It is cold when Nikola arrives in Anchorage, at the base of the mountain just behind the city. He guesses he should be thankful that Druitt did not drop him into the embankment and let him slide his way into town.
"Thank you for the lift," he says, and Druitt eyes him balefully, and hands him a pair of fur-lined gloves before teleporting back to the Sanctuary. It is, for Druitt, a remarkably kind gesture.
Nikola imagines that in his absence, Druitt will continue his, so far, fruitless search for Ashley. They are both charged with completing tasks they might otherwise have absolved themselves of if it hadn't been for Helen Magnus' involvement. Of course Nikola had wanted to protect the world of abnormals from the frightfully mundane evil desires of the Cabal, and after all, he did engineer the anti-virus, but the fact that he is in Alaska, sinking into the fresh snow until its almost past his ankles, is entirely because of Doctor Helen Magnus.
He trudges up the path - he couldn't really call it a road - to the address marked next for delivery. Before he has even reached the mailbox, he is smacked across the face with a branch broken off a nearby tree wielded by the abnormal he is coming to help. This is painfully familiar. Doctors bearing cures to wretched diseases ought to be better received, but not in cases where the wretched disease makes the patient suffer from hallucinatory rage against humans. Not that Nikola is entirely human, but it's not as though the abnormal in question can tell that when Nikola's just strolling up his driveway.
"Thank you for that warm welcome to your ridiculous state. Who would choose to live in a place that gets this much snow?" Nikola gets a look at the abnormal swinging the branch. He's covered in quite a bit of fur, so, yes, maybe the far reaches of the northern United States make sense, but Nikola doesn't get the chance to make the correction before he's being hit across the stomach with another branch and thrown to the ground. "Aren't you even going to ask me why I'm here?" Nikola says, a little breathlessly, and then its time for the vampire nails and teeth and voice to come out. "You don't need to invite me in, I just need to offer you the cure to your ailment."
Sometimes this works, but most of the times the idea of a cure is so far from the afflicted abnormal's mind as to make Nikola's offer incomprehensible. In those cases, he does not technically wait for permission. Surely Helen must know what she's doing sending him out on this task alone. If he were with the ridiculous Dr. Zimmerman, he suspects there would be a long conversation out here in the snow about why the cure is better, why it will return them to their normal life, followed by an invitation to live at the Sanctuary, and possibly some heart to heart about being different in a different world, but Nikola doesn't have either time or patience for that. He launches himself onto the violent snow dweller and jabs the syringe into the first approximation of a joint he can find. The creature falls to the ground, breathing heavy, and Nikola does not wait around for explanations. He dusts himself off, leaves Magnus' card in the mailbox, and heads toward town. There are three more abnormals in the area, but he needs wine first, or perhaps, considering his surroundings, he will have to settle for some sort of local ale.
"Thank you," comes a gruff voice from behind him. Nikola does not turn around, only raises a hand in acknowledgement. For a brief moment, Nikola feels gratification at for stopping this epidemic. But that will not keep him warm in the snow. Damn Helen Magnus.
Upon his return, Druitt deposits Nikola in the entry of the Sanctuary. The snowflakes still on Nikola's jacket do not even have the time to melt before Druitt teleports off again.
Nikola huffs at no one, and stalks off down the halls, trying to find someone who will tell him what's going on, where Helen is, and where he is supposed to go next. Though he's not going anywhere until Druitt is back unless it is somewhere he can drive to, and even then, he doubts anyone here would let him leave with a car. It certainly is a shame, he misses driving, though he wonders how much the rules have changed in the fifty years since he's last been behind the wheel.
He finds Henry in the security systems server room, taking readings from the dashboard.
"Alaska's taken care of," Nikola says, and Henry does not look up from his tablet until he's done recording the readings, and then it's only for a fraction of a second.
"Zurich is next," Henry says, while adjusting a level on the third largest of the machines. "Though it'll have to wait."
"And I wondered what I'd done to deserve so frigid a welcome."
"Can't be something you're not used to by now, Doc," Henry says.
"Such cheek from the boy relegated to checking redundantly automatic systems. And where is everyone this time?" Nikola asks.
"Suspected Cabal activity outside of London," Henry says, and after a moment adds, "Doesn't seem like Ashley though." Nikola nods. "If you have a minute, you could help me with these readings."
He holds the tablet out to Nikola, who says, "I was going to sit in a hot bath, and read a classic work on particle physics."
"One you wrote yourself?" Henry says and Nikola laughs, and he takes the tablet. This is what it means to be a part of the Sanctuary; helping wherever you're needed, and though Nikola has no desire to fit in here, he sees no reason to cause more trouble with the people who get left to watch the roost in a crisis.
"Your math is wrong here, and here," Nikola says and hands the tablet back, and then adds, looking over Henry's shoulder, "And here."
"No it's not," Henry says, though he doesn't sound convinced.
Nikola snatches back the the tablet back from Henry and starts turning dials on the middle dashboard panel. He can only blame the cold for his slowness, but it has only just occurred to him that Henry is not alone. He is here, half-guardian, half prison-guard, to a giant hairy beast who used to be his friend before he lost all sense of rational behavior. "Let me fix it," Nikola says when Henry starts trying to align two of the sensors. "It will take you an eternity. Surely there's something else you could be doing that will keep you out of my way." It's easy enough, to give Henry the opportunity to leave him, to make it seem like it was Henry's idea.
Henry's expression softens a fraction, and he says, "Yeah, I can do that."
"Let him know I've returned, if he's changed his mind," Nikola says as Henry's disappearing out the door. He does not say anything more, because they both know what sort of mortally stubborn answer Henry will receive.
Human wounds were strange things, achingly slow to heal, leaving them open to all sorts of complications. Nikola knew it was a natural process like any other, but looking at the open wounds always led him to ponder the seeming carelessness with which the human body opened itself up before it healed itself again.
The woman whose wounds he was dabbing at with a mix of rubbling alcohol and a healing salve, made from the venom of a Sanctuary resident, was quiet, so quiet that Nikola wondered if perhaps she ought to be treated for shock. There were countless numbers of injured who were appearing daily at the Sanctuary, so many Nikola knew had ended up here through circumstances less than voluntary. Whatever the girl's abnormal powers, she was still human, and bled like a human and healed like a human, as the slices up and down her arms showed. Tesla drew up the cotton wool over each scratch, coming away with blood each time.
There had been a small but strategic hit of one of the Sanctuary network's satellite organizations outside of Chicago. No one could prove it was the Cabal but no one really believed it was anyone else. A pure hit and run, aimed at testing boundaries and brazen enough to be a provocation, which worked, at least, because it sent Helen and Druitt off in pursuit. The Sanctuary had emptied out of able-bodied people and filled up with injured and Nikola had only stayed because no one else had invited him along.
"Here, hold out your arm," he says, and she does, but still without a word. Nikola feels the need to fill the silence for the both of them."On me, these scratches would seal themselves, or they would not have happened in the first place. But you shouldn't consider it a weakness, your body does some amazing things I'm sure," he says, and there's a reaction, her eyebrows up, slightly. "Oh, that wasn't what I meant, I may be lewd, but I can at least confine my flirting to more appropriate circumstances than bandaging a stranger, no offense my dear, you are quiet lovely, but you're hardly in a fit state to receive my attentions."
Still, she submits to his ministrations, cleaning, and applying salve. He can feel her pulse under his fingers. He wants to ask her why she is here, but since he could not give her a proper answer if she asked the same question of him, he does not speak his query aloud.
"You are almost ready to released from the tedium of medical care, and then I can go and build something devastatingly destructive, assuming someone has cleared the rubble from the lab. Perhaps today is the day I surprise even myself with my own brilliance. Here, look up," he says, and she does. He dabs the salve at the cut curling from the corner of her mouth down to her chin. He rests his fingers on her jaw, and touches his thumb to her lip just for a moment, as though completing a circuit.
She stands, runs her fingers over the edge of the bandages, and looks at him.
"Don't take them off yet. Now go, I have work to do." Without a word, she walks off.
A moment later, Nikola hears someone at the door and says, "You took them off, didn't you, and now you're bleeding, I told- " but he stops when he sees Helen. "You can't possibly need bandaging, not from me," he says, and busies himself with retying rolls of gauze, capping jars of salve.
"Nikola," she says, and its clear from her tone that she has once again perfected the art of eavesdropping. She comes and sits on his table, just where the young woman had sat. "Maria is a mute."
"And I thought it was just my conversational skills."
"You were quite sweet with her," Helen says.
"And that surprises you, doesn't it? What, you think I'd bite her?" Helen doesn't respond. "She's a child in this ridiculous battle with the Cabal. She makes me feel old."
"You are old," Helen says, and then she's leaning forward, pressing her mouth to his, just for a moment.
Nikola licks the inside of his bottom lip like he's been punched. "Huh," he says, before tucking his hands inside his pockets. "Well that's surprising," he says quietly.
"I do still like you, Nikola, you weren't wrong about that."
"I'm not wrong about much," he says, and to his delight, Helen laughs. Then she's getting up and walking out, as though she had never been there at all.
Nikola knows better than to fall in love with Helen Magnus again. He let it happen once - perhaps twice - and he admits now that it will inevitably lead to disaster.
It does not stop him from admiring who Helen has become, how age suits her, and more pressingly, how the styles of the day flatter her body. The boots she is wearing today, for instance, ridiculously without purpose indoors, the sort of thing one would wear riding a horse, now dress her legs, wrapping her calves in soft leather, laced up the front like a ladder to her knees, pointing always toward the curve of her thighs. He would like to touch them, slide his fingers up their backs, press his fingers against her skin, hear her try to control her breath with him so close.
Helen is trying to decipher the gibberish they intercepted after the last attack, which may or may not be a Cabal communication, or possibly some prayer before death by a creature whose language they do not yet know just before Druitt ran them through with a sword.
"Pass method...harbinger," Helen says, reading aloud from the printed version Henry had given her, on which they were still running translation programs. Helen, of course, believed she could do better and faster herself. "Or possibly harbor."
"I think harbinger is wishful thinking," Nikola says. He has abandoned his book entirely and is just holding it open in his lap, watching Helen pace back and forth, listening to the muted tap of her boots on the carpet.
"If it's a message - "
"Assuming its a message," he corrects.
"Assuming, yes," she says impatiently, "then it is either a communique back to the agency or a message for us."
"And if its neither of those things, you're eliminating the possibility that it's in fact a poem about the harbor."
Helen ignores him, and tries, for several frustrated minutes, to read the missive before tossing it down on the table. "You never were much of a codebreaker," he says. Helen scoffs and looks away. "I speak the truth - that time at Oxford when Watson was playing a practical joke and writing everything in Sanskrit," he trails off, because if they are going to reminisce, maybe they ought not to bring up the dead. "And if you are going to pace, would you at least take off those boots?"
"So you finally are brave enough to mention the boots," Helen says with relish. "I've been watching your eyes on them all day. I thought at first you were just admiring my legs, but the boots are clearly the first draw. When did you develop a shoe fetish, Nikola?"
She sits in the chair beside him, pivots so she's facing him, and slowly and deliberately lifts a boot-clad leg up across his thighs. Nikola touches the soft leather, runs his fingers briefly up over the laces like tickling the keys of a piano, and then lifts his eyes to Helen's face. She's smiling quite evilly.
"Take them off for me," she says.
Nikola undoes the laces might more slowly than actually necessary, pulling back the leather wrapping Helen's calf, sliding his fingers under the tongue. He has to bend her knee to lift the boot all the way off, and he gets a shadowy glimpse under her skirt. When he slides the boot all the way off, his fingers linger at Helen's heel and then her ankles. When he looks back up at her, she's watching the trail his fingers are making up her leg, and breathing in slowly through her nose. It's more reserved than in his imagination, which only compels him to continue.
Before the moment can break, he's undoing the laces of the other one, just as slowly. He hears Helen's sharp intake of breath when he tugs at the first cross of the laces, then the next, and runs his fingers all along the inside of the boot, against the leather not her skin, so his fingers are just barely touching her. She makes a small laugh, and then is quiet again, and Nikola can't help but slide the boot off in one clean motion, so that Helen's bare legs are across his thighs. He runs his palm over the top of one foot, then another, and looks at Helen before continuing up over her shin, around to hold her calf in his palm, up over her knees, across the muscular thighs. His middle and index finger are just sliding up underneath the soft material of her skirt, when Helen stands.
Nikola sits back, crossing his fingers across his chest like he's been sitting her in contemplation the entire time. He expects Helen will turn and walk out, though the idea of her doing it barefoot amuses him. When he looks up at her, though, there's color on her cheeks, and she says, "Nikola," less like an invitation and more like an order, and when she turns to go, he follows her, still quite a bit to his surprise, to her bedroom.
He does not trouble himself over what she might be hiding from, her face twisted away with his mouth and nose pressed against Helen's stomach, her hair covering her eyes. Helen is too smart to fool herself with who she is taking to bed. Nikola knows that she knows who he is, that his is the mouth that tickles her skin, and that she is hiding from something else altogether. Amazing to him still how this act of opening oneself up to another, naked and vulnerable, is one of the foremost methods for burying a problem.
He has slept with Helen incidentally and infrequently, but often enough to know that she does not give up power, ever, she only allows you in, and she always sets the rules. This time, she is asking him to help her forget, and he will do that willingly, but he also does not give his ground easily, and so if he's going to take away her worries, he is going to do it by taking away everything else from her that except himself.
She does not notice, at first, that he's doing it, stripping away her inattention, perhaps because he starts with her stomach, where his mouth might otherwise find engagement, or move on to her hips or further down, but instead he counts her ribs with his tongue, circles the very edges of her breasts, lavishes attention over her collarbones, breathes so gently and deliberately on her neck and just as he's reaching up to trace the shell of her ear with his tongue, she twists toward him, sighs his name, quite impatiently.
"Say it again," he says against her ear and she shivers.
"Nikola," she says, still slightly scolding, like he's taking too much of her time.
"No, Helen, that's not how this works," he says, letting his fingers drift down her side, then up her arms. He presses his thumbs gently into muscles just under her collarbone at the joint of her shoulder. It's tight from tension, from Helen taking the world on and using her solar plexus like a shield. He presses more firmly and Helen grunts as he reaches through to the sore spots, his fingers massaging her shoulders, and she arches her shoulders back, spreading them wide, her chest wide open. Nikola presses his thumbs harder and she gasps his name.
"Yes, that's it," Nikola says and presses again. He finally feels the release in her muscles, the kind that comes from paying attention to, rather than ignoring, something that hurts.
"Nikola, please," she says, and everything is right about the way she says it, the request, the confession, the familiar sound of his name in her voice.
When he kisses her again, she does all the work of aligning their bodies, but Nikola does not object to her taking over, because its his name she's whispering as he moves inside her, her legs pulled up tight around his hips, her hands in his hair. For this single, singular moment, her attention is entirely on him and his on her, though the latter is far more frequent than he would ever let on. Though he expects suspects Helen knows. What doesn't Helen know? What hasn't she anticipated, what circumstances hasn't she brought into existence? And even as he loses himself briefly in the oblivion of pleasure, he knows that it this is something Helen Magnus orchestrated.
Nikola has not had enough time, or has not in fact bothered to take the time, to examine the weather patterns of the geographic areas where the virus has traveled. Formulating a cure from the source blood took all of his attention and while he was distributing the cure, it was unimportant why the virus was released where it was and where it travelled. As the epidemic died down, and the number of outbreaks decreased, Nikola is forced to reflect, as he sightsees his way through the vast wilderness, how ingenious it was to release it where it could travel far distances and affect few abnormals.
He is, of all places, in Greenland, headed for yet another village not on the map, either the official or the Sanctuary ones. He expects he will have to find it half by instinct, half by walking the entire island. It can't take him that long, because there are whole parts of it which are entirely uninhabitable.
He has been spending too much time at the Sanctuary, however, because the chimera which once carried him through the darkest times, the idea of bringing his vampire race back to power, seems more like a posture, and much further away when his chief concern is the fact that he doesn't actually know how much cold he can withstand before he starts sacrificing extremities.
Nikola wonders, as he barely maintains his balance over tracks of ice covered in more ice, layers of watery light, what he'd consider studying if he wasn't otherwise occupied and it wasn't so wretchedly cold, what it might be like to stay at the Sanctuary, or one of the others in the network, like London, where he might torment MacRae. The stability, the resources, how he could shape the lab with Henry to get the equipment they both knew they needed despite Helen's small-mindedness about the old and reliable. He thinks of what it would be like to keep a room, something he hasn't done since Oxford, not as himself, where everyone knew who he was, where he was neither the most trusted friend nor the most feared enemy.
An icicle roughly the size of a full grown fur tree hits him square across the chest and he flies back into the hard packed snow of the embankment and slides down. He dusts himself off and stands.
"I'm Doctor Tesla," he shouts broadly because he cannot see his attacker. "I believe you are expecting me?" The icicle weapon swings his way again but he manages to stumble out of its arc this time. "Listen, you outrageous tower of insects, I am hear to save you from certain death, and so I'd appreciate if you let me do that before you caused mine."
Because otherwise Helen Magnus will be furious, he does not say. The icicle swings a third time. Perhaps he might not need to think about the future at all at this rate. "I have the cure to the Lazarus virus," he says. "I was sent by Helen Magnus." The icicle clatters to the ground and shatters.
This is what working for the Sanctuary will be like, always following Helen's lead, using her name as currency, her reputation as recommendation. "Yes, I know, I feel quite the same way about her," he says, though mostly to himself, as a collection of miniature web-footed abnormals no more than a foot tall who clearly work as a team in defending their community appear on the ice in front of him. "I quite feel the same."
Nikola has made peace with the idea, temporary though he anticipates it being, of people asking him for things. Banal things, which he is always perfectly able to give, but perhaps this is also the thing he has lost in being alone for so long, an understanding of need and cost, and their strive towards equilibrium. He wonders if the more people he interacts with means more or less degrees of freedom, since he feels further from entropy each conversation, though things seem to get easier. He seems to be able to give people exactly what they ask of him lately, and it seems so alarmingly simple as to be dangerously wrong.
It is a shock when that sort of request comes from Druitt. Nikola is saying something so uninventive as to be nearly unmemorable about Druitt's predilection for working women and brilliant scientists when Druitt shoves Nikola roughly back against the wall and kisses him so hard that he draws blood. Nikola is so shocked that he only barely manages not to kiss back with vampire teeth. Druitt grabs him by the shoulders and brings Nikola flush against his body and this is still a demonstration of power but for a different reason. Druitt needs someone to show him he is still in control, and Nikola can do that. He's certainly not about to argue the point with Druitt's mouth against his neck, Druitt's hands holding him still, one at the small of his back and one at the back of his neck, like at any moment the vice grip might turn malicious.
"Funny, I didn't think I was your type," he manages to breathe out, and Druitt only presses against him more roughly.
"Nikola," he says warningly.
Nikola understands what oblivion Druitt is seeking. It is a solace he can willingly give, although Druitt's method of request leaves little room for his actual refusal were he to argue the point.
For now, though, he will take this as what it is, a comrade in the fight needing something from him, something he can easily give and which will cost him very little.
"Yes, John," Nikola says, and pulls John's mouth to his.
Druitt does not concern himself with actually moving them from their rather public location, not does he spare much concern for Nikola's clothes. He's bare-chested and Druitt has just finished unbuckling Tesla's pants when he abruptly lifts him and presses him onto one of the tables. The mahogany is cold against his back.
"The table, John, honestly," Nikola says, and then Druitt is yanking Nikola's pants down. "Ok, ok," he says, a little breathlessly, "though generally, I do prefer sheets. Might I ask," he says, though Druitt's mouth is on his hip and despite the cold wood and their complete and utter exposure to anyone who might walk in, he's rather enjoying being so turned on he has to struggle for words, "What brought this on? Have you been lusting after me all these years and only now have had the courage?"
The word 'courage' is lost when Druitt bites down on the soft flesh of Nikola's hip. "What, no more niceties?" Nikola gasps out. "You might hurt my feelings."
"Nikola," Druitt says. Nikola traces his hands over Druitt's ass.
"Yes, John, it's me," Nikola says, though he knows exactly where this taunting is going to get him, "Or have you already forgotten that I'm not British? Or that I'm lacking breasts?"
Druitt practically growls, his breathe hot against the skin of Nikola's thighs.
"Helen's breasts are quite lovely, as I'm sure you remember. I saw them quite recently, and can assure you that they remain as wondrous as ever."
"No," Druitt says, as he's hauling himself up to hover over Nikola, his shirt half open, his chest rising and falling fast.
"You don't agree that Helen has stunning breasts? What about her legs, surely you've had occasion to notice them with the skirts she wears. The way her calf fits right into the palm of your - or my - hand."
"You - " is all Druitt manages to say before he's got Nikola pinned to the table, kissing Nikola so that his head keeps banging against the table. "You did not," Druitt says, breaking away with a gasp. "She wouldn't let you."
"Oh, she did let me," Nikola says. "In fact, the whole thing was her idea. Though the part in the shower, that was at my suggestion."
"No," Druitt says again, slamming Nikola harshly against the table.
Nikola's gasp of "Yes" is both in argument and because Druitt's hot hand is wasting no time squeezing the inside of his thighs. "I'm not Helen," he says. "And look, you're even enjoying yourself. It is nice to be able to be rough with me, isn't it?"
"That's not - " Druitt says, looking stricken.
"Isn't it?" Nikola says. "Relax, John, you can't hurt me. Believe me, I know you've tried."
Nikola wonders where he life became marked by quantum physics of generosity. How can he judge what Druitt needs if he is the one giving it?
Druitt alerts Nikola to the fact that he is thinking too much by biting him sharply on the shoulder.
"Yes," Nikola agrees and pulls John's mouth to his.
Nikola has to rely on his rusty Polish when Druitt drops him in the middle of the Mazowieckie, and he finds his directions to be outdated by at least 20 years. He is looking for a ceto who he suspects is going to make him actually enter the water to administer the cure despite the fact that entering the water is generally considered by such creatures to be a death threat, and it's going to be awkward, risking his life in front of the gaggle of villagers who stopped to watch when he asked one of them for corrected directions and followed him when they realized that his Polish was both dated and overly formal. He wishes, for once, that he were even further north - his Finnish is impeccable.
"Don't go into the water," one of the villagers warns him as he's removing his shoes, rolling up his pants, and, reluctantly, removing his shirt, an act which causes several of the young women to twitter and blush. "You will anger the water's heart." At least that's what he thinks she's just called the abnormal.
"I am charged with its protection," Nikola says, unable to formulate a less stilted way of saying that he needs to save it from a deadly virus without causing a panic. "Its need is great," he says, and then just pushes his way into the water.
Nikola goes from Polish to rough hand gestures, and he's pretty sure he's going to get hit from behind as a group surrounds him, but he presents a syringe in open palms and has it snatched away with slimy fingers. He's afraid its going to be lost to the depths but he's being hauled out by a mass of hands and a flurry of exclamations when he sees the creature inject itself and he knows the cure will spread, here, too.
"My soul is safe," Nikola says, spluttering, trying to say he is fine as the crowd attempts to dry his face with handkerchiefs and presses a steaming mug of broth into his hands. "My soul is safe," he says, the hard rocks of the shore pressing up into his back, and finds the feel of the words in his mouth rather comforting.
Nikola knows that he is not alone in having his mood, not to mention his very duties, subject to to the presence or absence of Helen. Will is suffering under the strain of carrying the Sanctuary network while Magnus is travelling the darkest places of the globe in search of her daughter. Magnus is not the sort of person you can ask for help, less so even now, and so Will soldiers on, tending to business he is barely trained in, the high-level management Nikola expects Magnus was saving for Will's five-year anniversary.
After the particularly taxing encounter with the druids where Nikola was put through several trials to prove he was worthy of delivering the cure, one particular ritual which included the eating of some things Nikola is not sure were actually food, and some body painting which he thinks might have been entirely for sport since when he told Helen about it, she barely managed to contain a snort. Nikola decides that he is suffering from the kind of restlessness that can only be assuaged by tormenting someone who deserves it, in this case, Will.
He's an odd sort of protégé, a moderately skilled profiler, though no one can compare to John Watson, and has proved himself to be quick thinking and dependable in a crisis. He still doesn't understand why Magnus chose him. He is unremarkable, rather unworthy to become the protégé to the great Helen Magnus, incapable of understanding what its like to have lived through a century and not show it.
"Don't forget to check the frequency of the non-exclusionary EM shield at the entryway," Nikola says, coming up behind Will, who had been half-slumped in front of a bank of computers. Will doesn't jump so much as move laterally about a foot, sending a stack of books crashing to the floor.
"Did you just ask me to make sure I locked the front door?" Will asks, bending to pick up the books but not actually getting up from his chair. When Nikola doesn't respond, Will says, "Henry's checking all the shield levels."
"Oh, so you've managed to delegate, after all," Nikola says. "I wasn't sure you knew how."
Will scoffs. "It's not like this place comes with a manual."
"Oh, it does," Nikola says, and Will twists around to scowl at him. "It's just in Helen's head."
Will sighs and rubs at his forehead. "Do you need something or have you just come to criticize how I'm running the place."
"You're hardly running it," Nikola says and Will looks away, his mouth closed tight against whatever provocation he thinks he's holding back. "You're tending it as it runs itself."
"Whatever," Will says, his jaw tight, Nikola can hear it in how deliberate the words have become. "What did you need."
"Nothing, dear boy," Nikola says, a fair impression of Druitt. Will sighs again, and turns back to the monitors, flips back open a laptop where he is reading what will only prove to be another useless file telling them only what they already know about the Cabal.
Will is waiting for Nikola to walk back out, and so he does not, instead pulling out a chair next to Will at the wide table in the library and sitting back into it, stretching his arms over his head and, after a moment's hesitation over whether it's too much, putting his feet up on the table.
The sound Will makes is delightfully strangled. "Are you waiting for me to guess what you need?" Will asks. "Is this some sort of a test? Is there some part of the Sanctuary that I've left unguarded or unprotected or unattended and you're just waiting for it to come and bite me in the ass?"
"Metaphorically, one would hope, although some of the abnormals - "
Will puts a hand up and Nikola stops. He ought to feel bad about pushing Will when he is already so close to the edge of his patience, but what started as Nikola's taunting out of boredom has changed as soon as he's here in the room with Will, pushing right up against Will's tension. Nikola feels a surprising kinship with with Will and being abandoned by Helen Magnus.
"Would you just tell me what you need?" It bursts out of Will, and Nikola lets his feet drop from the table, sits forward, resting his hand briefly on Will's shoulder before letting it drop back into his lap.
"I am merely settling for the pleasures of your company," Nikola says. Will huffs, but a few moments of silence later, he's passing the laptop to Nikola and asking him if he knows anything about quantum dimensional travel.
"I do indeed," Nikola says, and begins to tell Will about it, not in a lecture, but as though this was normal conversation, which for the two of them, it might well be.
Nikola is reading, halfway through a bottle of wine, when Druitt teleports himself and Helen directly into Nikola's bedroom. He thinks the only thing this can mean is that they've found Ashley, and so he tosses the book down and stands, but Druitt is right in front of him, pushing him back down in the chair.
"Sit down, Nikola," he says.
"I thought perhaps," he says, looking over Druitt's freakishly tall form over to Helen, who shakes her head with quite a bit more sorrow than she was carrying before. "I'm sorry," he says. No one is saying anything, and so he accepts that he's either going to wait this one out, or be the one to ask the question. "Is there an emergency elsewhere in the Sanctuary? Has young Will finally gotten himself into a tangle he can't psych his way out of?"
Helen shakes her head again and Druitt again pushes Nikola back into his chair when he again tries to stand. "Well, then, might I ask what brings both of you into my bedroom this late at night, with so much presumption as to not even bother using the door?"
He gets his answer when Druitt leans down and kisses him, harshly but certainly not nearly as aggressively as he could do, as Nikola knows from recent experience, and then pulls himself back up to full height and steps aside, so that he is no longer between Nikola and Helen. Before Nikola can ask what he is supposed to take this particular demonstration to mean, especially in front of Helen who didn't so much as make a sound in either shock of response, Helen takes a few steps forward and closes the distance between them, her hair falling down to cover either side of his face as she kisses him quite soundly, as though chasing down the taste of Druitt. Which, Nikola realizes, as he should have realized from the first moment they appeared, is exactly what is happening.
When Helen steps back, as he is flanked on either side by Helen and Druitt and their desire for one another, their inability to surmount their past in the middle of each of them like its a fourth person. Three, though is complicated enough. They have come to him because they cannot be by themselves, and the require his presence as a buffer. It is not an altogether unwelcome scenario, even if it really isn't about him at all. He looks at Helen, to make sure she's serious about this, and her expression is both stony and slightly desperate. Druitt looks as miserably tortured as ever.
"Well then," Nikola says, draining the rest of his glass and opening the first button of his collar. "Shall we get undressed?"
Provence is quiet, and the Sanctuary had done most of the work of identifying and contacting area abnormals, so Nikola holds what amounts to a clinic, and then spends the rest of the morning at a cafe. He is still thinking about the night before, and what it was like to have Druitt underneath him and Helen above him and the moment when the two of them finally kissed, and how Nikola very seriously considered attempting to manipulate their current, and the moment after, when they broke apart, how both of their dangerously frightened eyes darted to him, and how he made the moment something else other than a breaking of their own most secret rules by inserting his body between the two of them, a physical barrier they could transgress, Helen and John kissing over him like the child's finger game of London Bridge, until they were falling down on top of him.
Druitt appears in the cafe, teleporting in such a way as to seem like he was always sitting at the table just behind Nikola, drinking grappa. He reaches over and breaks off a piece of Nikola's palmiers.
"All went well?" he asks. Nikola is still surprised, even after the previous night, at the easiness in his conversation.
"Yes, all this ministering to the sick, you'd think I was also a medical doctor. I do miss Watson."
Druitt hmmms though Nikola cannot tell if it is in agreement or dismissal. "Are you ready to go home?" he asks.
"And where is that exactly?" Nikola poses the question loftily.
"Home is wherever Helen Magnus tells you it is." Druitt laughs, presses his hand to Nikola's shoulder, and teleports them out.