Chapter 1: Left Unsaid
What are you holding out for?
What's always in the way?
Why so damn absent-minded?
Why so scared of romance?
- Bloc Party - This Modern Love
It had taken months for Myka Bering to work up the courage to visit this place again. This place that housed the memory of one of the worst days of her life, one of the worst memories of her life.
It had been so hard to get in her car after begging off for a weekend and driving the five hours across back country roads and finally an Interstate that now served as the barrier between them. She'd made herself do it, schooling her features perfectly blank as she waved to Pete and Claudia, who'd come out of the B&B to see her off.
It had taken months of letters - beautiful words in sweeping cursive, carrying her heart off without so much as a word or protest, before Myka was able to work up the courage to visit. She'd fallen in love with the words in those letters, despite her best efforts not to, and she hated herself for letting that chance slip through her fingers.
She'd let Adwin Kosan pull her savior out of their desperate embrace upon saving the day and restoring all that they had lost with little protest. She'd been so full of jubilation at the idea of it all being okay - that Helena Wells vanishing into the night had meant very little until it was too late.
The secret wasn't so much where Helena was - just when she'd be coming back. Myka had asked and the letters had started soon after.
"Come and see me," they always ended - but she could not.
So she wrote back with updates - little stories and anecdotes and her own barely-contained longing.
"Go see her!" Claudia snapped her, staring forlornly out into the South Dakota spring. "At least you still have someone to see."
She'd pulled Claudia close then, and hadn't let her go for a long time afterwards. Myka couldn't let her go, couldn't string together the words to tell Claudia that it would someday, a long time from now, all be okay.
They'd sent Helena back to the place where they'd found Emily Lake. Back to that school and that identity. Helena had explained that it was part of some sort of vocational rehabilitation scheme. She'd expressed her distaste with her students in some letters, and her love of the youth of today in others.
Myka was so taken with the passion that flowed from Helena's pen then, her awe at the kids she taught.
It was that letter that had broken her silence. Claudia had found her a number in minutes and Myka had dialed it without hesitation.
"I've got a weekend off," Myka had trailed off, listening to the soft breathing on the other end of the line. She didn't know what else to say - was there anything really to say?
She bit her lip and stared off across the office in the Warehouse. There were little bits of H.G. Wells everywhere here, but where she wanted to go - H.G. Wells was not who Helena was any more.
"Did you want to...?" Helena had begun but did not finish. Myka had made an affirmative noise and they didn't say much else.
"I'll come Friday," she'd hung up then, and there wasn't much more that could be said.
She walked into the school where she'd felt her heart break for the second time in a year with a great deal of trepidation. The last time she'd been here, she'd seen this place as evil, as a house for the absolute cruelty of the regents, and she had hated it.
Now she looked around with curiosity. There were posters on the wall, the school's baseball team was playing big game on Monday night and there were school colors and calls to arms everywhere. A few students were in the hallways, heading for lockers and the bathroom, despite the lateness in the day.
The final bell for the day would ring in ten minutes, so Myka slowly made her way over to the office and handed over her badge and license. "I'm here to see Emily Lake," she said quietly to the secretary, trying to ignore the strange looks she was getting from the woman with a gun strapped to her waist and a Tesla in her shoulder holster.
"Are you Myka?" The woman asked with a smile. "She left a note saying that you'd be coming sometime today and to just send you down - you remember where her classroom is?"
Myka nodded and the woman handed her a visitor's badge.
"Thank you for bringing her back to us after she vanished," The secretary held out her hand and Myka took it. "She told me that you were the one who pulled her back to this world when she remembered some things about her past."
That was... Myka frowned, putting it in a unique way. She had brought Helena back from the dead, but the price was still almost too great for her to bear. They'd been able to save two out of the three, the watch did not go back far enough to save Steve - and that had been the cost of using such a terrible artifact. Russian roulette with their lives and Myka hated having to force them all to make that choice.
"Nice to meet you Ms..." she began, trying to be friendly.
"Oh, it’s just Janice, no one calls me Mrs. Hooper," The secretary grinned back at her. "And it's nice to meet you too."
Myka gave a small wave as she walked out of the school's office and towards the stairs. Helena's classroom was on the second floor, tucked away with the science labs towards the back of the building.
The last time she'd been in this room, her heart had broken. She took a deep breath and glanced at her watch. The final bell was at three, there were still a few minutes until the day ended.
Still the students inside the room were gathering their things, she could see Helena leaning against an overhead projector, talking to the students with an easy smile on her face. She looked so utterly at ease there, far more comfortable than she'd ever looked at the Warehouse.
Myka's hand clenched into a fist and she shook her head once to clear it. She would not let her own fears ruin this chance for them. Not this time.
She pulled the door open and slipped inside, lingering just near the entryway as the final bell rang. The students rose and gathered their things, a few coming up to Helena with questions and papers to hand in.
"I'm afraid I must leave you for today," Helena said to one girl in particular, who seemed adamant with her questions. Myka scowled at her when her back was turned. "I will answer your questions on Monday." She flashed Myka that brilliant smile that made Myka's knees weak and her heart flutter just a little bit.
The girl who was trying to get Helena's attention scowled at Myka as she walked out, bag shoved moodily over her shoulder.
"A fan?" Myka asked with a raised eyebrow as they found themselves alone.
She wanted to go to Helena, to pull her in by that stupid cardigan and hold her tightly, and never let her go again. She'd messed this up twice now. Helena'd done it the third time.
Her feet were rooted though, as Helena wiped the overhead projector clean of her spindly handwriting and turned to erase the board.
"She has something of a crush on me, yes," Helena turned and looked over her shoulder then, eyes glittering a small flirtatious smile on her face. "Is that a problem, Agent Bering?"
Myka laughed and set her overnight bag down on a desk and crossed the room in a few short steps. Her fingers reached out for Helena's hand, missed, and grasped an eraser. She began to help clean it off, biting back harsh retorts. Finally she settled on, "Hardly, Miss Wells. I know your affections lie elsewhere."
Helena's smile was easy then, and soon the chalkboard was as blank as Myka was trying to keep her features. She didn't know what to say, what to do. There was so much she desperately wanted to convey to Helena that was somehow getting lost in translation.
"I've missed you," Helena confessed, walking over to her desk and gathering her things. Myka watched with interest as she collected several large stacks of paper and tucked them into the waiting satchel, before disappearing under her desk and coming up with what had to have been her laptop power cord.
She didn't know how to respond to that. There were no words to truly describe the pang of longing in her chest when she'd even thought of Helena before.
Myka shifted awkwardly from foot to foot as Helena pulled on her jacket and scarf, turning the collar up with a quick glance towards the window. It had been threatening rain all day, and it looked as though the sky was finally ready to let loose its load.
"I'll just follow you back to uh..." She didn't want to say 'your apartment' because she didn't even know if Helena thought of it as home - or if home was somewhere completely different now.
Helena stood at the door, lingering, staring at her classroom with its clutter and posters and the 'ally' stamp on the wall that Myka had noticed in Emily's classroom as well. "I couldn't stay there," she explained. "The landlady understood, I'm living elsewhere now."
Myka wanted to ask where, but she supposed that she'd be seeing it in a few minutes anyway. She silently followed Helena back down the stairs and through the halls towards the school's front entrance.
Janice the office secretary waved at them and Helena turned to stick her head through the office door and say her good bye. "Have a good weekend," she smiled brightly at Janice, who was looking from Helena to Myka and back again with an expectant smile.
"You are just a peach, Emily, you take good care of her alright?"
Helena raised a hand in goodbye then and promised a full report upon arriving at work on Monday.
"Bloody nosy," Helena muttered to Myka as they walked out the school's main entrance. They were standing too close together, Helena's hand brushing up against Myka's, the scent of her shampoo filling Myka's nose and driving her to almost distraction.
"She's sweet," Myka shrugged.
Helena heaved an exasperated sigh and stepped away from Myka. There were still students milling about in the parking lot, waiting for the bus. A few of them waved at Helena as she set off towards a small and beat-up looking Subaru (Myka privately shook her head, it somewhat figured). "Emily had terrible taste in vehicles," Helena announced, setting her bag on the mud splattered hood of the car and rummaging for her keys. "This car is terrible, too."
"It is rather..." Myka trailed off, wanting to be polite, and yet not really wanting to say anything at all. Her heart had swelled up deep within her chest, and had settled at the base of her throat, consuming all the words she had yet to say before she could even find the right way to say them.
Her key slid into the lock with a satisfied click, and Helena looked up, grinning at Myka. "It is isn't it?"
Myka gave a small laugh and pointed over to where her car was parked. "I'll follow you?" She half-suggested, half asked.
She had to get away from Helena, even if only for a minute. The emotions that she had gotten so good at hiding from were surfacing and all she wanted to do was hide from them. She wasn't brave like Helena had told her on that horrible day, no, she was a coward.
She had to run, had to hide.
"Alright," Helena closed her bag and set it on the passenger seat. She leaned against the car door, a window and metal frame the only real separation between them.
Myka's fingers played across the glass, rubbing away the stains of rock salt and mud, unable to look away from Helena's eyes.
"I was going to cook dinner, but we could go out, if you'd like." Helena said quietly, biting her lip and looking for the world as though she was not H.G. Wells who laughed in the face of danger and death. No, she looked more like Emily Lake in that moment than in any time she had since Sykes had shoved the Janus coin into her hand and effectively killed Emily Lake.
She bit her tongue, counted to three, before shoving her best smile onto her face. "That sounds lovely. I'd love to try your cooking, Helena."
Helena gave a short bark of laughter, "I'll warn you now I'm not very good."
She wanted to kiss her then. She swallowed that emotion and shoved it back where it would never be found again. Myka stepped back and shrugged, "Well if it's that bad we can get Chinese or something."
"Oriental food is terrible on my stomach." Helena retorted.
"And the term oriental is considered racist in modern parlance, H.G.," Myka said, rolling her eyes and turning to head towards her car. "I'll follow you."
Helena seemed to bite back a retort, getting into her car and jamming her keys into the ignition. The car groaned loudly as she turned it over and Myka hitched her bag further up her shoulder and headed back towards her car.
She could see the girl that had glared at her in Helena's classroom watching her with narrowed eyes from the bus stop. Myka gave a little wave, trying not to feel vindictive. At least she knew where she stood with Helena - with Ms. Lake, Myka corrected herself - Myka did not have that luxury.
Their relationship was an enigma, their friendship easy and strained all at once. Helena had died to save her, Myka had had her heart broken again and again all in the name of Helena Wells.
There was too much that was left unsaid.
Claudia called her a lovesick idiot.
Myka had told her that such things did not come simply to her. That she could not fall in love with someone like Helena Wells. It wasn't acceptable, wasn't kosher, certainly wasn't what she wanted.
(In her moments of darkest despair, when she stared at the two doors, side by side, that no longer housed their former occupants, Myka knew that it was entirely what she wanted.)
"Go get 'em, tiger," Myka muttered, echoing Claudia's earlier words - with the same fake smile and false bravado.
Maybe Helena had someone now.
Maybe she was too late.
Her hands shook as she jabbed her keys into the lock and got into the car. The remnants of her lunch (half a pack of Twizzlers) lay on the seat next to her and Myka exhaled. Twizzlers sounded good right now. A comfort and an old friend.
One she could not indulge in right now.
She let her hands rest steady on the wheel, watching through the side mirror as Helena pulled out of her spot.
It was easy to follow Helena, she drove her age, as the expression went. Slowly making her way through the tangled streets of this town, moving through traffic with the sedate ease of one who was not living on borrowed time - Myka's borrowed time.
Who knew when she would get another weekend off?
The road turned steep as they headed up and out of town, around a hill and finally to a small white house with a sweeping front porch. There were two rocking chairs there, paint peeling and weathered looking.
The whole place had character, a unique character that as Myka gathered her things (and pocketed her Twizzlers) she couldn't help but be taken with. It was not the house that Helena had had in London, or Leena's - but this place held a charm that Myka could not help but find lovely.
"It's not much," Helena explained, picking her way across the muddy gravel towards where Myka had parked. "but it's far nicer than Emily's horrible apartment. Dickens can hunt out here too. I don't have to keep him cooped up all day anymore."
"I hadn’t realized that you'd kept him," Myka whispered - recalling Helena's reaction to discovering that Emily had kept a cat.
Helena rolled her eyes, "He grew on me."
The door that Helena unlocked opened into a small kitchen and Myka set her bag down on the floor by the door and took off her boots, mindful of how odd they looked next to Helena's - so similar and yet so different.
She had not intentionally done that.
(She was lying to herself again).
Dickens came running into the room, circling their ankles and trying to kill them in the manner in which only cats can. Myka bent down to scratch his ears as Helena rummaged in the refrigerator for a moment and eventually came up with a tin of cat food inside of a small ziplock bag. She wrinkled her nose as she took it out and turned it over into Dickens' bowl.
"I loathe the way it smells," she explained upon noticing the amused smile on Myka's face. "Like chamber pot but with no maid to clean it out."
"I really never pictured you as a cat person, Helena," Myka said with a grin, looking around the kitchen.
There were a few pots on the dish drain, a box of off-brand cereal on the countertop and a bowl in the sink. The kitchen looked lived in - the stove was clean and the appliances all bore the signs that Myka was so accustomed to in Leena's kitchen from Claudia's constant tinkering.
"I am hardly a cat person," Helena retorted, sticking out her lower lip and pouting just a little bit. Myka laughed, it was so easy then, to forget why this was supposed to be so hard. They could just smile at each other and it'd all be okay.
And the silence took them. The weight of everything that she'd wanted to say crashed down around her and Myka swallowed, struggling to breathe, let alone find the words to say what it was that she wanted to say.
Helena broke the silence, she always did. She whose brain thought up such fantastic things as time machines could always figure out something to say. "Would you like to see the rest of the house?"
Myka nodded, she would like that very much.
"Come on then," Helena held out her hand and Myka reached forward, afraid, wondering if this was some sort of test. Helena's hand was warm and solid in her own, a little bit dry from the season. Their fingers linked and Myka felt her body relax, her mind suddenly far more at ease than it had been for weeks now.
She let Helena lead her from room to room. The downstairs consisted of a sitting room and then a study that looked every bit like the front office of the Warehouse. Myka had asked if Helena was trying to usurp Artie in terms of champion of general clutter and Helena had shaken her head no. This was just how she worked.
"I'm trying to write again," Helena explained, picking up a hand-written sheet and staring at it for a minute before setting it down. "It's hard, when you can see everything you imagined gone horribly wrong on a daily basis."
Myka didn't let go of Helena's hand. "Maybe you're overthinking it?" She suggested with a shrug. She desperately wanted to read what Helena was writing, but knew better than to ask. Helena had always been very private about her writing process, even when boasting about it in front of Pete or Artie. There was just something so intimate and so private about the act of it for her that Myka did not want to force the issue any further than it had to be.
"Let's go upstairs?" Helena asked, pulling Myka towards the stairs and up them, their feet a quiet cacophony of squeaking boards and a few giggles as Myka nearly slipped and Helena caught her. Their bodies were pressed together then, and Myka hurriedly stepped back, not wanting to overstep - desperately wanting to get closer.
This is why she loved Helena - loved the letters and loved the woman herself. She couldn't react to such feelings, couldn't allow herself to get lost in that enigma that was Helena Wells for a second (
third, fourth) time.
Helena looked hurt, wounded for the barest of moments before she turned, never letting go of Myka's hand. They had reached the second floor.
It was one large open room, a bed shoved in the far corner the entire opposite wall housed a library that made Myka's breath catch. She turned, watched as Helena leaned on the railing that surrounded the stairs, and then headed towards the bookshelves.
"I had them brought over - it was the least that Mr. Kosan could do after making me come back to this place," Helena explained as Myka trailed a finger along the spines of these old books - books she'd read, books she knew so well.
Her eyes widened, her finger resting on a copy of The Importance of Being Earnest. She pulled it down from the shelf and flipped it open, staring at the publishing date and the inscription written in faded black ink. "Helena this is amazing..." she whispered.
"Oscar did not appreciate my advances, that's what that note was about," Helena explained as Myka chuckled a bit upon reading it.
For H.G. - With great exasperation. O.W.
Myka stared down at the inscription, the distance between herself and Helena suddenly seemed insurmountable. Helena had lived in a world that Myka had only ever dreamed of, she'd thrived there. And now, trapped out of time in Myka's world, Myka had never felt further away from the woman who had penned the stories that had taken Myka through her childhood.
"I guess I'm sleeping on the couch?" Myka asked, glancing over to room's lone bed. She closed the book and tucked it back into its place and turned to see a faint flush cover Helena's cheeks.
"I honestly had not thought about it," Helena confessed, shoving her hands into her cardigan pockets and doing a passing impression of Claudia when she wasn't getting her way about something.
And then Helena's expression changed, from a little put out and embarrassed at her lack of forethought, to coy and flirty. Myka swallowed, not knowing how to respond or how to react, as she was out of practice in dealing with the Many Moods of H.G. Wells and the Sudden Winds that Changed Them. "The bed is plenty big enough, if you want to stay with me."
They both knew that Myka couldn't do that.
She couldn't find the words, they were trapped within her. She did want to say that yes, that it would be nice, that sleeping curled up next to another person would be a welcome reprieve from the solitary nightmares that now haunted her every fleeting dream.
Myka swallowed, fingers shaking ever so slightly as she reached forward, pulling at the hem of her shirt, fingering her shoulder holster and her Tesla. She was a ball of nervous energy, biting at her lip, afraid to say what was one her mind, what she needed to say.
She'd almost resolved to now say anything, when her mouth got ahead of her brain and she blurted out, "What are we doing, Helena?"
Helena's hand was at her neck, at her locket, worrying it with her thumb. Myka watched in silent contemplation as Helena parsed out her words carefully. "I was showing you around...?" Her brow furrowed, thinking hard, and suddenly her face fell and she looked as uncomfortable as Myka felt. They couldn't do this, not again. "Oh... I have no idea Myka."
Now, at least, Myka could be honest. "I can't do this, not again."
Helena's hand was shaking, but it left the locket at her neck, falling to rest on her hip, cocking at an angle that would almost seem provocative, if it was not so stand-offish. "I never said you had to." She said, eyes flashing dangerously.
Myka stepped back, the words caught up in her throat. She couldn't respond to that. Couldn't show weakness or defeat.
"But you want to don't you?" The question came unbidden, in quick words that Myka hoped Helena had meant before she said them. There was so much implied there, a harkening back to what they had not yet had the chance to have.
Myka wanted that chance so desperately. "More than anything else in my life." It was nice to be honest for a change, to not be choked by the half-truths that she was stuck on as she tried desperately to not say the full truth.
Helena gave her a wry smile, and stepped forward, crossing the mostly empty room to stand very much in Myka's personal space. Her fingers, hesitant as always, reached out and brushed a lock of hair away from Myka's cheek. "Then do not let your strange sense of obligation to the Warehouse that has systematically destroyed your life stop you."
Her hand shot out, grabbing Helena's before Helena could steal it away from her. "Would you stop me?" she asked, lost in the warmth of Helena's hand against her cheek, against her hand.
The urge to kiss her was so strong, and Myka could see her hesitation vanish into nothingness.
She couldn't do it though. Not yet.
Helena leaned, in lips warm against Myka's cheeks as she whispered, "Never."
Myka's breath caught, her heart was in her throat and she swallowed, trying to force her head to turn to face Helena, to finally do what she'd wanted to do for months now.
Just as fleetingly, the moment was over. Helena leaned back on her heels and smiled that bewitching smile at Myka. "I can't resist you and you know it, Myka."
That was comforting, at least. To know that they were stuck in the same boat despite all that had passed between them.
Myka never wanted to see Helena die again.
She swallowed, eyeing the lone door off to her right. "Can I take a shower?" She ran a hand through her hair and bit her lip. It felt like she'd been driving for days, not hours. She was sweaty and gross and completely and utterly terrified of what she might do should she remain in this room full of wonder any longer.
"Sure, I'll start dinner," Disappointment flooded across Helena's face and Myka sighed.
"Helena..." she began, her fingers opening and closing. Myka couldn't look at her then. "I wasn't saying no," she decided on eventually. "To sharing."
"Right," Helena grinned and pointed towards the bathroom door. "I set you out a towel."
"Thank you," Myka replied.
"Don't thank me until after you've eaten dinner. I could still kill you," Helena said as she headed back down the stairs.
Myka shrugged, "My belief in you never wavered, but please make sure that it's fully cooked!"
Helena waved her hand over her head and disappeared, plunging Myka's heart back into silence once more.
A shower did wonders for Myka’s nerves, and she emerged feeling more relaxed and far less appalled at herself for acting the lovesick fool she knew she was. This was all so new and different; she was so unused to being the one who had to make the first move. Helena was usually there, to take the reins, to make Myka feel as though she was being swept off her feet. And now, with Myka being the outside influence disturbing the perfect (fake) existence of one Helena Wells, it felt all backwards. She felt like an intruder for wanting to steal Helena away from the place and bring her back to where she belonged, with Pete, with Claudia, with the Warehouse.
"How long do they intend to keep you here?" Myka asked after Helena had handed her a wine bottle and a corkscrew upon coming downstairs. "I mean, Mr. Kosan must have given you some sort of timeframe..."
Helena looked up from the stove where she was prodding listlessly at some broccoli with a spoon. The water wasn't boiling yet, Myka had no idea why she'd put it in already. Maybe it was a British thing? Or an I-learned-how-to-cook-a-century-ago thing? Myka didn’t ask and resolved to intervene before the broccoli turned to mush, should things get to that point. "I think they want me to finish out my therapy - so the school year."
Myka frowned. "And then what will you do?"
A shrug. "Petition to have my old job back so I can go back to driving poor Arthur mad."
The wine cork was proving exceptionally challenging to get out and Myka grit her teeth and wedged the corkscrew further into the cork. "You want to come back?"
Helena prodded the broccoli one last time and put the cover on the saucepan. "If you'd have me."
The cork came out and Myka set it on the table, still caught up in the corkscrew. "I'd love to have you," she whispered, handing Helena the wine bottle.
“Can’t say no to a pretty face,” Helena stretched her hands up above her head and stared up at the ceiling before bringing her gaze resolutely down to the wine that she’d set on the countertop. “That needs time to breathe.”
Myka knew next-to-nothing about wine. Only what she'd picked up when Sam had tried to teach her about the finer things in life. That, in particular, had lasted only about as long as Myka's very impatient nature had allowed one afternoon that was followed by an evening that Myka still remembered fondly.
It was getting easier to think about him now. Finally figuring out what had happened to him - that an artifact had been involved, had done wonders for Myka's sense of closure. The wound had been ripped open anew a few short weeks later, in the woods just outside of this god-forsaken town.
She didn't know what it meant to be normal any more.
Helena was bustling about in the kitchen, moving things around, taking down two plates and collecting silverware from a drawer that she pushed shut with her hip as she made her way back over to the table, her hands full.
It was so domestic, so normal. Myka swallowed, and moved to take the glasses from her, arranging them where Helena pointed, setting the table like she'd always done as a kid.
“What’s it like – being normal after seeing everything you’ve seen?” Myka asked, pushing her hair out of her eyes and turning to gin at Helena.
Helena laughed, leaning over the back of the chair that Myka assumed she'd be sitting in when their dinner was finally done. She fiddled with her nail for a moment before looking up and meeting Myka's eyes. “Boring, frankly.” She admitted, “My students find new and interesting ways to cheat on their exams and I have to find even more creative ways of getting back at them. Apparently having them stand in the corner is frowned upon these days.”
The very idea of it brought a smile to Myka's face. She gave an exaggerated shrug that she usually just reserved for Pete and raised her eyebrows, “Who knew?”
“Tell me about it.” Helena grinned back at her, probably fully aware she was getting the Pete treatment. It was strange how easily this all came back to them, to be able to talk and then not talk and have the silence be what was causing all the problems in the first place. It was when Myka didn't know how to find the words to say what she needed to say that things got awkward.
“It’s hard, sometimes," Helena continued. "I was teaching about me the other day – well, Charles, but me.”
Myka laughed, “Oh I’ll bet that was fun.”
She knew that Helena's confidence was only over shrouded slightly by her ego. It wasn't a fatal flaw, but Helena knew her worth and knew how valuable she was to the people around her. She knew how Myka was on pins and needles just being here, and she reveled in it.
The idea of Helena teaching about herself, of being forced to deny her own genius in the eyes of the disenchanted youth of America, was the coup de grace of the regent’s already harsh punishment for Helena.
Myka's smile faded as Helena's face drew up and became somber. "It wasn’t. I had to mince words and explain my own failures as a writer.”
“What failures would those be?” The question was reasonable, and Myka followed Helena as she wandered around the kitchen, getting wine glasses down from a high shelf (outside of Dickens' reach) and filling them.
Helena pressed the glass of red wine into Myka's hand, a sad smile on her face. “I was apparently exceptionally boring, according to my students. Also they did not understand the point I was trying to make in War of the Worlds.”
She sipped her wine, the opportunity was too good to pass up. “To be fair, the getting sick thing was something of a deus ex machina.”
If she were Claudia, before all this had happened, she probably would have accompanied it with 'a virus? Really?', but instead Myka simply watched as Helena's lips pursed and she exhaled slowly, trying to calm herself down before she exploded completely into a rant.
“It was original and unique at the time," Helena finally muttered, sipping her wine and shaking her head ruefully.
Instantly, Myka wondered if she'd done the right thing in gently teasing. Obviously the idea of it upset Helena. She stepped forward, feeling braver now that they were in each other's personal space again. It was where Myka felt the safest.
It was where she had first let Helena go.
She reached out, wineglass cradled in one hand, her fingers closing around the edge of Helena's cardigan in the other. Helena was warm under her fingers, a comfort that kept Myka grounded.
Myka exhaled, “Helena, I know. Your stories were the ones I loved as a child – but for kids these days, growing up on movies like Transformers with more action than actual substance, your books aren’t as relatable.”
Her bangs fell into her eyes as Helena muttered, “It’s an awful shame.”
The pungent smell of freshly steamed broccoli hit Myka's nose then, and she glanced over to the rattling saucepan cap and raised an eyebrow at Helena, “I think the broccoli’s done.”
Helena moved to take it off of the stove, draining out the water and spooning the stems out onto their waiting plates. Myka watched her move, her body was quick and still full of the tightly honed muscles that always betrayed her strength before. Helena Wells was a deadly weapon - if only the kids at that school knew who their teacher really was.
“Thank you…” She whispered, before she could regret it.
“Mn?” Helena glanced over her shoulder from where she was getting the rest of their food off of the stove.
“Thank you for being there for me. I never got to say it before. You saved us, Helena.” She looked down at her plate, suddenly not hungry, or even curious to try the food that Helena had made for them. “In that brief moment, when you weren't there and I was..." Her hands were shaking as she spoke, she couldn't look at Helena, couldn't let Helena know how powerful her emotions really were. "The world wasn’t worth saving if you weren’t in it.”
Helena smiled, “But you fixed it, Myka.”
She shook her head. Helena would probably never understand, as she was caught on the other end of that situation, dead and unaffected by the worst feeling of loss that Myka had ever felt in her life. “The cost was still too high. Steve’s gone. Claudia will probably never be the same.”
“I could try and talk to her… I’ve learned that grief should not be allowed to fester.”
Myka swallowed, but nodded. It would probably be for the best. Claudia needed what Helena could provide more than what Myka or Pete could give her. Claudia needed a mother more than a sibling.
"You should call her," Myka suggested. "I think that she'd like that."
They ate in relative silence. Helena was actually a pretty good cook despite her self-deprecating smile when Myka complimented her culinary skills. It was not her forte, Helena explained quietly. She had never really been given much of an opportunity when she was a child.
Myka inclined her head. It made sense, after all.
It was strange, to not talk. They'd been filling their moments with as much as conversation as they could manage, but the silence came so easily.
The wine was good, a '98 that Helena said the local co-op had on sale the previous week. She'd been intending to keep it for herself, but Myka was far better company than Dickens apparently. She felt a swell of pride at that, that Helena actually wanted Myka there.
"There's no one else is there?" Myka asked after her third glass of wine. Her eyes were narrowed at the effort of concentrating on what she was trying to say, as she dried the dishes that Helena handed her. "Because I would-"
"There isn't anyone," Helena shook her head violently. "There never was anyone other than..." she trailed off, brown eyes wide and shocked, as though she could not believe that she had actually put it into words.
The water ran in the sink, the bubbling the only sound in the room. Myka wanted to turn the water off, but she found herself unable to move, paralyzed by the feeling of utter terror that suddenly had filled her body. She couldn’t, not now. It would be so easy to confess, to spill her guts and tell Helena everything.
She chose humor, deflecting as Pete had taught her best. “What about that girl at school?” she asked, grinning. It was easier to tease Helena than it was to speak of what actually mattered.
“She’s nothing,” Helena muttered. She reached forward and cut off the faucet, her hands resting evenly on the sink for a moment before turning, grabbing Myka’s hand and jerking her forwards.
Their bodies crashed together and Myka stopped her head just short of ramming into Helena’s. They were so close together now, so painfully and utterly close. Myka bit her lip.
“Why is it that we can never be straight with each other?” Helena demanded, her brow furrowing as her hands cupped Myka’s cheeks, smoothing at the skin there, brushing away nonexistent hairs.
Myka wanted to look away, but Helena’s grasp on her was firm. “I-I don’t know,” she whispered, trying to wrench her eyes away from Helena’s and finding herself quite unable to.
Helena leaned forward then, her fingertips the barest of touches against Myka’s cheeks as her lips brushed Myka’s, innocent, hesitant. Everything that their first kiss was not supposed to be.
It was supposed to be a revelation, a dawning of a new age that Myka so desperately longed for. Instead it felt as bittersweet as this day – a bitter reminder of the fact that Myka had to leave this awful place in three days and Helena had to stay. It was supposed to have come when Helena had just swept Myka off her feet and up into the sky, or in Egypt under the stars there. Or when Helena saved Myka by changing the rules of the game, or right before Helena died – or even right after she came back.
Not here, not in Wyoming, in the middle of nowhere, in a teacher’s house with a cat that the teacher clearly (really didn’t) hated.
Myka sighed, her hands resting on Helena’s hips hesitantly, the wine making her thought process sluggish. This was what she had wanted, she could not deny herself that.
Helena pulled away, her eyes twinkling. “I have always preferred direct resolutions to beating around the bush.”
“Why didn’t you do that sooner?” Myka asked, grinning herself. “It would have saved a lot of worry and heartbreak.”
“Darling you weren’t ready, we both still are not ready. But the idea of it is so intoxicating that I find I cannot resist it.” Helena let her hands rest on Myka’s shoulders, letting them linger there, pulling at the collar of Myka’s shirt, straightening it, smoothing it down.
Myka kissed her then, and all the fear was gone. They were alone in Emily Lake’s kitchen, Dickens had abandoned them to sleep on the couch in the living room, and Myka was happy for what felt like the first time in months.
The stairs seemed somewhat insurmountable, when they were clutching at each other’s hands and pulling at each other’s clothing. They were both a little drunk, and Myka prayed to whatever entity was cruel enough to subject her to her life thus far, that she would not regret this in the morning.
She could see the stars through the large bay window by Helena’s bed, the sky had cleared to reveal a near-full moon. Helena’s skin glowed a pale alabaster in the moonlight and Myka could not help herself, despite the realization that yes, they were not ready for this.
They probably would never be. They were living two separate lives, trapped worlds away from each other, despite the threads of their lives that the fates had clearly intertwined together. Their fates were bound together, like their bodies and their minds.
Everything that she could not say, Myka said that night with actions, with gestures and hesitant touches that turned into wet and reverent kisses. She told Helena how it had hurt her to see her die, to know that living in the world without her would have been the worst torture imaginable. She told Helena of her longing, and of how she had fallen in love with H.G. Wells all over again though those letters. About how hard it was to be here, in this place that destroyed her soul once already.
Myka had been in love with Helena Wells for a long time, and as she pushed her tongue and fingers forward, exploring barely chartered territory for the first time, Myka knew that she had made the right decision.
Later, sweaty and exhausted, Myka turned onto her stomach as was her customary sleeping position and felt Helena curl up next to her. “I want you to come back,” Myka said quietly. “I don’t think we’re destined to be apart like this.”
Helena kissed her shoulder. “Some would call this fate,” she mused.
“Some would call it a Warehouse full of wonder,” Myka sleepily responded. “Don’t leave me, not ever again.”
Chapter 2: Left Alone
The whole goddamn thing was a set up and Claudia wasn't exactly sure what she was thinking when she took Myka's keys and started driving southwest. She'd figure it out along the way.
By murdering their plants
Ignoring all the history
Denying them romance
The pin-striped men of morning
Are coming for to dance
The kids don't stand a chance
Vampire Weekend – The Kids Don’t Stand A Chance
In retrospect, the whole damn thing had been a set up from the beginning. Myka’s keys were sitting innocently on the corner of Claudia’s desk and the SUV had a suspiciously full tank of gas. Claudia was two hours into her trip and making the shocking discovery that she had the worst case of motor mouth in the universe when DMX was playing on the radio when she realized this fact.
“Those assholes,” she hissed, slamming her fist on the steering wheel and turning down the radio because there was only so many times she could sing along with the censor’s sound effects before she just felt really stupid. But it was awesome at the same time. Claudia rolled like that.
She should have goddamn seen this coming. Myka had been trying to get her to go for weeks, saying that maybe getting away from this place and all the awful memories that she now associated with what was supposed to be her fucking home would do her some good. Claudia didn’t want to be ‘done some good,’ however, she wanted to curl up and die and pretend that nothing was wrong.
They all knew her too well to believe that. She apparently did not hide her anger and her sadness well. They’d’ve loved that at the mental hospital. Loved her rage and her hatred and her anger at God and at the universe; drugged her up and told her not to worry about it.
The thing was, Claudia did worry – obsess even. It consumed her like a knot of pent-up emotions and terrified her because she felt out of control whenever she dared to think about them too hard.
Steve was dead and there wasn’t a thing that anyone could do about it. Artie had taken the metronome from her in the chaos of the return of the Warehouse and had not mentioned where he’d put it. Claudia had resisted looking thus far for very good reason. She did not want to tempt fate, to tempt her own will-power.
Because she would do it in a heartbeat, she had a plan.
God, she sounded like the suicidal kids they used to bring into the mental hospital, with her lists and her carefully plotted sequences of events. The worst was knowing just how long she could keep Steve alive before his soul was forever corrupted by the metronome and subsequently doomed to burn in Hell for the rest of eternity. She had a plan for that too, it might have involved some biblical artifact (that really probably should not have survived to this day) and a prayer to the gods above that Claudia had completely lost her faith in, that Steve would be alright.
She would not go through with it – she’d resisted temptation for a reason. It was just within her grasp, a safety net, filled with the dread and knowing that Steve would not have wanted that. He would not have wanted the fate that Marcus had been relegated to, kept alive by the most evil of devices, all the good in him being sucked out by the metronome. Claudia knew all of this intellectually, but she still wanted a chance to say goodbye.
She really, really missed him, that was all.
Claudia exhaled noisily and ran a hand through her hair, eyes narrowing through her sunglasses at the late April sunlight. That was what had gotten her started today. Myka looking at her with those big concerned eyes that made her look too maternal, too fucking much like the mother that Claudia swore up and down that she didn’t remember. (And she didn’t, not really, the memories were too fuzzy for Claudia to really be able to say one way or the other anything about her parents.) It was not a good look on Myka – it made her look way older than she actually was – and Claudia made sure to point that out to her.
Her words were cutting and cruel, not at all the friendly and secretly hilarious Claudia that they’d all grown to know and love. No, she wanted them to hurt as much as possible. She was lashing out, rebelling against her sadness and her anger that they were too busy fucking around with Emily Goddamn Lake to save him.
(She was really not upset that H.G. came back with the Warehouse though, she couldn’t be. Claudia loves H.G. in a way that she truly does not understand and when H.G. sent her an email some two months ago trying to talk her through her anger and her sadness, Claudia had let her.
And then Myka had started suggesting that Claudia go visit and shit had hit the fan. Because maybe she didn’t want to goddamn go see H.G. Didn’t anyone think of that?
She wanted to wallow in her sadness for a little while longer, before she dared try to heal the wounds on her soul.)
“I’m sorry,” Myka had said quietly, running a hand through her (once again) curly hair and frowning at the paperwork in front of her.
Claudia didn’t say anything, she didn’t have to. Myka knew and understood how Claudia felt about, well, everything that had happened to them up to that point. There had been late-night confessions and Claudia’s stubborn refusal to admit that she had been sleeping in Myka’s room for a long time now and the weekend when Myka wasn’t there was when the nightmares came back.
Steve was dead, lying there and Claudia was screaming. Screaming, screaming and she couldn’t stop until she woke up and even then it was almost too much for her and she needed someone else to be there.
She shook her head, and was just a little bit grateful that Myka did leave that one weekend, because she had finally realized that she could beat her demons on her own.
Sure, said beating involved a good bit of ‘oh I’ll go to bed in an hour’ until she had to rely on copious intake of Red Bull and the complete annihilation of anything that got in her way in Skyrim. Oh yes. That Claudia Donovan, she was a master at coping.
She passed a sign, Cheyenne, 100 miles, and she realized that she knew where she was going all along. Those fucking assholes had planned this from the get-go.
It was the middle of the day on a Tuesday and Claudia called the number at the school where she knew H.G. was ‘working’ – which was totally bullshit because H.G. should be like, running NASA or something, not stuck in small-town fucking Wyoming pretending to be an English teacher. A cat lady English teacher.
H.G.’s reaction to the thought of Dickens the cat was in the top ten most hilarious things that Claudia had ever seen in her life.
Oh, and the best part was that she kept the cat – the most hilarious thing of all. There might have been cat pictures attached to the emails that H.G. had sent her. Claudia was totally proud of H.G. for figuring out how to use the camera on her phone and how to send emails from it as well. Girl was catching up with the times.
“Lincoln High School Office, this is Janice speaking,” a cheery voiced woman on the other end of the phone line said.
Claudia coughed once and then said in her most grown-up voice possible, “Hi, I was wondering if I could speak to Emily Lake, it’s an important matter.”
Oh god, she was getting so good at that voice.
There was a moment, ever so brief, when she wanted to text Steve and tell him that she’d perfected the art of pretending to be a grownup. Claudia’s lip trembled and she shook herself, trying to right her thoughts before they tipped over completely and went down like the Titanic into the land of melancholy once again.
“Can I tell her who’s calling?” Janice the secretary asked. “She’s at lunch, so I gotta run and get her.”
“No matter, tell her my name’s Donovan, she knows who I am.” Claudia hoped that H.G. would be alright with an impromptu visit. It struck her as a very H.G. thing to do. Well maybe not the taking Myka’s keys and storming out of the warehouse in a teenage fit of rage part, but definitely the going to a place where things were a little different to gain perspective. That was very H.G. Wells.
It was silent for a few minutes and Claudia took the time to cradle her phone to her shoulder and punch the radio off. She was about an hour outside of Cheyenne now, and she wanted H.G. to be ready for when she rolled up with her teenage angst and not wanting to talk about things.
The strangest thing was that she actually did want to talk to someone about them. Just not her family. Joshua had made it pretty clear that while he understood that she was grieving, that Steve had understood his role in all this and he had known the risks going in. Claudia had called him a pig and had hung up on him.
Steve… God, he was so young and he didn’t deserve to die like that. Claudia hated that Joshua was so far removed from her life that Steve felt like more of a brother to her in the few short months that she’d known him that Joshua did now. God, she missed him so much.
She could hear voices through the phone and Claudia picked it back up, holding it carefully as she drove with her other hand. Janice the secretary picked up, “Ms. Donovan? I’ve got Emily here for you now.”
“Thank you,” Claudia said, because it was only polite but she really wanted to talk to fucking H.G. not Janice the secretary. Didn’t their classrooms have phones? Or you know, ways to talk privately? Schools were not funded well enough, my god.
“Hello?” H.G.’s accent was very toned down for the fact that they had actually had to go in as secret service agents (well, Pete and Myka, Claudia lacked certain credentials) and explain to the school staff that when Emily Lake had partially remembered some of her past after her accident it became apparent that she was born in London, and the accent had come back with the memories. Goddamn flimsy excuse that Claudia would have seen through in a heartbeat when she was H.G.’s student’s age, but not a bad one in the big scheme of things.
“Heeeeeeey H.G.,” Claudia knew she wasn’t on speaker, but she wouldn’t put it past Janice the secretary to listen in on their conversation, so she said H.G.’s name as quickly as she could, not wanting to get caught in a lie.. “You know how Myka is always trying to get me to come visit you?”
H.G.’s voice sounded skeptical, like she had one eyebrow raised and her expression read ‘no bullshit Claudia.’ Only probably in a more British and Victorian sort of way, Claudia had no idea what that would be though, Victorians were more of Myka’s thing. “Yes?”
“WellIkindastoleMyka’scarandamaboutanhourawayandwoulditbepossibleformetocrashonyourcouchuntiltheyinevitablycomefindmeandmurderme?” Claudia spat it out as fast as she could, knowing that it would lessen the impact and make H.G. more agreeable. It worked on Artie, after all.
“Slowly, please,” H.G.’s voice was kind, but there was a hint of authority in it that mildly terrified Claudia. Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea after all.
“I uh… I’m about an hour away, can I come and see you?” Claudia tried lamely.
There was a pause on the other end and Claudia could hear H.G. breathing, thinking. Being British. Something that was not a simple yes or a no.
She wanted to groan with frustration.
“While it would behoove me to tell you to turn around and return Myka’s car to her, I know for a fact that the drive is rather long and I believe we are in need of a chat.” H.G. sounded almost parental and Claudia wanted to scream.
She didn’t need a mother.
(But if she wanted one, H.G. would be a way better one that any of the other women in her like. Myka was far more sisterly, and Leena was well, Leena, and that was a relationship that lacked definition and Claudia was okay with that for the present moment.)
“Yeah,” Claudia agreed grudgingly, “I think we are.”
“Shall I come collect you or can I trust you to find me?” H.G. asked, her tone light, but still with that same authoritative edge to it that made Claudia feel like a chastised child. She hated that feeling. Artie was pretty boss at it as it was, and the disappointment that sometimes crept into Myka’s voice could be very telling.
She bit her lip, “I know where you live.”
“I imagine everyone does then?” H.G. inquired.
“Nah, just me. Oh and Myka, but I don’t really think she counts on account of you two …” Claudia trailed off, not knowing how H.G. would react to the fact that she totally had a happy squee dance when Myka came back from her weekend away looking dazed and in love (not to mention having a GIGANTIC hickey on her neck. Apparently, H.G. was a vampire, shit made so much sense.).
H.G. clucked her tongue. “I’d like to keep it that way. I will see you in a bit.”
“Yeah,” Claudia agreed. “See you then.”
They said their goodbyes and Claudia poked the radio until something loud and techno filled the car. She couldn’t listen to any of her normal music right now. Most of her favorite bands tended to enjoy the more morose side of things and Claudia loved it most of the time when she wasn’t a goddamn emotional wreck that was crying all the fucking time to begin with.
Mr. Kosan had suggested that she see a doctor as he pulled H.G. away from Myka, Claudia’s screams and wrenched sobs the only sounds in the silent warehouse. Mrs. Frederic had come back, H.G. had come back. But Steve? Steve was still dead. He’d looked at her coldly then, and said that these things happen for a reason and to not play god.
She’d tried to punch him and Pete had had to hold her back.
And then she’d tried to punch Pete and Artie had pulled her into his arms and had soothed her until Myka had stopped her own tears of joy (or sadness that her love was taken from her once again? Claudia did not know.) and could take over.
Myka gave the best hugs out of the three of them. H.G. gave better ones but Mr. Kosan was slapping handcuffs on her and leading her out of the warehouse and now Myka was screaming and holy shit there’s a fucking squirrel running across the fucking highway.
Claudia swerved around it and out of her memories, biting at the inside of her cheek to focus her attention. She could not get caught up now. No, she would not allow herself that path of thinking about that day and how horrible it had been. The extremes of emotions were such that she did not think that she would ever really know, truly, what had actually happened that day. She had been trapped in her own head for much of it. There had been Leena holding her, Pete, Artie, Myka. Everyone but the one person who she had wanted to catch her in his arms and never let her go.
Claudia slammed her fist into the steering wheel again and cursed herself for not being quicker – cursed H.G. for being so goddamn noble. They’d wasted so much fucking time – they could have saved him. They could have.
They could have…
She pulled off the road and sobbed. Hot dry tears because she’d been driving all day and her body ached and her mind was on high alert. She could not do this. Not now. She could not. Claudia pressed the heels of her palms into her eyes and sniffed, trying to find equilibrium between coping and decidedly not coping.
She’d stopped in front of a sign.
Welcome to Cheyenne, it read.
“Some welcome,” Claudia grumbled. She turned the car back over and pulled onto the road again. She didn’t even have to go through the main drag of the city, she was cutting around it, heading up a side road that quickly became mud and dirt as she approached the house that she’d inspected many times on a misappropriated and totally hacked government satellite. (Not that she’d done it for this reason alone, but she’d been in the area and it had seemed prudent to check and make sure that the house was still standing. Claudia understood, after all, how easy it was to blow up one of H.G.’s inventions.)
H.G.’s beat up and totally ugly Subaru (Claudia laughed, it so figured) pulled in just a few minutes after she’d parked. She hadn’t worked up the courage to get out and knock on the door. Probably a good thing as she’d’ve looked like a complete idiot sitting on one of H.G.’s rocking chairs picking at the paint that was peeling on the railing that closed in the front porch.
She pulled her laptop case over her shoulder and pulled Myka’s keys out of the ignition. Getting out of the car hurt, just a little bit, her legs were craped up from sitting in one position for so long and her pants were a little bit too tight for comfort without some moving around.
H.G. was gathering her things from the passenger seat in her car, and Claudia picked her way across the muddy driveway to wave a tentative hand at the base of the porch steps. H.G. slammed her car door and locked it.
“Five,” H.G. said by way of hello. Claudia winced, knowing that she probably did deserve a little bit of a shouting at. She had well, run away and all, “I have received five phone calls about your whereabouts today.” H.G. jabbed her keys into the lock on her front door and turned then, hair flying every which way. Her face was drawn, just a little angry. Claudia had seen H.G. look very angry, and this looked nothing like it. Just sad, full of regret and strange look of parental responsibility. “Arthur called me.”
Claudia’s jaw fell slack. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled.
There was a narrowing about H.G.’s eyes, a small satisfaction there in knowing that Claudia felt appropriately chastised. Good, her eyes said, before they softened and H.G. held out her hand to Claudia, pulling her into an awkward hug with two messenger bags and jackets involved. It was weird, Claudia decided. She wasn’t used to feeling both loved and chastised at the same time. A strange feeling, to be sure.
H.G. pushed her front door open and announced almost cheerily, “No matter, you’re here; you’re alive, Myka will be happy to know her car is still in one piece and not in a ditch somewhere.”
“I am not that bad a driver,” Claudia protested as H.G. hurried her into the house.
It was, to be totally honest, amazingly homey. There were dishes in the sink and a pile of mail on the kitchen table. Dickens the cat had come running out to greet them and Claudia secretly took pictures of H.G.’s face with the cat food to show to Pete later as H.G. fed him his dinner.
“Why me?” H.G. asked after a few minutes of awkward silence. “You could have run to your friend Todd – and do not try and tell me that you don’t know where he is, you’re smarter than that, or even to Switzerland and your brother. And yet you chose to come to me.” H.G. looked away, “I would have thought you’d hate me for coming back when Steven did not.”
Her laptop was heavy on her shoulder and Claudia frowned, shifting from foot to foot. It was a Mexican standoff and Claudia was not going to be the one to draw her gun first. Or wait, was the point of a Mexican standoff that no one had guns in the first place? She’d ask Steve, he’d know.
She can’t handle this, and the bag slid off her shoulder and Claudia let it fall. She didn’t care, all of a sudden, that laptops did not like to be dropped, even while within padded bags.
“You were screaming then,” H.G. commented, crossing the room, reaching forward and grabbing Claudia’s hand. Claudia let herself be pulled through the kitchen, shoes still covered in mud from outside, and into a room that had to be H.G.’s study. It was worse than Artie’s office, a total mess. Papers and notes and a whole lot of junk covered the worktable, but there was a perfectly serviceable couch that was free of clutter. “Screaming for him.”
“Myka screamed for you, when they took you away,” Claudia retorted angrily, folding her arms across her chest and scowling. H.G. didn’t say anything to that, but there was a clear look of anguish in her eyes.
H.G. was taking off her shoes. Unlacing them expertly and pulling them off one by one, setting them to the side. It was all so maternal, but she could see how H.G. flinched when Claudia said that Myka had screamed.
She did not like to think about that day.
“Claudia, darling,” H.G.’s words were kind, and she pulled Claudia to her. Claudia had forgotten that even before Pete, H.G. gave the best hugs. “He was your best friend, maybe one day he would have been your lover-”
“He was gay,” Claudia muttered angrily. No one understood that she loved him not like a girl with a crush but rather a girl whose big brother was trapped in time for a decade and now didn’t want to talk to her that much because she reminded him too much of the parents that she did not have the pleasure of remembering.
“Oh,” H.G.’s face clearly read ‘why don’t people tell me these things’, and Claudia couldn’t help but smile just a little bit, as H.G. continued, exasperated expression vanishing back into a kind smile. “That would put a bit of a damper on that, wouldn’t it?”
“It did, yes.” Because she wasn’t above admitting that yes, she did have the tiniest crush on Steve at the beginning. “But I think we gained something more.”
“Do you remember Wolcott?” H.G. asked her, “I know that when I was ah… on (in?) on the Janus Coin, my projection told you about him.”
Claudia remembered the fondness in H.G.’s voice then, and how she had sighed just a little too happily when she recalled how absolutely and delightfully sincere Wolcott had been. “Yeah.”
H.G. inclined her head. “That relationship was not dissimilar to yours and Mr. Jinks. We both realized that despite an attraction that our interests lay elsewhere, and from that, a great friendship was born.”
“But you didn’t have to see him die,” Claudia pulled her knees up to her chin, staring down at her mismatched socks and feeling depressed and lonely. “You didn’t have to see a video of him telling you to be strong and brave and all this shit that I can’t be because he’s not here anymore..”
It was strange to see the look H.G. Wells’ face. The same look that she’d worn when she had told Claudia what she had done to the men who had killed her daughter. She had completely and utterly disassociated herself from the event, a simple statement of fact: “I killed Wolcott.”
Maybe that was what one hundred plus years trapped in your own brain did to you. Suddenly the Bronze sector sounded like a welcome reprieve from Claudia’s traitorous thoughts and nightmares.
(Myka would never let her go through with it.)
She knew that this was important, and that H.G. was trying to make a point. Claudia didn’t understand. Why would she think that she had killed her partner? Claudia turned and stared into H.G.’s dark eyes, confusion flickering across her face and asked, “You what?”
H.G. sighed and ran a hand through her hair. She looked so out of place in Emily Lake’s clothes. Gone were the leather jackets and tight pants and boots. No she was wearing a skirt and a blindingly lime green cardigan and Claudia thought the whole outfit was goddamn ridiculous and far too put-together for H.G. Wells. H.G. was supposed to be Lara Croft met Indiana Jones met Steampunk. Not some school teacher. It was weird.
“I was the cause of Woolly’s death. I didn’t think and there was an unstable artifact and we went in together and he did not make it out.”
It had never occurred to her that what H.G. was really confessing was her own fears for Myka. For them both. That she would somehow end up having to make a choice and that her choice would be a bad one. That Myka might not come out on top.
Claudia hung her head and did not look at H.G., she couldn’t. Such a confession was so immensely private that Claudia did not think that there were words that could truly and accurately describe how it made her feel. Myka was family, H.G. was something else. A savior, a traitor, she was so many things in one small and entirely too British package. “I’m sorry,” Claudia said to her knees.
H.G. reached forward then and touched Claudia’s arm, her fingers were warm, grounding - there when Claudia felt like nothing more than a ghost. “I am telling you this because after I had lost him, after I had lost him and I’d lost Christina I felt as though there was nothing left. I found the men that had killed Christina, I killed them, and then I asked to be bronzed.”
Claudia turned then to look at H.G., her hair flying across her face, blinding streak of green against red for just the briefest of instances. “But…” she began.
She had no idea that that was what had happened. Myka was the only one who really knew what had happened with H.G. back then. Claudia just knew the details that everyone did, and she felt strangely honored that H.G. actually wanted to talk to Claudia of all people about her life.
H.G. shook her head, and continued, “Living with regret is one thing, Claudia – letting it consume you is something else entirely.” H.G. patted Claudia on the shoulder, pulling a cellphone out of her pocket – the one that Claudia had helped her set up before things had gotten really bad and H.G. had tried to destroy the world. Claudia hadn’t realized that she’d kept it, all this time. She could have found H.G. – well, Emily Lake, long before Sykes had ever steered them to Cheyenne if she’d known.
Claudia bit her lip as H.G. stood up and gestured to the phone, “Now, I must call Myka and tell her that you’ve made it here safely. Maybe then Arthur will stop – what is the expression these days – ‘blowing up my phone.’”
Okay, that was perhaps just a little bit hilarious to hear out of H.G.’s mouth and Claudia cracked a smile. The guilt weighed down on her, but she just couldn’t be there with them. She couldn’t deal with how they all looked at her as though she was about to break. She wasn’t, she was stronger than that.
She sat back on the couch and really tried hard to not listen in on the one-sided conversation between H.G. and probably the entire Warehouse staff.
“No, Peter, I did no such thing.” H.G. said shortly, “She can stay as long as she likes and Myka doesn’t need her car.”
Claudia cracked a smile.
Myka was going to kill her.
They ordered pizza for dinner and H.G. told Claudia of the projects that she was working on in her spare time. It was crazy how much she could do while still pretending to have a day job. Around her pizza, Claudia told H.G. about the metronome and how it would work and H.G. told her to not do it, no matter what.
The price, as it were, was far too high.
As they cleaned up after dinner and watched as Dickens chased one of the cat toys that Claudia had found in the glove box of Myka’s car. Again, Claudia felt it necessary to point out how this was all a goddamn set up and their concerned phone calls were just to cover their asses to ensure that she knew that they really cared about her. Claudia knew, she wasn’t a goddamn idiot. “H.G. don’t you have class in the morning?” Claudia asked.
H.G. pursed her lips like she wanted to say that no, she did not. Once upon a time, Claudia had been in school, she could understand the sentiment. “I do.”
“Then why are you spending so much time with me? You should be… I don’t know, preparing or something.” She didn’t know why she asked, why it was so goddamn important that Claudia know that H.G. didn’t resent her for coming here.
H.G. set the final dish in the dish drain next to the sink and squeezed the remaining water out of the sponge with a shrug. “I figured that you needed me more.” She said simply.
Claudia could not remember her mom, but she hoped that she’d been a bit like H.G. Wells. All kind smiles and silent support and just getting it. “I… thank you.”
They shared a smile then, and Claudia realized just how wonderful it really was to see H.G. smile. She had not done it enough back before, and then when they’d found her there hadn’t been any goddamn time and then H.G. was dead and back again and Mr. Kosan was goddamn ruining everything.
Pete’s mom hadn’t been much better when she’d returned from her sudden trip to China. She’d made them all explain what exactly it was that they’d done, and then had lectured them all at length about the dangers of using artifacts like that. But her expression had softened when she’d turned to Claudia and had told her that no one expected her to be okay. She was allowed to be sad and to be upset, it was part of the process. Steve was trained for this, but Claudia was too young to have had such training, and that Pete’s mom was more than willing to help her cope.
Claudia had tried to take her up on the offer, but it had just been even worse then and she’d withdrawn into herself completely.
It was only when Myka had dared to come and to visit H.G. that things had started to feel better – less disjointed.
H.G. bent and slipped on mud boots that came up to her knees and grabbed a jacket off the rack by the kitchen door. She pulled it over her shoulders and buttoned it, motioning for Claudia to do the same. “Come, I want to show you something. Get your coat.”
Claudia pulled on her jacket and stepped into a pair of H.G.’s boots (her shoes were still in the other room and her feet were about H.G.’s size, if not a little smaller). It felt weird to wear them, unfamiliar, but still comfortable.
They crossed the porch and out into the April evening. It smelled like mud and spring and rain and Claudia liked all of those smells. Just not near her new chucks, or her face (thank you Pete for that delightful mudball… she swore to fucking god the man was FIVE not thirty something.).
There was a rock about halfway up H.G.’s driveway, flat and protruding up and out of the ground. H.G. climbed up it and turned to offer her hand to Claudia, hauling her up and on to the wide slate surface. Their heads tilted skywards, and H.G. began to speak, “The stars here, in this part of the world, are so different. I’ve had to completely relearn my cosmic map, bit annoying, really.”
Claudia laughed, her hands shoved deep in her jacket pockets. “You’re fast H.G., you’ll pick it up.”
They fell into silence for few minutes then, Claudia tracing out Orion, Draco, Ursa Major and Minor, Scorpio, Gemini. She knew where they all were, and has known for years. Joshua used to like to stargaze.
She never knew if Steve did or not. They’d never had the time.
“Steven is up there, you know. In the stars. I never much cared for the idea of heaven, but I think the Greeks and the Romans had the right idea, putting heroes in the sky to forever watch down upon us all.” She pointed to a cluster that Claudia didn’t know the name of. “He’s there. Near Alpha Centauri, second star to the right.”
“And straight on ‘til morning.” The line came from memory, but Claudia could see H.G.’s lips quirk upwards in a smile. H.G. must have read the book, then, it had been one of Claudia’s favorites as a child, although decidedly after her time.
It wasn’t quite cold enough that their breath fogged, but Claudia was pretty sure that it would have added to the mood as H.G.’s hand came to rest on her shoulder and her eyes sparkled just a little bit in the darkness. It was so hard to stay mad at H.G., because she was so fucking cool and awesome and knew what happened with you did certain things with certain chemicals and totally approved to telling Pete to do them just to see what might potentially happen. In the purpose of science and all.
Claudia had never wanted a mother before, but H.G. was filling the role despite everything that Claudia had thrown in her path. She wasn’t receptive, wasn’t willing to let H.G. in until it was too late and H.G. was off trying to destroy the world and breaking Myka’s heart in the process. And it was then that Claudia really realized that maybe she’d wanted H.G. to be something more than a friendly face and a sounding board for her ideas.
Steve had told her the whole thing was silly when she’d tried to explain it to him. He had never met H.G., and had only heard stories of her from Claudia and Pete. Myka never talked about H.G. with them and they all understood why.
H.G’s fingers squeezed Claudia’s shoulder and she smiled, lips quirking upwards in that small and tight-lipped smile that Claudia knew meant that H.G. was being genuine. Her fake smile was wide and bright and friendly – but completely transparent if you knew anything about H.G. She wasn’t that outgoing, and was more judicious with her emotions. “You see, Claudia? Steven gave you a gift, he showed you a part of himself that I am under the impression he habitually kept very guarded. Embrace that memory like it is your own.”
Claudia leaned into H.G. then, and let the tears that had started this morning come again and again. Half-freezing in the Wyoming spring evening and completely happy that she’d done this – despite the fact that Myka was going to murder her when she went back.
She had missed H.G., had missed hugs like this – and the fact that H.G. just got it.
They went back inside some time later and H.G. made some ‘sleepytime’ – Claudia was skeptical of it based on name alone and certain misadventures with Fargo – tea for the pair of them. It was a little spicy, but with milk and sugar, it made Claudia feel warm and safe and a whole lot better than she had before. “It’s getting late,” H.G. muttered, looking at the clock on the stove and sighing. She pulled off her sweater and folded it over her arm. “I’ll set you up on the sofa. It’s not the most comfortable thing in the world, but it’ll do.”
Claudia set her mug down on the counter and stared at it hard. Her cheeks were burning, it was so goddamn embarrassing to even have to ask. “Can I…”
The question hung heavy in the room and H.G. nodded once jerkily, hands fiddling with her cardigan and she commented dryly, “Dickens will develop opinions about me…”
And she said she didn’t like the cat. H.G. you liar. Claudia grinned, wished that she had thought to record that one particular line for future blackmail purposes and found herself stating the obvious, because apparently even time traveling Victorian geniuses need reassurances that their cat won’t think them slutty. “Everyone knows you love Myka, H.G.,” She smiled and then her face fell and her cheeks burned again. She hated to admit it, but to be alone right now would not work at all. She knew that she could not mentally handle being in strange place by herself.
She was growing so goddamn dependent on others, but she could not quiet her mind when she was alone and the nightmares had gotten worse and worse. She had to own her fear, Pete’s mom had explained, and not let it consume her. She had to let herself grieve for the friend she’d lost.
“I just… I can’t be alone right now.”
H.G.’s smile was kind then, this one warm and inviting, and she held out her hand and pulled Claudia up and towards the stairs. “Oh come here, darling.”
It wasn’t awkward, or even remotely strange. H.G. just handed her an oversized t-shirt and told her where the bathroom was before starting to grade papers, sitting cross-legged in the middle of the bed. Claudia changed quickly and H.G. shifted herself to be more on one side of the bed than the other. Claudia dozed off to the quiet sound of pen scratching on paper and the occasional rustle of blankets as H.G. moved though her grading.
It was nice, safe. A bit like Myka when she did paperwork late into the night.
She could get used to it.
The following morning, Claudia found herself following H.G. into work. While she knew that Dickens was solid, he was also a cat and therefore boring as shit. H.G. had rolled her eyes and told her to pack a lunch because the cafeteria food was ghastly and Claudia had made herself a PB&J to bring with her.
H.G. actually needed Claudia’s help with something on her school-provided classroom computer. It was ‘doing odd things’ – which translated into, had a bazillion spyware programs eating away at its memory and no antivirus protection to speak of. Oh, and something was really wrong with the fan.
“You won’t break it, will you?” H.G. asked after they’d hooked up H.G.’s personal laptop to the printer in order to print out copies of a test and two quizzes that H.G. was planning on giving that day. Claudia figured that she’d peace out and go find a bookstore or something to hole up in under the end of the day once classes actually started, but H.G. had not asked her to go, so she wouldn’t.
“Nah, just make it better,” Claudia explained, and H.G. grinned at her.
This was what Claudia liked, people understanding that she was there to help, not break HUNDRED YEAR OLD VERY IMPORTANT THINGS by taking them apart, finding their flaws, and improving them. Artie just didn’t get it, most of the time, but the Tesla Rifles that Claudia had made had been pretty fucking awesome if she did say so herself.
Steve certainly had and he didn’t give out compliments unless they were deserved.
(Mostly he gave out nuggies and fist bumps and barely veiled hilarious insults. Because he was Steve and Claudia had really loved him.)
And that was how Claudia found herself half an hour later. Sitting in Emily Lake’s classroom, overclocking the computer because she honestly didn’t have anything else to do and she just happened to have a soldering gun in her bag when she’d stormed off yesterday. So she’d taken the thing apart and was making improvements. She’d just gotten to the fan (what a dusty disaster that was going to be) when a girl with dark hair walked into the room, school bag slung over her shoulder.
Claudia glanced up, and gave a small wave. She hadn’t gotten a chance to meet any of Emily Lake’s students the previous time that she’d been in Cheyenne. She’d been too distracted, too miserable, and then she’d been so full of anger and sadness and desperation that she’d completely forgotten that H.G. Wells was masquerading as a fucking teacher and it was goddamn hilarious because while H.G. was very smart, she did not have the most patience in the world. Also she once tried to bring about the next ice age.
The girl looked around, blinking at H.G.’s laptop and Claudia’s tools set in neat rows along the floor as worked. “Who are you?” The girl demanded. “Where’s Ms. Lake?”
“A Friend of Ms. Lake’s,” Claudia fiddled with her screwdriver. It was rude, not to mention unfriendly, as she didn’t know this chick from Adam. She did not have to justify being there, and she stuck her chin out stubbornly and selected a smaller screwdriver and jabbed moodily at the fan. What the fucking fuck someone had stuck gum in it. No wonder it wasn’t working.
The girl set her bag down on a nearby desk and began to pull out her class supplies as Claudia attempted to use her screwdriver as a chisel to remove the gum. She had almost gotten it loose when the girl commented, “Ms. Lake doesn’t really have friends – she’s got no memory.”
“She has more than you’d know.” Claudia muttered.
It bothered her that this girl thought that, that this girl didn’t really know H.G. at all. Well no one really knew H.G. here, just a few select people were aware of her origins and even fewer knew that she was not actually accredited to teach in the state of Wyoming or at all. Or drive in the US, but that had been something that Claudia and Pete had helped H.G. out with one lazy Sunday morning on dirt roads in South Dakota. It was crazy to think that H.G.’s students legit thought that about her too.
She shook her head and jabbed at the gum some more. It was coming loose, thank god.
“I’m Erica.” The girl said, settling down in her chair and watching Claudia with narrowed eyes, “Senior here.”
Claudia wondered if this was the girl with the hilarious crush on H.G. that Myka had told her about. Myka had brought it up with a bit of a jealous tone in her voice and Claudia had not let her live it down for about a week. She grinned, pitching her shoulders forward in a gesture that she knew was non-threading, “I’m Claudia, I’m a sophomore at SDSU.”
And no, not San Diego. Idiots. The real SDSU was in South Dakota, thank you very much.
Erica blinked, apparently processing this information and Claudia successfully pulled the gum off the computer’s fan with a triumphant cackle. She flicked it into the trashcan as Erica brushed her hair over her shoulder and leaned forward across the desk, “How do you know Ms. Lake then? She’s not from South Dakota.”
There was no reason to sugarcoat it. H.G. wouldn’t want her to lie about something like this (because H.G. had a bit of an ego and Claudia knew that she knew it) so she told the truth, “She uh… well, she saved my life.”
And then tried to kill her a few times, and then saved everyone but the person Claudia cared about the most because she was a big damn hero.
“No way.” Erica, for her part, looked a bit impressed.
Claudia shrugged, trying to brush it off as nothing. “Yeah, its crazy complicated, but I’m just visiting.”
The girl looked a little put out, like she couldn’t believe that someone as cool as ‘Ms. Lake’ was spending time with a nerd like Claudia. Oh, if only this girl knew what H.G. was in the process of inventing in her free time. Her head would probably explode at the sheer level of H.G.’s own nerdiness. “Oh.” Erica bit at her lip and looked away from Claudia to her schoolwork. “That’s cool I guess.”
Damn right it was cool, she got to hang out with H.G. fucking Wells and make this girl incredibly jealous and it was fucking awesome. She got to hear H.G.’s awesome stories and explain modern pop culture to H.G. and this girl had to sit in her English class and fucking pine.
Claudia was feeling damn vindictive, but the girl was being goddamn rude. She rummaged in her bag for a can of compressed air and began to clean out the computer’s fan.
There was silence for a few minutes, and Claudia had gotten so wrapped up in chasing out the most epic dust bunny she’d ever seen inside a computer (thing was a fire hazard, my god) that she jumped a little bit when Erica announced without preamble: “I got into Oxford.”
She was running low on air, Claudia shook the can a little bit, wincing as it grew icy cold under her fingers. “Good for you?” she asked.
Erica tapped her finger against her chin, “Ms. Lake went there…” Claudia snorted, Yeah in like 1882. Not really the same thing, sweetie. “I haven’t told her yet, do you think she’ll be impressed?”
Claudia wasn’t a gigantic dick, however, so she just nodded and pretended that the whole thing wasn’t hilarious. “Sure, I guess. She likes smart chicks – her partner went to some ritzy school in D.C.”
Tact and subtlety? Claudia didn’t know what that even meant. Her words were chosen carefully to make it very clear that she knew ‘Emily Lake’ a lot better than this girl did. She tried not to grin vindictively (she was just a little bit diabolical after all – even Pete said so) at the myriad of emotions that crossed the girl’s face at this pronouncement.
“Wait. Partner?” She spluttered eyes wide.
Claudia might have misspoken. On purpose. Because she was a totally a dick. And this girl was rude.
She chewed on the inside of her cheek to prevent herself from sniggering and pretended to play dumb. “In uh… crime?”
The classroom door closed with a snap and H.G. walked into the room, a large sheaf of papers tucked under her arm and a foul expression on her face. Claudia’s face fell just for a moment before she realized that H.G’s bad mood was not directed at her, but rather her companion. “Among other things. Erica, please refrain from prying into my personal life. We’ve discussed this.” H.G. said testily.
“Ms. Lake… I …” Erica began as Claudia turned to gather her things. There wasn’t much else she could do for this computer at this point other than a few more speed tests, but she didn’t think that H.G. wanted her classroom computer running like something out of the Warehouse. So she shoved her stuff back into her bag and unplugged her soldering gun from the power strip under the desk as H.G. and Erica-her-fangirl had an epic stare-down right above her head.
H.G.’s voice turned a lot milder when she spoke next, this time to Claudia. Her eyes were sad, but kind and Claudia winced, she knew what was coming. “Claudia, I know we discussed a longer stay but there is a curiosity that required your attention back home, Myka wants you to head back.”
Her Farnsworth was in her back pocket, they could have, you know, called. Only that was probably the punishment, that H.G. had to be her fucking handler now that she’d fucking stormed off because they couldn’t look at her without pity.
“Oh.” She said, hand in her hair, her mood plummeting.
“Erica, could we have a moment?” H.G. asked quietly and Claudia thanked god that she took the fucking hint and high-tailed it out of the classroom.
Claudia stood on half-asleep feet, trying to wiggle them just a bit to get the feeling back into them. “I guess they want me to go back?”
H.G. nodded, her hands shoved into her pants pockets. “Something about a black widow artifact and they don’t want Pete or Arthur in the field looking for it as they’re both potential victims.” She gave a small shrug, “Myka says to tell you that she’s not mad.”
Claudia scowled, “Why didn’t they just call me?” She hated that they had not.
“I told them not to,” H.G. said simply.
Claudia stared at her.
“You needed some time to collect yourself and gain perspective. I suggested that I stay with you and they give you space,” H.G. gave Claudia a look that implied that agreeing with her that this was a good idea (it probably had been) was in Claudia’s best interests.
“So uh…” She shifted from foot to foot and H.G. was suddenly there, hugging her, holding her close. It was nice, wonderful even. Claudia couldn’t wait until H.G. could be back with them all the time. Myka would be happier, they all would be happier. She was sure of it.
“Don’t lose sight of yourself in your grief,” H.G. whispered, pressing her lips to Claudia’s forehead. “Drive safely.”
Claudia nodded. “I always do.”
Chapter 3: Left Standing
before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove fly,
before she sleeps in the sand?
And how many times must a cannon ball fly,
before they're forever banned?
-Bob Dylan – Blowin’ in the Wind
South Dakota in June was hot and buggy. The black flies had started to hatch and thusly had begun to get into the Warehouse. To combat this annoyance, Pete was spending a Wednesday afternoon going around with Univille’s lone hardware store’s entire stock of fly paper, hanging up the sticky strips wherever the flies seemed to be congregating. Anything was better than those itchy annoying bites and the irritating sound of flies constantly buzzing around his head.
He’d done the Warehouse floor (a few strategic places in the canned food aisle and then several by the gooery as the bastards seemed to like the stuff and Pete did not want a reenactment of The Fly going on in his workplace, thank you) and was making his way up and through Artie’s office and living quarters when Artie’s Farnsworth began to ring. This was right on schedule, Myka had taken Claudia up to Ottawa to find some strange Native American artifact that had ended up at the Natural History museum there. He hoped it didn’t have anything to do with the giant spider statue that decorated the outside of the art museum just down the street that he’d seen pictures of in their reports, because fuck if he was letting that thing anywhere near where he slept.
Artie paused his whatever-he-was-doing and flipped his Farnsworth open only to yelp in surprise upon accepting the call. “What? How?” Artie spluttered as Pete hopped down from the chair he’d been standing on, fly paper still stuck to his forearm as he hurried to Artie’s side.
H.G. Wells was staring up at them, a concerned expression on her face. “Hello,” she said, eyes serious and unblinking. Pete wondered how the hell she’d managed to duplicate a Farnsworth’s frequency when he knew for a fact that H.G. was not allowed contact with the warehouse on any official channels until she was reinstated. Not to mention the fact that the Farnsworth’s frequencies were supposed to be unhackable. Claudia had assured Pete (and the rest of them) that for someone to hack into them meant that someone had had the mental capacities to rethink Farnsworth’s genius.
Well, Pete gave a mental shrug, if anyone could do it, H.G. probably could. There was a reason she was going to be coming back to the Warehouse.
(Slated to happen before the end of the summer, Artie was still protesting. Loudly.)
“Hey Helena,” Pete said with a grin, wincing as he pulled the fly paper off of his arm. Dang, that stuff was sticky.
“You know you’re not supposed to be using official warehouse communication for social calls,” Artie said shortly, leaning forward and moving to cut the call off.
Pete’s eyes narrowed, and he rested his hand on Artie’s arm as H.G. laughed, “Oh I assure that this is an entirely unofficial communication, Arthur. Also hardly a social call,” She paused and then the screen shook as she picked up whatever it was that she was using to replicate the Farnsworth’s frequency. Pete found himself staring out of a window at a back yard that was completely and utterly full of buffalo. “Thing is, I have a bit of a curiosity on my hands and could use some help.”
“Holy…” Pete began but Artie cut him off.
“I take it that this is not normal?” He demanded, hands already flying across the keyboard.
The screen on the Farnsworth shook again as H.G’s face came back into view, she shook her head, “Decidedly not. Buffalo are scarce in these parts and they are most assuredly people-shy. These have no fear at all. They’ve been nosing at my door all morning begging for handouts.”
“Do you think it’s a summoning artifact?” Pete asked, leaning forward to get a better look at the room where H.G. was talking to them. It reminded him of Artie’s office, papers and plans and odds and ends littering the surfaces. A couch with a few books on one of the seats rested in one corner of the room and a workbench with a sheaf of drafting paper sitting on it was just barely visible out of the corner of the screen.
Artie made a clicking sound at the back of his throat, but nodded his head, “Probably Cheyenne or maybe Lakota Sioux.” He gave H.G. a hard look before pulling off his glasses and rubbing his eyes. Pete could see how tired Artie was in that moment, and he wondered just how much of a sleep debt he was still working off of after those terrible few days where no one slept or ate before they could be sure - absolutely and positively sure - that the pocket watch that MacPherson had left for Artie would not somehow kill them all when they had nothing else to lose.
From behind his hand, Artie sighed quietly, “Myka isn’t here, H.G.”
H.G. gave a little shrug, but Pete could see the sadness in her eyes. No doubt she wanted to work with Myka. Pete couldn’t blame her, if he had been stuck pretending to be a school teacher in Wyoming. A cat lady school teacher (Claudia had shown him pictures.) “I could go,” he said, poking Artie in the shoulder. “I think that you and Leena could probably handle putting up the fly paper.”
“Handle the what now?” The door buzzed open and Leena walked into the office, a large envelope in her hand. Its corners were battered and worn and there was a US Customs declaration sticker on the side, along with an EMS sticker. Pete wondered, ever so briefly, what Artie had ordered from half-way around the world. “Artie, this came for you at the B&B.” She handed him the envelope and Artie took it, setting it aside without looking at it. Pete peered over at it, but turned his attention back to H.G. whose eyes had narrowed curiously at the envelope that had come across her vision as Artie had set it down.
“Fly paper?” Pete said, holding out the brown paper bag that he’d been keeping his fly papering supplies in. She took it and wrinkled her nose, expression clearly telling him that she was on to his game and foisting off chores on her.
He shoved his best smile on to her face and mouthed that he’d make it up to her. She glared back at him and clutched the bag to her chest, informing him that he’d better because she had other, more important things to do.
Artie coughed and then shoved his glasses back up his nose. He reached forward, pulling a pen and paper towards himself, “Right, Ms. Wells, what are you going to need in terms of supplies in order to find this artifact?”
He didn’t know what to make of Artie’s behavior. Artie had always sort of, well, there really wasn’t a way to put it nicely - hated H.G. for killing James MacPherson. Personally, Pete was of the mindset that H.G. had done them all a favor by killing the crazy bastard, but Artie had lost a close personal friend in that altercation and probably was slower to forgive for that reason alone.
(Plus there was the ridiculous theory that Myka had floated after finding some ah… more interesting photographs of young Artie and MacPherson in the Warehouse staff archives. The theory that made Pete wiggle his eyebrows suggestively and Claudia dissolve into giggles on the reg. It was good, no matter how crazy such a theory, to hear Claudia laugh. She didn’t do it enough anymore.)
H.G. shook her head, face distorting slightly on the slow retrieval rate of the Farnsworth’s screen, “Just some static bags and gloves, I’ve got everything else I’ll need here.” She rummaged around on her desk and held up another one of her hand-made and super badass mini-Teslas. Artie let out a groan that Pete took to mean that he did not appreciate H.G. being her normal artificer self while pretending to be a school teacher, and moved to close the Farnsworth. H.G. cut him off, pursing her lips and tapping her chin thoughtfully, “Oh… if you do have something that could help to corral them out of my backyard, that’d help. I don’t know where Dickens has wandered off to and I’d hate for him to get trampled.”
Artie leaned back in his chair and ran a hand through his hair, clearly thinking. Pete had no idea if there even was such an object in existence. Dog whistle, sure, they used it on Trailer all the time, but a bison summoning device? Pete was stumped.
“We have a bison whistle.” Artie announced, snapping his fingers triumphantly as he pulled his computer keyboard towards him, tapping in a few search words into the program that Claudia had only just perfected. It was like their old archival system, only a little bit more sophisticated as it included more than just a brief description of the artifact in question. After all of the misadventures that they’d had not knowing what exactly an artifact might do, this now included an aggregate of scanned case files from former Warehouse agents regarding their cases and extensive (Claudia loved spreadsheets) lists of potential hazards.
Ever since the warehouse had come back online, this had been Claudia’s project. She’d worked on it tirelessly, not really taking the time that Pete knew she needed to grieve. His mom had tried to help, Myka had suggested methods to distract Claudia from her grief, even Mr. Kosan had looked vaguely concerned in his threatening demeanor. No one had been able to get through to Claudia until she had just picked up one day about three months ago and had driven off to see H.G. in Wyoming. That had helped her some, and Pete was glad of it, because the database got completed and they were able to look stuff up in a more methodical fashion.
Still, a bison whistle? That was straight outta a cartoon that Pete sometimes watched on Friday nights when he had nothing better to do. He pursed his lips and frowned, wondering out loud, “Like from that cartoon uhh… Airbender something or other?”
Artie gave Pete that look, the one that said, ‘oh you are still so young and you still do not believe that anything is possible.’ Pete hated that look, because he wasn’t the skeptic of the pair of them – no, that task fell to Myka. He was supposed to be the believer, but there were limits, even on what Pete was willing to believe. “Where do you think they got the idea?” Artie asked, flicking through screens quickly, barely giving Pete and Leena time to keep up with them as they read over his shoulder. The Bison Whistle was recovered in the late 20s from a reservation in Colorado. It did not say the tribe that it was affiliated with, but Pete had put his money on airbenders and hadn’t said anything. Claudia would find it hilarious, when he told her. Artie turned back to H.G., “I’ll send it along with Pete.”
Pete could see the look of relief on H.G.’s face as her entire body seemed to loosen, the tension leaving her face and shoulders. “Thank you Arthur.” She turned and gave Leena a slight smile. It was the same closed-off expression that she oftentimes used on Pete when she had actually been present at the Warehouse. Pete wondered if Leena knew it wasn’t genuine. “It’s lovely to see you again, Leena, by the way.”
“Same to you, Helena.” Leena leaned over to grin into the Farnsworth’s screen. Pete just shook his head, women and their cattiness. They could be perfectly civil to each other one moment and yet utterly awful to each other the next. Pete wondered if H.G. still held some resentment towards Leena for debronzing her in the first place. It had been MacPherson’s plan, but Leena had been the one (under duress – Pete thought it prudent to add) to carry it out, “Are you well?”
H.G. shrugged, “I will be better when I do not have a herd of buffalo in my back yard.”
Pete laughed and leaned in so that she could see him, “Imma coming, H.G.”
“Thank you, Pete.”
To be completely honest, Pete was not sure that he could actually handle being there with H.G. Sure, things had gotten a lot better, when he’d finally realized that no, she was not the evil mustache twirling villain from the movies that he so desperately wanted her to be.
He and Myka had talked about her endlessly – argued really. Pete could clearly see what Myka had refused – for months – to admit. The fact of the matter was basically that H.G. was completely and utterly in love with Myka and if it had been anyone else standing with H.G.’s gun to their head in Yellowstone; they’d be dead and the world would be freezing its collective asses off right now.
Before they’d found Sykes’ bomb, Pete had hugged H.G., thanking her for saving Myka’s life. He’d seen the triumphant look of approval on Myka’s face then, and it had all gone to hell after that and H.G. was a goddamn hero and fuck if Pete knew how he was ever going to thank her for saving his life.
There hadn’t been time then, they’d been racing against the clock, against the window of time that the watch that MacPherson had left Artie allowed. They’d gone in with a plan, knowing the likelihood of anyone coming back from this was slim to none.
They were agents of the Warehouse, it came before their very lives.
Their bullet for the president, as it was said in Secret Service lore.
Artie coughed and jerked Pete out of some very bad memories, causing him to shake his head slightly as he turned his attention back to the matter at hand. H.G.’s back yard in Cheyenne was full of buffalo and she’d hacked a Warehouse secure frequency in order to request backup that Pete was more than willing to provide. “Alright H.G., please do not hack into the Farnsworth’s frequency again.”
H.G. flashed him a brilliant smile. “I shan’t be needing to soon,” she said, reaching forward and cutting the power to her video communication device.
Artie opened his mouth to reply, but closed it with a sigh. They were all pretty much resigned to the fact that H.G. was coming back. For better or for worse, the Warehouse was the one place where they knew her knowledge would be safe.
The screen listed the location of the bison whistle as the bottom drawer of Artie’s desk. Pete had no idea what the hell it was doing there, but he rolled with the punches because that was how he did. Pete leaned back on his heels and folded his arms across his chest as Artie rummaged in his desk drawer for the bison whistle. “Do you think that she’s making it up and somehow did it herself?”
Artie shook his head, lifting up what looked to be a dirty sock and then triumphantly holding up a small brown and white carved whistle. “It would serve no purpose. The Warehouse chose to bring her back when it was restored. No matter what the implication of that is, she’s here to stay and we’d best keep her close.” He tossed the whistle to Pete, who caught it and tucked it into his pocket. He had a cache of static bags and gloves in the car, and his Tesla was in there as well – he’d been meaning to bring it in for some target practice later, once he finished his fly paper mission.
Still, the idea of keeping H.G. close did have its perks. They’d all discussed it, with long looks and half-hidden glances over to where Myka would oftentimes sit in the B&B, chatting on the phone with H.G. as though there wasn’t, as Claudia had so eloquently put it, ‘a metric fuckton’ of baggage between them. “That’ll make Myka happy.” Pete said with a grin that earned him an approving smile from Leena and a mutinous look from Artie.
“Myka’s happiness aside, I’d rather keep her where I can keep an eye on her.” Artie said, handing Pete an empty file folder, “Build the case file when you get there, I know that that woman takes fantastic notes and writes exceptionally detailed reports. I want all of that information back here and on my desk as soon as you’ve snagged and bagged the artifact that’s causing this.”
“Right…” Pete said, taking the folder and heading for the door. He did want to linger, to ask Artie for clarification, but that was far more of Myka’s prerogative. She was the thinker, he was the doer. The air in the umbilicus was hot and stifling and Pete could scarcely breathe inside of it. Like all the other times he’d been stuck in there, trapped between two places he didn’t want to be.
Myka should be doing this, not him. This wasn’t his place.
It was only when he was out in the bright sunlight and warmth of the South Dakota summer than Pete finally allowed himself to breathe again. He pulled his sunglasses down over his eyes and turned his car over. He had enough gas to get to Cheyenne – or rather to its outskirts where H.G. lived, no problem.
The journey was fairly uneventful. Pete was able to find an afternoon baseball game on AM Radio, and while he wasn’t exactly a Twins fan, it was a way to pass the time. They were playing the Padres, and they were losing spectacularly, which was shameful, considering that the Padres had been, and always would be, terrible.
Pete debated about calling Myka and telling her that he was going to go help H.G. with a case, but decided against it for the moment. This was going to be his time to fix whatever it was that had gone so sour between himself and H.G. Wells. That particular list was endless, he knew, but for Myka and for his own mental well-being, he wanted to rebuild some fences. Besides, with H.G. back in the Warehouse before the summer was finished, Pete was sure that he would have to find some sort of a common ground between wanting her dead and thinking that she was the coolest person on the planet (after Myka, naturally).
The problem was that he had actually read Helena’s books when he was a kid. He’d loved them. Sure, he put on a brave face and joked about the movie versions of the Wells stories, but truth be told, he did know that sometimes the books (comics notwithstanding as they never could do the superheroes justice) were always better than the movies. He wasn’t an idiot. He’d read enough stories about time travel and being displaced in time to know why H.G. had snapped as she had.
He wasn’t sure that he completely absolved MacPherson’s involvement in the whole situation, but he did know that H.G. had acted out of grief and out of pain at being trapped alone in her own mind for nearly one hundred years. He couldn’t imagine it, didn’t want to imagine it. All he could think of was the fact that he actually knew what she was going through and he had not exactly been the nicest person on the planet to her.
It was so strange, to see her standing on the other side of the barrier, his hand clenching Myka’s tightly, holding her back from running into her own oblivion. H.G. had saved them all and because of that selfless act, the Warehouse had saved her. It wasn’t fair, and she didn’t deserve another chance, but he knew that Myka had never said anything to her about what was left unsaid between them and Myka deserved to be happy.
Sam’s death had devastated her, after all. She deserved love, even if it came in the form of a woman that Pete wasn’t entirely sure was sane. Actually, H.G.’s mental state sort of fit with the whole vibe that Myka seemed to be going for these days - being too badass for words and yet silently wounded. He was happy for her, content with his position in her life. Once upon a time, he would have said yes, but now they were bros and you just don’t kiss your bros (unless possessed by an evil spirit trapped in a mirror but that’s a story for a different day entirely). Now it was just that, Myka was his best friend in the whole damn world and he had to make sure that her potential girlfriend would not a) get killed by stampeding buffalo and b) never leave ever again because fuck, he didn’t know if he could handle seeing Myka like that again.
About twenty miles outside of Cheyenne and the game mostly over, Pete started to see buffalo. Their dark bodies dotted the countryside as he pushed his car upwards of eighty, trying to beat the sun and the evening traffic. It was strange, Pete had seen buffalo before, in zoos (never again) and in the wild. He’d eaten buffalo too, but never this up close and personal. It was scary, like seeing a moose for the first time in the wild and knowing that if you hit it, that’s two tons of body attached to six feet of legs that’s gunna total your car.
The buffalo milled about on the side of the road, eating at the grass, sort of acting like cows. Oddly docile and unafraid of the cars that sped by them on the highway towards the capital city of the state. The whole thing was just freaky the way that they milled about, just sort of jostling towards a central point.
The town itself was blissfully clear of buffalo and Pete followed his GPS’ directions up a side street and into the wilderness. The road turned to dirt and he couldn’t help but think that this was totally not the place where he’d picture H.G. Wells coming to reside.
He got it though. When Myka said that H.G. was no longer living at the apartment that had once been Emily Lake’s, he understood why she wasn’t there. That place must have held memories, terrible associations with everything that had happened to them all.
They’d failed. They hadn’t seen Sykes’ plan for what it was and they’d all nearly died trying to stop him in time. Pete couldn’t believe how stupid they’d been, believing that things would be alright if the man himself was gone. His mom had been a fool, not seeing how obviously corrupted Walter Sykes was from the beginning. The bracelet had destroyed him at such a young age. It was a damn shame, but unfortunately, it was what happened when you messed with an artifact.
Pete knew that, Myka knew that. They’d all been trained from the beginning to be professionals. They would not fall into the traps that MacPherson had fallen into, wanting and desperately seeking that one artifact that would somehow make life as they knew it completely and utterly different.
He frowned, pulling at the collar of his polo. He was grateful that he was off on an artifact retrieval, because strange occurrences in small town Wyoming were enough to get his mind off of the pressing fear that seemed to fill it whenever he allowed his mind to idle.
H.G.’s driveway was half-hidden behind a patch of Douglas firs, and Pete nearly missed the turn off before his GPS squawked at him a voice that sounded disturbingly like Myka. He spun the wheel and pulled up the dirt and gravel drive. It hadn’t rained in about two weeks and the ground was caked and dry. Dust rose behind his car as he had to carefully steer around one, two, and finally three buffalo on his way to park next to H.G.’s car. It was the car that they’d seen Emily Lake use when they’d been tailing her back before everything had gone to hell.
Exhaling, Pete turned off the engine and gathered his things. He tucked his Tesla into his belt and pulled the lightweight blazer that he tended to favor during the summer on, making sure that the gun wasn’t visible before he took his service weapon out of the glove compartment and clipped it, along with his badge, to his belt.
“Alright Pete,” he whispered to himself, gathering his phone and overnight bag. “Time to go hang out with H.G. and hopefully not get killed by stampeding buffalo.”
Pete wasn’t an idiot. He knew that if the buffalo stampeded anything in their path was a goner. He’d seen The Lion King, he knew how that worked.
H.G.’s driveway gave way to an older looking farm house. White paint peeled off the porch and the shutters could do with a good bit of sprucing up. Still, the place had a charm that Pete couldn’t quite put his finger on. It was homely, it looked well-cared-for and loved. Just the sort of place for someone like H.G. to recuperate from being dead and all; it was almost picture-perfect. All it needed was a stable full of horses around the back, rather than a strange corral of buffalo.
The steps squeaked as he bounded up them, knocking on the door after dodging around a cat toy and a rocking chair. Three smart raps on the door and he waited, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot. He didn’t know why he was so nervous. It was H.G., he’d known her for a while. They were friends.
The door opened and Pete was greeted with the rather strange sight of H.G. Wells wearing a T-shirt that he quickly recognized as belonging to Myka and jeans. She looked comfortable, casual, and not at all the way he felt inside. He was knotted up, worried he was going to make things awkward just by being there. They’d never really talked before. He’d stuck his tongue in her mouth and then it had been really obvious that she was in a league far outside his own.
“Hey H.G.,” Pete said, holding up the handful of static bags and neutralizer coated gloves that he’d procured from the glove compartment of his far. “I come bearing static bags and gloves!”
H.G. nodded her head, “Pete,” she said, fingers cradling a mug of tea despite the warmth of the day. Pete could tell by the slight sheen of sweat across her forehead that it wasn’t much cooler inside. She was just doing that British thing that she did, and drinking tea regardless of the circumstances. “I wasn’t expecting you until five.”
Pete grinned sheepishly, “I might have pushed it a little getting here.” He rubbed at the back of his head, “Myka doesn’t let me drive for a reason.”
She inclined her head, as though she understood what he meant and stepped aside, “Won’t you come in and get out of ah – the buffalo?”
“Thanks,” Pete grinned. He slipped past her and into the house’s kitchen. It was bright, sunny, the light off the porch reflects across the pale yellow walls and wallpaper that was peeling in some places. He stood in the middle of the room, hands plunged deep into his pockets. He didn’t know what to say, his overnight bag and work bag slung over his shoulder.
H.G. closed the door and peered out the window at the buffalo. She sighed and then set her mug down on the table by the window. “I guess you’d better check in with Arthur,” she said, not really looking at him. “I would let him know that you made it, but I think he’d make me send my video-auditory communication device back to the Warehouse with you.”
Pete could see her point. H.G. was an artificer, the bugs probably weren’t worked out of her device (plus he was positive that Claudia was going to want to have a look at it to make sure that H.G. hadn’t discovered a weakness in the Farnsworth’s secure frequencies). She’d need more time before she’d be willing to hand it over to the Warehouse. “Good point,” he said, setting his bags down on the kitchen counter next to a toaster that bore the same marks that Leena’s did. Of being taken apart and put back together again and again as its circuitry and components became more and more familiar. He unzipped his duffle and rummaged around for a minute before producing the Farnsworth, wrapped around a pair of boxers that he hurriedly shoved back down into his bag.
Didn’t need H.G. judging him for wearing Superman boxers, that was for sure.
He opened the Farnsworth and dialed in Artie’s frequency. The screen flickered for a moment before Artie’s face swam into view and H.G. moved to stand next to Pete. “Hi Artie,” she said, her tone just barely hopeful. Pete had heard that tone before, right before H.G. fooled them all into believing that she wasn’t evil. Turned out she was just sad. Pete understood that, really he did. But to destroy the world? That’s a bit much.
Artie scowled at the pair of them, “I see you’ve arrived.” He sighed, and pushed his glasses up off his eyes to rub his eyes. “Have you figured out what this might be, Wells?”
H.G. pursed her lips and shrugged. “Honestly I’ve been a bit distracted, I can’t exactly leave with a herd of buffalo in my drive and all.”
He wanted to laugh at this. But he held it back, because he wasn’t exactly sure if he was supposed to be laughing at H.G. She was an unknown, she’d saved them all, but she’d tried to kill them all – she’d tried to have Kelly kill him. He couldn’t forgive that, he really couldn’t. Myka could, it was easy for her. She’d forced her gun into H.G.’s hand and told H.G. to kill her. Myka had wanted to die, Pete was quite content to live.
Artie leaned forward, eyes hard and just a little bit scary. He’d been more intense since the Warehouse had come back. He’d been a lot of things that he hadn’t been before since then. “Get me something to work with, Pete.” He said and cut the connection.
Pete closed the Farnsworth and shrugged at H.G., “Dude needs a vacation.” He said by means of explanation.
H.G. just inclined her head and gestured toward the darkened doorway at the end of the hall. “I can show you what I have been able to gather, if you’d like a look.”
He grabbed his work bag from the counter and slung it back over his shoulder. Pete flashed a brief grin at her before his expression turned serious. “Lead the way.”
The Warehouse was quiet, the way that Artie liked it. There were no potential crises to handle, and no one was trying to kill them. A slow day, then. He sat back on his desk, scratching at his beard and contemplating the fact that he’d let Pete and that woman alone in the same room together. Hopefully they survived it.
They were, after all, two singularly stubborn individuals who had both been badly hurt by the other. Artie liked to take comfort in the fact that he’d been right – not right – as the situation proved to him over and over again.
Helena Wells had surprised them all. She’d been the key to Sykes’ plan, but how he had known about the details of Warehouse 12 was still a mystery to Artie. There was no way that he could have learned of H.G.’s friendship with the man who had designed the lock on the Regent’s sanctuary without a deep and personal knowledge of Warehouse 13 that he simply had not had at the time. The records on H.G., too, were sketchy at best. Even Mrs. Frederic, in one of her moments of noncrypticness, had had very few answers for the questions that he was trying to answer about Helena Wells. The Regent’s archives, however, were also not the best kept records in the world.
Artie made a note to again suggest to Mrs. Frederic that the best potential weapon they could have to combat that would be to find a librarian or an archivist and bring them into the Warehouse’s fold. He would have suggested Myka, but she was far better in the field.
The package that Leena had brought earlier rested on his desk and Artie frowned at it, leaning over and picking up the envelope. The handwriting was familiar, and the postmark indicated that it actually could have been sent by the man who’d written it. Artie rummaged in his top desk drawer and produced a pair of neutralizer-coated gloves. After what had happened to Kelly Hernandez, he was taking no chances at all.
“Leena, where did you say you got this?” He asked, carefully inspecting the outside of the dirty and beat up envelope. The edges were frayed and it was splattered with red earth. Not the usual brown that they got here in South Dakota. No, this had been lost for quite some time.
Artie set it down on his desk and turned to see Leena standing in the doorway, goggles from the Ovoid Quarantine perched on top of her curly hair. Her arms were folded, but her stance was not comparative. She’d know James MacPherson as a child, after all. When her aunt and namesake had run the Bed and Breakfast she had spent summers getting a feel of what would someday be her charge.
“A government courier dropped it off this morning, said that it had been delivered to some weapons storehouse in Nevada. K39zzs, apparently the handwriting was illegible.” Leena explained, her eyebrows shooting up her forehead as Artie found a letter opener and checked it over carefully. There were some things in his desk that had artifact properties that probably should not be used for their intended tasks.
He was distracted, almost dismissing Leena as he pulled open the scanner that Claudia had set up on the desk next to the computer and quickly scanning the document. He was running trace tests for anything even remotely artifact seeming, but so far, there only appeared to be loose papers inside. That didn’t mean anything in the slightest, but it did brighten Artie’s mood. “Right… that that would make sense, his writing was awful…”
“What?” Leena asked, and Artie glanced over his shoulder to see her standing in the doorway still, goggles askew and Pete’s paper bag of fly paper now in one hand.
“Never mind, never mind.” He threw up his hands and sighed, perhaps a bit over dramatically. This was going to be so difficult to explain to Leena, even if the girl could see right through him. “I… I need to think.”
Leena, for once in her life, seemed to understand that Artie was not ready to talk about… whatever this was, just yet. “Alright…” She held up the bag and Artie turned, head resting on his palm, to look at her as she shook it just a little. “I’ll just take the rest of these back to the B&B to use there?”
She gave him one last piercing look and took her leave. Artie waited until the door beeped that it was fully shut before he pulled the letter out of the scanner and cradled it in his hands. He didn’t want to open it, but the last note from James MacPherson had saved all their skins. He supposed that he owed it to him to at least have a look.
Artie shoved his glasses up his nose and picked up the letter opener. “Now, James. What are you sending me from beyond the grave?”
It was awkward, to say the least; spending the night on H.G. Wells’ couch. The house was old and creaky, and Dickens had realized that Pete actually liked cats, and had decided to sleep on Pete’s face to show his affection. Pete had quickly decided that Dickens was officially the Worst. Cat. Ever. And had informed H.G. over coffee (and tea, H.G. had given him a look) that he’d been coughing up hairballs all morning.
“I don’t see what you want me to do about him,” H.G. said, sipping her tea. She was dressed more formally today, button down shirt and dress pants. She looked like a secret service agent, the consummate professional who was totally giving him the stinkeye because he was dissing her cat that she totally hated. (And yet doted on and bought expensive food and toys for and let sleep on her work bench in her study.) “He’s a cat, he just tolerates my existence.”
Pete shrugged and went back to his toast. He really didn’t know what to say to her about that. Dickens was totally solid, but god, H.G. hated the cat.
They headed out a few minutes later, Pete tossing H.G. some static bags and gloves out of his work bag. He had no idea how she was going to pull off being a secret service agent – she had no ID other than the ones that the regents had given her. He asked as he got into the passenger seat of H.G.’s car, eyebrow raised and expression as carefully neutral as possible. The last thing he wanted to do was imply that he did not think that she could do the job that she was fucking amazing at.
H.G. flipped down the driver’s side sun visor and pulled down a worn leather badge case – the one that they’d given her back when she’d fist been reinstated. Pete hadn’t been aware that she’d been allowed to keep it. He opened his mouth, but then thought better of it when H.G. flashed him a cheeky smile and said, “Mr. Kosan needs to mind his pockets.”
Pete sighed and sat back in his seat, “You realize that he’s gunna find out and you’re gunna get into a hell of a lot of trouble.”
H.G. shrugged, flipping the visor up. Pete could see a small sticker, red white and blue, stuck there. The words ‘I voted’ were printed across its center and it looked as though it was half-falling off. The dates fell into place and he smiled at H.G., and secretly wished that the first vote she’d ever cast had been for something more important than county and state government and municipal positions within this awful town.
She’d been a suffragette before his grandmother had been born. All the women in his life owed her thanks. Pete watched as H.G. fingered the sticker for a minute before pushing the sun visor back up and pocketing the badge. “Shall we, Agent Lattimer?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.
He nodded. There was a case to be solved, after all.
They had to blow the bison whistle a few times to get the buffalo out of H.G.’s driveway, but soon they were on their way. H.G. drove like she was a hundred and fifty and Pete was getting twitchy before they had even gotten back into town.
H.G. had done a good deal of research on anything new that had happened in town, and they’d gone over her notes the previous evening. Pete shifted, pulling his notes out of his back pocket and ticking off the notes that he’d taken last night. “Okay, so what do we know?” He said quietly, reading and contemplating what, exactly they were going to do if they had to snag some sort of tribal artifact with no Artie-made replica to replace it.
“That the only major change in the city as far as I can tell comes from the new Sioux exhibit that they’ve set up at the library.” H.G. commented, turning into a large municipal parking lot and cutting off the car’s engine. She sat there for a moment, staring at the back entrance to the library.
“Guess we should go in then,” Pete supplied. There were things that he wanted to say to H.G., and things that he could tell that she want to say to him. It wasn’t vibe, per say, just a feeling. There was a lot that was left unsaid between the two of them. About Myka, about what had happened before, about Kelly.
H.G. nodded, biting at her lip as she pulled her keys from the ignition and pocketed them in her suit jacket. She moved to open the door and Pete finally bit the bullet and said it. He had to say it. If he didn’t he never would and then he couldn’t claim that he’d warned H.G. to never do it to Myka again. He was her big brother, her best friend in the whole world. He owed it to her. “H.G., wait.” The words came out unbidden and he closed his eyes, inhaling deeply as he tried to steady himself.
He’d tried shouting at H.G., once upon a time. It hadn’t made him feel any better, and honestly had made the situation far worse than it had been originally.
“What is it?” There was knowledge in her eyes that he couldn’t shake. She probably had been anticipating him saying something.
That was part of the problem. H.G. and Myka were both smart, too smart. They had their books and H.G. could make something out of nothing in the way that even Claudia had never been able to do. She’d rewired the Warehouse in less time than it took most people to shower in the morning; while under the threat of annihilation, no less. Pete always felt stupid around the pair of them. He wasn’t dumb by any stretch of the imagination, but H.G. took it to a level that frankly scared Pete.
He ran a hand through his hair, pulling at it slightly to focus his concentration. “I…” he began, and then turned to face her fully, eyes turning hard. “It’s about Myka.”
“What about her?”
Pete hadn’t expected that. The nonchalant answer said that H.G. was fully aware of what she was doing and was only waiting for the moment to be right before she acted. Myka was in love with H.G. Wells, had been for a while now. Pete had seen it then, when his head wasn’t wrapped up in Kelly. He’d seen how it had grown, how devastated Myka had looked when they’d brought H.G. back from Russia and she’d vanished. Myka had been so scared, shaking almost, that H.G. had been bronzed again. To see the look of relief on Myka’s face, how completely and utterly in love she had looked when Helena had walked, smirking into the room.
She’d been Helena then, not H.G. and not Agent Wells. Just Helena, the woman that Myka was very quickly falling in love with.
He sighed and looked away, suddenly feeling embarrassed over his fit of brotherly concern, “I uh… I guess, I just wanted to tell you that if you hurt her like you did before-”
None of them could handle it if she did it again. Once was bad enough, twice had made it even worse. H.G. was a shade, passing in and out of their lives with each momentous moment growing more and more entwined with them all. She was a part of them. To have her stuck in some sort of strange Regent-mandated punishment because she ‘needed to finish out the school year for the kids’ was the biggest horse shit ever. Even Pete could see that.
H.G. Wells needed the warehouse as much as they needed her.
Her expression was hard when she reached forward and grabbed a handful of his shirt. Her grip was tight, aggressive. Pete knew how dangerous a woman she could be, despite her pleasant smile and innocent eyes. She pulled Pete towards her, her eyes hard and cold, “I have no intention of ever doing that again.” She pushed him away, turning away from him and staring out the window at the people coming in and out of the town’s library. “I was sick, mad with grief.”
Pete pulled at his shirt collar, trying to straighten it. He knew that his voice sounded as hard as H.G.’s did, and he didn’t really care. “I understand.” And he did, really, but there were certain things that would probably never be okay between the two of them. He was adult enough to know that. “I don’t forgive you for...” He couldn’t mention Kelly and how she still wouldn’t return his calls. He’d found her on Facebook and has messaged her a few times, just saying over and over that he was sorry that his life sucks and that he can’t control life. It was pathetic. She probably had been his one.
(He’d never told his mom about her. Now that he knew who his mom really was, he was glad that he had never mentioned Kelly to her. It wasn’t right to be in such close contact with a regent who was bound to get judge-y about who he chose to love. They gave Myka enough of a hard time just for wanting to see H.G. and to know she was okay after the Warehouse had come back.)
“I never expected you to, Peter.” She would not look at him. Hands clenched around the steering wheel as though it was holding her to reality.
“Don’t call me that,” He snapped out of habit. He doesn’t like being Peter, never really has. Peter was his grandfather, not him. He has always just been Pete, and he was okay with that. “No one calls me that.”
H.G. gazed at him steadily with those big brown eyes that made it very clear to Pete why Myka had fallen for her. “So long as you refrain from calling me Emily, I think we shall have reached an accord.”
“Good.” He stuck his chin out like a child, before tilting it to the side, the intensity of the moment gone. “You don’t really look like an Emily anyway.”
“I have informed Mr. Kosan that I disliked his choice of aliases. He scowled at me.”
Pete laughed, “He kinda does that.”
There were three pieces of lined college ruled paper inside the envelope. Artie pulled them out with trembling fingers and slid them into a static bag just as a precaution. When nothing happened, he exhaled and tipped the bag over.
Three pages covered with MacPherson’s spindly handwriting that it had taken Artie years to master the art of reading.
Arthur -, it read.
I do hope that this reaches you before it is too late. I have purposefully misaddressed this envelope to delay it somewhat – as I imagine that you will have your hands full with Wells and all the trickery that I have no doubt she will wrest upon you.
Trust her, Arthur. But do not trust her. Her endgame cannot be realized, I had no idea she wanted that when I let her out. I wanted Warehouse Two – she wanted what was originally locked up inside its walls.
I left the watch for that reason – but another nags at me, Arthur. In my travels I met a man who has been corrupted by an artifact so terrifying I fear his soul is completely and utterly dead now. He knows things about the Warehouse that I cannot explain, I did not tell him. He wants it gone, wants us dead, wants his most perfect revenge.
Trust that Wells will find a way to fix this, Arthur. I told her something of my fears and she swore to me that she would never let the Warehouse fall.
Trust her, Arthur, I fear she might be your only hope if you have to use the watch to correct what Wells is doing. I trust your agents will be better than that, but she is a singularly cunning woman. The threat is larger than her hatred and her grief. The threat is greater than any of us imagined.
Despite our differences, I hope that someday we can reconcile our fractured friendship,
The papers fell from Artie’s hands.
The library in Cheyenne, Wyoming was a green building. Pete blinked at the LEED certification on the door as he pulled it open and let H.G. and a woman with a stroller into the building. He didn’t think that buildings like that existed outside of college campuses and cities larger than Cheyenne. It was, frankly, kinda cool.
The atrium was large and airy, and the exhibit that H.G. had read about in the newspaper was set up in one of the community rooms just off the main hallway of the building. They cut across the hallway quickly, Pete’s brow set in a narrow line as they headed towards the entrance.
They’d discussed possible ideas for the artifact the previous night, looking at the online inventory of the exhibit on the library’s website. A spear seemed the most likely candidate, given its use in ceremonial dances. It was long and covered in feathers and paint and far too ornate for its own good.
When they found themselves face to face with it and H.G. pulled out some sort of reader from her jacket pocket and scanned the spear, Pete winced. “How the hell,” he muttered to H.G out of the corner of his mouth, “are we gunna duplicate that without Artie and the Warehouse?”
There wasn’t any time to go back to the Warehouse and have Artie replicate the spear. They had to get this switched off as soon as possible. So far the buffalo in town hadn’t drawn that much attention from the national media and now it was really obvious that they were going to have to switch the spear out with a fake to get rid of the buffalo summoning juju it apparently had.
“I think I could make a passable fake.” H.G. whispered. She held up her scanning device and initiated a new sequence on it, leaning over the velvet-rope display barriers as far as she could to get as close as possible. “Doesn’t look like there’s much security here at night.”
Pete agreed with her there. They probably just had a silent alarm and a locked door. It was a library, not much to steal in a place like this.
He paced up and down the room, eyeing H.G. as she took her readings, looking for camera blind spots and trying his best to act like Myka. He could see three possible entry routes, four technically, but he wasn’t entirely sure that H.G.’d want to come through the roof. Pete liked pretending to be James Bond, Myka just rolled her eyes at him and charmed her way through the front door.
Although H.G. was British and therefore predisposed to be awesome and James Bond-y. She even had a grappler, even though Myka’d lost it trying to save his mom and Mr. Kosan from an evil can of spray paint. That had been a shitshow and a half and Pete was still trying to reconcile with the fact that his mother had lied to him for his entire life about being a Regent.
He shoved his hands into his pockets and scowled at the ceiling. There was no way that he’d be able to get in that way with the gear he had on hand anyway. Shame.
“Ms. Lake!” Pete looked up to see a young looking girl with long dark hair and a polo bearing the Laramie County Library logo hurrying across the room towards H.G. Her eyes were wide and her facial expression was almost that of jubilation. “Are you spending your vacation at the library?”
The line of H.G.’s shoulders under her blazer stiffened and her posture became almost instantly unfriendly. Pete wondered who this girl was, but had a nagging suspicion that he knew. Claudia had mentioned something after she’d come back from her sudden trip to Cheyenne in April about a girl who had the hots for H.G. and how hilariously out of touch the girl was.
This had to be her. The way that H.G. was reacting seemed to point to that fact being true and Pete could see that H.G. was choosing her words extremely carefully when she spoke. Her smile was the large and disingenuous smile that she usually used on Pete ¬and her teeth were showing. She looked almost like an animal, preparing to strike. “Oh, hello Erica,” she said. Pete noticed how she’d managed to tone down her accent. She made the fact that she was from across the pond almost seem like an afterthought. Pete was impressed, her accent could get very thick at times, especially when she was annoyed, as she clearly was now.
The girl smiled up at H.G. with a look of such admiration in her eyes that Pete almost felt sorry for her. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and quickly texted Myka that H.G.’s fangirl had made a grand appearance and she was totally out of her league. He figured that it’d make Myka feel better.
H.G. was humoring the girl, touching her, smiling at her, and when Myka’s smug text back saying that she knew that came through on Pete’s phone, Pete couldn’t help but snort with laughter. H.G. glared at him, before plastering that fake smile on her face and nodding to the girl – Erica. “Yes, I wanted to have a look at the new exhibit. Did you help to set it up?”
He was trying not to giggle now, as H.G. glanced over her shoulder at him as Erica chattered on excitedly, completely and utterly ignoring the fact that Pete was obviously there with H.G. – Emily Lake. “I did!” Erica said, all Midwestern charm and bright smiles. Pete just shook his head, and followed half a step behind them as Erica practically dragged H.G. over towards the wall of weapons and a few ceremonial skins that Pete longed to touch but restrained himself (barely.) “These are the coolest things, let me tell you!” Erica pointed to the spear that they’d identified as the potential artifact and informed them proudly, “That spear, in particular, was used in dances asking the gods for a good hunt.”
Pete leaned over and whispered in H.G.’s ear, “Bingoooooo.”
She gave him a look but nodded her agreement. There was something off about the entire room, Pete’s stomach was on edge and he wanted to leave. He knew it was the artifact. Even though he was not a buffalo, he felt himself pulled towards the artifact. He could hear it, a siren’s song – or however that went. He wasn’t exactly good at Greek Mythology.
He stepped away and lingered by the door, not wanting to intrude on H.G.’s conversation with the girl. He knew that she was an annoyance and little more to H.G., but he could see that there was some level of respect, of humoring the girl despite her obvious inability to take a cold shoulder to mean just that.
“Yes, thank you Erica, but I really must be going,” H.G. ran her hand through her hair, pulling at the back so that it fanned out over her shoulders and made her look somehow older than she appeared. Not for the first time, Pete wanted to ask H.G. her honest opinion on the 21st century. Not the rage and artifact induced vitriol that she’d spat during her rampage, but rather how she felt about it now, having actually spent time in the modern era.
It was strange to see someone act like such an utter idiot in front of H.G. Wells. Usually that was Pete’s job, act like a douche, act like an asshole, act like a moron; but this Erica character was doing a great job of taking Pete’s role away from him. As H.G. turned to leave, Erica raised her hand in protest. She grabbed for H.G.’s jacket, but missed because H.G. was very good at side stepping just out of the scope of whatever trouble was about to land in her lap. Or get mud on her boots, as the case might be. Pete thought it had to be a British thing. “But wait!” Erica glanced over at Pete, looking at him directly for the first time. Her eyes were hard and angry, “are you on a date?” she hissed.
Now, while Pete could say that the whole damn thing was hilarious, there was something completely and utterly off-putting about the way that the girl said that. It made Pete want to take her to a psych ward, not pat her on the head and send her on her merry way.
He wondered if H.G. realized how potentially dangerous this girl could be. He’d done a few stalking cases in DC. They were not fun cases to handle and were almost never ended well. H.G. could take care of herself, Pete reasoned, but he would caution her all the same.
Still, it was best to deflect with humor, so Pete pointed towards himself and laughed, “With me?!” He shook his head, smile almost painful as he added, “Oh god no, I would be castrated!”
Myka would too. He had no doubt about it.
“No!” H.G.’s fingers closed around Erica’s forearm. “For the last time, Erica, you’ve graduated now. My life is inconsequential to you now.” She let her hand fall as Erica raised her hand to grasp at where H.G.’s hand had been just a second before. “As if it wasn’t before.”
Pete took that moment to leave. He didn’t think that he should be privy to the dressing down Erica was about to get. He cased the entryway while he waited for H.G. to emerge from the closed doors of the exhibit room. The bison whistle burned in his pocket, aching in such proximity to the spear. He would have to neutralize them both and fast, or else the buffalo were sure to stampede through the city.
The door opened and H.G. emerged, shoulders drawn tight against her body. She looked at the door for a moment with a concerned frown growing across her face before she turned with a swirl of hair and jacket and fell into step next to Pete.
“So that’s your fangirl that Claudia told me about,” He teased, but his expression was serious. The girl concerned him. The look of utter devotion in her eyes was enough to set Pete on edge. Like she was under the influence of a desire artifact or something; probably just a teenager in love though. It was so awkward, H.G. was so out of her league that it wasn’t even funny.
“Shut it.” H.G. grumbled.
Pete didn’t ask and H.G. didn’t supply what had happened when Erica had met Myka. She most assuredly had, given how the girl was. H.G. wasn’t encouraging her, just being as politely distant as she could without appearing rude. She had been her teacher after all.
“I’ll be glad to be rid of this place,” H.G. commented when they were back in the car and Pete was rummaging for his Farnsworth. She let her fingers play across the steering wheel and stared straight ahead.
“Because of her?” Pete asked, jerking his thumb back towards the library’s doors.
H.G. shrugged. “Among other reasons,” she said simply.
The reasons were implied. They both knew why H.G. had to get out of here. She was meant for bigger and more important things than living in Wyoming.
Pete cracked open the Farnsworth and dialed in Artie’s frequency. It rang a few times before Artie answered and even on the black and white display, Pete could see that he looked white as a sheet. “Is everything alright?” H.G. asked, pushing her hair out of her eyes and leaning forward so that she could better see Artie. “You’re like a ghost.”
“I’m fine,” Artie retorted. He bridged his fingers and leaned forward, “What’ve you got?”
Pete shrugged and began to explain the situation that they had on hand. “Right, so we found the artifact, it’s a spear of some sort.” Artie nodded, and Pete continued because he wasn’t an idiot and it was already blatantly obvious that Artie did not want to be talking to either of them at the present moment. “We’re gunna switch them out tonight.”
“You have a replacement?”
He glanced over at Helena, who was fiddling with the scanning device she’d been using on the spear. He grinned at her and she flashed a smile back at him, “Helena’s on it.”
Artie scowled, “Oh it’s Helena now for you too is it?”
Pete shrugged, “Sometimes…”
“Whatever, just come back as soon as you’ve found the artifact.” Artie waved his hand distractedly at Pete and turned back to the stack of papers that he was sifting through.
“Will do, Kirk out.”
The evening was spent watching H.G. make the most fantastic mess out of her kitchen building a replacement spear. Pete had to say that he was quite impressed with how quickly she was able to cobble something together when given the time to actually sit and work at it. In the end, it was a passable fake. It wouldn’t hold up to an expert in the field, but Pete was pretty sure that they weren’t going to be sending this exhibit back anywhere other than the tribe leader’s home when the two week engagement at the library was complete. They would probably be alright, and Mrs. Frederic could fix it if it wouldn’t be alright.
At three in the morning, they crept back into town and made the switch. The security was lax and H.G.’s kempo skills knocked both guards out before Pete even had time to draw his Tesla. It was easy enough to replace the artifact with the fake and Pete doused the whole thing with neutralizer in H.G.’s back yard just to be safe the following morning. The buffalo had lumbered off back to wherever it was that they’d come from, and all the local hubbub over their sudden appearance died down very quickly as well.
H.G. was inside, talking to Myka over Skype. Claudia had apparently showed her how to do it, and Pete was greeted with the strange and bizarre sight of Myka acting like a girl, words caught in her throat and sentences half-finished and full of implication as she and H.G. talked. She was also making sexy eyes at H.G. and Pete sort of wanted to vomit, just a little bit, at the sight of it.
There was also a lot of staring and heavy breathing and conversations without any words going on. All in all, typical Myka and H.G.
He was glad that Myka wasn’t mad at him for going on a retrieval with H.G., she’d just laughed and said that they had a zillion issues to work through and that she was happy for him. He’d rolled his eyes and H.G. had called them a ‘pair’. He didn’t know what that meant, but rolled with it like he did everything else.
He was the rock that held them all standing. He had to stay strong for the team.
Chapter 4: Left Alive
Homecoming is a great many things, but to do so under the suspicion of not being completely honest with the Regents is not exactly what H.G. Wells intended upon returning to Univille.
Huge thank you to Kristen and Spockette for the pre-reads and characterization help. :D
Two of us sending postcards
On my wall
You and me burning matches
On our way back home
We're on our way home
We're on our way home
We're going home
The Beatles – Two of Us
They had said to pack light. That what she needed would be shipped to her and the rest of Emily Lake’s things would be placed in a secure storage facility until such a time as she desired them again. Helena Wells did not trust the Regents, however, and was packing and shipping her library on her own. Book after precious book that had been rescued from the ruined archives of Warehouse 12 and brought across the Atlantic to her temporary home went into the boxes at her feet. They were all addressed to the same destination: K39zzz, North American Grid. Stokes County, South Dakota.
Univille. The Warehouse. Home.
In her life, she had called many places home, with some residences being far more fleeting than others. This place, with its wide open second floor, peeling paint and faded wallpaper, would always hold happy memories for Helena, but she did not think that it would ever be home. Home required something that she could not give this place; a sense of belonging that she did not bother to nurture. If she’d nurtured it, it would mean that she was resigned to live in America, in Wyoming, for the rest of her (already entirely too unnatural) life.
She refused to give up that easily, and she was pretty sure that the Regents had never actually intended to leave her here for all that long. There had been other things for them to deal with when she’d lost control at Warehouse 2. Benedict Valda had to be replaced, and soon another Regent mysteriously vanished. Myka had filled her in on the details that she, herself, had just barely been able to parse together from the two brief encounters she had had with Adwin Kosan since returning to this place.
He’d pulled them apart ruthlessly, cruelly, because that was his job. It was his decision to make, and he had ruled in favor of removing her from the situation. As much as Helena hated his decision, she respected him for it. It couldn’t have been easy.
She had no idea how long she had been gone. Pete, when he’d spoken of that time, had implied that it had been days, when Myka had mentioned only minutes. Time was a fickle enough thing without an artifact mucking it up, Helena knew that. The way that time had passed for each of them had not been linear. Helena wished she could remember what it was like to be dead, but the memories would not come. Her mind, it seemed, did not want her to recall such an event.
Book after book went into the box and Helena sighed, thinking of the life that she’d had here. It had been good, for the most part. A stopping point and a chance to breathe, calm down, and finally see the world for what it truly was - something she had sorely needed.
She rather liked teaching. Youth of this futuristic time were, despite what she had hoped, not at all as intelligent and engaged as Claudia Donovan. Most were sucked into the television or their mobile telephones and social networking, completely distracted from the outside world. They did not read, they barely were articulate, and they could certainly not write at all. Their usage and diction was so abysmal that Helena had spent the first three weeks after she’d miraculously come back to life and had been returned to Emily Lake’s ghastly apartment teaching basic grammar and punctuation.
They’d lied for her, then, explained her disappearance as memories from before her accident suddenly returning. She knew that Myka and Pete had used their credentials as American Secret Service agents to explain her sudden accent and penchant for British spellings. The latter, it turned out, had been unnecessary, as her students pointed out to her that she’d always spelled certain words in certain ways that were not at all American.
The story had come easily after that. She was Emily Lake, born in London, educated in England, college in the US. She participated in Teach For America for a few years before she finally settled in a town some hours north of where she now lived. There had been a car accident, and her memories had been compromised. Somehow, and Helena didn’t pretend to know how, the US Secret Service had gotten involved in her case and had decided that rather that send her back to Emily’s hometown, they would set her up in Cheyenne so they could better keep an eye on her.
Her students never failed to inject her life with wonder. They realized how limited her pop culture exposure was and had decided to educate her. Claudia had done this, as well, face etched with mock horror as she handed over a well-thumbed copy of Dune that first night at Leena’s home. It had been followed by George Orwell, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, anything Claudia felt that Helena should read was left in innocuous little piles outside her bedroom door until it had all gone so very wrong.
Now her students loaned her movies, television shows that made her laugh and some that made her cry. She had one hundred years of music to catch up on, and an entire century of strife. When she’d expressed interest in ‘classic’ film, her students had brought in copies of Citizen Kane and The Sheik, and she’d taken them and put on a brave face when she‘d had to hotwire her television to play them. Apparently, not everything was digitally on disk, despite what Claudia had led her to believe.
So much of her interaction with her students seemed disingenuous, each lie more elaborate than the next one. Charles had always told her she was a better actress than most. She was personable, he had said, and possessed an unrivaled and biting wit. She’d hated him for so many reasons, but he’d always supported her want to be something more than she was. Before she’d gone into the bronzer, she had written down every idea she’d ever had for a story, left her notes where he’d find them. It was the least she could do.
He’d kept writing, using her name, adding to her glory. They were a family of wordsmiths, that much was obvious from the start. It was strange to pick up a book bearing her name and read it, not knowing its contents backwards and forwards. Helena had read Charles’ adaptation of her vision of utopia time and time again, trying to see her own ideas intermixed with the sorrow that was so clearly written on the page.
The book was dedicated to her.
With a final and decisive thump, the final book fit into the intricate puzzle of packing that she had created in this last box. Helena stepped off the kitchen chair that she had been using as a stepping stool and picked up the roll of packing tape that Dickens had been playing with while she filled the final box.
That had been another thing she had not expected. When Pete had told her that her body was living in Wyoming with a cat, her expression had been appalled. She hated cats. But Dickens, despite everything, had grown on her considerably. He was currently lounging on her pillow next to the half-full suitcase that Helena had yet to finish packing.
She was set to leave tonight, arriving at the Warehouse in the morning after meeting with the Regents and Mrs. Frederic. They had already given her permission to stop by the bed and breakfast to deposit poor Dickens before the meetings. He hated his cat carrier on a good day, and forcing him into it for more than the five hours it took to get back to Univille was cruel and unusual.
Even if he was a cat, and Helena hated cats.
Dickens looked up at her sleepily as she lifted the box and headed for the stairs. “I’m taking these to the post office,” she announced, because cats are ridiculous and it’s better to tell them where you’re going or they’ll muck up the place in celebration, thinking you’re gone for good.
Truth be told, Helena really did like Dickens. The affection had grown over their months together. He was a good companion, and interacting with a creature that only just barely tolerated her existence was good practice for returning to the Warehouse. She had no doubt that Arthur would still find her lacking and Pete was still struggling with all the horrible things she had done to him. She didn’t deserve the forgiveness that he had offered, but she had offered her apologies all the same.
Emily’s beat up old Subaru – Helena refused to think of the car as hers - was loaded up with the final box. She had to put it in the passenger’s seat, as the back seat and trunk were full. Ten boxes in total. She was grateful that she had been allowed to call Leena ahead of time and make sure that the innkeeper was both alright with Dickens coming along, and willing to accommodate her rather large library. The answer had been yes on both counts, but Leena did not clean litter boxes, except if agents were in the field. Helena had promised her in the most sincere tone she could manage that that would not be an issue.
She still hadn’t forgiven Leena, and Helena resolved to try and do that as she started the car and began the drive into town and the UPS store. (Myka had suggested shipping via a non-postal service carrier after an incident at the Univille post office. Helena was a little hazy on the details, but it apparently involved killer robots and a projector. Something right out of her imagination, that much was for certain.) Leena had been the first person she’d seen when she’d come out of the bronze, all kind eyes and a concerned look on her face. Helena would have been alright, had she stayed with Leena, but she was passed off to James MacPherson and his paranoid (and depressingly true) ramblings about a threat to the Warehouse and how she was going to help him make a better world.
Her knuckles were white on the steering wheel as she drove, thinking of how MacPherson had been so afraid that his money pot – the Warehouse - would be destroyed by some faceless villain who wanted revenge for a wrong he perceived the Warehouse had perpetrated upon him. Why he told Helena any of this, she did not know, but he had been right, in the end. And there hadn’t been another way.
She’d do it again in a heartbeat. She had to. A world without the one person who could talk her down from her grief was not a world worth living in.
Eleven-thirty on a Friday was not necessarily the best time to be driving across town with a car full of books, but Helena made short work of the trip, staring out into space and sleepily moving through her life just as she always did when she found herself faced an impossible situation.
The books were sent with only a slightly raised eyebrow from the tattooed and pierced counter attendant. Their destination was within driving distance, after all; it seemed that the address itself would have be delivered by a secondary rural supplier, as the main service didn’t go that far into the middle of nowhere.
“You alright with that, ma’am?” he asked, leaning forward on the counter as Helena wrote out a check. “I can’t guarantee when they’ll arrive. Local delivery men aren’t exactly a sure thing.”
She handed him her driver’s license and carefully tore the check from her checkbook, marking in the register how much she was spending to send them. “You’ll find that very few things in life are a sure thing,” she said with a small smile as he took her money and began to key in her transaction.
The bell on the door behind them jingled and Helena almost heard the delighted intake of breath before the newcomer spoke. She had turned to glance over her shoulder when she saw the shop attendant’s eyes narrowing in frustration. “Wish she’d go away,” he muttered, punching numbers in faster and slapping the shipping labels onto her boxes at about twice the speed he was going before.
A hand fell onto her shoulder and Helena’s hand clenched into a fist as she spun, dropping lower to the ground than she already was and spreading her feet to widen her center of gravity. Almost as quickly as she had gone into an attack, she found her hand relaxing and shoulders stiffening in annoyance. Her eye twitched.
“I thought I told you to stop following me around,” she commented as Erica Lancaster grinned at her, her arms full of manila envelopes bearing addresses in several states, from what Helena could see.
The problem, Helena had long-since decided, was that she was required, as Erica’s teacher, to be nice to her. When she would have usually long-ago given her the cold shoulder and the best Victorian brush-off she could manage, she actually had to maintain a decent relationship with this girl because it would not do to antagonize a student, or that particular student’s father: the school superintendent.
Erica looked slightly crestfallen and Helena wanted to roll her eyes. She didn’t understand how the girl could not comprehend that there was nothing between them, and there never would be. She’d spelled it out in clear terms; the girl had even met Myka. There was nothing else that she could do other than to avoid Erica Lancaster at all costs and so far, her track record was abysmal at doing so. “I’m mailing some things for my mom,” she said, her tone earnest. “Not stalking you, I promise, Ms. Lake.”
“Good, because stalking is a crime,” Helena said, accepting her receipt from the counter attendant and tucking it into her wallet. She shoved it back into her pants pocket and fully turned to face Erica. “I told you to forget about me, Erica.”
She pursed her lips, suddenly looking all of her eighteen years. Helena remembered being that age, remembered how easily she had fallen in and out of love before Charles finally put a stop to that with the advent of Christina into their lives. Christina had changed them both for the better in so many ways. Helena knew she had been impossibly young, impossibly naive to think that she could handle the heartbreak of a pregnancy before she was twenty. Charles had been there, Charles had seen what had to be done, and had invented a story to keep her away from polite society for the time when she was indisposed. He’d taken responsibility for Christina’s presence in her life. A dalliance with a maid, he’d said, and she’d loved him for that. Everyone after that had said that they were both very honorable, looking after an orphan like that.
“I can’t do that,” Erica hissed, shoving her packages onto the counter and scowling as the attendant began to sort through them. He was moving slowly again, like he was getting a free show and Helena just barely kept the urge to turn and walk out of the door and away from Erica in check.
She didn’t know why she stayed, why she kept on with this girl that, as both Pete and Myka had put it, ‘couldn’t take a hint.’ It was a strange relationship that Helena couldn’t quite parse out. She wanted to make sure that this girl, this stupid and naïve girl, would be alright in the long run. Helena didn’t want to break her heart; she’d done far too much of that recently and she was trying to improve her track record.
“There are things in this world that you could not possibly hope to understand.” Helena shook her head and tried to relax, but her shoulders were stock-still and her hands were clenching and unclenching into fists. She still wasn’t cured, no, not in the long run. The homicidal impulses that had so plagued her first months in this century might have been somewhat quelled, but when faced with a situation where she could not quite decide if she wanted to act like a madman or like a saint, Helena oftentimes found herself teetering at the precipice. Helena’s gaze hardened as she plunged her hands into her pants pockets, trying to look far more nonchalant than her mood and tone would imply. “I do not expect your respect and admiration for me to wane if I tell you that there will be consequences if you meddle in my affairs anymore.”
Erica’s face fell, eyes blinking away frustration and annoyance before her mouth began to move again. This was where the problem in communication lay. Helena had no idea what more she could say to this girl to make her understand. “Are you threatening me, Ms. Lake?” Her voice shook and Helena fought the urge to throw up her hands and storm off, because that was the last thing she was trying to do. “Do you know who my father is?”
Ah, yes, Emily’s employer, the superintendent of schools. That was a good bit of why this situation was so desperate and awful to begin with. Helena did not care for the man, but she was able to hold a civil tongue around him because he was an elected official and could have her job if he wanted to. She hadn’t voted for him, though – didn’t like his politics.
Still, Mr. Lancaster was just as much a thorn in her side as his daughter was, albeit his presence was far more acutely felt. As Erica’s instructor in her favorite subject, she had had some dealings with both Mr. and Mrs. Lancaster, the latter of whom expressed some concern over her daughter’s attachment to Emily Lake. Helena did not blame her in the slightest, and had resolved to distance herself as best she could from a student that she had to see three times a week.
“Identity is such a fleeting thing in this day and age.” It seemed a decent response, without going too much into how Erica’s presence in her life - and the fact that Helena could not just tell her to ‘get lost,’ as the kids these days were saying - was frustrating. Pete had found the whole situation hilarious, but he had been a little concerned, too, because Erica kept popping up in strange places as if she was following Helena around. Most of the time, it was just happy coincidence, Helena was sure of that, but there were times (at the co-op, at the gas station, here) that it seemed far more planned than anything else. Pete had told her that stalking was indeed a crime and she could report it, and he was absolutely positive that Myka would abuse her authority as a Secret Service agent to make Erica Lancaster’s life hell.
(Helena really liked Pete at times, which was disturbing, as she had never intended to like any of them. That had worked out very well for her. Yes.)
She met Erica’s eyes steadily, afraid to look away and show weakness. “But yes, I know.”
“Then you know you’ll ruin yourself from ever getting a job here again if you ignore me and treat me like a problem.” There was something incredibly flippant about the way that Erica delivered her threat, like she did not believe that Helena had the audacity to doubt her. Helena hated women like that. They’d been a problem back when she was younger and still learning the ins and outs of a society far more complicated than the American Midwest, but now Erica was just an annoyance that was making Helena long for an upbringing less focused on manners.
Still, her temper was rising and she did not want to make a scene in front of the poor counter clerk who had done a lovely job with her boxes. Helena lowered her head and all but growled, eyes flashing dangerously, “Outside. Now.”
There was an alleyway that cut to the parking lot in the back of the building just off to the side. Helena resisted the urge to haul Erica off and down into the alleyway, instead choosing to lean against the sun-warmed brick of the building and fold her arms across her chest. “Little girl…” She honestly did not know where to begin. She was due to leave this place tonight; she supposed that whatever she wanted to say could go. The girl had managed to inject herself into aspects of Helena’s private life that she had desperately wanted to keep just that: private.
Myka had come again in May, stopping by for a few days while on her way down to Colorado to see her mother for Mother’s Day. They’d been out, getting coffee from a shop that Helena had discovered quite by accident, when Erica had turned up. Helena had missed much of the conversation that Erica had had with Claudia, but she had caught the end, and had introduced Myka as a friend. She had not wanted to hurt the girl’s feelings, after all. Erica had reacted in a way that Helena still could not quite understand to this day, taking one look at Myka before storming off in the angry dramatic huff of a teenager not getting her way.
Helena wondered if Christina would have been like that, dramatic and full of wasted potential because she fell in love with the wrong person. She hoped not, but there honestly was no way of knowing. Christina was dead and no amount of vengeance or sadness was going to bring her back. She was finally starting to accept it, to move on.
Erica opened her mouth to speak but Helena cut her off. She would have this last word this time; it was decided and final. “I will burn the bridges that I choose to. You have no bearing on my personal life.”
“But…” Erica began.
Helena shook her head sadly. She wanted to be cruel, but the words would not come. All she could be was harsh and hope beyond hope that maybe Erica’s young mind would realize that wasting her life away on a person who would never love her in return was a fool’s venture. Helena had been there; she understood how it could feel like your heart was breaking every day without an end in sight.
She stepped forward, her hands resting uneasily on Erica’s shoulders now. This was the closest that they’d ever been, a gamble on Helena’s part. She did not want to aggravate the situation, but it seemed the best way to steer her in the right direction.
(Honestly, she was completely flummoxed by modern teenagers. She certainly had not had that much angst at sixteen.)
“No buts, Erica. You have your whole life to make mistakes. Don’t let me be the first of them.”
Erica looked up at her with big green eyes so alike and yet vastly different from Myka’s eyes. It was jarring, to be so close to someone and not see those eyes, and Helena took as step back. She hated how similar their eyes were. Always had. Erica’s question came then, as Helena retreated into the careful shell of aloofness that she’d been brought up to exude so well. “You really love her, don’t you?”
Had Helena been American and not English, she probably would have spluttered something much akin to the way that some of her students (Erica included) did when put on the spot. She took a deep and calming breath before replying, wishing that Myka was here to make this situation slightly less mentally trying. “That is absolutely none of your business,” she began, eyes flashing dangerously. Erica took a step backwards as she continued, “nor does it have any bearing on this conversation.”
“But I-” Erica began, her hands twisting up bits of the t-shirt she wore. “Ms. Lake – Emily…”
Helena stepped forward, her hand coming again to rest on Erica’s shoulder. She gave it a reassuring squeeze before stating in the most earnest tone she could manage, “I am going to walk away now, Erica. You will never see me again. Do not let this parting be soured by expectations that I can never satisfy.” She stepped back and raised a hand before turning and heading away, her goodbye on her lips before she ever had the chance to regret her actions.
The streets of Cheyenne were largely deserted at this hour as Helena made her way down the street to where she had parked her car (the counter clerk had been nice enough to lend her a hand cart for the boxes). Helena’s pace felt sluggish in the heat and she paused, staring up at the sun for a long moment before she finally allowed herself to breathe.
Erica was not following her. She was free.
“You handled that situation remarkably well,” the dry (if not slightly amused) voice of Mrs. Frederic intoned from somewhere off to Helena’s right. She flinched, shoulders tightening into an uncomfortable knot of muscle before settling her gaze to rest on the Warehouse’s caretaker.
“You should not sneak up on people,” Helena commented as Mrs. Frederic stepped out into the sunlight and graced her with a rare smile.
She watched as Mrs. Frederic considered this for a long moment before she said, fingers bridged neatly in front of her, “She was a necessary evil of this town, Helena.”
Helena shrugged; she wasn’t going to go into it. Not with Mrs. Frederic. The whole exercise seemed rather pointless, as Mrs. Frederic had probably witnessed the entire exchange. She stared down the road for a moment, watching the lunchtime traffic. “I suppose you’re here to see me off?”
Mrs. Frederic inclined her head and gestured towards Helena’s car. “It seemed prudent to offer a hand with the cat. I know how they can be.”
Not believing that statement for a second, Helena pulled her keys from her pocket and unlocked the door. She climbed in and leaned across to the passenger’s side to unlock it and watched as Mrs. Frederic settled herself into the seat opposite her own. “Also, I needed to speak to you about something else.”
“I had assumed,” Helena said, starting the car and checking her mirrors. Driving was not entirely a new concept for her, but the cars that she had driven were hardly the modern internal combustion engines and gasoline-powered devices she now was given the opportunity to drive. She’d picked it up quickly; Mr. Kosan had taken her out on some back roads during his first house call (where he’d shown up unannounced and nearly scared Helena half to death, thinking he’d decided to shove her back on the Janus Coin.). He had been a polite and patient teacher, and Helena had been grateful that someone had thought of the fact that it was going to start snowing soon, seeing that she had no idea how to drive in the snow and she certainly could not ride Emily’s battered old bicycle to work every day during the winter.
Mrs. Frederick inclined her head. “I will still help you with the cat.”
“Thank you,” Helena replied. “What brings you to Wyoming, then?”
“Arthur received a rather troubling bit of mail about a month ago.” Mrs. Frederic was obviously choosing her words carefully and Helena tried to not appear too annoyed that she was driving and therefore unable to give her full attention to Mrs. Frederic’s cryptic and round-about way of speaking. “From James MacPherson.”
“He’s dead,” Helena muttered. It was her fault, after all.
There had been no alternative. She had seen through his plan for what it was; the pieces had fallen into place quite quickly. She’d been disgusted by him, repulsed by what he wanted, how he’d wanted to use her. He’d sent her into the Escher Vault looking for an artifact he could not even name; something to protect him from the poison in his own veins. The stones were not enough, apparently.
He had been a fool to trust her.
“He apparently foresaw his own demise and thought it wise to apprise Arthur of the situation surrounding your reemergence into this world.” Mrs. Frederic turned and raised an eyebrow at Helena as she paused at a red light. “Would you care to elaborate?”
“He wanted me to show him how to find Warehouse 2 and use my Imperceptor Vest to retrieve an artifact from the Escher Vault,” Helena said quietly. She shifted the car into second and then third, heading out of town and up into the hills towards her home. “He didn’t say much else. Just that he was worried about other enemies the Warehouse might have.”
“He never mentioned why he wanted you in particular?” Mrs. Frederic sounded a little bit disbelieving, but Helena knew that when she had asked to be bronzed, the records of her tenure at the Warehouse had been mostly destroyed or given over to the Regents for archival purposes, as they were not to be stored at the Warehouse. How James MacPherson had even discovered her identity had always been something of a mystery to Helena. Adwin Kosan and the Regents had had no answers for her and Helena had always been bothered by that fact. How could he have possibly known? He could not have known the plight she had planned to unleash upon the earth, should she ever be presented the chance.
“If you’re referring to Sykes, I don’t believe that MacPherson knew about him.” Helena shrugged. “He never mentioned anyone by name, in any case.”
Mrs. Frederic sighed and pulled at the base of her pale green sport coat. It was far too warm to be wearing such stifling clothing, but the woman looked as unflappable as ever. “He did know; that was what he wrote Arthur about. He seemed to think that should you not destroy the world, you would be the solution to saving the Warehouse.”
“I am happy he thought so well of me,” Helena muttered, turning down her driveway. She tapped her fingers nervously on the steering wheel, fragments of a conversation she’d had one night in a hotel room with MacPherson coming back to her from the haze of her madness. He had told her he thought that some great evil awaited the Warehouse; she’d promised him she’d die before she saw the Warehouse gone.
It was the only home she had now. Woolly was dead, Christina was dead, and Charles was gone, as well. Everyone she’d ever loved was gone from this world, save the one who’d somehow managed to pull her back from that precipice of madness.
“It is one of the great mysteries of this matter, how James MacPherson discovered your identity within the bronze sector,” Mrs. Frederic continued, waiting as Helena parked the car. She made no move to get out of the car and Helena sighed. It was going to be one of those sorts of conversations.
She nodded her head, agreeing. She had to. She had no idea how MacPherson had found her records; they were supposed to be sealed and in the Regent’s care. “I am inclined to agree with you.” Helena bit her lip, brushing her bangs from her eyes before adding, “He did mention he worried that the Warehouse would one day fall. I promised him I’d never let it happen.”
“He said as much in his letter.” Mrs. Frederic gave Helena searching look. “But no more.”
There wasn’t anything else to say, really. Helena pursed her lips and sank back into the car’s uncomfortable seat. “You think I’m lying to you.”
“Your track record would speak to it, yes,” Mrs. Frederic commented airily. “But there are ways to ensure that you are telling the truth back at the Warehouse.”
“Goody,” Helena muttered darkly, taking her keys and getting out of the car. She jammed them into her pocket and did not wait for Mrs. Frederic to join her before trotting up the steps and onto the house’s porch. Everything was packed up now; the plants that she and Myka had gotten on her second visit, lovingly tended until they bloomed again and again, had been given away to Helena’s landlady. All that remained was the peeling paint and the weathered-looking rocking chairs. They were a stark reminder of what Helena was leaving, what she wasn’t entirely sure she wanted to see go.
“Ms. Wells, you are to be reinstated. It works a lot better if everyone knows that they can trust you.”
Helena turned then, her hand resting on the door handle, and peered over her shoulder at Mrs. Frederic. “Sometimes I wonder if we’re not all pawns in some bigger game,” she said, a sigh drawing its way from her lips effortlessly. “I never wanted to wake up, and yet here I am.”
“You’ve redeemed yourself well.” Mrs. Frederic raised an eyebrow and Helena opened the door. They both stepped inside and Mrs. Frederic clapped her hands together. “Now, come, let us wrangle your cat.”
The process was grueling, but soon Dickens was yowling unhappily in his cat carrier and Helena was checking over her study one last time. Mrs. Frederic had vanished without a word as soon as Dickens was situated, making Helena bristle in annoyance.
Warehouse guardians, she knew, had been doing that particular brand of annoyance for centuries, but it never failed to set Helena on edge. Warehouse 12’s guardian had been a particularly nasty old man who liked to appear quite by chance whenever Helena was trying to research how to better improve the weapons that she’d taken off Nikola Tesla at the Chicago World’s Fair. Electricity was so new then, and it had been infinitely fun to mess around with, if a bit hair-raising, as poor Woolly had discovered.
Of everyone from her past that she missed - lovers, friends - the ache in her heart when she thought of Woolly was the worst. Christina was a different sort of pain, the kind that Helena had learned to embrace while encased in bronze. She had never had the time to process Woolly’s death before she was bronzed, to let her anger at herself over his death consume her as well. She couldn’t, it had been too much, and Helena had feared that she’d go mad and get shipped off to some loony farm before she’d had a chance to fix things.
Charles, while she loved him, wouldn’t have thought twice about something like that. Social standing was everything to him, and a mad younger sister who had always been a bit, well, odd, simply would not have factored into his plans.
Helena hadn’t said goodbye to anyone other than Caturanga, only because he’d been the one to do it. It had been for the best.
Her study was empty, packed neatly into boxes that she was assured (by Mrs. Frederic and others) would be taken care of. Helena moved from room to room of the house, checking under furniture and in cabinets, making sure everything she cared about had been stripped and packed neatly away into the three suitcases now waiting (with a yowling Dickens) by the door.
Goodbyes had never been her strong suit. The words would get caught in her throat and refuse to move from there, trapping Helena with nothing but disappointment. She shifted uncomfortably in the middle of her silent bedroom and sighed. There was nothing for her here anymore.
Mrs. Frederic had left papers on the table – a new license and a US passport – and a badge that was official (unlike the one that she’d taken from Mr. Kosan). Helena set her house keys down on the table and picked up the papers. The passport had a few stamps in it already. It was the one she had used before, from the identity that MacPherson had created for her. Egypt, Russia, France, the UK. All the stamps were there, along with re-entry into the US.
Wells, Helena G., the passport read, and Helena smiled. Identity was a fleeting thing in this day and age, but there was something to be said for a name.
Helena had never really had much occasion to drive, so the length of the trip took far more out of her than she’d expected. Driving was something that she had once left to Charles, or left to his valet. Or Woolly, but she usually had to take the reins from him because he was slow and methodical in how he directed horses, much like he was in everything else in life, and they had places to be.
She supposed that she was a bit like Myka in that regard.
In the dark, she could not see the turn-off for the Warehouse as she drove by it, but the feeling of contentment that settled over Helena’s soul affirmed its presence once again in her mind. So long as the Warehouse stood, they would be invincible.
She would do it again, and again and again, reliving the same day over and over until she got it right. Her students had told her of a film with that same plot, and she’d borrowed it from the library. Groundhog Day, it was called. She’d lived and died so many times that day; Myka never said how many tries it had taken to get it right and Helena hadn’t dared ask. She didn’t want to know how deep the scars on Myka’s soul were; she could see the light reflected there, and it was enough.
Dickens yowled from the passenger seat where she’d strapped his carrier into place. “Shut it,” she muttered, signaling on an abandoned road and turning into Leena’s driveway.
A feeling of finality settled over Helena then, and she sat in the car for a long moment, staring up at the old house. She hadn’t been here since before everything had gone so wrong, and her hands shook just a little bit as she collected her overnight bag (she did not want to appear as though she was ready to settle before she’d officially been extended an invitation to endless wonder) and Dickens.
Myka was waiting at the door for her, leaning against it in the hot summer night, arms wrapped around herself and a smile playing across her face.
She was beautiful in the moonlight.
“Hello, Myka.” She felt stupid with a duffle bag slung over her shoulder and a cat carrier clutched in one hand, its precious cargo still voicing his displeasure at the car trip. Helena shifted, pushed the car door closed with her foot, and headed across the gravel driveway.
“Hey,” Myka said, stepping forward and taking Dickens from Helena.
The conversation came so easily then. Myka stepped away from the door and Helena stepped inside. Dickens was released from his carrier and he scampered off to explore and Helena just smiled. “Never driven that long before,” she commented as she picked up the portable litter box that she’d found at a gas station somewhere along the way. “I had to stop.”
Myka inclined her head. “I don’t doubt it.” She reached out, touching Helena’s shoulder. “Did you bring more than that?” she asked, gesturing to Helena’s overnight bag.
She flushed, looking down at her shoes and then back up to Myka. Her voice sounded meek when she finally spoke, out of character and disconcerting. “I didn’t want to assume.”
“I thought…” Myka began, but Helena just looked at her then and Myka closed her mouth and nodded. She understood how tenuous Helena’s position at the Warehouse was, even today. They had spoken about how hard it was going to be for her to come back, knowing what had transpired before. She had died to save the Warehouse, but she’d tried to kill them all before that. Myka didn’t know if Artie or Pete would ever really forgive Helena for doing that.
In her deepest and most private thoughts, Helena still felt like she deserved to be trapped in ‘weird limbo prison,’ as Pete had put it once. Life on the Janus Coin had been quite simple, and she was sure that Emily Lake’s life had been perfect for her.
But it wasn’t with the people she loved, and now she was facing that reality again, and it terrified Helena.
They climbed the stairs of the silent B&B, pausing at the alcove at their apex to set up the portable litter box for Dickens. He would find it; he was a smart cat.
Myka’s hand was warm against the Helena’s forearm, drawing her out of the darkness of the hallway and into her dimly lit bedroom. Helena had spent hours in this room, curled up in the comfortable armchair while Myka sat on the bed, just talking. Telling stories and filling Myka’s mind with half-truths and lies about what her dreams for the future might hold. It was in this room, not in Yellowstone, that Helena had hurt Myka the worst.
All those lies, all that deceit. Helena let her duffle bag fall to the floor and clenched her fist, trying to keep it from shaking. She hadn’t been back here since then. They hadn’t allowed her a chance at goodbye.
“Are you okay?” Myka asked, her eyes betraying the fact that she knew as well as Helena that no, it was not okay. She stepped forward, reaching around Helena, drawing her in closer, pushing the door shut behind them both.
Helena shook her head, resting her forehead on Myka’s shoulder. “Just tired,” she said with a sigh.
She glanced up to see the line of Myka’s mouth draw thin and felt Myka’s fingers tangle in her hair. She didn’t say anything when Myka kissed her and pulled her back towards the bed that Helena had never had the courage to sit upon.
They hadn’t seen each other in over two months, and as Myka kissed Helena, pushing her into the softness of her bedspread, Helena was glad of that separation. The emotions were too much, even now, and she could feel the tears begin before she had a chance to steel herself against them.
She was a coward, even now. She didn’t want to be in the one place she belonged. She was too afraid of what the future might bring, what evils might await them both.
A dry, wrenching sob escaped her lips as Myka pulled away, hair frizzing in the lamplight as she sat back on her heels. Warm fingers trailed down Helena’s cheeks, lingering where the tears were falling, brushing them away, smoothing them into nothingness. That was what Myka did to Helena, made her feel so safe and so content that she felt she could finally heal again.
“Don’t-” Myka began, but then changed tactics. She shifted, tugging at Helena’s t-shirt and pushing at her jeans. “It’s too hot to sleep in those,” she muttered as Helena opened her mouth to protest and say that she really didn’t want to have sex right now.
Given how good Myka was at getting Helena out of her clothes, it surprised Helena to no end that it had taken them so long to say anything to each other about whatever it was that was going on between them. They sat on the bed, facing each other; legs tangled together as Myka reached out, once again, and touched Helena’s cheek. “This can’t be easy for you.”
Helena shook her head, “I… I want it to be, but now they’re worried that I somehow knew things that I couldn’t possibly have known.” She ran a hand through her hair, pulling at it, trying to get it out of her eyes. “I have a meeting at seven tomorrow morning with the Regents. I suspect I’ll be given George Washington’s hatchet or some other truth-saying artifact.”
“Did you know?” Myka’s brow was furrowed, but her eyes were bright and trusting. This was just a conversation; Myka would not judge her for what she said. “I mean, about Sykes?”
“All MacPherson said to me was that he worried that he was not the greatest threat to the Warehouse. When I told him of my plans – and I did leave out some detail, mind you – he told me that he didn’t think that I was the greatest threat to the Warehouse.” Helena frowned. “To be totally honest with you, I did not think much of it at the time.” Myka nodded and Helena reached out, touching her face as Myka had, a smile finally playing across her lips. “I missed you, Myka.”
“You too, Helena,” Myka grinned. “Seven o’clock, you said?” She pulled away and leaned back, hand grabbing the alarm clock on the bedside table. “I usually get up around five, five-thirty, is that enough time for you to get ready and over to wherever you need to be?”
Helena thought about it a moment, but then nodded. The Regents had just told her to go to the Warehouse, and Mrs. Frederic hadn’t been more specific than that. She supposed that she could just catch a ride with Myka when she went into work, but again, she did not want to catch herself assuming anything that might not possibly be considered alright yet.
It was nice, settling down into an unfamiliar bed and having it feel far more like home than the bed she had left behind in Wyoming. Myka curled around her, arm flung haphazardly across Helena’s stomach, holding Helena as close as could be arranged. It was hot, uncomfortable, and Helena had not been as content in years.
“I love you,” Myka murmured, half into the pillow, half into Helena’s hair. “’m glad you’re back.”
Helena started; love had never really been a part of it before. It had always been there, just below the surface. Always known, never said. To say it now, she exhaled. She had had a great many dalliances in her life, but rarely love. Love was hard for Helena; it was all-consuming and distracting. It knew her weaknesses and exploited them. It made her act damn noble and like a foolish girl.
And she was completely and utterly in love with Myka Bering.
She shifted, propping herself up on one elbow so she could look down at Myka as she nodded. “It’s good to be back,” she whispered, dipping her head and pressing a kiss to the top of Myka’s head. “I love you, too.”
As she drifted off to sleep, Helena wondered if maybe this was her destiny after all. She could have grown old, watching Christina blossom into a young woman at the eve of the worst decade imaginable for the world. War had come then, Christina would have loved a soldier; he probably would have died. It was how the game worked; Helena knew it well enough with Christina’s father. But here, here in the future, with life so different and yet utterly the same, Helena felt far more content than she had ever felt before.
Christina would have loved Myka. She had known that from the start. It was something, it seemed, that Wells women had in common.
“Alarm clocks are probably the worst inventions ever,” Helena muttered. “Ghastly things.”
“At least you’re awake, right?” Myka grinned sleepily at Helena.
“I’d rather the maid do it,” Helena commented airily. “They, at least, are usually nice in the morning.”
It was strange to wake up next to Myka. They’d only done it on a handful of mornings before this one and it was still unique and new despite that. Myka had explained that relationships such as theirs, surrounded by distance and quiet longing, were growing more and more common place with the advent of the Internet (Helena had witnessed this first hand with Claudia). It still felt strange, however. Like she was somehow out of place for loving someone so desperately that she barely got to see.
All of that was changing now, anyway.
Their morning was unhurried, languid kisses as Myka pulled Helena into the shower after her. A coy grin dancing across Myka’s lips that did positively sinful things to Helena’s libido as Myka watched her make them tea.
They didn’t speak. They didn’t need to. What had been said was said and nothing would change how Helena felt about Myka. It was strange, how at peace she was with the morning. Pete came downstairs at six-thirty and mumbled a good morning as he filled the coffee pot and hunted through the cupboards, looking for cereal. When he couldn’t find any, he took his coffee, grunted sleepily at them both, and wandered into the other room.
“He watches cartoons in the morning,” Myka stage-whispered as Helena raised her eyebrow at Pete’s retreating back. “And is not a morning person.”
Helena had been around long enough to gather that last time, but she nodded her agreement that it was strange for a man of thirty-some-odd years to watch children’s television. But she would not judge him too harshly, as she’d found the stuff rather addicting when she’d found herself facing sleepless nights that bled into dawns filled with a quiet about her house that Helena simply could not stand. The happy music and simple dialogue had helped, had reminded Helena of a time when things were easier.
“Pete’s gunna bring Claudia in a bit.” Myka had collected her keys and slung her messenger bag over her shoulder. “Come on,” she said as she drained the rest of her tea, “I’ll drive you over there so you don’t have to brave Artie alone.”
Best be off, then. Helena grimaced and crossed the kitchen to set down her mug in the sink. She followed Myka wordlessly, dread settling into the pit of her stomach. Of all the people connected with the Warehouse who had forgiven her for what she had done, she was about to see the one man who had never relented in his distrust for her. She knew that she deserved it, that she’d killed someone close to him - someone that he’d known for much of his adult life - without so much as a minute of hesitation before she’d let her pen knife cut away those crystals.
She didn’t care; she still didn’t. If there was one person in this world that she was still angry with, it was James MacPherson. He’d brought her out of the bronze, taught her nothing, and thrown her to the dogs. She had every right to hate him.
Myka drove them to the Warehouse silently, listening to the news on the radio and tapping her fingers in time with the Morning Edition theme. Helena watched her with interest, wondering what she was thinking. This was a momentous occasion for them both because there had never been enough time before. It had never been enough, their flirtation stolen moments and hasty retreats when Helena got cold feet or Myka ran out of words to say.
Now forever stretched before them, unburdened by the ghosts of the past.
“I…” She didn’t know what to say. There were so many different ways to say what was on her mind.
Myka turned then, smiling as she pulled up in front of the Warehouse. It loomed heavily in front of them, dominating the brilliant summer sky and casting a wide shadow across the dusty land before them. “Tell me when they’re done with you, okay?” She was grinning at Helena, a bright smile that pulled Helena’s thoughts from the future and its uncertainty to the present.
“I don’t feel particularly ready for this,” Helena muttered, getting out of the car, waiting as Myka opened the door with the automatic button that she usually left in the car. The umbilicus was cool and dark, and Helena could not help but remember the last time she’d seen this place. Mr. Kosan had been there, pulling her away from Myka, their ears filled with Claudia’s screams. She had had to go, he’d explained, she couldn’t linger. Too much was still uncertain.
She hated him for it still.
Myka paused, hand hovering over the key pad that activated the retinal scanner that served as a secondary lock. Helena supposed she was going to have to get her eyeball scanned at some point. Artie had never trusted her enough before to create a unique profile for her. She couldn’t say that she particularly blamed him. “Does it feel good to be back?” she asked, leaning forward and letting the scanner read her eye.
The building was warm, despite the coolness of the umbilicus. She exhaled, looking around as the door to Artie’s office swung open and the smell of apples hit her full force. It was welcoming, an old friend that she’d quite forgotten about. She could see Caturanga moving about the office, Woolly contemplating some dry novel, McShane storming in and demanding that they all actually do work instead of watching Helena test out some new invention. It was all so very real, then the image faded and Helena found herself looking at Jane Lattimer and Adwin Kosan standing near Artie’s messy desk.
Helena’s mouth opened and her response came quietly. She did not want them to hear. “Yes,” she breathed, “it’s brilliant.”
Myka slipped past Helena with a reassuring squeeze on her shoulder and slipped down to the Warehouse floor, leaving them alone in the room.
“Ah,” came Mr. Kosan’s accented voice. Helena had heard his voice take on many timbres over their acquaintance. Pete and Claudia had taught her how to drive, but Mr. Kosan had had to be the one to test her skills. She’d heard him sound terrified as she veered too close to a curve or nearly swerved into an oncoming car. But she’d passed whatever test it was that he’d had for her with flying colors, apparently. “Miss Wells, come in.”
He turned then, and led her towards the small conference room that Myka had mentioned that the Regents were meeting in these days. It was the safest place they could think of after Sykes had gotten to their security network and figured out their codes. They were still circling the wagons, trying to figure out how to rebuild, vetting new Regents.
Helena recalled that the process was long and arduous. She did not envy Mr. Kosan’s position at all as she stepped into the room and allowed Jane Lattimer to close the door behind them.
She folded her hands in front of her, as her mother had taught her and her governess had instructed: polite, but disinterested. It was so easy to smile and be disingenuous, but Helena actually wanted them to know that her reaction was genuine. “Mr. Kosan, Mrs. Lattimer,” she said happily. “It is wonderful to see you all again.”
Mr. Kosan sat down at the head of the room’s lone table and flipped open a file folder. He passed one to Mrs. Lattimer, who sat down as well, and held the other one out to Helena. “Likewise,” he said, his lips and eyes never betraying his true feelings. “We like our agents to be at the Warehouse, where they belong.”
Helena sat and opened the folder in front of her. It was her detailed case record from both Warehouse 12 and Warehouse 13, along with evaluations and notes from the psychologist they had made her see while she was still in Cheyenne. “Do you trust that I belong, then?” she asked, paging through the documents, not really paying attention to the fact that she was being watched.
Teaching had shown her that. She performed well under pressure, under expectations. She looked up, a smile still playing about her lips.
“You have betrayed that trust before, Miss Wells,” Mr. Kosan said, his tone cautious.
She had no response to that. There were no more excuses to give. He’d taken everything from her once, twice; she would not let him do it again. Helena exhaled. “I was mad,” she said with a sigh that felt as heavy on her chest as it sounded upon expulsion from her body. “And confused.”
Mr. Kosan nodded. His eyes were as understanding as they had been when she’d lashed out at him after the Warehouse had come back. He had told her that it was for the best that she stay away until things could get better. She had still tried to destroy the world with an artifact - dying to save the Warehouse was not a sure-fire way to win back the trust of all the people she’d betrayed, he’d said. She hadn’t disagreed.
He had promised her that he would not take her memory again. It had been cruel enough the first time, he had explained, and apparently, Artie had had some choice words about it after the fact.
“I do not doubt it.” Mr. Kosan glanced over at Pete’s mother, who gave a small nod in agreement. Helena could see that blasted shackle still strapped to her wrist and hated her just a little bit in that moment. This all could have been avoided, had that damn thing not existed.
Mr. Kosan continued, eyebrow rising up his bald head. “What is to say that this won’t happen again?”
“My word.” Helena smiled, just a hint of apples in the air. The Warehouse’s tacit approval of her presence there. “Apples, too.”
“Ah, yes.” Jane Lattimer nodded her agreement. “The Warehouse that thought to bring you back likes you now. I forgot about that part.”
Helena wanted to roll her eyes. There was no way that she could have forgotten such an important detail. That she had died and it had not been the watch that brought her back. She resisted the urge to point this fact out to the pair of them because it wasn’t necessary. They knew. They had to know. It hadn’t been easy on anyone, even if Mrs. Lattimer had been in Hong Kong and Mr. Kosan had somehow missed the whole ordeal. (Myka had mentioned something about Regent Security not being able to find their nose or their ass, or some odd American idiom that she didn’t recognize, but the point did hit home.)
She bit her tongue and contemplated her response. She supposed that honesty would be best, despite her reluctance to share such details of herself with the likes of Pete Lattimer’s mother (wasn’t that convenient?). She did not know this woman, but Mr. Kosan nodded expectantly at her and she found the words tumbling, unbidden, out of her mouth. “I didn’t - not before.” She glanced towards the door, wondering if it was too late to run. She didn’t know why she feared admitting her own guilt as much as she did. “I know what I did was awful, wrong, and completely misguided and I beg pardon for my actions.” Helena wrapped her arms around herself and sighed quietly. “There really was no excuse other than the fact that I never wanted to be let out and, well, here I am.”
Mr. Kosan seemed to contemplate the validity of her words before turning a page in his file and passing it over to Helena. There, in her own handwriting, were the instructions that she had written Caturanga, the promise that he’d made to her. She had never wanted to wake up again, and there it was, clear as day. “True,” he said, his lips drawing into a thin line as he took the paper back from Helena’s nervous fingers. He set it inside his folder and then closed it with a decisive gesture.
“Now,” he said, turning to glance at Mrs. Lattimer before his attention once again turned to Helena, “your relationship with Agent Bering.”
“Is my business, not yours.” Helena could feel her voice taking on a defensive tone, and she felt herself shutting down. This was not a conversation that she wanted to have. “It is not forbidden.”
Mrs. Lattimer leaned across the table and placed a reassuring hand on Helena’s arm. “If it compromises you emotionally, it will become a problem.”
“I can distance myself from such situations. I would rather not be put into a position where I have to.”
She honestly didn’t know what else she could tell them. She was grateful that they were not making her relationship with Myka into an ordeal, like they did with some agents. She remembered Woolly’s first lover fondly. That had been hilarious under any circumstances, made even better by his utter terror that she, of all people, would be bothered by his preferences. She wasn’t exactly as straight-laced as he thought she was.
Pete had used the phrase ‘brain-breaking’ once in conjunction to Erica Lancaster, and Helena thought the turn of phrase was apt when describing what she had done to poor Woolly. Granted, he forgave her after, but it had been quite humorous at the time. And Ms. Bedingfield had certainly not minded an audience. Helena only wished that she’d recalled that the next time McShane nearly walked in on them.
Mr. Kosan nodded his head, accepting her word that she could be an adult about her relationship. She was grateful because she knew that she couldn’t expect the same from Artie, when he finally turned up. “Understandable.” Mr. Kosan turned to Mrs. Lattimer, only continuing when she gave him a slight nod. “And this business with MacPherson’s letter?”
“I know nothing more than you.” Helena shrugged. “He was never particularly frank with me about why I was let out of the bronze.”
Mrs. Lattimer raised an eyebrow at the pair of them, leaning forward and whispering conspiratorially, “A madman?”
Helena had assumed that that was a given. “Perhaps,” she said judiciously. “Ms. Donovan mentioned something to me, however, something that I found intriguing. Why is it that there is no record of my being a resident of the bronze sector at the Warehouse proper? All that is in the Regent archive.” She gestured to the document that Mr. Kosan had shown her earlier. “You may want to look into your archivist and figure out why he or she was passing information to a known enemy.”
“That matter is closed.” Mr. Kosan’s eyes had turned harsh and Helena knew by his tone that the person involved was probably dead.
Good, the wicked part of her brain thought vindictively as Helena swallowed the impulse to ask how they’d killed their archivist. “Of course it is,” she said, eyes narrowing. She kept going, watching their reactions closely. “I knew nothing of Sykes’ plan other than that MacPherson feared it might come to fruition for purely selfish reasons.”
“Ah.” The realization that dawned on Mr. Kosan’s face was genuine and she found herself sharing a rare smile with the man. He stood, and held out his hand to Helena, who took it, eyes just a little wide. “Then we have nothing more to discuss.”
“Just like that?” she asked, a little wary of the abrupt way the conversation had ended.
Mr. Kosan nodded and left the room, leaving Helena sitting across from Mrs. Lattimer. The woman seemed to be wrestling with the fact that she wanted to say something and the knowledge that Mr. Kosan probably expected her to follow him.
Helena stood, tucking her folder under her arm and lingering just as much as could be considered proper without appearing expectant. It was an art that she’d mastered as a child who wanted more attention than her father was willing to give her.
“Thank you,” Jane Lattimer breathed and Helena blinked.
“Beg pardon,” she asked.
“Thank you, for Pete, for this – for all of this,” she whispered, reaching forward and pulling Helena into a tight hug (not unlike her son’s).
Helena patted Pete’s mother awkwardly on the back, not sure how to handle such violent and exuberant displays of physical affection, and waited until she’d had her fill of the hug before stepping back.
“Helena, I mean it,” she whispered, before turning and opening the door. “Artie!” she called and Helena winced. She did not want to go from one tense conversation to another, but it appeared that she had no choice.
Arthur Nielsen was sitting behind his desk, curly hair just barely showing over the computer monitor. Helena could feel his eyes on her, even though she could not see them, as she stepped out of the conference room and waved goodbye to Pete’s mother. The door to the umbilicus slammed shut and the room was plunged into relative silence.
Helena could see Claudia’s messenger bag and Pete’s briefcase tossed haphazardly beside Myka’s on the desk next to Artie and she chewed her lip. She wanted to go down onto the floor, to see them. To finally say hello to Claudia (who slept far later than any of the others dared allow themselves), and to get back to work.
“So,” Artie said, and Helena winced. “They let you come back.”
“Yes…” Helena breathed, watching as Artie stood and opened his desk drawer. He rummaged around for a minute before finding what he was looking for.
“Catch,” he said, tossing it over to her.
The yellowed silver of the pocket watch rested in her hands, warming to her touch almost instantly. She recognized it. “Where did you find this?” she demanded, turning it over and over in her hands. “This was supposed to be among my personal effects.” The engraving bore her name and a date: her first anniversary at the Warehouse. She’d start to build her time machine not soon after that date.
“That is the watch that brought you back, H.G.,” Artie said as he came to stand next to her, pressing a half-folded piece of paper covered in spindly handwriting not at all dissimilar to her own into Helena’s hand. “We were taught,” Artie began, shifting from foot to foot, “when we came to the Warehouse, that time travel was impossible.”
Helena nodded. “I imagine that your mentor mentioned something about the time-space continuum and universe-ending paradoxes should such an event ever take place?” Caturanga had told her the same thing, after all, when she’d started work on her time machine.
Artie laughed, as if recalling a fond memory, before inclining his head. “James MacPherson found that watch in London – a solo retrieval. He never mentioned where he’d found it, only that it had saved his life by turning back time just long enough for him to do what he needed to do to make things right.” Artie shook his head sadly. “We argued about it after that. I thought we should destroy it; he thought that it was a wise think to keep around, you know, just in case.”
“I… I made an artifact?” Helena did not know how to process this, staring at the watch in her hands.
There was a long pause, before Artie’s hand came to rest on her shoulder, “Artificers do that, H.G.,” he said quietly, before looking away. She could see the emotions that were clouding his face, the worry and the fear that he wasn’t doing the right thing yet again. Helena had betrayed his trust, too, after all. “We had to try a few times, to get it right.”
She nodded, “Pete mentioned something about that.”
“Six times,” Artie whispered. “Myka doesn’t remember them all – Pete does. I do.”
Horror filled Helena. She had never thought that it had been more than once or twice. Myka was strong, but she could not stomach the idea of watching someone she loved die five times. It wasn’t fair, for so many reasons. She was secretly grateful that Myka did not remember them all, but it did explain the odd look in Pete’s eyes every time his gaze rested upon her. They’d done it so often and yet Claudia’s friend, Steven, was still not among them.
The universe was full of awful things.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, fingers closing around her pocket watch. “I’m sorry that something I created caused you all such pain.”
Artie shook his head, holding out his hand expectantly. Helena crossed to where he stood and placed the watch back into his hand. “Thank you for giving us a chance to make it right in the first place.” He looked away, shoving the watch back into his desk drawer and closing his eyes. “I am still not sure that I trust you, but the Warehouse and the Regents want you back. So, you’re back. Don’t mess it up again.”
Helena gave a mock salute, but her expression was perfectly serious. “I have no intention of doing such a thing.”
The door to the Warehouse floor banged open and Claudia bounded in, an arm full of wire and a bright expression on her face. “H.G.!” she exclaimed excitedly. “Just the person I need.” She maneuvered herself, wire and all, over to the work bench that was littered with tools and bits of metal not unlike the bench that Helena had spent several days cleaning up in her study over the past week. “How’s your soldering?”
“Claudia?” Myka’s voice came through the open door to the Warehouse floor and they all turned to look towards it. “Look, I know that you want her help, but she does have a rather epic list of inventory she’s got to do today.”
Claudia’s face fell and Helena grinned at her, accepting the clipboard that Artie held up and hurrying towards the door. “Later,” she promised and Claudia nodded her agreement distractedly as she parsed out wire and where it went.
The last time she had been here, really, had been over a year ago. Now Helena Wells stepped onto the floor of Warehouse 13 with a sense of belonging and purpose she’d never had before. She was here for a reason; her duty was to see her life through to the best of her ability.
Myka and Pete were waiting for her at the base of the steps, smiles on their faces.
Helena smiled. She’d finally come home.
Afterwards, they lay together. Myka’s arm was flung carelessly across Helena’s stomach, her lips pressed thoughtfully on Helena’s shoulder.
“Everything’s going to change now, isn’t it?”
The question came unbidden, as did Myka’s stated smile. It was a lover’s grin, tired and content. “For the better, I think.”
Chapter 5: Left in the Garden
Someone requested a missing scene. Takes place between Left Alive and Left Standing. A moment between Myka and Helena.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
We are always running for the thrill of it thrill of it
Always pushing up the hill searching for the thrill of it
On and on and on we are calling out and out again
Never looking down I'm just in awe of what's in front of me
-Empire of the Sun, Walking on a Dream
She came again in May. Wyoming had finally shaken off the damp chill of winter and the mud of early spring. Things were growing now, the sun cut warm shadows across the small patch of grass carved from hilly forest. Behind the old farm house with its peeling paint and stripped bare rockers was something that Myka could only compare to paradise.
The owner of the house was something of a gardener and the terms of Helena's lease included some upkeep. Helena's interest in horticulture, she explained in a long letter to Myka, ended with plant acid derivatives and their potential application to other, more fantastic means. Gardening was not really her strong suit.
Come and help out? She'd asked, mentioning that she'd kept up with the weeding and the raking. All the annuals needed to be replaced and she, quite frankly, had no idea where to acquire such plants.
Myka had gone back to Wyoming the following weekend. Artie had sent her off without so much as a word. Myka had a theory that he was under express orders to not impede her, should she wish to visit Helena.
It hurt so much, to have to leave the place she considered to be home, to go to the person who was home for her. To drive for hours only to find herself standing again at that edge.
The edge was something akin to teetering between sanity and another place entirely. Coming here and then leaving this perfect life. The calm, peaceful life that she had always secretly wanted was something ill-suited for Helena Wells. While Myka loved their afternoons curled together in Helena's study, there was something in the other woman that itched for more. She was once an elite member of scientific society, anything less than a daily explosion was simply too boring for Helena.
Myka never knew how to ask Helena for this, the quiet and the companionship. They were both completely and irrevocably tied to the Warehouse and they both knew it. This was just a peaceful interlude. Where they could be the scholar and the teacher, two people with more knowledge and love of literature between them than was probably healthy.
Had this lasted, Myka would have suggested they get a dog to match Dickens the cat. Maybe name him Orwell or Clark, she'd debated and then thrown away Bradbury - that was a cat's name. They'd live together in peace; maybe open a branch of Bering & Sons in Cheyenne. It would be absolutely perfect.
But it could never be. They weren't meant for that, and they both knew it.
Now they'd filled the garden with color and it was even closer to that idyllic place than Myka had ever seen it before. She sat, cross-legged on a blanket, watching as Helena used an old camera they'd found at a thrift shop downtown to photograph some of their new additions to the garden.
"I like this," she said, knowing that it could never be enough for either of them. It was a selfish wish, but one all the same. One that she had to have, in order to realize that they were both meant for so much more. "In another life, this would be perfect."
Helena ran a hand uneasily through her hair and turned to face Myka. Her fingers were cradling the camera as though it might break, and she snapped a picture of Myka then, eyes sparkling as Myka grinned tiredly up at her. They'd been at it all morning, and while the garden looked beautiful, they were both tired and dirty.
"In another life, I could never have had this," Helena gestured with the camera to the house and the garden. She spun on one sneakered toe and collapsed onto the blanket next to Myka. "Any of this," her tone was earnest as she amended her previous statement. Her eyes never left Myka's as she reached out, fingers still dirty with soil, and brushed Myka's cheek.
It was easy then, to lean forward to take the hand on her cheek and pull gently downwards. A touch, a hand on her sweaty t-shirt and another tangling in her hair, Helena's lips were warm and welcoming on her own.
This was a little slice of their own personal Eden, and even if it was only for a few fleeting hours, Myka embraced the time they were given together. So much time had already been stolen from them.
Helena pushed her backwards onto the blanket, lips tracing the streaks of sweat and dirt that marred Myka's body; memorizing the patterns and the leylines of her body. It was warm, and Myka's body felt like it was on fire.
The sunlight was warm on Myka's stomach as Helena shoved her t-shirt up and over her head. Hands that were deceptively skilled at their task find the places on her body that drew out hesitant reactions, breathy gasps and her fingers twining themselves in Helena's hair.
Their bodies pressed together, fingers and lips seeking out the most hidden of places, lingering there – pressuring gasps and breathy moans of pleasure. Myka’s fists balled in the back of Helena’s shirt, in the blanket, anywhere she could gain purchase as her body arched into Helena’s touch.
It was so gentle, so tentative, everything that she’d ever wanted. Helena’s fingers curling, unrelenting inside of her. They never slowed as her lips trailed a hot bath down Myka’s stomach, lingering in places only a lover could know.
Myka’s body trembled under Helena’s touch, her back rising to meet the constant press of Helena inside, outside, surrounding her completely.
It was the same feeling of drowning that she had felt before, that she could never quite shake in Helena’s presence. Lips dipped lower, tongue and teeth grazing overly sensitive skin as Myka’s head fell back and her hips rose and fell to meet Helena’s sure fingers. It was all so much, drowning in the sunlight and the sensation. Helena took her higher and higher, chasing a high Myka had never been sure was completely attainable.
Helena knew her body, knew how to draw out pleasure, and how to make it into the ultimate expression of love. Myka was close, then, in that moment. Helena relented, dragging her body back up Myka’s as she shifted her unrelenting hand.
In a kiss, she pushed Myka over the edge. The heel of her palm grinding against Myka until it was all together too much and she fell backwards, Helena’s name on her lips. It was beautiful, in that moment, and Myka was again at peace.
She didn’t know how long they lay there, sweaty and spent. Time seemed to blur together, ticking down the inevitable minutes until she would have to leave once more. Helena kissed her lazily. Myka found herself smirking into the kiss as she hooked her leg around Helena and flipped them over easily.
“Why Ms. Bering,” Helena had the audacity to sound mildly scandalized as Myka dipped to kiss her once more.
And in that moment, it was as close to perfect as it could be.
Later, when Helena lay back, skin gleaming in the late-afternoon sunlight, Myka couldn’t help but comment. “That is by far the most public sex that I have ever had.”
Helena tipped her head backwards, hair spilling backwards in a river of inky black against the pale expanse of her back. “Really, darling? This is hardly public.”
They both laughed then, because it was so boring and so domestic – with just the right undercurrent of danger that they both thrived upon. The mundane nature of this moment was everything that they were not. It was who they were, however, in that one moment.
And for the time being, that was more than enough.
original prompt: Ficlet prompt: One of the missing scenes from your Left series: Perhaps, one of the times Myka visited HG, and they did their gardening together. Thank you, crazycat9449!