Still tense from repeatedly watching the world get destroyed and reset, Vicki stepped into the elevator, Henry at her heels, holding the case with Pandora's box casually by his side. This was the last time, she fervently hoped. No more watching herself, Mike and Henry die, no more struggling to prevent anyone from opening the box, no more burning wrists and evil energy. Her head throbbed.
Another man was in the elevator, so they couldn't talk. Henry punched the lobby button and stood watching the elevator doors close, calmly holding the object with the power to annihilate their existence. The box no living creature could resist opening. To him it was a case to be safeguarded, with no compulsion attached. Thank God Vicki had a non-living partner, or she could have been living that day over and over for eternity, or until the world stayed destroyed.
She couldn't shake the memory of that last awful time, the moment when Mike died in her hands but the box was safe in Henry's and the world could have continued. She could have left things alone, let the timeline continue with the box untouched. If Henry—that timeline Henry—had refused to use the box to reset the world, refused to allow himself to be destroyed, she might still be in an existence where Mike was dead because she wouldn't let him go have a drink with Kate.
The third man in their elevator got out on the fifth floor, and once the doors closed behind him, Henry leaned his head back against the elevator's walls and closed his eyes. "I'll be glad when this is sealed up in the wall of my apartment," he sighed.
In some earlier iteration of the day, he'd complained about not having had time to "stop for a bite." "I know. It's been a long day," she said, wondering how different Henry's hunger was than hers. Was it like needing a cigarette, like being thirsty or like a junkie jonesing for a fix? Somehow, as she considered the trust the previous Henry had given her when she needed it the most, she found it hard to bear thinking that Henry might be in any discomfort because of her. Tears were abruptly in her eyes; she had to blink them back. For her, it had been a very long day.
Eyes still closed, Henry said, "I know. And I haven't—"
"You haven't fed yet," Vicki finished for him. At his look, she shrugged. "I know."
He nodded with a slight smile, understanding and believing her. Believing the truly unbelievable. The tears threatened again.
She swallowed them. "I wanted to thank you for everything you did today," she said. "Everything you did in the last few hours," no, that wasn't right, "days– day." God, she was tired.
Henry's gaze was unabashedly resting on her neck, but he lifted his eyes to admit, "To tell you the truth I don't have experience of anything except this last time."
This Henry didn't know. He didn't know she had asked him to destroy himself and all the world.
You would die for him.
This Henry didn't know she'd asked just so she could have Mike back. But the other Henry knew. And the other Henry had done it, anyway.
"You ended the world for me." He raised an eyebrow, and she nodded. "Because you believed I could bring it back. You trusted me."
Henry was having difficulty keeping his eyes from her throat. At least it was a spot marginally higher than where many men looked as they spoke to her, she thought, almost amused. The elevator warmed quite a few degrees, it seemed.
The need in his eyes dispelled her amusement. She wondered again about the nature of his hunger. Was it something he could easily put aside, like her own when she was too busy to be bothered? "Trust," he said in a low, seductive tone, "can be extremely – stimulating." He sure didn't act like it was anything he was putting aside.
I don't need a sexual come on; I am one.
It was definitely warm in that elevator. Vicki's headache cleared, but her heart pounded.
The tone, his vulnerability, her exhaustion and relief—they all combined to affect her answer to the question she knew was coming.
"Yeah, it can," she said, moving closer to him. Yes, okay, go ahead.
When he asked, it was simple, in a level tone, no seduction. "Do you mind?" A favor, like passing the salt. He needed something. Needed it badly, but if she minded, then never mind. She melted so thoroughly, she thought she might ooze through the floor. Reality had been a bit odd, lately, after all.
She shook her head and tipped it to allow him access. It was all she could manage.