The first time Myka watches Helena die, she laughs.
The barrier lowers and the Warehouse floats around her, ash clinging to her hair and her skin and her clothes and Helena is gone and Pete is stumbling around and Artie is mumbling about some watch and Helena is gonegonegone and it is all so ridiculous that she can’t stop the bark of laughter that escapes her.
This is not happening.
She barely registers the others’ concern as she sinks to the ground in hazy disbelief. Pete says something about being sad, too; Artie says something about the game not being over just yet, but she doesn’t really care. She stares straight ahead, watching the Warehouse burn, and she waits.
She waits to wake up.
She waits for it to be over.
She waits for the Warehouse to reassemble itself and show her the aisles of endless wonder that were both so familiar and so foreign.
She waits for Helena to walk out of the ashes, smiling just as she did when she smelled apples and the world exploded. Smiling like she was finally at peace.
The second time Myka watches Helena die, she is angry.
This isn’t what is supposed to happen.
When Artie did his thing with the watch, she was supposed to be able to go back and fix it. She was supposed to stop Sykes from destroying the Warehouse. She was supposed to be able to save her.
Her nostrils flare as she looks out at the destruction around her. Pete and Artie are talking, but she isn’t listening.
This time was supposed to be different.
This was supposed to be her second chance, her chance to get it right.
But she couldn’t, she didn’t.
She failed and Helena is dead.
She is angry.
She is angry at Sykes for driving them to this, for setting into motion this whole chain of events with his greed and his hunger and his pain. The rational part of her knows that is isn’t his fault, that all of his madness was driven by an artifact, something beyond his control, but she is angry anyway because he took so much from her, so many precious things, and artifact or no artifact, it was his needle in Steve’s neck, his bomb that tore HG to pieces.
She is angry at Jane, at the Regents, at the Warehouse itself for making Sykes what he was. This could have been prevented, years and years ago. It could have been stopped in more than the 56 seconds they’d been given when Artie turned back the clock.
She is angry at Helena, at her self-sacrifice, her self-loathing, all of the damn nobility that ripped her away for a second time. Myka even manages to hate her a little bit; she hates her for being the hero, hates her for being the villain, hates her for making it completely impossible to do anything but love her.
But mostly, Myka hates herself because she should have stopped this.
She was too late.
She is always too late.
The third time Myka watches Helena die, she is crying and screaming and begging to take her place.
“I know what you’re doing, Helena, so please, just stop!”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
They are face to face now, the cables between them, crackling with untapped electricity.
“Move, Myka, please. Stand with Artie and Pete.”
“There isn’t another way.”
“Of course there is. You can give me the cables and go over there.” She tries to grab them, but Helena pulls back, moving both cables to her left hand, leaving her right free to ward Myka off.
“Are you mad? Absolutely not.”
“I am not going to let you die for me! I can’t. The world needs you.”
What she doesn’t say is I need you but she knows that Helena hears it anyway because she softens, smiling through unshed tears. She looks over Myka’s shoulder at Artie and gives a small nod before she brings her hand to Myka’s cheek.
“I do hope you can forgive me.”
Before she can respond, she feels Artie’s grip on her elbows, dragging her backwards as HG brings the cables together, the barrier rising between them, pink and shimmery and awful.
“What did you do?”
There is no answer.
“What did you DO?”
Helena smiles weakly. “What I had to.”
Myka hears the clock ticking and knows that it’s time. She stops fighting.
She presses her hand to the barrier.
Helena’s hand rises to meet hers.
“Oh Myka, will I never be finished saying goodbye to you?”
And the bomb goes off.
The fourth time Myka watches Helena die, she does nothing.
The fourth time, she sits in the ash and cries.
The last time Myka watches Helena die, she knows this is how it has to be.
She is given 56 seconds by Artie’s watch and she does what she can to make the most of them. She tells HG all of the things she hasn’t said, all of the things she needs to hear, all of the things that are true.
Things like “Thank you” and “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you.” (And that, she thinks, is what Helena needed to hear more than anything: that she is forgiven, always and completely.)
She cries a little and she squeezes her hand before taking her place between Artie and Pete.
When the barrier goes up and they are again separated, Myka meets her eyes through the electrical haze and mouths the one truth to which she couldn’t quite give voice and she hopes that Helena can see it.
She receives a smile in return and then turns her face to the bright, exploding orange sky.