Two weeks. Two mind-numbing, interminable weeks drag by. Every free second you have is spent in contact with the other. You start marking your days by the messages she sends you. The near constant contact makes you almost feel like she’s right next to you, like she’s a part of your daily life, but the pang you feel every night when you lay down to sleep, alone, reminds you that she’s not here, she’s there, and she certainly isn’t going to bed alone.
You’re thankful when the ping comes that sends you to Paris. Losing yourself in work is the only thing you can think of that might save you from drowning in desperation to see her. There is one thing that never fails though, no matter what time zone you find yourself in, she always calls on her way home from work, and there’s something so blissfully normal about that, that you find you don’t care if it wakes you up in the middle of the night, or distracts you from work during the day.
It’s your third morning in Paris, and you’re just climbing out of the shower, when you hear your phone ringing, her ring, from the other room. You’re not even embarrassed that you’ve changed your settings to give her a separate ringtone, because it was the best way to know when it’s her, and it feels like a little secret, one more to add to the pile, between you two. You almost trip over the bed trying to get to your phone before it stops ringing, and you know you sound out of breath when you answer, “Hey…”
“Hello darling, are you quite alright? You sound like you’ve had to run miles to get to your phone.”
“No, I’m good. I was just getting out of the shower, so I had to scramble to get to my phone. I didn’t want to miss your call.”
“Well there’s an image to get me through the night,” and you can hear her smirking from a thousand miles away, but you don’t give into the temptation to tease her with the fact that you’re talking to her in just a towel. You change the subject by mentally doing the math to realize just how late it would have to be there, if it’s morning for you. “Helena, why are you driving home from work now? It must be after midnight there.”
“It is. 12:15 to be exact. It’s this case. It’s driving me mad. There are more forensics to go through than I’ve ever seen, and nothing is coming up as conclusive. The evidence is seeming to point to three different people at the crime scene, even though there’s only one victim, and seemingly a crime committed by only one person. I can’t figure out what I’m missing.”
You can hear the frustration in her voice, and you smile because you love when she’s this intense about work. “Do you have any suspects?”
“ A few, but without concrete evidence, there’s not much the police can do, and being the one to provide the concrete evidence, you can imagine they aren’t very happy with me.”
“Quite alright, I’ll figure it out eventually, but enough about me. How’s the city of lights treating you my love? Any leads on the artifact?”
“We’re getting there. Pete spent most of the day yesterday combing over every inch of the opera house, trying to figure out what’s making people disappear. There’s nothing there, so today we’re going over to Gaston Leroux’s house, to see if there’s something there. This whole thing just seems to be screaming “Phantom of the Opera,” so it seems the next best place to look.”
“It would seem the most likely connection, given that all the people who have disappeared are young women, sharing many characteristics with Leroux’s Christina.”
“I just hope that disappeared doesn’t mean…well gone permanently,” you sigh, thinking of the long day ahead of you. You just hope today is the day that something breaks, you’re ready to go home.
“I know darling.” There’s that pause. That pause that means she’s almost home, which she never wants to tell you. She’s been very careful about not mentioning Nate, and you appreciate it, though it’s done little to assuage your guilt that this, whatever this is, is happening while she’s still living with him.
“Almost home, huh?”
She laughs, “You know me too well, but yes. All I want to do is take a long, hot shower, and sleep for ten hours, unfortunately the shower is probably the only part of that I’m going to get.”
“What time do you have to be back into the lab?”
“8:30, no rest for the weary I suppose.”
“Try to get some sleep at least. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, well your tomorrow, I suppose it will still be my today.” You feel your brows crinkle at the lack of clarity in what you’re saying, “Whatever, I’ll talk to you soon.”
Another laugh that sends a wave of warmth down your spine, “Call me when you get a chance. I miss you darling.”
You try to hide the exasperated sigh that leaves your lips, but you fail miserably, “I miss you too…enjoy your shower.” You cover your sadness by putting a particular lilt into your voice with that last phrase, letting her know that you’re appreciating getting the same kind of image you gave her earlier.
“Oh I shall…have a good day. Good luck with Leroux’s house.”
“Thanks. Good night, Helena.”
“Good night for me, good morning for you Myka.”
You laugh at how, for lack of a better word, adorable she sounds, “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
It takes several seconds for either of you to disconnect, but eventually you do, resting your phone against your chest for the briefest of moments, willing it to actually bring her here to you. You know it’s foolish, but at this rate you’re willing to try anything.
You finally get home early Friday morning, after five days in Paris, with an artifact successfully snagged, bagged, and tagged. It turns out it was merely a coincidence that all the people to disappear were women, it had nothing to do with “Phantom of the Opera,” but luckily everything to do with Leroux. He had been a detective of a sort as well as a writer, and at one point had been involved in an investigation at the opera house involving a cell hidden in the basement that was used to hold revolutionaries of the Paris Commune. Last week, some of his notes from the case had been available for the public to see at his home, and the people who disappeared were those who had failed to heed the signs to not touch. Making contact with his notes had imbued the affected with a strong need to go to the opera house, and somehow find their way into the basement that still contained the cell. Luckily, there was little harm done to them, besides spending a few too many days without food, and they were returned to their loved ones in one piece.
You’re exhausted, and thankfully Artie has given you and Pete the weekend off for a job well done, entrusting any pings to Steve and Claudia. You intend on spending the entire weekend curled up in your room, doing nothing but reading and sleeping.
Before you can collapse in a heap on the floor you shoot Helena a quick text to let her know you’re back safe and sound. She’s become very picky about that, wanting to know you’re safe. You won’t admit it, but you kind of love her attentiveness. “I’m finally home. Now I am going to shower and then be comatose for the foreseeable future.”
“Lovely idea darling.”
“Call me when you head home…it’ll be a good wake up call.”
When you wake up, it’s almost nine and you feel a wave of panic that you haven’t heard from Helena. She rarely works this late on a Friday, and you can’t fight the immediate worry that something is wrong. Right as you reach for your phone to text her, it buzzes, a message, not a call. You figure she’s letting you know why it’s so late, but what you’re greeted with is enough to make your jaw drop. There are no words to the message, simply a picture, a picture of the “Welcome to Univille” sign. There’s no way. She can’t be here, can she? Suddenly your fingers are shaking as you try to make them dial her number.
She answers within one ring, and you’re greeted with her laugh coming through, “Well, that didn’t take long. Hello darling.”
“Helena! What are you doing here? Wait, you are here, right?” You know you sound insane, but you don’t particularly care.
She keeps laughing, “I am.”
“Why? How? Wow…I sound crazy. Sorry.”
“No apologies needed, I would say you sound enthusiastic rather than crazy, it’s quite sweet actually. To answer you questions, Nate took Adelaide to Chicago to visit her mother’s parents, so I took advantage of the weekend alone. I figured last time you came to me, so this time I thought I would return the favor.”
You want to care that this so desperately feels like sneaking around. Feels like Myka? It is sneaking around, but the idea of being able to see her is enough to dispel the thought quickly. Unaware of your inner arguing, she keeps talking, “Plus, I have some news I wanted to share with you…in person.”
That snatches your attention away from your mental turmoil. “What is it?”
“I said in person darling. Now, would you be willing to grace me with your presence, or have I come to the middle of nowhere South Dakota, only to be left to my own devices?”
Immediately you’re out of bed, and throwing things into a bag. If she’s here, and you have the weekend off, you’re not going to waste one more second., “Where are you staying?”
“I feel rather guilty about that, but I procured a room at Leena’s competitors. Not that Univille really provides that many other options, not exactly the height of tourism around here.”
She was right. There was Leena’s, a rather creepy motel in the middle of town, and another B&B on the opposite end of town, but other than that Univille provided distinctly few options for overnight accommodations.
“Ok, give me a little bit and I’ll meet you there.”
“I cannot wait to see you.”
“Me neither. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
Ok, how the hell are you going to get out of the B&B for the whole weekend without raising any questions? That problem was solved for you when you found the note attached to your door as you headed downstairs.
“Mykes—Didn’t want to wake you. Steve and Claudia got called out on a ping, New Mexico. I’m going to bed. See you in the morning. –Pete”
Spectacular, you can beg off that you went for a run or something before Pete gets up in the morning, and find an excuse to spend the day away from Leena’s, alone time or something. You’ll have to make an appearance tomorrow night, but you can make it work. You grab your keys from the table by the door, and practically sprint to your car.
It’s only a few miles away, but you feel like it takes you forever to get there. You don’t quite know how this B&B works with people just dropping in, but you try the door and it unlatches willingly. You walk into a small living area, and your breath catches in your throat because she’s right there waiting for you. Settled into a chair by the fire, book in hand, looking as casual and collected as possible. You whisper a word of thanks that there’s no one else around, because you can’t stop yourself from dropping your bag right inside the door, eliminating the distance between you in all of three steps, and pulling her into a kiss that makes sparks fly behind your eyes. Your hands are lost in her hair, and her arms are so tight around your waist you wonder if she might actually lift you off the ground.
Finally, you break apart, only to hold her tightly against you, arms thrown around her neck, “God, I’ve missed you so much,” it’s whispered into her hair, but you know she hears you, because she squeezes you even tighter.
“I missed you too…you have no idea.” She reluctantly lets you go, but grabs your hand, and walks to the door to retrieve your bag before she leads you upstairs to her room.
She throws your bag onto the bed, and before she barely has a chance to turn around, you’ve captured her in your arms again, kissing her with long, slow intentionality. You don’t think you realized it was possible to miss someone this much, but as her hands snake around your neck you want to cry at the reality that she’s right here in your arms. It takes every ounce of self-control in your body to not let your fingers graze underneath her shirt, or to move your lips down to her neck, every fiber of your being is crying out to do just that, but you refuse to let yourself go there. Finally breaking away you can’t resist the question that has been running through your mind since you hung up the phone, “So what’s this news you have to tell me?”
She only lets you pull away so far, keeping her arms firmly around your neck, and thus rooted securely in her arms. “Rather impatient aren’t we?”
You swoop in and drop a swift kiss to her lips, “Yes.”
She laughs, and it sounds like heaven. “Well, you’re not exactly giving me a chance to be all cunning and dramatic with my revelations. I was rather hoping to string you along, teasing you, until you begged me to tell you.” She’s running her fingers down your back now, and you feel yourself arch into the contact, half-tempted to give in to her suggestion.
“I’m not that easy…” The tone of your voice shocks you, and you can see her eyes flutter as she draws in a breath. You revel just a moment in your ability to turn this ever-in-control woman into a bundle of nerves.
She recovers quickly, “No, I would rather imagine you aren’t…”
“So, then, tell me…please…tell…me.” You punctuate every word with a kiss against her lips, each growing in intensity and length, until you pull yourself from her arms and cross to the other side of the room, “Nope, no more, until you tell me.”
She groans so loud you laugh, “Fine, rob me of all my fun..”
“If you don’t tell me that is precisely what I’ll be doing, tell me though, and that’s a whole other story” you cut across her words, shooting her a quick wink in the process.
She acts as though she can’t feel the blush that’s creeping into her cheeks, but you don’t miss a second of it. “I am a slave to your impatience darling. What I came here to tell you, what I couldn’t wait to tell you, what I flew three hours to tell you, what I dragged myself to South Dakota to tell you…”
“Is that I handed in my two weeks’ notice at work today.”
For the second time tonight, your jaw drops, it’s totally involuntarily, and you feel as though every thought has completely escaped your mind. “Wait, what?” There is no word other than stunned that can describe how you feel.
She’s walking towards you with painful slowness, accenting each step with words you have to struggle to pay attention to, “I said, I gave my boss my two weeks’ notice today. Which means, that two weeks from this very moment, I won’t just be coming to visit,” and now she’s right in front of you, tangling your fingers together and drawing your arms around her waist, “I’ll be coming home, to you.”
And then the entire world goes blank, and all those thoughts of self-control from earlier fly out the window, because she has you pressed up against the wall, and her hands have drifted underneath your t-shirt to rest on your waist, and it feels like your skin is on fire. Your hands chase up the back of her shirt and you let your fingernails drift down her back, realizing that there may be no more heavenly sound than her groaning in pleasure against your lips. You move just enough to allow your lips to begin trailing down her jaw line, before nipping and sucking ever so slightly against her neck. You hear her gasp, and you drag the top of your tongue down the line of her pulse, and the hands that were once resting against your waist, are now gripping so tightly around your hips that you know the marks of her fingernails will linger in your skin, marks of possession that make you want her even more. Just as your adjusting your angle to gain purchase against her collarbone, her voice jars you from your attention to her skin, “Myka…wait” and she sounds unlike you’ve ever heard her, shaky, longing, and ever-so quiet. She pushes harder against your hips, but this is different, it’s not in desire, but in an effort to gain distance. She keeps her hands against your skin, but her head drops, and she won’t look you in the eye.
It takes little effort to get her to look back up at you, but you can’t get a read on what she’s thinking, “Helena what is it?”
She brings one hand up to run through your hair and against your cheek, “Myka, I love you, truly, but if we keep doing what we’re doing, I’m going to run out of self-control, and….” her eyes dart away from yours, until the rest comes out in a rush, “I can’t bring myself to let our first time together be something that puts you in the position of being the other woman. That’s not even remotely close to how I want it to be.”
If it wasn’t for the rabid desire coursing through your veins you would agree with her immediately, but now that you’ve felt her against you, you don’t know how to stop, “Helena, I don’t…”
“Myka Bering do not even say that you don’t care, because I know you do, besides the fact that I just said that I do most ardently care as well. I am not going to take you to bed like you’re some clandestine, weekend romp. When I take you to bed it will be because you are the woman that I love more than life itself, and I am free to be with you for the rest of my days.”
She reaches up to pull your hands out from around her back, and hangs them grasped in hers at your sides, forehead rested gently against yours. It takes you several moments to find the words you want to say, and when you do they come out in a marvelously ineloquent, “Thank you.”
She pulls back from you just slightly, looking genuinely confused, “Thank you? I must say when one has just refused to sleep with someone else, they hardly expect to be thanked for it.”
And that’s when you finally meet her eyes, “Yes, thank you. Thank you for keeping me from being a person I swore I would never be again. I somehow have convinced myself to forget that I’ve been the other woman before, but if I’m being honest, this, us, it’s been terrifying me that that’s what I would turn into again.”
“Oh Myka…believe me, when I asked you to come to Wisconsin, I had no intention of anything happening between us. I had hoped I would be able to tell you how I felt, and that the promise of a soon-coming future would be enough, but obviously we both failed miserably at that happening. I never wanted to put you in a position to feel like this. I just…I couldn’t keep myself from kissing you.”
“I wouldn’t have wanted you to, I didn’t want you to. Helena, this isn’t a one-sided thing, I wanted you just as much, I want you just as much, but you’re right, we can’t, hence the thank you.”
“You never cease to amaze me.”
“I try my best.”
There’s a weighty pause that lingers, and you can see her fighting with some sort of question, trying to maneuver it around in her mind so that it makes sense. Finally, she seems to find the words she’s looking for.
“So I realize it seems entirely hypocritical to ask this, given my recent noble stance, but these…boundaries, we’ve established. They won’t keep you from staying here this weekend?”
You love how she makes no effort to hide how badly she wants you to say that it won’t, “No, of course not. You couldn’t drag me out of here if you tried. We’ll just…keep things…controlled, shall we say?”
“Controlled, yes. Well, then what are we to do with ourselves?”
“Given the fact that I just spent the last nine hours in bed, working off jet lag, I am woefully not as tired as I’m sure you are. How about we both get into our pajamas, curl up, and put on a movie?”
“That sounds perfect,” and she gives you one last kiss before disappearing into the bathroom to change.
It stuns you how blissfully normal this all feels, like you’re just an ordinary couple, spending an ordinary Friday night at home. She’s laying with her head in your lap, your fingers idly running through her hair, and you have a late night Hitchcock marathon on the television. You’re amazed that she hasn’t fallen asleep yet, it’s after midnight and you know she has to be exhausted, but she’s adamantly refusing to go to sleep.
“Why on earth are you refusing to go to bed? I know that flying exhausts you, I don’t care if it was only a three hour flight.”
“Am I not allowed to watch a movie in peace?”She’s feigning annoyance, but you can feel her smiling against your legs.
“You’re insufferable, do you know that?”
She rolls over to give you a smirk, “I do indeed.”
There’s something else though, lying just below the surface, she’s hiding it well, but you can sense it, there’s something she isn’t saying. “Helena, talk to me.”
“It’s nothing, darling,” and she tries to roll back over, but you grab her shoulder before she’s able to.
“No it’s not, talk to me. For the last hour, I’ve had this strange feeling that there’s something bothering you.”
She lets out a rough sigh of exasperation, “Bothering isn’t quite the word. It’s just so stupid, I don’t quite feel like embarrassing myself in front of you so early on in the weekend.”
“It’s just that sleep seems like such a wasted thing to do when my time with you is so short, and then I tell myself that it’s my fault that we don’t have more time, and then well you can imagine it’s a fairly ugly spiral of thoughts from there.”
“If sleep qualifies as a wasted thing during our time together, don’t you think that wallowing in what we don’t have yet is even more of a waste?”
“On that count you are absolutely right, however, telling my brain to stop thinking is rather a difficult task.”
“Babe listen, is this ideal? No. Do I hate that we don’t have more time? Absolutely. But if my options are a few scant hours here and there or not seeing you at all, I’ll take the difficult, messy option every single time.”
She shoots you a sidelong glance with a subtle quirk of an eyebrow, “Babe, really?”
You roll your eyes at her, and give a strand of her hair a small tug, “Yes, really. You’re going to be with me, you’re going to have to deal with the fact that I say odd things sometimes.”
“It’s not odd, darling. It’s endearing, just not something I’ve ever been called before is all.”
“This is really what you’re focusing on in all of this?”
“Well, if I have to deal with your odd words, you have to deal with the fact that I can be utterly maddening at times.”
“Now that’s something I’ve known for quite a while.”
She chuckles, but you try to steer back towards the important end of your conversation, “I’m serious though. I choose this every time Helena, and maybe that’s wrong, and maybe I’m a horrible person because I know that you have other people, and another life, and stuff to sort through, but I can’t face living my life knowing you’re out there loving me, and I’m here loving you, and resign myself to not seeing you when I know that to be the case.”
“Myka, you do know that it isn’t going to be like this forever? That’s why I had to come here to tell you what I did. I needed you to know that I am completely serious about coming home. That even if we can’t really be together, as it were, right now, I’m committed to you, to us, and I’m going to do everything in my power to make that right, as soon as possible.”
“I know you will, but I’d be a liar if I said that the waiting isn’t hard,” and now you know that you’re the one holding something back, you just wonder if she can sense it, the way you did with her.
“Now who’s the one not saying what’s bothering them?” Well that answers that question, she’s just as attuned to you, as you are to her.
“Me, apparently.” You let out a sigh of resignation, and close your eyes, leaning against the headboard. You feel her sit up, but you can’t bring yourself to look at her.
She takes your hand in hers, softly running her thumb over your knuckles, and the sensation is enough to make you start talking, though you keep your eyes closed, unsure if you’ll be able to say what you need to while looking at her, “It’s just…it’s what we talked about earlier. The fact that I’ve done this before, Helena, and don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that this time, it’s different, we aren’t sleeping together, and that is something, but I can’t help feeling like I’m still in the same position. Waiting. Sam told me a thousand times that he was going to leave his wife, that he would choose me, and it never happened, and I’m not sure if it would have even if he hadn’t died. And the reality is, the way I feel about you, it’s so heart-breakingly different, I love you so much I think it could stop me from breathing, and the thought that maybe, this thing we’re doing, ends up with me just waiting, and living for these small moments, while your other life keeps spinning without me, I can’t handle that.” You don’t even care that there are tears slipping down your cheeks, because this, this is what has been weighing on you more than anything, the possibility that she won’t come home. That this will linger between you, until you realize that all you’ll ever be is the other person, getting her love in small doses, but nothing else.
Nothing but silence fills the room, and you think you might drown in it, and that’s when the rest of what you need to say comes out, “And the worst part is, I know I’d wait. I’d wait for you, until the gates of hell broke open, and there’s part of me that loves that I love you that much, because it’s something I never thought I’d have, but there’s the other part of me that hates it because it makes me feel weak and vulnerable, and terrified that one day you’ll wake up and realize that I’m not worth this whole mess, and the idea of having to face a world where you don’t love me is…”
You’ve never been more thankful to be interrupted, “Myka Bering, look at me,” you feel her weight shift so that she’s now sitting across your legs, knees against your hips, keeping you in place, her hands are against your cheeks, and you can do nothing but open your eyes to her. Her eyes are fierce, feeling as though they could bore straight into your soul. “I have made more mistakes in my life than I would care to remember, and far more in regards to you than I could ever possibly atone for. For too long, I have let myself lose you, and sure some of those times were out of my control, but I know woefully well what my life is like without you, and as I told you before, I am done running. I am done running away from how I feel about you, about how perfectly we fit together, even when we are driving each other completely insane. I am done running away from the one thing in this century that has made me realize that I can actually have a life again, that I can actually be happy. I have already lived far more days ignoring that I love you, than I ever thought I could bear, so you need to get it out of your head, right this instant, that there will ever come a day when you are living in a world where I don’t love you, madly, completely. And I swear to you, I will not be the person who strings you along, making you wait, I’ve already done that enough in the little time we have had together, and it’s over. I swear to you Myka, I am coming home. I am coming home in two weeks, I don’t care if the entire state of Wisconsin is on fire, I will be here, with you, and once I am, I pity the person who tries to make me leave you ever again.”
You can see it in her eyes, feel it in her touch that she means every single word, means it more than you ever could have possibly imagined, until you remember that it is her you’re dealing with, and she will never cease to amaze you. You want to say something, anything to compare with what she has just said to you, but only two words can escape your lips, “Kiss me.”
She doesn’t even hesitate, but closes what little space there actually was left between you, with lips that are just this side of trembling. It’s soft and intentional, like she’s trying to kiss away every fear that has ever gripped your heart, teasing out the broken parts of your soul with ever movement of her lips, and when you feel the tiniest drop of salt hit your lips, you have ceased to care if it’s your tears or hers, because nothing matters right now except her, and the way that she’s promising you everything without saying a single word.