1965-08-20 - Once and Future Kings (1988)
Summary: Under the insanely neon and forced happy joy joy feelings of imperious utopia, 1988, JP from the past awakens from a car accident to see Elmo, age 44, and fighting this resistance for far too long on his own. Finally they figure out why JP was dragged to the future of all people
Related: It's a 1988 World After All (pt.1), Apparitions of 1988 (pt.2)
Theme Song: 99 Luft Balloons - Nena
jp elmo 


The subway car stayed on an even pace in the sub tunnels under the subway of New York keeping constant speeds with the trains that ran above to avoid detection of its electronic signature and broadcasting origins. Young Gearhead slept, most of the damages entirely superficial. More significant impact buffeted by evasive driving and sheer luck he still knocked his head and elbows pretty damn hard.

Future Elmo, at forty-three, can't remember what it was like to be twenty and just shrug off the endless stream of bruises and bumps that came with his bare-knuckled life. He remembers he did it. He just can't remember what it was like.

He's slouched in a pilot's chair, scavenged and bolted in like the rest of the equipment in his mobile base. Cheek propped on his hand, he's staring at JP. Just. Staring at him. JP looks exactly like he did when they met at the Christmas party. Elmo has short hair (wavy almost to the point of curly, it turns out; when it was long its weight held the curls down) and a full beard, now. He gave up his trademark brilliant colors when his partner died. Put mourning colors on and just…never took them off. The light in his life had gone out and he never felt like wearing bright yellow again.

"Espereleh, I'm terrified outta my wits," he murmurs. "What are we gonna do?"

The AI picked up and said, "I ran the calculations. Averages show that the choice 'something' is optimal. Doing nothing delays inevitability…. also eat. Vital algorithms are showing parameters out of normal factor range. We are happy to remind that prolonged accelerated heart-rate can lead to hypertension. You might not want to have a heart attack if you still desire to 'stick it to the man' this year."

She's so helpful. If Baymax and Glados had a child she might be it. Conversely if JP ever had a hand in influencing a child… well history shows this is what happens.
JP could sleep on for days, but eventually he rested up enough to wake with a splitting headache. There was a moment and-YUP! He came up fighting. The last thing he really remembered was being rammed by people trying to kill him. Not fun. He pushed himself up and pushed himself back enough he nearly smacked his head again. His eyes weren't open but his arms and fists were already up.

Looking at Future Elmo he blinked, confused. That face had aged a lot and there was the beard and the long hair… however, JP knew that most distinct nose wherever it went. There was no mistaking that schnozz for anyone else's. Ever. it was more distinct than a fingerprint.

His eyes squint shut to blink the sleep out of them a couple times and he asked, "Sparkplug?… when'd you get so…. fuzzy?" Yup. not even why are you old, it's why did you give up on shaving?

"I never shoulda let him talk me into giving you a sense of humor," Elmo mutters. However, to make his artificial daughter happy, he leans way over to pull an MRE from a case of them stashed on one of the many shelves. Hypertension—hah, the amount of sodium in those things will kill him well before the Sentinels do.

He's applying peanut butter to a cracker when JP wakes up fighting. Elmo smiles humorlessly and waits it out. His version of JP frequently woke up fighting, too, especially once things got worse.

And then JP calls him Sparkplug and he closes his eyes. Only for a moment. Then he's on his feet, bringing JP a shaken bottle of hydration mix. An old soldier, this Elmo, who's had his wild mood fluctuations stamped out of him. "Someone told me it made me look older. Now I don't hardly need it."

Espereleh chirped back so pleased because it was absolutely not her fault. Ever. Computers are not at fault. Faulty programming is. *"I would like to thank my source material, and the Academy for- Sentry mode engaging.." And as part of the normal protocol when they were passing through zones more heavily monitored. The lights shifted out of habit to amber. Less because of any reason than if Elmo was lost in thoughts the lighting would tell him what status they were in. Her idea.

JP's hand roughly rubbed his face tying to wake up. He murmured, "Merde, e'rythin's still outta focus." His hand reached out for he bottle, and didn't even question it before cracking the lid and drinking it. He made a face- that same face when one expects one of two things and gets a third. It's not dislike it's more… who the fuck are you, flavour?

"Well it what, '88?" He took another longer drink, "Meeerde, them cats hit me hard. What these cars all made outta plastic? How you supposed to take a hit from someone tryin t'spin you out that way?" Whoo boy. Yup. Just like Elmo remembered him. "You look, Sparkplug… weird. Good. You ain' wearin one them tube tops. Tres bon. Tres bon." He nodded approvingly.

This wasn't a tourist trip though and he asked, "Talk t'me, chere, Why I brought here? Some gal woke me up wit' one them ghost voices that said we need you. An' I told her I was sleepin and then the lady-voice bein all They said to say fighting would change would change your mind…. and I won't say she wrong, but they grab that Lucifer tha' went to New Orleans with' us.. dunno if you remember that." You remember, Elmo, that day Mozelle broke up with me… for good. And life punched me in the balls. Small details. "Anyway they apparently grab him too an' me, but… I dunno why. What fight?"

Elmo glances up, as the lights go amber, but nothing more. He knows Espereleh will switch them over to silent running. That's why he created her: to handle the thousand tasks an hour that he simply couldn't. She was faster and smarter than he was, and she didn't slow down with age. She only got better, as she learned more. When computers had become the most powerful tools in history, he, as always, had made his own.

He listens to JP talk, his hands laced loosely. Watching him. Thinking. JP may be the same, but Elmo isn't. Elmo has grown into someone steady, someone people could rely on not to make snap judgements. Someone who was just as much of a leader in his own way as JP ever was.

And yet, when he reaches out to brush the backs of his fingers against JP's cheek, his hand is trembling. Just a bit.

"My God, you're just a kid," he murmurs. Rather than answer with information or anything JP has actually asked.

JP looked super confused. He was super good at it., He hadn't changed a bit because this would be a copy of JP Prime, like restoring a backup. It was the real Jean-Pierre Marius Bonaventure who had a short enough attention span and a high enough adaptability rate to take this whole time travel thing a bit in stride, or at least at face value. At least Elmo had finally learned how never to be caught flat-footed.

…until now.

His brow furrowed and the statement confused him and out of recalcitrant habit said "I'm twenty-four. I ain't no kid. You ain't never met me when I weren't not no kid, Sparkplug. What are you on about?" And there was a flashbacks to a sea of quintuple negatives.

Still he saw the hand shaking and how brow furrowed and he asked a refined version of the question, "What happen, Elmo? You bring me here?"

Elmo laughs, a single breath, and pulls his hand back, rubbing his mouth the way he does when he's trying not to cry. "If it weren't for Lucian, I'd think I've finally lost it." His dark eyes flick back to JP. "Je ne t'ai pas amene ici. Je ne sais pas ce qui s'est passe." Suddenly he's speaking French, and not just any French, but French Creole. Flawlessly. With the characteristic Cajun slur. "Est-ce plus facile de parler en francais?"

(I didn't bring you here. I don't know what happened. Is it easier for you to speak in French?)

JP watched and those eyes lit up like Christm-ukkah, his new Gearspark holiday. He was making a new one. With mutant reindeer and giant robots and lasers, weed, and presents to keep with all the usual traditions. "Incroyable! Cela ne t'a pris que quoi? Trente-cinq ans?" It only took Elmo thirty-five years to learn. Way to add 12 years onto Elmo's age there.

"On dirait que je t'ai vraiment bien appris. Ou Severin l'a fait. Comment … comment vas-tu? Tu vas bien? rien ne va bien?" He could go on and on looking concerned asking, (Looks like I really learned you well. Or Severin did it. How … how are you? You're okay? nothing looks right..?

Then it hit him because he was going to ask, "Amelie? Comment va mon petit cheri?" Was my little girl alright?? There were few times in memory that JP looked scared like this. In all 45 years on this Earth he would always worry about her first and always. He had no insulation for that.

Elmo really does laugh, although his smile looks painful. "Elle va bien. En Canada. Vous ecris tout le temps. Ou plutot, elle avait l'habitude. Maintenant elle m'ecrit." She's fine. In Canada. She writes you all the time—or, she used to. Now she writes to me.

He stands up, prowls restlessly across the car's floor. "Tu es tout autant un connard que jamais, Jean-Pierre." You're just as much an asshole as always. "Tu m'as tellement manque." I've missed you so much. That part, he whispers, leaning against one of the subway poles.

"Vous…ou il… est mort." You, or rather he, died. Elmo says it with briskness, a general telling his troops need-to-know information that is nevertheless hard to hear. "Il y a trois ans." Three years ago. Turning to face JP again, he—can't manage his emotions abruptly and covers his eyes, just like JP's version of Elmo does. He drops back into English, voice shaking. "We fought, okay? We split up. Because after the last mutant in Brooklyn was …was gone, you wouldn't stay underground anymore. Said you wouldn't stand by and watch our people die any more. I tried to reason with ya. Told you, we got to keep on keepin' on, everybody was dependin' on us. You told me I'd had the wrong idea all along. That hiding wasn't what we shoulda been doing. We shoulda been taking 'em head on the whole time. So that's what you did. And you got yourself killed."

Elmo swallows, rubs his eyes. "That mutant, she was a little dark-haired girl. Six years old. She'd been living with a normie family, they took her in, hid her. But they found her. They made it a holiday. Brooklyn Mutant-Free. That's when you…you said that stuff to me."

JP watched and listened glued to Elmo watching the little things spoken, unspoken. He watched like a feral rabbit with ears laid back trying to figure out an ex-filtration strategy or if he was going to have to bite and claw something. Don't let rabbits fool you like that.

Canada. He nodded hesitantly okay Canada was good and for what it was worth that seemed to make sense to him? he did say something once about Canada. Did they know people? Well Amelie did. Why though-


JP's face became a stone mask.
He died…

He listened and looked horrified even though his face sat still and frozen. That look in his eyes hardened just as it did then, as it was again. tears rose up in them in anger, but didn't fall.

Calmly he said to Elmo, "You people… OUR… people… shouldn't never need t'be hidin nowhere. I promised you." His hands came up and rubbed his stuble. The longer he thought about it, the more it hurt. "Comment est-ce arriv%<233>? My brother okay, he in Canada too?"

Elmo draws in a breath to argue—but lets it out in a sigh. "Yeah, I'm not fighting with you about that, again." His tone is wry. When JP asks about Sev, though, his smile is a little more genuine. "He's everywhere. Best scout and spy we got." There's that 'we'. He's not just talking like a man who's spent most of his life partnered up. He's referring to an entire movement. "He played at your wake. Got me really drunk. Made me dance. Told me you'd be pissed off if you got a party that good and I didn't dance."

He sits down again, looking at JP seriously, hands laced together as if he's afraid they'll do something without him. "Look. I don't know why you got thrown here. I tried to ask Lucian, but that guy's never given anyone a straight answer and he's not starting with me. For what it's worth, I don't think it was his idea, either. Maybe…maybe you're here to learn what happened. Or, for you, what could happen. I don't pretend to know. All I've learned since we were kids is that I don't know hardly nothin'. I know this, though: I have got to get you back where you came from. When you came from. I'm not about to watch you die in front of me again." His voice thickens up, but his eyes are steady as a gyroscope.

JP listened still trying to get past… that hard truth. He wasn't, not even knowing that he failed, or at least didn't make it, change his mind. There was no part in him that tolerated hiding and not fighting. Maybe his making was destined truly to be his undoing. Fingers picked at the sleeves on his coat looking down at his hands trying to keep focused and not let it get to him.

Wow… that's…
A lot.

The news of Sev brought an easy half-grin that while he was trying not to get all his ire worked up, he was proud as hell of Sev for takin care of business. Those dark brown eyes familiar all over again looked up to Elmo and said, "Super. Pissed off." He shook his head and sighed with a shake of his head, "I don' wan no tears f'me. Jes beer, brawlin, and a bawdy tune. Remember people lived, not that they died or… ya know.. try to I guess."

His jaw set. Yup. This was JP's freak out face. Older Elmo would know the earth shook under the rock. The rock is what one holds onto though. He looked up and asked, "Jay? Mon Renard- my Lobster Guy? Vitale? Dizzy?" Some of those names not heard in forever likely. He held up a hand and shook his head, "Ya know what, don' matter. Doesn't… matter cause we get me home maybe we fix a thing." There was a solution he could hold onto with both hands. Okay freaking out over, planning starting back up.

Elmo reads that freakout on JP and reaches out again-and then pulls back. No. He can't treat this JP like his JP. For one, Elmo's now old enough to be his father. For another, it's not right. This young Jean-Pierre was never his lover. Elmo's damn near desperate to kiss him, touch him, but-no. He won't. It's not his place to seek comfort from this JP or to comfort him, as bad as he wants it. As much as it hurts to look at him and see the love of his life, made young again by some dire miracle.

What he feels doesn't matter anymore. All that matters is he keep going. The young people look up to him. They see a man who lost his partner, his family, his team, but kept fighting and won't stop. Look what he's been through, they say to each other, and he's still going. We can keep fighting, too.

Some days, that's all that stands between Elmo and a one-way trip to the George Washington Bridge.

So he keeps his hands to himself, and talks to JP. "If you were taken here, I kinda suspect you'll be brought back by the same force. Who knows when that'll happen. So I gotta tell you something. Since you died, I been thinking you were right. Hiding didn't do us no good. We shoulda shown out in numbers. Proved to everyone that we were just like them, that we were their sons and daughters, their parents. Their neighbors, their bosses, their checkout guys at the market. That we're everywhere. That we're family."

|ROLL| JP +rolls 1d20 for: 2

JP sat and was… not… doing great really. He was further from home as he'd ever been, and was out of time, and was hearing that in a nutshell they lost a lot of good people in an invisible urban war. The back teeth set in pure defiance and there was that scowl as a hundred thoughts and angles went flying through his head. In the end it broke something in him that was letting him take things with a grain of salt. He didn't know why he was here yet, or how he was going to get back if he got back because he didn't know who even dragged him here. He was furious for a thousand deaths, and for making the living grieve, and for making this whole world live in fear keeping everyone in house arrest wherever they were. Tears stung the corners of his eyes, and on to the back of his sleeve where he looked down with a dull splat… and another…

This was his nightmare: a world in fear and being unable to just hit any one thing to fix it. It's like Hydra played the long game under everyone's face. He was mad at them, and mad at himself for failings he's even yet to make. It hurt all the same.

He swallowed and took a deep breath giving his eyes one hard rub with the back of his hand and offered a humourless laugh, "Ya know we spen' o much time tryin t'stay outta jail, eventually they jes built it around us didn' they?" He took a deep breath and looked up to Elmo with bloodshot eyes, "Jes tell me… I at leas' go out fightin?" He shook his head and glances at the woosh of concrete whirring by outside the windows.

Quietly he mused, "Mighta been mon soeur tha' reached back. Coulda been Terese. I dunno but… seem like somethin she mi' do." Because the twins had one that could see the future and she who could reach to the past. His head hung. the dent where he slammed his head throbbed all the more.

The boys have had better days.

If Elmo had any other young fighter under his command here, in tears, struggling, he'd hug them. He'd put an arm around their shoulder and offer them a drink and avuncular affection and advice. A duty he and JP shared for years. With this young JP, he does not dare. He does not trust himself to stop. The absolute last thing either of them need for their sanity is to wind up in bed. Elmo has been nothing less than scrupulous with his people and he's not going to stop now. Not even for another JP.

He reaches for a bottle of pills and shakes a couple into his hand, offers them to JP. "Take those, help ya head. Jeanushka, you went out fighting so hard, you became a legend." His smile is sad. Getting up, he rummages for a moment in a file box, coming up with a color printout. This, he passes to JP.

It's a photo of a graffiti'd wall. The graffiti is a huge and glorious illustration of JP. Older JP, thicker with muscle than his younger self. Wearing his leather jacket and a grin, the light of battle in his eyes. His fists, clenched and raised before him in the classic fighter's stance, drip with blood. A banner surrounds him, reading FIGHT LIKE BONAVENTURE. There's a collection of glass candles in front of the mural.

"The kids say, don't take it lying down. Get up and fight like Bonaventure. Some of 'em ask your blessing before going into the field. You're not just a hero." Elmo taps the paper. "You're a saint."

JP reached out and took the bottle and took just the two aspirin. He could do a third but he respected supply being in possible short demand. He cracked em with his teeth and swallowed with the hydration mix. IT was a lot to wrap his brain around. His hand reached out and it was bruising on one side. Nothing he's not dealt with before. It shook faintly but he took the page all the same. He sniffled just once and looked over the picture. It wasn't pride though, funny enough, it was reverence. He said, "Kinda looks like Jeb's hand." He nodded and maybe told himself that meant things could be a bit okay for him.

At the story of asking for his blessing THAT got an arch of an eyebrow. Say whaaat? "Well I ' Catholic, sure, but these cats know I almos' got smote by an angel an' made a mad pact with the Devil?" He paused and bogged trying to remember, "We even have a saint for rebellion?" He paused and thought about it and laughed, "Oh yeah I was named after her. " He handed the page back. It felt weird all over. He was the one that reached out and set his hand on Elmo's arm.

Those brown eyes could still read enough of Elmo to know he was really not okay with this meeting. "I know… this'fucked up. But maybe Terese or …whoever? Maybe they pull me here not f'these… robot lookin things. Maybe not f'no government. Maybe it to talk to you…"
This… was super hard. He struggled with it and fell back on French as Elmo knew his tongue as well as he and Sev did, "Maybe they want me to tell you you're right. Maybe now's that time to gather the numbers. Maybe I was tryin to show them it was possible an' I got shit for power, but that ain't what a person needs. It's the will t'do it. It can be done but not if you let them put fear in your heart."

He took a deep breath and gave Elmo's wrist a squeeze if it was still even in reach, and he watched. "Maybe she wants me to tell you to carry in how to do that. I don't fight like I do because I'm afraid of what will happen. I fight the way I do cause I'm afraid of what'll happen if I don't> You give them that. They gotta want it. THey have to fear inaction more than the action itself."

He could be profound when English wasn't a hurdle. He pushed himself to his feet. He was bruised but serviceable. No matter how old? They were still the same height as they always were. Finally he offered Elmo, "Hey, I ain't mad at you f'makin the choice you did. Sometimes these things gotta be they way they are so something better can come of it. It's not what we want but sometimes it is what we need. Mozelle taught me that. And it hurt… but she was right." His figers laced at the bridge of his nose working on the words, "Look I just.. don't… blame yourself because I'm an idiot sometimes.I did tell you you're always gonna be the one to change the world. And I'll always be here didn't I? Aint'… what I MEANT… but it is still true. I'm just… I'm sorry it hurt you. Hurt all of you but I don't… know I'd change a thing. Maybe we see what we can still do about maybe preventing it from needing to be done. Oui?"

Elmo laughs, soft. "Oh yeah. They know. It's one of the stories I let 'em convince me to tell sometimes. Just part of your legend. Kinda part of mine, the way I popped Michael when he roughed you up." He takes the page back, and his expression changes when he looks at it. From the cautious restraint he's been showing to the glow of love that JP knows so well.

He tucks the paper back in its file, tucks that expression away into his heart—and gives JP a startled look. "To talk to me?" Well, that's Elmo for you. Leading a revolution in JP's name because he still hates it when people make a fuss over him. Still just a dorky little Jewish nerd in his own eyes.

JP speaks, and Elmo listens, language no longer a barrier between them. When JP touches him, he twitches, but does a really good job of pretending he didn't, acting like it didn't happen, keeping his eyes on JP. He's got game face for days, this Elmo. He's been faking it so hard for so many years that he's a pro now. You'd never know he was a twitchy, shy kid.

But when JP tells him he's not angry at him, that facade just crumbles. Elmo puts his face into his hands and gasps in a shuddering breath, shoulders beginning to shake.

JP might be kid form of himself, and he might not lived a lifetime with this Elmo, but according to this history they did their best to keep that neighborhood together. JP was glad he didn't get the answers on how everyone else was he cared about. Things were spooky enough as they were. But this? This tired old man was and is Sparkplug.

JP closed the gap and just wrapped his arms around Elmo's head and shoulders and pulled him in as the future two of them did for their juniors. JP was half his ag. How was he doing this now? Same way he always does. He just does it. "'mere."

He wobbled from one foot to the other holding him; no time had passed for JP though it was a world of flashbacks that like a high would likely leave a hole in its wake. He pressed his cheek to the top of Elmo's head and promised, "I die for my actions, not yours. Both mean somethin, chere. Can't stop half way through the fight. I would not… tell you this… if I did not know you well enough to know you can do this." He palmed the back of Elmo's head and let him get that emotion out.

JP pressed a kiss to the top of Elmo's head and grinned a little but with that tone of his, "We got this, Sparkplug. Punch a hole in their sky. Whatever happens? I'll be waitin for ya. We can make it alright, oui?"

God he hoped so. Fear was gripping his stomach which seemed only to try to become fuel as fast but they were flying in the dark. JP reached a hand out and laid it on the console. His head, his will, his consciousness hopped into the machine and found Elmo there, for a moment making contact. He could feel Elmo's whole crazy train and will to make it go rush over him and feel like it was pushing him right out of his body.

Elmo gives in and wraps his arms around JP, and sobs. Their age difference, that they're living in different ends of history—doesn't matter. JP is JP, and Elmo is still his biggest fan, his lover, and the man who needs him most in all the world. It's not every day your dead husband comes to absolve you of the guilt burning a hole in your soul.

He scrubs roughly at his face, trying to get a grip, just like he does nearly every day at the garage in JP's time. "Dammit, Jeanushka. I was holdin' it together so well," he complains, voice foggy, half laughing. Just like always. "Listen. When you see him again—when you see me." He grabs JP's arms, looking at him, fierce. "Tell him. Tell him not to ever let you go."

Yes, his will is in the machine, his electricity driving it, and when JP touches the console, Elmo groans, eyes fluttering shut. He feels that, as vivid and close as that first time they broke into a factory to fuck each other stupid. That was only the first time. "Oh, hell with you, JP. I love you, you meshuggener mamzer." And he kisses him, once, hard.

SO many emotions all blended together and then contact and the whirr of the train in his head, Elmo, tactile sensory and emotion. It blurred overloading his brain a moment.

ANd then..

JP's eyes flew open and he sat bolt upright in the unfinished apartment above the garage, 1965 once again. His eyes were frozen open and fear and that adrenaline crash hit him in a wave of nausea. He flailed and fell off the couch still covered in plastic to protect it from the drip because he didn't have furniture yet. Green to the gills he staggered over to the bathroom in a mad scramble of uncoordinated half crawling and hugged the bowl. He'd be there for a minute until he could convince his insides that they were called 'insides' for a reason.

He rolled to a sit, and digging his heels in pushed himself as far back against that bathroom wall in that 2' space as he could get. The Cajun wiped the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand. He was dizzy and his vision was slowly coming back. Tears stung his face as the hollow void sat in the pit of his stomach. The loss was profound on a scope he'd never encountered before..

It was an ugly fucking nightmare.
His vision returning his hand was still bruised, and when his fingers found his forehead there was still the bump there where he'd smacked it inside the Fiero GT… He knew…what a Fiero GT was which wouldn't be made until 1985.

All the colour drained from his face and he sat, entirely alone in that unfinished apartment and fear crept in at him from every corner.

After he threw up again, he washed his face and went down to the sidewalk.
It was 4:28 in the morning.
He went to the payphone and laid a hand on it making it think it ate a dime and waited. His hand was still shaking. He took a deep breath and waited for the very tired and very exacerbated "WHAT…now…?" to greet him on the other end. In spite of everything the familiar agitation of having this be the biggest thing Elmo had to worry about at present made him smile. Just a bit.

As casually as he could he wondered, "Hey I'm um… I'm outta eggs. You got like three or maybe you jes wan' do breakfast when you're up?… yeah I know you're up now cause I called soooo you want me to come get you?" He nodded, "Yeah I'll see you in a couple hours. Meet at Mickey's? Tres bon."

He turned around with his back to the inside of the phonebooth and took a deep breath murmuring to himself, "Fight like a goddamned Bonaventure… we got this…" He looked around finally calming down with that touch of normalcy back and wondered out loud, "Who the hell sent me tho?"

That was a question he may not get or want the answer to.

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