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The Unsteady Beat

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The lights are dim, the masses of people on the floor are dancing and drinking and having a grand old grinding time, and Dave's just getting into his set when he hears, in the back of his mind, Tick.

He switches one of his turntables over to a remix of the Care Bears theme, and instead of One, everything inside him says: TOCK.


He wakes up when something shoves into his ribs, painfully, and he jerks away from it, sitting up, and starts to flashdraw one of his swords, except something blocks him.

It's the business end of a lance.

"Can you talk?" someone asks.

"As long as there isn't anything in my mouth at the same time," Dave says and looks up, and his breath just. Stops.

Bull horns. Copper-orange eyes. Shoulders out to there. Uniform with the Taurus sign emblazoned on it –

"Tavros, you said you'd stop troll mindmelding with me while I was sleeping; you know it fucks up my sleep cycles," he says, and only then notices that the troll in front of him isn't looking chagrined.

"I do not know who Tavros is," the troll says. "Nor do I know what you are."

"Long story," Dave says. "Short version: I'm an inadvertently time-traveling alien. My turn: I'm betting this is not in fact a crazy random happenstance and you're the troll known as the Summoner."

The troll inclines his head, very slightly.

"Right, then. How's the rebellion working out for you?"

The Summoner narrows his eyes. "What rebellion?"

Dave freezes. Well, shit.


The Summoner, who apparently is still a loyal serving officer of the Cavalreapers, has Dave man- (troll-?) handled to his tent, a cuff put around one ankle, and the other end of the cuff staked to the ground outside the tent.

"How do you know who I am?" the Summoner asks.

"Like I said, I'm a time-traveling alien."

"Where is your home planet?"

"Totally different universe. No way you guys are gonna conquer it." He grins, leans forward. "But in a few hundred sweeps, your Descendent and a bunch of his friends, and me and some of my friends, are going to play a game that ends with gates open between the worlds, and Alternia and my planet are going to be best-buddy allies against the slavering evil beasts of two universes."

The Summoner eyes him.

"You are mad," he says finally.

"A little," Dave admits. "The game was supposed to have ended a while ago. An hour ago I was at work, looking forward to getting home and getting well-fucked, when suddenly, tick-tock, here I am."

"And you say that I will be part of a rebellion?"

Dave shakes his head. "Can't talk about it. It'll change the timeline. But I will say that you'll be the leader, which means that you don't want me talking about it to anyone else. They might decide to cut you short."

"But you mistook me for someone," the Summoner says, and then – he's not nice about going through Dave's head, rifling through memories like they're a flipbook. But at the end of it the Summoner is wincing and pressing at his temples, like maybe it took something out of him, so Dave counts that as a little bit of a hit back on his part.

"Find what you were looking for?" he asks facetiously.

"No, damn you," the Summoner snarls, glaring at him. Dave's too cool to grin nastily.

"I've had a lot of practice at getting around your powers," Dave says casually, looking at his nails. "I've been in a matespritship with your Descendent for, oh, six years now. He notices when I stretch minutes into hours and I know how to keep secrets from psychics. Sucks to be you."

"Then why don't you turn your hours into minutes and travel home?" the Summoner says suspiciously.

Dave spreads his hands. "Want to find out what you'll do." In reality, it's because he can't hear any clocks, he really doubts they'll have metronomes anywhere in the camp, and they sure as hell won't have a set of turntables. He hasn't been able to go through his sylladex or his pockets yet to see if his timetables got brought with him.

The Summoner stands up, watches him with narrow eyes. Dave stays chill back.

The Summoner stalks out of the tent.


Two minutes later, Dave finally concedes that his timetables are not with him. He has his watch, which is his usual backup, but he doesn't think that the battery would last long enough for him to wind himself home again, and he really doesn't want to be stranded in a completely unfamiliar point in troll history. Damn it.

He hadn't been kidding about wanting to get home and get fucked, either. Tavros has been busy with work for the last few days, and Dave's been desperate for him for nearly a week; they meant to do it three days ago but Tavros fell asleep while Dave was in the shower.

He knows intellectually that the Summoner isn't Tavros – he wears his body differently, his voice has the wrong rhythms and cadences. But they're genetically the same, and the Summoner's tent smells like horses (hoofbeasts?) and summer nights and Tavros's skin. It's hard not to think, They're copies of each other; it wouldn't really be cheating.

He doesn't know how long he's going to be stuck here, either.


Eventually he stretches out on the floor of the tent and goes to sleep; he wakes up not far from sunrise when the Summoner walks into the tent carrying a packet of sopor slime with a funnel-like mouth on one corner.

"You," the Summoner says.

"Yeah?" Dave asks, still lying down.

"Hold the bag." Dave takes it. The Summoner grabs what looks like a sleeping bag out of the corner, pops open a cap in the corner, and looks at Dave.

Dave pours the slime into the lining of the sleeping bag. When the packet is completely empty, the Summoner closes the cap on the sleeping bag and takes the packet from Dave.

"I assume from your blood color that you have no real need for sopor slime," the Summoner says.

Dave shrugs. "It doesn't do much for me." Besides work as surprisingly good lube.

Jesus. He needs to jerk off or get home or something else that'll take the edge off before he loses all of his dignity.

The Summoner strips out of his suit – Dave tries not to look but it's hard; he's Tavros but with a lot more muscles and a few more solar sweeps on him, though judging by the suggestion of his bone bulge sheath there's no change there – and slides into the sleeping bag, lying on his back and closing his eyes.

Dave rolls over to face the tent wall and goes back to sleep.


He wakes up when the sun is high in the sky and determines that the Summoner is completely asleep before he unzips and takes his dick into his hand.

A couple of strokes in, he forgets that he's got a manacle on one ankle and moves his leg. The chains clank, and he hears rustling from the Summoner who... yep, the Summoner is awake and staring at Dave jerk off, the expression of confusion on his face so like Tavros that Dave's dick jumps.

"You wanna give a guy a hand here?" Dave asks, before his brain can taser the words in his mouth and lock them up in his throat.

"What are you doing?"

"Didn't get a chance to pail my matesprit before I got dragged on the temporal train to the Wild Wild Troll West. Figured I'd try to take care of it, and since you're here, I figured you might want to give it a whirl."

The Summoner clenches his eyes shut. "I am being propositioned by a time-traveling alien," he mutters, probably to himself.

"Probably your only chance ever to get in some sloppy xenobiological fucking," Dave points out, and apparently that's what does it, because the Summoner slides out of his sleeping bag and makes his way over to Dave, who's busy struggling his un-manacled leg out of his pants and boxers.

The Summoner is heavier than Tavros, which is fine, and he tastes a little different when Dave drags him in for a kiss, but the teeth are the same and the way he keens softly when Dave rocks their hips together are the same, and the heat of his bone bulge on Dave's belly as it unsheathes, slowly, is just as welcome.

"You smell like you've been with me," the Summoner says. "All of you smells like me."

"Told you. Matespritship. Your Descendant. Ectobiological clone, actually, but you don't know what that is." Dave ruts up against his hip. "A very future you, I guess."

The Summoner's hand drifts down his bare arm, tucks up against his side under his shirt. "Is he an honor to my legacy?" he asks.

"In my world he's like a god," Dave says, which is only true if you squint and do fuzzy math, but the Summoner seems to like that because he growls happily and grinds harder against him.

Dave strokes along his spine, feeling each bump, and then gets to the one where Tavros has the neural bypass implant that gave him back his sacral nerves, if not his already-amputated legs. Dave loves the bump there, the way it rises under his fingers; Tavros trembles whenever he touches it, thrusts into him harder-deeper-sweeter. Every so often Dave can get Tavros to make him come without being touched, just by keeping his fingers rubbing over that spot.

The Summoner doesn't have it, and Dave nearly keens with mourning for the loss, letting his hands fall down to the floor of the tent and his free leg curling up around the Summoner's hips.

"Do you want to fuck me?" he asks. "Because I want you to. I know that you're so big it freaks your partners out but I'll take it, I want it, come on..."

The Summoner presses his mouth into Dave's collarbone, mumbles something that sounds like Yes, and Dave flails an arm out to grab the sleeping bag, opens the cap and manages to get some sopor on his hand. Reaches down between them and slicks his hole up a little, goes back for more and slides it thick on the Summoner, gauging the weight and the heft of him, and thinks smugly, Fuck genes, Tavros is bigger, but when it starts sliding up into him, stretching him out like no human's cock ever could, his mind goes blank, just the pulse of his blood and the hunger for more-deeper-god-yes.

He realizes, somewhere around the third stroke that fills him and gives him that delicious bit more, that the Summoner has an excellent sense of rhythm, hips that he could fucking keep time to, and Dave holds him to that, their bodies slipping together as he slides in and out of place, until he finds a clock in a hive on this spot hundreds of years in the future, brings it back with him, finds it hanging on the side of the wall.

He lets himself go after that, ruts up onto him and begs for more, holds him close and thinks that Tavros fucks him differently, and then –

The Summoner tenses, coming inside him, and Dave can feel it spilling out, filling him up, and the best part of it is that Tavros has better stamina.

Dave grabs his own dick, starts pumping at it, because he has a minute or two at least before the Summoner's bone bulge resheathes again, and it's fine, it's nice, being full and fucked-open on the inhuman, practically untrollish, size of him, and Dave comes gasping.

The Summoner pulls out and stares at him as Dave uncurls himself and stretches, still lying there on the floor.

"Do you have a cloth or something?" he asks. "I need to clean up."

The Summoner coughs and digs up a blanket that Dave uses a bit more than just the corner of, but whatever, and he gets dressed again.

"I found a clock," Dave says finally, gesturing to the wall. "I'll see myself out, if that's okay."

"Uh," the Summoner says, nonplussed, which is just enough like Tavros that Dave feels like it might have been uncharitable to compare the size of their dicks, even in his head, but the Summoner unlocks him from the manacle and Dave makes his almost steady-gaited way over to the clock, where he takes hold of the hour hand with his fingers and with his abilities, and slides it forward, forward, forward –

And lands back in the club again, his hands on his timetables and the beat of the music steady in his head, and he grins inwardly, thinking, Tavros is going to be a beast in bed tonight when he smells who I let fuck me.