The door was in the blue room at the Residence, and of course Gregor was waiting when Ivan got back. Ivan didn't know how he did that; Gregor couldn't be waiting by the door twenty-six hours a day, not and run three planets, but he almost always managed to be there when Ivan came through.
This time the room was dim and he was sleeping--upright in an armchair, feet on an ottoman, head propped on his fist. Ivan managed to catch the door and shut it quietly, leaning on it so the lock turned more easily. Gregor didn't wake, and Ivan thought about trying to sneak past him, but if Gregor were here, there would be more ImpSec about in the corridors than even Ivan could duck, and that would be more awkward yet than this.
Ivan crouched down in front of Gregor and laid one hand on his knee. "Hey, there," he said softly. Gregor's eyelashes quivered a moment before he stretched, slowly, rolling his shoulders and straightening his arm. "If you don't want a crick your neck, you shouldn't sleep in chairs all night," Ivan said, smiling when Gregor dropped his hand to cover Ivan's.
"You shouldn't stay out all night and leave me here to worry," Gregor said softly. He opened his eyes at last. "Did you go anywhere interesting?"
"I don't want to talk about it," said Ivan, holding in a sigh. Of course Gregor would want to hear.
"That sounds like a yes," Gregor said. He took his feet off the ottoman and nudged it towards Ivan.
Ivan took the hint and sat down. "Chicago," he offered, grudgingly.
"Which is?" Gregor asked.
"A city. On Earth."
"Not a very big one?" Gregor asked, knitting his eyebrows together in that way he did when a fact was not at his fingertips, and it troubled him.
"It's currently under the American Great Lake, so sort of, by acreage, but by population, no, not really," Ivan said.
"You didn't visit it currently," Gregor surmised.
"No." Ivan looked away.
"Pre-exploration?" Gregor asked. Ivan nodded. "Millennial?" Most of the trips were.
"I did mention I didn't want to talk about it?" Ivan said, a little sharp.
"What happened?" Gregor murmured, ever gentle.
Ivan took a deep breath. Bluntly enough and maybe Gregor would leave it alone? "I nearly got executed. For being a time traveler." He heard Gregor inhale, less a gasp and more a self-controlled pause, questions unvoiced in his silence, in the stillness of his hand on Ivan's, not clutching. Ivan made himself look at Gregor and saw the tight line of his mouth. "Hey. I'm fine. All appendages accounted for. You can check if you want." That would be a nice distraction.
"Perhaps later," Gregor said, the corner of his mouth turning up just a little. "I wasn't aware any of the Earth polities had laws regarding time travel." No, Gregor had never been someone on whom that tactic was particularly effective.
"Um. Not one of the nation-states," Ivan said. "More of a secret society. Of. Uh. Wizards."
Gregor's eyebrows flew up. "Ah?"
"Yes, apparently it's against the laws of magic to travel in time," Ivan explained. "I argued that the way they were traveling in space was breaking the laws of physics and therefore we were clearly bound by different laws and they had no authority to judge me." Wormholes on a planetary surface traversed on foot. Honestly.
"Wizards," Gregor mused. "Magic?" He looked toward the door speculatively. They really did have no explanation for it.
"If the secret society of assholes is still around, I don't want them anywhere near that thing," Ivan said vehemently. "I got to talking about all their laws with the kid who got me off the hook, and some of the stuff she said about things from 'beyond the outer gates'--I think they could use that door to get to, to, not just other times, other places, other continua along side ours but--hers."
"Her, the one that staked you out, or the other her, that opened the door in the first place to come after Miles?" Gregor asked. There were other hers as well, but the one who'd shown Ivan the door and the one she said created it, that Miles, when questioned, had finally admitted to having had words with, were the ones that troubled him most.
Gregor didn't like Ivan going through the door.
"Either, I don't know," Ivan said. "Maybe both. The weirdest thing was neither of them was paying any attention to me in Chicago, and it was still too exciting by a half. I think that place must have its own--" He gestured, futilely; there wasn't an adequate word for the women who could turn their lives upside-down at a whim.
"--her?" Gregor suggested.
"Him. I think. The kid said her boss talked to him directly, regularly." Ivan shivered. "Ugh. I can't even imagine. If you talk to them it seems like you're just--looking for trouble."
"And what do you think you're doing," Gregor chastised him, "chasing after hints in other places that have doors--other places she's gone to? Could visit again?"
"It's not like she'll ignore us if I don't," Ivan said. "Forewarned is forearmed. Wouldn't you rather know what we're facing, before she comes down on us again?"
"I don't know," Gregor said. "Sometimes it seems as if you make it worse by anticipating it. I mean, for all she throws at you, I get the feeling she expects you to handle it--"
"That doesn't mean it's pleasant to handle!" Ivan protested. "She's not a nice person."
"If you say so," Gregor said. "She's always been nice to me." He gave Ivan a look that--well, yes, Ivan was entirely susceptible to that particular tactic. Gregor leaned forward laced his fingers through Ivan's hair at the nape of his neck.
"There are compensations," Ivan allowed, a breath away from Gregor's lips. "It would be nice," he added, pointedly, "if one of them were ever privacy."
In deference to Ivan's complaints, the narrative ends here; the writer has run out of words, but the characters' lives, in this instance, flow off the page and carry on without her aid, as pleasantly as she can hope for them without taking any further action to shape them.