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So one day she comes into her Simon’s flat, feeling a little down. She just wants to curl up on their bed for a bit, be on her own, when who should she find already there but another woman.

She’s about to lose it, when the girl turns around to reveal her face.

The hair’s a little longer, the dungaree dress questionable at best, but it’s definitely her. Unless…

‘I’m not a shapeshifter’, the girl begins, as if reading her mind. ‘Trust me. I’m from the future.’

*

Alisha, future Alisha doesn’t tell her much, but she’s good at reading between the lines.

Apparently she and Simon still get together, but something happens, and it ends badly.

The Alisha in the future doesn’t give her much advice on how to change things, and she’s a little afraid to press her on what happens to either of them, aware that they wouldn’t have come back if everything was rosy.

The other Alisha just smiles sadly, shows her the power, and tells her that she deserves a chance to change things as much as Simon did.

Even if it means that they never fall in love, that they never spend weekends watching films and shagging, teasing each other over their terrible taste ('No more sci-fi, Simon, please!' 'If you want to watch Bring It On again, I...won't object.' 'Ugh, you perv!'), that she never becomes a person she actually likes for the first time.

Maybe Simon's right, and it's all been determined, but Alisha won't have free will if she doesn't at least try to save the man she loves. Maybe they won't end up little old shrivelled prunes at the old people's home, holding hands, and maybe Simon is still broken enough to consider his life a fair trade for less than a year of true love, but he deserves better, even if he doesn't know it.

And so does she.

Simon came back for her, gave up his life in the future. The least she can do is try to change the past.

*

Her first step is to work out when Simon first started to fancy her.

She’s not sure, but knowing first hand the power of suggestion, she figures a good start will be the psycho in art therapy.

If she doesn't steal her face, Simon can go wank off to Kelly (a sharp little stab to her stomach, part guilt and part jealousy.)

She doesn't know if this means she'll save Simon, or whether it means Simon will come back because Kelly's dead, but she has to try, and things can’t end up worse than they apparently already do.

She realises immediately how little future Simon told her, and winces at how quickly she accepted it, usually so cynical.

She has to literally sit down, make a list on one of his dozens of spiral-bound notebooks.

She scours the apartment, but the clocks are all flashing on 00:00 and she didn't know what they meant in the first place.

She looks over every photo, watches every video (she's a little relieved and a little disappointed, frankly, to see that there are no creepshots of her, just photos on the wall. There are a few surveillance videos from the community centre, but they're mainly of Nathan making a twat of himself, and she's afraid if watching all of them is the only way she can save the world, then the world probably isn't worth saving.)

She knows he made her come more and harder than anyone else she's been with, but that's not exactly grounds for her to be Sherlock fucking Holmes. Then she realises he told her at least one thing. He loses his virginity soon, but not with her.

If she can change that, if she can fuck him first, or if she can find the girl he does lose it with, she can change something. Maybe if she can convince him that not everything is inevitable, they can work out a way to be normal.

All she has to do is stop that creepy girl from blowing him, then find out who he's gonna fuck. How hard can it be? She loves Simon, but he's hardly the pussymeister.

*

The creepy girl thing is immediately harder than she thought it would be. And not in a good way, like a new cock.

For starters, she's relying entirely too much on Nathan.

She needs someone who's actions will be reliable, predictable even, she needs Curtis or Kelly, blissfully normal.

Instead, Nathan's trolling the psycho, which means the psycho's immediately picking up on them, taking in their conversation, watching how they stand, memorising their names.

With any of the others, she'd warn them before they go in, or change the topic, but Nathan's like a toddler when it comes to fixating on a topic no one wants to discuss, and an actual infant when it comes to doing as he's told.

She tries running a little interference, sticks close to Nathan of all people, although she’s careful not to laugh when he takes the piss out of Crazy Girl, remembering that she did that last time and probably pissed her off even more.

She stands far away from Curtis and Simon, doesn't even look at them, hoping the girl will think taking her face is too much of a risk.

She even tries sitting on Kelly's lap, stroking her hair. Any more than that with no explanation is pushing it - Kelly's the kindest of them, but she doesn't suffer being dicked around without an explanation.

If Lucy’s confused by their dynamics, maybe she won’t dare make a move on Simon without investigating further. They can catch her, Simon won’t get tricked, and he’ll be safe.

Pairing up is like maths, it makes her head hurt - she remembers Kelly was wandering about, so she tries to stick near Curtis so he doesn't end up hitting Simon.

Going off with Simon will alert him that something’s off – she feels a little pang of guilt that this Simon will be surprised, even mistrustful, at her offering to spend time with him.

She lets him and Nathan pair off, although she worries a little about the pipe – she doesn’t like the guy, but it looks pretty fucking painful. If she can find a way to avoid it, she’d like to.

*

Alisha realises her plan has backfired approximately twenty minutes later, when they reconvene to the familiar sound of Nathan’s girly squealing as Kelly hits him.

‘You sucked him off?’ she bellows, so loud she might as well announce their location to all of Thamesmead.

Her stomach hits freefall. This is the worst possible thing Lucy could have done.

It was embarrassing enough when it was her; Curtis or Kelly would be excruciating; but absolutely nothing upsets Simon more than Nathan taking the piss.

She feels shitty when she thinks about being a bitch to him, worse to think maybe he wasn’t as bothered because he didn’t expect anything more, but at least she just ignored him. Nathan actively fucks with his head, one minute humping his leg, the next acting as if he’s infectious.

She’s a little surprised that he let Nathan do it at all, although not as surprised as Simon probably is himself.

She knows from what her Simon said that at some point she teaches Simon how to please her, how to eat out, and kiss with tongues, and even pegging.

But she also knows from what her future self let slip that he’s gone to Nathan a time or two about their sex life, and from what Kelly’s told her, Nathan’s hardly expert in the sack, leading her to a pretty obvious conclusion.

She won’t take the piss, and Kelly’s clearly too shocked for comment. Alisha feels a twinge, she knows Kelly had a bit of thing for Nathan, but she figures she’s doing her a favour in the long run.

But if Nathan runs his mouth off, or Simon feels like they’re all mocking him, it could set him back even further. She doesn’t wants him to become his future self if it means dying; but she also doesn’t want him back in a secure unit.

Curtis is her unlikely saviour, however – while he’s never been fond of Simon, he’s always been particularly irritated by Nathan, and it’s Nathan he focuses his glee on.

‘You sucked him off? Why am I not surprised?’

‘Hey! Come on, do I look like the kind of guy who’d blow Barry? ‘Cause I’m so horny, I’ve gotta get on my knees for odd kid here! If I went gay, you’d know about it from the mass female suicide pacts!’

‘I don’t know, man.’ Curtis sucks in a breath, mock thoughtfully. ‘You’re always fucking with him, maybe you’ve got a crush.’

‘I’m the damaged goods here, it was my face that bitch was using! I’ll probably need counselling. And why didn’t you stop me, weirdo? Obviously getting a piece of this’ – he gestures down his body, to eyerolls from the others – ‘is your dream come true, but I feel violated, to be honest, I’m not a piece of meat!’

Alisha interjects swiftly. ‘A blow job’s a blow job, everyone knows men are like, biologically incapable of saying no to one. She probably saw you posing and figured you for a cocksucker. Let’s just find this bitch, alright?’

Simon shoots her a grateful smile, which makes her feel warm. She’s not saying he’s her Simon or anything, but it feels good to get to know the old version before she falls for new-and-improved.

Hopefully she’s altered events enough that at least something has changed for her future self, although if it has, she guesses that girl won’t be around to let her know. Her head starts hurting again.

*

Things progress. She finishes it with Curtis, she knows she’s not supposed to rush anything with Simon too early, but she can’t be with Curtis if her heart isn’t in it, and while this Simon might not be ready for them to get together, she doesn’t think it can harm for her to be…nice, once in a while. Not flirting, her full-on would probably cause him to come in his pants, or at least freeze like a rabbit in headlights, but…friendly.

She’s looking for him one morning, nodding as Kelly talks about the guy she met; when she spots the pretty girl organising the fun run, and realises she’s who Future Alisha was referring to.

At the same time, Nathan starts hissing and gesturing dramatically like some kind of crazed goose: ‘That’s who killed me last night!’ and she feels cold.

Her future self would have told her if Simon was in serious danger, right? All Simon told her was that he lost his virginity, he wouldn’t have brought it up in bed if it had been nasty or against his will or anything, surely.

She knows Nathan’s word isn’t much to go on, but when he finds the second body, the boy Jessica was talking to earlier, she starts to panic, properly.

Then she thinks of a plan. It’s stupid and a little disgusting, and both her future self and Simon’s would definitely disapprove, but fuck them.

The first time she did this, she was petrified, so in thrall to her Simon that she didn’t dare speak to any of them, scared that letting a single word slip would alter all their lives forever. Now she knows it can’t get any worse. If this goes wrong, they won’t get it together, but better that than lose him in her life forever.

*

Nathan’s hardly the most likely confidant, but she’s oddly touched when he turns up to help her spy on Simon’s date.

Worse than losing her Simon is the idea that if he hadn’t came back in the first place, she would apparently never have given a shit.

Nathan’s a twat, but it’s good to know that someone else cares about Simon, the way he is now, not just the hero he becomes.

She’s worried at telling him anything of what’s to come, but she figures as the immortal one, he’s the one most likely to be in a position to see if the future comes to pass.

If she felt retarded for struggling with the ‘space-time continuum’ as Simon called it; she feels a lot better watching Nathan, who’s eyes glaze over almost immediately. His comprehension seems limited to sex, which is typical, but apt for their conversation.

‘So…you’re shagging Barry?’

‘No! No one can touch me, remember?’

‘But, the BMX guy is Barry from the future? Who comes back to fuck you?’

Ugh. She shoves him, but she needs to take lessons from Kelly, clearly, as he’s unmoved. ‘Listen, Nathan, I'm serious. He told me that he loses his virginity before we get together. I can't fuck him first, that'll fuck up destiny. And if we let him near that psycho, she’s gonna kill him.'

'What are you suggesting? We can hire him a prostitute, but I doubt they take vending machine change, and even that toothless one on the estate is hardly gonna fuck him for the sake of destiny alone.'

'Look, all someone else has to do is start him off, he told me I teach him how to shag, so I'm guessing it's just a one night stand with...um, her.'

'What? Have you worked out who this lucky lady is? It's not Kelly, is it? Kelly and Barry? The names don’t even work properly!'

‘I don’t know who it is! But if it’s Jessica, she could kill him before he gets to become a hero!’

‘But what a way to go!’ Nathan leers.

She’s ready to hit him again, but instead takes a calming breath, and tries to fix on the image of his uncharacteristically serious face when he said ‘Maybe I like him more than I let on.’

‘Listen, fuckwit. If he doesn’t become a hero, he doesn’t save you from that Virtue gang. You want to spend immortality wearing a cardigan and waiting for your virginity to grow back, be my guest.’

This was clearly the right tack to take with Nathan, who’s expression turns sober, as if his sex life prospects are a level of importance on par with saving a burning orphanage. ‘So we get some poor girl to throw Barry a mercy fuck, he gets confident enough to become Super Barry and fuck you, and I get my future with bags of money and a supermodel girlfriend, yeah?’

Alisha can’t resist. ‘We’re changing the future, not performing miracles here.’

Nathan rolls his eyes. ‘So who’s it gonna be? Cute psycho’s out, Kelly’s cavern will put him off women forever…’

‘Nice. Maybe if you didn’t act like such a dick all the time, you could have gotten some pity sex.’

Nathan scowls, and Alisha bites her tongue. It’s tempting to get into it with him, but she needs him on side. ‘Sorry.’

Nathan looks surprised.

‘The thing is…Simon told me you gave him some advice. Or you will. About fucking.’

‘Sounds about right, it’s only fair to share if you’re gifted like I am’. He waggles his tongue crudely, while pantomiming grabbing his balls.

‘Lovely.' She grimaces. 'The thing is, if he’s gonna lose it, it has to be something that makes him feel good about himself. If we just get some slut, it might not go well for them, and then he’ll never dare try it on with me. And if we ask Kelly, he might just…end up with her. Not that you’d care, obviously.’

She looks at Nathan out of the corner of her eyes, and sure enough, he quickly dissembles, but she doesn’t miss the definite frown that momentarily appears.

‘I thought maybe…I can be there, right, I just can’t touch him. I was thinking we get him to blow off Jessica, have a few drinks, and…see what happens.’

Nathan’s notoriously slow on the uptake, so she amuses herself by waiting, as the cogs of his brain almost visibly shift.

‘…You want me to shag him?!’

‘You wouldn’t be gay or anything, it’d be like a threeway!’ she rushes.

She’s well aware of how fragile men get about this sort of thing, although Nathan a lot less so than, say, Curtis, which is maybe why, despite his protestations, she has a good feeling about this.

‘Some threeway, so he and I fuck, and you sit around doing your nails?’

‘You were gonna do it when you had the tattoo anyway!’

‘That was mind control!’

‘I’m just saying, you’re the one who said it would be the best he’s ever had. But if you were exaggerating, that’s fine, I’ll ask Curtis. He’s got nothing to complain about.’ She breaks off, licking her lips as if recalling Curtis naked. ‘That'd probably be better, actually. I want this to go well. You couldn’t even get him to dry hump you.’

‘Hey, he’s the repressed one, any other guy would have been on his knees after my moves!’

‘It’s fine, Nathan. Maybe you’re just…not his type.’

‘Me?! Not his type?! I’m beautiful, he should be so lucky! Whose face was it that psycho bitch blew him with? He’s probably been gagging for my cock since we met!’

Alisha smirks.

That was way easier than expected.

The future

They’re still bumming around in Vegas – Nathan wants to visit the casinos with his new power, Alisha’s just relieved at being able to parade around in skimpy dresses without worrying about British weather or accidentally touching someone.

Between their combined efforts (Alisha calls it flirting, Nathan calls it sluttiness), they’ve charmed the hotel into an extra two days.

Simon rolls his eyes, half impressed and half disapproving.

Alisha and Nathan tease him, but they’re secretly relieved for his caution; Alisha’s pretty sure that without him; she, Nathan or both would definitely end up in some kind of disaster, probably involving mass fraud, Nevada’s lax prostitution laws, and possibly farm animals.

Kelly and Curtis text furiously the second week, they were in a stolen car with Nikki and the new guy, and have got six more weeks community service.

Alisha’s sympathetic, but a little relieved. Kelly and Curtis are sensible, they’ll be fine. If she or Nathan were there, it would end up snowballing into more trouble, with Simon hot on their heels in rescue mode.

Vegas is the one place she’s sure she’s meant to be.

They made sure to recreate the photo the first night, although Nathan fucks up and puts his thumb over the lens in the first couple.

Later in the room, he complains about being left out: ‘I mean, I’m not in your magical photo’ – he does a mystical handwave in illustration which makes Alisha snort – ‘I didn’t even get to meet my sexy future self, I’m feeling a little vulnerable about this relationship right now!’, so they take a few more of all three of them.

(Simon keeps them on his phone for safekeeping before Alisha or Nathan argue that depriving the world of such hotness is a crime and decide to upload them online or something.)

It feels safe here, away from the ghosts of the past, mandatory heroism and death.

She doesn’t not want to go back - she’s promised Kelly she’d bring back these awesome hooker shoes she found; Nathan’s already complaining about missing his mum’s dinners; and Simon’s loaded up with gifts for his sister; as well as less appropriate souvenirs selected by Nathan, mostly involving uncomfortable looking sex toys shaped like Las Vegas tourist spots.

But this relationship, or whatever it is, is still new, the sun is still shining, and for now Thamesmead can worry about itself.

And so can the future.

Simon asks her, one night, quietly, so as not to wake a snoring Nathan, stroking her hair softly. ‘Do you think we changed it? I mean, enough?’

Alisha snickers a little, looking over. Simon isn’t the Simon she knew once, armoured and muscled and mysterious. He’s still pale and awkward and geeky.

He’s not the only man who can touch her, the only option, the incontrovertible destined soulmate; and she thinks sometimes she loves him even more now than she did then.

She feels guilty for thinking it, but when she thinks of a little joke they share, or their eyes meeting each other in silent reaction to something outrageous Nathan’s said, and she feels more affection than she ever did for her Simon; beautiful and heroic and so perfect that he never felt quite real.

And Nathan, sprawled out.

Neither of them ever expected this, even wanted it at first, but outside of community service, of the awkward tension of being too much alike, both desperate for attention, competing to be noticed; she finds that she can just laugh with him.

It takes more effort to like herself than to like Nathan, in the end, but she thinks he feels the same way.

She still feels guilty that her Simon thought she couldn’t love him unless he was someone else; but Nathan wanted him before he knew there was another Simon at all, and she’ll always love him for that.

None of them are immortal now, and there are no guarantees, no one to make sure they all fall in love or stay in love or keep to a strict destiny mapped out like a road ahead. Maybe it all ends tomorrow, or maybe they end up three pruny little old people back in Wertham community centre. Maybe their old selves never made it this far, or maybe this was always coming, another day, another year. It feels better not to know, not to worry about clocks and timelines and inevitability. They’re here, now.

‘I think it’s better this way.’