The new Sanctuary is nothing and everything like the old one. The people are the same, but they’re not the same people, and somehow, that makes sense, too.
“This is it, huh?” he says, and can’t quite keep the approval out of his voice. But it’s just a poor mirror of the look on her face, glowing with what she’s built here.
“Yes, Will. This is it.”
And there’s pride there, too. Perhaps more so than he’s ever heard, coming from her. She’ll show him around in a few minutes, guide him through the no-longer-dark corridors and hallways, introduce him to new abnormals, tell him all about the history of this place (and it’ll feel like he’s being spun round and round until she knocks the breath right out of him, so he stalls her with a hand on her arm, to take a moment just to look, to breathe it all in). She waits. Waits and smiles and waits and smiles until he’s ready.
“So. What do we do now?” he asks once he’s caught his breath.
“We start over.”
The second time should be easier. Settling in shouldn’t take as long—he knows a lot of the people, and the paperwork is (way, waaaay) too familiar, too. But back then, when she’d taken him in, saved him, for lack of a better word, he’d had nothing. Now there’s this and there’s the Outside World, and he’s being pulled back and forth until one day he thinks he’ll simply snap in two. But the moment passes, like all the other moments before it, and afterwards, he doesn’t feel any different.
He thinks about bringing it up with Magnus, but she’d only nod her head and look at him from dark, understanding eyes, and sometimes that is still too much, even after all the things they’ve been through. Sometimes, he still doesn’t know what to feel around her.
But his worlds still clash, and, Magnus being Magnus, she notices. He should’ve seen this coming from the start. In hindsight, everything always makes sense with her.
“Abby cannot know. Nobody can know.”
It’s unnecessary for her to even say it, or it should be, and Will has to work very hard not to feel offended.
“Don’t you trust me? I can keep a secret.”
“You’re a terrible liar.”
That smile on her face is something he hasn’t seen in a long, long time, and it rattles him so much that he doesn’t notice she never even answered his question.
It’s their first real crisis since Day Zero.
Two abnormals have broken out of the new high-security part of what’s become known simply as ‘the city’ while on the other end of the dark tunnels, somebody’s trying to get in.
She’s already sporting a gun by the time he makes it to her side, and the look in her eyes is two parts exhilaration and one part wild, blazing joy when she opens her mouth.
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!”
“Okay,” Will deadpans, “I know for a fact you’re not old enough to have known Shakespeare personally.”
“Of course not. But there’s nothing wrong with a little education, is there?” she flashes him a grin.
It’s their first real crisis since Day Zero, and finally, things have started feeling familiar.
“You’re not just my boss anymore, Magnus.”
It’s a fine line they’re walking. More than once, she’s called him William instead of Will, and there was the occasional moment where ‘Helen’ had almost slipped past his lips when he wasn’t paying attention. Now, though, he’s firmly trying to stick with something from the past, even if it’s something as ultimately inconsequential as her last name.
Change is not something that’s ever come easy to Will Zimmerman. (And part of him still blames Magnus for that, too. Magnus and that monst— abnormal that took his mother.)
Change is not something that comes easy to Helen Magnus, either. Where he’s clinging to names and lines on invisible maps—the ocean between them getting smaller and smaller each day—, she’s trying to hold on to her way of doing things, and if they hadn’t had this conversation so many times already, he’d almost feel sorry. Sorry for her, sorry for all the things that she’s lost, sorry for being the person who’s trying to take that away from her, that last thing she has: her routines, set in stone after three centuries of living a certain way.
He’s always been honest, though, and now’s not the time to start lying to her. Because the truth is, she is not just his boss anymore, and despite the smile that threatens to break through, there’s something still lurking behind her eyes, something deep and sad that he’ll never understand. Her voice is eerily quiet when she responds.
It’s been nine years, two months, three weeks, and a day since Helen Magnus ran him over with her car. Almost a decade, he thinks, and it sounds long, longer than anything else in his life has ever lasted—and that’s not even counting that, true to her word, Helen truly has shown him the adventures of many lifetimes, good and bad.
His job is his constant, except it’s more than just a job, has always been so much more. It’s his life, now, just like it is hers, and sometimes, when he turns quickly enough to catch her looking at him, he sees something like gratitude in her eyes, gratitude and wonder, as if she still can’t quite believe he’s really there with her, that he hasn’t left her like all the others inevitably did.
Their Sanctuary (not her father’s, not hers, no, this one’s well and truly theirs) has grown so much larger over the last few years. It reminds him a little of Hollow Earth before that, too, fell. But they have sunlight here, and fresh air, and sometimes he still can’t believe any of this is real—not the day she ran him over, the day Ashley died, the day the old Sanctuary went up in flames, the day Henry became a dad, the day Kate left them to set up shop in India, the day he no longer felt betrayed, but instead felt like part of something, really part of it, not just an outsider looking in.
Helen ducks into his office and stands next to him, overlooking their little city.
“Aren’t you glad you took my job offer?”
More than you’ll ever know is on the tip of his tongue. But the words don’t need to be said, not anymore. Not after everything they’ve been through.
Her smile is infectious.
Though it’s taken him a long time, eventually, he forgives. (But doesn’t forget.)