Myka’s finger traced the rim of her coffee cup to the steady beat, changing direction at the clock’s dictation. The droning rhythm in the background was almost soothing to Myka. Almost. But neither the sound nor the bitter brew changed the fact that the café in which she sat was in the middle of nowhere, she had neither a job nor friends to speak of, and she was completely, utterly alone. She had contemplated calling her parents, asking if she could move back in and help with the bookshop, but the shame was too great. She’d thought of trying to go back to a job with the Secret Service, but there would be too many questions she couldn’t answer, and now, with all that she had seen and done, she couldn’t possibly go back to that life. No, she would have to find something else, somehow.
The feeling of failure weighed heavily on her shoulders, and she stared into her slowly cooling coffee as if the mixture of caffeine, milk, and sugar somehow held the secret to easing the burden.
Her fingertip suddenly halted its circuit along the rim of the cup, and a small but humorless smile crossed Myka’s face. “I’m not going back,” she whispered.
“So I suppose it would be pointless of me to say that it doesn’t have to be this way,” Mrs. Frederic replied, her words defining as opposed to questioning.
“I can’t,” Myka replied, cursing the quiver in her voice. “I can’t face them. Not after Yellowstone. Not after…. They’ll know!” she exclaimed, looking up at the Caretaker. “They’ll know what I’m really thinking, and they’ll figure out what really stopped Helena from shooting me that day! I couldn’t live with that – I couldn’t live with their disgust. Then I wouldn’t have to leave – they’d send me away.”
“It is my decision whether or not you remain in the employ of the Warehouse,” Mrs. Frederic reminded her, “and what makes you so sure of their reactions?”
Myka let out a harsh, scoffing laugh and gave Mrs. Frederic a pointed look. “You have met Artie, right?”
“True,” the Caretaker ceded, arching a wry but sorrowful eyebrow. There was silence for a moment before she spoke again, a bit of an edge to her voice. “In which case, Ms. Bering, I have to ask what you intend to do with the information you gathered before you left.”
It was Myka’s turn to look wry, her smile widening and nearly becoming a smirk; she’d figured that either Claudia or Mrs. Frederic would notice her little foray into the Warehouse archives, both on the computer and in the near-miles of file drawers, not to mention that the fact that she nicked some artifacts would most certainly not go unnoticed. “I have plans for those,” Myka said simply, refusing to elaborate further.
To her credit, Mrs. Frederic remained perfectly calm, though her eyebrow arched with a mix of amusement, curiosity, and a hint of a disciplinary challenge. “Since I certainly hope you are not foolish enough to try and blackmail the Warehouse, I assume this is in relation to Ms. Wells’ sentencing?”
Myka’s smile faded. “Please, Mrs. Frederic, I have to see her. Just in case…I just need to. Please.” She quickly dashed away the tears in her eyes with the back of her hand, not wanting to break down in front of the Caretaker.
“You plan to use the artifacts as bargaining tools, then? May I remind you that such an attempt would place you behind the same bars?”
Myka flinched at the reminder of Helena’s location, but she said nothing in response, only reached into the shoulder bag at her side and pulled out one of several thick folders. “I’m going after this,” she said, sliding the folder across the table.
When Mrs. Frederic took and opened the file, her eyes widened and she inhaled sharply. Myka had rarely – if ever – seen something faze Mrs. Frederic, but she’d had the feeling that if anything could, that would be it. She watched passively as the Caretaker scanned the file, flipping through the pages. When she looked back up at Myka, her expression was one of sheer disbelief, though Myka could tell that it was underlined by a touch of admiration.
“There is no solid proof that this artifact indeed exists, Agent Bering,” Mrs. Frederic said, voice eerily quiet, “and even if it did, it has to be long buried by now.”
“Not necessarily,” Myka replied, eyes glittering with hope and determination. “I can find it – I know I can. I can go over the files inch by inch by inch, and with the artifacts I…borrowed, I can bag it. I have to try, Mrs. Frederic; if there’s even the slightest chance it exists, which there damn well is, I have to try.” Her jaw clenched as she fought back tears again. “I know that Helena is not the woman everyone thinks she is, and I will do everything in my power to prove it.”
Mrs. Frederic was quiet for a time, simply staring at Myka, who did her best to stare unflinchingly back. Finally, the Caretaker began to smile. “If there’s one thing I can say about you, Agent Bering, it’s that you never give up on what you feel is right, and that is what makes you one of the best agents the Warehouse has ever had.” Myka blinked, startled to hear the pride in Mrs. Frederic’s voice. “I will cover your tracks, though I can’t guarantee Ms. Donovan still won’t find them,” the Regent continued, she and Myka sharing a knowing smile. “Though I cannot help you in your pursuit, I will make sure you get to see Ms. Wells before you set out on this quest of yours.”
“Thank you,” Myka said, and Mrs. Frederic could tell that the woman meant it with every ounce of her being. When the Caretaker stood and began to leave the café, Myka arched an eyebrow. “Oh, you actually used the door this time?”
When Mrs. Frederic turned and arched an eyebrow at her in turn, Myka couldn’t help but giggle, looking down at the table and shaking her head. When she looked up, she wasn’t surprised to find that Mrs. Frederic was nowhere in sight.
Myka’s smile lasted for a moment longer before it faded. Taking the folder and putting it back in her bag, she took a deep breath and let out a shuddering sigh. There was something she wanted to say, something she wished she could somehow send on the wind and Helena would somehow hear, but she couldn’t find the words.
* * *
It was the only sound in the room, cutting through the silence with every one-one-thousand march of time. It was driving Helena mad.
She picked at the Styrofoam at the edge of her coffee cup, slowly but surely eroding the edge into snowflakes that thankfully fell to the white table and not into the bitter drink – not that she cared about it.
Everything in the room was white – the walls, the desk-like table, the chair, the phone and its corresponding cord. Even the clock, spare its stark black numbers and dashes, was an eerie, shiny white that unnerved her almost as much as the ticking did. The only idiosyncrasies in the otherwise monochrome room were the dark tan of Helena’s inmate jumpsuit (its very existence and the fact that she had to wear it had almost physically pained her at first, but she had eventually accepted it, though not without resignation), the even darker sludge of what was meant to be coffee, and the clear wall in front of her providing a view to a similarly blank room with a matching chair, desk, and phone. Helena had tapped the clear material several times in an attempt to determine what it was made out of, and as far as she could tell, it was neither glass nor plastic. She would have to ask Mrs. Frederic later; Mrs. Frederic was the only person who talked to her or told her anything. Mrs. Frederic was the only person who didn’t treat her like an abomination.
She was the one who had informed Helena that she had a visitor coming, but when Helena asked who it was, the woman declined to answer. The ex-agent had the most horrible suspicion that it was Artie, specifically taking time out of his crazy Warehouse schedule to come and vent his anger and hatred, lording over her as he rattled off all the horrible punishments that could and would happen to her, relishing the naming of each one. But Mrs. Frederic wouldn’t put her through that; she wouldn’t let Artie do such a thing…would she?
Just as Helena began to prepare herself for the inevitable verbal beating she was about to take, a curly-haired figure moving fast enough to blur flew into the room as if she were cannon-shot, landing in the chair opposite Helena’s with such force that it skidded on two side legs for a second before righting itself. Eyes widening, Helena reached for the receiver so fast that she knocked over her coffee as the woman across from her did the same.
“Helena?” she whispered, as if, despite the fact that they were so, so close, to make sure it was really her and she was really there.
It took Helena a moment to find her voice before she returned, “M-Myka?”
Myka smiled then, pressing her hand against the glass. It was a very stunned Helena who instinctively matched her movement, reaching out for her. Though it was most likely impossible and only a trick of her mind, Helena swore she could feel the warmth of Myka’s hand through the clear barrier, not knowing that Myka felt exactly the same.
“Hi…” Myka offered, suddenly lost for words, eyes brimming.
“Hi…” was all the ex-agent could manage, though more out of shock than lack of something to say as her own tears came to the fore.
“I…I missed you.” Myka could barely breathe; it was as if she didn’t want to breathe, unable to unless she was somehow connected to Helena. The brunette pressed her hand harder against the clear barrier as if to break through.
Helena, for her part, couldn’t help but let out a surprised laugh, though not with scorn. “Really?” she asked, a bright smile overtaking her face for the first time in who-knew how long.
Myka’s own smile widened, and she couldn’t help but allow herself a weak laugh of her own. “Really!”
There was silence for a moment where the two merely savored each other’s company before it hit them both that their time was extremely limited. “Do…do the others know you’re here?” Helena asked as both their smiles faded.
Myka shook her head. “I left the Warehouse.”
“I couldn’t do it anymore, Helena,” Myka explained, running a hand through her hair. “I couldn’t face them – couldn’t work beside them. I…they didn’t understand. I needed…I need to be alone for a while.”
Helena clapped her free hand over her mouth. “Oh God, Myka, I’m so sorry, this is all my faul-”
“Don’t,” Myka cut her off, giving her a serious but kind look. “It was my choice, Helena. Yes, it…everything all of us went through had a lot to do with it, but it wasn’t you or what you did that drove me away. I chose to leave ‘cause I realized I had changed.” In a heartbeat, the brunette’s expression became haunted. “Why did you do it, Helena? Why go along with McPherson’s plan? Why destroy the world, knowing it meant you too?”
Helena sighed. “I had given up living, Myka,” she replied wearily, unguarded and honest. “All that time I was bronzed, I was awake, and it gave me time – the wrong kind of time: time to wallow in hatred and despair and regret and everything I was trying to escape. I thought being bronzed would be my salvation, but it only made everything hurt a hundredfold more. When I was brought back, when McPherson told me his plan, it was all-too wonderful and perfect. He was in the same pain: he wanted a way out, and at the same time a way to reset all the evils of humanity and force them to start again.” She let out another sigh, resting her head in her hand. “He wanted to be God with the flood. And I was in so much pain and feeling so much hatred that I believed him. But it wasn’t enough. I wanted to be the one to strike the blow – no suffering, I thought, could ever compare to mine.
“You were right at Yellowstone, Myka. I did want you to save me. I was so far gone, so resolute that I could not stop myself, and I was praying, praying that you could. And it only could have been you, Myka,” she said, smiling sadly at the woman across from her. “I…you were the one person who understood, somehow, and the one person who still believed in me, even when…even when I….”
As Helena’s tears finally fell, they triggered Myka’s own as her heart ached for the once-proud woman now sitting meekly before her. She could press no harder against the glass, instead leaning forward to rest her head against the barrier, silently begging Helena to do the same. She did, their foreheads virtually resting together even as a pane of glass kept them apart. The closer each of them got, the more they ached for more, for connection and completion they could not reach.
“I forgive you, Helena.”
The whispered words were heaven to Helena’s ears, warmth to her freezing soul, the agent’s tender embrace she could not physically receive. “Thank you,” she managed to gasp, knowing it was nowhere near sufficient. “I don’t deserve it, and…I know what I’m about to say means nothing, but I’m so…so sorry,” she sobbed against the glass.
“Shh, I know,” Myka replied in a soft murmur, trying to calm the other woman. “I know, Helena, and I forgive you, and you do deserve it. You’re not a bad person, and I’m going to prove it.”
Helena met her eyes, suddenly wary. “How?”
Myka smiled. “Don’t worry. I just will. You’ll see. I’m gonna get you out of there.”
“Get me out of here?” Helena repeated incredulously. “Myka, I nearly destroyed the world; there is no escaping punishment for that. I deserve it.”
“No you don’t!” was Myka’s vehement response, banging her hand against the glass where it mirrored Helena’s. “The only thing you’re guilty of is being misled by McPherson and your own grief, and I won’t let you be punished for that.”
“Myka, the motive is of no consequence,” Helena replied, her tears falling anew, though they had never quite ceased completely.
“Dammit, Helena, it will be this time!” Myka countered, her own tears resurfacing. “If I can forgive you, so can the Regents!”
“Myka…the only forgiveness I ever wanted was yours.” Her voice came out as a choked whisper as Helena forced herself to look into the former agent’s eyes even though she feared what she might find there. She needn’t have worried; the brilliance of Myka’s smile nearly blinded her.
“Helena…” she whispered back, only able to say her name in response, but pouring every ounce of her emotion into it. The two women were quiet for a moment, simply cherishing each other’s presence even as they wished for more.
Myka turned her head as if hearing someone’s instructions and Helena’s heart gave a lurch. They hadn’t had nearly enough time together – they wouldn’t ever have enough time together. Myka had the same thought, as when she turned back to Helena, her tears fell twice as fast. “They say I have to go,” she managed to say, using all the control she had to keep herself from bursting into sobs.
Helena was having the same difficulty; there was so much more she wanted to say, but she knew she couldn’t – not yet, maybe not ever. “Be safe,” she replied.
Myka nodded, biting her lip. “I’ll keep in touch if they’ll let me, I promise.” She turned her head again, obviously being summoned, but immediately brought her eyes back to Helena, even as she forced herself to stand. “I…” she let out a self-depreciating laugh, “I miss you already.”
“I miss you too, darling,” Helena smiled through her tears, never taking her hand away from where it matched Myka’s against the glass. Even after both women had hung up their respective phones and Myka started to leave, they kept in contact against the window as long as possible. Even when Myka’s fingertips couldn’t touch the glass any longer, her eyes never left Helena’s, even as she rounded the corner and left Helena’s sight.
Only when Helena could no longer see the other woman did she let her hand drop from the window, her head resting atop it as she burst into sobs. But even through the grief of having Myka torn from her, the fact that she had been there in the first place had Helena smiling, even laughing a little as she sobbed. The woman she cared about had forgiven her, and she was fighting for her, and it made Helena’s heart soar with hope.