"Well, I haven't actually come here."
She laughs at this, but it's only a sad little thing borne of dry resignation.
I pause. This is something I hadn't considered, but suppose I should have; I doubt the Regents take their prisoners out for scenic walks. But she's standing right there so I take a half step forward, and the realization knots my stomach just a split second before my hand lifts to sweep the tips of my fingers out over her. The image distorts and ripples, the colours of her scattering around the touch, and she takes in a breath like she feels it. Like she wishes she could feel it. Like she wants so badly just to feel something.
And because I can't quite believe it, I trail my other hand through her, too. There is nothing, only a faint static pricking at the skin as my hand passes through.
Somehow, impossibly, this is worse.
Taking a place on the open window sill, I tuck my knees up to my chest and rest my chin atop them. Looking up at the stars it's easy to feel small and inconsequential and alone, and so I do, and I think about how in another time, another world, maybe I wouldn't be. Only, even with everyone else in the bed and breakfast asleep, I'm not really. Or at least, I don't have to be. The presence of that black sphere sitting on the nightstand weighs at the back of my mind, some impending relief, but I'm still nervous for it.
Maybe not nervous, but something that brings a similar flutter to my stomach, a similar tense apprehension.
She's always made me feel like this.
Uncurling, I slide off the sill and retrieve it, taking a moment to simply feel it in my hands. It isn't much, but this is the only physical representation I have of her, so I linger on it all the same and it's a good thing I'm not in the Warehouse or I'd probably have another few ferrets to keep Pete company.
Eventually, though, I sit down on the edge of the bed, pull it apart and twist it in my hands, and that familiar glimmer coalesces into that familiar face.
She blinks, probably surprised at where she finds herself, but recovers gracefully all the same. A tentative little smile curls at her lips as she says a soft, "Hello, Myka." We used to be so comfortable with one another, and even though she ruined that, it's me that makes her so unsure and so shaken, and for whatever reason and in spite of any rationale, I feel a little guilty.
The hologram of her turns to the side and makes to sit beside me, actually hovering just a hair above the bed, but it's a good illusion and one I can pretend to believe in. "I don't suppose this is a business meeting," she ventures, folding her hands in her lap.
And Helena looks at me like she always does. So I smile at her like I used to. "No, no it's not."
"Then to what do I owe the pleasure?"
How do I even begin? My hair falls with my chin and reflexively I tuck a straightened lock behind my ear--even after so long, it's still weird at first not to feel a curl. But I like it. It makes me feel like I'm not myself, like Myka Bering, the real one, is tucked away safe in a quiet corner of her father's bookstore back in Colorado Springs where nothing can hurt her. Sometimes it's comforting to be someone else for a while, but I'm tired of running. From her, at least.
So I breathe in, breathe out, and say, "I'm not over you, you know."
Another thing she wasn't expecting, but she isn't able to pass this one off so easily. Her mouth opens and closes again without having said anything, but all the while those dark eyes search my face. The words hang in the air between us until I feel compelled to continue, and I think then that maybe that's what Helena was waiting for, for me to prove her right.
"I don't think I ever will be."
Now she looks injured again, and I almost wish I could reach out and shake her, to tell her to stop, because however she hurts, I hurt just as much, but I can't and I don't.
"No. I mean, I don't want to be." I don't want her to hurt anymore. I'm tired of being angry. And I'm so, so tired of pretending like I'm okay without her. "I don't want to have to get over you."
And for the third time in almost as many minutes, I've robbed H.G. Wells of her words. She looks--not relieved, but less heartsore. Everything is quiet at this hour, and even the old structure of the bed and breakfast ceases its creaking and settling so that I can hear how shaky her breath is.
I swallow thickly, and I'm glad that my voice at least made it this long without faltering. "So--so we need to figure out how to make this work." I know I sound desperate, but I am, so it fits, and I'm maybe even a little glad of it because I want her to know.
I want her to know how much I need her.
"I don't want to do this alone anymore," is all I can say for myself, and I'm not sure if she hears it because my voice is strained and cracked with the effort it takes for me not to reach out for her like I might once have. Like I want to again. But she must have, because she looks at me like I am the world and her hands unfold, one laying beside mine and I know that she wishes she could touch me, too.
So I lift my hand and do the next best thing, spreading my fingers in the air, and her hand follows because she knows me just as well as she always has. And we both just want to pretend, just for a little bit. Mine is trembling but I still it as best I can so as not to scatter the image, slowly pressing forward until I can just barely feel that static at my fingertips, and it's almost like touching her. We close our eyes until we really are.
That electricity--it's a good imitation, almost like how it actually was to be closer to her, to feel her warmth, her vivacity, to feel the excitement brimming beneath her skin when we found the artifact or when she eagerly dragged me away from my book to see the plans for her latest creation, to feel everything that was her and how it poured from her, this woman who was larger than life. Almost a year ago.
Her words reach me through the imposed darkness, soft but vivid. "You don't have to." It takes me a moment to remember there is a world outside my memories, and to drag myself back to it. Now she seems so very small. I know she means what she says, though, and it feels as though after all these months I'm finally home.
It's only as good as we can do but I feel myself start to smile so I open my eyes and she does, too. We don't say anything more. We don't need to. We know we're going to be okay.
We've faced the worst, and we're okay.
For now, it's enough.