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The Time Machine

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It was the way of the world. The day and the night, or so his grandmother had told him. We are born and then we die. Death is a part of life. It was a difficult concept for a seven-year-old boy to understand, and yet Zayn Malik understood it better than most. Zayn's parents had perished during a trip to India mere months after he was born. An earthquake had rocked New Delhi and its neighbouring cities, resulting in the deaths of over twenty-thousand people. Zayn would have died in his crib had it not been for the swift actions of his grandmother. He had no memory of it, of course. But growing up without a mother and father had taken its toll.

Eleven years later, Zayn thought he had wrapped his head around the concept of death, the finality of it. His grandmother was still alive and kicking, albeit growing more cantankerous by the day. And he was studying at the prestigious New York Academy of Innovative Sciences. "My grandson is going to change the world," the old woman would recite at regular intervals. Zayn had always been good at maths and science. Extremely good. By age four, he had already memorised the square root of pi. But it was more than that. Zayn was an omega, and omegas were never admitted to the Academy of Innovative Sciences. Until now.

Indeed, Zayn's life was pretty much perfect. Not only was he widely considered to be one of the smartest omegas of his generation, but he was dating the most gallant alpha in New York City. Or Zayn thought so, at least. Harry Styles was young, attractive and above all decent. And it could have been so much worse. The year was 1882, and omegas were practically second class citizens in the United States. Old, bearded men wearing tweed jackets and bowler hats would prey on young boys, knotting them against their will. Zayn was lucky to have Harry, and he knew it.

 

It was winter, and snow covered New York in a blanket of frost. Harry had asked Zayn to meet him in Central Park, by the lily pond where they first met. It was typical Harry, romantic to the core. And yet… it felt different. Harry had been acting oddly of late. Too often he would begin a sentence, only to lose his train of thought and spiral toward something else entirely. As Zayn approached the lily pond, he began to shiver. The weather had taken a turn for the worse, and he was underdressed. Harry was nowhere to be seen. Zayn began to pace back and forth, wary of being spotted by another alpha.

"You look nervous baby," a deep voice called from behind a nearby tree.

Zayn spun around, his cheeks flushed. It was Harry. He had a dumb, cocky look on his face, as though he'd just told the funniest joke in the world.

"You ass!" Zayn sulked, punching Harry's broad chest with his tiny fists. "You know I hate it when you do that!"

"When do I do that?" Harry asked, a smile creeping across his face.

Before Zayn could respond, the alpha captured his lips in a searing kiss. Zayn loved Harry's kisses. They were the perfect balance between rough and gentle. After a few minutes of exploring the omega's mouth, Harry drew back.

"I love you baby," he said earnestly.

"Aw, I love you too," Zayn replied.

Harry took Zayn's face in his hands.

"Are you sure?"

"Of course," Zayn said, looking puzzled.

Suddenly, Harry grabbed Zayn's hand and started pulling him away from the lily pond. He was taking big strides, and Zayn had to jog to keep up.

"What's wrong?" Zayn asked. "Where are we going?"

Harry smiled at Zayn's innocence.

"Nothing's wrong baby. Nothing at all. I just want to take you somewhere else, okay?"

Zayn nodded, trusting Harry's every word.

 

They walked for what felt like an age, but eventually Harry stopped atop a grassy hill overlooking Central Park. It was beautiful, Zayn had to admit. Like something out of a fairy-tale.

"So," Zayn said nervously. "Why did you bring me all the way up here?"

There was a long silence. Harry stared ahead, his dark curls blowing in the wind.

"I wanted to ask you something," he said shakily.

"Harry, you're shivering," Zayn stammered. "Are you feeling okay?"

Harry reached into his pocket and retrieved a small, blue ring. It was encrusted with flawless sapphires.

"Well…" Harry began, dropping to one knee. "I don't know that I am. I'm not sleeping very well, and even when I'm awake I'm not much use. I can't eat, or think, or do much of anything anymore. And the worst part is, I don't know if I'll ever be well. I think there's only one remedy, and that's for you to marry me and spend the rest of your life with me."

Zayn couldn't believe it. Had Harry actually just proposed?

"I know we're meant to be together," the alpha continued. "It's the only thing in my entire life I've never had to think about."

Tears began to form in Zayn's eyes.

"Oh Harry!" he cried. "Of course I'll marry you!"

And just like that, the cocky, talkative Harry Styles that Zayn knew so well was back. He put the ring on Zayn's index finger and lifted the omega into the air. However, Harry's joy was short-lived.

"I just might cry!" a voice rang out.

Whipping around, Harry saw a middle-aged man with a thick, bushy beard walking toward them. The coat he was wearing looked shabby, as though it had seen one too many winters.

"I couldn't help but overhear," the man continued. "Two fine young people starting out on the road of life. I wish you the very best."

"Thank you," Harry said nervously.

"And as much as I hate to do this, moved as I am by your protestations of love, I'll be needing your money now."

Harry's eyes widened. He knew there was something off about the guy.

"I guess we can call this your first bump on the road to marital bliss," the man chuckled.

"Who the hell do you think you are?" Harry snarled. "We're not-"

Harry trailed off as the man pulled a revolver from his coat pocket.

"Now, let's not make a scene," he said icily. "There's no cause for that. Just give me your wallet would you?"

Harry didn't respond.

"Did you hear me lad?" the man barked, waving the gun in Zayn's direction.

Harry's face went pale as the man threatened Zayn. He had no choice but to comply. Slowly, Harry reached into his pocket and handed the man his wallet.

"There, that's everything," he spat. "Now leave us alone."

"And the ring," the man smirked.

"No!" Zayn cried, jumping behind Harry's back.

"I'm afraid so sweetheart," the man mocked. "Maybe he'll buy you a diamond now."

Suddenly, Harry lunged at the man, tackling him to the ground. Zayn watched as the alpha's fist collided with the man's face, over and over again. He had never seen Harry lose it like this.

"You son of a bitch!" Harry spat. "You think you can rob-"

Gunfire. Silence. Death. One after the other they happened, robbing Harry of his life and Zayn of his happiness.

"Why did he do that?" the man cried, spitting blood from his mouth. "It's just a ring!"

But Zayn wasn't listening to the man's words. He was listening to the sound of Harry's ragged breaths as the alpha lay dying in the snow.

"Someone help! Help!" Zayn screamed, fully aware that no one could hear him.

"Zayn," Harry gasped. "I love..."

"No!" Zayn howled, burying his head in the crook of Harry's neck. "You can't leave me!"

As Harry's life began to fade, a blinding flash of light ripped through the heavens. Zayn covered his eyes, and prayed to the gods...

 

Three weeks later, Zayn had awoken in his own bed, surrounded by his grandmother and the NYPD. They had looked at him sternly, as though they suspected him of having done something terrible. When he tried to explain what had happened; Harry's proposal, the man with the gun, the blinding flash of light, the way Harry's body had disappeared out of nowhere... no one seemed angry. The police, even his grandmother, had looked at him with pity. Like he was some sort of mental patient. The story even made the local news. Famed omega dumped by fiancé, goes nuts read the headline. Even the professors at the Academy of Innovative Sciences seemed to think he was stark raving mad. But Zayn knew the truth. Harry had proposed to him, and he had been shot, and he had disappeared in a flash of blinding light, and... okay, maybe it did sound a little crazy. A lot crazy. But it was the truth, and Zayn was determined to prove it. He wanted his credibility back. He wanted his life back. And of course, he wanted Harry back.

Cleared of any suspicion, Zayn was free to pursue his work. His grandmother expected him to crack on with his studies and achieve a degree at the Academy. But that was no longer Zayn's destiny. He spent his mornings, evenings and weekends relentlessly researching time travel as a practical application. He didn't tell anyone of course, least of all his grandmother. She wouldn't understand. But the more Zayn researched, and the more he buried his nose in books concerning particle physics and quantum theory, the more convinced he became that time travel was indeed possible. And one way or another, he would be the first omega, nay, the first human being, to pick the impossible lock.