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Opposite Polarities (will bring you around)

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The thing was, not that Jonathan and Sam understood it at the time, nor any of them, for many years later, but when the boys had assumed that Vivian Smith, the girl on the train, was the Time Lady, they weren't so much mistaken as early.


Dr. Wilander, and he said he preferred to continue to go by that rather than Faber John, continued Jonathan and Vivian's thorough and rigorous education in the functions of time and history and polarities to a far greater extent than either of them thought particularly necessary, now that they were not actively trying weasel information out of him to save Time City. It was easy to think that now that Faber John and the Time Lady were back in charge of everything, no one else needed to bother worrying quite so much anymore. Why make the effort?

"Why make the effort?" Dr. Wilander boomed at them. "Hundreds of thousands of years this city has trundled on under my guidance. Do you think that's right, to have one man's vision mapping out everyone's fate for so much time? And you want to give me another term?"

"Well, I rather thought the Miss Vivian was going to have the next go," said Vivian. (The Time Lady had, of course, turned out to be called Vivian. It was why it was one of the damnably common popular names in Time City, even though most of its citizens had forgotten how far back the name could be traced, assuming most Vivians were named after one or another of her accomplished namesakes, of which there were quite a few in Time City's poorly documented annals.)

"Hmph," said Dr. Wilander. "Will she."

Vivian did not know what he expected her to answer to that, though it was true that Miss Vivian was rather lackadaisical about the whole thing. She'd brought in horses and followed up with cats and dogs and not purebreds one, mongrels all, saying it was time to mix things up. She seemed far more interested in making life interesting than in setting up the orderly clockwork run of the next Platonic Year. Her sense of humor tended toward the absurd, which meant Jonathan resented her utterly and Vivian adored her. She'd brought ladybugs next, which Jonathan hated, especially if they landed on him, and which Vivian was delighted by.

"Who else would?" Jonathan asked. "Scratch that, who else could?"

"Anyone with sufficient chroniton exposure," Dr. Wilander replied brusquely. "That means practically anyone who handled the lead casket. Even Elio could, if he had the right sort of mind for it, but I suspect he's too straightforward. Perhaps I'd be better off training him instead."

Jonathan's pride was sufficiently stung that he dug into his lessons after that, and then of course Vivian had to do the same to keep up with Jonathan, because even though she didn't mind the notion that Elio, who was quite smart, could run Time City, she did mind Jonathan getting further ahead of her than his upbringing here had already put him: she considered it her duty to unswell his head whenever possible.


They were sixteen and seventeen the first time their efforts to outdo each another somehow led them to kiss one another on a dare. They tumbled headlong into everything that came after that like a game of chicken, both nervous and neither willing to back down, until suddenly they found, two years after, that not only had they managed to egg each other on into trying out every page of the Kama Sutra, they'd also devoted probably hundreds of hours altogether to planning out an entirely hypothetical, completely ostentatious wedding. Neither of them had admitted they were getting married yet they'd built upon each other's notions of grandiose ceremony, both borrowing from the Sempitern's handbook, Jonathan for what he saw as stately dignity and Vivian for what she saw as unrestrained ridiculousness.

It wasn't until Vivian thought to dare Jonathan that he ought to take her name rather than the other way around that she wondered why Miss Vivian went by Miss if, as the Time Lady, she was married to Faber John. "Oh, we were never properly married," said Miss Vivian. "We could never agree on anything about it, and then we had to anchor the city and split up for a couple of ages, so it didn't seem the time. Are you going to marry your Jonathan?" she added with great curiosity; both she and Dr. Wilander seemed to be taking a somewhat gossipy interest in Jonathan and Vivian's romance, unlike Jenny and the Sempitern, who seemed uncomfortable with the idea of their boy growing up, or Sam, who had declared them too disgusting to be friends with as long as they were being goopy at each other.

The other potentially interested parties, Vivian's parents, didn't live in Time City and were not nearly as interested as they might have been. As far as anyone could tell, Vivian's parents had never met one another, although they were both living happy, separate lives in Twenty Century London, which had gone stable, oddly enough, its political maps unrecognizable to Vivian, and apparently therefore less prone to exploding into wars. The whole of history had shifted so that by all rights Vivian should not have existed at all, except that she had been in Time City when everything had resettled, and Time City itself was still an unstable era, and therefore able to cope with her paradoxical issues and mass of chronitons. Because Twenty Century was stable, she'd been able to ask her parents--individually--to the City to visit, and neither had known who she was. It had hurt, in a distant way, but she had been living in the city for five years at that point and there was some kind of closure to knowing they hadn't been missing her, hadn't thought she was dead or something. They both liked Jonathan well enough but neither had understood why their Time City tour guide had been nervously wondering if they approved of her boyfriend, and perhaps it was just as well. Vivian had been told she was not to burst into tears or hug them or, most importantly, tell them she was the time-stranded daughter they didn't know they had, and the fact that they were distant and awed by the city and somewhat put-off by Vivian's attempts to share her personal life made it easier not to break those rules.

Her father's visit was first and didn't quite get it through to Vivian's heart how very--cut-off she was. It was her mother's visit that made her need to cry. It wasn't that they didn't get on, it was that they got on quite well, her mother pleased by all the things Vivian was excited to show her about Time City, but without any personal connection. Her mother, who wasn't her mother, was bored to meet Jonathan because it was taking away time from seeing everything there was to see. Vivian only managed to salvage it at all by saying, "He and I made time ghosts when we were younger--we could go by the old locks in the museum later if you'd like to catch us."

Later that night she'd gotten into an awful fight with Jonathan about it, because he didn't see why she was being emotional about it when she knew better and Vivian couldn't stand that he wouldn't just let her have her cry and get it out. "The wedding's off, then," she said, shoving him away.

"I didn't know it was on," Jonathan snapped, because it had been entirely hypothetical.

"Oh! You!" Vivian screamed at him. "As if I would even want to marry you!"

Which was, practically speaking, a dare and somehow they'd ended up setting a date (by dint of proving that indeed they would do it, not just say they might) and having furious sex against the door she'd tried to push him out of. So when Miss Vivian asked her if she was actually marrying her Jonathan, she was forced to admit that yes, she probably was.

"Isn't it fascinating how things shift in an unstable era," Miss Vivian said. She seemed thrilled.


Much later, when they were hashing out how to anchor Time City through the Age of Gold and beyond, Vivian said, "I think we should go on letting everyone think it's opposites. We can put you in the tomb and tell everyone you're Sleeping Beauty and let them think it's me."

"Didn't Sleeping Beauty have a glass coffin?" Jonathan asked, because he'd once let Elio talk him into watching Twenty Century cartoons in a vague effort at understanding how Vivian's mind worked.

Vivian eyed him critically. "You keep your hair long enough," she said. "And we could pad your chest. No one would dare disturb the Time Lady's rest to check, would they?"

Jonathan gave a sour look at this, but he'd long since admitted Vivian's sense of humor would do more to confuse anyone looking to steal the caskets than anything he could come up with, so he could hardly object now. He might have appealed to Faber John if the man hadn't abdicated all duties (clearly why he'd made them go on calling him Dr. Wilander, he'd never had any intention of taking up his role as Faber John in any serious fashion ever again), or the Time Lady, if it wasn't transparently obvious that Miss Vivian's opinion of these shenanigans was that she entirely approved.

But then, both Vivians had always thought Time City could use some change.