“So what is it that you really need to talk to me about?” Jason sat on the couch as he spoke.
The apartment didn’t have as much clutter as when she first saw it, but he had only been here a few months. Sitting with him seemed so normal that Julia had to constantly remind herself that he didn’t know who she was.
“Are you sure you want to talk to me?”
His question shook her out the silence she had been keeping while he waited.
“I’m not sure how to say this, or even how much to say. I’m here to try to keep you from dying.”
“Oh?” He raised an eyebrow. Every expression he made drove home how much she missed him. “You can’t really stop me from dying. Everyone does it.”
“I mean, I want to prevent your untimely death.”
“What makes a death untimely?”
“Dammit, Jason! I’m trying to save your life!” She had forgotten how frustrating a conversation with him could be sometimes.
“I recognize that irritation. It suggests you know me, so you have me at a disadvantage. You said your name is Julia? I’m fairly certain I don’t know anyone by that name. So how do you know me?”
She hesitated. What should she tell him? What would he believe?
“I can’t really respond unless you say something.” Jason was sitting forward, studying her.
“I know this might sound crazy, but I know you in the future. We will meet a few years from now when . . .”
He cut her off. “Stop. Right there. Just stop. You’ve travelled back in time?”
“Yes, we wanted . . .”
Once more, he interrupted. “Don’t. Don’t say anything. This is incredibly dangerous. I like mucking about with reality as much as any chaos mage, but the timeline is incredibly fragile.” He sounded as serious as she had ever heard him.
“What do you mean?”
Jason shrugged, all the seriousness gone from his demeanor. “I don’t know. It seemed like the right thing to say.”
“I’m not joking around. I’m trying to save your life.”
“Can you do it without causing something worse? If I live, does something else bad happen? Do you know?”
“How could I know what happens if you don’t die?”
“Exactly. If you really know me, you know that I wouldn’t want to saved at the expense of others.”
What would happen if he lived? How would they stop the mana worm? Would it have gone on to kill even more people after David? No one was even sure exactly what Jason had done. Was there some other way? Could Jason kill it without sacrificing himself?
He smiled as though he were following her train of thought. “I take it that my death did some good then?”
As much as she wanted to argue with him, he was right. “So that’s it? You won’t listen? And coming here hasn’t changed anything?”
“I don’t know if it’s changed something or not, but think about it this way. What if you change the future in some way that keeps us from meeting? If you keep me from dying, do you make the trip back? I doubt the universe tolerates paradoxes, and I am not sure I want to see how it would fix this one.”
It all made sense, but she hadn’t thought about the possible consequences. Her grief and searching for a way to bring him back had blocked out all of these questions. So when Thomas suggested . . . Thomas. He had used her grief, her desperation, to get her to go along with this. Without that, she never would have trusted him at all. He must have thought about all these questions. Maybe he knew that Jason wouldn’t go along. Now that she had stopped to think, she should have known, too. So why did Thomas really want to come back here?
“What’s wrong, Julia?”
“It occurs to me only now that I’ve been manipulated. Jason, I really miss you, and I wish we could spend more time together. But you’re right, I wouldn’t want to do anything to jeopardize the time we will have. I need to go stop whatever is happening.”
“Go. And Julia, I’m looking forward to meeting you.”
She smiled at him. “Just . . . Research mana worms, okay?” She enlarged the portal she had kept open in Thomas’s lab and stepped through before she could change her mind.