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Nonsensical Time Reference

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It's 2019, and I can't believe how things have turned out. It's pretty different from the future we imagined in that dream sequence of ours, four and a half years ago. If you had told me that I would end up wishing that Sue Sylvester had become Jeb Bush's vice president... I don't know what I would have said. I probably would have just laughed.  

My dad lost his re-election bid in 2016. Blaine was working on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's campaign at the time, and he heard rumors about targeted purges of Ohio voters. Maybe that explained it. Of course, nothing could stop my dad - he tried running for the 2020 presidential nomination, but he dropped out after having less name recognition than John Hickenlooper. Now Dad is running for the legislature, in hopes of being able to fix Ohio's gerrymandered districts once the 2020 census is finished. But he's being smeared for his support for gay rights, especially by Twitter accounts with numbers in their handles and almost no followers. I love him for trying, but I worry every day about the toll that it's taking on his health.

And our friends are struggling, too. Santana and Britt got detained trying to return from an island vacation and ran off to somewhere in the South Pacific, last I heard. Britt is probably trying to recruit penguins for a climate revolt or something. Sam is apparently wearing body armor to school; there have been so many shootings that the school board requires it now. Artie can't find a distributor for his film. Rachel has been blacklisted after telling Ronan Farrow about her experiences with one of her directors. And she was never even mentioned by name in his book. And none of us know what happened with Mercedes - all I know is that she got a lawyer, and then she stopped talking to any of us. Blaine thinks she may have signed some kind of non-disclosure agreement.

California's on fire. So is Australia. And Ohio... decided to prop up the coal industry. And that's not all. Kids are being kept in cages. The president's BFF is a Russian autocrat, and his second best friend is either the North Korean dictator or a Saudi prince who orders the dismemberment of journalists. Our best hope is that he gets impeached - but that would leave us with the vice president, who thinks it's possible to beat the gay out of kids. And don't get me started about the judges that have been confirmed.

Once upon a time, it felt like we could change the world with our songs.

It doesn't feel like that anymore.

"Kurt," Blaine called. "Kurt! Stop doing a voice-over and get changed. We're going to be late for work."

*

The Spotlight Diner wasn't very busy. It rarely was, these days. So there were only three people waiting tables - Kurt, Blaine, and a woman named Chanel who was in grad school somewhere, Columbia or NYU maybe? Kurt hadn't worked many shifts with her, but Blaine said she had to get a job because some professor wouldn't let her work as a TA anymore. She wouldn't sleep with her advisor, or something like that. There had been a lot of those stories over the years. The people who told them didn't stay in New York for very long.

Kurt was about halfway through his shift when the strangely dressed women came in. Ok. So at a theatre hangout, strange dress was the norm. But the women looked like they meant to be stylish... but for 1983. Seriously. Shoulder pads and everything.

They sat at one of Kurt's tables. Kurt glanced at Blaine, who was deep in conversation with Chanel, and went to greet them.

The dark-haired woman was already looking at a menu. "I'm starving," she said. "I'm so glad we found a diner that was open and serves breakfast all night. I'd like some sticky buns. Please."

The blonde laughed at her. "I'm going to need a little more time," she said. "Could you get Zari her buns? And I'll take some coffee while I read the menu a little more carefully."

"Sticky buns and coffee," Kurt repeated. He looked at the dark-haired woman. Zari. "Would you like some coffee? Or anything else? Water? Mimosa?"

"Water would be fine, thanks," Zari replied.

Kurt nodded and went to the kitchen to deliver the order. When he came out, Chanel was pointing at a grey-bearded man dressed in tweed. He was at one of Chanel's tables, but Blaine went to take his order. That wasn't unusual - they traded tables for all sorts of reasons. Kurt picked up the coffee and water and returned to his customers.

"Water for... Zari, right? And coffee for you." He set the cups on the table.

"Sara," the blonde said. "I'm Sara."

"There's cream, sugar, raw sugar... we've got sugar substitutes, too, if you want them," Kurt offered.

Sara picked up the packet of Sugar in the Raw, then frowned at the menu. "Avocado toast," she mused. She looked up at Kurt and tilted her head. "Kurt," she read from his name tag. "This is going to sound weird, but... what year is it?"

Kurt blinked. "What... year?"

"Like I said. Weird question, I know." She looked innocent.

Zari snorted. "Sure. Just come out and ask."

Sara shrugged.

"It's 2019," Kurt said.

Zari shook her head. "I knew something was wrong with Gideon."

Kurt frowned at them. "Look. The customer is always right, and all, but..." He glanced at their teased hair. "I take it that you aren't actually performing in an 80s throwback show."

Sara leaned towards him. "You look like a good guy, Kurt. So let me tell you a secret." She glanced around. "We're time travelers. And we've lost our friends, and our ship is having trouble."

Kurt raised his eyebrows. "Time travelers."

Zari nodded solemnly.

Kurt tried to think of something else to say. But before he could respond, he heard Blaine's voice through the mic.

"I've been asked to sing something cute and flirty," Blaine said. "So I'd like to ask my favorite singing partner - and really, the only person I've wanted to flirt with for nearly five years - to join me. Kurt?"

Sara raised her eyebrows at Kurt. "I believe you are being paged."

"Excuse me," Kurt said. He headed for the stage and gave Blaine a surprised look. After all, they were trained actors. They both knew that, while on stage, nothing counted as cheating.

Blaine glanced at Chanel and nodded. Ok, then. Something was going on. Kurt figured he could just go with it, and ask Blaine about it later.

So they sang, in what Rachel would have described as typical Klaine form. A little dancing. Suggestive looks. Kurt leaning back to put his head on Blaine's shoulder. A long look at the end, not a kiss, but a promise of one... later. The usual.

Kurt smiled and bowed, and then went back to check on his customers.

"You two are cute," Sara said. "Is that your boyfriend?"

"Husband," Kurt replied, with a waggle of his ring finger.

Sara and Zari shared a look. "So gay marriage is legal in this timeline," Zari said. "That's something, at least."

Kurt narrowed his eyes at them. This timeline, huh.

But then he heard Blaine's voice, raised, at another table. "You asked for flirty," Blaine was saying. "I only flirt with people who are willing. Chanel wasn't."

The grey-haired tweedy man sneered at him. "Be a man."

In retrospect, Kurt probably shouldn't have taken the bait. But he was just so sick of all of it. He walked up to Blaine, grabbed him, and kissed him. "Blaine is a man," Kurt said, and tilted his head in a challenge.

"Millennials," the tweedy guy grumbled. "Ruining everything. Romance. Marriage. Home-buying. Toast." He picked up a menu and shook it at them. "Who puts avocados on toast??"

Kurt rolled his eyes. "Ok, boomer."

The man threw down his menu and stormed out.

Blaine grimaced after him. "He didn't pay," he said.

Kurt looked at the plate in Blaine's hand. "He didn't eat, either. Someone in the kitchen will take it."

"I know," Blaine said. "But our manager said..." He looked behind Kurt. "Uh oh."

Kurt turned around and looked into the manager's angry face.

"That's it," the manager said. "This was your last chance. Out. Both of you." He waved them towards the back. "Get out of those uniforms. You're fired."

*

Kurt and Blaine walked down the street in silence. They both knew what it meant, losing their jobs. Rent was high. And Kurt's second job didn't pay much - didn't pay anything, half the time. AOC at least made a point of paying Blaine (and all her other staffers) decently, but one income wasn't enough. Loans - to NYADA, to NYU - they were still a lot of money. Neither Kurt nor Blaine could afford to be unemployed.

"You were still hot," Blaine offered.

"Hot doesn't pay the rent," Kurt sighed. "Not in Brooklyn."

"Then go somewhere else." The blonde woman from the diner was standing under a streetlight on the corner.

"We left without paying, too." The dark-haired woman stepped out from behind the blonde, and stuffed the last bit of sticky bun into her mouth.

Kurt shook his head at them. "You have any better ideas for two aspiring performers?" he asked. "Because we're fresh out of ideas."

"Do you have a place to talk?" the blonde asked. "I've got a suggestion. But it's not something to discuss on the street."

*

Next thing they knew, the women were sitting in Kurt's and Blaine's apartment. Blaine dug through the refrigerator and found makings for a stir-fry. Kurt poured some wine - he still wasn't a fan of it, but Blaine would want some, and the blonde woman looked interested - and sat on the couch.

"So," Kurt said. "Your idea."

Blaine brought some bowls over. "Want some chopsticks?" he asked.

"I'll take some," the blonde - Sara - said. "But Zari would probably rather have a fork."

The dark-haired woman - Zari - thought for a moment, then nodded slowly. "Yes. I think a fork would be better."

Blaine went back to the kitchen and came back with chopsticks for Kurt and Sara, and a fork for Zari.

"So...?" Kurt prodded.

"It seems like things kind of suck for the two of you," Sara said.

Kurt and Blaine started to protest, but she waved them off.

"Not personally. You're an adorable couple. But you lost your jobs. And paying the rent is hard." She put a bite of stir-fry into her mouth and chewed, watching them.

"And there's the political situation," Zari added.

"I mean, yes, the president sucks," Kurt said. "Obviously."

"But we're going to take everything back next year," Blaine promised. "All we need is one more election."

"And that will fix the courts, of course." Sara looked from one to the other. "You. Blaine. You've got another job?"

"I'm local staff for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez," Blaine said. He always sat a little bit straighter when he said that. "She's going to change the world."

Zari rolled her eyes.

"I'm sure you believe that," Sara said. "But Zari's from the future."

Zari didn't meet their eyes.

"Wait. What?" Blaine shook his head. "Did you say she's from the future?"

"We're time travelers," Sara said.

Blaine gave Kurt a look that said who brought the crazy people home this time, huh.

Kurt eyed them skeptically. "You said that. Before I went to sing with Blaine."

"Zari was born about ten years ago," Sara said.

Blaine squinted at her. "You look older than ten," he said.

"She's in her thirties," Sara continued. "l met her in 2042."

"So what's 2042 like, if you're from the future?" Blaine challenged her.

Zari looked away. "Sara..." she hesitated.

"We aren't sure," Sara said. "Because we've been trying to fix the future. To make it better."

Kurt watched them. "We're listening," he said. "Skeptically. Because this? Is insane. You know that. Right?"

"How exactly are you trying to fix the future?" Blaine asked. "Sorry, Kurt. I had to ask. You know how many different theories of time travel are out there."

"Blaine is into sci-fi," Kurt explained. "He reads Dr. Who fan fiction."

"I read a lot of fan fiction," Blaine sulked. "Not just Dr. Who."

Kurt folded Blaine's hand into his. "I know that. But your last cosplay was as the Tardis."

"It was a cute cosplay." Blaine sounded defensive.

"It was," Kurt assured him. "But that's not the point."

"No," Blaine said. "You're right. It's not."

"May I continue?" Sara asked. "Or do you need to have some make-up sex first?"

Kurt and Blaine shook their heads. "No," Blaine said. "Sorry. Go on."

"We try to fix the future by changing the past," Sara said. "Or fixing the past of the future."

Kurt shook his head. "I'm sorry. What?"

"The past of the future is today," Blaine mused. "You're trying to change what's going on now."

Sara and Zari nodded.

"You said something about 'this timeline'," Kurt remembered. "You've seen others?"

"Many others," Sara confirmed. "This one isn't great. But we've seen worse."

"Well, that's hopeful," Kurt said. "I guess."

Sara glanced at Zari.

Zari shrugged. "This one still looks like..." She glanced at the walls. "There isn't pervasive surveillance now, is there?"

Blaine shook his head. "We don't have Alexa."

Sara nodded. "I'm guessing that's some kind of AI or something. Right?"

She looked at Zari. Zari just shrugged again.

"Ok. So I'm assuming it's safe to talk here, then," Sara said. "It looks to us like the world is creeping into fascism."

"The first place we went, before your diner, was showing Fox News," Zari said.

"We're fighting back," Blaine insisted.

"I can tell," Sara said. "That's why we waited for you."

"We need help," Zari added.

"When we got here... we didn't even know what year it was," Sara said.

"So... you thought that Fox News existed during the Reagan administration?" Kurt narrowed his eyes at her.

"We honestly had no idea," Sara said. "Like I said. We keep going to the past to try to change the future. And the future... well, it never changes in the way that we expect."

"What exactly were you trying to do in... when did you think you were?" Kurt asked.

"Sometime in the 80s," Sara said. "We were trying to get one of the new Supreme Court justices arrested for rape. Back when he was in high school."

Kurt and Blaine shared a look.

"If you're thinking of the person that we are..." Blaine started.

"He's still on the court," Kurt finished.

Sara nodded.

"So if you have a time machine, how did you end up in the wrong year?" Blaine asked. "Is your time machine broken?"

"She's really more of a time ship," Sara equivocated.

"She's got a mind of her own," Zari explained. "She doesn't always do what we ask."

"You don't always get what you want," Sara said.

"But if you try sometime..." Blaine sang.

Kurt grinned at him and came in, harmonizing, on the next line. "You get what you need!"

Zari blinked at them. "Do you sing everything?"

Kurt shrugged. "Pretty much."

"Sometimes we dance, too," Blaine added.

Sara looked at them. "Do you have any interest in traveling through time?" she asked. "Making the world a better place?"

"Maybe making the world a better place," Zari corrected.

"TRYING to make the world a better place." Sara glared at her.

Zari just nodded.

"We don't charge rent," Sara said.

Blaine looked thoughtful. "Are there pianos in the past? Or the future?"

"We could probably find you a piano," Sara said. "If the ship agrees."

*

"We'll let you think about this," Sara said.

"We should get the ship, anyway," Zari added. "It's hard to find a place to park a time ship in New York City."

Blaine frowned. "Where...?"

"The East River," Sara said.

"The ship is invisible," Zari explained.

Sure it is, Kurt thought. But he didn't say anything until they had left the apartment and he had shut the door behind them, bolted it, and leaned back against it.

"So?" Blaine asked. "What do you think?"

"A time ship?" Kurt said. "Is that even a thing?"

Blaine shrugged. "I guess we'll see."

Kurt sighed. "They seemed nice enough at first. But how do we know that they aren't going to, I don't know, beat us up, throw us in the East River, and move into our apartment?"

"What if it's real, though?" Blaine asked. "Let's be honest here. Things were already bad, even before we got fired. Impeachment isn't going anywhere after the House. And what if we lose the election? What if we win, and they don't accept it?" He held out his left hand and waved his ring at Kurt. "What if they try to take this away?"

"You were the one who was going to change the world," Kurt pointed out. "What happened to that?"

Blaine lifted his eyebrows in a wry smile. "I guess I like the idea of a time machine," he said. "Going back to the past, fixing things before they get this bad..." Blaine looked at Kurt. "Seriously. What do you think?"

"Assuming they really are time travelers," Kurt started, "which is a totally insane premise, if you ask me. But if they are..." He looked away and shook his head. "I've always believed that we need to deal with the world as it is. Even when the world is totally shitty, even when nothing is fair, when we're being beaten up or fired, even when people die..." He took a breath. "We can fight like hell to change it. But there isn't any other option. No escape. No heaven or hell, no magic, no superpowers that can we can fall back on. Just us, with all our flaws and imperfections. Us, and courage. And love."

Blaine gazed at him and nodded. "You had me at love," he said. "But... what if there were another option? Another option that's real, I mean."

Kurt rolled his eyes. "You've been reading too much fan fiction. Or playing Dungeons and Dragons with the other campaign staffers."

"I know that's not your thing," Blaine said. "But..."

"You want to do it," Kurt finished.

"But not without you," Blaine insisted. "Not if you aren't comfortable with it."

"Let's do the dishes," Kurt said. "And see whether our new friends come back."

*

Kurt and Blaine were curled up on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and an old movie when they heard the pounding on the window.

"The ship's on your roof," Zari announced from the fire escape. "We shouldn't leave it there for long."

Maybe it was the use of the fire escape that convinced Kurt, but in a few moments, he and Blaine had their jackets and scarves and were climbing up the outside of the building behind Zari.

The ship was huge, and absurd-looking, and metal, and real, and sitting on top of the building. Sara stood inside the hatch and waved them in.

"Don't worry. We'll make it invisible again in a moment." She led the way into the ship. "Make yourselves at home."

Right. Sure. At home. Kurt stared at the metal passageways, the doors that opened with a slight whoosh, the steel table of a hospital-like room.

"Whoah." Blaine, on the other hand, looked eager, peeking into every room, then grabbing Kurt by the hand and dragging him to see something... everything.

Kurt stopped to look at a metal closet. "This isn't for torture, is it."

"Not at all, Mr. Hummel," said a disembodied female voice.

Kurt blinked.

Blaine looked around. "Hello?"

"That's just Gideon," Zari said. "You'll get used to her."

"Nice to meet you... Gideon," Blaine said.

"It is a pleasure to meet you as well, Mr. Anderson. I hope you both find this comfortable," Gideon replied.

"That depends on what happens in this closet," Kurt commented.

"Let me show you." A metal door whooshed closed, and then open. Inside was a 19th century smoking jacket. On a mannequin. Not on a hanger, wooden or wire. "Try it on," Gideon said.

Kurt pulled it out. It fit perfectly.

"So this is some kind of a... replicator?" Blaine asked.

"This is the wardrobe," Gideon said. "I can produce clothing that is appropriate for any historical period and any gender identity." She sounded proud of herself.

The jacket was surprisingly comfortable. Kurt decided to keep wearing it for the moment.

"And in the next room, you'll find the library," Gideon continued. "Please, take a look."

Blaine walked through the door.

Kurt hung back with Zari. "Stay with us, please," he said. "I'm not ready to be left alone with a disembodied voice. Even if she knows my style."

But they were interrupted by the sound of a piano. "Kurt," Blaine called. "You've got to see this."

There, in the middle of the weird, futuristic ship-thing, was a wood-paneled room, with overstuffed chairs and carefully polished tables and books on shelves. And a piano. A baby grand piano. Blaine was sitting at it, testing its sound.

"It's in tune," Kurt said. Surprised.

Blaine nodded.

"The next room has a large screen television," Gideon said. "And every movie that Judy Garland ever made."

Blaine looked at Kurt. His face said please can I keep this, like a space ship or time ship or whatever was actually a puppy that needed to be adopted.

Kurt couldn't resist that face. "Fine," he said. "But we just need to..."

There was a rumble in the floor.

"Gideon," Zari said. "What are you doing?"

"You should get strapped in," Gideon replied.

Zari herded them out of the library. "This is the hard part about living on a time ship."

"Wait," Kurt said.

"Hurry!" Zari replied.

They had just gotten strapped into some futuristic space-chairs when the ship shuddered and, with a whoosh, jumped.

*

"You can't do this to us," Kurt insisted. Blaine was busy barfing, which was totally not ok, and had Kurt even more upset than the unexpected take-off. "We have jobs. We have an apartment. And we didn't say you could kidnap us."

"I didn't do it," Sara responded as she unbuckled herself and got out of her chair. "Gideon. What the hell was that about?"

"There was activity near the apartment, Captain Lance," Gideon replied.

"So you decided to take your own evasive action." Sara rolled her eyes. "I told you. Just become invisible. Don't just leave unless I tell you to." She looked at Kurt and Blaine. "Look. I'm really sorry about that. We didn't mean to kidnap you."

Blaine wiped his face. "I wanted to say yes," he told Kurt. "This place is amazing."

"But... what about your work for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?" Kurt asked him.

"There are thousands of millennials dying to work for her," Blaine reminded him. "And before you bring up your work, you know that Elliott's music store is totally going out of business. He hasn't paid you in two months."

"It still isn't ok to walk out on a friend," Kurt fumed.

"Would you like me to connect to the cellular telephone network, Mr. Hummel?" Gideon asked. "You can call your friends from the ship."

Blaine gave Kurt a hopeful look.

"Ok," Kurt said. "Fine."

So Kurt called Elliott and asked for some unpaid vacation time. And Blaine called AOC's office and resigned. And then they looked at each other, and then at Sara and Zari.

"What now?" Kurt asked.

"When would you like to go?" Gideon replied.