Myka and Helena have a complicated story.
Myka knows this.
There are too many endings and not enough beginnings. There are actions without words and narrations with incompatible dialogue. Myka only says what she thinks is right to Helena instead of what she really wants and those are always two very different things.
They are a bitter and morose romantic comedy that rivals any Shakespearean problem play.
It’s the middle of the night and Myka is drawn into the hallway by the rustle of movement and light spilling from the open door of a bedroom that has remained sealed and dark for nearly three years now.
She doesn’t think to grab her tesla or Farnsworth or even shout to Pete that there is clearly an intruder because her heart is hiking up into her throat with every step she takes down the hall, soft rustling growing louder in her ears.
Myka swallows as bright emotion fills her chest, boiling anger and trembling happiness sloshing together messily, while she clutches at the doorway with unsteady hands and stares at Helena’s back.
“What are you doing here?” Myka exhales, the words heavy like rocks on her tongue and Helena pauses in her unpacking before rolling her shoulders back and straightening.
“I‘m sorry.” Helena murmurs, turning away from the open suitcase on her bed to face Myka and Myka swallows, looks at the other luggage stacked neatly within the room, at the open drawers and half full closet and swallows again before stepping inside. “I didn’t mean to wake you. I thought I was being inconspicuous.”
Myka isn’t sure if Helena is apologizing for waking her from her restless sleep or for waking that feeling, craving, reckless and just a little doomed but either way Myka is alert and aware.
“What’re you doing here?” Myka demands again , glancing at the half unpacked baggage once more then at Helena who shifts, takes a breath that must taste like bravado because she squares her shoulders and smiles.
“The Regents have been kind enough to allow me to return from my…self appointed sabbatical.” Helena quips, lips turned up slightly but with weary dark eyes that are all over Myka for a moment. She turns away then, back to her suitcase to pull out more clothes that she fumbles instantly. “I’m sure Irene intended announcing my return in ominously dramatic fashion in the morning but it seems that….”
Helena’s words die out as Myka moves further into the room, right up behind her and Myka can remember every single time she’s ever been this close to Helena, some of them innocent but heart pounding and good and others so, so awful.
Helena straightens, twisting a blouse in her hands and Myka breathes through the urge to press against her until they’re fused together, through the urge to dig her hands into her own chest and stop her insides from reacting to Helena so strongly.
There are questions Myka wants to ask, confessions she wants to make, things she wants to yell but Helena half turns and shifts her weight backwards until they’re touching and Myka can’t do anything beyond breathing out against the nape of Helena’s neck.
A noise at the door and a throat clearing yanks at Myka’s attention and she takes a step away from Helena even as Pete lowers his Tesla and rubs at the back of his neck, a move that Myka immediately mimics.
“Sorry, I heard…” He trails off, tucking his gun in the waist of his sweats and Myka glances down at her own pajamas before crossing her arms over her stomach and walking towards him. “Stuff.”
“It’s-no…” Myka starts, shaking her head and glancing at Helena again who is watching her with quiet, dark eyes that make it hard to breathe and hard to think and hard to just be. “Helena’s back.”
And then she’s sliding passed him, into her own bedroom where she loses another night of sleep to thoughts of Helena.
Helena has only been back for eight hours and already Myka is losing her mind. After a stern, decisive and startlingly sudden meeting with Mrs. Fredrick who, true to Helena’s words, had announced her full reinstatement as an agent along with a not so ominous threat directed at a grumpy Artie, Myka finds herself in the basement, sweating to the oldies and bruising her hands on a punching bag.
Myka moves quickly, bouncing lightly on the balls of her feet and eyes focused on the black bag as her fists strike it over and over until her knuckles sting while Gloria Gaynor wails through the speakers Claudia was nice enough to rig up. She ignores the sound of the basement door opening, dancing around the punching bag before landing a kick near the top even as Pete’s familiar footsteps trudge down the stairs.
He doesn’t hesitate, even as Myka unleashes a flurry of punches and sweat drips from her chin. He only moves to turn down the music before going to hold the wobbling bag steady for her, bracing his sneakers against the mat when Myka lands another powerful kick.
“You have the weirdest taste in music.” Pete greets and Myka rolls her eyes.
“Shut up.” She grunts breathlessly.
“So…” He says, ignoring her request. He hesitates like he’s been holding the words in for a while, rolling them around in his mouth and deciding on the best way to spit them out without earning a slug to the shoulder. “Chicks, am I right?”
Myka rolls her eyes again at his heavy handedness and delivers three quick punches before dancing away a bit to take a breath. “Pete, don’t start with me.”
“I’m not trying to start anything.” Pete insists, slapping the bag in encouragement. Myka lunges forward swinging hard and wild and Pete grunts at the impact. “Listen, I’m sorry for interrupting last night. I just got a really strong vibe, ya know? If I’d known the love of your life was sneaking-”
“You didn’t interrupt anything. It was nothing.” Myka interjects, giving the bag a hard shove with two wrapped hands and Pete stumbles back before releasing the bag.
“Didn’t look like nothing to me.” Pete sighs, scooping up a pair of punch mitts from the corner of the room and wriggling them onto his hands.
“Well, it was.” Myka bites out, sweat trickling down the back of her neck and her knuckles angry pink. “And, you know what? She’s not the love of my life, okay?”
Myka is pretty sure Pete has always known but for as big as Pete’s mouth is, sometimes its not and that causes her stomach to twist uncomfortably. To think that Pete could see it before Myka, who was too stricken to notice what was wrapping her up and squeezing her tight until it was too late and she was eaten whole.
He knew even when she’d whispered the words for the first and only time in the passenger seat of the SUV as they sped away from Boone, Wisconsin.
“I’m in love with her.” Myka had laughed sadly, tears blurring her vision.
“Yeah.” Pete had said quiet and understanding, eyes focused on the road and Myka doesn’t think she ever loved him more.
Now Pete claps his hand together, gesturing her closer and she goes throwing angry blows. She connects forcefully and Pete lets her, feinting punches and letting her counter him.
“She’s not the love of my life.” Myka repeats like she’s trying to make it true and the sympathetic look in Pete’s eye makes her throw an elbow he barely manages to block. “ If she were, if that were true…”
He pushes back then, moving skillfully and connecting with his mitt when Myka fails to protect her head or her body. She absorbs a strike to the ribs with a wince and dances out of Pete’s reach. “So, what’re you going to do?”
“Nothing. I’m going to do nothing.” Myka huffs, putting her bruised hands on her knees and bowing her head. “What is love anyway, right? Just a bunch of chemicals in your brain, like, going haywire.”
“Technically.” Pete breathes out, sweat darkening the neck of his gray tee shirt. “But Mykes…”
“Then I can control it, ya know?” Myka says. “I’m smart, really smart, and it’s-it’s just like, mind over matter.”
“It doesn’t work like that, Mykes.” Pete sighs and she shakes her head.
“Pete, I begged her.” Myka swallows, looking up at him for a moment before straightening to fold her hands on top of her head in an attempt to open up her tightening lungs. “I begged her and she told me that she didn‘t belong here. She made her choice and it wasn’t here…”
“Yeah. Yeah, I know.” Pete coos and she blinks away the burn of tears with a self deprecating laugh that blisters down into her chest.
Myka has been not in love, after Sam and before Helena. It was simple and lonely but being in love with Helena is somehow lonelier and way more complicated. Myka can do without that complication.
“But she’s here now.” Pete says quietly, like that means something and Myka shakes her head.
“Drop it, Pete. Please.” Myka exhales and Pete stares at her for a long moment before nodding.
“Yeah, okay. Okay.” Pete says, slapping his hands together and holding them up for Myka again.
“Should I hate her?” Claudia asks and Myka looks up from the crate she is unloading, adjusting the goggles over her eyes absently. Claudia’s focus is still on her own partially unloaded crate, purple gloved hands removing artifacts methodically and Myka stops, watching nervousness bunch in Claudia’s shoulders and her features remain too blank to convey any sort of real nonchalance.
“Helena?” Myka asks dumbly and Claudia lifts a shoulder in a shrug, shifting the contents of the container but not really accomplishing anything.
“I mean, she’s back and everything but she also kind of sucks. Ya know…as a person?” Claudia says, lifting her head to finally look up at Myka through the purple neutralizing glow of the room. Myka smiles a little at her, to ease the tension even as her stomach coils sickeningly at the direction of the conversation.
“She does, doesn’t she.” Myka finally sighs, pushing hair out of her face with the back of her hand. “But, that doesn’t mean that you have to hate her, Claude.”
“But you guys-” Claudia tries and Myka shakes her head, huffing out an awkward laugh because this shouldn’t be like picking sides in a break up. She and Helena would’ve had to be something more than convoluted and problematic for side picking to be necessary.
“She cares about you Claudia. A lot.” Myka interrupts and Claudia rolls her eyes. “And-and she’s HG Wells for God’s sake. I mean, the things she could teach you…”
“Wouldn’t compare to what you’ve taught me.” Claudia stresses and Myka smiles at her affectionately. “She may be one of the smartest people in the history of the world … but you’re my family.”
“You’re getting all mushy on me, aren’t you?” Myka chuckles and Claudia shrugs.
“Sometimes mush is appropriate.” Claudia mutters with a grin and Myka sighs.
“You don’t have to hate her on my account, Claude.” She says firmly and Claudia nods.
“So, I guess everyone kinda knows about my…” Myka nearly says crush but the word seems too small and narrow, she almost says love but that only makes her feel stupid. She trails off instead, looking away from Claudia and down into the crate in front of her. “It was pretty obvious?”
“You used to get this goofy smile…before.” Claudia says and Myka feels herself flush furiously at the comment, embarrassment heating her face. “Then you left when she went all big baddie on us-”
“I came back.” Myka interrupts needlessly but Claudia only smiles.
“And for that we are forever grateful. I‘m pretty sure you‘re the only reason Pete hasn‘t combusted or something.” She says, “But, dude, even when she was essentially a Pokemon, the way you looked at her…man…We were scared you‘d leave again after Boone.”
Myka inhales deeply, focusing on breathing through the feelings of foolishness making her stomach swim. Stupidity for feeling the way she did about Helena, for saying the things she did in that perfect suburban home in Wisconsin.
“She and I. We-we weren’t…” Myka tries, swallowing thickly and smiling wanly down into the container.
“It felt like you guys could‘ve...” Claudia murmurs gently and Myka breathes out slowly.
Myka has spent weeks trying to perfect avoiding Helena.
She still feels the lure to seek Helena out. A residual instinct that tugs warmly at her muscles and her mind but Myka actively and intentionally pushes against it, hard.
When Helena is in the kitchen showing off the proficiency with small kitchen appliances that she acquired in Wisconsin or haunting the Warehouse’s aisles with a never ending list of inventory or curled into the arm of the couch in the living room of the B&B, Myka practices evasive maneuvers that nearly always involve awkward exits.
When there’s no artifact to chase or hunt or replace and Helena just seems to be everywhere, Myka runs.
She wears out her cross trainers pretty quickly the first two weeks and Claudia wordlessly leaves a pair of brand new, top of the line sneakers on her bed that Myka wastes no time breaking in because Helena has commandeered the B&B library or because she had an accidental stand off with Helena outside of the bathroom or because Helena looked at her for a moment too long and nearly melted her insides.
Add to that an artifact dry streak that has lasted nearly a month that Myka would swear was triggered by Helena’s return and Myka’s endurance is off the charts.
“Pete! Did you know that there’s a new restaurant opening in town?” Myka calls breathlessly as she limps back into the bed and breakfast after a particularly long run spurred on by waking to the sound of Helena’s laughter, sweet and dark, seeping up from the kitchen through her bedroom floorboards.
Myka tugs out her headphones, slinging them around her sweaty neck and favoring the blister on her right foot. “It’s called Lord of the Wings. Ya know, like chicken wings and Tolkien…”
Myka trails off, limping into the dining room where only Helena is seated at the table, sipping tea demurely.
“Oh, hey,” Myka blurts, hesitating slightly while her stomach flutters, as she takes in the baked goods, fruit and cereal on the table top. “I thought you were Pete.”
“Should I be insulted?” Helena offers softly and Myka thinks that maybe her words are just a little uneasy. Myka takes a hesitant step backwards, glancing back at the door.
“There are worst things to be mistaken for than Pete. I could‘ve thought you were Artie.” Myka says awkwardly, wiping at her sweaty face with her forearm before deciding she could probably jog another mile or ten. “Anyway, enjoy your breakfast.”
“Myka,…” Helena murmurs standing audibly when Myka turns to make a desperate break for the exit but Helena’s voice stops her effectively. “I…The other‘s should be along shortly. Artie is on his way to discuss a new curiosity.”
Myka has always had a thing with distance. She’s forever too near or too far. She’s spent an entire childhood too far away from her father and not long enough too close to Sam. There are perfect distances though, her warehouse family is a testament to that but she turns to Helena feels both the sprawling distance between them even as they breathe down one another‘s neck.
“Great.” Myka croaks helplessly, watching Helena pull her hair back restlessly before sitting again. Helena, for a moment, looks at her like she did when she was a hologram and Myka held her entire existence in her hands.
“So, Univille is erecting a restaurant in honor of JRR Tolkien?” Helena laughs, that naked expression shuttering away as she changes tactics and the shift in her tone causes Myka to square her shoulders expectantly. “Should I attribute this town’s quirky charm as reason for dedicating an eatery to such a juvenile author?”
Myka’s brain stalls, quite literally, and for a moment she only gapes at Helena. Helena leans back in her chair, sinking into her seat in this self satisfied way that makes Myka clench her teeth in frustration.
“Lord of the Wings is a food truck, actually.” Myka bites out, flushing deeply. “And, you seriously think Tolkien is childish?”
It’s the longest string of non-work related words that Myka has offered Helena since her return and Helena looks at her very carefully for a moment before snatching them up.
“Most of his work is long-winded and severely lacks in literary form.” Helena finally says like a gauntlet has been thrown. Like she knows that Myka has read Tolkien’s work over and over since she was a quiet, lonely, child in a bookstore dreaming of epic quests. Myka knows that she’s been baited, can see the challenge in the quirk in Helena’s brow but this is not like before when every argument was swollen with flirtation and instead Myka is surprised by the anger that rears up into her chest and lodges between her ribs.
“You cannot be serious.” Myka barks, startling both herself and Helena, who cocks her head in surprise.
The fact that Myka is currently arguing with H.G. Wells over literature is not lost on her but she ignores ludicrousness of it in favor of simmering anger. “Tolkien is-is a modern classic. How can you say that? His work is heroic and inspiring. ”
“As well as paternalistic and one dimensional.” Helena argues and Myka frowns, smoothing her hand over her sweaty ponytail. “Every character, either good or evil, black or white. Fantastical writing that is in no way grounded in reality at all.”
“Plenty of people would disagree with you.” Myka spits and Helena folds her arms even as Myka’s fists clench at her sides.
“And those people’s opinions matter more than that of the pioneer of the genre in which Tolkien’s novels are written?” Helena chides and Myka blushes furiously and feels stupid.
“You can be wrong.” Myka whispers irritably, staring down at Helena who frowns faintly.
“I can be.” She concedes finally, nearly apologetic but Myka ignores the atonement in her answer.
“There’s nothing wrong with…with believing there are good guys.” Myka bites out, staring hard at Helena then through her with a self deprecating laugh.
“That seems impossible, doesn’t it.” Helena says lowly and Myka looks away as her sudden anger recedes, leaving her starkly aware of the flush of her cheeks and Helena on the other side of the table. “Even the best intentions can be the wrong ones. You must know that, Myka.”
Staring across the room at Helena, Myka is painfully aware of the shades of grey in her life.
“I loved Tolkien, growing up.” Myka finally murmurs, folding her arms over her chest and Helena visibly breathes in. “I wanted to slay dragons and save the world.”
“I could write novels about a heroine such as you.” Helena exhales, eyes so soft and Myka hates the way that ember of anger is replaced by something more dense but gentler and somehow just as hot.
“Meeting time!” Claudia’s voice carries through the house and Myka is confusingly relieved.
Helena shifts in her chair, sitting straighter and, pulling a croissant from the pile on the tabletop but her eyes do not leave Myka even as Claudia bounds into the kitchen.
“Oh, hey, you guys are already here.” She greets but she’s really only talking to Myka, eyes searching as she heads to sit down beside Helena. “Gold star agents, the two of you. How‘re the new kicks, BTW?”
“I have a blister.” Myka sighs, glancing down at her shoes and trying to fit her emotions back inside her chest the way they’re supposed to, so they’re no longer twisted and overflowing and reaching out for Helena.
“I can get you some insoles for that.” Claudia says, grabbing a blueberry muffin.
“How‘d the run go, Flo Jo?” Pete greets walking into the kitchen followed by Steve. He claps a hand down on Myka’s shoulder and she reaches up to squeeze it quickly. “Wanna race tomorrow morning? Loser does the winners inventory for a month?”
“Oh, can we get in on this?” Steve asks, sitting across from Claudia and picking up a box of cereal and two bowls from the tilted stack in the center of the table.
“Get in on what?” Abigail wonders, emerging from the kitchen, wiping her hands on the towel slung over her shoulder.
“Pete and Myka are gonna race for inventory tomorrow.” Claudia informs around a mouthful of food while pouring a glass of orange juice. “Breakfast looks awesome today. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” Abigail smiles warmly, taking a seat at the head of the table while Pete sits, gesturing to the empty chair between him and Steve.
“Sit down, Mykes.” Pete says and Myka does even as Steve pours a bowl of cereal for her without asking.
“I’d like to get in on that bet.” Abigail laughs and Myka smiles a little as the energy in the room changes and eases into something familiar and warm. “I’ve got my money on Myka.”
“Me too.” Claudia and Steve echo one another and Pete boos even as he piles sweet, fruit covered pastries onto his plate.
“You guys have no faith. I‘m like the wind.” He announces loudly, flexing his biceps and Myka grins at him before taking the milk from Steve and dousing her cereal.
“You’re not going to beat me.” Myka mutters as Steve nudges the bowl towards her.
Steve and Claudia snicker at Pete and Myka’s bickering. Myka glances across the table at Helena, catches indulgent longing on her features before looking away just as Artie bustles into the dining room.
“Myka. Claudia.” He says without so much as a good morning, pulling a file from the top of the stack of papers in his arms. “And HG. You guys are going to Tennessee.”
“Good morning to you too, Artie.” Myka says even though there’s a sinking feeling in her gut and Abigail smirks at her.
“Oh snap! Artie’s Angels are back together!” Claudia declares brightly even as Artie, somewhat, reluctantly hands her a file over the kitchen table and she takes it eagerly.
“You are not my angels.” Artie argues, handing Myka an identical file and she takes it with a nod, spoon hanging from her mouth to hide the way she clenches her jaw when the last file is given to Helena who sits primly across the table from her.
“Yeah we are.” Claudia argues while Artie circles back around the table to drop into his own seat. “I’m talking original cast. Helena, with that hair, is clearly Jill. Myka is totally a Kelly. And I’m Sabrina, which is depressing but accurate.”
“Sabrina wasn’t so bad.” Myka offers absently, glancing at Helena across the table only to meet her dark eyes for a breathless moment before looking away.
It hasn’t gotten better, this thing between them. It is still swollen with unspoken words and repressed emotions and its been weeks but Myka still gets alternately pissed off and overjoyed at the sight of her.
“Yeah, says Jacklyn Smith.” Claudia scoffs and Myka rolls her eyes, taking another bite of cereal.
“I’m a Kelly too.” Jinks murmurs conspiratorially beside Myka, nudging her with his elbow and she smirks at him while he butters some toast.
“Yeah you are, Jinksy!” Pete says, offering a high five over Myka’s head that Steve reluctantly reciprocates.
“I must admit that I’m unfamiliar with the reference but I’m sure Myka is correct.” Helena says kindly over the top of her own folder and Myka is watching her again before she can stop herself. Her name in Helena’s mouth causes the hair to rise along her forearms and Myka hates herself for it.
“I always thought Sabrina was hot.” Pete declares around a mouthful of muffin beside Claudia, leaning over and trying to get a look at her file, “She had some nice ‘hey hey hey’s’”
“Gross.” Myka and Claudia say simultaneously while Jinks snickers quietly.
“Focus! Children!” Artie bellows loudly, demanding everyone’s attention with his fist against the table “I do not care who and who is not a ‘Kelly’. I care about the artifact in Tennessee that is driving people insane.”
“Insane?” Myka and Helena question at the same time and Myka clears her throat with a frown, feels Helena‘s eyes slide over her and frowns deeper.
“Yes, the artifact makes those effected think they are under demonic possession.” Artie supplies and Claudia shudders. “There have already been four cases of seemingly well adjusted people with no mental health history to speak of, committing suicide. The one connecting factor being that they all attended the same church.”
“Creepy.” Pete howls lowly, jabbing a finger into Myka’s side and she bats him away absently. “Hey, how come the chicks get to go retrieve the spooky artifact and me and Jinksy are stuck going to California to switch out Whitney Houston’s microphone? I mean, not that I’m complaining because Cali women are, like, va-va-voom but I kinda want to get my Ghostbusters on.”
“You two are going to California because that artifact only affects women and the last time I checked, neither of you were identifying as female.” Artie grunts.
“I don’t like labels.” Pete declares and Claudia laughs brightly.
“Don’t you have a plane to catch? Miss your flight and you two will be walking to California.” Artie threatens and Pete lifts his hands innocently.
“Yeah, lets go.” Jinks sighs, pushing his chair back and standing.
“Aw, Dad…” Pete whines but he follows, standing and stretching across the table to grab two bagels.
“Pete.” Myka chastises and his expression turns innocent.
“They’re for the road.” He shrugs, “Check in when you guys get off the plane?”
“Yeah.” Myka says, indulging in Pete’s over-protectiveness that has only surged after Helena’s return. “As soon as we touch down.”
Helena watches them quietly from across the table for a moment before looking back at Artie. “So, what do we know about the artifact?”