WELL, THIS IS THE MOST HORRIBLE FIC I'VE WRITTEN IN A WHILE. The Alex-and-Jonas stepsibling relationship is my favourite thing about Oxenfree
! Why did I have to do this
Passing Eternity (or, alternatively, Why Oxenfree
Isn't a Dating Sim)Fandom: OxenfreeRating:
Alex/Ren, Alex/Clarissa, Alex/Jonas, Alex/NonaWordcount:
Spoilers for the entire game. Alex sets out to seduce everyone on the island.Warnings:
Emotional manipulation, hatekissing, pseudo-incestuous kissing, references to canonical character death. The rating is for this fic generally being weird and horrible, not for explicitness; there's nothing beyond making out in here.
“I just – I wouldn’t feel right about it if I didn’t have your, like, blessing first.”
Alex looks at Michael, her brother, the person she loves most in all the world, and for an instant she’s tempted to say you should do it
. Let him drown, let Jonas stay her stepbrother this time. Just for a change, after endless, endless repetitions of the same thing.
And then she realises what she’s thinking, and it rushes into her throat to choke her.
“Stay,” she says; she can’t manage anything more eloquent. “Please.”-
She needs something new, she’s thinking when she wakes up on the boat home. If she’s got to the point where she’s thinking about sacrificing Michael... she can’t do that, she can’t let herself want that. (It’s almost a relief to find she can still feel horror, and not just this blank, dead exhaustion.) She’s still haunted by the time she left Clarissa behind, in the desperate hope that maybe that
would break the loop at last.
She won’t let any of them die. There has to be another way to find something new in her joke of a life.
She needs to – set herself a challenge, maybe. Something she can focus on, even if it’s only for a few loops; something she can aim for. Something that will make things different
, that will change her situation, that will change the way people react to her. Something...-
Okay. So it’s probably not morally great
to try to seduce all your friends in succession, just to see whether you can. But it’s better than letting people die, she tells herself.
She sets herself a clear goal. Focus on one person at a time. Try to get a kiss by the end of the night on the island. The next loop, if she’s managed to succeed, she can move on to the next person.
The ‘by the end of that night’ time limit is partly for the added challenge, but, if she’s honest, she also chose it because it keeps Michael off the table. She’s definitely not thinking about that. Jonas is going to be bad enough.-
Ren seems like he’ll probably be easiest, so she decides to go for him first. The problem is that he spends half the night stoned, and she feels a little weird about targeting him then. And Nona is around most of the time before
that, and Alex suspects that her presence isn’t going to make Ren more receptive.
So it has to be before they meet up with Nona.
Ren brings her up as they’re walking along the cliffs: there’s this girl called Nona, be cool, everything Alex has heard a thousand times before. Alex nods, very seriously, and then she goes straight for the kill.
“You want some practice before you move in on her? I know it’s been a while since you kissed anyone.”
Jonas blinks. Looks over at her.
Ren bristles. “I’ll have you know, Alex
, that my love life is extremely eventful.”
Jonas tilts his head towards Ren. There’s a silent question behind it: This guy?
Alex just shrugs and grins.
“I know some people feel compelled to tell the entire school whenever they’ve made out with anyone,” Ren says, “and I know I’ve been rumoured
to be one of those people, and I know there’s a chance I’ve given the impression that I’m one of those people in the past, but—”
“Dude,” Jonas says, quietly. “A hot girl is offering to kiss you. You’d be kind of stupid to turn it down.”
“What?” Ren asks. “No, she’s not.”
Alex raises her eyebrows. “Not offering, or not hot?”
“Or am I meant to be stopping this?” Jonas asks. “If I’m your stepbrother now, I mean. Am I supposed to be protecting your virtue or something?”
“Sure, if you want your ass kicked,” Alex says.
“She’s not,” Ren says. “You’re not, right?”
“Offering?” Alex asks. “Ren, I kind of am.”
There’s a pause.
“Wow,” Jonas says. “I think you actually just got him to stop talking.”
“Am I dreaming?” Ren asks. “Is this a dream? Is this some kind of hilarious prank?”
“Do you want to make out or not?” Alex asks.
“Yeah, I’m gonna make my way down the cliff now,” Jonas says. “You guys have fun.”
He sets off, leaving the two of them alone at the top of the cliff. Ren opens and closes his mouth, twice.
tell Nona,” he says, eventually.-
It’s tough to get Clarissa from ‘hating Alex’s guts’ to ‘being prepared to make out with her’ over the course of a single night. That’s probably not a surprise. Clarissa tends to spend most of the night possessed, too, which doesn’t help.
Would the ghosts be willing to make out with her? Would that... count?
Alex doesn’t feel good about the thought.
She tries not tuning in to the gate in the cave, so they’re not scattered, so she has more time to talk with Clarissa as herself. It’s the same as every other time she’s tried it: the loop resets a few hours into the night. There’s no way to avoid setting things off.
She tries being friendly at every opportunity, never rising to Clarissa’s bait. It just seems to piss Clarissa off more.
She considers trying to seduce Clarissa after
their night on the island, just to see whether it’s actually possible, to give herself some hints on how to approach things. But Michael would be back. She could break them up, but he’d still be alive
. It won’t tell her how to draw Clarissa in when she’s blaming Alex for his death.
And she can’t leave Michael dead. Isn’t that the whole reason she’s doing this?
After God knows how many attempts, trying unsuccessfully to get close to her, Alex is starting to get sick of the sound of Clarissa’s voice. So she gives herself a loop off. Throws aside any ideas of seduction. Snaps back as viciously as possible whenever Clarissa makes a spiteful comment. Jonas looks slightly terrified.
“Screw Clarissa,” Alex says, before Ren’s even finished his ‘marry, screw, kill’ question. “I mean, seriously, screw Clarissa
. I would fuck Clarissa to death.”
“Um,” Ren says, wide-eyed. “Well, that’s technically two answers, so I think you might
be cheating. But also I withdraw the question, because suddenly I no longer want to know what you’d do to me.”
Jonas is apparently so alarmed by his new stepsister that he doesn’t even ask Alex whether she wants to check out the caves. Alex is vaguely aware, in the midst of an extremely
cathartic sniping match with Clarissa, that he’s asking Nona instead.
“Uh,” Nona says, hesitating, “if we leave them alone, do you think they’ll, like, kill each other?”
“Go, Nona,” Alex says, thrusting the radio into her hands. Someone else can live through this part for once. “Trust me, I’m not the worst thing she could be dealing with.”
Nona goes off with Jonas, sending a couple of glances back their way.
“So,” Clarissa says, the moment they’re out of earshot. Her eyes are bright; her smile is vicious. In all the loops she’s lived, Alex has never seen her so angry. It looks good on her. “I guess you started shopping around straight away for someone to replace Michael.”
It has teeth. It gets under Alex’s skin, even after all this time, even knowing that Michael will be back with her by the end of the night. “Yeah, I grabbed the first guy with a son I could find and just shoved him into my mom’s face.”
“You think you’ll kill this one when you get bored of him?”
Alex lunges at her, knocks her to the sand, spits in her face. God, she’s right, she’s fucking right. Alex is shaking with anger, with disgust at herself, every muscle tensed so hard it’s painful. She was going to let Michael die. She was going to say ‘yeah, you should go for it’ and let Michael drown, because she was bored.
“Now what?” Clarissa asks. She should be frightened
, Alex has her pinned down, and instead she’s just smirking up at her, with Alex’s hands tight around her wrists. Maybe she doesn’t care enough about anything right now to be afraid of what might happen to her. “What was it, you’re going to ‘fuck me to death’? Like you don’t have enough blood on your hands already?”
“Shut the fuck up,” Alex snarls.
“You don’t have the guts to hurt me.”I left you in the hands of sadistic ghosts. I was tired and I wanted a way out for everyone else, for myself, and I took the deal and I left. I don’t hate you, most of the time. I don’t even dislike you. And I still left you to suffer. You don’t know what I’m capable of.
She can feel Clarissa’s pulse in her wrists.
“Last time I checked, not wanting to hurt people isn’t a bad
thing,” Alex says. “If you want to get to me, you’ll have to find something else.”
Clarissa surges up from the beach and kisses her.
Alex makes a startled noise against her mouth, and God, it’s new, it’s something new
, and it feels so fucking good to know she can still be surprised. She kisses back hard, lets go of Clarissa’s wrists, brings her hands up to grip Clarissa’s hair, and Clarissa grabs Alex’s shoulders and slams her to the ground the second her hands are free.
Clarissa climbs on top of her. Alex is drawing breath through her half-open mouth, too quick and too shallow, so turned on she can’t think straight. She doesn’t know whether they’re fighting or fucking. She thinks it might be both.
“You look just like him,” Clarissa says. “In the face. Has anyone ever told you that? You look so – so fucking
like him I can’t stand to look at you.”
And then the sky tears open and Alex wakes outside the underground shelter, face-down in the grass.-
She’s been putting Jonas off. Jonas is going to be a weird one. But she doesn’t want him to be the last
person she kisses, she wants to save Nona as a kind of palate cleanser, and that means Jonas is up next.
He’s actually tried to make a move on her a handful of times before, in the aftermath, when Michael’s back and Jonas has no idea they were ever kind of related by marriage. It’s been pretty awkward. She’s always turned him down, as gently as she can, although she’s never given him the real reason: ‘sorry, dude, you’re kind of my stepbrother in my head.’
Well, she’s already two people down, and she’s not about to back out now.
She tries to lay the groundwork early on. When Ren sets out the ‘marry, screw, kill’ options and then starts talking about how Jonas is excluded for being family, Alex cuts him off. “Oh, come on, don’t chicken out of making it a tough question. It’s not like stepsiblings are legally incest in, like, any state, anyway.”
“Holy shit,” Clarissa says.
Jonas raises his eyebrows sharply. “It’s unsettling that you know that off the top of your head.”
“It came up in a law class, I think.” She’s not about to say that she read through the entire Wikipedia page on incest laws in the United States a few loops ago, when she first came up with this stupid plan. It’s almost a disappointment; getting arrested for incest would definitely qualify as a new and interesting experience.
Clarissa lies on her back and stares up at the stars. There’s a twist in Alex’s stomach, looking at her and remembering that strange, intense, furious moment with Clarissa laid out beneath her. “Okay. For the rest of the night, nobody is allowed to get on my case for making people uncomfortable.”
“C’mon, Ren,” Alex says, dragging her gaze away from Clarissa and prodding him in the shoulder.
“Okay, Creepy Alex,” Ren says. “The four of us: marry, screw, kill or... kiss, I guess?”
“Hmm.” Alex taps her chin. What’s least likely to make Jonas run away in terror? “Well, I’d marry Nona. I’d screw—” She was thinking Ren
, because she can make a stronger case for killing Clarissa, but the memory of the previous loop slams back into her head, and she really
shouldn’t be this frustrated that the gate-opening tore them apart before they could get anywhere. “Clarissa.”
Ren nods seriously. “Congratulations, Jonas: you’ve missed out on the most psychologically scarring answers.”
“To be honest,” Jonas says, “I’m not sure it’d feel great to find out my new stepsister wants to kill me either.”
“Well, good news for you, Jonas,” Alex says, “because there’s no way I’m explaining to your dad that I killed you. You’re getting a kiss instead.”
“Awesome,” Jonas says, dryly.
“I guess that’s socially acceptable,” Ren says. “Depends on what kind of kiss we’re talking about. Hey, wait, that means you’d kill me!”-
They help Ren deal with his possession. They watch Clarissa hurl herself out of a window. Endless, endless, endless repetition, and she’s sure Jonas can tell sometimes that her horror at Clarissa’s suicide is feigned.
She still goes through with the charade, every time. She knows Clarissa isn’t dead. But Jonas doesn’t, and somehow it’s hard for her to let Jonas think she’s heartless, even if it’ll all be reset in the end.
(Jonas didn’t pee in the room with her, this time. She took note of that; anything different from the eternal norm stands out like it’s on fire. Is he feeling awkward around her, after the ‘marry, screw, kill’ game? That could be either good or bad for her goals.
Maybe she is
heartless, after all.)
“You okay?” Jonas asks her, as they make their slow way back to the tower.
“Not really,” Alex says, glancing back over her shoulder at him. “You?”
“Yeah, kind of freaking out.”
She stops and turns around. Jonas almost runs into her and immediately backs up a few paces.
“Can we take a break?” she asks.
“You don’t think we should check on the others?”
“I don’t know. I just... don’t feel like I have my head on straight. And I don’t know if I can face Nona right now. Clarissa was her best friend.”
Jonas moves closer, touches her arm, uncertainly. “Alex...”
She looks up to meet his eyes, and he breaks off eye contact abruptly, turns away. She catches hold of his wrist – not gripping hard, just as a don’t go
He’s tried to comfort her before, on previous loops, usually when the frustration of all the repetition has welled up and she’s ended up sobbing without being able to tell him why. He’s a little awkward about it, but not usually this skittish. Which means something’s different this time around. He’s thinking about the ‘marry, screw, kill’ game. He’s thinking about kissing her.
This is strange. This is so strange.
She draws him closer to her, guides his hand to her waist.
Jonas swallows. “What are you doing?”
It sounds a little like there’s sand in his throat.
“I don’t know,” Alex says. She rubs her thumb along the chain of his necklace. “Maybe I just need a distraction.”
“A... game of Monopoly kind of distraction, or...?”
He hasn’t moved away. He runs his hand up and down her side, slowly, like he hasn’t even realised he’s doing it.He’s your stepbrother,
Alex’s mind reminds her, helpfully. Not for long,
she tries to snap back at it.
She wonders what’s going on in Jonas’s mind. He doesn’t know that their familial connection is going to be sliced through.
Then again, he also doesn’t have the memory of months living as stepsiblings after this hellish night, growing closer, before the reset tore it away. She’s still a girl he only just met. And a girl he’s attracted to, she’d guess, going by his willingness to ask her out when they’re not related. It’s probably easier for him.
Alex slips her hands inside his jacket for the warmth, leans in, kisses him just by his mouth. It’s fine. It’s not on
the mouth. It’s not weird yet, right?
It’s weird. They’re too close, they’re too intimate for her to pretend this is normal.
He closes his eyes and lets out a strange, shuddering breath. It sounds like he’s in pain. “I... I don’t think this is a good idea. We’re going to have to live with each other.”
She probably can’t tell him that, no, they aren’t, because her dead brother is going to want his room back. “Until graduation.”
“That’s enough time for things to be awkward.”
“Bad news, stepbro: I think they miiiiight be awkward already.”
He opens his eyes and gives her a flatly unimpressed look. “No, this is fine. This is perfectly normal
“I’m just saying,” Alex says. “We’ve crossed some kind of line. So you can walk away if you don’t want to do this; I’m not going to stop you.” She’s firm on that in her mind. If someone really, really doesn’t want to kiss her at all, she’s not going to force
them to. Her desperate need for something new isn’t worth that. “Or you can kiss me. Thanksgiving is gonna be weird either way.”
He huffs out a hard breath. Touches her neck, gently, briefly. “A distraction.”
“A distraction,” she agrees, and he seizes her face in his hands and kisses her.
There’s so much force behind it that she’s knocked back half a pace; he catches her, his arm around her back. She grips his jacket, kisses him back. She—God
She wants to keep kissing him forever, she wants to go further. She wants to throw up. She doesn’t know what she wants.
She feels strangely alive and aware after a long time spent sleepwalking through a thousand repeated moments, and it’s Jonas
, and this is so, so fucked up.-
A couple of weeks later in the loop, after Michael has come back and Jonas has been unstepbrothered, Jonas asks her out on a date. And she opens her mouth to say sorry, I don’t really feel ready for anything like that
, like she always does, and then she thinks of that kiss, and... it was weird. It was weird as hell. But there was something beneath it. And maybe it won’t be weird now that Jonas is technically
not her stepbrother.
“Okay,” she says.
It’s weird as hell.-
Alex gets distracted from her first attempt at Nona. She’s half paying attention to what Jonas is saying, thinking about when would be the best time to talk with Nona alone, and then they’re dumped into one of the miniature time loops, one of the glimpses of other times she’s gone through this endless cycle.
“Whoa!” Jonas exclaims. “What the fuck
She’s mostly able to ignore the miniature loops by this point. They can be an unwelcome reminder of the mistakes she’s made, of the deaths she’s failed to prevent in the past, but they’re not a danger; they’re a meaningless delay.
She can’t really ignore this one, because, yep, that is definitely her and Jonas kissing on the path up ahead.
What is the fucking point
of being in a time loop and theoretically being able to do things consequence-free if the things then follow you
into the next round?
“Oh, my God,” her Jonas says, hands to his mouth. “Are you seeing this? Tell me you’re not seeing it and maybe it’ll be less awkward somehow.”
“I guess the ghosts are... showing us illusions?” Alex suggests. She tries not to look directly at what’s going on; it makes her feel like there are snakes in her stomach. “To mess with us?”
“It’s kind of working,” Jonas says. “Holy shit.”
Laughter crackles out of the radio.-
The second time around, Alex keeps her focus.
She went for Ren first because she thought he’d probably be the easiest to kiss, on a practical level. She’s going for Nona last because she thinks Nona will probably be easiest emotionally. No bitter feelings between them over Michael’s death, none of the weirdness of having known each other their entire lives, or of, you know, kind of being siblings. Operation Make Out With Everyone has definitely succeeded in jerking Alex out of her grey routine for a while, but it’s also been psychologically exhausting.
She takes Nona down into town with her, to get the radios. She’s not really sure of the best way to tempt Nona; she feels she doesn’t really know her as well as she knows the others. But she knows her well enough, from loop after loop after loop. She can try a few things, see what sticks, carry what she learns into the next repetition.
God, she’s that douche from Groundhog Day
, isn’t she? That’s exactly who she is. God
“Hey, Nona,” she says, as they’re crossing Epiphany Fields. “You’re not really looking for a relationship at the moment, are you?”
“Is this about Ren?” Nona asks.
“No, it’s about me. I’m interested.”
Nona’s quiet for a moment. “I don’t know. I guess I could be open to something. With the right person, you know?”
“Yeah, that makes sense,” Alex says.
There’s a pause.
“So, uh, why were you interested?” Nona asks.
Alex turns to look at her. Nona’s stopped walking, she’s looking straight at Alex, waiting for her reply, and... something in her expression makes Alex wonder whether this might be easier than she thought.
“I don’t know,” Alex says. “I just...” She laughs a little, awkwardly. Everything she does feels so calculated now. After so many familiar conversations, knowing exactly what she’s going to be reacting to before it’s said, she feels like she might have forgotten how to speak spontaneously. “I’ve always thought you’re really pretty. I guess I was wondering whether we could... I don’t know.”
Nona’s face lights up in a way Alex really, really
wasn’t expecting to see on this hell-night. “Really?”
“What, you think I’d lie to you?”
“No!” Nona says. “It’s just...” She giggles, nervously. “It’s just kind of hard to believe, I guess. Because – I’ve always kind of liked you, too. So I feel like maybe I’m dreaming right now.”
Alex stares at her. “I thought you – I thought you barely remembered me from school.”
“Well, duh, I wasn’t going to say, ‘Hey, Alex, I basically only consider going to class so I can look at your cool hair.’” She flushes a little, fiddling with her sleeve. “I know tonight is kind of terrible, but it’s also been... good. To get to know you better, you know.”
Alex has no idea what to say. All these loops, all these repetitions, and she had no idea.
“Hey,” Nona says. She takes a small step forward, excited, uncertain. “Is it okay if I kiss you?”
Alex nods wordlessly. She feels like the scum of the earth.-
Sometimes she lies awake and thinks: what if time isn’t resetting? What if the slate isn’t being wiped clean every time? What if her actions are splitting off endless different universes, and the people in those universes have to carry on with their lives, people she deliberately emotionally manipulated, people she left in the hands of the ghosts? People from the early loops, when she kept screwing up, when her memories of the loops were still blurry, and Ren or Jonas or Nona or Clarissa died?
(She keeps remembering the loop where she lost the radio, the fucking
radio, and the ghosts took them all, laughing, and let her go. She slept rough, unable to go home and face their parents, unable to think, just crawling through day after day until the reset came as an intense relief. What if there’s another Alex out there, still living through that hell?)
Sometimes she lies awake and thinks: where does she draw the line? The early loops, when she was just starting to be aware of them, she was just frantically trying to figure out how to save everyone. When she settled into a reliable pattern, she tried to stay on good terms with everyone. Eventually, when she got too tired to stay engaged with the endlessly repeating conversations, she settled for ‘don’t outright be a dick’. She thinks she might
have slipped into outright dick territory by now. What comes next?
When did they stop being her friends and become her playthings?
She’s starting to see, against her will, why the ghosts play their fucked-up games.