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After the After

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"You stayed."

Myka's voice is soft, a whisper.  A disbelieving whisper almost in Helena's ear, because she's sitting that close to her.  One hand is holding tightly to Helena's, the other wrapped around Helena's arm, as if preemptively stopping her from running away.  

"I can't stay."  Helena whispers in return. "Myka."

Myka tries very hard to work through the sudden chill that her name on Helena's voice causes within her.

"But you're here."  Myka is breathless.  She squeezes Helena's hand in hers and says, through tears, "you're actually here."

Helena smirks.  "I am."

And Myka wants to know.  "Why?"

Helena looks away at the question.  "I wanted to see you.  Before I go."

“So, you are leaving again?"

Helena looks back at Myka but doesn't say anything.  Tears continue to roll down Myka's cheeks and she sighs, shrugs, then laughs softly.  

"Why would I expect anything else from you, Helena?"

"Myka."  Helena starts but stops just as quickly.  Myka is shaking her head and wiping tears from her own face.

"It's okay."  Myka smiles.  "You've moved on, right?  You must have built a whole new life for yourself in nine months.”

Nine months.  Myka laughs internally at the thought of Helena being gone for nine months and returning with a new life.  

Rebirth, she thinks.

"Myka, stop."  Helena's voice is resolute but not harsh and Myka does stop.  Then Helena is releasing herself from Myka's hold and standing to her feet, moving across the bedroom.  She stops beside Myka's desk and sets down the journal that she has been clinging onto.   She runs a hand through her hair and turns further away.

Myka lets go of one long, heavy sigh because at least Helena is not out the door.  At least she is still standing here.

"Don't try to make it sound so easy.  It hasn't been easy."

"But you have a new life."  Myka shakes her head before these untruthful words escape her lips, "Helena, I am happy for you."  She swallows back more tears.  "You wanted to get away from the warehouse.  You needed that."

Helena turns back toward Myka, takes two steps closer before stopping then wraps her arms around herself protectively.  

"From the warehouse, yes."  Helena says softly.  "From myself also."  Then shaking her head, "But not from you, Myka.  I’m loathe to spend any amount of time away from you.  But I..."

Helena seems to shake the last of that thought away.

Myka blinks back more tears and wipes at her face and her nose and tries hard to hold back the torrential downpour of moisture that is just one heart crushing look from Helena away. And the silence between them, with Helena's eyes still fixed on her and her arms still wrapping tightly around herself and her still actually being present, is making not crying a difficult task.

So Myka stands now, too, and approaches Helena slowly, cautiously, until the only space between them is occupied by the brushing of Myka's borrowed blouse against Helena's jacket.

In Helena's reluctance to speak, Myka reaches for the other woman's scarf, slowly pulls the fabric from her shoulders, and sets it over the back of her desk chair.  When Helena doesn't protest, Myka bites her lip and moves to free Helena from her jacket, hands pushing leather from Helena's shoulders, down her arms, and to the floor.  

Myka wraps her hands around Helena's wrists.  

"I can't stay."  Helena says again, even more softly than the first time.  Myka knows she's speaking to herself more than she is speaking to Myka.

"I know."  Myka nods.  "But since you're already here..."  Myka allows her voice to trail off as she brings her lips to rest gently against Helena's.

The soft whimper that escapes Helena mid-kiss forces Myka to smile until they part and when she sees that Helena's eyes remain closed and tight and barely holding back moisture, her smile softens again.  

"You would think we've never kissed before."  Myka teases softly.

"It's been a long time."  Helena breathes.  Myka twists her lips to the side as she watches Helena steady herself with still-closed eyes.

"I keep thinking about that look on your face," Myka begins speaking softly and trailing the tips of her fingers up the skin of Helena's now exposed arms, "when you left.  The last day that I saw you."

Now Helena's eyes are open and she's watching Myka curiously.  Myka, who brings her hands to palm Helena's cheeks and moves in close, kissing her again.

“You looked so hurt.  Pained.  Betrayed, almost.  It’s the last time I saw you, so it's the most difficult expression to try and forget.  And seeing you now, in front of me, with this new sadness in your eyes," Myka kisses Helena again, chaste and sweet, "I'm not quite sure which expression I would rather remember you by."

The next kiss is deep and Myka moves her body against the other woman's body, and lowers still-warming hands to either side of Helena's neck, just below her jaw line.  She can feel Helena's lips trembling against hers, the woman is completely shaken and even takes a step back to balance herself.

Myka can't help wondering where and when Helena Wells had managed to become such a nervous wreck under her touch.

Myka only moves deeper into the kiss and further into Helena, eventually parting only to dot her lower lip with smaller kisses.  And soon, Helena's hands make their way to Myka's hips, where the elastic band of her underwear, the only other thing she wears, meet skin, and the delicate touch almost breaks Myka’s resolve.

But she senses Helena’s hesitancy, can feel her tense beneath the kisses, and notes the timid way in which Helena’s hands fall at her hips, touching and not quite holding on.  

Myka wonders where that woman has gone, the woman who could barely keep her hands to herself nine months ago.  That woman who would smile devilishly at the sight of Myka now, half-naked, wearing only underwear and one of Helena's blouses, the woman who kissed her so passionately and confidently, so sure of what she had wanted.  Who made love to her flawlessly and whose body trembled, just as flawlessly, under the return of Myka's touch.  

Myka wonders if nine months can really change a person that much.  If nine months could really change Helena that much.  And then she thinks about all the time that has passed that Helena has not been present in her life, time where Myka has not been present in Helena’s life.   

Their time apart has far surpassed the amount of time they have spent together.  It always has.

And maybe, Myka also thinks, she doesn't really know Helena like she wants to know Helena.  Maybe Helena has grown and moved past the whirlwind romancing of a warehouse agent, the only woman she used to know like her.  Maybe Helena has found something more gratifying in her new life.  Someone more compatible.  Someone more available.

More lovable.

After nine months, Myka can imagine she has met so many new people, seen so many new things, and without the constant going and never stopping of the warehouse to keep her bound, Myka is certain there was room for Helena to have found someone new.  Because when had Helena ever had any trouble finding anyone at all?

Myka is suddenly struck by the knowledge that any relationship Helena might have found outside of the warehouse would have no doubt flourished.  Because any relationship that takes place outside of the warehouse is not governed by the needs of the warehouse, or its agents' time, or the constant neutralizing of dangerous artifacts.  Any relationship outside of the warehouse would have the luxury of time.

And Myka can only imagine having any kind of time.


Helena's hands don't leave her waist but when Myka reaches to unbutton her blouse, it seems to spark some urgency in Helena.  The older woman immediately reaches up to Myka's hands, grasps them gently and pulls her fingers away from buttons and back into her chest, where she doesn't let go.  

“Please.”  Helena says softly.

Myka doesn't say anything to this but watches as Helena lowers her head just before looking away, across the bedroom, and back to Myka with a small smile.

"I am trying so very hard not to apologize to you because I know how much you hate it."  Helena laughs softly.

Myka smiles now, too.  "It's not the apology that I hate.  It's the leaving that always comes after."

"Right.  And after tonight,"  Helena pauses again and she squeezes Myka's hands in hers and presses her lips to fingertips, kissing softly.  "After tonight, I don't know when I will get to see you again."

"It's kind of our thing, Helena."  Myka's laugh is small and her tears still falling.  Helena lifts a hand to wipe the moisture from Myka's cheeks and tugs gently on a stray curl that falls over her forehead.  

"I just needed to see you again before I left."

“Would you do something for me?"  Myka asks reaching for Helena's hand, still hovering by her face, and turning to place a kiss against her palm. Helena nods and Myka lowers their hands again.  "Stay for a little while?  Until I fall asleep again.  And maybe, by morning, I can convince myself that this was all just a dream."

Helena smiles and Myka sees that too rare flush of skin when Helena turns her head away for a second and then back to Myka, nodding.

"Okay."  

Myka moves her hands to Helena's shoulders and guides her back to the bed.

"Sit."

Helena obeys and Myka kneels and then sits before her, pulling one of Helena's legs into her lap and unlatching every buckle of her boot.  When the foot is free, she sets the boot aside and moves to Helena's other boot.  This time, her eyes meet Helena's and they do not look away.

"Be gentle with those."  Helena smirks and then teases softly,  "They're my favorite."

Myka tosses the freed boot aside haphazardly and moves closer to Helena, standing on her knees in front of the older woman and whispers, "I thought I was your favorite?"

Helena's eyes widen and her smirk twists to hide a smile.

"That you are."

Myka reaches up to her blouse and frees the top three buttons, barely revealing the beginning of cleavage and the absence of a bra.

"I thought your intention was to sleep."  Helena finally manages.  

"My intention, Helena," Myka says, slowly standing to her feet, her hands against Helena's knees as leverage, "was for you to help me fall asleep."  

She holds out her hands now and Helena doesn't hesitate to take them.

"Historically, such successes have been preceded by the removal of several items of clothing."

Myka pulls Helena's hands into her, against the blouse she almost isn't wearing, over buttons that are suddenly too imposing.  

"I don't suppose you've forgotten how to undress me."  Myka uses one hand to pull the length of her curls over one shoulder as she tilts her head to look at Helena.  

Helena whose teeth are biting down hard against her lower lip, whose hands hover motionless against Myka's abdomen, and whose fingers still at the next delicate button of a blouse that Myka is growing very tired of wearing.  

Helena's eyes travel from Myka's down to her fingers then back to Myka again, and as if suddenly propelled forward by new want, her fingers begin moving to undo buttons.  

One gone.  Then the second.  And a third.

When the fourth button is free, Myka's blouse parts open, revealing skin from the elastic waist of silk panties to the coy smile she's now giving Helena Wells, who sits still below her.

"Better?"  Helena asks.

"Much."  Myka's smile grows.  

And then Helena's hands are on her waist, delicate still but finally holding on.  The touch weakens Myka's knees and they bend into the other woman, whose grasp around her waist seems almost prepared for the sudden give.  Helena steadies her, smiles.

"I've got you."  

Myka's heart leaps in her chest as her hands find Helena's shoulders.

"Myka..."  Helena abandons the eye contact, and she abandons the words, to pull Myka closer to her.  Hands snake slowly around Myka's waist and soft lips find their place against Myka's navel.

Myka's move further around Helena's shoulders to regain the balance she loses when the intimate touch of parted lips moves gingerly across skin too-long neglected.

Then Helena is resting her forehead against Myka's belly and sighs, inhales, kisses, exhales, inhales, kisses, exhales again, slowly, then she stills.  For a long moment Helena doesn't move.  She breathes and her hands continue holding, but her lips are still against Myka's flesh.

"Hey."  

A finger beneath Helena's chin brings her eyes back to Myka's.  She bends into a kiss. And when their lips part, Myka lowers herself into Helena's lap, legs folded in against the bed, and she wraps an arm over Helena's shoulder.

"It's okay."  Myka whispers.

Helena pulls Myka in close with hands at the small of her back.

"I want to,"  Helena breathes, "but I can't do this.  Not to you.  Not now, when I'm about to leave."

"Then don't leave me."  Myka breathes, setting her forehead against Helena's.

"I wish it could be that..."  Helena doesn't finish but drags her fingertips up Myka's bare sides beneath the blouse she still wears.  Myka shivers under the touch and the heat of their proximity warms Myka to her core.  And for the longest time, they just sit there, watching each other, trying to breathe, and taking everything in.  

Myka finally breaks the silence.  

"Okay, if not that," she smirks, "then I have questions."

"I wondered."  Helena puffs out a small laugh.

Myka moves her free hand between them and gently places a finger to tap gently against Helena's lips.  

"Where,"  And Myka thinks for the first time ever that maybe she doesn't want to know but she asks anyway, "where have you been?"

Helena's smirk disappears and she brings her hand up to Myka's still against her lips, and grasps tightly.  She presses her lips to now-curling fingers and to the back of Myka's hand, then pulls it in close to her chest, over a rapidly beating heart.

"Featherhead."  She finally says.  

Myka does not realize she’s holding her breath until she finally exhales and the burn of tears hits her again.  

"Featherhead?"  She questions.  Helena nods.  "All this time and you were so close.   Why..."  She stops herself from asking and closes her eyes.  "I don't know if I want to know."

"At first I didn't have the option."  Helena continues, knowing what Myka's next question would be.  "I wasn't allowed to contact any of you and the Regents were very aware of your movements, I'm sure.  They were confident we would never run into each other.”

“But then you did have the option.”  Myka states, matter of factually.

“Yes.”  Helena blinks slowly.  “And I made the choice to stay away.”  Myka sighs and moves away from Helena, back onto the bed, pulling her hand from Helena’s grasp. She runs both hands through her hair and closes her eyes. “Please don’t be upset with me.”

Myka laughs, eyes open and falling on the face of the woman who now sits beside her.  “You know the most ridiculous part of all of this, Helena, is that no matter how hard I try,” Myka shakes her head, “I just cannot bring myself to be mad at you.  Disappointed, maybe.  Even a little hurt at times.”  Myka leans back into Helena’s space and kisses her.  “But not mad.  Especially not now that you’re in front of me.”

This time, Helena moves in to kiss Myka, hesitating only momentarily before their lips touch. As the kiss deepens, Myka moves Helena’s hand around her waist and wraps her arm over Helena's shoulder once again.  Myka maneuvers her way to the center of the bed and pulls Helena with her, lips still pressed firmly together.  And when they do finally part, Myka is biting her lip as Helena settles next to her.

"It has never before taken this long to get you into my bed."  Myka whispers, laying back on the bed and directing Helena to lay beside her.

Helena's cheeks redden as Myka curls into her side.

“Why did you come back?”

Helena closes her eyes tight.

“I cannot tell you.”  She whispers.

“Fair enough.”  Myka bites her lip.  “Where are you going?”

“Even if I knew, I don’t think I could tell you that either.”

“So, this life you have built for yourself is quite elusive.  Secretive.”  

Helena laughs.  “Maybe.  Although, you should know that my reason for coming back here and my reason for leaving are not at all related to my life, or what I want."

“Are you actually happy?”

“I am content.  Satisfied.”  Helena responds too quickly.  “For once, I don’t regret making the choices that I have made.”  She moves the back of her fingers across Myka’s abdomen, from just below her breasts and down to her navel, then turns her hand to press her palm firmly against Myka’s stomach.

Myka’s breath hitches and she moves in closer to Helena, her forehead against the other woman’s and lips brushing lightly against hers.  

“Does that mean you regret the last time you shared my bed with me?”

Myka can see the evidence of Helena being caught off guard in the way her breathing changes and how her eyes widen just before she shuts them too tight.  Then she’s shaking her head and moving her lips to the tip of Myka’s nose and kissing there gently.

“Rest assured, I would never regret a single moment spent with you in your bed, Darling.”  Helena smiles.  “Or anywhere for that matter.”  Myka closes her eyes and feels Helena’s lips press gently against each lid.

Helena taps Myka’s nose before dragging the solitary finger down, across Myka’s lips, her chin, the column of her neck.  Myka opens her eyes to find Helena watching her, the finger still trailing its way over Myka’s chest, between her breasts, and down to her navel.  This time, Helena doesn’t stop there and Myka’s body trembles when the touch of one finger becomes two and trail further down to the elastic of her underwear.

Helena pulls at the elastic only slightly with a single finger and smirks when it snaps back against Myka’s skin.

“Helena.”  Myka scolds and Helena kisses her once more.  “Do not start something that you cannot finish.”

"Oh Myka."  She breathes.  "Perhaps not tonight but one day, I do intend to finish what I have started."

//

Myka lulls from her dreams into consciousness with the smell of freshly baked apple pie invading her nostrils.  She inhales deeply and smiles just seconds before her hand falls to the cold of empty bed sheets by her side.

She sits up suddenly, fresh tears already welling in her eyes, and it aches her, the too-familiar emptiness of her bedroom.

“Helena.”  She breathes before pulling her knees into her chest and lowering her head into a sob.  Not even the knowledge of her going could soften the blow of her being gone.

She’s not entirely recovered from crying when there’s a hard knock at her door, followed by Pete calling her name.

“Not now, Pete.”  Myka sniffles, wiping her face free of tears and instinctively pulling the sheet over her exposed breasts.

“Mykes!”  In true Pete fashion, he opens the door anyway.  "There is a distinct smell of apple pie emanating from your bedroom.  Permission to enter and-“ and then he’s through the door and his eyes land on the nightstand just beside Myka, “ooooh!”  His voice is high pitched, his fingers already grabbing at the air as he begins to propel himself forward and into the bedroom.

“Pete!”  Myka plucks up a pillow from beside her and to cover her chest as he moves further into her bedroom.

“What?  Oh, I’m not looking at you, Mykes.”  He covers his eyes with one hand and holds out the other as if feeling the air to find his way.  “It’s nothing I haven’t seen before anyway.”

“Get out, get out, get out!”  Myka yells throwing an extra pillow at him.

“Okay, okay!  Fine, I’m going.”  Pete turns and heads for the door, and once he is almost through, he turns back to Myka with an accusing finger and says, “You don’t know how to lock your door or share.”

With Pete gone, Myka’s eyes finally find the source of the delicious smell sitting on her nightstand.  A plate occupied by two empanadas, dusted with cinnamon, and a mug of what Myka can now clearly distinguish as hot apple cider.

And beside these a note that Myka reads:

Somehow, my dear friend, the sweet smell of apples always reminds me of you.

Helena

Myka nods, wipes away tears, and smiles.  “Right.”  She says.  “Now you’re Helena.  Now that you’re gone again.”  She shakes her head and sets the note back onto the nightstand.

Myka pulls herself out of bed to throw on a shirt and some pants, then grabs the plate and the mug of cider, and heads for her bedroom door.  When she opens it, Pete loses his balance and falls onto her bedroom floor.

“Oh uh, hey Myka, how… how is that apple pie?”  Pete grimaces from below her on the floor.

“I have two.  You can have one.”  Myka says, rolling her eyes as Pete immediately pulls himself to standing and is already reaching for one of the pastries on her plate.  “And they’re empanadas.”

“Oh, even better.”  

Myka moves back to her bed, takes a sip of the cider in her mug before setting it back onto the nightstand and sits back on her bed with her legs folded in front of her.  Pete does much the same, only when he tries to reach across Myka for her mug of cider, she slaps his hand away.

“That’s mine.”  He pouts.  “You only get a pastry.”

He doesn’t hesitate to grab one, Myka grabs the other and sets the plate back on the stand.

Pete is already halfway done with his by the time she turns back around.

“Dude.”   She’s shaking her head.

“What?”  He holds out his hands with a mouth full of baked apple and cinnamon filled pastry.  “Do you know how long I had to endure this smell before I finally knocked your door down?”

Myka is still shaking her head.

“Are you going to actually eat that?  Because I know you have a thing with sugar and…”  He’s already reaching for her empanada.  She swats his hand away and he yawns through a laugh.

“Stay back.  Helena made this for me.  I’m eating it.”  And she finally takes a bite for herself.  “Holy hell, that’s delicious."

“Wait, HG made these?”  Pete asks, lifting two brows.  “HG as in, haven’t heard from the woman in almost a year HG?  HG who once tried to cook a microwave meal without taking it out of the box first?”

“Pete.”

“She was here afterall?”

“She was.”

“And you guys…”

Myka stares at him. 

“I’m not talking to you about this.”  Myka takes another small bite of her pastry.  He shrugs and yawns again.  She yawns, too.  “And will you stop, you’re making me yawn, too."

“So, where is she now?  Drawing your bath?  Planning a dinner date for the both of you at Univille’s finest five star restaurant?  I kinda of miss that little sh…"

“She’s gone.”

Pete falls quiet and nods.  "Okay."

“Again.” 

"If you want to talk about it..."

"I don't."

Myka takes another bite.  Chews.  Swallows.  Then yawns.

Pete yawns, too.

“It was you that time.”  Pete accuses.  Myka yawns again, takes another bite.

“I think I underestimated how exhausted I am after yesterday’s ping.”  Myka finishes her empanada.

“Sure it was the ping and not the thing that happened in your bedroom after the ping?”  Pete yawns again and falls back on Myka’s bed with his hands under his head.

“Not on that pillow.”  Myka swipes the pillow Helena had been sleeping on from beneath Pete’s head.  “Use this one.”  She throws her pillow over his face and he pushes it to the side to arch a brow at Myka.

“Wait, did you guys really do it because if you did, I can’t lay on these sheets.”  Myka picks up the previously thrown pillow and throws it back over Pete’s face.

“Shut up.”  She yawns again.  “What is wrong with me?”

“It’s cool, Mykes, we don’t have anywhere to be.”  Pete says reaching a hand up toward Myka’s face.  “Shhh, close your eyes.”  He palms her face and she groans and pushes his hand away.

"Your hand smells."

Myka reaches for her cider, now considerably cooler, and sips it down as the sound of Pete’s snoring fills her bedroom.  

“Oh no, of course, Pete.”  She rolls her eyes.  “Make yourself at home in my bed.  Oh, what’s that?  You’re tired?  Well, go right ahead and take a nap…” the rest of her words are a mockery of mumbles before she finishes the cider and sets the mug back on the night stand.

She yawns, stretches, lays back down into her Helena-scented pillow, buries her face into the aroma, and sighs.

“You stupid stupid beautiful woman.”  She whispers before closing her eyes.  

//

The next time Myka wakes up, she sheds no tears.  She doesn’t feel the tight clutch of Helena’s grasp on her heart.  She doesn’t carry the enormous weight of Helena’s absence in her mind.  And when her eyes meet the eyes of her best friend, laying across from her in her bed, they’re quiet, contemplative, serene, and gazing, until finally Pete says, “At least we’re both wearing clothes this time.”

And then Myka is laughing. 

Myka is laughing like she hasn’t laughed in a very long time.