Here’s the thing. Myka loves Pete.
She loves how he buys her Twizzlers when she’s in a bad mood and how he’s always willing to marathon Buffy the Vampire Slayer with her and how he always picks rock when they play rock, paper, scissors, even though she calls him out on it every time. She loves their partnership too and how she can count on him to have her back when they’re on a case. Sure, she still rarely knows what’s going on in his head, but his weird Pete logic has saved her life enough times that, for the most part, she doesn’t question it.
So, yeah, after five years of having him constantly around, Myka really can’t imagine life without Pete.
Dating him, however, is a different matter entirely.
Okay, it’s not like kissing Pete is the most unpleasant thing she’s ever done. (That honor definitely goes to the time the gooery spat on her.) It’s actually kind of nice if she doesn’t think about it too much. After all, it’s not like she’s really had much of a love life since Sam’s death, and she supposes it’s good to have that just dealt with. And, well, if she’s not super into Pete, she figures that’s not too much of a problem. After all, these sorts of things are supposed to get better with time.
It’s just that when she tries to describe Pete, she keeps coming up with the same sorts of words she would use to describe Tracy, and now that Pete’s her boyfriend, she thinks that might be a problem.
The other problem is that she can’t stop thinking about HG Wells.
It’s weird, because Myka knows that she had feelings for HG back when HG was actually at the Warehouse, but she also knows that HG hasn’t really been relevant to any part of her life ever since she left with the astrolabe. Sure, there was that one artifact in Wisconsin, and Myka still remembers the heartbreak she felt upon seeing HG with a boyfriend and child, but at the end of that case, Myka had just driven off while HG had stayed in Wisconsin, and they haven’t even spoken to each other since then. The only reason Myka even knows about Giselle is that HG has gotten really into Twitter, and even though Myka doesn’t have a Twitter account of her own, she can’t help but check HG’s feed every day.
And for that matter, she’s done her research on Giselle, perhaps a little too well. She knows that Giselle’s a photographer in San Francisco and that she went to Berkeley and that she volunteers at the public library. She also knows, thanks to various social media sites she’s spent a little too long looking at, that Giselle likes spicy food and James Bond movies and Natalie Dormer. All in all, Myka thinks that Giselle actually seems like a pretty cool person, and she wants to be happy for HG for finally being in what seems to be a pretty happy relationship.
Wanting is such a tricky thing.
She doesn’t realize just how little Pete feels like her boyfriend until they’re in London tracking down one of the original manuscripts of Great Expectations. (It makes the user suddenly gain great wealth but also gradually become more and more callous.) It’s been stolen from some private collector, and as far as they know, no one’s used it yet, but Artie thinks it’s worth looking into, so they’ve wound up in London.
“You know, I think famous writers are out to get us,” Pete says, as they walk towards the collector’s house.
“We’re Warehouse agents. I think every historical figure ever is out to get us,” Myka says.
“I’m just saying this is becoming a trend. You know, Lovecraft, Anthony Bishop, our old friend HG Wells. If your book ever becomes popular, you’d better hang on to your stuff or else it’ll wind up wreaking havoc somewhere.”
Myka rolls her eyes. “I’d need to finish my book first.”
“Come on, I sent you all those websites with writing tips.”
“Most of which were aimed at middle schoolers,” Myka says. “I’ve just had a bit of writer’s block lately.”
Before Pete can say anything else, they enter the living room where they’re met with a beautiful woman with dark hair and great boobs. (It’s not like Myka’s staring at her boobs or anything, but they are pretty great, and it’s hard not to notice.)
“What are you doing here?” the woman asks in a thick British accent, and Myka tries not to be reminded of another woman with dark hair and a British accent.
“I’m Myka Bering with the United States Secret Service,” Myka says, flashing her badge. “This is my partner Pete. We’re here investigating the stolen Dickens manuscript.”
“Lauren Colt, Scotland Yard,” the woman says. “Is your president concerned with Dickens?”
“We think the manuscript might be involved in a plan that threatens the president’s well-being. I’d tell you more details, but they’re classified,” Myka says, hoping Lauren will buy her story, even if it’s vague and she’s basically making it all up on the spot.
“Plus, any chance to visit jolly old England,” Pete says, saying the last three words in a truly atrocious fake British accent, and he’s pretty obviously checking Lauren out, because subtlety has never been his strong suit.
Lauren chuckles. “Are you a fan of my country, Mr. Lattimer?”
“Well, last time I was here, I kind of got magnetized to a ceiling, so actually, you might have to be the one to change my mind about this place.”
“Magnetized to a ceiling?”
“It’s a long story. I lead an interesting life.”
“I imagine this is one of those situations where it would be better if I didn’t ask,” Lauren says.
“Yeah, probably,” Pete says, a grin on his face.
They snag the manuscript in record time, and for once, everything actually goes pretty much smoothly. Lauren’s amazingly helpful, and she doesn’t even ask questions when Myka says that they need to take the manuscript, supposedly to run tests on it, which is a relief. (Myka’s pretty sure that at this point, at least ten different government agencies from three different continents are after her for stealing government property.) Lauren gets along well with them too, especially Pete, whose jokes she actually finds funny, which is also fairly atypical. (Myka’s not sure whether Pete’s jokes are just bad or whether she’s just heard them so many times that they’ve lost their humor.)
“So are you going to be in London much longer?” Lauren asks Pete once the artifact has been snagged and bagged (and, okay, maybe Myka did the bagging part while Lauren was in the bathroom so things wouldn’t look too weird).
“We’re pretty much headed out right now, actually,” Pete says. “You know, world to save and all.”
“Well, if you’re ever in these parts again, call me,” Lauren says. “We could maybe do dinner and a movie.”
“Oh, like a date?” Pete asks.
“Yes, that is what I was getting at.”
“That is totally cool that you’re into me like that, but I actually have a girlfriend.”
“Ah. Back in America?”
“She’s standing right there, actually,” Pete says, pointing at Myka.
“Oh,” Lauren says, clearly surprised. “I wouldn’t have guessed that.”
When Myka gets the invitation for her nephew’s first birthday party, she knows she has to go.
She’s been focusing a lot on work lately. It’s a reflex that keeps her from focusing too much on anything else. It’s a good thing, she thinks. Her work is interesting, not to mention important, and she likes doing it.
It gets exhausting after a while, though, and she starts to need a few days away from the Warehouse. She needs a few days away from Pete too, which is weird, because usually Pete’s the one who helps her calm down when she’s stressed out. Now that Pete’s one of her main sources of stress, though, she definitely needs some time away from him. And anyways, she hasn’t actually visited Tracy since her son was born. She should take some time to go be a good sister.
Tracy’s as effusive as ever when Myka arrives, and if she’s mad at Myka for being a terrible sister lately, she doesn’t show it. She gushes about how much her son loved all the picture books Myka sent, and Myka can’t help but feel proud about how many out-of-print books she managed to track down and send to Tracy.
Admittedly, the birthday party itself isn’t all that fun. Myka’s happy to finally meet her nephew (even if she’s a little weirded out when she actually winds up holding him, since she’s never been good with kids), but she’s never gotten along with Tracy’s friends, and that’s not going to change now that said friends are the other moms from the music enrichment class that Tracy’s been taking her son to. After the party, though, Kevin takes the baby, and Myka gets to sit down and actually talk to Tracy.
“I’m sorry I haven’t been able to come visit much lately,” Myka says. “I should really ask my boss for more time off.”
“Hey, you’re the one who’s out there protecting the president,” Tracy says. “I’m sure that keeps you busy.”
“Yeah, we have prevented some major disasters in the past year,” Myka says. “But, you know, your son is growing up so fast, and work shouldn’t be the only thing in my life. I should come see you more often.”
“Actually, on the topic of major disasters, I have something I’ve been wanting to ask you,” Tracy says. “The last time you visited, I blacked out, and there was a storm, and then you ran off, and it was all very strange. What was going on?”
Myka takes a deep breath and is about to elaborate on her lies from before about sandstorms and mushrooms and hormones when two things hit her.
The first is that she needs a One. It’s not a thought she’s ever had before. She’s always figured that her One will come along at some point, but it hits her that the whole point of having a One is to have someone outside the Warehouse who can keep the Warehouse from taking over her life, and right now, that’s something she definitely needs.
The second is that it just makes sense for her One to be Tracy. After all, even though they’ve had their share of fights, ultimately, Tracy had always been there for her when she was fighting with her father as a teenager and when she realized that she couldn’t finish the pre-med track and when Sam died and even when she was suddenly transferred to South Dakota and was convinced it was a punishment. And anyways, if having a One is all about having someone normal to keep her balanced, Tracy fills that role perfectly.
So instead of lying, Myka says, “Tracy, I need to tell you about what I do for work, and I need you to promise that you won’t tell anyone.”
“Of course,” Tracy says. “You are allowed to tell me this, right? I don’t want you getting in trouble for disclosing confidential information or anything.”
“No, I can tell you this, although I’m not really sure what the procedure is. If a mysterious woman named Mrs. Frederic shows up at your house later, don’t get too weirded out? And know that she can appear and disappear without actually walking in or out of the room?”
“Myka?” Tracy says. “You’re scaring me.”
“I don’t work for the Secret Service anymore,” Myka says. “Or, well, we have some ties to the Secret Service, and I still have my badge, but we’re not really the same thing. Do you remember how I was transferred to South Dakota?”
“Yes, you’ve been there for over five years now,” Tracy says flatly.
“Well, the place I’ve been working since then is called Warehouse 13. We hunt down and store dangerous artifacts.”
“Kind of? I mean, I guess a lot of them pretty much are weapons. Well, maybe not the one that made us all tap dance, but even that one did almost kill us.”
“It made you all tap dance? Myka, what is this place?”
“I don’t know how all the science works, and I don’t think anyone does, but the gist of it is that items that belonged to important historical people or that were involved in important historical events kind of pick up related properties, and we have to collect them before they cause too much damage. It’s all a bit…”
“Mysterious? Yeah, I’m getting that,” Tracy says, her voice clearly indicating that she doesn’t believe anything Myka is saying.
“So… you won’t tell anyone, then?” Myka says, not sure what else she can even say.
“Myka, I’m pretty sure if I told anyone else, I’d be institutionalized.”
“Right, yeah,” Myka says. “Tracy, I know it’s weird, but you know me. You know I don’t believe anything unless I have strong evidence for it.”
“I know. It’s just that all these things you’re saying are a little hard to believe. You can’t blame me for being skeptical.”
“Okay, um, do you remember the time a few years ago when Dad was really sick and the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with him?” Myka asks, racking her brain for any Warehouse cases that Tracy would have heard about.
Tracy nods. “Yeah, I was trying to come see him, but I was super busy, and before I could make travel arrangements, Mom told me that you had come, and everything was fine.”
“Did she tell you that Pete was there too?”
“She did, actually. I remember that.”
“Good, so then what you didn’t know was that Dad wasn’t actually sick. He had been affected by an artifact. It was Edgar Allan Poe’s pen, actually. Someone sent it to him,” Myka says. “He got better because Pete and Claudia and I neutralized the artifact.”
“So Poe’s notebook makes you seem sick?” Tracy asks.
“Well, that one’s kind of complicated, actually. It turns out it’s bifurcated, and when it’s combined with Poe’s pen, people can basically make Poe novels come to life, but we have both of those in the Warehouse now, so you don’t have to worry about that anymore.”
“Okay?” Tracy says. “I’ve got to say this all sounds a little weird. And still hard to believe.”
“I don’t know how else to explain it. I’ll ask Artie if I can send you some of my old cases when I get back, I guess, and maybe those will help you understand what’s going on,” Myka says. “Tracy, I know we have our differences, and those differences can be pretty big sometimes, but you’re my sister, and you’re the only person outside the Warehouse I really trust. I need you to believe me.”
Tracy sighs. “I’ll try.”
Myka doesn’t realize what exactly she’s done until she’s back at the B&B in the downstairs bathroom.
When she had decided that Tracy needed to know about the Warehouse, she had thought that it would all go well. She had never even thought about Tracy not believing her.
That’s not her biggest problem, though. She’s still planning to send Tracy some old cases, and she thinks that she’ll eventually find a way to make Tracy believe her. The real problem is that it’s starting to hit her that she’ll never be able to tell anyone else about the Warehouse ever again. The real problem with that is that Myka knows that she can never be in a serious relationship with anyone who doesn’t know about the Warehouse. Her job is just such a big part of her life that a relationship with someone who doesn’t know about it would lead to too much awkwardness and dishonesty. And given that she’s definitely not going to date Artie or Claudia or Steve, that means she either has to stay with Pete for the rest of her life or die alone, and she’s not sure she likes either of those options.
And then she starts crying.
She turns on the sink and splashes some water on her face, trying to keep it together. It feels weird to be crying over her love life of all things when she’s gotten so used to internalizing her emotions over the years.
She’s still crying when there’s a knock on the bathroom door.
“Myka?” Steve says on the other side of the door.
“I didn’t know you were here,” Myka says, trying and failing to hold back a sob.
“I just got back from doing inventory,” Steve says.
“And the others?”
“Artie’s still at the Warehouse, Pete and Claudia are out on a ping, and I think Abigail’s out grocery shopping,” Steve says. “Come on, I’ll make you some tea.”
Myka nods and opens the bathroom door. Neither of them says anything as they walk to the kitchen and as Steve makes her a cup of tea that smells kind of funky but tastes shockingly good.
“So I have to ask why you were crying now,” Steve says, sitting down across the table from Myka.
“Because I’m not in love with Pete,” Myka says, skipping to the most direct answer possible.
Steve gives her a blank look and then says, “Well, I can tell you’re not lying. Is this not being in love with Pete a new thing?”
“No, not really. I mean, I’ve never been in love with him, but I don’t think it really bothered me until today,” Myka say. “I, uh, told my sister about the Warehouse.”
“And what does your sister have to do with Pete?” Steve asks.
“Well, now she’s my One, so I can’t tell anyone else about the Warehouse,” Myka says. “And I can’t really date anyone who doesn’t know what I do, so basically now my only choices are to stay with Pete or end up alone.”
“And you’re sure that’s a problem?” Steve asks. “I know I’m just a bystander here, but to me, it does seem like you and Pete really love each other.”
“I do love him in a way,” Myka says. “It’s just… Steve, how do you feel about Claudia?”
“Like she drives me crazy, but she’s also the greatest thing ever to happen to me?”
“Yeah, that pretty much sums up me and Pete, and I’m starting to think that there won’t ever be anything more to our relationship.”
“I feel like I have to point out that he was in your defining memory.”
“And Claudia was in yours,” Myka says. “Pete’s my best friend and partner. He’s in a lot of my memories.”
“I guess I just thought the table picked that moment because it was when you fell in love with Pete, but I guess I was wrong.”
“No, trust me, the table picked that moment for a much more depressing reason.”
“You know you’re going to have to explain that, right?” Steve.
Myka sighs. “Okay, well, the table picked that moment because it couldn’t latch onto a memory I didn’t want to relive, and all my most important memories are too painful to relive when I know I’ll never have moments like that again.”
“Okay, that was still a little cryptic,” Steve says. “Also melodramatic. You’re going to need to explain a little more.”
“When the table was going through my memories, I could feel it pulling me into my this one particular moment, and I resisted it enough that it picked another moment, but I’m pretty sure that that first moment really was my defining moment,” Myka says. “How much has Claudia told you about her first case as an apprentice?”
“I heard something about college boys being weak and evil energy drink. I never got the full story,” Steve says.
“Well, Claudia and I were at this university, investigating some deaths on the wrestling team, and we ran into HG Wells.”
“Okay, I’ve barely met HG Wells, but I’ve heard enough to know plenty about her,” Steve says. “Is it true that her hair’s insured for 10,000 dollars?”
Myka laughs. “No. Claudia just likes making Mean Girls references.”
“That was Pete, actually,” Steve says.
“Oh. Of course it was,” Myka says. “Anyways, this was only the second time we had run into her, and the first time, she was breaking into the Escher vault, so I thought it was kind of suspicious that she was there. She said she was hunting down the artifact, but I was concerned that she was up to something, so I left Claudia to keep an eye on things and went to question HG. We were talking, mostly about her motives, and she was telling me about her daughter when the actual bad guy that week decided that he wanted to kill off the people who were getting in his way, and he sent this van to run us over. I completely froze, but HG just pulled out this grappling gun she had on her that, of course, she had made herself. God, it was like something out of the movies. She shot it at this building we were next to, I guess, though it all happened so quickly that I didn’t even realize what was happening, and she grabbed me and pulled me up into the sky. She saved my life.”
Steve smiles. “You just got a little misty-eyed. I take it that’s your actual defining moment?”
Myka shrugs. “Probably. I mean, before then, I thought I knew everything and that people fell into nice, predictable patterns. HG was the first person to truly surprise me. I suppose it doesn’t really matter anymore. I’m here, and she’s not, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
“And you didn’t want to think about that, so you made the table pick a memory about Pete.”
Myka shakes her head. “Not about Pete. I mean, yeah, we worked together on that case, of course, but mostly I think the table picked it because it was fun and benign. And I kicked some serious ass on that case too.”
“I do feel obligated to point out that you started dating Pete because of it.”
“Well, you were the one who suggested it,” Myka says.
“Yes, because I thought you were actually in love with him,” Steve says. “I get it, since dating isn’t exactly easy, but you probably shouldn’t have listened to me.”
“I guess I thought I could fall for him. And I thought it would be nice to fall for someone attainable, since my usual type is people I can’t have,” Myka says. “Even in high school, I had the biggest crush on the most popular guy in the school, though I have no idea what I saw in him, and then Sam was married, though I guess that one kind of worked out, and HG’s, well, you know, the father of science fiction. I seem to have a type.”
“So you were in love with HG?” Steve asks, a knowing smirk on his face.
“Yeah, I was in love with HG, for all the good that did me,” Myka says. “I mean, she was smart and beautiful and an amazing agent. Who wouldn’t fall for her?”
“Me,” Steve says. “Also pretty much everyone else here.”
“Fair point,” Myka says.
“Was she the first woman you fell for?”
“No,” Myka says. “She was the first one I fell for that hard, though. The rest were just unrequited crushes. They were all straight.”
“Been there,” Steve says. “All through high school, I had this hopeless crush on the head of the debate team, even though it was clear he was straight as an arrow.”
Myka smiles. “Good to know I’m not the only one with a hopeless high school crush.”
“So then do you think Pete’s in love with you?” Steve asks.
Myka shakes her head. “I don’t think so,” she says. “I’ve seen what Pete’s like when he’s really into someone, and that’s not how he acts around me.”
“A few days before you two got together, he did tell me he was in love with you, and he wasn’t lying,” Steve says.
“Yeah, but it’s Pete. He convinces himself of all sorts of things that aren’t true,” Myka says. “He even convinced himself that he’s a better shot than me.”
“Yeah, and that he’s better shot than me,” Steve says. “So are you going to break up with him?”
“What?” Myka says, because even though she knows she’s not love with Pete, she hasn’t seriously considered breaking up with him, at least not in the short term.
“Are you going to break up with Pete?” Steve says. “It seems like it would be the logical thing to do.”
“I don’t think so,” Myka says. “I mean, what if it does work out? What if I just have to give it a little more time?”
Steve shoots her a skeptical look. “Given that you were crying, I wouldn’t count on that happening.”
“I know,” Myka says. “I just hate giving up.”
She doesn’t break up with Pete. She thinks about it a few times, but she can never quite bring herself to do it. A big part of her still wants to think that she’ll find a way to fall in love with Pete over time, and even though she knows that that won’t actually happen, that part of her is insistent enough to stop her from breaking up with him. And anyways, she rarely ever even has a reason to think about the nature of her relationship with Pete, since most of the time, things between them are so normal. They hunt down artifacts and run into life-threatening situations on an hourly basis and snark at each other almost constantly, and it’s easy to forget that Pete’s her boyfriend, because they keep acting the same way they’ve acted for years.
And, of course, when Univille gets a comic shop, Pete makes her go visit it with him.
It’s a small store, and when they walk in, there’s a cheerful-looking woman standing behind the counter.
“Welcome to Univille Comics,” she says. “I’m Maria. Is there anything I can get for you?”
They walk towards the counter, and Pete’s eyes widen as he catches a glimpse of Maria’s arm. “Hello, Maria,” he says. “I’m Pete, and is that an Iron Shadow tattoo?”
“It is,” the woman says, a smile spreading across her face. “Best superhero ever.”
“I know,” Pete says excitedly. Myka rolls her eyes. “Oh, uh, sorry. My girlfriend isn’t really a big fan of superheroes. She doesn’t even know the difference between Marvel and DC.”
“Okay, that’s not true,” Myka says. “I know Marvel is the one with all the movies that you made me watch before the new Captain America movie came out. And, by the way, I could have died happily never having seen Thor.”
“Okay, which one’s Spiderman then?” Pete asks.
“DC?” Myka guesses.
“And there you have it,” Pete says.
“Hey, if you’re going to be one of those people who makes fun of people who don’t know enough about comics, you can leave right now,” Maria says.
“No, no, no, no,” Pete says. “I am totally cool with people wanting to learn more about comics. I just like making fun of this one.” He points at Myka.
“Good. I’ve just had too many guys here recently who decided they needed to test me to see if I really knew enough about comics,” Maria says. “It gets tiring.”
“Yeah, I can see how it would get tiring,” Pete says. “That’s really mean. Why would they do that?”
“Well, I imagine it’s because I’m a woman,” Maria says. “Some guys worry a little too much about the whole ‘fake geek girl’ thing.”
“Well, for the record, I have been waiting for ages to have a comic book store here, so mad respect,” Pete says.
Maria grins broadly, and she and Pete start an intense discussion of their favorite Iron Shadow adventures. They don’t leave the store for another two hours.
Things don’t get weird again until they’re in San Francisco working on a case where people are getting sucked into computers or at least something along those lines. Myka’s pretty sure that if Claudia were there, she’d understand more of the technical details, but Claudia keeps having meetings with Mrs. Frederic about the whole caretaker thing, leaving Myka and Pete to get this artifact. In any case, according to Artie’s research, the artifact is almost certainly the world’s first digital camera, and, thanks to some quick Googling, they’ve figured out what photography studio that camera now belongs to. The only thing that’s strange about the whole case is that the studio’s name sounds oddly familiar to Myka, even though she doesn’t know anything about photography.
It’s a fairly large studio, and when Myka asks the receptionist at the front desk about the first digital camera, the receptionist says, “Giselle would be the one to ask about that. Let me go get her.”
At the mention of the name Giselle, Myka gets a sinking feeling that she knows exactly why the name of the studio sounds familiar. And when the receptionist comes back with another woman, there’s no doubt that this woman is the Giselle. It takes a concerted effort for Myka to act naturally as she says, “Hello, I’m Agent Bering, and this is my partner Agent Lattimer. We’re here with the Secret Service.”
“Secret Service? To what do I owe the honor?” Giselle says, clearly surprised.
“There’s been a string of mysterious disappearances lately, and we think that one of the cameras your studio owns is involved,” Myka says.
“Wow,” Giselle says. “Usually mysterious disappearances are my girlfriend’s territory.”
“Your girlfriend?” Myka asks, and she knows she should be focusing on the camera, but now that Giselle’s mentioned her, all Myka wants do is ask about HG.
“Yes, I have a girlfriend,” Giselle says dryly. “I hope you don’t have any issues with that, because otherwise we’re going to have a problem here.”
“No, no, we’re totally cool with it,” Pete says. “It’s actually kind of…”
“Pete, if you say it’s hot, I swear on the grave of Tara Maclay that I will kill you,” Myka says, cutting him off.
Giselle smiles. “Buffy fan?” she asks.
“Yeah, it’s my favorite show, actually,” Myka says. “Are you a fan?”
Giselle shakes her head. “A lot of my friends really like it, so I get references to it, but I could never get into it. It’s a little too 90s for me. Anyways, you were asking about some disappearances?”
“Yes,” Myka says. “Um, actually, to follow up on what you said before, why do you think that mysterious disappearances are your girlfriend’s territory?”
“Oh, it’s just that she’s a forensic scientist with the police, so she’s usually the one who has to look at cases like this,” Giselle says.
“We’re going to need any information you can get on her,” Myka says, although she knows it isn’t relevant, because she can’t help but ask about HG.
“Okay, I guess,” Giselle says. “I don’t really see how it’s relevant.”
“We’re just trying to follow up on any possible leads. There could be a connection,” Myka says.
“Well, her name is Helena Lake, although I think she once mentioned that Helena’s actually her middle name. She goes exclusively by Helena, though, so I don’t know what her actual first name is. She moved here from Wisconsin within the last year, although she’s British originally. I think she once said she was born in London. You should probably be asking her all these questions if you really think there’s a connection. She works at the police station down the street from here, and I’m sure she’d be willing to talk to you.”
Myka nods. “Could you tell me about any of her hobbies or interests? Or any places she frequents?”
Giselle shrugs. “She volunteers at the library with me sometimes. She really likes to read, especially science fiction. Other than that, as far as I can tell, she doesn’t get out all that much. As I said, you should really be asking her all these questions.”
“Of course,” Myka says, although she has no plans to actually get HG involved, since that would just make everything more complicated. “So who at this studio has an interest in early digital photography?”
Giselle is helpful, albeit a bit snarky, and, frankly, she seems like a perfectly nice person, but Myka still spends the whole interview trying to act naturally and focus on the case while actually thinking a little too much about HG.
When they get back to the car, Pete asks, “So do you think the girlfriend was involved? Because I know you’re the observant one, but even I’m pretty sure that we should be following up with the guy who she mentioned has had an erratic work schedule lately.”
Myka nods. “Yeah, that guy’s definitely our top suspect.”
“Okay, then why did you keep asking about the girlfriend?”
“Okay, I know I don’t do it very much, but I actually am thinking now, and I’ve still got nothing.”
“Helena Lake. Do those names sound familiar?”
“Oh,” Pete says. “I guess HG moved to San Francisco recently. What’s the whole business with Helena being her middle name, though?”
“She’s probably still using the Emily Lake cover,” Myka says. “Emily Lake’s middle initial was H, so I guess it was easy enough for HG to go back to using her actual first name.”
“Okay, that makes sense,” Pete says. “And I guess the woman we just met is the Giselle. HG’s doing well.”
“HG’s doing well?” Myka asks, raising her eyebrows.
“Come on, even you had to notice that Giselle is super hot,” Pete says.
“Yes. Yes, she is,” Myka says half-heartedly, because, okay, Giselle is in fact pretty, but it still hurts to hear Pete sound so nonchalant about it.
“So do we go down and visit HG? Get her to help on the case?”
“No,” Myka says a little too quickly. “In Boone, she said she didn’t want to be involved with the Warehouse anymore. I can’t drag her into this. And, hey, we can totally get this artifact by ourselves.”
“Yep, we’ve got it,” Pete says. “I guess I just realized that I kind of missed having HG around now that she’s not evil. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m totally happy for her and Giselle, and I’d rather not have a trident situation, but even I have to admit that she was kind of cool to have around.”
Myka nods weakly and says nothing.
They snag the camera. One of Pete’s toenails gets pixelated in the process, but it grows back a few days later, so it’s not too big a deal, even if Pete complains bitterly about it on the plane ride home.
Even after they get back from San Francisco, though, Myka can’t stop think about HG, even moreso than usual. She can’t help but wonder if she should have gone and visited HG or asked Giselle more questions or, well, just done something more. It feels weird to have been that close to HG and to have done basically nothing about it.
She throws herself into work in the hopes that it will help her keep her mind off of things. There aren’t any pings for her to investigate, but there’s always inventory to do, and there’s a backlog of case files to go through, since Pete isn’t exactly great at filling them out properly. It keeps her busy.
She’s typing up some old files about a week after the camera case when Pete walks up to her and says, “Hey, Mykes, I have something I need to ask you, and it’s kind of weird, so just go with it.”
“What is it?” Myka says, not looking up from the computer.
“Are you a lesbian?”
Myka frowns and turns to look at him. “Pete, I’m dating you.”
“Yeah, but I could be a beard. That’s what they call it, right? A beard?”
“I’ve dated other men too, remember?” she says. “I’ve told you plenty about Sam.”
“Okay, so you’re definitely into dudes, then?” Pete asks.
“Yes, Pete, I am definitely ‘into dudes’ as you so eloquently put it.”
“Cool,” Pete says sounding a bit relieved. “I just had to ask, because Claudia had this weird theory about why you’ve been acting kind of mopey lately, but it doesn’t even make sense if you’re straight.”
“I never said I was straight,” Myka says, fiddling a bit with the hair tie on her wrist.
“Wait, but you just said you weren’t a lesbian.”
“That doesn’t mean I’m straight. A sexuality can exist even if it’s not mentioned on Glee, which I can’t believe you still watch, by the way.”
“Hey, that show does good song covers.”
Myka rolls her eyes. “If you say so.”
“So does this mean you’re bisexual, then?” Pete asks.
“Yeah, more or less,” Myka says.
“Wow,” Pete says. “I mean, obviously, I’m cool with it and everything, but how come you never told me?”
“I just don’t tell people about it,” Myka says. “The only other person I’ve told directly is Tracy.”
“Wait, are you ashamed of it? Because I will give you the ‘I love you no matter what’ speech.”
“No. God no, it’s nothing like that, and I don’t need the speech,” Myka says. “It’s just that there are people who will treat me differently because I’m bi, and I’d like to avoid that.”
“People like your dad?” Pete asks.
“Yeah, and most of the guys I used to work with,” Myka says. “It was bad enough that I wasn’t one of the boys. I didn’t want to see how they’d react to me coming out. I just got into the habit of not telling people I was bi.”
“Hey, whatever works for you,” Pete says. “And now I have to ask you another weird question, and I promise it’s because of Claudia’s theory.”
“Were you and HG Wells a thing?”
Myka frowns, although she knows what he’s getting at. “A thing?”
“Yeah, a thing. You know, like a girl-on-girl thing?”
“Are you asking if I had sex with HG Wells?” Myka says, only slightly incredulous.
“I don’t know. Maybe?” Pete says. “Oh God, did you have sex with HG Wells?”
“No, Pete, I did not have sex with HG Wells.”
“Okay, but, uh, did you want to?”
Myka sighs and figures she might as well tell the truth. “Yes. Yes, I did.”
“Wow,” Pete says. “No, I mean, that’s totally fine, and I totally get it, given that, you know, she’s hot and smart and all that stuff. I knew you guys were close, but… wow.”
“It’s not a big deal,” Myka says. “I was kind of interested in her when she was here, but she’s not here anymore, so it’s really not worth talking about.”
“Sure,” Pete says, although he sounds a bit skeptical. “By the way, Giselle’s a bitch.”
Myka frowns again. “What? No, Giselle was perfectly nice.”
“Come on, let me have this one,” Pete says. “You did the same thing for me with Amanda’s husband. I get to support you on this one.”
“It just doesn’t seem fair to Giselle,” Myka says.
“Hey, they say life’s not fair all over,” Pete says.
“Yeah. Yeah, I guess they do,” Myka says. “And it’s not like it’s really fair to basically paralyze people for eternity, which means that it’s not fair that HG and I even met, and it’s not fair that every time I’ve wanted to tell her about my feelings for her, she had to go be trapped in scary regent prison or… or go off and find herself in Wisconsin of all places.”
“Or destroy the world,” Pete says. “Don’t forget that one.”
“Yes, how could I forget that?” Myka says. “So, yeah, I guess it’s not fair that I kind of hate Giselle, but I do kind of hate her.”
“Yeah, and it’s totally unfair that the taco place raised all their prices last week. Life’s really not fair,” Pete says. Myka shoots him a look, and he says, “Hey, I’m being supportive here.”
“We were having a moment, and that moment wasn’t about tacos,” Myka says. “Do you ever stop thinking about food?”
“Uh, no,” Pete says.
Myka punches him lightly, just for good measure.
“Hey,” Pete says, rubbing his arm, even though the punch was light enough that Myka doubts he even felt it. “But seriously, if you ever want to talk about HG, I’m here.”
“I don’t,” Myka says, a little too abruptly. “There’s nothing really to talk about, and anyways, wouldn’t it be kind of weird to talk to my boyfriend about a former crush?”
“Yeah, I guess that’s a little weird,” Pete says. “It’s just, you know, sure, you’re my girlfriend, but I figure that you’re still Myka, and you still need a supportive best friend, so if you ever want to talk about things, I’m here.”
Myka raises an eyebrow, because she’s not actually sure if Pete can simultaneously be her boyfriend and her supportive best friend, but she just says, “Can we just not talk about my feelings for HG again ever?”
“Fine, fine,” Pete says. “That’s cool. We don’t have to talk. We can just… not talk. And maybe get tacos?”
“Ah, yes, tacos. The Pete Lattimer solution to life,” Myka says.
“Hey, I was the one who was willing to actually talk about things and you shot that down, so I figure if we’re not talking, we might as well get tacos,” Pete says.
“Fine, but I’m driving to the taco place,” Myka says. “And I get to pick the music in the car.”
“So demanding,” Pete says, but he hands her his car keys anyways.
Myka knows she shouldn’t be surprised when she sees Maria in the living room of the B&B, but she is.
She’s just come back from the library and has a large canvas bag of books slung over her shoulder when she spots Pete and Maria sitting in front of the living room TV, watching what appears to be a Batman cartoon. There’s nothing particularly strange about it. Myka hasn’t been back to the comic shop since the first time Pete dragged her there, but Pete goes regularly, and he talks about Maria enough that Myka knows she’s a part of his life. It’s not like Maria is a complete stranger to Myka either. They’ve never had a full conversation as far as Myka can recall, but Univille is small, and they’ve definitely waved to each other in the grocery store a few times.
Myka figures the reason it feels weird is that outsiders just don’t visit the B&B these days. Vanessa stops by sometimes, mostly to see Artie, since it appears that those two have finally worked things out and gotten back together, but she’s still affiliated with the Warehouse, and other than her, they don’t have guests. Tracy hasn’t even come for a visit, although now that she’s read enough case files to actually believe the Warehouse is real, she keeps promising to come out to Univille to see it. So, really, that’s all there is to it, Myka figures. It’s weird to see anyone who isn’t involved with the Warehouse at the B&B, even if it is just Pete hanging out with a friend.
Pete reaches into Myka’s bag as she walks past and pulls out the first book he can grab. “Time travel romance. Classy,” he says, skimming the back cover.
“Hey, this book has great reviews,” Myka says, snatching it back from him. “And I happen to like time travel romance.”
“I’m not judging,” Pete says. “I just always thought that Myka books were a little stuffier than that.”
“Well, the last time I saw you reading a novel, it was by Nicholas Sparks, so you’re so not one to judge,” Myka says.
“The Notebook is so sad,” Pete says.
Maria starts to giggle, and when Myka shoots her a look, she says, “Oh, I’m laughing at him, not at you.”
Myka smiles. “He is easy to laugh at, isn’t he?”
“You guys are mean,” Pete whines.
“The meanest,” Maria says, smirking at him.
“See if I watch old superhero cartoons with you again,” Pete says, and he stands up and dramatically sulks off into the next room.
“He’ll be back in a moment,” Myka says, sitting down on the couch, leaving space between her and Maria. “He just likes being a drama queen.”
“He’s really something, isn’t he?” Maria says.
“Something is… a word you could use to describe him,” Myka says.
“I meet a lot of nerdy guys who haven’t quite grown up, but most of them are just kind of pathetic. Pete’s different. He seems to genuinely enjoy his life,” Maria says. “You’re lucky to have him.”
“Yeah, I really am,” Myka says, and she means it. She might not be in love with him, but she doesn’t know what she’d do without him.
“So how long have you two been together?” Maria asks.
“Five years,” Myka says instinctively.
“Oh, wow,” Maria says. “None of my relationships have lasted anywhere close to that long.”
“Well, we haven’t been dating that long,” Myka says, realizing that she definitely needs to clarify. “We’ve only been together as a couple for a few months, but we’ve been partners at work for five years. I guess I’m just used to giving that number.”
“Ah. IRS, right?” Maria says. “I didn’t realize you guys partnered off. I always figured that was more of an FBI type thing.”
“Well, it’s always important to have someone who has your back when you collect taxes,” Myka says. “You never know what danger could be lurking.”
“Right. With that whole warehouse full of tax returns, I’m sure the paper cuts are legendary.”
“I’ll have you know that Pete has saved me from some very dangerous paper cuts,” Myka says, which is technically true. The first ever piece of printer paper had been shockingly difficult to neutralize.
“So you and Pete worked together for four or five years before you started dating? Was it one of those things where you always knew you would end up together?” Maria asks, and she sounds genuinely curious, but Myka really has no idea how to answer.
Fortunately, she’s spared from coming up with a way to explain that she’s only dating Pete because there’s no one else in her life who it would even make sense to date as Pete runs back into the room.
“So are we going to see how Batman defeats the Joker or what?” Pete says, plopping down on the couch between the two women.
“I thought you were never going to watch cartoons with me again,” Maria says.
“Yeah, but Gotham might not be safe, and I’m worried about that bus of adorable schoolchildren that’s about to drive off a cliff,” Pete says.
“I think this is my cue to go,” Myka says, standing up, and neither Pete nor Maria stops her as she walks upstairs.
And then something remarkable happens. HG comes back.
Myka’s jetlagged out of her mind when she first sees her, which is in and of itself unusual. She generally keeps a fairly normal sleep schedule and sleeps on planes when she’s traveling, so as long as she can get some coffee in the morning, she doesn’t have much trouble adjusting to whatever time zone she happens to be in. (And honestly, the coffee has more to do with her killer caffeine addiction, a holdover from her college days, than how much sleep she’s actually gotten.) Still, after the hunt for the latest artifact took them to Spain, India, and Alaska all in the space of one week, Myka has to admit that her body doesn’t know what time zone it’s in anymore, and when she wakes up at 5 AM and can’t fall back asleep, she figures she might as well get some breakfast.
She really isn’t expecting to see HG sitting at the kitchen table, eating eggs and looking even more breathtakingly gorgeous than Myka remembers.
“Myka!” HG says, suddenly beaming. “If I had known you would be up so early, I would have made more eggs. I’m afraid you’re on your own for coffee, though.”
“Don’t tell me you can’t figure out how a coffee pot works,” Myka mutters, and of all the things she could say to HG after not talking for a full year, she can’t believe that she started with something so mundane.
“No, I do have that technical skill,” HG says. “I, uh, couldn’t find the coffee beans.”
“Oh, I think they’re above the sink. Artie’s been mail ordering coffee, which is kind of weird, but it tastes good,” Myka says, shrugging slightly. Then, jumping in with the question she actually wants to ask, she says, “What are you doing here?”
“It appears that I have once again been reinstated as a Warehouse agent,” HG says.
“So you’re really back, then?” Myka asks, surprised. There’s nothing inherently strange about HG coming back, since everyone pretty much agreed that she fully redeemed herself after what happened with Sykes, but it’s a possibility that Myka hasn’t let herself think about. She had always figured that either HG didn’t want to come back or that the regents had enough reservations that they wouldn’t let her come back, so it wasn’t worth getting her hopes up.
“It appears so,” HG says. “You’re not upset, are you?”
“Why would you ask that?” Myka says, and she grabs the coffee out of the cupboard and starts to make some, mostly to keep herself from full on staring at HG for the rest of the conversation.
“I’m not sensing a lot of enthusiasm from you,” HG says.
“I’m just surprised,” Myka says. “I thought you were convinced that you needed to stay away from the Warehouse.”
“I was,” HG says. “Let’s just say that your visit a year ago put some things in perspective for me.”
“And Giselle?” Myka asks, and she sort of wants to follow up on HG’s comment about her visit, but she’s not ready to talk about Boone.
“How did you hear about her?” HG asks, but she doesn’t sound upset or even surprised.
“Ah,” HG says. “Then, I suppose you probably wouldn’t know that Giselle and I never intended to have a particularly long relationship. I told her when we first met that I moved frequently, and she was very understanding.”
“So what does that actually mean?” Myka asks, and she can feel her heart rate speed up, even though it’s not like HG possibly being single makes any real difference for her. “Did you and Giselle break up?”
“Yes. Quite amicably, actually. She still emails me cat videos,” HG says.
“Good,” Myka says before realizing that, even though she’s definitely happy that HG and Giselle broke up, she should probably say something a little more sympathetic. “I mean, it’s not good that you broke up, but it’s good that you two still get along. It sounds like things worked out well there.”
“I suppose they did,” HG says. “And how are things with you? Is Pete still a mediocre kisser?”
“What?” Myka says, almost dropping the bag of coffee beans she’s holding, because she was so not expecting that question.
“Is Pete still a mediocre kisser?” HG repeats. “It’s a relatively simple yes or no question.”
“I… how do you know about that?” Myka asks.
“Abigail,” HG says. “As you can imagine, given my track record, my reinstatement process was rather lengthy. One of the conditions was that I speak to Abigail on a regular basis. We’ve been talking for several months now.”
“And she told you about me and Pete,” Myka says.
“The topic came up,” HG says. “So. Is he still a mediocre kisser?”
“Pete’s… Pete’s fine,” Myka says, not sure how else to answer the question.
HG raises an eyebrow, but all she says is, “And how is everything else here?”
Myka shrugs. “It’s been pretty uneventful, actually. I guess the biggest news is that Claudia’s started training to be caretaker. Oh, and she briefly turned into a Disney princess.”
“I take it Disney’s paintbrush acted up again?” HG says.
“Not quite,” Myka says. “She didn’t literally turn into a Disney princess, but there was a bit of a crisis, and Claudia had to save her older sister by singing to her, so now Pete keeps calling her Princess Anna.”
“Princess Anna?” HG asks, clearly confused.
“She’s the main character in Frozen,” Myka says. “It’s, um, a Disney movie that came out this year.”
“Well, I have heard of Frozen,” HG says. “I realize that I am rather out of the loop when it comes to popular culture, but I’m not completely isolated from society. I can’t say I know all that much about this movie, though.”
“Claudia made us all go see it when it came out,” Myka says. “You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Artie cry over ‘Do You Want to Build a Snowman?’.”
HG raises an eyebrow, and Myka desperately tries to think of something to say to her. It’s the first time she’s found herself without anything to say to HG, and she desperately wishes their conversations could flow as naturally as they used to or at least be less horribly awkward.
Fortunately, she’s saved from coming up with something interesting to say as Claudia stumbles into the kitchen and says, “Please tell me there’s coffee. The world’s loudest bird has decided that my window is a great place to live.” Then, catching sight of HG, she says, “Oh, hey, HG. Seriously long time, no see.”
HG smiles, though not as broadly as she did when Myka came into the kitchen. “Claudia, lovely to see you. Or is it Princess Anna now?” she says.
“So you heard about that,” Claudia says.
Myka pours herself a cup of coffee and lets Claudia carry the conversation.
Pete goes to the comic shop that afternoon, and Myka decides to tag along. For one thing, Artie’s given them the day off, so she’s been at the B&B all day and is getting a little restless. And anyways, she figures she probably should be spending her day off with Pete, since he is her boyfriend after all.
Maria seems to be expecting Pete, which Myka supposes isn’t all that surprising, since, now that she thinks about it, she realizes that Pete comes to the shop around this time every week as long as they’re not away hunting some artifact. (The irregular work schedule is a definite downside to working at the Warehouse, even if Myka can’t imagine working anywhere else.) The moment Pete walks through the door, Maria smiles and grabs a comic book from behind the counter.
“Hey, I found that Superman issue you were looking for,” Maria says.
“Ooh, can I see it?” Pete says, walking over to the counter. Myka follows him, hanging back a few feet.
“What’s the magic word?” Maria says, holding the book just out of Pete’s reach.
“Expelliarmus?” Pete says.
“I was looking for ‘please’, but that’s acceptable,” Maria says, handing over the issue.
Pete takes the book and spends a minute flipping through it. Myka smiles weakly at Maria, figuring that suffices as a greeting.
“Yep, this is totally the one I was talking about,” Pete says. “You are awesome for finding this. I was starting to think I had made it up.”
“Well, I had a hell of a time finding it, so be grateful,” Maria says.
“I am so grateful,” Pete says. “Seriously, thanks for finding this. Have I told you recently that you are a beautiful person?”
“You might have mentioned it once or twice,” Maria says, flashing him a smile. Pete starts paging through the comic book again, and Maria turns to Myka and says, “You know, there’s some graphic novels in the back. They’re a bit more literary, since I know Pete’s said you’re more into that sort of thing.”
“Okay, I’ll take a look at those,” Myka says, and honestly, she’s not all that interested in graphic novels, but she’d rather not get pulled into a discussion about Superman.
She walks over the graphic novels section and begins to flip through a few. Some of them actually look pretty interesting, but after a few minutes, she starts to get bored and finds herself wandering off and looking at the Captain America merchandise of all things.
It’s funny, actually, that she stays in that section of the store so long, since she doesn’t have much interest in the Captain America merchandise itself. It’s not that she has anything against Captain America, but he’s one of Pete’s favorite superheroes, so Myka’s heard more about him than she ever really wanted to hear.
As she looks at the shelves, though, one question keeps coming to mind. She can’t help but wonder what it would be like to be frozen for decades and to wake up in a completely unfamiliar world.
Myka doesn’t know if she’s been avoiding HG or if HG’s been avoiding her or some combination of the two, but in any case, they’ve barely spent any time together since HG came back to the Warehouse. They see plenty of each other, of course, since they live in the same place, but Myka spends most of her time with Pete, and when he’s not around, she either sits in her room alone or spends time with Steve or Abigail or, well, anyone who isn’t HG, really. As for HG, she seems to be spending most of her time with Claudia, working on some invention that Myka decides not to ask about after the third time she hears a small explosion coming from HG’s room. It’s a good thing, Myka thinks. Claudia deserves to have someone around who shares her technical expertise.
The problem is that, although Myka doesn’t know exactly how she feels about everything that’s happened between her and HG, her first instinct every time she so much as catches a glimpse of HG is to push her against a wall and make out with her, which is a silly thought, since, even apart from the fact that things are complicated between her and HG, Myka already has a boyfriend. Part of her wants to get rid of this problem and break up with Pete and maybe even ask HG out and get the happy fairytale ending she’s wanted for so long. The larger, more rational part of her, however, knows that this idea is preposterous. There’s no reason for her to think that HG is interested in her, and even if she is, there’s also no way to know that she won’t leave again. Even in the best-case scenario, given their history, a relationship with HG will be messy, and Myka’s so tired of her life being messy. That’s the nice thing about dating Pete. Even if she knows she’ll never be in love with him, there’s something comforting about having a stable relationship with someone who she knows has her back. Giving that up for a woman who quite literally once shot her and left her for dead just seems foolish.
Of course, Myka doesn’t realize just how much they’ve been avoiding each other until Artie asks the two of them to investigate a ping, an uptick in alcohol poisoning at some women’s college in Massachusetts.
“Pete’s not coming?” Myka asks as soon as Artie’s done explaining the ping, because even though she knows that she and HG work well together, something about this just feels wrong.
“No, Pete’s not coming,” Artie says.
“Artie, you know that just because it’s a women’s college, that doesn’t mean they don’t allow men on the premises.”
“I know,” Artie says, clearly annoyed. “I thought it would be a kindness to Pete not to have to deal with an alcohol-related artifact.”
“Right, of course,” Myka says, because even though this whole situation is awkward, that is a fair point.
“Claudia and Steve have a ping of their own, so that leaves you two,” Artie says. “I trust this won’t be a problem.”
“I’m perfectly happy to be out in the field again working with Myka,” HG says.
“Good,” Artie says before Myka can say anything. “If there are any problems, deal with them. We don’t know how bad this artifact can get, and we need you in Massachusetts now.”
Myka nods and grabs the case files, handing one to HG, and hopes that his ping is resolved quickly.
They don’t talk much in the cab or at the airport. HG’s too busy making sure all her paperwork is in order so that airport security won’t be a problem, which makes sense, since said paperwork isn’t exactly legitimate. Myka’s learned that HG’s stopped using the Emily Lake credentials and now has faked up credentials that use the name Helena Wells, and Myka doesn’t even want to think about what the regents had to do to get those to seem legitimate. (She suspects that part of it involved Claudia hacking into a few government databases.) While HG sorts out her paperwork, Myka carefully reads the case file like she always does when she’s sent out on a ping and tries to ignore how awkward the whole situation is.
Once they get on the plane, though, HG turns to Myka and says, “So all the students affected by this artifact had excellent grades.”
“You were reading the case file,” Myka says, and she shouldn’t be surprised, but she is.
“Yes, believe it or not, it doesn’t take a full two hours to memorize the date of birth on my driver’s license,” HG says.
“Of course,” Myka says. “I just… Pete never actually reads the case files, so I’m not used to talking through them.”
“Well, I think it’s safe to say that I’m not Pete,” HG says.
“No. No, you’re not,” Myka says, nodding awkwardly.
“Myka,” HG says. “I asked you something when I first got back to the Warehouse. Given that we may very well be in a life-threatening situation together shortly, I’d like to ask it again.”
“Are you going to ask if Pete’s still a mediocre kisser again?” Myka says, and as she says it, she realizes that it sounds more hostile than she intended.
“Are you in any way unhappy that I’m back?” HG asks.
Myka sighs, knowing that a simple no isn’t enough of an answer. “Do we really have to have this discussion here on the plane?” she asks, trying to stall.
“Well, there are all these people around us,” Myka says, gesturing vaguely at the elderly woman sitting next to her.
“They all appear to be either asleep or wearing earbuds,” HG says. “I think we should be able to have this conversation undisturbed. And, as I mentioned, we could be in mortal danger shortly. Postponing this seems unwise.”
“Fine,” Myka says. “I’m not unhappy you’re back. I just… when you’re here, you make my life more complicated.”
“I do have a tendency to do that to people’s lives,” HG says, and she tries to play it off as a joke, but they both know it isn’t really.
“Before I came to the Warehouse, I wasn’t really close to anyone,” Myka says. “Most of the people I worked with didn’t really respect me, and I wasn’t particularly concerned with making friends. Then, I got transferred, and suddenly, I had this whole new family, really. I’ve spent most of the last five years figuring out how all these people fit into my life.”
“And you don’t know how I fit in,” HG says.
“No,” Myka says. “I don’t know if you fit in.”
HG’s face falls a little, but she doesn’t say anything, and Myka takes that as her cue to keep talking.
“I want you to be part of my life. I really do,” Myka says. “It’s just that every time I get my hopes up about that, you… you get turned into a hologram or run off to Wisconsin or… or something, and, frankly, that sucks for me.”
HG nods. “I can understand why you would feel confused.”
“Confused isn’t really what I’m feeling,” Myka says. “Betrayed is more like it.”
“I can understand that too,” HG says.
“It’s just that you’re the most incredible person I’ve ever met, and I know that you’re a good person, I always have, but whenever you’re around, it seems to end badly for me,” Myka says. “By now, I’ve come to terms with the fact that you’ve been letting me down, well, technically since I was ten and certainly since we first met and you almost teslaed Pete, and I was so angry that one of my favorite authors could do something like that.”
“Since you were ten?” HG says. “I’d like to know how I managed that, since I believe I was immobile at the time.”
“War of the Worlds,” Myka says. “Did the Martians really need to have tentacles?”
HG actually laughs at that. “Did the tentacles really bother you all that much?”
“I had nightmares for a week,” Myka says. “I really don’t like tentacles.”
“Well, I can assure you had I known about your phobia when I was writing it, I would have left out the tentacles,” HG says. “As for your other complaints, I can apologize and promise not to let you down again, but I’m afraid that wouldn’t do either of us much good at this point. I think we’ve already established that I’m not terribly reliable. All I can say is that you mean a great deal to me, moreso than anyone else I’ve met in this century, and I would very much like to be a part of your life if you’d let me.”
Myka sighs, and, even if she’s not quite sure what will happen with her and HG or even what she wants to happen with her and HG, she knows that she can’t keep shutting HG out. “I think I can handle that. We should try to be friends,” she says, even though friends has never been an adequate word to describe what they are.
“Good,” HG says. “So. Where do we start?”
“Well, there is a ping for us to worry about,” Myka says. “I hear that this time, I’m partnered with someone who’s actually read the case file.”
“Right,” HG says. “And once again, Bering and Wells are on the case.”
Myka smiles. “I thought it was Wells and Bering.”
HG smirks back at her. “I’m feeling generous.”
They split up when they get to campus. HG goes to the hospital to check on the victims, while Myka goes and talks to their doormmates. As it turns out, it’s not all that difficult a case. Myka sees a very antique-y looking glass sitting out on the desk of a clearly struggling student, and when she asks the student about it, the student grabs the glass and takes off running, which might as well be a confession of guilt. The bad news is that the student in question happens to be a track star, and Myka can’t quite catch up to her. Fortunately, the student winds up heading in the direction of the hospital, and HG is able to corner her in an alley. (Myka has never been more grateful that Claudia got HG’s tracker technology to interface with their farnsworths.) HG teslas the girl, and Myka, slightly out of breath, grabs the artifact and drops in a bag, setting off a large shower of sparks.
As Myka takes off her gloves, HG smiles and turns towards her, her tesla still out, and, just for a moment, pointed at Myka.
“Oh,” HG says, quickly glancing at her tesla and tucking it into the pocket of her coat. “It appears that once again, we have found ourselves standing at gunpoint.”
Myka laughs weakly. “At least you didn’t shoot me this time.”
“It seems we’re making progress already,” HG says. Myka smiles weakly, and after a short pause, HG says, “Myka, I know that we didn’t actually work together much on this case, but I hope you still mean what you said about having me as part of your life.”
“I do,” Myka says. “We should spend more time together. Well, if Artie ever lets us have free time.”
“And what do you propose we do with this time?”
“Well, what do you do with your free time now?” Myka asks, realizing that, even though she remembers their conversations very clearly and she remembers the artifacts they found together, she can barely remember exactly what she and HG had done together when HG had been at the Warehouse together.
“Claudia and I have a few projects going,” HG says. “And I’m trying to get back into writing, although I’m afraid nothing I’ve written lately will ever help define a genre. Honestly, I seem to spend most of my time educating myself about modern pop culture.”
“Educating yourself about modern pop culture?” Myka asks.
“Pete and Claudia have given me a list of movies and TV shows they believe I must watch,” HG says. “I’ve slowly been working my way through it.”
“Okay, well, we can use that as a starting point. We could pick something off that list, or even better, I could add something to that list, and we could watch it together,” Myka says.
“Do you have anything particular in mind?” HG asks.
“There’s a show that started airing when I was in high school called Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Myka says. “My dad didn’t let us watch TV, but Tracy liked to sneak into the den and watch whatever was on whenever he wasn’t home. I tended to turn a blind eye to it, since I didn’t want to get in trouble, and most of the shows she watched were terrible anyways, but we’d watch this show together. I think you’d like it.”
HG frowns. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer? That’s a horrible name for a TV show.”
“It’s better than it sounds,” Myka says, and for a moment, she starts to worry that HG won’t want to watch it or won’t like it and that they really don’t have anything to connect over anymore.
Instead, HG just smiles. “Well, I hear you have impeccable taste. I’d love to watch it.”
They drop the artifact off at the Warehouse and then hurry back to the B&B before Pete can rope them into helping with inventory. Myka sets up the DVD in Pete’s room, because she figures that being his girlfriend should entitle her to use his flat screen whenever she wants. (Okay, maybe that argument works a little less well when she’s using it to watch something with a woman who she’s still kind of really attracted to, but still. She gave Pete that TV in the first place. She’s totally entitled.)
HG looks pensive as they watch the first episode, and Myka isn’t sure what to make of it. After all, now that she thinks about it, there’s no reason for HG to like Buffy. She didn’t go to an American high school, and she knows a lot more about 1897 than 1997. Still, Myka takes it as a good sign when they get to the end of the first episode, and HG says, “Well, we can’t stop there.”
Pete gets back to the B&B in the middle of the second episode, and he stands in the doorway of his room smiling at them for a minute. Myka asks if he wants to join them, but he just shakes head and heads back downstairs, which Myka figures is just as well.
When they get to the end of the second episode, Myka can’t help but ask HG how she likes it. What HG says is “So this aired while you were in high school?”
Myka nods. “It did.”
“So does this mean that you dressed like that?” HG asks.
“Maybe a little,” Myka admits.
HG chuckles. “Now that’s an image I’d like to keep in mind.”
“It was the 90s,” Myka says. “Everyone dressed like that.”
HG chuckles and then says, “Apart from the atrocious fashion, I thought that was quite good. I’m glad you introduced me to it.”
“Good,” Myka says, smiling. “I’m glad you liked it.”
There’s an awkward silence, and Myka isn’t sure what to do. She thinks idly about pressing play on the next episode, but it’s late, and Pete will surely want his room back sooner or later.
Fortunately, HG breaks the silence, saying, “Now that we’re finally speaking to each other again, I have to ask. How have you been in the past year?”
Myka shrugs, because she can’t lie and say that she was good, but she’s not sure what she is supposed to say. Finally, she blurts out, “I had a cancer scare.”
“Oh,” HG says. “Abigail mentioned something about you having surgery, but I didn’t know that’s what it was for.”
“It was fine,” Myka says. “The tumor was benign. It was just a bit rough at the time.”
“I’m sorry I wasn’t there,” HG says.
“You didn’t know,” Myka says. “I would have called you if things had gotten worse. I, um, I missed you.”
For a moment, Myka thinks that HG is going to point out that she could have called her anyways, but instead HG just smiles weakly at her.
And that’s when Pete comes back upstairs and asks to have his room back.
The Buffy-watching sessions become a regular occurrence, and, remarkably enough, Pete doesn’t even complain that they keep barging into his room and using his TV. He joins them sometimes, but mostly, he hangs out downstairs or at the Warehouse until they’ve left his room. It’s nice getting to spend time alone with HG, even she knows that nothing romantic will happen between them, since she’s, well, at least complacent about dating Pete. She’s not sure exactly what HG is to her, since friends still feels like such an inadequate word to describe their relationship, but at least they’re something.
(Myka also notices that whenever she mentions some book or movie she likes, it gets moved to the top of HG’s list. She actually fist pumps when she sees HG reading a Tamora Pierce novel and then immediately regrets it, because the fact that she’s fist pumping is a definite sign that Pete’s mannerisms are rubbing off on her.)
“So I’m writing a book,” Myka says one day as an episode’s end credits roll in front of them. It’s the last episode on the disc, and she really should go set up the next DVD, but Pete’s comforter is really warm, and she doesn’t particularly want to move.
“Oh?” HG says.
“I’m not very far in,” Myka says. “It turns out writing is hard. Or, well, you might not think so, since you’re, you know, a famous writer, but it’s been hard for me.”
HG smiles. “Believe me, it’s frequently hard for me too. I think I’ve mentioned a few times that everything I’ve written lately has been rather mediocre,” HG says. “So what’s your book about?”
“It’s about this library where all the books have magical properties related to their contents. The story’s about this woman who works for the library and travels around the world trying to collect these magical books,” Myka says, realizing just how silly it sounds now that she’s describing it out loud.
“Ah,” HG says. “Well, then, I suppose I’m particularly well suited to help you. You already know that most of my novels were based on my other work.”
“Ah, yes, HG Wells is so famous for writing autobiographical novels,” Myka says.
“And for having a moustache,” HG says.
“Don’t grow a moustache. It wouldn’t look good on you,” Myka tilting her head to the side as if considering how a moustache would look on HG’s (very, very nice-looking) face.
“Oh, well, I was going to grow one, but now that you say that, I won’t,” HG says.
Myka chuckles. “Anyways,” she says. “I don’t really have any particular writing questions right now, but I figure that since you’re kind of famous for writing novels, it would be nice if I could sometimes ask you for advice as I work on mine.”
“Of course,” HG says. “I will have to ask some questions about this novel first, though, so I can properly prepare to help.”
“Sure,” Myka says. “What questions did you have?”
“In your novel, is Jules Verne secretly a woman and a former librarian?” HG asks.
“I was going to make up a Victorian author, actually,” Myka says, because she’s been planning on including a character loosely based on HG in her novel from the start.
“You know, you could always use HG Wells,” HG says. “Just as long as I get to be suitably badass.”
Myka smiles. “I may just take you up on that offer. Well, at least I’ll try my best to make you badass. I’m not really up to that part yet. Right now, I’m mostly writing about the main character’s friendship with another librarian she works with.”
“Let me guess. He’s a bit immature and dorky and really fond of comic books,” HG says.
Myka just nods and can’t help but feel a little embarrassed by just how much of her book she’s ripping from her real life.
“So, at the end of your novel, does your heroine fall in love with this dorky fellow librarian?”
Myka shrugs. “I hadn’t really thought about including any romantic subplots, actually.”
She barely lets herself consider, and certainly doesn’t mention out loud, that it might not be a terrible ending for the heroine to fall in love with the Victorian author.
HG’s been back at the Warehouse for well over a month, but she still doesn’t have a regular partner. She teams up with Steve sometimes when Claudia’s busy with caretaker training or on a case with Artie (because at least they can all agree that putting HG and Artie alone on a case together would end in bloodshed), but mostly she just tags along with Myka and Pete. It works out shockingly well, actually. Myka likes working with both of them, and Pete and HG seem to actually be getting along, and HG has good insights about their cases, so the three of them make a pretty good team.
They’re in San Francisco when Pete gets whammied by the first needle ever used to administer the smallpox vaccine, and fortunately, HG is able to whip together a cure in time for them to have a few hours free before their flight home.
“So. Who wants to get food?” Pete asks, surprisingly perky given that he had a fatal illness less than an hour ago. (Then again, maybe it’s not all that surprising, since they’re all pretty much used to having near death experiences at this point.)
“We had lunch a few hours ago,” Myka says.
“Yeah, but I’m hungry,” Pete says. “Plus, there’s a really good burrito place around here.”
“Really? You found the time to look up good burrito places while you were dying of smallpox?” Myka asks.
Pete shrugs. “Maria texted me about it.”
“Maria texted you about a burrito place in San Francisco?”
“Yeah, I told her I had a business trip, and it turns out she used to live here,” Pete says. “What? I can make friends who share my love of Mexican food.”
“Of course you can,” Myka says. “Go. Have your burritos.”
“You’re not going to come with me?” Pete asks.
“I’m not hungry,” Myka says, and she knows that if she were a better girlfriend or partner or something she’d go with him, but she’s not exactly enthused by the thought of watching Pete eat burritos all afternoon. “Meet back here in two hours?”
“Fine, fine,” Pete says. “HG, you want to come with?”
“I think I’ll take a pass on this one,” HG says. “I’m not a big fan of burritos.”
“Hey, your loss. You two are the ones missing out on some excellent burritos,” Pete says, turning to go. Myka rolls her eyes.
“So what do you want to do with the next two hours?” Myka asks HG once Pete’s left. “We can probably find a coffee shop around here.”
“Actually, uh, Giselle lives very close to here,” HG says.
“Right, Giselle,” Myka says, and she still can’t help but have a negative reaction to Giselle’s name, even though she knows it’s silly.
“I would like to see her,” HG says.
“Yeah, you should go visit her. I know you two are still on good terms,” Myka says. “I’ll just go find a coffee shop by myself.”
“I was actually going to invite you along,” HG says.
“Oh. Are you sure?” Myka asks, and she’s not sure if she really wants to see Giselle again, but at the same time, she can’t help but be curious about how HG and Giselle interact.
“Yes,” HG says. “I’d like you two to meet.”
“I, um, I’ve actually met her before,” Myka says, and it’s not like she’s necessarily been trying to hide that from HG, but she’s never had any reason to mention it. It’s not like they ever really talk at length about Giselle.
“Ah. Well, that explains the time Giselle told me that she had been questioned at work by some Secret Service agents who asked about me,” HG says. “I was wondering if the Warehouse was involved.”
“I only asked a few questions about you,” Myka says, which is at least kind of true. “We were looking for one of the cameras she was responsible for.”
“Of course,” HG says. “And how much did she find out about you?”
“Not much,” Myka says. “She knows that I’m in the Secret Service and that I work with Pete. I think I mentioned my name, but I don’t know if she’d remember it.”
“Does she know that you and I know each other?”
Myka shakes her head. “I only asked about you because she made a comment about her girlfriend. It seemed reasonable to follow up.”
“Right, then,” HG says. “I suppose this could be interesting.”
Myka silently agrees.
When Giselle opens her door and sees Myka and HG, her first words are “Helena, please tell me this isn’t what it looks like.”
“What does it look like?” HG asks, and Myka can’t help but think that she actually sounds a little amused.
“It looks like you’re in trouble with the Secret Service,” Giselle. “Or at least you’re spending time with someone who looks an awful lot like the Secret Service agent who questioned me a few months ago. Agent Bering, right?”
Myka nods. “You can call me Myka.”
Giselle turns back to HG. “Right. So what are you and Myka doing here?”
“Would you believe that we’re colleagues now?” HG asks.
“In a word, no,” Giselle says. “She works for the Secret Service, and you’re not an American citizen, so that one’s hard to believe.”
“Then, can I just say we were in town and wanted to visit?”
“I’d buy that, though it still doesn’t explain how you know her,” Giselle says. “If you’re here to visit, you might as well come in.”
Myka and HG walk into Giselle’s apartment, which is actually fairly nice, and settle down next to each other on Giselle’s living room couch. Giselle sits down in an armchair across from them.”
“You know, Helena,” Giselle says, “If you have a new girlfriend, you can just tell me.”
“Good to know, but I’m afraid I’m currently single,” HG says.
“Really?” Giselle asks in a flat tone of voice.
“I know, you would think a charming and attractive woman like myself would be able to find someone, but alas, here we are,” HG says, smirking slightly.
Giselle chuckles. “Actually, I was going to say that Myka here kind of looks like she’s your new girlfriend,” she says.
“Trust me, I’m just a good friend,” Myka says.
“Yes,” HG says. “Myka has a boyfriend, actually.”
“I do,” Myka says. “Um, you’ve met him, actually. My partner Pete?”
“The one you threatened to kill when he was about to say that Helena and I were hot?” Giselle asks.
HG shoots Myka a confused look, and Myka tells her, “Yeah, Giselle mentioned having a girlfriend, and Pete, well, you know what guys can be like.”
“Neanderthal-like?” HG says.
“Exactly,” Myka says. “He, uh, didn’t know that the girlfriend in question was you.”
“Right,” HG says.
“So then you two definitely aren’t together?” Giselle says.
“That is correct,” HG says.
“Sorry, I guess I’m just not as good at reading body language as I thought,” Giselle. “In my defense, you two are sitting really close to each other.”
Myka’s suddenly aware that she and HG are, in fact, sitting right next to each other, so close that their legs are brushing, although there’s plenty of room on both sides of them.
“Giselle, could I use your bathroom?” Myka asks, suddenly feeling horribly awkward about the whole situation.
“Of course,” Giselle says. “It’s right through the kitchen. I’m going to make some tea. Helena, you still like earl grey, right?”
HG nods, and Myka gets up to go to the bathroom.
HG apparently follows Giselle into the kitchen, because Myka can hear them talking from the bathroom.
“In all seriousness, how do you know Myka?” Giselle says. “I’m really hoping you’re not in trouble with the Secret Service.”
“I’m not,” HG says. “At least not at this moment in time. We really are colleagues.”
“Okay, then, how does that work?” Giselle says. “I know detailed explanations aren’t really your thing, but since I’m pretty sure you’re still not a US citizen, I’m going to need a few more details before I can even think about believing you on this.”
“Well, I can’t tell you exactly what I do,” HG says. “What I can say is that I’m part of a group that works with a few different government agencies. The Secret Service is one of these agencies.”
“And this is the super secret job in South Dakota that you left me for?” Giselle says. “I assume that you were in fact telling the truth about it being in South Dakota.”
“It is indeed,” HG says. “It’s a rather boring state, I’m afraid, but I like that job.”
“Yeah, I can imagine South Dakota would be boring after San Francisco,” Giselle says. “I guess there’s a bunch of national parks out by there, if that interests you.”
“I can’t say it does,” HG says. Well, I did go to Yellowstone once, but it was a bit of a rough trip. I’m not eager to go back.”
Myka chokes back a laugh, since she’s pretty sure that that comment about Yellowstone is the understatement of the year.
“I’m guessing this isn’t just a case of a bear eating your snack food, and I’m also guessing that I really don’t want to ask about what actually did happen,” Giselle says.
“You’d be right on both counts,” HG says.
“You really are the most mysterious woman I’ve ever met,” Giselle says. “I think it’s safe to say that I’ve spent a fair bit of time with you, but I feel like I barely know you at all.”
“Well, I do believe the mystery is part of my charm,” HG says, and Myka can almost hear her smile.
“Yeah, yeah, keep telling yourself that,” Giselle says.
For a few seconds, Myka can’t hear anything from the kitchen other than the sound of someone closing a cupboard, and then she hears Giselle sigh.
“I do understand that you can’t tell me anything about what you’re doing in South Dakota, but are you at least happy there?” Giselle asks.
“I am,” HG says. “If I’m being perfectly honest, I’d have to say that I think it’s the only place I’ve ever truly belonged.”
“I’d be offended, but I always knew you didn’t quite fit in here,” Giselle says. “I’m really happy for you.”
When they get home that evening, Artie and Pete rope Abigail into having a classic Doctor Who marathon with them. They beg Myka and HG to join them too, but since the marathon is in the living room (thanks to Artie’s pickiness about what armchairs he likes to sit in), Myka and HG decide to take advantage of the fact that Pete’s room is free and head upstairs to watch Buffy.
(“You know, you probably do need to watch Doctor Who one of these days,” Myka says as they walk up the stairs.
“I know. Apparently, in this century, it’s obligatory for every British person to watch Doctor Who,” HG says. “Giselle’s friends asked me about it frequently.”
“I was actually going to say because it’s one of the most famous shows about time travel, and you came up with the idea of time machines in the first place,” Myka says. “Also, I think you’re actually in a few episodes.”
“You mean Charles in a few episodes?”
“Well, the character is called HG Wells.”
“Somehow, I doubt it’s an accurate portrayal.”)
Pete kicks them out of his room in the middle of an incredibly suspenseful episode, and they both agree that they absolutely can’t stop there, and they don’t really want to go back downstairs, so they relocate to Myka’s room.
“Can I ask you something a bit personal?” HG says as Myka pulls her blankets over the two of them and makes sure her laptop is arranged so they can both see the screen. (It’s not a flat screen TV, but it will do in a pinch.)
“Sure,” Myka says. “What is it?”
“Why Pete?” HG asks.
“Why Pete what?” Myka says, and it’s not like she doesn’t know what HG’s asking, but she’s not really sure if she’s ready to have this conversation.
HG gives her a pointed look. “I think we both know what I was asking, but since you seem to feel the need to make me ask the whole question, I’ll do it. Why are you dating Pete?”
Myka doesn’t say anything for a few seconds, trying to think of a better answer than ‘because you weren’t here.’ Finally, she settles on, “He’s just always been here for me.”
“Fair enough,” HG says. “It’s just that when Abigail told me that you and Pete were together, I thought that something had fundamentally changed between the two of you, since you had seemed markedly uninterested in each other before. Now that I’m here, though, it seems like you two are the same as ever.”
“Well, there’s more kissing now,” Myka says.
“And more of other activities in that vein, I’d imagine,” HG says.
“Yes,” Myka says decisively, hoping it will end that line of conversation, because she’s so not talking to HG about having sex with Pete.
There’s a brief pause, and then HG asks, “Do you love him?”
“Of course,” Myka says instinctively, and it’s not even a lie, because she does love Pete dearly, just not the way she should.
“You do?” HG says, and her voice is even, but Myka thinks she almost sounds a bit surprised.
“Well, yeah,” Myka says. “He’s always been my best friend.”
“Ah,” HG says. “Well, anyways, I suppose we should get back to seeing if Sunnydale is still in danger.”
Myka nods and hits play, but as she look back at HG, she can’t help but think that HG knows the exact nature of her relationship with Pete.
They must have fallen asleep in the middle of the episode, because when Myka wakes up the next morning, her laptop is still at the foot of the bed, and HG is lying next to her. Their faces are inches apart, and Myka can’t help but think about kissing her, which, given that she still has a boyfriend, is something she really shouldn’t be thinking about.
Still, it’s hard not to notice how beautiful HG is when she’s lying so close to her. Her hair’s shockingly nice, given that it’s just been slept on, and even though it’s a bit messier than usual, Myka’s pretty sure that as soon as HG wakes up, she’ll do that thing where she pushes her hair back once and it all falls perfectly, which is really just unfair. Hair should not be able to do that.
After the minute it takes to process exactly what’s going on and to remind herself that obsessing over HG’s hair is probably not a good thing to be doing, Myka decides that HG probably shouldn’t be in her bed, which means that she should wake HG up. She shakes her once gently and twice slightly less gently. After the third shake, HG wakes up, muttering under her breath and looking as if she absolutely did not want to be woken up until she sees Myka, at which point she snaps to attention.
She sits up and pushes her hair back (which, of course, makes it fall perfectly) and says, “I did not expect to wake up here.”
“I think we fell asleep while we were watching Buffy,” Myka says, slowly sitting up herself.
“I imagine we would remember if we had been doing anything else in this bed,” HG says. Her tone of voice is completely serious, and in her uncaffeinated state, it takes Myka a moment to realize what she’s implying.
“No, no, I would never,” Myka says. “I mean, I have a boyfriend. I wouldn’t cheat on him.”
“Right, of course not,” HG says. “I probably should go.”
A stupid, irrational part of Myka that’s still processing just how beautiful HG looks in the morning want to tell her to stay, but instead, she just nods and watches as HG walks out the door.
The thing is that there’s nothing to feel guilty about or at least nothing new to feel guilty about. Myka knows that having feelings for someone other than her boyfriend is a problem, but it’s been a problem for a long time, and anyways, she figures it’s not too big a problem if she’s doing everything in her power not to act on her feelings. (It’s only now that she has to actively work not to flirt with HG that she realizes just how much they used to flirt.) And anyways, having HG wake up in her bed for completely innocuous reasons really shouldn’t be a big deal. After all, it’s not the first time she’s had a friend fall asleep in her room, since one of the things that comes along with living in close quarters with everyone at the Warehouse is that they all spend plenty of time in each other’s rooms. Pete had fallen asleep in her room plenty of times long before they had even thought about dating each other, and Claudia’s fallen asleep in there a few times too.
Still, Myka can’t help but feel unbearably guilty.
“So I have discovered that there is a gay bar a few miles from here, and according to their website, tonight they are having something called a karaoke night,” HG says at breakfast one morning. “I thought some of us might like to attend.”
“HG Wells doing karaoke at a gay bar? This is priceless. I am so in,” Claudia says. “Jinksy, you’re coming.”
“What? No. I hate singing in public,” Steve says.
“You did a cappella in college,” Claudia says.
“College a cappella does not count as singing in public,” Steve says.
“Come on. Have some fun, hit on some guys, and maybe sing a duet with your BFFE?” Claudia says. “I’ll even be the designated driver.”
“Oh good,” HG says. “I do hate driving.”
“Yeah, I’m sure someone like you would have so much trouble figuring out cars,” Pete says, his voice slightly muffled by the large bite of breakfast in his mouth.
“It’s not the cars that are the problem. It’s the drivers,” HG says. “They’re always so rude. And they never remember their turn signals.”
“So are you two in?” Claudia asks, turning to Pete and Myka.
“I think I should sit this one out,” Pete says. “You know, I wouldn’t want to devastate all the guys when they find out I have a girlfriend.”
“Why are you so convinced that gay guys are interested in you?” Steve says. “I swear you’re as bad as that kid from Teen Wolf who keeps asking if gay guys find him attractive.”
Myka giggles. “I’m sorry. I just find it hilarious that you watch Teen Wolf.”
“Blame Claudia,” Steve says.
“Hey, that show is way better than it sounds,” Claudia says.
“No, actually, it really isn’t,” Steve says.
“So, Myka, are you coming?” HG says, cutting off Claudia and Steve’s debate.
“If Pete’s not going, I probably should stay here with him,” Myka says.
“Don’t worry about me,” Pete says. “You should totally go, Mykes. Make some ladies jealous.”
HG’s facial expression changes slightly at Pete’s last comment, and Myka doesn’t even want to think about what that means.
“Sure you’ll be fine here?” Myka asks Pete.
“Yeah, I can totally get Artie here to tell me fascinating stories about the Warehouse,” Pete says, slapping Artie on the back.
“Don’t do that,” Artie says. “And no, you can’t. I have a date with Vanessa tonight.”
“Okay, then I’ll ask Maria to hang out,” Pete says. “She’s way cooler than you guys anyways.”
“You’re just saying that saying that because she doesn’t get sick of watching superhero movies with you,” Myka says.
“Well, duh,” Pete says. “That’s, like, the definition of coolness, and she is way ahead of you guys.”
“Dude, I’ve watched Captain America with you, like, four times in the past month,” Claudia says.
“Okay, she’s ahead of all of you but Claudia,” Pete says.
“I take it this means that Myka is, in fact, coming with us?” HG asks.
“Yeah, I guess I’m in,” Myka says. “Just don’t make me sing.”
HG smiles. “I’m not sure I can hold you to that.”
Claudia, unsurprisingly, gets very into karaoke night. She goes up and sings as often as she can, and she sounds great each time, which is to be expected since she’s been performing at open mics for a few years now. She even manages to get Steve to do a duet with her after he’s had a few drinks, and he only looks slightly like he’s contemplating murder as he sings with her.
It’s HG, though, who’s truly mesmerizing when she sings. It’s not that she sings all that well, since in fact her voice is best described as decent, or that she picks particularly good songs to sing, since she pretty much exclusively sings terrible 80s pop music (which Myka figures reflects HG’s knowledge of modern music, given that Pete is constantly playing it at the B&B). There’s something captivating about the way she performs, though. She seems to feed on the attention she gets from the people watching her, and Myka can’t help but notice just how many people pay attention when HG performs. And when HG winks at a cute redhead as she finishes up her song, Myka can’t help but feel just a bit jealous, even if there’s no real reason she should feel jealous.
“I feel like I should be the one singing ‘Tainted Love’,” Myka says as HG sits back down at their table, and it’s so not the time to be thinking about what happened at Yellowstone, but she’s always been kind of a bitter drunk.
“Troubles with Pete?” HG asks, raising an eyebrow.
“No, nothing like that,” Myka says, realizing just how much she shouldn’t have made that first comment. “You know, let’s just pretend I didn’t say that.”
“Right, I’ll drop the subject,” HG says. “So are you planning on performing for us?”
“No,” Myka says. “I don’t sing unless under duress.”
“Should I have brought Fosse’s top hat with us?”
Myka laughs. “Probably not a good idea. Didn’t you almost jump into a giant fire when you were whammied by it?”
“Yes, I suppose that one does have a rather nasty downside,” HG says. “I’ll just have to rely on my excellent powers of persuasion, then.”
“Good luck with that,” Myka says. “I don’t like embarrassing myself in public.”
“Ah, yes, as Warehouse agents, we’re careful never to embarrass ourselves in public. Dropping perfectly ordinary objects in shiny bags and then ducking only to realize that they weren’t artifacts anyways and let out no sparks is a perfectly normal thing to do,” HG says.
“Okay, but that’s for work,” Myka says. “I prefer not to extend the humiliation to my off hours.”
"Well, have it your way if you like, but it seems to me that if you stick to your comfort zone, you’re bound to miss out on some great experiences,” HG says.
Myka snorts. “It seems to me that you get annoyingly philosophical when you’re drunk.”
“Well, whatever it takes, darling,” HG says, smirking ever so slightly.
Myka doesn’t wind up singing, which is just as well by her. She really doesn’t like singing, and anyways, it’s more fun to just watch Claudia and especially HG sing. Plus, frankly, it’s nice to sit around and have a few drinks, and she hasn’t done that in a while, since she makes a point of not drinking in front of Pete.
“Okay, that was awesome, and we are so going back next month,” Claudia says as she drives them home, and Myka’s pretty sure she’s speeding, but she’s too drunk to care. “Like five different women offered to buy me drinks, which obviously I didn’t take, because, you know, designated driver, but I totally have a date with one of them next week.”
“Just know that I remember when you were too shy to talk to some college wrestlers,” Myka says. “I, uh, didn’t realize that you dated women, actually.”
“Yeah, well, it kind of took a while for me to figure that out, you know, something about growing up in South Dakota and not actually knowing that it was possible to be into both dudes and ladies. Anyways, Steve pointed me to some good resources. He was pretty much a life saver for me,” Claudia says, nodding towards Steve, who’s asleep in the passenger seat.
“I think Steve is a life saver for all of us,” Myka says. “Even if he thought I was in love with Pete.”
The car suddenly gets very quiet, and Myka silently curses her lack of a filter when she’s drunk.
“Uh, which I totally am, so basically, yes, yay Steve, what a lifesaver,” Myka continues after a short but very awkward pause.
“Myka, we’re talking tomorrow morning,” Claudia says.
None of them talk much for the rest of the car ride.
She’s not really hungover the next morning, but she’s definitely groggy, and she’s really not expecting Claudia to bound into her room the moment she opens her door.
“We need to talk about you and Pete,” Claudia says, shutting the door behind her.
“Do we have to do this now?” Myka says, stifling a bit of a yawn. “I haven’t had my coffee yet.”
“Yes, coffee is so much more important than the fact that everyone in that car knew that you were lying when you said you were in love with Pete,” Claudia says sarcastically.
“Coffee’s definitely more important than that,” Myka mutters. “And how do you even know that it was everyone in that car?”
“Well, obviously, I know I know, and I’ve talked to Steve about it before. And if I know something about you, HG definitely knows it, because she knows you freakishly well. It’s like that whole sappy thing she said to you when we thought we had to destroy the Janus coin.”
“The one person who knows you better than anyone else,” Myka says quietly.
Claudia rolls her eyes. “You two really need to work your shit out.”
“There’s nothing to work out,” Myka says. “We’re friends.”
“Yeah, friends who stand, like, two inches away from each other whenever they’re in the same room,” Claudia says. “Even I know not to get involved with this one, but I do know that I spend a lot of time with HG, and she talks about you a lot. Like seriously a lot.”
“Okay, well, what are you actually doing here?” Myka says, because she’s way too groggy to actually think about what’s going on between her and HG.
“I want you to honestly say that you’re happy with Pete. Actually, no, I don’t, because I’m sure you’ll say it, and then I’ll have to say ‘Oh really?’, so let’s just cut the crap and skip to the part where you explain why you’d lie to me if I asked you to honestly say that you were happy with Pete,” Claudia says, and she’s talking quickly, and Myka is definitely not sufficiently caffeinated for this conversation.
“Okay, I think I missed about half of that,” Myka says.
“Why are you still dating Pete?” Claudia says. “And give me the real answer, not some bullshit ‘we’re so in love except we’re totally not’ answer.”
Myka sighs. “It just works out nicely, I guess. I mean, I really like him as a person, and I know he’ll always be there for me. It’s convenient.”
“Yeah, and what comes next?” Claudia asks. “Marriage? Kids I know you don’t want?”
Myka just shrugs, because she hasn’t really let herself think about what comes next. She knows she doesn’t really want to keep dating Pete for the rest of her life, but it also hurts to think about ending the only stable relationship she’s had since Sam.
“Myka, do you remember how when we were making that time capsule, I said that I didn’t want to be caretaker and that I just wanted to stay an agent for the rest of my life?” Claudia asks.
“Yeah, of course,” Myka says.
“See, the thing with that is that staying an agent made a lot of sense to me at the time. I mean, it’s fun job, at least when you’re not almost dying or watching your friends actually die, and I’m really good at it. Honestly, it’s the only thing I’ve ever done that’s made me feel like I’m really accomplishing something. Why would I give that up?”
“But you are giving it up,” Myka says. “You changed your mind.”
“Yeah, I changed my mind,” Claudia says. “Because once I actually thought about the trade-offs involved, I realized that it would be stupid of me to give up the chance to become caretaker.”
“Because it’s your destiny?” Myka asks.
“No, fuck destiny. I’m not doing this because a bunch of old regents who, no offense to Pete’s mom, have way more power than they should think I’m destined for it,” Claudia says. “I’ve spent the past two years desperately wanting to be caretaker, and, yeah, sure, I might end up dead or in the Bronze Sector or, God, even back at that mental hospital, but I’ll hate myself if I don’t at least try doing the whole caretaker thing.”
“Are you going to start quoting Dumbledore about what is right and what is easy?” Myka asks.
“I didn’t think of it, but I totally should have,” Claudia says. “I think I’m slipping.”
Myka smiles weakly, but her smile fades as she says, “And you’re saying that me staying with Pete is like you just staying an agent.”
“Well, I wasn’t exactly being subtle,” Claudia says. “So is this the part where you BS some reason why your situation is totally different?”
“I don’t think I can argue this one,” Myka says, because, well, Claudia has a point. There’s not that much difference between their situations other than that Claudia’s has to do with her job and Myka’s has to do with her love life.
“Well, good,” Claudia says. “So can we move on to part where you do something about it?”
“I take it that what you’re saying is that I should break up with Pete,” Myka says, and it’s not a question.
“Hey, you said it, not me,” Claudia says. “Although, really, it’s about time. It’s been really weird watching this whole thing play out.”
“It’s been weird for you?” Myka asks.
“Well, yeah,” Claudia says. “We had this whole family thing going, and then you and Pete decided to get all couple-y. It was pretty weird. It would kind of be like if Claire and Joshua started hooking up. I mean, I get that it’s a whole midlife crisis thing, but still.”
“Okay, it was not a midlife crisis,” Myka says. “I’m not old enough to have a midlife crisis.”
“Just keep telling yourself that,” Claudia says. “And, seriously, go break up with Pete. I’d say take all the time you need, but you’ve had months. It’s time to get it over with.”
Pete sleeps in, at least, which gives Myka some time to get some breakfast (and, more importantly, some coffee) and think through things while he’s asleep. The more she thinks about it, though, the more obvious it seems that she really should break up with Pete. One of Claudia’s first questions, the one about what comes next for them, keeps ringing in her head, because it’s a question she’s tried so hard to ignore. The whole point of dating Pete is that she doesn’t have to think about what will happen next, since nothing ever really changes between them. Their relationship is boring, maybe even dispassionate, but at least it’s constant.
The problem is that that sort of relationship has been fine so far, but Myka knows that it’s not what she wants for the rest of her life. Admittedly, she’s not quite sure what she does want for the rest of her life. There’s always whatever’s going on between her and HG, but that’s messy and complicated, not to mention possibly unrequited, and definitely not worth thinking about until she has really and truly broken up with Pete. At the same time, Myka also knows that it’s very possible that she’ll die alone, especially since both Pete and Tracy like to joke about it whenever she’s single. She knows she doesn’t want that, but she’s not sure that spending the rest of her life in a relationship with someone she knows she’ll never fall in love with is any better.
She hears a soft crashing sound coming from Pete’s room and figures that Pete is awake and knocking over one of the many piles of junk he has lying around his room. (Myka’s pretty sure he hasn’t ever cleaned that room in the time they’ve been at the Warehouse. She’s tempted to clean it herself sometimes, but she refuses to take responsibility for the state of Pete’s room.) Figuring it’s best to just get this over with, she sighs and heads upstairs.
Pete’s door is open, but it feels weird just to barge in on an occasion like this (even if she’s been barging into Pete’s room for years), so Myka leans on the doorframe and says, “Hey, can I come in?”
“Yeah, of course,” Pete says.
Myka walks into the room and sits on the edge of Pete’s bed, trying desperately to think of the right thing to say. “We need to talk” sounds too cliché, but she’s not sure of what else she can say in a situation like this. It hits her that she can barely even remember the last time she actually broke up with someone, since she and Sam never exactly got the chance.
Finally, she spots the Superman comic that she saw Maria give Pete sitting on Pete’s bedside table and blurts out, “You should ask Maria out.”
“What?” Pete says, clearly taken aback. “Are you suggesting a threesome? Because I’d need to think about that.”
“No, I mean you should date Maria instead of me,” Myka says. “Or, you know, don’t ask her out if you don’t want, although from what I can tell, you two really like each other and would be really happy together. But either way, we can’t do this anymore.”
“Wait, are you breaking up with me?” Pete asks, and Myka can hear the disappointment in his voice, and even though she knows she’s doing the right thing, she can’t help but feel bad about it.
“Yes,” Myka says firmly. “I’m breaking up with you.”
Pete doesn’t say anything for a minute. He appears to be a mix of upset and stunned, and for a minute, Myka’s worried that he’ll start crying. It’s not that she hasn’t had to deal with a crying Pete before, since the five years they’ve spent together haven’t been the easiest years of their lives, but she’s never been the one making him cry. He doesn’t cry, though, and eventually just says, “Myka, you’re the greatest person I’ve ever met, and I met Nathan Fillion once at a con, so that’s saying something.”
“I know,” Myka says. “And you’re the best friend I’ve ever had, and I want to keep hunting artifacts with you until we’re old, and Claudia makes us retire, and we move into little houses right across the street from each other, because we’re too stubborn to move into a nursing home like we really should at that age.”
“Or we could die tomorrow on a case,” Pete says.
“Fair point,” Myka says.
“So if we like each other so much, why are we breaking up?” Pete asks.
“Because we’re not in love, and we can’t keep pretending we are,” Myka says.
“But how do you know that?” Pete asks. “I mean, if you just said all those things, there has to be something between us.”
“Of course there’s something between us, but what it is is an amazing friendship,” Myka says. “That doesn’t mean we make a good couple.”
“And how do you know?” Pete repeats.
Myka sighs and tries to think of the right way to explain it, because it’s just screamingly obvious to her that she’s not in love with Pete and only slightly less obvious that Pete’s not in love with her. Finally, she remembers something she told Pete back when he was dating Kelly and decides that it’s the right way to explain things.
“Okay,” Myka says. “We’re at a restaurant, and we order some cake for dessert. The waiter cuts the piece in half, and one of the halves is bigger than the other. Who gets the big half?”
“Well, you probably wouldn’t want it,” Pete says. “You always say you’re going to cut back on sugar.”
“I want it,” Myka says. “It’s a really good cake.”
Pete frowns. “Could we at least rock paper scissors for it?”
“Romantic,” Myka says dryly.
“Okay, I get what you’re trying to say,” Pete says. “I mean, I guess I wouldn’t share my cake with you. And I guess I don’t think about, I don’t know, buying you flowers or sprinkling rose petals on your bed or any of that romantic crap.”
Myka frowns. “Would you really sprinkle rose petals on someone’s bed?”
“I did it for Amanda,” Pete says.
“See, I think that’s ridiculous, which is more proof that we make a terrible couple,” Myka says.
“Hey, we might not be great, but we aren’t terrible. Or, well, weren’t terrible, I guess.”
“Okay, we weren’t a complete disaster,” Myka says. “I don’t think we could have been anything more than ‘not terrible’, though.”
“Yeah, I guess not,” Pete says, sighing. “I just really wanted us to work out.”
“I know,” Myka says. “Me too.”
Neither of them says anything for a moment, and then Pete says, “Can you go? I get why we’re breaking up, but I still need some space to process it.”
Myka nods and leaves the room.
The truth is that Myka isn’t quite sure how to feel about the break up. In a way, it’s liberating not having to keep pretending that she’s in love with Pete. At the same time, though, a part of her still hates herself for not having fallen in love with him. Her mind keeps going over all the reasons that she stayed with him for so long and all the reasons he would have been a good boyfriend if their emotions had been more easily swayed, as if it’s trying to make her second guess her decision. She reminds herself that this is good for Pete too, that he deserves to be in a relationship with someone who could actually fall in love with him, but it doesn’t make her feel all that much better.
Mostly, what she concludes is that she can’t be alone with her thoughts right now. Usually, in this sort of situation, she’d go spend time with Pete, since he always knows how to cheer her up, but that’s clearly not an option this time, so she goes to see if HG’s around instead.
HG’s door is open. She’s writing when Myka gets to her room, and for a moment, Myka feels bad about interrupting her, but when she sees Myka standing in the doorway, she puts down her pen and says, “Myka, come in.”
Myka takes a few steps into HG’s room and then cuts to the chase and says, “Pete and I broke up.”
“I’m sorry,” HG says. She stands up and walks over to Myka.
“It’s okay,” Myka says. “I, uh, I actually was the one to break up with him.”
“Nevertheless, I imagine that was at least a bit rough,” HG says. “Um, would you like some ice cream? I hear that’s customary in situations like this.”
“Maybe later,” Myka says. “I think Pete’s in the kitchen now, so it’s probably best to stay away.”
HG nods, and Myka feels like she should say something else, but she can’t think of anything to say, so she takes a stop forward and hugs HG. She’s half expecting HG to be taken aback, but instead, HG just wraps her arms around her, and they stand like that for a good two minutes until Myka pulls away.
“Is there anything I can do for you?” HG asks. “We could check in on our favorite Slayer if that would help you get your mind off of things.”
Myka shakes her head. “Could we… could we just talk, actually?”
“Of course,” HG says. “Care to sit?”
She walks over to her bed and sits down, leaning her back against the headboard. After a moment, Myka sits down next to her and tries to think of something to say.
At first, Myka wants to say something about Pete, specifically about how she and Pete will be fine. After all, they’ve been friends for years, and once they’re over the initial weirdness that comes along with any break up, they should have no trouble being good friends again. Then, she wants to say something about how this won’t really change anything for her, since she was never just Pete’s girlfriend (and, frankly, she barely thought of herself as Pete’s girlfriend at all). As she thinks about it more, though, she realizes that she doesn’t really want to talk to HG about Pete at all, so instead, she says, “Tell me about Giselle.”
“About Giselle?” HG asks, clearly surprised. “You’ve met the woman twice. I assume you can draw your own conclusions about her.”
“I know. I just thought…” Myka says, trailing off because she’s not sure exactly why Giselle seemed like the right thing to ask about.
“You thought that talking about my failed relationship would help you take your mind off of your own failed relationship,” HG says, and Myka knows she’s right.
“I thought your break up was amicable,” Myka says.
“It was,” HG says. “Nevertheless, we were once in a relationship, and we no longer are, so it does count as a failed relationship.”
“I guess it does,” Myka says. “So what made you fall for her in the first place?”
“I think it was mostly her love of gadgets,” HG says. “She’s not an inventor, but she loves new technology. I don’t think there’s an Apple product on the market that that woman doesn’t own, and I suppose you already know about the camera collection she maintains for her studio.”
“Yeah, one of those cameras ate Pete’s toenail. I remember it,” Myka says. “So, uh, did you show her any of your inventions?”
“Kind of,” HG says. “My most impressive inventions would be little hard to explain, so obviously she hasn’t seen those, and she doesn’t know that I was the one to invent the ones she has seen.
“What, does she think that you happen to own a grappling gun that someone else invented for no good reason?” Myka asks.
“Well, for one thing, she hasn’t seen the grappler,” HG says. “And she knows that HG Wells invented them, just not that HG Wells happens to be me. They were at my house, you know, the one in London that’s a museum now? We first met there, and I took the liberty of showing her some of the things that happened to be in the house.”
“So you met her in the same place you met me,” Myka says, trying not to sound jealous, since there’s nothing to be jealous about. Myka’s certain HG’s met many people in that house over the years, since she did once live there.
“Yes, well, she didn’t try to shoot me,” HG says. “I went back to London for a few weeks right after leaving Wisconsin. There were a few things I needed to retrieve from my house. Giselle was there taking the tour when I got there, and I suppose you could say we hit it off. She was very impressed by how much I knew about HG Wells.”
“I can imagine,” Myka says. “So, then, is she the reason you moved to San Francisco?”
“I suppose in a way she was, although we weren’t together when I moved,” HG says. “When I met Giselle, I was still looking for a new job, since the regents told me they would help set me up with a short-term job while they decided whether to reinstate me here. When a reasonable opening popped up in San Francisco, I did think that it would be nice to see her again.”
“And things just proceeded from there?” Myka asks.
“More or less,” HG says. “I had her number from when we met at my house, so I called her and asked her out for coffee. Everything just sort of happened after that.”
“Sounds nice,” Myka says, and she can’t help but feel sad that things have never anywhere close to that simple with her and HG.
“It was, I suppose, in its way, though it was never all that serious,” HG says. “I was always planning to leave as soon as the reinstatement process was over, and I think Giselle and I both knew that my heart wasn’t fully in our relationship, even if I couldn’t tell her exactly why."
“Well, you could have,” Myka says. “You could have made her your One.”
HG chuckles. “I think if I had, she would have laughed in my face. As you well know, she’s a rather skeptical woman.”
“She would have believed you, eventually,” Myka says. “I mean, they would have let you send her old case files or even take her to the Warehouse until she had enough evidence to actually believe you. Artie let me send a bunch of old Warehouse files to Tracy when she didn’t believe me.”
“Your sister?” HG asks.
“Yeah, she’s my One,” Myka says. “You sound surprised.”
“I suppose I just didn’t expect Tracy to be your One,” HG says. “You don’t talk about her much.”
Myka shrugs. “Things between me and Tracy are always complicated. We’ve had more ups and downs than, well, me and you.”
“Then, things must be terribly complicated,” HG says.
“It was worse when we were kids,” Myka says. “My dad really wanted a son, and he was clearly disappointed that he had two daughters instead. I made up for it by trying to be like one of the boys, but Tracy figured that if our father wasn’t going to love her for who she was, she could at least make everyone else love her. She was good at it too. She was homecoming queen and head cheerleader and all those things that probably don’t mean much to you since you never went to an American high school.”
“I’ve seen enough Buffy to get the picture,” HG says.
“Well, anyways, I thought she was horribly shallow, and she thought I was too bookish, and it led to a lot of fights. God, we were so cruel to each other. And the weirdest part is that at the same time, we also had to stick up for each other a lot. I mean, no one else was going to. I didn’t exactly have a lot of friends, and Tracy’s friends weren’t actually that close to her, and at the end of the day, we both had to deal with our father.”
“I take it things are better between the two of you now if she’s your One,” HG says.
“They are, mostly,” Myka says. “I think some time around college, we realized just how petty we were sometimes. We still don’t really understand each other, and we don’t see much of each other these days, but she’s been there for me through some pretty hard times.”
“So where is she now?” HG says.
“She’s still in Colorado. She does tech support for a department store. I think she actually has a pretty high-level IT position. And she’s married and has a kid. She has a pretty nice life,” Myka says, sounding slightly wistful.
“And if you had to trade places with her, you’d hate every minute of it,” HG says.
“I would,” Myka says.
Neither of them says anything much after that, but when Myka leans her head on HG’s shoulder, HG doesn’t push her away.
Giving Pete space is surprisingly difficult. It’s not just that they work together and live together that makes things hard. It’s that over the over the past five years, Myka’s gotten used to pretty much always having him around. It’s weird not to be able to ask Pete if he wants to grab lunch at the new sandwich place on Main Street or even just send him some YouTube video that she knows he’d like.
Fortunately, a few days after the break up, they get a ping that involves one of Steve’s ATF contacts while Claudia’s busy with her caretaker training, and Myka offers to go with him. It’s an interesting case, and it’s complicated enough that it keeps Myka from thinking too much about her personal life, which is good. She needs the distraction.
It takes a few days to snag the artifact, and when she gets back to the B&B after dropping it off at the Warehouse, Pete is in her room, sitting on her bed.
“Guess who has a date tonight,” he says before Myka can ask what he’s doing in her room.
“I’m guessing the answer is you,” Myka says, sitting down in her armchair.
“Yep,” Pete says. “Maria and I are seeing the new X-Men movie tonight.”
“Good. That means you won’t make me see it,” Myka says. She smiles and hopes Pete knows that that means she’s happy for him.
“I’ll just make you come with me when I go back and see it a second time,” Pete says.
“Can’t you make Claudia go with you?” Myka says. “Or, you know, anyone who happens who happens to actually like X-Men?”
“Hey, I know you secretly love X-Men: First Class,” Pete says.
“Okay, that is so not true. That movie was terrible,” Myka says.
“Yeah, but it’s right up your alley. I mean, two people meet and fall in love, but they’re too different, and one of them can’t get over their tragic past, and in the end, they have to leave each other. Seems like your cup of tea,” Pete says.
“First of all, I know what you’re getting at, and second of all, that isn’t even really what that movie’s about,” Myka says.
“So have you asked her out yet?” Pete says, fully ignoring Myka’s second comment.
“No,” Myka says. “I just… I don’t know if that’s a good idea. Or if she’d even be interested if I did ask her out.”
“Hey, well, I say go for it. I mean, I know you used to be into her, and honestly, it kind of feels like old times around here,” Pete says. “And while we’re at it, I have something for you. It’s kind of a consolation prize, since I’m clearly winning this break up.”
“You are not winning this break up,” Myka says. “You don’t win break ups.”
“You totally win break ups. Every break up has a winner and a loser,” Pete says. “And since I have a date tonight and you don’t, I’m clearly the winner.”
Myka rolls her eyes. “Well, you’re wrong, but I am so not arguing this one. What do you have for me?”
“I was thinking since you and HG keep invading my room to watch Buffy, maybe you could move my flat screen into your room.”
“Wait, really?” Myka says. “I mean, thank you. That’s really… thank you.”
“It’s no problem,” Pete says. “It’s kind of self-defense really. Maybe now I’ll actually get to have my room to myself instead of having you and HG always in there.”
Myka smiles. “Still, thank you. I take it that this means things are good between us, then?”
“Yeah, of course things are good. Things are always good. Why wouldn’t they be good?”
“I just… you seemed a little shaken up by our break up.”
“Yeah, I was at first,” Pete says. “The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that it was kind of weird that we dated. I mean, it’s weird, right?”
“It’s a little weird,” Myka says.
“I mean, God, you’re like a sister to me, and you know I don’t want to be Jaime Lannister,” Pete says.
“No, you’d be a Stark, wouldn’t you?” Myka says.
“Ooh, or one of those Night’s Watch guys,” Pete says.
“You’d have to take a vow of chastity. Somehow I don’t think you’d do very well with it,” Myka says.
“Hey, Jon Snow totally hooked up with that redhead,” Pete says.
“Well, I often do have to tell you that you know nothing,” Myka says, unable to suppress a smirk.
“So then we’re agreed that whatever happened between us was weird?” Pete asks.
“Definitely weird,” Myka says. “You know what’s really weird about it? When we ran into Ted and Elise in D.C., they said that they thought we’d have gotten together by now, but when we worked with them, we barely even knew each other.”
“Yeah, I couldn’t even pronounce your name right,” Pete says. “I guess they just figured that it would be pity for two people as beautiful as us to die alone.”
“Yeah, I’m sure that’s it,” Myka says sarcastically. She pauses for a moment and then says, “Actually, um, there’s something I should say kind of on the not dying alone topic.”
“What is it?”
“Pete, I don’t know if anything will ever happen between me and HG, but even if it does, I just need you to know that I’d always choose you over her.”
“Um, not to put too fine a point on it, but you kind of already have. I mean, you were the one who broke up with me, and while that’s totally cool, and I’d probably pick HG over me too, that doesn’t change the fact that, you know, that means you’re picking HG over me.”
“Okay, sure, when it comes to dating, yeah, I pick HG over you. I freely admit that,” Myka says. “But if you and HG were both falling down a cliff, and I could only save one of you, I’d pick you. I wouldn’t even hesitate. I… I don’t know what I’d do without you, Pete.”
“Thanks,” Pete says. “Seriously, I know that HG means a lot to you, so, you know, thanks.”
Myka smiles. “Well, if you shoot me and leave me for dead in the middle of Egypt, I might have to change my mind on that one,” she says.
“Got it,” Pete says.
Figuring the conversation is more or less over, Myka stands up and takes a few steps toward the door.
“So are you going to see HG now?” Pete asks, still sitting.
“I actually have to go the Warehouse and see if Artie has more work for me,” Myka says.
“Right, yeah, we still have jobs,” Pete says.
“Um, if he doesn’t have anything for me, do you want to hang out for a bit?” Myka asks. “I’ll even watch Captain America with you if you want.”
“Sure, though I think I might have someone who actually wants to watch Captain America with me now,” Pete says. “How about you pick something for us to watch? Anything but one of those BBC Jane Austen miniseries. I get that you’re more into HG than you were into me, but I’m not ready to compete with Colin Firth jumping into a lake.”
Myka smirks. “Colin Firth outranks you any day.”
She spends a lot of time with HG after that. Now that the TV is in her room, there’s nothing to stop them from watching Buffy for hours on end. It’s not just Buffy that they watch either. Myka also introduces HG to her favorite movies, everything from The Philadelphia Story to 10 Things I Hate About You. There’s something remarkably fulfilling about watching HG watch something for the first time, about watching her smile at a particularly clever line or hearing her gasp at a particularly shocking plot twist. Myka realizes that she had been stopping herself from looking at HG for too long before, since she had been worried about seeming unfaithful to Pete. It’s really nice not to have to worry about that anymore.
She also thinks a lot about asking HG out. It seems like a painfully obvious thing to do, since she gets a warm fuzzy feeling every time HG’s hand brushes hers, and she can’t help but keep imagining her and HG going out on the same sort of disgustingly cute dates that Pete keeps going on with Maria. (Myka had always thought she’d get sick of hearing about Pete’s love life, but honestly, she can’t help but smile a little every time she hears about how happy he is now.) She’s barely even worried about the awkwardness of dating a woman who once tried to kill her, since she and HG finally seem to be in a really good place with regards to each other. Myka knows she’ll never be able to forget all the terrible things HG’s done, but she’s finally reached a point where she can fully forgive them, and she thinks HG realizes that.
What she is worried about, though, is that HG’s just not interested in her and that asking her out will make things weird between them. It’s not like Myka thinks that HG is definitely uninterested, but she’s hard to read, and Myka just isn’t sure how she feels. There are moments when she seems like she could be flirting, but Myka could be interpreting those moments wrong, and anyways, HG flirts at least a little with a lot of people. It could mean nothing.
It doesn’t help anything that Tracy insists on asking about HG when she finally visits the Warehouse.
Tracy’s only in town for the afternoon. She’s on her way to some business conference, and Univille is roughly on the way, which gives her the chance to stop by the Warehouse. It’s a shorter visit than either Myka or Tracy would like, but they’ve been trying to arrange a time for Tracy to see the Warehouse for months, and this is better than nothing.
As it happens, HG is the only other person in the B&B when Tracy arrives. She and Myka are sitting in the living room, mostly talking about work, when the doorbell rings, and Myka gets up to answer it.
“Hi! I’m so glad we could make this work,” Myka says, opening the door and quickly hugging Tracy.
“Me too,” Tracy says. “This place is really… quaint.”
“It took me awhile to get used to the whole small town thing, but it’s home now,” Myka says. “Anyways, come on in.”
She leads Tracy into the living room and sits back down next to HG on the couch.
“Sit anywhere. Well, Artie’s kind of possessive of that white armchair, so maybe not that one, but sit anywhere else,” she tells Tracy. “Also, Tracy, this is Helena. Helena, this is Tracy.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Tracy. Myka’s told me a lot about you,” HG says as Tracy sits down in an armchair.
“And I have heard a lot about you, Helena,” Tracy says, a knowing smile on her face.
“You have?” HG asks, clearly intrigued.
Myka shrugs. “Your name comes up. We do spend a lot of time together.”
“Right, of course,” HG says. “Well, I have some errands to run, so I will leave you two to talk.”
“Hey, we’re stopping by the Warehouse later. Do you want to come and help give Tracy the tour? I think you probably know more about the Warehouse than I do,” Myka says as HG gets up to leave.
“That’s doubtful, since you practically have the entire manual memorized,” HG says, smiling at Myka. “I’ll see if I have time to drop by later.”
“Great,” Myka says as HG turns to go.
“She’s nice,” Tracy says once HG has left the B&B.
“She is,” Myka says nonchalantly.
“And you like her,” Tracy says.
“Well, yeah,” Myka says. “We’re pretty good friends. Obviously, I like her.”
“You don’t just like her in a good friends way,” Tracy says.
“And you know this how?” Myka asks.
“Because I’ve been paying close attention to your love life since you were ten,” Tracy says. “So have you asked her out yet?”
“No,” Myka admits.
“And why haven’t you asked her out?” Tracy asks. “You’ve had over a month to get over whatever happened with you and Pete, so I know it’s not that.”
“You know, you’re not the first one to tell me I should ask her out, so insisting that I should isn’t going to change anything,” Myka says. “I swear you and Pete and Claudia should start a ‘people who drive Myka crazy’ club.”
“We did that years ago,” Tracy says. “I’m president.”
“Good to know that my misery comes along with official position titles,” Myka says.
“Seriously, Myka, why haven’t you asked her out?” Tracy asks.
“I just… I don’t want her to say no. I mean, I’ve told you about how many times she’s left the Warehouse already, and even if she doesn’t actually leave, this could make things weird between us. I really don’t want to lose her again.”
“Okay, well, do you think she’s going to say no?” Tracy asks.
Myka shrugs. “Maybe. I really don’t know. I mean, I wouldn’t blame her. She basically invented science fiction, and I’m just, you know, me.”
“Well, first of all, you’re my kickass big sister, and you are deserving of anyone you want,” Tracy says. “Secondly, what do you mean she basically invented science fiction?”
“Helena is HG Wells. I thought I told you that already,” Myka says.
“HG Wells as in the male author who died a long time ago?” Tracy says.
“Well, she let her brother take credit for all the novels, but, uh, yeah,” Myka says. “You don’t believe me, do you?”
“I haven’t ruled out the possibility of this being some practical joke,” Tracy says. “I am going to need a little more explanation on how Helena’s apparently the sister of some Victorian dude.”
“I’ll show you the Bronze Sector when we get to the Warehouse. That will explain a lot of it,” Myka says. “Though maybe we should do that when Helena’s not around.”
“Will do. You so owe me an explanation,” Tracy says. “But even if Helena is HG Wells, that shouldn’t stop you from asking her out. What’s the worst that will happen if she does say no? It’s obvious that she likes you, and maybe it’s the way you like her, and maybe it’s not, but either way, I don’t think she’d completely abandon you if you told her how you feel.”
“Maybe not, but it’s still hard to do,” Myka says, sighing. “You’d be able to handle it.”
“That’s because I have years of practice handling rejection,” Tracy says. “Do you remember when I asked Jason Kim to winter formal sophomore year, and he said no, and I cried for a week?”
“Yeah, I remember laughing at you for that,” Myka says. “I thought it was really dumb that you were crying over some boy.”
“Well, thanks for your utter lack of support there,” Tracy says flatly.
“In my defense, I was seventeen,” Myka says.
“And super mean,” Tracy says.
“Tracy, I get that you’re trying to make some big ‘I won’t learn to deal with rejection if I never ask her out’ point here, but it’s not the same. Helena’s not just some guy on the baseball team who you got over in a few weeks anyways.”
“Okay, but isn’t that all the more reason to ask her out?” Tracy says. “Myka, I know that this sort of thing isn’t your strong suit, but you can’t stay in this weird holding pattern with Helena forever. And, hey, if she says no, call me, and I promise I won’t laugh at you.”
“Thanks, Tracy. I… I’ll think about it,” Myka says, although the thought of actually asking HG out is still terrifying. “Anyways, I have a lot to show you, so we should probably get over to the Warehouse. Are you ready for a world of endless wonder?”
Tracy frowns. “A world of endless wonder? Really?”
Myka shrugs. “It’s our tag line. Just go with it.”
“Well, it’s super cheesy, but fine, bring on the endless wonder,” Tracy says. “And don’t forget that you totally still need to explain the whole HG Wells is alive thing.”
The problem is that after Tracy’s visit, Myka can’t stop thinking about asking HG out. It’s not really any of Tracy’s comments about learning to handle rejection that get to her, since the truth is that Tracy really is better at that sort of thing than Myka is. What does bother her, though, is Tracy’s comment about her not being able to stay in a holding pattern forever, because she knows it’s true. She knows she’s not going to get over HG, and for that matter, she doesn’t want to get over HG. She also knows that the longer she pines after HG without actually doing anything about it, the more likely she is to do something incredibly stupid or at least blurt out how she feels at the worst possible moment.
Of course, realizing that she needs to tell HG how she feels and actually telling her are two very different things. Myka almost manages to work up the courage to say something almost every day in the week after Tracy’s visit, but each time, she can’t quite manage to spit out her feelings, and the moment passes before she can actually say anything. Finally, about a week and a half later, as she and HG watch the end credits roll for yet another episode of Buffy, Myka knows that it’s time to actually say something.
“Hey, um, I have something I need to tell you, and it might be kind of awkward, but I really need to say it,” she says, looking straight at HG, who’s sitting next to her on her bed.
“What is it?” HG asks.
“For the past few years, ever since you gave me that grappler, really, I’ve, um, had feelings for you that aren’t exactly platonic, and I can never tell what’s going on with you, so I don’t know if your feelings for me are the same, but either way, I just… I just thought you should know,” Myka says, her heart racing.
HG doesn’t say anything for a moment, and Myka can’t help but fear the worst, that HG isn’t interested, and that this will completely ruin the friendship that they’ve spent years building.
Instead, HG just smiles and says, “Oh good.”
“What?” Myka says, realizing that she had spent so much time bracing herself for a negative reaction that she doesn’t even know how to respond to a positive reaction.
“Myka, I’ve been interested in you ever since I first got to know you,” HG says. “I thought you might have returned my feelings when I first came back to the Warehouse, but after what happened at Yellowstone, it seemed foolish to think you’d still be interested.”
“I wanted to get over you after Yellowstone,” Myka says. “Actually, I wanted to hate you after Yellowstone, but then Mrs. Frederic made me talk to you, and I knew I couldn’t stay mad at you. And even after that, I tried to get over you so many times, when you disappeared after the Sykes thing and when you were dating Nate and when you were dating Giselle, but I just couldn’t. I guess it’s all working out, though, if you really are interested in me.”
“Maybe it is,” HG says. “Although I should warn you before this goes any further that I’m a rather terrible girlfriend. I’m horribly moody, and I tend to get a little too caught up in whatever I’m inventing.”
Myka smiles. “Do you think I don’t know that? I know you’re flawed. If that were a problem, we wouldn’t be here now. For better or for worse, I’m in love with you, Helena, not some idealized version of you, and I’m ready to deal with whatever baggage comes with that.”
HG smiles. “Well, in that case, I suppose there’s only one thing left to do,” she says, leaning in towards Myka.
And then HG is kissing her, and for the first time in a long while, everything feels right.
“So do I get my TV back now that you’re banging the father of science fiction?” Pete asks.
They’re running after some guy with an absurdly powerful artifact, and it’s so not the time to be having, well, any conversation, really, but Myka can’t help but smile and roll her eyes.
“Ask again once we’re through the last season of Buffy,” she says. “And I think she prefers to be called the mother of science fiction.”