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late in the day

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Roxy didn't realize she'd fallen asleep until she rolled over to get a glass of water and her fingers closed on a martini glass, cool and too-comfortable in her hand.

She sat up, and the covers fell away. She was sitting on her bed, but it wasn't her room, it was the mysteriously cat-free lab. Wait! No. Not cat free. There was one cat. Frigglish blinked slowly at her, then came up to rub his dapper body against her legs, and she sank down to bury her face in his suit. It hadn't even been twenty-four hours since she'd flattened him. "Oh my god," she whispered. "This dream sucks."

"That's a little heartless."

Roxy jerked her head up, banging it against her headpost. When the stars cleared, she was looking at a tall woman, dressed in what Roxy mentally categorized as a super banging science suit, all in white. She was holding another martini glass, and after a second's consideration she smiled. Oh. Roxy swallowed. "I thought you were my mom," she said, like a six year old. "Uh, I mean, your mom. Our mom."

"I didn't have a mom, actually," said her other self. "Here, Jaspers." Frigglish sniffed, and turned away from the bed. "Wow, whatever, Jaspers. Harsh."

"You're Rose's--" Roxy said, and stopped herself before she could say 'mom' again and make it sound like not a word anymore. "Right? Sort of like my grandma actually. That's sick. We're a hot family. You look good in kind of a nineteen-sixties way. That was the decade with the mad scientist movies, right? When you got, like, people in lab coats all fizzing over their viruses and everything ends up There Are Things Man Was Not Meant To Know? You look like maybe you're the loophole that's all 'I am no man' at the end."

"Thanks," Mom Roxy said, after a beat. "The shoulder pads are more nineties, but you basically got it."

"Oh my god," Roxy said. She covered her face with both hands. "Shit. I'm your embarrassing childhood."

Her other self let out a laugh, and came to sit on the bed, smoothing out a spot for her martini glass, which teetered. "Let's try this again," she suggested. "I'm Roxy Lalonde. I'm Rose Lalonde's mother. I got stabbed not that long ago with my new boyfriend, and every time I settle into a dream bubble, my daughter approaches it and I'm--" She flicked her fingers expressively. "The rules are complicated. You don't get to chat with just anyone. Not even when you have stuff to, um. Get into. Apologize for. Get apologized to for. And now I'm your embarrassing adulthood. Does that feel better?"

The terrible thing was that it kind of did. Roxy scooted close to her on the coverlet, careful to stabilize the martini glass as she did so. "Okay," she said. "I'm Roxy Lalonde. I'm Rose Lalonde's descendant, I guess. Also kind of daughter. Things are mad weird in the future. I'm from the postapocalyptic future, bee tee dubs," she added, and then squinted at Mom Roxy. "Do you know what bee tee dubs means?"

Mom Roxy shook her head. She was still smiling.

"You're probably fine," Roxy decided. "Anyway, I live with a bunch of carapace dudes, they're little aliens, they raised me. I'm a hacker. I do revolution stuff and try to keep alive. Except now I'm playing this stupid game with my friends which means I'm not really on Earth anymore. If we're being real here I'm not one hundred percent on how this all works."

"I could run it down for you," Mom Roxy offered. "But I don't think we have a lot of time. I'm a light sleeper."

"Don't bother," Roxy said, waving a hand. "It's been a long day. A lot of shit has happened. Did you know I died?"

"Hey!" Mom Roxy said. "High five!"

They high-fived, and Frigglish bolted for a distant corner of the lab where no one would make loud noises at him. Frigglish had always been a very simple cat, but kind.

"So what do you do?" Roxy said. "Besides 'science'. You run this place?"

"Yeah. I'm a Skaianet contractor. Jake Harley-- you know--? Yeah, he turned me onto it, a long time ago. He also," she said, with more rue, "turned me onto gin. He made it in a bathtub and we used to sit on the edge and I'd be putting together some program and he'd tell these stories that if it was anyone else in the entire world, would be a giant pack of fabricated lies. But you know Harley. His whole face gets red when he tries to lie. He sweats through that cute collar of his."

"It is pretty cute," Roxy said hopefully. "So is he your hot boyfriend?"

"No! He's eighty. Or he was eighty. Now he's dead. I guess the age difference is less vital now. Why, do you go for silver foxes?"

Roxy rolled her eyes. "I have never even ever met a grown person. I don't know, maybe? Jake is my age."

"Oh, huh," Mom Roxy said. "Well, anyway. He found the prophecies. He's the one who got it all together about the world ending and how we could build a loophole. He's also the one who gave us the heads-up about the kids. Except me. I was just this big black hole in all the futures. Rose was my special little surprise."

Roxy knew how that one worked. She got up, suddenly restless, and paced out the space from the bed to the tea set, sitting down in the baby chair abruptly. She picked up one of the tea cups. God. She had something just like it from Rose, but she'd started to think about putting it away, maybe letting some of the goofier carapaces have it if they wanted it, as long as they kept it close. She closed her hand over the little cup. "I, uh," she said. "Sometimes when I..."

She couldn't figure out how to keep going, and after a little pause, her mom self said, "It's stupid, I know. I should probably have given it to Rose, but she-- If you gave her an inch, she'd gift-wrap it in handmade paper and cover it in glitter and give it back on your birthday to tell you how shitty she thought the inch was." She sighed. "So I'd come down here when I didn't want to be someone who'd drowned in a bottle before I even met her. You're probably too young for it to be a thing. Aren't you?"

Roxy shook her head, mutely. She put the cup down.

"Oh," her mom self said, in a different tone. "Oh, honey, I'm sorry."

"It's okay," Roxy said. "I was going to say, I had this rule that I wouldn't put booze in the teapot."

"Me too," Mom Roxy said. "It was a good rule."

"Okay, but why Jaspers, though?" Roxy asked, turning to face her. "I mean, come on, Frigglish is a way better name."

Mom Roxy shrugged. "Ask Rose. I wanted to call him Sweetcheeks."

"Oh my god," Roxy marvelled.

"I know. It would have been amazing. Probably less poignant on his mausoleum though. Here Lies Sweetcheeks: He's Super Dead. This isn't really him, you know, just a paradox clone. I know that cat's genetic sequence backwards and forwards. Real Jaspers is out guiding Rose."

Roxy sat up. "Oh. I saw her, by the way. She looked good. She's-- I think she's okay."

"That's good," her mom self said, encouragingly. "Say hello to her, if you get the chance. And take care of yourself. You've got a lot of game to play."

The lab was rippling around the edges, even though it didn't technically have edges. Roxy didn't have to be wise in the ways of dreams to recognize that as a sign that things were coming to a close.

You probably weren't supposed to meet the person you could be. Aslan would have been big against it, for example. You got one chance to make a bunch of bad decisions and generally speaking it was probably good that you didn't know how bad they could've gotten, how they could've wrapped around you like a sexy scientist lady suit and set you out looking for a daughter who was looking for someone else. There were things man was not meant to know.

"I'm no man," Roxy said under her breath, and woke up.