Chapter 1: Chapter One
He would never admit it, but Pete was most definitely the mother hen of the group. It was he who made sure Claudia took a break in between her long hours at the warehouse and her nights studying. It was he who took the weekend and holiday shifts so Myka had the chance to visit with her parents, whether she felt like it or not. It was Pete who would quietly and subtly (for he was, at times, capable of such things) take Artie aside and suggest that a few gentle words would go a long way next time. And, though it had never been proven, everyone was sure it was he that made sure the British treats and pastries made their way into the kitchen on HG's darker days. He covered it all up with his bravado and juvenile humour, but his heart would always shine through, and it shone brightest for these people for whom he cared so much.
Which is why Myka should not have been so surprised that he was hovering so incessantly.
Gritting her teeth she returned her attention to her book, focusing carefully on the little black letters that were the building blocks of an entire world into which she was desperately trying to escape. It was no use, she knew, because no matter how hard she focused, she could not eliminate the Pete shaped blur bouncing around in the corner of her vision.
"Myka," he said, tapping her on the shoulder. "Myka. Mykes. Myyyyyyykes."
Myka blinked but refused to answer.
His hands started tapping out a rhythm on her shoulder blades, his voice starting to sing. "My-ka, My-kaaaaa, My-ka, M-M-M-Myka... you know I won't stop Mykes, give in already..."
She turned the page.
She jumped from her seat, Pete's voice still ringing in her ear from where he had shouted. "What the hell, Pete?! What do you want?"
Pete smiled and calmly sat down on the lounge next to her, his manner now as polite as if she had asked him to join her for tea. "Myka, we need to talk."
She glared at him. "Pete, I'm reading."
"Yes I can see that. And what, pray tell, are you reading?" he asked, pulling the book non-too gently from her grasp.
Her hands followed his, reluctant to give up her novel so easily - especially as it was one Helena had given her and the glee of receiving personal book recommendations from the H.G. Wells had not yet worn off.
Pete watched her movements, seeing her thoughts clearly cross her eyes. She was considering tackling him for it, he knew - and he also knew that she could likely take him - but he was pleased to see her expression slide into one of begrudging acceptance. She didn't want to have this conversation with him, but knew that it would probably be easier (not to mention shorter) if she simply had it over and done with.
"Pete, it's fine, just leave it alone," she said, shaking her head.
Pete looked at her disbelievingly, "It's not fine, Mykes. It's affecting you, and I know it is cause you're getting those little wrinkly things next to your eyes."
Myka resisted the urge to touch her face. "Pete -"
"Now look, I know HG thinks that's cute and all - and she should know, she's the one doing all the looking these days..."
"And what about that, huh? That's got to be killing you right? Not to be doing the looking. She's hot stuff, Mykes, you got yourself a looker, and you can't even be doing the lookin'."
Myka felt a blush settle across her face at his words. "Pete -"
"So if nothing else, that should have you listening to me right?"
Myka grabbed his hand, pulling his attention away from his meddling ramble and back to her. "Pete. Listen to me, I'm fine. Would I be sitting here reading if I wasn't?" He squinted at her, receiving an eye roll in return.
"I tell you what," he said, standing and taking two small steps away from her, holding the book up to the page she had been reading. "If you can read this without your head exploding, I'll leave you alone."
Myka fixed him with a look she hoped wasn't too smug and let the words fall easily from her mouth.
"I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle, something heroic or wonderful that won't be forgotten after I'm dead. I don't know what, but I'm on the watch for it, and mean to astonish you all some day. I think I shall write books, and get rich and famous, that would suit me, so that is my favorite dream."
Pete was shocked. He hadn't expected that. "Ah..."
A scoff from the doorway broke his shock and he looked up to see Claudia dragging herself up and off the frame. "Dude. She's read it before. Probably before she could walk."
Myka looked up at him, having enough good grace to look slightly guilty, as Claudia pole vaulted the back of the lounge to collapse into the cushions. "Face it Myka. You need new glasses."
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Myka had maintained hope that Helena would protect her from Pete and Claudia's excitement over their little 'outing'. After all, what was the good of having a genius for a girlfriend if she wouldn't come to your rescue and save you from over excited children who were smart enough to know how to annoy her on a daily basis? Helena, unfortunately, had agreed with them wholeheartedly.
"He is right, darling," she had said smoothly, running her fingers over the soft skin near Myka's eyes. "You truly are starting to get little lines from all that squinting you have been doing."
Myka gaped at her, she had thought Pete was just teasing. She pouted stubbornly, "I am not."
Helena chuckled, her dancing fingers tapping her lip softly. "It's true, my love. And while I do so adore watching the look of concentration on your face that brings them out, I am worried for your health." She laughed again, "Not to mention the health of all of us all when those headaches of yours set in."
Myka sighed and let her head fall back into her pillow. She had been getting niggling headaches. Not bad enough for concern but enough to be noticed. She had not been aware, however, that she had been squinting over her reading, nor that everyone else seemed to be aware of it. But with her last chance for salvation now gone, she squared herself for the examination to come.
She had descended the stairs to breakfast with all the enthusiasm of a man walking to the gallows. It wasn't the thought of new glasses that truly bothered her, nor even the thought of having to sit through an eye examination. No, it was more the knowledge that her friends would enjoy the process a little too much. Pete and Claudia had already informed her that they would be accompanying her to assist in the choosing of her new specs ("to stop you from picking something geeky, Mykes, I mean really..."). If she had her way she'd just replace the lenses in her own frames but they had refused and Helena, enjoying her discomfort entirely too much, had merely pushed her out their bedroom door with a laugh.
Univille being Univille the closest they had to an optometrist was the sun glasses stand at the local pharmacy and so it was that the outing was extended to a drive into the nearest town, a good forty minutes away, with Claudia behind the wheel. Her eyesight may have been questionable, but now, after being subjected to the disharmonious tones the pair created, her ears too were begging for some special attention. As such, it was with no small degree of pleasure that Myka excited the car, regretting her call of shotgun, as all it had provided her with was surround sound.
The optometrist's office was unremarkable, not unlike any other optometrist Myka had ever stepped into. But the hundred or so pairs of spectacles adorning the wall caught the glean of the overhead light and made then shine. Myka could practically hear the hum of constrained energy radiating out from Pete as he held his hands in tight fists. Claudia smirked at her as he led Pete over to a rickety plastic seat, far from the glasses he was dying to touch.
"Off you go, Myka," she said. "I'll keep Agent Sticky Fingers here occupied while you go do your thang."
Myka grinned as she saw Claudia push Pete none too gracefully onto the seat and joined him, pulling her oversized bag onto her lap. From within she pulled a fistful of comic books and a bag of tiny cookies. It struck Myka, yet again, that Claudia really was the only adult in the group.
The doctor had no difficulties accessing her previous records from Colorado and gave them a quick going over before turning to her. The examination chair was bulky and uncomfortable, lenses resting encased in cold metal across her cheek. She had suggested to Artie that perhaps Doctor Calder had a more 'efficient' means of conducting the test but she had been vetoed quickly with a sharp reminder than artefacts where NOT playthings. Of course, the matter had not been helped by Pete running up behind her to place Timothy Leary's glasses on her face as she was stating her case. It was difficult to make a convincing argument to a walrus.
All in all the test did not take very long, the doctor leap frogging the lenses in front of her eyes so fast she could barely focus on the small black letters swimming in front of her. She tried her upmost best to complete the examination honestly, but it was difficult to do so when in possession of a photographic memory. Still she focused best she could on the clarity and form of the letters and breathed a sigh of relief when the heavy framework was lifted up and away from her head.
In the waiting room, Pete had grown tired of his comics and even Claudia's skill and guile had been able to keep him from the frames lining the wall. He was wearing (and grinning inanely into a mirror) a pair of bright green cats-eye glasses while Claudia frantically rushed behind him, returning all the discarded glasses back to their holders. The doctor gave him an odd look. He was certainly used to this behaviour, but it was the first time an adult had left such a wake.
"Pete," Myka intoned.
"Hi Mykes, what did the test say, you need new eyes? Cause I'm pretty sure we've got some pretty cool glass ones back at the war-work, at work," He glared at Claudia and rubbed his ribs where she had elbowed him. Hard. Clearly she was spending too much time Myka.
The doctor gave them an odd look for their antics before turning back to Myka, "Your eyesight has definitely weakened, Ms. Berring. But not by a great deal - I would surmise from your readings that you routinely strain your eyes, perhaps over reading or fine detail work."
"Oh Myka is all about the details," Claudia agreed.
"And the reading," Pete agreed with a nod. "She's like a big walking, talking, detail consuming bookworm."
Myka looked at her feet, avoiding the doctor's eyes. Helena knew exactly what she was doing when she refused to accompany her. And she would pay dearly.
"Yes... well," the doctor continued, clearly not knowing what to make of his patient's friends. "Like I said, your eyesight has weakened, but we should be able to maintain it at this level with some new lenses. If you'd like to pick out some frames, I can have them made up for you and ready to be picked up by the end of the week."
Myka had barely let out a 'thank you' when she felt herself being dragged over to the glasses wall by Pete and Claudia. Perhaps wisely, the doctor walked away, leaving Myka to deal with the parade of glasses being presented before her.
They returned to the B&B to find Helena and Leena enjoying a quiet moment in the sun room. Quiet moments came rare when living in a house with five adults, but were rarer still when one of those 'adults' was Pete Lattimer. The pair had retired with tea and a good book to enjoy the warmth of the sun and the stillness of the room. Still, to their credit, they had managed not to look too disappointed when their relaxation was interrupted by their friends' return.
Leena rose, ever the hostess despite their attempts to break her off this habit, to retrieve another tea cup for Myka and something cold for Pete and Claudia. She called over her shoulder as she left the room, "And how did it all go, Myka?"
Myka opened her mouth to answer but was interrupted by Pete's enthusiastic response.
"SHE GOT GLASSES!"
Helena smothered her grin as she caught Myka's eye. She had an experience with children that the others did not have, and she had known full well that, after his wheedling had been validated, Pete's exuberance would be insurmountable. She herself had intended to give Myka until the end of the week to realise that she was in need of seeing a doctor, but since she had not come to that decision on her own, choosing instead to ignore her health, Helena thought it only fair that Myka endure Pete at his 'best'. She was all too aware that this was a decision she would pay for later... but had come to realise that with Myka, payback truly was a fair game.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
The day Myka’s glasses were ready to be picked up she snuck out of the house alone. Pete had teasingly resurrected all the glasses taunting she had endured as a child and Claudia had composed a little song to go with them. This had not been helped in the slightest by Artie’s apparent amusement in seeing Myka so uncharacteristically ruffled, nor by Helena’s contribution of Victorian spectacle insults. All in all, Myka felt that her optometrist, who already thought his new patient exceedingly odd, would not benefit from an off pitch rendition of ‘Victorian ladies don’t make passes at Warehouse agents who wear glasses’.
She knew it was all in jest and, quite frankly, nothing more than she deserved after the many (many) jokes she had made at Pete’s expense when he had managed to burn off his eyebrows with John Walker’s matches last month. All the same she had enjoyed the quiet drive and relished the taste of the last Twizzler (Helena had taken an unfortunate liking to them and had discovered her secret stash al too quickly) as she hopped out of the car.
Choosing her new frames had been an arduous affair with both Pete and Claudia vying for her attention, offering suggestion after suggestion – none of which had been entirely to her taste. The committee had finally conceded to her choice, however: a pair not unlike her existing ones in shape, but much thinner in frame. Which, according to her consultants, had made all the difference regarding her supposed overt geekiness.
Dr. Williams, quietly relieved to see his patient without her raucously well intentioned companions, handed over her new spectacles. “Your contacts aren’t quite ready I’m afraid, you shall have to make do with these.”
Myka assured him that it would be fine and slipped her new glasses over her eyes.
If there was anything Myka truly hated it was acknowledging that she was wrong (especially when doing do made Pete right), but even she had to admit that the world was fresher than it had been moments before. The leaves on the trees had a new definition that hadn’t existed that morning. She could see individual children playing in the park at the end of the block. And, upon returning to her car, she was suddenly all too aware of the number of cookie crumbs that now coated her passenger seat, something that Pete would most certainly be remedying that afternoon. It seemed, she admitted with a sigh, that the new glasses had indeed been in order.
Still, she thought, her brain finding that silver lining, this did mean a renewed eye for detail... and there had been some details at home that had gone unstudied for too long.
Myka’s happy (and almost dangerously distracting) thoughts accompanied her all the way home and it was with a new spring in her step that she bounded up the walk and onto the porch of Leena’s. Throwing the door open with gusto, she practically skipped over the threshold. “Guys, I’m back!”
Myka frowned at the lack of response and so followed the faint strains of music into the parlour where Helena was sitting curled up on the lounge, completely lost in the world of whichever novel she had commandeered for the day. Sneaking up behind her, Myka reached her arms around her shoulders to rest on her collarbone, leaning in to leave a kiss on her hair.
Before she could do so, however, Helena had lept from her chair, pulling Myka from her feet and flipping her over to land squarely on Leena’s now completely smashed coffee table.
Confused, and more than a little sore, Myka looked up to see what game Helena was playing now – only to find herself staring at the scary end of the woman’s fully charged Tesla...
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Staring into Helena's dark eyes, the Tesla pointed directly at her chest, all Myka could think about was how mad Leena would be when she saw her coffee table. It was an odd thing to be focusing on, she would later acknowledge, but still, with it's sharp edges currently piercing her rear, it was all her brain could manage. There was no way she could make sense of the situation otherwise. If she didn't focus on the table, she would be forced to process the fact that her lover was pulling a weapon on her with no indications of it being an ill-designed joke. She would have to look at the coldness of Helena's eyes, eyes that just this morning had looked at her with that unique mix of smug satisfaction and complete adoration that only Helena Wells was capable of. She would have to accept that that the woman she loved was mere millimetres from pulling the trigger.
"Who. Are. You," Helena bit out, the Tesla not wavering in the slightest.
Myka felt the a hot quivering flush swamp her body, this was not right. "Helena, it's me..."
"I don't know who are," she replied in a disdainfully arch voice that Myka had not heard in many months, not since Helena's voice had been calmed and softened by the happiness and security she had finally found in this new odd little family of hers. "And I don't know how you got in here, but I suggest you start explaining yourself. Now."
Summoned by the sound of the crash, the others poured into the room, taking in the sight before them. Taking Helena's lead, Pete grabbed his gun and provided extra cover for her. It was Claudia, however, who jumped straight to the heart of the matter with all her usual eloquence.
"HG. What the frak, man?"
Myka had had just about enough of this. "Come on guys, lay off. This isn't funny."
"Damn straight it's not funny, missy," Pete tended to get a little patronising when caught off guard. "How the hell did you get in here?" He turned his head slightly to speak to Leena out the corner of his mouth. "I thought the B&B had some kind of mojo happening to stop people getting in here."
"It- it does," Leena confirmed, giving Myka an almost painfully confused look. "I can't explain how she got through."
"Pete, it's ME. It's Myka. Myka Ophelia Bering, Secret Service agent number -"
"You are NOT Myka Bering," Helena barked, stepping closer to her.
With the weapon now aimed directly at her forehead Myka felt herself take a slow breath. It had taken her quite some time - far more time than Helena would have liked - for Myka to actually accept the woman's love, to accept that Helena G. Wells actually loved and wanted her, plain old Myka Bering of Colorado Springs. There had been months of back and forth, doubt and disbelieve before Helena had finally convinced her of the undeniable depth of her love for her. That acceptance had been a glorious feeling, one that she had never experienced before. And now that same force was being thrown back at her. The force of Helena's love for her being used to subdue her far more effectively than the Tesla. In some small part, the force of Helena's conviction gave her a degree of comfort.
"You are not Myka Bering," Helena repeated, in a quieter but no less deadly volume. "And you have exactly thirty seconds to tell me what you have done to her before I shoot you. And please, do not mistake me for a cautious woman, this firearm is set to a lethal force."
Myka took in the steadfast gaze of Helena's eyes. They were serious, but more than that they were afraid. She had seen many looks in those expressive eyes, but fear was not one that she wore openly. Helena was truly afraid for Myka - the Myka that this 'stranger' had apparently harmed in some way. And there was no way that Myka was prepared, cowering on the floor as she was, to take on Mamma Bear HG (as Claud had dubbed her in such moments) - not if she wanted to get out alive.
"Helena," she started quietly, taking in the slight flinch Helena gave at the use of her name. "I'm sorry for this, okay. I'm sorry. Really. I'm - I'm sorry..."
"Sorry for what?" Claudia asked in a weary tone. She didn't feel like bloodshed this morning.
In a move that Helena herself would have been in awe of, Myka sprung from her place on the floor, swiping out an arm to throw Helena's Tesla to the ground while reaching out to usurp Pete's with her other. Sparing a precious second to check the settings, she thumbed the switch on the barrel and, with more than a slight twinge of guilt, shot a widespread beam, felling her family to litter the floor around her.
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Myka collapsed on the bed with an exhaustion she hadn’t felt in months – so tired was she that she swore she felt her brain yawn. Her lips quirked into a grin, it was thoughts like that which usually resulted in Helena laughing at her gently, smoothing back Myka’s curls and calling her adorable, or a similar word which had Myka objecting strongly. But there would be no gentle teasing tonight, no smiles or stolen hugs (for, much to Pete’s constant amusement, the two women – both entirely capable of kicking his smirky butt single-handedly – were undeniable cuddlers). Helena was not with her. It had not felt entirely appropriate to invite the woman to join her for a night in a seedy hotel after knocking her unconscious. Myka didn’t want to go giving the wrong idea, after all.
Myka blew an errant curl off her forehead with a frustrated huff. She was not a fan of hotels at the best of times, spending far too many hours in them as it was with her job. But at least then she had Pete or (rarely, but enjoyably) Helena for company. And Artie, finicky though he was, usually sprung for something a little better than this. Univille was, unsurprisingly light on its accommodation options. Then again, she had just fired upon the people she cared most about in the whole world, it wasn’t like she deserved the Ritz or anything.
Starting to feel her mood settle in for the long haul, Myka pulled herself upright to sit against the bed head, pulling pen and paper from her bag as she gave herself a strict talking to. The voice in her head sounded eerily like Mrs. Frederic but she pushed that consideration aside.
“Come on Bering,” she told herself firmly. “Snap out of it. Observe and analyse. What are the facts? The facts don’t lie.”
Scribbling on the paper in front of her, Myka started to fill in the time line of her day in an attempt to figure out what exactly had turned her friends into violent lunatics.
Everything had been fine that morning, Myka had decided, scrawling ‘7am – woke as usual’ across the top of her page, rolling her eyes when she found herself following it with ‘Myka and HG’s cuddle hour”. Claudia’s support of their partnership was touching, if a little too public for their liking. But yes, everything had been normal. They had risen, eaten breakfast (Pete had stuffed four croissants into his mouth – Myka jotted this down just in case), and they had all bid her farewell in a usual enough fashion.
She had driven her car down the same streets as always without encountering anything out of the ordinary. She had pulled into a roadside station for gas and Twizzlers at 9:30 and paid with the twenty dollar bill she had found sticking between the cushions of the passenger seat (thank you Pete!). She had arrived at the optometrist and had picked up her glasses by 10:13. Her doctor had certainly not treated her any differently than was warranted considering her previous visit.
From there she had browsed in a bookstore for an hour or so – but given that it was a chain, full of pristine books and completely devoid of any kind of charm, Myka highly doubted that she had encountered anything ‘artifacty’ there. She had had a coffee and a turkey sandwich on wholemeal bread in a cafe from 11:45 to 12:17. And then she had headed home.
Where all hell had apparently broken loose.
By her reckoning, Myka had interacted with no fewer than twelve people over the course of the day – thirteen if you included the young man she had bumped shoulders with leaving the bookstore – and she was fairly certain that not a single one of them had felt the need to draw a weapon on her.
Which only meant one thing, Myka reasoned logically, something had happened at the B&B while she had been gone. Something bad. And it was up to her to save her friends before it was too late.
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
There were many things Myka had done since joining the warehouse that she had thought she would never do. She had chased down a carnivorous lawn mower, defended herself from overly amorous teapots, and spend hours tracking down and catching Peter Pan's shadow. But despite all this, despite all the impossibleness that had become part of her daily life, she had never - NEVER - thought she would be stalking her own partner.
For the first time since her relocation, Myka revelled in Univille's small size; in the three years she had been here she had memorised it's every corner and so was able to find shady purchase in all it's nooks and crannies. Pete and Helena had come into town, clearly searching for her. They were a block ahead and Myka was keeping a safe distance as she assessed their movements. As they leapfrogged each other, talking briefly to store owners, Myka had to admit that they had developed an ease of communication that was more evident without her being present. The pair had an unspoken respect for each other's skills - even if their methodologies irked each other immensely.
Watching as they came together to confer before moving apart once more, Myka saw her chance. Helena was heading into the town's only bookstore - a second hand trade-in owned by a kindly gentleman by the name of Roberts. The store had quite the collection, meeting with even Myka's discerning standards. Helena and Myka frequented the store regularly, enamoured with its dusty charm and small collection of rarer items - and in doing so, Mr. Roberts had become quite fond of them both, Myka in particular. If anyone stood a chance of knowing if Myka had been in town it was him.
With Helena crossing the stoop into the bookstore and Pete aiming for The Greasy Spoon, a diner he loved and which she hated, Myka circled around to nab Pete before he entered. As he approached the doorway, her quick hand darted out and pulled him into the shadow of the building. Despite being located in Univille, a dark alleyway was still a dark alleyway and so Myka was not surprised to see one hand reach immediately for his weapon, the other extending out before him in a defensive stance. He relaxed minutely upon registering her, a known problem not as daunting as a new one, but his hand remained firmly wrapped around his Tesla.
"Oh," he said shortly. "It's you. What do you want with us?"
Myka was taken aback by the sheer harshness of her tone. This wasn't the Pete she knew. This wasn't the Pete who laughed with her, or the Pete who teased Helena so. This wasn't the Pete who squabbled with Claudia the whole day long, only to check in on her every evening, smoothing her brow and tucking the blankets around her more securely. No this was the Pete who faced down their enemies and defended his team; she had to resist the urge to recoil at his words.
"I just want to talk," she said, holding her hands in a placating gesture, her voice calm and steady. "That's it, just talk."
Pete gave her an exhausted sigh. "Look lady, I don't know who you are or what your game is, and frankly, I don't care. I just want my partner back. Are you going to tell me where she is, or not?"
"I told you already, Pete. I am Myka. I know you don't believe me, but it's true. Come on Pete, you know me. You have to know me."
Pete squinted at her, the weariness not budging from his face, but giving her a moment's consideration. This was the one person she had worked closest with her entire life. He was the brother she never had; if he couldn't see her, she didn't know what she would do.
"Pete..." she pleaded softly.
There was no recognition on his face, and for all his trust in her and the improbability of their jobs, the warehouse had also doused them all with a good helping of caution and suspicion. She could see this play out across his face and knew that nothing but concrete evidence would sway him to help her at this point. Casting about for something with which to convince him, her attempt was interrupted by the unmistakable steps of Helena approaching. Meeting Pete's eyes with one more desperate plea, she grasped his hand before darting off across the street to disappear into the shadows of the nearby tree line. As much as she wanted to see Helena, to convince her, Myka didn't think she could handle seeing the same look of disbelief in her eyes.
Watching from the trees, she say Pete and Helena exchange notes once more, Pete taking furtive looks in her direction. She couldn't make out what they were saying, but it was clear from Helena's expression that her questioning of Mr. Roberts had been for nought and it was getting to her. One hand was fiddling unceasingly with her locket and, with a movement that pulled at Myka's heart, the other ran through her hair in a frustrated sweep. Both were characteristic signs of upset for Helena, but rarely did Myka see Helena so on edge that she employed both simultaneously. Myka watched as Pete put a comforting arm around Helena's shoulders, surprised that she accepted it, and pulled her into the diner for a cup of 'substandard swill' that posed as tea.
Enough was enough. Frustrating this may be for her, to have her identity not questioned but outright denied, but Myka was not about to stand by and let Helena be hurt by it. Entering the B&B had had less than fortuitous results, as her scraped and sore backside would attest, but she had little choice, it was time to end it once and for all - and that meant gaining access to the warehouse.
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
The climb to the backdoor was harder than she had anticipated. Myka was fit and athletic, and could fence you into a corner quicker than you could say 'musketeers', but rock climbing had never been her forte, and it had been made all the harder by her night ascent. And so, flashlight clamped tightly in her teeth, it was with several ripped nails and more than a little bad attitude that she collapsed onto the plateau cut onto the rock face. Discouraging intruders was one thing, but this was downright cruel - there was no way Artie had not played a part in the design of this little doorway.
She had known the location of the back door entrance to the warehouse for some time (unlike some people, she had read the manual), and Pete had filled her in on all the details of his Christmas escapades, so it was with relative speed that she gained access to the internal halls.
The back entrance opened up onto a secondary annex to the warehouse, an interlocking collection of halls and smaller storerooms. It was clear that it had been designed with defence in mind, that should the main warehouse be overrun - whether by hostile force, or hostile
artifact - that the no doubt suffering agents could mount a defence from here. The halls were lined with small armouries complete with teslas, handguns, and a nice supply of neutralising pouches and goo. Over time, however, these neat, well stocked halls had become neglected, all the detritus of the warehouse having come to accumulate along their walls. Out of sight, out of mind, and Myka felt a desperation start to settle in the pit of her stomach; she would not become another facet of the warehouse to be abandoned in these forgotten halls.
There were more winding halls that she would have expected a veritable labyrinth hidden in the mountain and under the main complex. But eventually Myka made it to the Warehouse proper, the emptying of halls a fair indicator that she was entering the living world once more. Reaching the final door, a heavy-set, metal contraption, bolted and sealed Myka took a steadying breath. This is where the real work began she knew. She input her entry code, praying that that too had not changed on her, and dropped her glasses for the retina scan. The grating sound of metal on metal filled the hall as the door creaked open. Hoping beyond hope that no one had heard that, she couldn't help but be grateful that at least the Warehouse knew who she was. Giving the doorway a grateful pat, she offered up a special thanks to the place that had become her home.
Myka knew the Warehouse better than any place she had ever known. And while it was not possible for her to know everything about it (how could she when it was ever changing?), she probably knew it better than anyone had in quite some time. Still, she knew that if anyone would uncover her skulking through it's aisles, it would be Artie. Her mind quickly blocked out the landscape of the Warehouse before her, possible routes to the office laid down like a city transport map. Dismissing them one by one, Myka wheedled it down to the one route that balanced speed with stealth.
Darting through a place like the Warehouse was never a good idea, add in the no small amount of adrenaline she was exuding and all that energy was like a day at the fair for the artifacts. Everywhere she went artifacts lit up or called out, several literally jumping from the shelves into her arms.
"Knock it off!" she growled quietly, wrenching Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's deerstalker cap from her head and replacing it on the shelf. "I missed you too, but you're really not helping!"
The artifacts did quieten down a little after that, but their muffled clatter still followed her every move and Myka's hopes of a surreptitious entry into the office faced with every step. The fact that her hope had held out as long as it had was a miracle and, skidding to a halt before the stairs she felt the last of it disappear.
Helena stood on the landing, watching her with a closed expression. She stared at Myka, unseeing and uncaring, for a few painful moments before slowly descending the stairs, her every moment deliberate.
"I knew you'd be back," she said, her voice controlled and completely void of the sparkle Myka had grown to love. "I knew you wouldn't stay away."
"How could I?" Myka asked. "How could I stay away?"
Helena fixed her with a cold glare. "No, I suppose you couldn't. All these artifacts, you stand to make a fortune on the black market."
"What?" Myka asked. "That's not - I don't -"
"I mean," Helena continued. "Why else kidnap an agent? As long as there have been artifact hunters, there have been those who stole them away in the dead of night. I understand that, I really do - it's all part of the game we play. But you crossed the line. You stole something from me. And that simply cannot be allowed to stand."
Myka gaped at her, at the mess she had found herself in. She was in a face-off with HG Wells about having kidnapped herself? This was a debacle she could never have anticipated.
"Helena," she pleaded. "Helena, I -"
"Do NOT call me Helena," she asserted, her voice firm, but still unnervingly controlled. "I am not your friend. I want nothing to do with you. And you WILL tell me what you have done to Myka."
Myka flung her arms out in frustration. "I have done nothing to Myka, I swear to you! I -"
And that was all she said before Helena's hands, too, flung out, fists making hard contact with Myka's flesh. Helena was bathed in a halo of light as pain filtered through Myka's nerves. As much as she hated this situation, she had to give Helena credit: no one could throw a punch like she could.
Helena's hands and feet flew with a speed Myka could never dream of matching. Thoughts of catching her fists to stop her evaporated as it was all she could do to avoid most of the blows. Between dodges she gasped out Helena's name, trying to persuade her to stop, that she was herself. It only seemed to fuel Helena's anger. Yet for all her frustration, Myka could not be angry herself. She knew that Helena's actions were born from a fear for her own wellbeing. She just wished there was something she could do to convince her.
Distracted momentarily by her own thoughts, Myka faulted and received a glancing, though still powerful, kick to the ribs. She hit the ground, hard, feeling her knees graze through her pants, her wrists buckling under her unexpected weight.
Feeling around for her glasses, Myka looked up at Helena from the floor, marvelling that even now her blurred features were striking. Grey around the edges, no line concrete, the fuzzy Helena fell to her knees beside her.
"Myka...?" Her name fell from Helena's lips breathlessly, all confusion, relief and regret. Helena's hands run up Myka's arms, resting on her shoulders as she stared at her in disbelief. "Myka... how?"
Chapter 8: Chapter 8
Huge thank you to @PaganX for helping me out of the corner I had written myself into!
Helena shared in Myka's wince as she carefully applied the bag of frozen peas to her face. Wrestler that he was, Pete had been quick to fetch Hulk Hogan's ever-frozen peas from the shelves, but Helena had plucked them from his hands as soon as he had entered the office and had immediately seen to Myka herself.
"I'm so sorry, Myka," Helena said. Again.
Myka lifted her hand to Helena's where it rested on her shoulder. "It's okay, Helena."
"Yes, but I am truly, absolutely sorry," she insisted.
"I know you are, it's okay. I'm okay." Myka suspected that this was the start of a long bout of hovering from Helena - for as much as she tried to deny it, Helena was a hoverer in times of stress.
"But Myka -"
Myka twisted in her seat, ignoring the impulse to wince once more, and stretched up to kiss Helena quickly but sincerely. "Truly Helena, it's okay. I just want to know what happened."
"Yeah," Pete agreed. "That was some pretty freaky artifact mojo going on there. I mean, really, you were you Myka - MYKA - but you just... you weren't, you know?"
Everyone looked at him blankly.
"Yes," said Artie. "Thank you for the insightful analysis of the situation."
"You're welcome," Pete said, bounding forward on his toes.
"EUREKA!" Claudia cried as she bounded up the stairs. "Not the bonzo genius town, mind, but the actual Greeky exclamation of a discovery which I am about to lay before you delightful people."
Claudia, with a flourish and a wave deposited Myka's glasses on the table before them. Myka, grateful for the opportunity to see everyone clearly once more, reached out for them only to have Claudia slap her hand away.
"Are you nuts?" Claudia asked. "I mean, I know you're not nuts, I know nuts, but really, what are you thinking?"
Myka peered out at her from behind the peas. Pete reached over Claudia with an exaggerated carefulness and picked up the glasses. "No touchy for you."
"You think it's the glasses?" Myka asked.
Holding the spectacles gingerly with pinched fingers, Pete peered through them from what he clearly considered a safe distance. "Looks normal to me."
"There was no noticeable abnormalities for me, either," Myka agreed. "Well, except for you guys all beating me up, that was relatively abnormal."
"Eh, I've beaten you up before," Pete mumbled, still peering away.
But Helena was less blasé about the situation, her immediate "I'm sorry, darling" being accompanied by a kiss to the top of Myka's curls.
"Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean something hinky isn't going on," Claudia said, approaching Pete for a closer look herself.
"Colourful vernacular aside, she is correct," Artie said. "Besides this is your newest and most obvious acquirement."
"BINGO!" Claudia cried, running her phone over and around the glasses a Geiger counter-like clicking emitting from the speakers. "Artifact activity."
"What IS that?" Artie asked.
"New App. Claudia Donovan original - soon to be standard issue for Agents who," she gave Artie a pointed look. "Were actually born in this era. And their time-travelling Victorian friends, of course."
"Yeah, well," Pete said. "All that techy stuff is well and good, but there's really only one way to tell."
And with that Pete popped the glasses on his face ... and was replaced by a strange man with dark hair and an unassuming expression.
"Who are you? How did you get in here?" Artie asked, nervous about this man who had broken through all their defences and appeared unnoticed.
"Very funny, Artie," Pete said. "It's me."
"Me who?" he demanded. "And how do you know my name?!"
Pete wrenched the glasses from his face shocking them all with his sudden reappearance. "Well I guess that answers that."
"That was so odd," Myka said. "I truly did not believe that it was you. Even though, now, I know that I should have. I guess you really couldn't have known it was me, after all."
Helena stooped to hug her from behind one hand returning the peas to Myka's face while the other squeezed her tightly, obviously reluctant to let her go lest she disappear again. Myka hated that Helena felt so guilty about something she couldn't have controlled but, she thought as she snuggled back into the warmth of her chest, she wasn't above enjoying the pampering that came along with it.
Enjoying the feel of Helena's fingers pulling gently at her curls - something she had missed even in their short separation - Myka didn't notice Artie scanning the frames into the database and conducting a search. There was, however, no missing Claudia throwing the glasses into a static bag rather close to them, the pops and crackles throwing the pair apart just as Myka really started to enjoy her pampering.
"Thank you, Claudia," she deadpanned at the grinning girl.
"Just keeping you two on your toes."
"Like that will make a difference to these two," Pete scoffed good-naturedly.
Oblivious to his agents' teasing, Artie continued his well-honed filtering process, narrowing down his choices of possible artifacts. An obnoxious beeping, however, soon emitted from the machine causing him to pull back with a simple "Well that would do it."
"What'll do what?" Claudia asked, placing the now thoroughly zapped glasses, still sealed tight, on Artie's intake tray.
Artie swivelled in his chair to face them, "Ever hear of Joseph Shuster?"
Pete gasped, "NO WAY!"
Myka and Helena exchanged clueless looks, between the two of them they usually picked up on most historical references to float through the Warehouse, but this one eluded them. Of course, Pete had several specific areas of knowledge unto himself which surely was the reason why he was now bouncing excitedly from foot to foot.
"You're kidding me Artie, right? Cause that is way awesome," he continued.
"Any time you'd like to fill us in there, buddy," Claudia said, grabbing his arm to keep him still - which did not work as he just took her along with him.
"Yes, Pete, we heard Artie," Myka said.
Taking pity on them (or, more likely, saving himself from Pete) Artie filled them in. "Joe Shuster was a comic artist in the 1930s. Among his works, he is most noted for drawing the character of -"
"SUPERMAN, BABY!!" Pete interrupted, gleefully. "You were totally Clark Kenting us!!"
Artie stared at Pete, unsurprised at his, well, Pete-ness. Claudia started at the glasses. And Helena just stared at Myka. "Myka darling...?"
"...what on earth is he talking about?"
It had, in fact, taken Myka longer than she would have thought to explain the whole Superman/Clark Kent glasses connection to Helena. Thought it had gone remarkably faster once she managed to daw her away from Pete and his fistfuls of comics. Claudia had given a more analytical, but no less distracting overview of the character and his place in the DC multiverse. Ultimately, however, true understanding had come for Helena later that night after Myka, so happy to be home once more, had ushered her away upstairs.
"So," Helena recapped, resting her head on Myka's arm, her hand trailing slowly back and forth down the limb. "This 'super' man in an extraterrestrial crime fighter in an illustrated fiction city, whereas Clark Kent is his human alter-ego, who wears glasses as his singular, yet highly effective disguise."
Myka nuzzled into Helena's neck, soft hair whispering against her cheek. "That's right."
"And his partner never makes the connection, despite being saved by him in nearly every instalment?"
Myka moved to kiss Helena's ear -she rather enjoyed the challenge of distracting Helena from her own thoughts. "Correct."
"Hmm," Helena responded. "She strikes me as a very obtuse woman."
Myka chuckled as she tugged on Helena's arm, turning her to face her. "Oh I don't know, she was always considered a rather intelligent investigator, and a writer to boot. I suppose we can't see everything all the time."
Helena squinted at her knowingly. "I see what you did there."
Myka laughed outright at her tone, bringing a happy smile to Helena's face once more. "I am glad, it's good to know you can see me once more."
"Well," Helena said punctuating her sentence with kisses. "You are. Being rather. Extraordinary at present. One might even. Call you. Super."
Myka pulled back, giving Helena an arched eyebrow. "No."
"Oh, but darling -"
"No Helena, this will not be a thing."
Helena grinned slyly, "But we do things ever so well."
Myka sighed and just went back to kissing her blissfully. Helena would do would she would, as always. And, quite frankly, she had better things to be worrying about right now.