She understood.

He loved her.

He was afraid of her.

She was dangerous.

It was something every man realized at some point. His life was about to be forever changed, and that was a terrifying proposition.

As he fought his own feelings they congealed as a stone in his gut, weighing him down.

She had to do something about that.

Fortunately, like most men, physical intimacy would lead to emotional intimacy, and eventually emotional security. She knew that about him.

Unfortunately for her, Kennealy also had a stubborn streak, and an overdeveloped sense of honor. He was afraid to touch her, because he knew where those touches would lead. She knew it too, but she wasn’t reluctant; she was eager. More than eager, she was almost desperate to consummate their relationship. Without him ever having spoken the words, she knew he loved her. She knew he would always love and cherish her, scrambled brains and all. She felt like she had known him for a lifetime instead of just a few weeks.

She stayed with him while he rested. She had only jaunted a handful of times, but she remembered the sickening disorientation that followed. She played with a piece of putty while the research team performed their experiments and took their readings.

“See? It’s a house.” She held up the putty for him to see, even though he hadn’t opened his eyes yet. Some sense informed her that the disorientation had passed, and he was awake. He opened just one eye, regarding her suspiciously. “And if you turn it this way…” she rotated the small putty sculpture, “…it’s a dog!”

He opened both eyes and took the sculpture from her. “You are very talented. Did you…”

“Just me.” She smiled, and tapped her finger to her forehead. “No visitors.”

The corners of his mouth turned up slightly, and he put one arm behind his head. She loved it when he did that; it showed his muscles to their best advantage. She moved from her chair to perch on the bed beside him. The researchers were gone, leaving them alone with just the monitors to watch them. She ran her fingers over his bare chest, testing his reactions. What had transpired between them during his jaunte had been… unique. Intimate.

She wanted more.

“Would you take me home?” she asked. “When you’re done here? I can wait.”

He hesitated, and looked around, presumably wondering who was watching over the poor helpless invalid. “Where’s Archie?”

“He’s visiting all the critters in Dr. Knapp’s lab. He left Tomcat here with me in case I need him. Besides, here–” she gestured to the temporal lab’s recovery room, “–is the next safest place for me besides home.”

John Quinlan as Kennealy

He took a breath. She felt his reluctance as a grainy irritation, a synaesthetic side effect she’d grown used to. One by one, she felt the grains grind away until they were a soft, fine sand. He let out his breath. “Sure. I’ll take you home.”

It was just after noon. Kennealy always fasted before a jaunte, so he was starving. By unspoken agreement, they avoided the cafeteria, and headed away from the research building.

“Can we drive up to Estes?” she asked as they drove away. He nodded.

And then they were there. He had stopped in front of a nice little restaurant that had a back deck overlooking a mountain stream. He was regarding her with an expression that indicated more than the usual amusement.

“What did I do this time?” she asked. His smile was infectious, and she couldn’t help but smile back.

He turned the rear view mirror so she could see herself. “Oh, well, isn’t that creative.” She remarked. From her eyes to her temples was an elaborate artwork resembling colorful wings. She glanced down to see the makeup from her purse scattered over the front seat of his car. “Oops…” she saw that he was still smiling. “Sorry about that.”

Kennealy just shook his head. He acknowledged the mess, but didn’t seem worried about it.

Lunch was good, but Ruby was antsy. It wasn’t the odd sensation of placing a bite of food in her mouth and experiencing the taste as sound or emotion, she was growing used to that. It wasn’t sexual impatience… well, maybe just a little bit. She had yet to figure out how to seduce him… but there was something she wanted. Something she could find in the little tourist town.

He didn’t seem to mind following her along the street, looking in the various shop windows.  She turned up a sidestreet. There was a small conglomeration of stores bound together with a walking path, winding up the steep mountain hillside. About halfway up, she found what she’d been looking for.

They both froze when they stepped into the shop and a dozen different cuckoos all chimed at once. They looked to each for a moment, checking that they hadn’t imagined it. It was a clock shop, and the timepieces had all just chimed 2:00 as they walked through the door. Coincidence, perhaps, but a rather convenient one.

MissRiva as Ruby

“Good afternoon. May I help you find anything in particular?” asked a kindly, heavily mustachioed man behind the counter.

“Do you have clocks from the 2300’s?” Ruby asked. She wasn’t sure why she wanted a hundred year old clock, but the number was stuck with her.

“Something that runs on elektriks? Certainly, certainly… are you a collector?”

“No… just… curious.” She said the words slowly as she crept into the shop, taking in everything around her. And she was curious, very curious. She wasn’t sure what she was looking for, but the cuckoo was definitely in her head. Not taking over, just… lurking.

There were a dozen clocks from the time period she wanted, all very different. Some showcased their inner workings in various ways, with a transparent case or none at all. Others had a plethora of gizmos and gadgets that performed cute little actions.

Eventually Kennealy stopped in front of a huge old grandfather clock. Even at his height, he had to look up at the face. Ruby approached him from behind, wrapping her arms around his waist and laying her cheek against his back. He accepted her as if it was a common thing for them, as if they had always been a couple.

“Wait for it…” she said.

“What?” he asked, turning his head, but not twisting. She felt that he didn’t want her to let go.

“Wait for it…” she said. He turned back to the clock. “Now.”

The door opened and a sparrow flew out. It tweeted it’s specific song for just a few seconds, and then disappeared.

“Huh.” Said Kennealy. “Two-fifteen. Do you like this one?”

“I like this one. But…”

The little door opened again. A cuckoo flew out, chimed it’s unique song, and disappeared.

“Oh, well, it’s never done that before.” Remarked the shopkeeper.

They froze for an undefined quantity of time.

“We’ll take this one.” They said in tandem.

Chapter One: Synaesthesia

Chapter Two: Bacon!

Chapter Three: Ruby

Chapter Four: Kennealyology

Chapter Five: His Own Eyes

Chapter Six: Cuckoo

Chapter Seven: Munchkins!

Chapter Eight: Present But Not Accounted For

Chapter Nine: Poppies

Chapter Ten: Corporeal

Chapter Eleven: Clocks

I used an old picture of John for this chapter, because the pose best fit this part of the story. But I have a brand new photo of him I just had to share with everyone! (With his permission, of course.) John’s been quite busy this week, you see, there’s a new baby in the house!


John Quinlan with his boys and new baby girl.

The shortlink for this post is