John Quinlan as Kennealy, MissRiva as Ruby
Ruby heard a familiar voice that was new to her ears. She found herself on a bed in the temporal lab’s recovery room, a medic hovering over her, and Helen nearby.
Something had happened…
She knew him. He was the one with the messy face. Even as an adult, he always seemed to be in need of a napkin.
It was exasperating.
She wiped the goo from his cheek. “You’re thirty-nine years old. You really should be able to clean your face better.”
“Leniency, please! I just incorporated into the wrong time. I was unconscious up to a few minutes ago. Blame the girl who was supposed to clean me up.”
Kurou belonged in the temporal lab. That was what he did, who he was. But why was everyone else looking at him like he was an enigma?
She couldn’t think straight. The girls were flitting at the edge of her mind, wanting to take over and have more interaction, but choosing instead to stay away, less interactive, but allowing Ruby to communicate with everyone and maintain possession of her own senses.
Where was her husband?
He isn’t my husband yet. This isn’t that time.
And something was wrong. It wasn’t just that Kurou was unfamiliar to them, he was a complete stranger.
In the wrong time.
Is that even possible?
It was bad. She knew it was bad for him to incorporate in the wrong time, she just didn’t know why.
Ruby ran down the stairs to the lower part of the lab, and placed her hands on the outside of the tank, willing her lover to come home to her.
She must have blanked again, because all of a sudden everyone else was around her, even Kurou who was leaning heavily on one of the lab assistants.
It was the girls’ fault. They were agitated, and frustrated that, in this time period, there was no way for them to communicate with the corporeal world. They had gone over the river and through the woods in vain.
The words were clear. The need was clear. She had to go get him.
“How long would it take to change the tank to outgoing?” she asked loudly, trying to sound clear and firm.
Everyone froze, staring at her, but Miranda answered. “Only a few minutes, since it hasn’t been used as a return yet. Why?”
Ruby started stripping. Fortunately, her underwear was natural fiber. She wouldn’t need to jaunte naked. “I’m going to go get him.”
A chorus of protests was silenced by Kurou’s voice. “If anyone can save him, it’s Ruby. His soulmate.” All eyes were on the interloper. Ruby realized they didn’t trust him; they didn’t fully believe who he was.
Atticus looked at her, then at Kurou. “You are my great-grandson.” He said with conviction, even a paternal pride. “Do you know how this ends? Are today’s events in your history books?”
Kurou looked strained. “I… I wish I could say. Yes… yes they are… but my own memories are doing a strange dance right now. It’s like there are multiple futures available, and my own is just one of them.”
Miranda added “We can’t jaunt to the future, only the past. The past exists, it happened… the future does not exist until we make it so.”
“If Grandpa Jack Will-o-the-Wisps now, I’m not sure what will happen to me.” Kurou said. “I don’t think I’ll cease to exist, but I’ll be stuck as a non-entity… a man without a time.”
Ruby climbed the ladder that was the quickest way to the mezzanine level. She dipped her feet in the tank. It was still set for him… not quite as warm as she liked.
She froze there, sitting on the edge of the tank, hearing Miranda say that it was ready, and they could start the countdown whenever she gave the word. This time, her freezing had nothing to do with the visitors. It was fear, pure and simple. This was the machine that scrambled her. This was the machine that took her lover and flung him into the non-corporeal past, perhaps never to return.
This machine could keep her too… she might choose to chase Will-o-the-Wisps forever with her true love, if the only alternative was to live without him.
“Give me a t minus two, Miranda.” She asked, hoping her voice sounded as confident as she wanted it to. She could hear the ongoing debate between everybody in the room about whether or not she should be allowed to go, but so far no one was actually stopping her. She breathed deeply, preparing to be airless for about a minute before she jaunted and air no longer mattered.
With one minute to go, she lowered her body into the tank, dipping her head under briefly to coat herself, then taking a few last breaths. With thirty seconds left, she immersed herself, folding in her limbs to make herself as streamlined as possible, not touching the sides of the tank.
She heard the countdown “Seven… Six… Five…” and she grew impatient. She jaunted before they could announce “two.”
She remembered loving the freedom of being non-corporeal. Then she realized…
How far afield did they send me?
She tried to get her bearings, but there were no landmarks. She floated with the current, trying to remember how to navigate.
I never did figure out how to navigate. I stayed with the flow till the spheres lined up, and I exited.
Something was coming towards her. Two somethings… a sunburst, and…
Robin. She knew Robin. Robin would help her.
They flanked her, and the current changed. It was as if they formed a rudder, steering the three of them somewhere.
Then she saw the clock.
It was so much more real in this place! As if the non-corporeal realm was it’s natural state. They flew directly at the face, towards the little door. She had the sensation that she was about to crash into it, then she realized that the clock was much larger than she was accustomed to.
At the last second, her guides veered off, sending her tumbling through the little door all alone.
She drifted in darkness. It was warm and comfortable.
It was wet.
She could sense the water, and that’s where she found him.
She would have known him even without the symbol… he was a tribal sunburst, like the tattoo around his navel.
He was playing with the water.
She drifted around him, splashing like a novice swimmer who only knew how to doggy paddle. He didn’t seem to be aware of her. All of his attention was on the water, and on the corporeal version of her.
She watched, transfixed, smelling and feeling and sensing intimately, lost in the scramble of inputs but wanting more. They left the water, and she felt something solid under her feet. A platform she could stand on.
It was slippery, and not quite flat, but she clung to it. It felt like surfing. The sensations were overpowering, and she barely managed to hang onto her platform as it drifted with her through time.
She understood now why her lover wanted to stay. Every touch was so much more intense, the experience so much more complete. It was intoxicating.
She rode wave after wave, shooting the curl on her surfboard. There was no shore in sight, no harbor of refuge. Drowning was a real danger.
She felt her platform soften, becoming more malleable, and she slipped into it.
It was comfortable, safe, and warm.
It was him.
She looked out through his eyes, and saw her own face looking back. She remembered that moment, and the disquiet she’d felt at feeling his reluctance, and seeing herself. Now she understood why she had seen herself in his eyes after they’d made love, right as he was half asleep.
The tribal sunburst was gone. Frantically, she looked for him, and realized he was swimming, stroking back in time. She had no idea how to do that. She leapt off the platform, hoping to launch herself hard enough to catch up with him, but found herself falling back into the stream, being carried along with it. She found the platform under her feet again, and realized Kennealy was asleep. She could use him when he surrendered consciousness; she could ride him.
The robin and the orange sunburst flew at her, scooping her up and carrying her back against the current. She went limp, trying to be a complacent passenger, knowing they were helping her.
They flew at the clock again, and once more she tumbled through the door.
He kissed her.
It was a moment, an anchor in time. It was a surrender of spirit and emotion, a realization that they were meant to be.
Ruby tumbled with the current, feeling him both corporeal and in the stream with her. This time he seemed to notice her, but he didn’t know what to make of her. She wondered what representation she had when she was non-corporeal. A ruby? Like her name?
She tailed him, learning to paddle around. She tried to grab him, but there was nothing to grab. But it was easier to follow him than it was to struggle in the current alone.
She tried to put her feet on his platform, but his mind was solidly concentrating on the corporeal realm. He was unavailable to her non-corporeal self.
She felt helpless, unable to do anything more than follow him around, and then she realized that there was not just one, but multiple sunbursts around. How many times had he returned to this moment?
She held onto herself through the wetness and the warmth, angst and exhaustion taking their toll on her. When they reached the time that he began to fall asleep, he started stroking back again.
I will not lose him.
She was determined. She saw Robin and the sunburst coming towards her, but she turned back to her lover, and followed. If she stayed close enough, she could follow in his wake, though it took all her energy to do so.
“Jack!” she realized she could speak, and he paused, flowing with the stream instead of stroking back to that first kiss. They were in the shower, and she felt the rush of sensation threatening to throw her off balance.
“Jack!” she yelled again, and he turned to her. A wave overtook her; the corporeal version of herself coming to her first crushing climax, and she slipped.
“Jack!” she screamed, and tumbled into the current again, slipping away from him.
She fell backwards, watching as he slipped further and further away.
Then the sunburst grew huge, chasing her, enveloping her. Far stronger than the two girls who had carried her before, he took her with the current, even faster than the flow of time. She barely caught sight of the spheres as they reached the exit.
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
Chapter Twelve: The Garden
Chapter Thirteen: Carnal
Chapter Fourteen: Cuckoo Incorporated
Chapter Fifteen: Lingering
Chapter Seventeen: Rescue
Chapter Eighteen: Over the River and Through the Woods
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