A/N: This is a slightly crack!ish fic that was inspired by a GateWorld conversation. Dedicated to FromOutside, who was kind of a co-conspirator.
If it seems OOC, it probably is, as I wrote it to be a crack!fic, except it turns out I kind of don't know how to write crack!fics. Feel free to review and leave your thoughts! No flames, please.
"Doc! Hey, Doc!"
"Yes, Kate, what is it?"
Will watched a fresh-faced Magnus turn to face the zealous Kate, who barged in on their Sunday morning breakfast with her usual candor.
"Man! I've been looking for you everywhere!"
Magnus arched a brow over her teacup. "Yes… eating breakfast at this time of morning—positively unheard of." Her eyes twinkled at Will, who bit back a grin. Kate didn't acknowledge the wry humor.
"Look, I was reading some of the old reports last night… to get caught up on what's gone down before I came on board, and I gotta know… How the hell did you manage to get Magneto to keep a low profile for sixty years? I find it really hard to believe he just dropped off the face of the earth for that long."
Magnus settled her teacup on its saucer, a grin on her lips. "Every intelligence agency on the planet was searching for him," she delivered. "The man may be an egomaniac, but that only means his sense of self-preservation is all the greater for it…"
The conversation gradually devolved into a Tesla-bashing session, with Henry delivering more than a few instances in which the vampire had all too willingly pointed some shortcoming or other. Kate shared some of her own, and even Magnus offered a light-hearted anecdote. But Will only half-listened.
He could barely keep up with his overdue paperwork, let alone read up on the old ones. But he really should. Who knew what might be lurking in the troves of file cabinets in the catacombs, or even in the digitized files on the main servers.
And the news about Tesla took him by surprise. Magnus' reaction told him that the information was relatively common knowledge, and not something she wanted to keep private. And yet he hadn't known that Tesla's death had been faked. And the fact that Kate had known something about Magnus before him rankled him more than it should.
After breakfast finished, Will retreated to his office, for the first time in his tenure with the sole intention of doing paperwork. Not the kind of paperwork Magnus would prefer, he was sure, but meal had sparked his intrigue. He spent the whole morning in that room, reading up on the major points of what the Sanctuary had been a part of in the century or so since its inception.
Adam Worth was there, buried in the farthest reaches of the record, as was the Tunisian fire elemental in Normandy and Magnus' continued search for Druitt. She'd never believed she'd killed him in Whitechapel, and his brief reappearances throughout history had only fueled both her desire to see him neutralized as a threat and to keep him out of her life. He surfaced again and again, never for long but always resulting in a report devoid of Magnus' usual descriptive narrative.
Post-Druitt files were succinct and bare-boned, and Will knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that there was more to them than what was put on paper.
But there was one report that caught his eye. A recent one, one that had actually occurred after his coming on board—one written by Ashley.
He'd never read it before, and looking at the date he realized that it had coincided with the chaos that had come with his discovery of Henry's true nature. He'd off kilter from that for weeks, but the life of the Sanctuary had continued on without him. He'd had to jump back in feet first without the true chance to catch up on what had happened in the meantime.
Apparently, Ashley's run-in with her father while Magnus was in Rome was one of those things that had been missed. He'd known it happened, but not what exactly happened. But as he read, recognizing Ashley's characteristic cadence, he realized that more had happened than he'd anticipated. More had been revealed, certainly, than even Ashley had considered.
He read the report over and over, his rage grew. Something was wrong—not anything he could put his finger on, but something was just off. There was something buried in that file, hiding behind the words, and he wanted to know what it was.
Because he hated secrets.
In the end, he could only go to the one person who could give him any answers. Magnus.
He strode into her office with the power of self-righteousness behind him, fueling him as she lifted a cool, almost curious gaze to him. It was a lazy Saturday, luckily, so her attention focused on him when he knew otherwise he might not have warranted even that much.
"Will?" she greeted tentatively. "Is something wrong?"
He drew to a stop in front of her desk, file in hand, and regarded her fiercely. "I don't know," he answered. "You tell me."
Almost instantly her features morphed into a mask of ever-lasting patience, and her hands folded on top of her desk as she blinked heavily with a sigh. "Just spit it out, Will," she delivered. "I haven't the energy to go twelve rounds with you today."
He braced his hands against her desk, holding her gaze undauntedly, refusing to be dismissed so easily. "Rome."
"Lovely city. Plenty of culture. Beautiful women. You'd love it."
He ignored the deadpan. And the crack about his appreciation for the finer gender. "Ashley put everything in the report," he told her brusquely. "Everything that happened in Rome with Tesla and Druitt, and everything that happened before she got to Rome… with just her and her father."
Magnus didn't look impressed. "Her parentage is hardly a secret anymore, Will. Especially to you. What's the problem?"
"The problem," he stated, "is that Druitt let something slip. Something that makes me think you haven't told me everything…"
Her brows rose, and then her eyes rolled impatiently. "Will, I know you consider it a personal affront whenever you realize you're late to the party, as it were, but the truth of the matter is you've only been in my employ for a few years, and there is simply too much history to tell you everything. If you have a question, ask it. If not—"
"The Source Blood." Will felt a modicum of satisfaction when she blinked in surprise. "There's something off about the whole thing."
"And what would that be, pray tell?"
"The rest of the Five were altered in incredibly drastic ways… Druitt can teleport, Watson became some kind of observational savant, Tesla got his electricity and vampirism, and Griffin could go invisible."
"What about you?"
"Will, I made it perfectly clear what the Source Blood did—"
"Yeah," he interrupted. "Yeah, see, I don't think so. What I think is that you gave me the obvious answer. Sure, you survived 160 years. But so has Druitt and Watson. And Nikola, for that matter. But they got everything else on top of that. But you don't have anything else to show for it? Why not?"
He didn't let her continue, sensing she was about to cut him at the head. He opened up the file in his hand, and pointed at a section in particular. "Ashley said that Druitt told her that your gift was the simplest, and the most elegant." He tossed the folder onto her desk, but she didn't bother to glance at it. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"It means that longevity is a passive gift—not one that can be utilized in a combat situation. It is simple yes, but there is a certain finesse that is required to wield it as I do."
"Don't give me that, Magnus!" Will countered sharply. "We both know that every single one of the Five can't talk about their glory days without a truckload of innuendo and a veneer of superiority to it. He meant something—he knew something. Ashley might not have known to look for it, but I do."
He leaned in closer, their gazes meeting with the force of speeding freight trains.
"The Source Blood did more to you than just the longevity, didn't it? There's something else to it."
Magnus was good—almost too good. But her eyes wavered just a fraction, and he knew he had her. He was right. He was right, and that meant that she'd kept information from him, deliberately. Again.
"Damn it, Magnus!" His hand slammed against the desktop, making her jump. "Why all the secrecy? Did you really think I wouldn't just accept you? Jesus, I mean—if I can accept the fact that you're a hundred and sixty years old, and the fact you've been working with monsters almost all that time, you didn't think—?"
He turned away, ostensibly to pace in agitation, but turned back almost just as soon as he'd put some distance between them.
"I had one condition, Magnus. Just one. No secrets." He held up a hand to silence the defense she had ready on her lips, plowing on before she could respond. "And yeah, after Worth I came to accept the fact that there's a lot of history to go through, and maybe you just haven't gotten around to telling me. But this—this, Magnus. This is different. You've already told me about your longevity but you deliberately hid this from me."
Her features darkened, and her eyes hardening. But she didn't say anything.
"Tell me, Magnus, or so help me I will walk out the front door and never look back."
Her gaze lowered, her jaw clenched at a stubborn angle. He watched her for a moment, and when she made no move to speak, he straightened.
He wouldn't fight her. Or beg. He had more pride than that. He turned to leave without another look and strode purposefully towards the door. He was almost to the threshold when he heard a reluctant mutter from behind him.
He paused, then slowly turned back to face Magnus. "What?"
Her head lifted, shaking the hair from her eyes as she took a steadying breath. "I said," she returned, "that you have all the information you need. It's in the file."
His brow furrowed with instant confusion. "No… no, I looked—"
"You looked, but you didn't see," she countered, rising from her seat to glide towards him with angry strides. "John said it himself."
"What? All he said was that it was 'the most simple—and elegant'…" He eyed the file contents. "I don't—"
He was rewarded with a smirk that was far too condescending for comfort. "Grace."
Will blinked. "Excuse me?"
"You wanted to know how else the Source blood altered my genetic makeup, besides lending me my longevity," she explained, her tone light and aloof. "John spoke quite literally. My gift was subtle, but profound. It was elegant, because it was elegance. Grace."
Silence reigned for a long moment, as Will mulled it over in his head. "I don't get it."
She took a breath. "As a child I was chronically clumsy, to the point where my father believed I suffered from a mental disorder. It was why I remained unmarried for as long as I did. No man would have an oaf for a wife."
"You were clumsy?" He looked her long form up and down, unable to fathom the possibility that Helen Magnus was ever anything less than her smooth, composed self. "You're telling me that the Source Blood cured you of your klutziness?" He shook his head, trying to grin. "Nuh uh. No way. I'm not buying it."
"My fingers still have scars from my days of attempting needlepoint, when I ruined every single piece of embroidery by bleeding all over it! I was never without some sort of bruise, continuously tripping up and down stairs, walking into furniture… even bloodying my own nose by standing too close to the door I was opening."
Will scoffed, and she rounded on him instantly. "Laugh all you like, but it was well-documented in my father's notes. He was convinced I had some sort of deficiency in the spatial analysis portions of my brain, but with the technology of the time he could only speculate. The only time I showed any sort of dexterity was in the operating theatre, which led to my drive to learn from my father."
It was absurd, really, but she was more earnest than he had ever heard from her in his time working at the Sanctuary. She was telling the truth. The embarrassed flush to her cheeks was proof enough of that.
He cleared his throat of the laugh that was threatening to surface, and struggled to keep a straight face. "So… you just woke up one day, and…?"
Damn it. He couldn't finish. His words died out in a strangled cough as the laugh bubbled up again. Her gaze narrowed, and he knew she noticed, but she didn't comment on it. Instead she answered his question.
"I didn't notice right away, no," she told him. "It was something I came to realize gradually. When I could go a whole day without spilling my inkwell, and when the others were amazed that I could complete an experiment by myself without dropping some vial or other. And then, on a whim, John asked me to dance, and that was it."
"What—dancing? I… I don't get it."
"The change was difficult to quantify, as you might well imagine," she elaborated, "but the rest of the Five reached a consensus. If I was able to dance with each without stepping on their toes once, then it was without a doubt due to the miraculous properties of the Sanguine vampiris serum."
Will stared. His jaw clenched. His lips pressed together instinctively, but it wasn't enough.
Blue eyes rolled with exasperation. "Go ahead, laugh," she droned. "The others certainly did."
Later, he'd wish he had more restraint. Later, he'd figure she expected more from him than she had the Five. But right then, at the precise moment she gave the word, Will broke down into peals of laughter. Chuckles first, then full-throated guffaws of gut-busting mirth until tears ran down his cheeks.
He ran out of breath, and he lost the capacity of sound, but still he laughed.
He laughed so long that Magnus huffed lightly and stalked back to her desk, sitting down with her usual grace. Or maybe, not so usual after all. The thought set him off again, as his mind imagined seeing the peerless Helen Magnus walking into a door.
By the time he recovered enough to catch his breath, she was thoroughly miffed. He crossed back to her desk, still chuckling, but she wouldn't meet his gaze. She kept her eyes focused solely on her paperwork, even when he flopped into the chair across from her.
"Oh, come on, Magnus," he appeased, still working to get his grin under control. "I mean, what did you expect? You made it out to be this big, dark secret! Why wouldn't you just tell me right off the bat?"
Her brow arched at him, as her eyes finally found his. He got the picture.
"Okay, yeah, it would have weird on the pre-employment preview, but really! C'mon, Magnus, there had to be dozens of times you could have let us know. I mean, all the times we've gone on and on about how uber-smooth you are, how you couldn't trip over a rug if you tried… You never once even hinted that you'd put in your dues as… what? Lucy Lummox?"
She scoffed. "And can you imagine how that might have gone over?" came the incredulous reply. "I have to maintain the trust and respect of every major political power on the face of the Earth, and you want me to go around volunteering the fact that I used to be as coordinated as newborn water buffalo? Oh, yes, that would have done wonders for my image. Thank you, Dr. Zimmerman."
Will chuckled, but let it go. He stood, chuffing good-naturedly. "Yeah, yeah. God forbid the mysterious and grandiose Helen Magnus be human… No one would ever want to hang out with you then."
That earned him the smallest of smiles. He was getting to her, their earlier discord forgotten. She glanced at him, then nodded him towards the door. "Get out."
He obliged, but only in the sense that he walked slowly backwards, peppering her with quips as he left. "I'll have the Big Guy install safety gates at the tops of all the staircases, just to be on the safe side. You know, in case you ever relapse."
"And I guess Druitt's lucky you tried to shoot after you took the Source Blood. If you'd tried beforehand, he might've lost something important…"
"It makes sense now—why he and Tesla are always opening doors for you. Trying to protect that delicate nose of yours, huh Lucy?"
Henry's approach from behind took him by surprise, but Will recovered quickly. But not as quickly as Magnus.
"No one," she answered glibly, giving Will a scathing glare. "Come on in, Henry. Will was just leaving." A pointed glare reinforced the hint. "Have you got those reports I asked for?"
Henry quickly launched into a litany of excuses, but Magnus was clearly only half-listening. She was more focused on glaring at Will, who read her gaze more clearly than he ever had before.
Not a word.
He arched a noncommittal brow as he backed the rest of the way out of the room, his hands lifting in an innocent shrug. When he had escaped to the safety of the hallway, he paused, grinning at his triumph. He glanced at the file still in his hand, then snapped it shut with a merry air as he turned and went on his way.
He'd gotten more than he'd intended, this go-round. He'd gotten information out of a usually tight-lipped Magnus, yes, but he also earned himself something much, much more important…