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Hourglass of Faustian Sands

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"Why would I want to stop you, Grif?"

Genkins voice echoes in his head as he races down the corridors, chest pounding from exertion as he pushes himself as fast as he can possibly go. His muscles ache as he thunders down the hallway, trying to go just a little bit fucking faster for the love of God. That fucking maniac of an AI had played him like a goddamn fiddle and if he didn't hurry then everything would go to shit.

"With Washington and Locus on your side, Temple will go down before he even turns on the time machine."

He should have fucking insisted that they didn't go back in time, he just fucking knew that it would have goddamn consequences. But no, he didn't argue because a seven against one fight didn't seem all that fair to Grif. He should have listened to Huggins, should have listened to the Cosmic Powers.

Fucking hell, they- all of them- should have listened to Wash.

"And you and your friends will never time travel in the first place!"

His vision starts to fade and he's starting to feel light-headed, but he doesn't stop- he can't fucking stop. He would give anything to take a break, he's not made for running like this, but he pushes onwards instead. Because the fate of the goddamn universe is weighing on his shoulders, and he'd be damned if he didn't do anything to prevent the colossal fuck up the other Reds and Blues were about to commit.

"Burrowing through time weakens it, sure. And changing history cracks it a little."

He was starting to think that he had taken some sort of wrong turn somewhere, like an idiot, when he spots a glimpse of color towards the end of the corridor. He doesn't know how, but he's filled with a boost of adrenaline and he hurries the fuck over there before they fucking-

"But nothing shatters time-

He hasn't even exited into the hanger before he's screaming, "DON'T!"

-like a paradox!"

He claws at the wall trying to catch his breath as he watches in horror as Carolina raises her gun to take aim. His vision starts to tunnel and every part of him feels numb because she's not listening-

And before he even realizes what he's doing, he's raising his own gun but he's not even aiming at Carolina-

The Hammer slams down onto the chassis that holds back the titan, and in that second Donut is blasted far away, the Hammer crumbling into fragments from the sheer ferocity of the swing.

But it did its job and reinforced the cage-

He screams-


and fires.

The Blue Soldier crumbles dead at Carolina's hands-

"We only fight and take lives when we have to-"

But time doesn't freeze or fade or crack the universe in half or into tiny pieces or anything of that sort.

Because at the same time Wash sways and falls down from a bullet as well.

And even though time itself doesn't freeze, Grif feels like hell just might have frozen over-

"And changing history cracks it a little."

And just like that, the cage cracks just a tad .

In the chaos of the past Reds and Blues rushing to the fallen Wash they don't notice the cries of the doppelgangers off in the corner where the bullet originated.

The present Reds and Blues, on the other hand, noticed and turned towards Grif who stood still from where he had paused in his rush to warn them. Only he was still pointing his gun towards Wash and had yet to lower the gun, painting him as the culprit.

It briefly ran through Grif's head that he should turn around and fucking run, but he continued to stand frozen, shocked by what he himself had done.

It's only when Carolina's fist smashes into his visor does he stumble backward deeper into the corridor.

"Carolina wait! I can explain-" he tries to get out, but she cuts him off as she grabs his chest plate and slams him into the wall.

"What the fuck have you just done," she hisses.

There's little protest as the SIM Troopers start to crowd around her. Tucker storms up right next to her, fists curling as he just barely refrains from beating the shit out of Grif. Which, for right now, Grif can appreciate this.

"I just saved all our collective asses," Grif grounds out, only for Carolina to slam him into the wall again. "OW! It's the truth!"

"You didn't save anybody!" Tucker yells. "You did the exact opposite of that! You attacked Wash- we came here to save him!"

Grif rolls his eyes despite knowing that Tucker wouldn't be able to see it. "No, you came here to destroy the timeline by causing a paradox! Which, is something we've been told many times!"

Tucker groans, "You can't seriously tell me you believe all that! We've been dicking around with time and nothing bad actually happened, the Cosmic Powers were probably just-" he pauses as a thought goes through his head. "Are you working for them," he accuses.

Grif only tilts his head slightly, wary that Carolina could retaliate at any sort of movement that he'd make. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

The tension leaks out of Tucker at his 'revelation' and his fists uncurl only so that he can jab his finger against Grif's chest plate. "That lens flare thing convinced you to sabotage our mission on the inside while it spied on us!"

"Don't bring Huggins into this, she had nothing to do with your collective stupidity," Grif growled out while he glared at Tucker.

"You had gotten awful chummy with it," Tucker continued.  

"She has a name," Grif said, and not even the warning of Carolina adjusting her grip against him could silence him. "And stop calling her a fucking it!"

"We don't have time for this," was the only warning Grif got before Carolina tossed him away like a piece of garbage. It fucking hurt, but at least he wasn’t being held up by a Freelancer anymore. "Simmons, open up another portal now."

Simmons fidgeted with the time gun but didn't automatically obey the command. "I- I don't think we can- we can't-"

"What do you mean we can't," she bit out.

"We would have done it by now if we did," Simmons argued. "That- it'd be a paradox!"

"Oh, now you understand the concept of a paradox!" Grif said as he started to pick himself up and away from the currently agitated group of idiots.

"Shut up, Grif!" Tucker threatened, stepping towards him.

"Hey, you don't get to speak to Big Bro that way," Kaikaina said as she stepped slightly between the two.

"Oh, so now you're on his side," Tucker said.

Pushing him she hissed, "There are no sides."

"Simmons," Carolina stepped towards him. "This is for Wash now you can either open the portal or give me the gun."

Simmons looked down at the gun, conflicted, but knowing that either way that portal would be opened he started to hand it over to her.

But Grif got to it first, his hand clamping down on it and jerking it out of Simmons' hands.

"I can't let either of you do that," he stated, backing away from the group.

Only the distinctive hum of the activation of an energy sword warned him to move out of the way as Tucker lunged at him, sword in hand.

Grif had to fumbled to get out his own sword and activate it before Tucker could strike again. With another strike both of their swords collided, Grif's slightly put off kilter as Tucker put as much force as he could with each swipe of his sword.

None of the other Reds or Blues attempted to interfere, and they didn't really need to as it was clear who was overpowering who.

Grif's sword may have given him a slight distance advantage-

"I wish for an energy sword just like Tucker’s! But longer!"

-but he was no fucking master at any type of sword-based combat.

Tucker on the other hand?

He had been training with the damn thing for years.

And Grif knew that there was no fucking contest on who would win this.

"Fuck," Grif managed to get out while dodging another strike. "Tucker just fucking listen to me!"

"Why would I listen to a traitor?! I knew we shouldn't have trusted you after you abandoned us!" Tucker said as he grew more ferocious with his swings.

"Because this isn't you!" Grif yelled. "This is some fucking side effect of overexposure to time traveling! The same thing probably happened- fuck would you stop, for just a fucking second!- the same thing happened to Doc."

"And we're just supposed to believe you?" Tucker snorted, before aiming again. "You probably set him up or something seeing as you were the last person to see him, which by the way, that practically screams suspicious!"

"Oh for the love of-" Grif gets cut off as he almost trips in his attempt to dodge. "You're a goddamn shisno!"

"My species’ myths always warned that time travel warps weaker minds, drawing them in by offering them the ability to fix their mistakes. If you give in to it too deeply, you become a shisno—an agent of Chrovos!"

"Please, as if we haven't heard that word over the years- or did you just forget about the time we spent at the desert temple," Grif could practically hear Tucker rolling his eyes as he said.

He was quickly tiring out, and he knew that he couldn't just hand over the time gun to them, but they weren't listening to him so how was he supposed to just convince them that-

His thoughts are shattered when he's jolted by the feeling of fire in his stomach and someone screaming underwater? No that doesn't sound right, but then what-

He looks down to see the cascade of blue from Tucker's energy sword embedded into his chest. He only blinks as he vaguely feels his energy sword deactivate at the same time that the blue disappears from view.

His vision becomes foggy and he can vaguely see a yellow and red blur tackle Tucker down, as well as voices, fading in and out but he can't seem to focus on any of that-

Reeling backward, his hands clutching at where he'd been stabbed. He hears the muffled clatter of something on the ground and he can't even feel the extra pressure being lifted from his back- did the time gun fall it must have fallen because he's still holding his deactivated sword so that didn't fall-

His foot catches on a cable strewn on the ground and he can't keep his balance as he feels the world start to tip as everything starts to become tunneled.

There are voices screaming his- screaming his name-


He's falling but he doesn't even feel the ground-

His eyes flutter open, before shutting firmly again as his head pounds. Groaning, he rolls over slightly and tries to will away the pressure against his temples. Only when it has slightly lessened does he open his eyes again.

Only to be greeted with nothing. For a second he thinks there's something wrong with his HUD because the thought that something has happened to his eyes for fuck's sake is- no, he's not going to think about that- but shoots that idea down as he can still see all the standard pop-ups.

He turns his head slightly and manages to get a faint glimpse of some sort of platform beneath him- which, thank fuck that he can see something, he counts as a lucky break. He manages only barely to push himself up into a crawl, fumbling the further away his head got away from the floor.

But then he realizes that, wherever he is, is so fucking dark that he can only see what's directly in front of him.

Grif's not afraid of the dark, the concept of the dark itself is not scary in the slightest. It's the shit that hides in the dark that's fucking horrifying. Like bats.

At that slight reminder, he is filled with fear because how the fuck can he know if there are bats or not if he can't even see what's in front of him? He recoils at the very thought that he could be surrounded by those fucking gremlin demons and he's not hyperventilating and even if he was it would be justified because there could be fucking bats-

"My child, I've long awaited your arrival."

And all immediate thoughts about bats of all things are ground to a halt.