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He leans over him, fangs glistening and expanding, smile pulling Kyle’s face into the scary-rape-clown level of creepy. Guy wants to laugh in defiance, but he’s held down too tight with yellow rope constructs, and Parallax is trailing his claws down Guy’s torso.

“He’s the pretty one,” Parallax says, claws pressing just under Guy’s sternum. “But you…you recover nicely.”

“Yeah. Great,” Guy grates out. He’s got scars damned near everywhere now from Parallax’s claws, and teeth. There’s a set of teeth marks that haven’t fully healed over on his left hip, and Guy has to breathe in hard and clamp his jaw to keep from crying out when Parallax sticks his claws in the half-healed scab.

“You flush when you hurt,” Parallax tells him, digging his claws into the teeth marks until he draws blood. “One of these days—”

“What? You’re gonna fuck me?” Guy gives the best scoff he can given his exhaustion and injuries. “Six fucking months you’ve had me wrapped up here, and you haven’t done more than leave a few marks. You’re not gonna fuck me.”

Parallax’s eyes flicker, and for a second—a tiny, tiny second—Guy sees Kyle’s actual eye color. Yes, he thinks. Yes. “You’re scared,” he taunts.

Parallax slices his claws down Guy’s right thigh, more than deep enough to draw blood. “I am fear.”

“You’re afraid,” Guy taunts. “Afraid that Kyle won’t let you, that he’ll keep you from doing it.” He swallows a scream when Parallax bites his shoulder in punishment. “Afraid,” Guy hisses in Parallax’s ear, “that he’ll kick your yellow ass.”

“I. Am. Fear.” Parallax repeats. He twangs his fingers against Guy’s bonds, and they loosen. “No one can defeat me.”

“You keep telling yourself that,” Guy replies. He holds still as the blood flow returns to normal through his body. It makes all his half-healed injuries feel hot and itchy. “You keep telling yourself you’re not fucking me because you don’t want to. Because, I gotta tell you, after this,” Guy nods down to his damaged body, “it’s not like I give a shit.”

Parallax slams his hand against Guy’s neck and squeezes. “I should end you.”

“Do it,” Guy challenges. “Man up and fucking do it.”

“You would enjoy it too much,” Parallax replies, but his grip tightens. “You’re of no use dead.”

Guy raises his eyebrows, but Parallax’s grip is too tight for him to actually ask a question. He stares down Parallax as he thinks instead. He knows Kyle is in there, knows Kyle is still fighting to get out with every ounce of his will, but he also knows Kyle hasn’t burst out because Guy’s trussed up and being held hostage. Guy needs to push it.

Guy needs to get himself killed.

“Do it,” he whispers around the ever-increasing pressure on his neck. “Take me out. You can’t be scared of killing me.”

“I. Am. Never. Scared.”

Guy pulls in a breath, works his mouth back and forth, and spits in Parallax’s eye. “Prove it.” The edge’s of his vision grays out as Parallax digs in his claws. Guy keeps his eyes open, presses his neck against Parallax’s hand.

His vision goes black, and Guy hears an all mighty roar. Kyle, he thinks.

Kyle’s okay.

*

“Thirty seconds earlier,” Booster says as he flashes back into the time lab and steps out of the sphere.

“You sure?” Rip asks.

“I go in thirty seconds after, he’s dead. I go in a minute before, Parallax sees me and kicks my ass.” Booster glances at his half-charred costume and grimaces as he brushes ash off his chest. He looks into the corner as Rip re-calibrates the instruments. “We’ve got this,” he says. “Sixth time’s the charm.”

“Are you sure he has to go through it? Can’t you go in earlier? Before?”

“Rip says it’s a no-go,” Booster tells him, clapping Kyle—gray and worn and wearing a nearly tattered and oversized University of Michigan sweatshirt—on the shoulder. “You becoming Parallax is a lynchpin. We pull that, everything after could disintegrate. We’re not fans of that here.”

“What if—”

“I don’t know what’ll happen after,” Booster interrupts. “All I know is that Guy’s death is something we can change.”

“We’re ready,” Rip says.

“He might hate me,” Kyle says as Booster turns away.

“Not possible,” says Ted as he walks into the lab. He pauses and straightens Booster’s hair before Booster jumps into the time sphere.

“What if he thinks I abandoned him?” Kyle asks.

“Not possible,” Ted repeats. “Trust me, I know a little something about overdue rescues. It’ll be all right.”

*

His vision goes gray at the edges, but Guy keeps his eyes open. He won’t give Parallax the satisfaction of looking away. The gray starts to fade into black, and as Guy feels himself slipping away, he hears an all mighty roar. Kyle, he thinks.

Kyle’s—yelling at someone.

Guy opens his eyes and reaches a hand to his throat. Swallowing hurts, and he can feel the warm pain of a massive bruise forming. He turns his head and sees Kyle, buck naked and yelling at—

“Booster?” Guy rasps, and Booster and Kyle both spin around.

“There he is!” Booster says, sidestepping Kyle to walk over and touch Guy on the shoulder. “Fresh as a daisy.” He wrinkles his nose. “After a bath, at least.”

“I’m not finished!” Kyle yells, striding over. He shoves at Booster’s shoulder and yanks him away from Guy. “If you could just come in and dispatch Parallax like that, why the hell didn’t you do it—”

“There are parts of the time stream I can screw with, and there are parts I can’t,” Booster answers. “You had to be Parallax. Changing that would have—”

“I don’t care about being Parallax! Why didn’t you help Guy before this?”

Booster’s jaw doesn’t gape, but it comes close. Before he can find an answer, Guy reaches out and manages to knock his fingers against Kyle’s wrist. “You okay?” he asks.

“Me?” Kyle asks. He huffs out a disbelieving laugh as he helps Guy sit up. “Am I okay?”

“That’s what I’m asking.”

“You are deranged,” Kyle tells him, and he pulls Guy closer, careful of the scars and scabs and open wounds. “God, you must hate—”

“I don’t,” Guy says, pressing his head against Kyle’s shoulder. “Not your fault. I made my decision.”

“You dumb bastard,” Kyle mutters, and he laughs again, more genuine, as he cups the back of Guy’s head. He looks up to apologize to Booster for his outburst, but they’re alone in the room.

“He’s gone?” Guy asks.

“Yeah, he’s gone.” Kyle shakes his head and tips back Guy’s head to get a look at the bruises and marks on his face. “No one’s gonna believe it was Booster who saved us.”

“Always knew he had it in him,” Guy replies.