyes. "You're completely unique." Godric nods sharply, firmly, and grins when he looks over at Salazar.
Salazar doesn't complain when the radio blares and it's Godric's stupid fucking pop music.
It's three weeks before Salazar turns twenty-six that he first meets the younger Godric. When he fights back the wave of nausea and opens his eyes, he sees a Godric that's shorter and weedier but, still, somehow the same man that, two minutes ago, was in the shower, singing off key Spice Girls songs and hooting with laughter over seemingly nothing.
"You told me last week that it'd be your first time coming here," Godric says, and Salazar notices the plastic box in his hands. It's full of clothes, he sees, once Godric hands it to him. "Does that mean you've never met me before?" Salazar turns his back, some sense of modesty pointing out just how weird it is to be naked in front of the child who will be, who is, his partner. He hasn't been ashamed about nudity in a long time, but still.
When he turns back, Godric is seemingly waiting for an answer. He shrugs. Even with Godric this young, Salazar can recognize the expression on his face, the one that tells him that Godric is seconds away from going off on one, because he's not happy, and the means nobody else can be happy.
"Is there any food?" He asks instead, because he especially doesn't want to listen to a pre-teen whining at him. "I was just making lunch when I travelled."
"I could make sandwiches," Godric says. "How long are you going to be here?" Salazar feels normal, no tingling, no lurch in his stomach, none of the usual signs.
"Long enough for a sandwich at least." From his place in the garden, Salazar can watch Godric through the kitchen window. He wonders when Godric will hit his growth spurt, fill out those gangly limbs. He wonders when he'll decide he wants tattoos. He wonders when he'll get the scar on his arm, and the other on his forehead.
He doesn't think about how messed up it is, the part where he's pretty much shaped Godric's life, and always been there, and he doesn't think about the way he never believes Godric when he says it was inevitable.
Godric comes out carrying four slices of bread in his hands and a bag of crisps clenched between his teeth. He drops the crisps into Salazar's lap, and settles down onto the grass, sitting back against his heels.
"I couldn't find the ham," he says. "So we're having crisp sandwiches instead."
When Salazar gets back, Godric's out of the shower, slumped on the sofa in his underwear, with a crisp sandwich in his hand. Salazar smiles when he sits down, shoves his feet under Godric's thighs to warm them up.
"You just made me a crisp sandwich," he says. Godric frowns and squints down at the sandwich in his head. "Like twelve years ago."
"Eleven," Godric says. "It's nice to know that my ego hasn't gotten so bad that I think I'm too good for crisp sandwiches."
"Is it nice to know that essentially, you're still a thirteen year old boy?"
"Fuck you," Godric says. "I add marmite to them now."
When Salazar lays awake at night, Godric spread out like a starfish beside him, Godric snoring and sounding so much bigger than he actually is, he thinks. He thinks about all the things that bother him.
He thinks about Godric, and whether or not they'd be together if he hadn't been there since Godric was a child. He thinks about how creepy that is, and doesn't ignore the fact he's heard Helga saying as much. He ignores Godric's response, that it's not, because Godric is Godric. He ignores the way he completely invalidates Godric's own feelings.
He wonders if Godric would even have looked at him, in a world where Salazar could stay in one place.
He doesn't tell Godric, or ask him, and Godric remains oblivious. He asks versions of himself if they think it's okay, if they feel so wrong sometimes. A version of himself with grey hair reminds him that he could leave, anytime he wanted.
He doesn't want to, and his other self knows that. His other self knows how much his heart aches when he catches sight of Godric's face just as he disappears.
Still, sometimes, it makes his skin crawl, and he aches to get away, aches to travel somewhere he can be alone.
Godric, at all ages, is loud. He's loud and opinionated and buzzing with energy he can't burn. He plays rugby and tennis and football and he swims. He runs twice a day, morning and night, and he still talks a mile a minute and waves his hands around to convey random things.
Godric, at all ages, hates theories and thoughts. He scowls at possibilities and demands facts. He's never on time.
Godric, as an adult, drinks beer like it's water and thinks body shots are the greatest thing. He hates clothes, and cooking, and documentaries. He hates history and politics. He likes to wind people up and sing and he never stops talking.
Godric, as a child, is convinced Sunny D will turn him orange. Godric, as a child, wants to be a dinosaur when he grows up, or maybe an astronaut. Salazar doesn't tell him about call centers or that short lived stint as a binman. He likes dogs and cats and thinks goats are a little bit weird. He thinks it's hilarious to play pranks on Ebba.
Godric, essentially, doesn't really change.
Salazar lays back on his elbows as he watches Godric swing a six year old version of himself over his shoulders. Behind him, a woman is smiling, whispering something to her friend. Salazar can make out the shape of 'dad' and 'adorable', and he watches his younger self laugh as Godric runs, hurtling too fast towards a pond. There's a shriek, and Salazar closes his eyes, waits for the splash but nothing but more laughter comes.
The sun warms his face, no doubt burning and freckling the bridge of his nose. When he opens his eyes, his younger self is eating an ice lolly, cherry red streaks rushing down his arm, leaving the skin sticky and tacky to the touch.
He's been with them for four days. He doesn't seem any worse for wear.
Godric scoops him up again, holds him tight around the middle and makes zooooom noises as they stumble back towards Salazar.
There's a warmth in his stomach, so unlike the familiar lurch of travelling and he thinks, maybe, this is what acceptance feels like.