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Dr Archeville

[Time Warp] Worlds Beyond Time (Fleur de Joie)

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Stesha was sleeping when the portals began appearing, not very heroic, but quite necessary nonetheless. She did a lot of sleeping these days, when the opportunity presented itself. Nevertheless, when the "All Hands" signal began broadcasting on her League radio, she didn't hesitate. A long green cloak over black and green maternity clothes passed for a costume these days, and as soon as she managed to get her shoes on, she was ready! Fleur de Joie teleported through the plant network to Hanover, and was immediately swallowed up by a time portal.

She was so shocked for a moment that she didn't understand what had happened. She obviously wasn't in Freedom City anymore. She was standing on a hill overlooking a vast and beautiful wilderness that stretched away as far as the eye could see. In the other direction, an ocean gleamed like a blue jewel under a placid sunny sky. In the distance, thousands of shapes flew around a low mountain range... no, wait. Not any shapes, and not mountains. Those were giant bees, and the mountain range was some kind of giant bee metropolis... so this had to be Sanctuary. Not the Sanctuary she knew, but one she'd dreamed of in her heart, one that had decades or centuries of love and devoted care poured into it. The portal she'd gone through had taken her forward in time, she strongly suspected, but not in her own world, in the time of the world she'd built.

For a moment, she was too dazzled to even be afraid, or to worry when and how she would ever make it home. "Look at it," she murmured, running her hands over her round tummy. "Look how beautiful it is. It's more than I ever imagined. I wonder how long it took to make all of this happen..." Cleaning the ocean alone had surely been the work of a lifetime, but how long would her lifetime be? That was an answer she didn't have, but if it wasn't long enough, then someone else had obviously taken up the mantle.

She was shaken from her reverie at the sound of a voice behind her. "Stesha? My love, is it you?" She turned around and saw Dark Star, standing just a few yards away, his blank face and body revealing nothing, as usual, but still enormously reassuring.

"Derrick, thank god you're here!" she exclaimed, hurrying over to him. "I thought I was all alone here, and I don't know how to get back. Do you know when this is? Did we really come forward in time?" Even as she stepped towards him he was changing, undergoing the familiar transformation from demigod to the man she loved, except now he was different. She stopped short, just before going into his arms. This Derrick was older, with shocks of silver in his hair and lines in his face, a man who looked as though he'd carried burdens that were far too heavy for far too long. But when she looked into his eyes, she knew it wasn't a doppelganger or a deception, it was really him. "Derrick?" she asked, her voice a whisper.

"You came forward," he told her, his voice cracking at the edges with unspoken emotion. "You came forward into the future and saw Sanctuary in a thousand years' time, looking from this hilltop. When you went home, you told me about the trip, where you'd landed and what you'd seen. And I.. I remembered, and I came here, so that when you arrived, I would be here waiting for you. It's been so long, but I had to speak with you one more time..." With that, he took her into his arms and kissed her, a kiss full of desperate longing and loneliness and love, gentle despite its passion. It was very unlike the Derrick she knew, and yet so like him at the same time that she couldn't resist putting her arm around him and returning it.

Bittersweet as it was, the moment couldn't last forever. Stesha still needed to know what was going on, and finally she pulled away. "Why did you come?" she asked him. "I mean, isn't it risky to tamper with the past, even like this? How did you know exactly when I would be here?"

"I didn't," he said, his voice rough as he lay a hand lightly on her stomach. "I've waited here ten years, just for the chance to speak with you, with you as you are now, before anything else. There are hard times coming, my love, and I needed to tell you how immensely sorry I am that any of it has to happen. I know that it will be difficult to understand, and perhaps impossible to forgive, but for so many years I have regretted that I was never able to ask your forgiveness."

"Ask forgiveness for what?" Stesha asked, suddenly afraid. Not of this Derrick, or even of the situation she found herself in, but for whatever he had done that so haunted him over the centuries. "What's going to happen? Maybe there's a way to change it, to make things right, if you tell me..."

Derrick shook his head. "A thousand years I've asked myself what I could have done differently, if there wasn't something I could've changed, a duty I could've ignored while still remaining true to who I am. This ten years it seems I've thought of nothing but that. There are immutable principles in the universe, though, and one of the first and deepest is that heroes must act to preserve life, wherever it is endangered, and whatever the cost. But if I'd had any choice in the matter, I promise I never would have done anything that hurt you, or hurt our child. And I'm so sorry."

Stesha blinked with confusion, trying to sort out the thousand thoughts and feelings rushing through her head. "Derrick, I..."

He reached out and took her hands, and only then did she notice that her body was already starting to fade, so that he could barely hold onto her. "I will always love you, Stesha," he promised, looking into her eyes. "A thousand years, a million. Forever."

"I love you too," she told him, trying to squeeze his fingers with hands that were barely tangible. "And whatever it is, whatever happened, I forgive you!" One last second of contact, as the world turned to white and gray around her, and then he was gone, and Sanctuary was gone, and Stesha was left standing next to a tree in one of the Hanover business parks, as though nothing had ever happened.

She stood there for a moment without moving, long enough that a passing civilian asked her if she was all right. "I'm fine, thank you," she said with a reassuring smile, then disappeared into the plants and back home. The all hands signal had stopped, it seemed like things were starting to come under control. Unable to help herself, she picked up her cell phone and called Derrick. "Honey, could you come home?" she asked, not liking the weakness in herself, but not wanting to sit alone with all these worries and fears.

"What is it, sweetheart?" Derrick's worried voice came over the phone. "Is it the baby? I'm out in Hanover with the dimensional cleanup, I can be there right away..."

"No, no, it's not the baby" she reassured him, taking a deep breath and getting ahold of herself. "The baby is fine, I'm fine. Go ahead and do the cleanup, and I'll talk to you tonight. I love you."

"I love you too," he told her, though already he sounded a bit distracted by his work. "See you tonight."

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