Chapter 1: Over Coffee
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.
Chapter 2: Musings and Messages
Claudia looked at the Warehouse’s computer screen for what felt like the hundredth time and frowned. She had been through the records over and over again, circling through the data so many times that the circles almost drew a straight line. But despite her scouring of the system, Claudia couldn’t figure out for the life of her who had managed to hack in and grab the artifacts without leaving a bigger trail – for there was indeed a trail; it just didn’t go anywhere.
What was almost weirder – only almost – was the array of artifacts that had been taken. They had absolutely no connection that Claudia could fathom. She’d played a fair few games of “Six Degrees of Warehouse Artifacts” and had still come up short of any logical explanations. Now, tired of reviewing and re-reviewing the facts, she could only sit and frown.
“You won’t find the answer you’re looking for, Ms. Donovan.”
Claudia jumped several inches and spun her chair around to face the speaker. “Geez, Mrs. F, way to give a girl a heart attack,” she said, indeed breathing heavily from the shock, hand over her heart.
“Though I admire your dedication, you will not find anything in the Warehouse system that will get you the results you want,” Mrs. Frederic continued. “Suffice it to say, the missing artifacts are required for a mission and have been removed from the Warehouse with my consent.”
Claudia was halfway through nodding when she stopped, her gut telling her that she wasn’t getting the whole story. “But that’s not true,” she blurted without thinking.
“Of course it’s not true,” Mrs. Frederic replied, not at all put-out by Claudia’s blunt accusation. “But it’s all that you need to know. Everything else you will find out in time.”
“Come on, Mrs. F, I hate waiting!” Claudia whined. “Especially when I don’t know what I’m waiting for! And if the artifacts aren’t off on some mission, then where are they? I don’t need artifacts disappearing on my watch, not now that we’ve lost…” she choked on her words and let the sentence hang, biting her lip to stop her tears.
Mrs. Frederic was silent for a moment, as if debating how much information to reveal. “There aren’t many people who know the Warehouse system well enough to hide their tracks. Agent Lattimer is out of the question, and Leena and Agent Nielson are still here. Out of the three people left, one of them was in prison at the time of the artifacts’ removal, and I can assure you, Ms. Donovan, that while they are in safe custody, that custody is not mine.”
“Myka,” the techie breathed, doing the mental math.
“And that is all you need to know,” Mrs. Frederic finished for her.
Claudia sighed and nodded, burying her face in her hands. It took a deep breath or two before she could lift her head again. “Is she – ” she began before cutting herself short. Looking around, she sighed again and re-buried her head; Mrs. Frederic was gone.
After a few minutes of deliberation, Claudia took another deep breath and reached for her phone. Staring at the screen for a moment, she selected the number she needed from the contact list and typed a quick message.
dunno what ur up to, but if u need me, gimme a shout.
The techie pressed “send” before she had any time to second-guess herself. There. It was done. Leaning back in the computer chair, she closed her eyes as she tried not to let the grief of missing Myka overwhelm her; now she could only do what Mrs. Frederic told her to: wait.
* * *
Pete sat and stared at the chocolate-chip cookie: the plate-sized, scrumptious, freshly-baked chocolate-chunk goodness in front of him. Leena had made it especially for him – not in what would have been a vain attempt to cheer him up, but a nearly-as-vain attempt to get him to eat something. It had been nearly forty-eight hours since Myka had left, and the normally food-crazy agent had yet to eat a bite. Leena watched from where she leaned against the counter and finally sighed.
“You have to eat something, Pete,” Leena said softly.
“Why?” came the forlorn, nonchalant reply. Truthfully Leena understood his depression: he’d lost two of the most important women in his life in one fell swoop. But she knew she couldn’t let him just give up like this; she had faith that Myka would return in her own time, and that somehow everything would turn out all right. How she knew this, she had no clue, empath and aura-reader or not, but somehow, she just knew.
“It’s not the end of the world, Pete,” she countered, relaying her thoughts. “I know it feels like it now, but give yourself time to heal. Things may not ever be the same, but they’ll be all right again. The night must end, and the sun will rise.”
Pete arched an eyebrow at her, though he didn’t crack a smile. “Where’d you get that little gem of wisdom?”
Leena arched an eyebrow in return. “Would you believe me if I said from a song in the Broadway production of The Lion King?” This managed the tiniest hint of a lip twitch, but a nearly invisible one. “Give it time, Pete,” she repeated. “If Myka were here, do you think she’d want to see you like this?”
Pete flinched and glared at Leena. “That was a low blow,” he growled, on the verge of tears.
Leena shrugged, unfazed. “It’s the truth, Pete. Do you really think Myka would want to see you fall apart without her? She still cares about all of us; you know that. If anything, hold it together for Myka.”
Pete looked like he was about to retort, but instead let out a long sigh, slumping where he sat. As if it tortured him to do so, he broke off a piece of the cookie and took a bite. “This…is a really good cookie.”
Leena smiled. “It’s all yours,” she said, resting her hand gently on his shoulder before leaving the kitchen to give him time alone.
Once she was out of the room, Leena pulled her phone from her pocket. She knew that Myka would be smart enough to be using a burner phone if she needed to call or text anyone, but she had the feeling that the agent…the former agent still checked her messages. Hoping that her suspicion was correct, she sent off a quick text, knowing that, if she had read the woman right, it might be just the thing she needed to hear.
* * *
Myka sighed as she lay back on the hotel bed, staring up at the ceiling as she tried to slow her racing mind. The events of the past two days still had her reeling, the main thought sending her spinning being, What the hell am I thinking?!? But to do anything else would be unthinkable. To give up would be unforgivable.
Helena…. “Helena,” Myka whispered aloud, closing her eyes. It somehow helped, just hearing the woman’s name, reassuring herself that she was alive. Unbidden, a new thought slammed into the forefront of her consciousness like a freight train. What would it be like to speak the woman’s name in a breathless gasp? To whisper it as she writhed naked beneath her? To cry it out as the woman sent her over the edge? To murmur it as she held her close, bathing in the afterglow? Myka snapped her eyes open and shook her head vigorously, trying to send the thought away. Where did that come from? Still, she had to admit, it wasn’t entirely unpleasant….
Shaking her head again, Myka decided to distract herself by checking her phone messages. There were no voicemails, she discovered, but two texts. She was surprised to see that Pete hadn’t even tried to contact her once, and the knowledge that he must be hurting badly enough not to even make an attempt filled her with guilt. With another sigh, she shoved that thought away as well, opening the first message.
It was from Claudia, and tears came to Myka’s eyes, even as she smiled fondly. She wished so much that she could send her a message in return, and contemplated doing so from her burner phone, but forced herself not to. As much as it hurt her, the less contact she had, the better.
The second message was from Leena, and the contents caused Myka’s smile to immediately fade, giving way to a jaw-drop.
Go get your girl back.
Stunned, Myka couldn’t help but send a reply, pouring her heart into two tiny words on the screen.
She didn’t even stop to consider the implications of Leena’s words.
* * *
Leena smiled at the message before deleting it quickly. Indeed, it would be a cold day in Hell before Myka Bering gave up. Leaving the Warehouse wasn’t surrender; it was defiance.
When the small window on her cell door was tossed open and the package thrown through before the opening slammed shut, the suddenness of it all made Helena jump, startled from her reclined position on the small bed. Having just enough time to see the word “FRAGILE” stamped across the box in big letters, the woman made a flying leap and managed to catch the box before it hit the floor. Grumbling about “bloody lackeys and their incompetence” and wondering what the Regents’ hiring criteria was, she brought the parcel back to her bed to examine.
The package was about the size of a shoebox, though much heavier than the average pair of boots. It was wrapped – double-wrapped, it seemed – in brown paper and liberally covered with clear tape. The only thing that had escaped the adhesive wrath was a letter with her name written on it attached to what was presumably the top of the box. Recognizing the handwriting immediately, Helena tore off the letter and quickly opened the envelope, noting with slight dismay but not with any surprise that it appeared to have been opened and resealed several times.
If you’re reading this, then a dozen other people already have too and have decided to pass it on, however reluctantly, though we both know who may have had a hand in that.
Helena smiled, not because her suspicions had been confirmed but because she and Myka were so alike in their thinking. “Two Mykas!” she had recalled Pete saying once. Pushing away the momentary pang of sadness, she continued to read.
Hopefully the package I sent has accompanied this letter, or some of it might not make sense. If it has, then I’d like to personally thank the Regents who are all reading this before you are.
This made Helena actually giggle, and it felt good to laugh after so long. It felt good for Myka to make her laugh.
I’m sending you this so we can talk without anyone (except aforementioned Regents, of course) being able to trace us. I think it’s a pretty good idea, if I do say so myself.
Helena smiled again, imagining the proud, mischievous grin Myka would have if she were speaking these words aloud. In fact, reading the letter, it was as if Helena could hear Myka’s voice in her head, reading it to her. Not objecting to this strange phenomenon in the least, Helena turned back to the letter.
I can’t tell you exactly what I’m doing, but I can tell you that the Regents are allowing me to speak on your behalf at your trial. I don’t care if it makes me look like a traitor in the eyes of everybody at the Warehouse; I have faith in you, Helena, and I know you aren’t the evil person they all make you out to be. You’re a good person, Helena, and I’m going to prove it.
Helena had to take a moment to brush the tears away. Myka’s belief in her filled her with such gratitude that her heart hurt, but in the best way.
I can’t say much more in this letter, but know that, if the package came with it, I’ll be talking to you soon (or, as soon as you get this, anyway). The Regents have no right to deny you hope.
Be safe, Helena.
Helena froze, straightening where she sat. She looked wildly around the room for the source of Myka’s voice. She had heard the last words from somewhere, she swore, but after a few seconds of complete silence, she figured she either imagined it or was going mad. She turned back to the letter with disappointment she’d never admit to.
Be safe, Helena.
Helena knew she hadn’t imagined it this time, and suspiciously looked around again. It was only when she looked back to the letter that she realized what was happening. Henry Solomon Wellcome’s Pen, she thought to herself, her own mind whispering as if for fear that someone would discover Myka’s – now their – secret. The pen belonged to the inventor of invisible ink, and years of secret love letters on blank pages gave it the power to deliver messages by far cleverer means: spoken words in thought without any appearance on paper for the intended recipient of the message and that person only. Oh, Myka. Helena smiled, her heart stumbling in its rhythm at the significance of such a gift – the gift of hearing her voice even if the package had never made it – overwhelmed her. My clever, darling Myka.
She listened to the words one more time as she finished reading the letter.
Be safe, Helena.
Helena folded up the letter as delicately as possible and put it reverently in the front pocket of her jumpsuit; she had no doubt that she’d be taking it out just to listen to Myka’s voice over and over again. The promise of constant communication was far more enticing, however, and Helena eagerly tore into the package she had put aside in favor of the letter. The packing tape eventually surrendered under her onslaught, and a moment later Helena found herself rooting through the same kind of packing straw used in various Warehouse boxes. When she unearthed the contents beneath the straw, her heart stumbled all over again.
“Paul Revere,” she murmured aloud as she pulled the lantern from the box. “Oh, my dear Myka.”
Carefully placing the lamp on her nightstand, she stared into the glass globe for a moment before turning the small knob on the lantern’s base. The lamp lit, as she expected, but within the golden glow that filled the globe, Helena could see Myka sitting on a bed, papers scattered around her. The brunette was biting her lip and twisting her hair around her finger as she concentrated on the file in front of her, and the familiar endearing habits made Helena smile even as her breath caught in her throat. It took her a moment to find her voice.
The former agent’s head immediately snapped up in the direction of Helena’s voice. When she saw Helena’s face through what must have been the second lantern, she burst into a brilliant smile and all but lunged for the lamp. “Hi!” she said, still grinning as she propped her chin in her hands and her elbows on the bed, and though Helena couldn’t see past Myka’s face, nor would she have it any other way, she could imagine the woman kicking her feet like a child.
“Hello there,” Helena replied with a chuckle. “So one good thing did come of the American Revolution, it seems,” she quipped. “Communicative lanterns. Remind me to thank Mr. Revere for sounding the alarm.”
Myka rolled her eyes at the jab, but smiled nonetheless. “I knew you’d recognize it the instant you saw it,” she replied. “I’m just glad the Regents let you have it.”
“Believe me, so am I. And the letter especially….” Helena let the words trail off, but ended the sentence with a wry smile instead.
Myka blushed deeply enough that it was visible even through the glass of the lantern, and she glanced aside as she shyly tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
“Well, I had to give you something…just in case,” she added softly as she looked back up to meet Helena’s eyes.
“I’m glad you did,” Helena murmured back.
There was a moment of serious silence that neither agent knew how to break until Myka finally cleared her throat, scrambling to find a relatively safe topic of conversation. “So, uh, how…are…you?”
The inanity of the question was such that the two of them burst into laughter. Helena reflected again on how good it felt to laugh and to laugh with Myka. “I’m fine, my darling, how are you?” she asked with a lazy grin.
Myka had to keep herself from visibly shivering. True, Helena always used “darling” in her vocabulary, but the “my” she had put in front of it, consciously and intentionally or not, gave her a thrill she delighted in but was determined not to show. “I’m fine, Helena,” she replied with the same grin. Especially now that I’m talking to you, she wanted to add, but kept that bit to herself.
“So what should we talk about? Because if you believe I’m going to say goodbye after only a few minutes, you’re highly mistaken,” Helena teased, though Myka caught the serious, almost desperate undertone of her words.
“I didn’t believe that for a second,” Myka replied in the same playful tone, but Helena, in turn, heard the reassurance laced within her words, and wasn’t able to hide her sigh of relief.
“So what should we talk about, darling?”
Myka suppressed another shiver as she thought for a moment. “Um…ah, I know. Apothegm.” When Helena gave her a strange look, Myka continued, “Apothegm. That’s the word I chose. Now you have to pick something starting with ‘m’. It’s a word game,” she explained, suddenly feeling shy and more than a little foolish.
Helena, though, thought it was a brilliant idea. “Matriarchal,” she replied, mirroring Myka’s position and propping her chin on her hands. Myka grinned.
The game went on for nearly two hours, and their combined knowledge of words made them sound as if they were spouting off a dictionary. That is, until Helena decided it was time to fight dirty.
“Aloof,” Myka threw out. Helena smiled mischievously.
“Helena!” Myka exclaimed, her eyes widening as she jumped.
“That’s a name, not a word, darling,” Helena chucked, “nor does it start with an ‘o’.”
Deciding that two could play at that game, Myka’s smirk soon mirrored Helena’s. “Orgasmic,” she enunciated, letting the word roll sensuously off her tongue.
Helena grinned. “Cunnilingus.”
“Tsk, tsk, two different versions of the same oral stimulation,” the agent teased, and Helena chuckled again. “Sexual,” she continued.
Helena stopped herself just in time, the moment after she opened her mouth, the moment before she let the word escape. Love, she nearly said. Suddenly she found herself wanting to scream it, to proclaim it to all who could hear. But she stopped herself, even though her heart was pounding as if in attempt to break free and reveal the truth. Scrambling for safer territory in a decidedly unsafe word game, Helena replied with, “Lustrous.”
The game continued for another thirty minutes or so before, after “monosyllabic,” Myka covered her mouth with her hand in an unsuccessful attempt to hide a yawn.
“Circumlocution, and if you’re tired, darling, get some sleep,” Helena admonished, though playfully.
“Negligible, and I don’t want to stop talking with you,” Myka whined.
“Eponymous, and I’d hardly define the past several hours as ‘talking,’ per se.”
“God, we really have been talking for hours, haven’t we? Sepulcher,” she added.
“Yes, and I’ve enjoyed every rapturous minute of it,” Helena replied.
The Victorian woman’s tender smile sent Myka’s heart fluttering, but she tried not to let it show. “Sad,” she murmured as she rearranged herself on her bed, adjusting her lantern so she could see Helena from where her head lay on the pillow.
Helena chuckled. “Now I know you’re sleepy when you’ve resorted to words like that, darling.” Myka grinned.
“Tell me a bedtime story?” the agent asked, and Helena’s grin grew to match hers.
“All right, darling, under the covers with you,” Helena commanded. Once Myka had done so, the author began. “Once upon a time there was…a cat. Named Myka.” When the real Myka began to giggle, Helena mock-scowled at her. “Do you want a story or not?”
“Sorry,” the agent replied, though she was still smiling and on the verge of laughter. “I’ll be good.”
“I doubt that,” Helena shot back, and Myka giggled again. “Anyhow, this cat….”
Helena continued to weave her whimsical if nonsensical tale until Myka’s eyes had closed and her breath was even with sleep, her smile never having left her face. Helena watched her fondly for a moment, wishing she could capture the image before her and keep it with her always. After a few more minutes of indulgence, Helena smiled and reached for the lamp.
“Good night, my darling Myka,” she whispered before extinguishing the flame.
Apothegm (AP-uh-them), n: a short phrase stating a general truth.
Matriarchal – adj of matriarch (MAY-tri-ark), n: 1, a woman who is the head of a family or a tribe. 2, a powerful older woman.
Lackadaisical (lak-uh-DAY-zi-k’l), adj: lacking enthusiasm and thoroughness.
Luminosity (loo-mi-NOSS-i-tee), n: the quality of being bright or shining.
Yonder (YON-der), adv: over there.
Monosyllabic (mo-no-sil-A-bic), adj: 1, consisting of one syllable. 2, saying little more than ‘yes’ or ‘no’; saying very little.
Circumlocution (ser-kuhm-luh-KYOO-sh’n), n: a way of saying something which uses more words than necessary.
Negligible (NEG-li-juh-b’l), adj: so small or unimportant as to be not worth considering.
Eponymous (i-PON-i-muhss), adj: 1 (of a person) giving their name to something. 2 (of a thing) named after a particular person.
Sepulcher (SEP-uhl-ker), n: a stone tomb.
Courtesy of the Oxford English Dictionary
Chapter 4: Two Kinds of Research
Claudia was disobeying Mrs. Frederic’s orders, as she was wont to do. This time, however, she had abandoned the computer and was rooting through the actual file cabinets of Warehouse 13 – all God-knows-how-many of them. In her hand she held a clipboard full of cross-references and idiosyncrasies, but none of them added up to what Myka might be up to. Her only hints were the artifacts Myka had taken, and even they didn’t offer much insight. But day three of her search still found Claudia undeterred, though grumbling.
“You know Myka, I really love you, but I really hate you right now,” the hacker was muttering. “’Course, it’s partially my fault that you can cover your tracks like a pro, but hey, I suppose it’s a sign that I’m a good teacher. Granted, not at the moment, but still….” She made a few more notes on her clipboard before continuing her fine-toothed hunt.
Claudia pulled out the next file and skimmed the label quickly. It was halfway back in its place when Claudia did a wide-eyed double take and yanked it out completely. Scanning her clipboard, she darted back and forth across the tiny hallway between the file drawers, grabbing three other folders from various locations and spreading everything out over a couple of open drawers.
No…it couldn’t possibly be...no…no…could it? Nobody could possibly be that crazy…nobody except Myka.
Letting out a whoop of triumph, Claudia gathered up the folders and set them off to the side before looking at her notes and pulling all the others on her list. She spent the next hour referencing and cross-referencing, doing marathon runs through the storage room as she nicked every folder she thought she’d need. Once she was satisfied that she had everything with even so much as a hint of the information she needed, she loaded the folders in a box, put the box on a hand trolley, grabbed her stuff, and headed into the depths of the Warehouse, looking for a place to work.
* * *
It took another full day of work before Claudia had entered all the information into a computer program she’d created for the purpose and snuck all the folders back to their respective homes. Nobody questioned her pet project, as she knew they wouldn’t, but she still did all her work in the duplicate B&B, which still had a gigantic hole in the wall from where she, Pete, and Myka had escaped the year before. Once she was satisfied with her work and all the intricacies therein, she stepped out of the B&B (she wasn’t sure she wanted to try and send a message from inside an artifact, having no idea what the consequences might be and not having the time or inclination to theorize) and sent her text.
u fox u! did u rly think i wdn’t find out what ur up to? ur crazy, but if ne1 can pull it off it’s u. i’m with u all the way.
skype me at claudiocity13. it’ll be a safe connection, i promise. no trace. i went snooping thru the W files n found stuff u might want.
u go girl!
Once she’d hit “send,” she brought her computer out of the B&B, set up a secure Skype connection that even the Regents would be hard-pressed to break through, and sat back to wait, pulling up a game of Solitaire.
Not ten minutes later, Skype alerted her that she had a video call coming through, and grinning like a maniac, Claudia pressed the “enter” key with a flourish. Myka’s face was a welcome sight, despite her expression of incredulity, worry, and no small amount of anger.
“Claudia Marie Donovan are you nuts?!?” the agent hissed.
Claudia frowned. “How’d you know my middle name?”
“I heard Joshua yell it once, and you didn’t answer my question!”
“No, I’m helpful!” Claudia said perkily before starting to type. “Sending you a computer program loaded with relevance…now.” The techie heard a beep from Myka’s end, and she watched as the agent opened the program to take a look. The resulting wide-eyed jaw-drop filled Claudia with smug satisfaction, and her maniac grin returned. “See?”
“Claudia, how…how did you find all this?”
“Easy shmeasy, if not time-consuming,” Claudia replied with a wave of her hand. “Couldn’t find your tracks in the computer, so I went looking the old-fashioned way and found out some preeeeetty interesting stuff – oh, and having seen both sides of insanity, I can say with complete certainty that if anyone needs to be checked for crazy, it’s you.”
Myka sighed, her eyes full of longing. “Claud, I have to. I can’t just…I won’t….” She struggled to find the right words, but Claudia cut her off.
“I get it, Myka – well, sort of. I mean, I don’t trust her, but I trust you, and you trust her, and if you think this is gonna prove it to everyone, then I’m with ya.”
Something about Myka’s smile filled Claudia with pride, and the agent’s next words filled her all the more. “Thanks, Claudia. The little sis I never had.”
Claudia grinned; despite the fact that Myka was miles away on an all-but-hopeless mission, the hacker was happier than she’d been in a long time. “Hey, what are bratty little sisters for if not nagging the older ones?” she quipped, and both she and Myka giggled. “Keep in touch, would you?” she continued. “As long as things are relatively calm” (she took a moment to knock on the nearest piece of wood) “I’ll look over the files too, see if there’s anything I can puzzle out.”
“Are they safe?” Myka asked. “I don’t want Artie or Pete finding out.”
“Way ahead of ya. Artie’ll kill us both if he gets wind of this, so the info’s on my computer only, encoded with a randomized lock, triple-password-protected, and voice-recognition only – namely mine.” The smug satisfaction was back full force, as was Claudia’s triumphant smirk.
Myka couldn’t help but grin along with the hacker. “Thanks, Claudia – really.” She paused, biting her lip. “I miss you.”
“Miss you too,” Claudia replied, her eyes watering against her will. She immediately wiped at them with the back of her hand. “Hey! Stop making me get all mushy!”
“Sorry, Claud,” Myka replied genuinely, tenderly. “I…whether or not I come back depends a lot on how all this turns out, but no matter what, I won’t disappear again – I’ll come say goodbye properly.”
“You better,” Claudia replied, forcing a shaky smile, which Myka returned. The hacker wiped her eyes again. “Listen, I’d lie and say that I can keep the connection secure forever just so I could sit and talk to you, but I can’t – I don’t have a lantern,” she added with a smirk, making Myka chuckle. “I gotta go, Mykes – I can’t keep the connection open too long.”
“I get it, Claud. And…thanks. Thanks so much. For everything.”
“You bet.” The techie saluted. “Text me from your burner if you need anything.”
Myka laughed and shook her head. “I should’ve had you plan this for me,” she joked. “See you later, Claudia,” she said with one last smile.
“Bye, Myka,” Claudia replied quietly before the agent disconnected the call. Wasting no time, the hacker immediately destroyed the connection and all its traces before obliterating any records of the conversation and its contents. Slinking back into the B&B replica, she went back to poring over the files she had uncovered.
* * *
Helena woke with a groan and rolled over under the suddenly too-hot sheets. Squinting at the light-up numbers on the clock and seeing that it was a little past two in the morning, she groaned again and pulled her pillow over her head. There was absolutely no way she was going to get back to sleep now – not after the dream she’d just had, not now that the ache between her legs had her clenching her thighs in a vain attempt at relief. There was no way she could just ignore it – she was too far gone for that – but there was no way she could do anything without the Regents seeing her on one of the many cameras they’d set up in her room.
They had promised her that they would never spy on her in the bathroom – that they would allow her that privacy, at least. Granted, they had made very sure that there was nothing in the tiny space that could be used as means of escape or self-harm – including precautions to make sure she couldn’t drown herself – so there really wasn’t anything to worry about. Praising every deity she could think of for this small blessing, Helena decided that a few minutes past two in the morning would be the perfect time for a shower.
Not needing a light to find her way around the room (she’d lost count of how many times she’d traversed the small space), she made her way to the tiny bathroom and shut the door – no lock, of course. Quickly stripping out of her sweat-soaked nightclothes and undergarments, Helena turned on the cold water in the shower and stepped inside.
To her dismay, the icy blast did nothing to relieve her agony. In fact, if anything, the harsh droplets against her swollen clit made her hiss, already in a heightened state of arousal. Both loath to act on her desire and craving to do so at the same time, Helena sighed in defeat, turning the water to hot as she slid down the shower wall. Closing her eyes, she allowed the dream to come back to her.
She could almost still feel the soft brown curls against her palms from when she had imagined gently guiding Myka where she ached to have her. Now, in her mind’s eye, the agent grinned impishly up at her from between her legs before lowering her mouth to her folds. Helena bit her lip to stifle a groan, bringing her own hands to her nipples and tweaking the aching buds, feeling them harden between her fingertips as she massaged her breasts. She tried to pretend that the hot water of the shower was Myka’s tongue against her, taking teasing licks at her clit before flicking at the edges of her opening. When she could no longer bear her mind-conjured Myka’s light touches, Helena spread her legs and brought her hand down to scrape her nails against the small nub, and they became Myka’s teeth, nibbling gently. Helena couldn’t control her gasp at the sharp surge of pleasure through her clit, and bit her lip again to stifle any other sound as she put more pressure on the throbbing bundle of nerves, rubbing in slow circles.
She saw Myka behind her eyelids, but she was no longer indulging in Helena’s taste. Instead, she straddled her lap and, with a warm, gentle smile, sank two fingers deep into the dark-haired woman’s core. Though Helena knew that the fingers were her own, that there was no beautiful brunette hovering above her, she still bit her lip harder, so much so that it nearly bled as her imagination worked to fill the void reality could not. Myka gently nibbled at Helena’s jaw as she thrust and curled her fingers within her, and Helena bucked against her own hand as she built a steady rhythm, never once taking her other hand away from her clit.
Faster and faster she moved her hands, seeing Myka’s muscular arm driving her fingers hard and fast within her as she manipulated her clit with her thumb. Helena was there, right there, at the edge, but there was something missing – something that kept her from tumbling into release. And then she thought back to Myka’s voice – the beautiful voice secretly woven into the letter under her pillow.
Be safe, Helena.
Helena’s cry was muffled by her lip between her teeth as her release overtook her, her and mind-Myka riding out her climax together as her body shook with pleasure. Only when Helena lay spent against the shower wall, quivering with aftershocks, did both women still their hands, and Helena felt the sweet brush of Myka’s lips against her own. But when she opened her eyes, it was only her, as she knew it would be – alone under the slowly cooling water, still quivering from release brought by her own hands, and no one else’s. Certainly not Myka’s.
Helena’s stomach dropped and her heart turned to lead as she realized what she’d just done. True, she knew she was not the first woman to pleasure herself to thoughts of the person she…deeply cared for, but somehow the fact that she’d done so to thoughts of Myka, the woman she respected more than anything, the woman she was desperate to prove her worth to, utterly shamed her. She felt like a monster, using the image of such a woman simply for her pleasure. As much as she knew it was more than that, as much as she knew it was more than just physical release, her rational mind was overridden by her self-hatred.
Wrapping her arms around her legs, Helena buried her head in her knees and sobbed, emotions crashing over her in the wake of her release, but overlying every second of pleasure she had felt with a wave of guilt, heavy on her heart. She sobbed until the shower was cold and she’d exhausted every tear within her – for the time being.
It was with great weariness that Helena shut off the water and hauled herself out of the shower. She barely had the energy to throw on a clean nightgown, worn by her crying jag and still-overpowering shame. Her last thought before sleep, however, after she had collapsed back into bed, was of Myka’s smiling face, tucking a strand of hair behind Helena’s ear as the two bathed in afterglow.
Chapter 5: Spelled Out on a Double-Word and Triple-Letter Score
Title taken from the song "Loose Lips," by Kimaya Dawson, from the movie Juno.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When Helena next turned on her lantern, she was surprised to see Myka setting up a board game of some kind on her hotel bed. “What’s this?” Helena asked, examining the tiled board as best she could.
Myka smiled mysteriously. “Another word game,” she said as she set a small wooden rack before the lantern so it faced Helena. On it was a set of wooden tiles containing letters, and each letter had a number in the lower right corner. The rack itself also had the numbers one through seven written across the bottom, but it looked like they’d been penned by hand. “It’s called Scrabble,” Myka continued. “Each letter is worth a certain number of points, and the goal is to earn as many points as you can both with words and with squares on the board.” She indicated a colored square with writing on it. “The ‘DL’ stands for ‘double letter,’ so any letter placed there counts double.” She pointed to another. “‘DW’ is for ‘double word,’ so if your word crosses through that, the whole thing counts double.”
“So,” Helena surmised, “‘TL’ stands for ‘triple letter’ and ‘TW’ stands for ‘triple word’?”
Myka beamed. “Exactly.” She finished setting up her own rack of letters as she explained the rest of the rules. “The starting player’s word has to cross through the star on the center of the board, and each word after that has to share at least one letter with another word.” Done, she smiled at Helena. “I numbered your letter rack, so just tell me what you want to put where.” Helena could tell she was nervous, because she was wrapping one of her curls around her finger and biting her lip a little. “So…d’you want to play?”
Helena gazed at the other woman through the lantern. Despite her nervousness, as if she was almost praying that the dark-haired woman would like her idea, Helena thought she looked adorable, and her heart melted just a little more for the curly-haired agent. “Why don’t you go first – show me how it’s done?” Helena replied, resting her chin in her hands. Myka’s responding smile was nearly blinding.
The agent looked at her tiles thoughtfully for a moment before vertically spelling out “OCCUR,” counting her score and taking new tiles. Helena pondered her own tiles and the board for a moment before listing the numbers of the tiles she wanted to place and where, playing “COMPORT” from the second “C.” Myka tallied her score, replaced her tiles, and so the game continued.
Their combined love of literature and lexical intelligence made for the most interesting game of Scrabble Myka had ever played. There were many a pause to debate whether or not words like “prithee,” “verily,” and “egads” were allowed, and Helena insisted that they stick strictly to British spelling while Myka argued that both American and British spellings should be allowed. Many words were able to take prefixes and suffixes as well, which made for some very underhanded moves.
Helena had just finished playing “QUIET” on the board and was waiting for Myka to take her turn when she saw the brunette visibly wince, even as she seemed to be trying not to smile. Giving Helena an apologetic look, she placed three letters on the board to spell out the word “QUIETING.” The raven-haired woman’s eyebrows hit her hairline as Myka tallied the rather impressive score. “Sorry,” the agent said earnestly with another wince. “Cheap shot, I know.”
“But a good shot nonetheless,” Helena pointed out. Myka’s smile was more than a little sheepish.
Helena found her opportunity for revenge some time later, when the board was nearly full. She’d been eyeing the second “D” in “DIAD” (a word of questionable legality by the more mundane, conventional rules, “MUNDANE” being on the board as well) for several rounds, and she was just lucky enough to have the tiles she needed.
“Tile two after the ‘D’ at the end of ‘DIAD,’” she requested, trying her hardest to keep a straight face. Myka gave her a curious look, but did as she asked. “And then tile five after that.” Myka complied, and Helena watched with some great amusement as the realization sank in.
It took the brunette a moment to fully comprehend what Helena had done, but when she did, she felt like she’d taken a sledgehammer upside the head. Myka stared at the tiles with wide-eyed astonishment, jaw hanging open. “DISQUIETING” was spelled out across the bottom of the board. On a triple-word score.
“I…you…” the agent began, unable to form coherent words. She looked up at Helena, who was smiling as innocently as she could, even though she was obviously trying to hide an outright grin. “I can’t believe…you little…”
“Yes, darling?” Helena prompted.
Myka gaped for a moment before shaking her head in complete disbelief. “Only you, Helena. Only you.”
She said it with such tenderness and affection that Helena’s breath caught in her throat and her heart stumbled in its rhythm. For a moment, she thought she saw something in Myka’s eyes she only dared dream of, wildly hoped for, desperately craved. But, panicking, she quickly chased those thoughts away; she couldn’t risk losing Myka, losing her soul.
Instead, she cleared her throat, and Myka couldn’t help but notice her blush. “It’s your turn, darling,” Helena mumbled, uncharacteristically shy. The brunette filed the strange behavior in the back of her mind to ponder later as she began to lay out her tiles.
Needless to say, Helena won by a landslide, leaving a baffled, slightly disgruntled, but very impressed Myka. “This means I get to pick your bedtime story,” Helena said triumphantly as the agent put away the game.
Myka made a face. “You picked the story the last time, too!” She pointed out as she wriggled under the covers.
The dark-haired woman smirked nonetheless. “It’s the victory that counts, darling.” Myka rolled her eyes as Helena cleared her throat for dramatic emphasis. “Once upon a time, on a dark and stormy night – ”
“Hush, you. Once upon a time, on a dark and stormy night, a young woman hurried fearfully home through the streets of Whitechapel….”
For two hours, Helena regaled Myka with the story of the Warehouse 12 hunt for Jack the Ripper and the artifact he used to lure innocent girls to their gruesome deaths. Myka listened with a mix of eager curiosity and wild terror as Helena wove her tale, perfectly imitating the voices of the various people involved and adjusting her tone for each change of mood and pace. She hushed through the suspense, darkened her voice for the descriptions of the murdered, and for every sudden shock, her voice burst forth from an emphatic pause, making Myka jump.
“…And though the lantern was recovered for a time before being stolen by your rogue agent, no one ever learned what became of Jack the Ripper.” Finished, Helena sat back with a smug smile as she observed Myka’s reaction.
The brunette agent was nearly curled into a ball, clutching the covers she’d pulled up under her chin. When she realized that Helena had stopped speaking, she all but whimpered, “That’s it?”
“That’s it,” Helena confirmed, trying to hold back her laughter. She stretched her arms, faking a yawn. “I must say, I am quite tired,” she commented with exaggerated fatigue. Snuggling under her own bedcovers with a smile, Helena reached for her lantern. “Goodnight, darling.” Myka’s responding squeak was the last thing she heard before she turned the lamp off.
Falling back on her bed, Helena finally allowed herself to chuckle, reveling in the joy that evening’s simple activities had brought. She was quite looking forward to the next night; she wanted to see how and if Myka had slept. Helena was still laughing as she turned off her bedside light so she could go to sleep herself.
For Myka’s part, she did sleep, but with the lights on, the chair propped under the doorknob, the curtains shut, and her gun tucked under her pillow.
* * *
When Helena turned on the lamp the next night, Myka was once again setting up the Scrabble game, but…
Helena squinted and peered closer. “Is that in French?”
Myka grinned. “Well we couldn’t let it get too easy now, could we?”
The "DISQUIETING" move almost happened in a game of Words With Friends with my cousin. I played "QUIET," she played "QUIETING," and by the time I saw the opportunity to play "DISQUIETING," there were no "S" tiles left.
“Hey Mykes, get this!” Claudia said excitedly when the agent’s face appeared on her screen. “You are not the first agent to go looking for this thing!”
“Well I figured that,” Myka replied with a roll of her eyes.
“No, I mean, the Warehouse has sent people after this before, and I’m not talking just one or two agents. They called in the cavalry trying to find this thing!”
Myka frowned, staring at the excited hacker. “They did? When? How come – ”
“ – it’s not in the logs?” Claudia finished. She was in her hideout in the duplicate B&B, having not only tested the possibility of sending messages from within the artifact, but the possibility of using said artifact as signal security. Now, sitting in a sort of communicative Fort Knox, Claudia was rifling through another stack of files she’d pilfered from the Warehouse archives. “It was all very hush-hush,” she continued, flipping through some papers. “It happened back in the days of Warehouse 11, in Moscow. Every agent – and there were loads at the time – was sent after it, but they all came up empty. Apparently the higher-ups were going to use it to bring down Napoleon and his entire army.”
Myka actually winced. “I can’t see that going down in history too well.”
“No kidding,” Claudia agreed fervently. “The good part is, they didn’t find it, so the Doctor didn’t have to swoop down in the TARDIS and fix a catastrophe bigger than the actual Battle of Borodino. The bad part is the city governor at the time ordered Moscow burned – it was a sort of ‘scorched earth’ thing he did so Napoleon couldn’t have it – and thousands of artifacts were destroyed. Pete couldn’t have saved them with a snow globe, nor you with a letter opener,” she added, gesturing to her surroundings.
“Great hiding spot, by the way,” Myka commented.
“Thanks!” Claudia said with a quick glance and grin. “Anyway, the whole thing was bad enough that it prompted the Regents to start working on Warehouse 12. Hundreds of agents had died in that fire.”
“Wait, did you say hundreds of agents?”
“Yeah, why?” When Myka was silent, Claudia looked up from the pages in her lap with a frown, peering closely at the agent. What she saw made her stomach drop and her heart clench. Myka – confident, headstrong Myka – slumped where she sat, wearing an expression of utter, anguish-wrought defeat. Tears were welling in her eyes, and just the sight made Claudia begin to feel them prick at the edges of hers. “Mykes?” she asked tentatively.
“Claud…if hundreds of agents couldn’t find it, how do I even have any hope?”
Claudia’s stomach dropped further, and she shoved the files aside to clench her fists on her knees. “Because you’re not a hundred agents!” When Myka frowned at her, Claudia continued, “Come on, think of it like…like when you were in the Secret Service! There isn’t a huge army protecting the president – just a few covert individuals!”
“‘A few’ enough to compose an army…” Myka countered.
“Fine, but….” The hacker struggled for a better elaboration. “Look…how many times in history have one or a few succeeded where hundreds have failed? The Trojan War, David and Goliath, the Holy Grail – ”
“Those are mythology and stories, Claudia.”
“ – but every myth starts with a grain of truth, right?” Claudia was pleading by this point. “Look, if…if you want to retrieve a priceless diamond from the middle of the castle, do you send every troop to storm the gates, or do you send one person to sneak in and get it?”
Myka arched an eyebrow. “Spend a little too much time playing video games with Pete, do you?”
“No,” replied a very frustrated Claudia. “It’s…it’s….” She grasped at more straws. “You’re like the Little Engine That Could!” She blurted. When Myka’s other eyebrow joined the first at her hairline, Claudia sighed, her shoulders drooping to match the agent’s earlier posture.
“Look, Mykes,” the hacker began after a long, sad pause. “I’m not super-spiritual or anything, but if there’s one thing getting Joshua out of that artifact taught me, it’s this: if you really, really want something, and you really, really work for it, sometimes the world turns in your favor.” She lifted her head to see that Myka had lowered hers, biting her lip as she looked at her hands. “Those hundreds of agents Warehouse 11 sent? They were only looking for it ‘cause they were told to,” Claudia continued. “That’s why they didn’t find it. But you? You have a reason to find it, and a selfless reason at that.” When Myka glanced up at her with another eyebrow-raise, she amended, “Ok, maybe not completely selfless, but it’s not like you’re trying to affect the outcome of an entire revolution. Myka…they didn’t find it ‘cause they wanted it. You’re gonna find it ‘cause you need it.”
Myka thought on Claudia’s words for a moment, and when she lifted her head to look at the hacker again, the agent had slowly begun to smile. “Not ‘super-spiritual,’ huh?”
Claudia shrugged, a little embarrassed. “That or I’ve read the first Harry Potter book a few times and…maybe watched the movie a few more.” She rubbed the back of her neck. “And hey, it’s not the first time an artifact has gone and had a personality on us.” She cleared her throat and straightened a little, trying to look, if not innocent, at least casual and nonchalant. But when Myka began to chuckle, Claudia couldn’t help but grin, relieved that she’d managed to restore at least a little bit of hope.
“Thanks, Claudia,” Myka said softly, obviously thinking the same thing. “I dunno what I’d do without you.”
“Kick the same ass you usually do,” Claudia quipped back without missing a beat, her own smile wry. Myka laughed outright, and Claudia couldn’t help but join her.
Despite the duplicate B&B’s protection, Claudia couldn’t keep a secure Skype connection forever, and was forced to say goodbye to Myka. She had just packed up everything when –
The hacker froze when she heard Pete’s voice, trying not to panic as she formulated an exit strategy. Shouldering her bag, she slunk out of the inn and immediately doubled-back several rows before coming back around from a completely different direction. When Pete found her as she headed back to the office, she was nowhere near anything that would implicate her presence at the B&B. “Hey, Pete!” Claudia said with fake cheer. “What’s up?”
“Are you ok?” Pete asked warily. “I thought I heard you talking to someone.”
Claudia gave a negligent flip of her hand. “I was testing the effect of artifact proximity on communicative signals,” she lied smoothly. “I was sending myself a voicemail to test phone receiving capabilities from an electronic source possibly affected by nearby, dormant artifacts.” She did a mental fist-pump as she saw Pete’s eyes glaze over slightly at the techno-babble. And it wasn’t really a lie – she had done signal testing to make sure she could contact Myka from within the B&B. Pete just didn’t need to know that.
“All right,” the agent in question replied. “Just…makin’ sure, y’know?” As much as he tried to hide it, Claudia could see the sadness in his eyes and the melancholy still weighing heavily on his shoulders.
“She’s coming back, Pete,” Claudia said softly, putting a comforting hand on his arm. When he met her gaze, she gave him a little half-smile, trying to encourage one in return. His only response was a forced shrug, making the weight of depression all the more visible.
“If you say so,” he mumbled, turning and walking away.
Claudia watched him go, heart twisting in her chest once again. Hurry up, Myka, she pleaded to herself, sending out a prayer to any higher power that was listening.
* * *
Myka sighed and set aside the paper she’d been looking over. She’d been reading the same paragraph for the past fifteen minutes and she couldn’t remember a single word of it. She was far too distracted to concentrate, even if her research was for the object of her distraction.
The agent leaned back against the headboard and let her thoughts drift to the raven-haired woman, imagining the sensual curve of her lips as she smiled, dark eyes alight. Myka wondered, and not for the first time, what it would be like to touch those lips with hers – to run her tongue along their soft fullness and savor the taste of Helena. In turn, she imagined what those lips would feel like on her own skin, along the column of her throat, against her breasts, around her nipples….
It took Myka a moment to realize that, in the haze of her fantasy, she had actually reached under her shirt and begun to gently tweak said nipples with her fingertips, coaxing them into stiff peaks. She was so startled that she actually stopped for a moment, and was even more surprised when doing so provoked a deep sense of loss, Helena’s image almost seeming to fade in her mind. The brunette took a deep breath, trying to make sense of her subconscious actions, even though she knew full well what they meant.
Well…since she had gotten this far….
Myka stood up just long enough to strip herself naked before crawling back between the bedcovers, squirming a little at the delicious feeling of the cool sheets on her bare skin. Wasting no time, she brought her hands back to her nipples, gently tugging and tweaking. She traced her fingertips along the curves of her breasts, closing her eyes and imagining that they were Helena’s lips on her skin. In her mind’s eye, Helena lay poised above her breasts, gazing up at her with dark eyes that fairly smoldered with lust. Her tongue darted out to graze Myka’s nipple, and the agent moaned as she tugged harder on the aching bud.
The Helena in her imagination slid slowly down Myka’s body, and Myka immediately spread her legs to accommodate her. The brunette sucked on her own index finger for a moment before bringing the wet digit between her folds and rubbing her fingertip against her clit. She whimpered as it became Helena’s tongue, prodding and teasing her before circling her entrance. With a gasping cry, Myka slid her finger deep into her core, Helena’s sweet lips and tongue caressing her silken walls.
The brunette brought her other hand down to pinch and twist at her clit, Helena’s pale fingers manipulating the slick bundle of nerves throbbing for attention. Myka was unable to control her moans and whimpers as she slid a second finger inside, buried to the knuckle. She curled her fingers when she was deepest, throwing her head back with a scream and bucking her hips from the bed as she brushed her sweet spot. Helena hummed against her folds as she flicked the tip of her tongue against the inner treasure she’d found, sending Myka dizzyingly higher. The agent thrashed beneath the covers as her mind’s Helena brought her closer and closer to the edge, relentlessly assaulting her with pleasurable touch. It was a twist of Myka’s fingers, of Helena’s tongue, that sent the brunette arching off the bed, crying out Helena’s name as her climax slammed through her. Her body shook as the dark-haired woman never ceased with her fingers and tongue, riding out the agent’s orgasm. Only when Myka lay limp on the bed did Helena slow to a stop and withdraw, but not before placing a sweet, gentle kiss on Myka’s sex.
And then Myka opened her eyes to find herself alone, her own hands between her legs, her imaginary Helena fading away.
Tears filled Myka’s eyes as she curled up into a ball, turning on her side and hugging her pillow. The beautiful image of Helena between her legs was just that – an image conjured in passion. The thought made the brunette’s eyes widen with realization. She had just…and to thoughts of….
Myka threw back the covers with a sob and stumbled from the bed, face burning with shame. She all but sprinted to the bathroom and turned on the shower as fast as she could, determined to wash away the evidence of what she had just done. What would Helena think if she knew? How disgusted would she be to know that the brunette got off to thoughts of her?
Myka sank to the floor of the shower and cried, letting the hot water mingle with her tears and wash them away along with every glorious moment of her release as she hid a longing she could not name.
* * *
When Helena turned on her lantern that night, she had trouble holding back a gasp. Despite the fact that she was in nothing but a plain terrycloth robe (or perhaps because of it), Myka looked so astonishingly beautiful kneeling on the bed next to the Scrabble board, hair cascading over her shoulders in shower-damp tendrils as she smiled at the other woman. Caught, Helena waited until Myka had looked away for a moment before actually shaking her head to get her mind back on track. “So, back to English?” she asked quickly, nodding at the board.
“Not quite,” Myka replied with a quirk of her lips. She spelled out “DICO” on the board. “Et tu, Helena?” she asked. The moment the words left her lips, her eyes widened as she clasped her hand over her mouth. “Helena, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…I meant…I didn’t…I don’t…” she stumbled, overcome by panic at the implication – the implication that she still blamed her. That Helena had turned on her. That Helena was the Brutus to her Caesar and had betrayed her. It was everything but what Myka meant, and she couldn’t even attribute it to a Freudian slip – she had forgiven Helena with her entire heart.
Myka bit her lip and was about to try and stutter out more of an explanation, but Helena held up her hand. “Myka, Myka, I understand. I do. I know what you meant.” When the brunette looked at her pleadingly for confirmation, she found no resentment or anger or sorrow in Helena’s eyes – only understanding.
“Damn you, Shakespeare,” Myka muttered, shaking her head. Helena chuckled at this before spelling out “IANUA.”
As Myka had predicted, Helena once again won by a landslide, leaving the agent grumbling. “How do you do that?” she asked as she cast a literally defeated look at the board. Helena shrugged, a smile of utter innocence on her face.
“Beginner’s luck, darling.”
Myka made a noise of disbelief. “Pfft. Yeah right,” she shot back, though with a playful smile. With an exaggerated sigh, she put the board away and settled under the covers. “So I guess you get to pick the story again,” she continued with mock aggravation.
“Mm hm,” Helena replied, her mischievous tone obvious even in just two syllables. “I wonder what sort of trouble Myka the Cat could get into in the Warehouse?”
The real Myka cringed. “Ooooohhhhhhh no. She’s a cat – she’ll get into more trouble than little Pete. She’ll get into more trouble than big Pete – than the two Petes combined!”
“Don’t be silly – if she’s anything like you, which she obviously is, she’ll be perfectly well-behaved.”
“If you insist.” Myka’s smile became one of genuine fondness, and wistful look crossed her face.
Helena’s own smile faded. “I’m sorry, darling, I didn’t mean to make you sad.”
“It’s all right, Helena,” Myka replied, her turn to be reassuring. “I miss them, yeah, but I don’t regret leaving. I’ll be going back,” she said firmly, looking Helena in the eye, “and you’ll be going with me.”
The silence that passed between them for a moment was aching with a tenderness neither would admit to and thus masked by a deep sense of caring. It wasn’t long before what was left unsaid overwhelmed what had been shared in words, and Myka cleared her throat to break its hold. “So, gonna tell me that story?”
Helena grinned as Myka settled under the covers, pretending to be deep in thought. “We return to the tale – and tail – ” (Myka giggled) “–of Myka the Cat, who had unwittingly come across an artifact of the most mysterious origins. It was with some trepidation that she eyed the scratching post that radiated the smell of catnip….”
Dico (DEE-ko), v: I speak (verb dicere, personal pronoun “I” suffix –o)
Ianua (YA-noo-a), n: door (how we get the word January: door to a new year)
Courtesy of 9th grade Latin
Chapter 7: So I Stayed in the Darkness with You
Title taken from the song "Cosmic Love," by Florence + the Machine.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Myka was half-listening to the radio as she looked over some of the computer files Claudia had sent her. She never ceased to be amazed by how ridiculously clever the techie was, and how astutely observant. She had picked up on things in the paper files that Myka wouldn’t have dreamed of finding and found connections so remote and yet, once examined, so apparent that it sent the agent’s mind reeling. She was looking over some of the Warehouse 11 reports Claudia had been telling her about when a familiar tune reached her ears.
“A falling star fell from your heart
And landed in my eyes,”
Myka gave a little half-smile, even though there was no one there to see it. She had a bit of a fondness for Florence, having been roped into it quite by accident. She had passed Claudia’s room while the girl was belting “Kiss With a Fist” at the top of her lungs and had originally been appalled by the lyrics, bursting in and demanding to know what the hell she was listening to. Barely a week later, Claudia passed Myka’s room to hear the brunette singing along and poked her head in to find her dancing as well. So of course she promptly joined in.
Myka shook her head as the memory made her smile, trying to go back to concentrating even as she tapped her foot to the music.
“I screamed aloud as it tore through them
And now it’s left me blind.
“The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out,
You left me in the dark.”
Myka paused in her research, frowning a little. Somehow, for some reason, the song was affecting her in a way it hadn’t before; but then, so much had changed in the space of a month that it shouldn’t have been surprising that she would see and hear some things in a new light. But this was different: even as she felt “left in the dark” when the world had crashed down around her at Yellowstone, the image of Helena her mind conjured was not the one of the distraught woman fighting an army of inner demons as she held a revolver to Myka’s head. Instead, even though she had never seen it before, her mind brought her the image of Helena in Bronze.
“No dawn, no day, I’m always in this twilight
In the shadow of your heart.”
The brunette bit her lip as the lyrics took on a whole new meaning for her. As cliché and teenage as it may have sounded, she felt like, in a way, she and Helena were trapped in a sort of twilight – an in-between, where one wrong move could mean the end of everything they had, already held together by the most tenuous of threads. The analogy, as overdramatic as it was, made her shiver.
“And in the dark I can hear your heartbeat,
I tried to find the sound.
But then it stopped and I was in the darkness,
So darkness I became.”
Myka didn’t know where the images were coming from; all she knew was that it seemed like Helena’s pain was suddenly being unraveled for her to see, to fully understand. She could see it, she could feel it, how Helena had tried to get Christina back; how when she couldn’t, she looked for meaning in revenge; and how, in the end, the darkness was too much, and so darkness she became, wrapped in Bronze.
“The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out,
You left me in the dark.
No dawn, no day, I’m always in this twilight
In the shadow of your heart.”
She was beginning to feel sick as realization and meaning and comprehension made her head spin. She began to wonder if this was a side effect of the lantern – if somehow prolonged contact with the person using its twin formed some mental connection between them that allowed them to sense each other’s innermost emotions; stranger things had happened. But something told Myka that it wasn’t, and that for some crazy reason or another, Florence’s lyrics had triggered something in her that she had been trying very hard to ignore, or at least suppress. But the clearer things became, the less control she had over her own mind. The multiple ironies were not lost on her.
“I took the stars from my eyes
And then I made a map.
And knew that somehow
I could find my way back.
“Then I heard your heart beating,
You were in the darkness too.
So I stayed in the darkness with you.”
Myka blindly hit the radio button, replacing Florence’s voice with a burst of static. It was all too close, too raw, too real, not just in its eerie parallel to Helena’s past, but in its parallel of how far Myka was willing to go to protect her now.
Exhaling slowly in an attempt to calm herself, Myka reached for the radio to tune to a new station. “ – Call my name and save me from the dark – ”
She tried again. “ – When you’ve only got a hundred years to live – ”
With a humorless laugh in acknowledgement of even more irony, she tried again. “ – I never made promises lightly, and there’ve been some that I’ve broken – ”
And again. “ – I’ll go wherever you will go… ”
With a growl of frustration, Myka turned off the radio with more force than necessary, grabbing the nearby remote and flicking on the TV to see if she had any better luck.
“How do you know when you’re in love?” Castle was asking Kate Beckett. “All the songs make sense,” the detective replied.
Myka immediately turned off the TV and threw the remote across the room. Refusing to acknowledge the message the cosmos seemed to be trying to send her, she decided she was perfectly fine with working in complete silence. Had Claudia been there, she would have told her she was “the Italian Job version of fine: Freaked-out, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional.” Myka tried not to think about that either.
* * *
The darkness that surrounded her was suffocating – an actual weight crushing her body into immobility. The silence was beyond deafening, as corporeal as the force holding her in place. All she could feel was the steady, emotionless beating of her heart, ensuring her existence, but not her life.
Just as she was beginning to panic, unable to even scream, she realized that her heartbeat was not the only one she could feel. Another heart kept rhythm with hers. Another body pressed flush against hers. She registered sensation along her skin and realized that she was embracing the other, and the other, her. It was only after this realization that she recognized the gentleness of a soft mouth on hers, and she knew who it was, even though she had never kissed the other before, never tasted the sweetness of her lips.
Myka and Helena stood frozen in an eternal embrace of Bronze.
Myka woke with a gasp: the remnants of the scream that had caught in her throat. She had thought that sitting bolt upright after a nightmare was an over-exaggerated myth, except that she had just done so, drenched in a cold sweat. Hyperventilating, scrambling for air as her heart stuttered against her ribcage, Myka desperately willed herself to calm down, trying all the tricks she knew for dispelling nightmares. Every effort was in vain.
Shivering, suddenly feeling very alone, Myka reached for her nightstand.
* * *
Helena woke to a soft glow and the distinct feeling that something was wrong. Propping herself up on her elbow and looking over at her bedside table, she saw that, though her lantern was off, it still burned with golden light. Surmising that it was the lantern’s signal that its twin was activated (though she had never seen it do this before when Myka was already waiting by her lantern), Helena frowned, glancing at the clock. It was 2:38 am; why was Myka trying to contact her at this hour? She was instantly overwhelmed with dread, and she all but dove for her lamp. Myka’s face appeared, fraught with anxiety, but the moment she saw Helena, she began to calm.
“Helena,” the curly-haired woman breathed, sounding as if a mountain of terror had just dissolved and been released in that one exhale. This did not do anything to calm Helena’s own worry.
“Myka, darling, what’s wrong? Are you all right?” Helena asked, wrought with worry bordering on distress.
I am now, Myka thought, but kept that to herself. “I’m fine, I just…had a nightmare…” she replied, forcing herself to calm down. Now that she was thinking clearly, she winced at the late/early hour. “Sorry to have bothered you,” she mumbled, reaching for her lamp.
“No, wait!” Helena said, and Myka paused, trying to hide the glimmer of hope in her eyes as she met the dark-haired woman’s gaze. “Myka, you can talk to me whenever you need me, at any hour.” She gave her a gentle, if wistful, smile. “I only wish I could be there for you more.”
It was Myka’s turn to smile, fighting tears. “Just being able to see your face and hear your voice is plenty for me…for now,” she added with a wink.
Helena desperately tried to pretend that she was imagining the double meaning, and that Myka was only alluding to when she would (somehow) be freed. Shoving her inward desires aside, she brushed her fingertips against the lantern globe, reaching out to her as best she could. “Do you want to talk about it?”
Myka bit her lip, shaking her head. “No…I just want to talk to you.”
“What about, darling?”
Oh, call me that again, Myka’s heart screamed, but she tried to ignore it, shrugging instead. After a moment, she replied, “I’m going to grandma’s and I’m bringing an apparatus.” When Helena slowly arched an eyebrow, Myka smiled sheepishly and explained, “It’s another word game. Each person says what’s already on the list, then adds one of their own in alphabetical order.”
There was a long, long pause, and just when Myka thought Helena was going to shake her head and call her a fool, the dark-haired woman said with a completely straight face, “I’m going to grandma’s and I’m bringing an apparatus and beryllium.” Her lips curved into a smile. “In my time we called this game ‘I love my love with’.”
Myka grinned in response, and Helena thought she’d play the alphabet game forever if it meant seeing the brunette smile like that. “I’m going to grandma’s and I’m bringing an apparatus, beryllium, and…Charles Dickens,” the agent continued.
Helena chuckled. “I do hope you mean one of his books, because I can’t exactly see him fitting in your suitcase.”
Myka shrugged. “I played a game once where we brought a bridge, a garage, and Zeus, so anything’s possible.”
This time Helena did shake her head, but with an affectionate grin. “I’m going to grandma’s and I’m bringing an apparatus, beryllium, Charles Dickens, and a dactyl.”
Myka wrinkled her nose. “Is that bringable?”
Helena smirked. “It is now.”
They played through once, then, still awake, they followed their Scrabble pattern by starting a new game in French. They were in the middle of their Latin round when the realization hidden within the nearly-forgotten song hit Myka full-force.
I stayed in the darkness with you.
And Myka knew with perfect clarity that she would. If Helena’s fate was darkness once again, Myka would go with her. No matter what, Helena would never be alone again, and somehow, the thought made Myka feel…complete.
“Cosmic Love,” Florence + the Machine
“Bring Me to Life,” Evanescence
“A Hundred Years to Live,” Five for Fighting
“Fields of Gold,” Sting/Eva Cassidy/Celtic Woman
“Wherever You Will Go,” The Calling
Castle, 3x04, “Punked”
“I’m Going to Grandma’s”/"I Love My Love With" (much thanks to elizabethlives for her random Victorian knowledge):
Apparatus, n: 1, the equipment needed for a particular activity or purpose. 2, the complex structure of an organization.
Beryllium (ber-ILL-ee-um), n: a hard, grey, lightweight metallic element. (“Be,” atomic number 4)
Dactyl (DAK-till), n: Poetry – a metrical foot consisting of one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables.
Courtesy of the Oxford English Dictionary
And, in case you were wondering: apparatus; beryllium; Charles Dickens; dactyl; epilogue; ferret; genealogy; helices; ignominy; Jolly Roger; kilt; labyrinth; mincemeat; ninepins; oration; parody; quid; runnel; Scot; treble clef; uplands; valet; waistcoat; xylem; yesteryear; zabaglione.
Chapter 8: Heart of Bronze
“Hey, Mykes, how’s it going?” Claudia asked, taking a bite out of her sandwich.
“Good, actually,” Myka replied, her voice cheerful, though she lacked a smile. “I’ve gotten a little further in my research, so I’m beginning to get an idea of what I’m up against.”
“Good,” the techie said, her voice a sigh of relief. “So, heading east?”
Myka blinked in surprise before a slow scowl crept across her face. “How did you know?” she growled.
Claudia nodded at her computer to indicate the scenery behind the agent. “It’s evening out your window, but it’s still afternoon over here. Therefore you must be an hour or two ahead, and thus going east,” she concluded with faux sophistication.
Myka gave her a long look, then sighed, shaking her head. “I dunno why I keep forgetting that you’re too smart for your own good,” she grumbled.
“Chillax, Mykes, I’ve no intention of blowing your cover. And even if I did, I couldn’t without blowing my own.” She wrinkled her nose. “Holy crap, that sentence ended in my head with ‘blowing myself.’ What the hell…?” she mused, provoking a snort of laughter from Myka.
“I don’t wanna know where your mind lives,” she decided, shaking her head again. She seemed to find herself doing a lot of that when she was talking with Claudia.
“In the gutter, same as everyone else’s my age,” the hacker replied without hesitation.
Myka allowed herself another chuckle before getting down to business. “So, found anything new?”
“No, I was hopin’ you had,” Claudia fished, taking another bite of her early dinner.
Myka smirked. “Nice try, Claud; you know I can’t tell you anything. And you said yourself that you can’t blow my cover.”
It was Claudia’s turn to scowl. “You really can’t tell me anything?” she whined. “It’s not like I don’t already know what you’re doing and what you’re after….”
The agent shook her head. “Sorry, Claud. It’s already risky enough for me; I don’t want to put you in any more danger than you’re putting yourself in just by keeping in touch. All I can tell you is that I’m…expecting another call. From a friend.”
Claudia grinned in amused understanding. “You should see the look on your face,” she said, hoping Myka didn’t notice her taking a discreet screenshot.
Myka rolled her eyes, but Claudia caught the slight flush that came to her cheeks. “See you later, Claudia,” the agent said, firmly redirecting and ending the conversation. “And thank you again…for everything.” She smiled softly, and Claudia matched her expression in return.
Claudia waited until Myka had hung up before letting out the sigh she’d been holding. She wondered for the umpty-ninth time how and why the hell she had gotten herself into this. But then she pulled up the screenshot she had taken and looked at Myka’s expression again. The agent’s smile was bright and relaxed, eyes momentarily free of everything that had been plaguing her – free of twice the weight Atlas ever carried on his shoulders.
“Don’t you dare break her heart, HG,” she murmured to the empty duplicate B&B before diving back into her research, finally having gone past scratching the surface.
* * *
“How do you do that?” Myka grumbled, glowering at an innocently smiling Helena. The dark-haired woman had not only spelled out “REASON” on the board, but attached it to one of Myka’s earlier-played words to make “REASONABLY” on a double-word score.
“Beginner’s luck, darling,” Helena said (again) with a negligent wave of her hand.
“It would be, except you don’t really qualify as a beginner anymore,” the agent remarked, prompting a grin from Helena.
“Yes, well, there is that.”
Having lost spectacularly, Myka settled under the covers of her hotel bed and asked, “So, what’s tonight’s story?”
Helena smiled mysteriously, picking up a book from her bedside table and opening it to the title page. “The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells.” She looked up to see that Myka’s puzzled frown had turned into a brilliant smile as she leaned closer to her lantern in eager anticipation. “‘One. The Time Traveler (for so it will be convenient to speak of him)’” Helena began, “‘was expounding a recondite matter to us.’…”
* * *
Helena was pacing when Mrs. Frederic opened the door to her cell. She stopped when the Caretaker entered, biting her lip as she met her gaze.
“How can I help you, Ms. Wells?” Mrs. Frederic asked, arching an eyebrow at Helena’s demeanor.
“I….” Helena wrung her hands, taking and releasing a deep breath. “I was wondering if I might be allowed a typewriter, or at least a pen and paper? I’d…there’s something I’d like to…I need to write.” Helena had finished reading The Time Machine to Myka the night before, and the smile on Myka’s face and the sound of her applause when the dark-haired woman closed the book were the catalyst to an idea that had been lurking in the back of Helena’s mind. Now Helena’s thoughts were racing, overflowing, tangling into an entire novel spinning through her head, pleading to be put to paper. If Helena thought she could, she’d have scratched the whole thing out on the walls of her room, she was so eager to write. Still, she knew it would be better – and less insane-looking – to wait until she could speak to Mrs. Frederic.
“I see.” The Caretaker gave Helena a long, calculating look, making the usually unflinching woman shift from foot to foot. Finally, she asked, “Did Claudia teach you how to use a computer?”
Helena nodded after a moment, but she didn’t allow herself any hope; the Caretaker’s question didn’t mean that her request was being considered. “She taught me the basics, yes, but, I much prefer a typewriter. It’s what I’m used to, and it feels…right…to me.” She shrugged, hoping she hadn’t just ruined her chances.
After another one of her long, intimidating pauses, Mrs. Frederic nodded. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Helena nodded in return. “Thank you.”
It turned out that Helena did not have long to wait; barely two hours later, a typewriter sat on her desk next to a large sheaf of paper. She was a little suspicious about how accommodating the Regents were being – what with the lantern, the copy of her book, and now this – but she wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Instead, she faced the typewriter and a far more daunting task than she had originally thought.
This book would be the turning point – for everything. The moment she put her fingers to the keys, she would be pouring her soul into paper for Myka to hear, and what she could reveal…what she was about to reveal….
Helena took a deep, resolute breath, closing her eyes to center herself. It all needed to be written. Myka needed to hear it.
Once she had found a state of calm, she fed the first page into the typewriter and created the title page. Then she fed in the second, and her fingers began to dance so rapidly across the keys that they almost sounded like machinegun fire punctuated with the occasional “ding” that came with resetting the platen. It had to be done, and Myka had to have it…just in case the worst happened.
* * *
Myka was grinning when she turned the lantern on, Scrabble board ready. Truthfully, she was almost contemplating purposely losing or forgoing the game entirely for whatever story Helena had planned. When she had read her The Time Machine, the dark-haired woman had paused every so often to make a comment on passages she was particularly proud of or aspects of her life and the people in it that had inspired certain characters and events. Myka found that these hardly felt like interruptions, though; Helena somehow kept it all within the flow of the story, her rich voice entrancing and soothing and captivating all at once. Myka was hoping that her next story was another one of her books – maybe The War of the Worlds, or The Food of the Gods.
But when the agent saw Helena’s face, her smile faded. The dark-haired woman was giving Myka a tentative look, fiddling with a large pile of paper in her hands. It took the brunette a moment to realize that it was a manuscript of some kind, not even bound. Before Myka could ask, Helena took a deep, shaky breath. “H-Heart of Bronze,” she read from the title page, “by Helena Wells.”
Myka understood the significance of Helena’s use of her real name; she immediately leaned closer to the lantern, scattering the Scrabble board and pieces with her knee without caring where everything landed. Helena gave her a grateful look before flipping the first page aside and beginning to read.
“‘Her heart had died when she lost her Christina; had turned to a withered black shell that slowly began to poison the rest of her. Life no longer had meaning, and yet she still fought for it – still fought to bring it back, to make things right. And then, when she couldn’t, she was lost. She could not decide between life and death – whether to leave and be with her Christina, or to try and overcome the shroud of grief draped heavily across her shoulders. She knew – she hoped – that her daughter – her kind, sweet, beautiful daughter – would want her to smile – would want her mother to still be her mother, even separated by the boundary of life and death.
“‘So the woman wrapped her heart in bronze, hoping that the passing of time would ebb her grief, as so many people said time did. But even encased in bronze, her heart continued to beat – continued to pump poison through her veins. For over a hundred years, the grief was left to grow beneath its shell, slowly blossoming into anger and hatred. She had gotten the revenge she sought, but a seeming eternity of silence with only her thoughts to keep her company had brought the pain back anew. When she was freed, when she heard his plan, she was so wrought with anguish that it sounded perfect to her. She would find the relief she sought, and she would take the world with her.
“‘She knew people would try and stand in her way, but she never expected her – the one with the soft brown curls and the piercing blue-green eyes. She never expected that a hundred years after it all began, somehow, there would be someone who could crack her bronze shell’…”
Hours passed; neither woman cared. Helena continued to read, and Myka continued to listen, literally clinging to every word. She listened as everything they’d been through together was seen through Helena’s eyes, felt as Helena had felt. More than once her breath caught in her throat as the dark-haired woman’s feelings for her were finally revealed.
“…‘All she could think of as she slowly began to freeze – oh, the irony, considering her master plan – was that she would never see Myka again – never see the way her eyes sparkled when she smiled’…”
“…‘The devastated look that had been on Myka’s face was slowly replaced with a relieved, joyous smile, and the sight of it made the woman’s heart flutter. Not only had the agent broken through her bronze shell, she had made her heart start beating again’…”
“…‘Her heart stopped, but she tried not to show it. Her entire body screamed in terror, but it only crossed her face as growing uncertainty. Pain she had not felt since Christina’s death roared to life with a vengeance as Myka held the gun in the woman’s hand to her own head, demanding that she shoot her. The woman finally screamed and dropped the gun, the horror of her actions overwhelming her. The woman knew she should have abandoned her plans long ago, but had convinced herself that what she desired even more than Christina’s life returned to her was something she could never have. She realized then, as she dropped the gun, as she dropped to the ground, that she could destroy the world, she could destroy herself, but she could never, ever harm Myka’...”
Myka bit her lip, but she couldn’t stop the tears from streaming down her face. She covered her mouth with her hand to stifle a sob, and she could see that Helena was having similar trouble keeping her composure.
“…‘Myka’s declaration made the woman’s heart hurt, but not the way it had before. This was not the pain of loss, of anger, of hatred; this was the pain of longing – the soft ache that somehow makes you smile nonetheless. She wanted to tell her, then, how she felt, and almost felt like she was deceiving her by not doing so. But she wanted more than anything to be free – to prove she was a good person, and to try and earn Myka’s affection. She was so afraid that if she told her then, she would scare the agent away, and the woman would be trapped forever. Her decision to say nothing haunted her that night, but she vowed that, if…when she got out, she would tell her – no matter what the price, no matter what the reaction’…”
Myka managed to hold back her gasp, but her heart still leapt, understanding exactly what Helena was trying to say and wanting so much to say it back. But there was more to the story, so Myka kept silent as Helena’s words slowly brought her closer to the present.
“…‘Myka applauded as the woman closed the book and bowed a little in response. “I feel honored to have had it read to me by the author herself,” Myka said, only half-teasing. The woman felt herself blushing, though she was not entirely sure why. “Tomorrow I’ll have to find a really special one for you,” she replied. Myka chuckled. “With you reading it to me, I know I’ll like it.” The woman blushed further, the agent’s words warming her – making her feel cared for, almost needed.’”
I do need you, Helena, Myka thought.
“‘It was after they had said their goodnights that the woman knew. She admitted then, to herself how much she’…” Helena took a deep breath, “… ‘how much she loved her. She had been convinced that she would never find love again – that Christina would be the only person in her heart. But she had found in this new, strange time that there was room for another – someone she loved just as deeply. She knew it was foolish to think anything would come of it, she knew it was improbable, but she hoped that maybe, just maybe, this incredible, beautiful angel could love her back.’”
Helena let out a long sigh as she flipped over the last page, as if she’d been holding her breath even as she read. Keeping her gaze averted from Myka’s, she reached over to turn off the lamp.
“Wait!” Myka choked, reaching for the globe of her own lantern and pressing her fingertips against the glass. Helena stayed her hand, and when she finally did meet Myka’s gaze, it was with fearful hesitance as she braced herself for the agent’s reaction. “I do,” Myka gasped. “I do, Helena, I do love you, so very much,” Every word she’d been holding back for what felt like an eternity left her in a rush. “I knew when I saw you walk into the office after I’d been so afraid you’d been Bronzed again. I saw that you were ok, and you were smiling and I knew then that I loved you. I love you more than anything, Helena.” Her tears flowed with her words, but she could have cared less; Helena needed to hear the words as much as Myka needed to say them.
Helena sobbed once and pressed her fingers against her own lamp to meet Myka’s, both imagining they could feel the other’s touch across the miles. “I love you too,” Helena replied, her voice strong even as her tears made her tremble. “Oh God, Myka, I love you too.”
Neither of them knew how long they sat there, crying, each wishing they could hold the other. Instead they whispered words of love over and over, as if making up for every other time they should have said them before. Eventually they calmed, both having cried themselves to exhaustion and nearly through morning for both of them.
“You should sleep, darling,” Helena murmured, still stroking the glass of the lantern. She was thankful that it didn’t give off actual heat, but even if it did, she would have let her fingerprints burn off before she broke what little contact she had with Myka.
“I don’t wanna leave you,” Myka mumbled back. Her eyes would have filled with tears, if she’d had any left.
“I’ll always be there,” Helena said with a tender smile. Myka couldn’t help but smile back. “Sleep, darling. Know that I love you so much.”
“I dream of you,” Myka blurted as Helena was about to turn off her lamp. “I touch myself and dream of you.” She had no idea what possessed her to say it, and she could feel herself blushing. Helena paused, and when Myka saw the smoldering look she gave her, all embarrassment fled.
“Oh, Myka…” she whispered, voice husky. “Oh, how I have dreamed of you.”
The brunette’s eyes sparkled, her shyness giving way to daring. The grin she gave Helena was positively lecherous. “Well then…I’ll be sure to have very good dreams tonight.”
Myka’s words ignited the desire in the dark-haired woman’s veins as it pooled between her legs, and the flush on her face was far from one of embarrassment this time. “As mine will certainly be.” On impulse, she pressed her lips against the lantern, and her heart sang when Myka did the same. “Goodnight, Myka. I love you.”
“I love you too, Helena. Goodnight.”
And oh, did they dream, each crying out the other’s name without restraint as they sent themselves soaring.
Chapter 9: Messages of a Subliminal Nature
Claudia stared at the picture she’d printed, then the words she’d penned beneath it. She repeated the process, back and forth, until she finally let out a long sigh. Countering it with a deep breath of resolve, she folded the picture in thirds and stuck it in the envelope she’d brought with her to the alternate B&B, sealing it before she could change her mind. With a slightly shaky hand, she wrote on the front, HG Wells.
“Now, how to send it…” she mused aloud.
“I can deliver it for you, Ms. Donovan,” said a familiar voice behind her. Claudia didn’t even flinch.
“Why am I not surprised anymore?” she asked dryly, glad Mrs. Frederic couldn’t see her roll her eyes (though for all she knew the woman could sense it) as she handed the Caretaker the envelope. “Thank you.”
“You’re quite welcome, Ms. Donovan.”
Claudia silently counted to five before turning around; she was the only one in the duplicate B&B, as she knew she would be. She sighed again before opening her laptop and going back to her research. “When all this is over, I could write a frakkin’ dissertation on this thing,” she muttered. “And depending how things turn out, I just might.”
* * *
Helena was expecting a letter from Myka, but not from Claudia, and the presence of such made her curious but wary. Despite her role in assisting Myka with whatever mission she was on, Helena knew that Claudia’s help was for the agent’s sake and wasn’t entirely sure what the girl thought of her at the moment. Not having a clue as to what she might find, Helena opened the envelope and unfolded the paper inside.
The dark-haired woman’s breath caught in her throat as a wide smile grew on her face. It was a picture of Myka – taken when she wasn’t aware, based on her expression. The agent’s lips were quirked in a wistful but joyous smile, her eyes sparkling with memories and hope. In that single, still moment, she looked content – like everything was as it should be. Helena would have wondered what was on the woman’s mind when the picture was taken, but Claudia’s handwriting beneath left no doubt.
HG – If you hurt her, I’ll kill you. – Claudia
Helena gave a fond sigh of thankfulness, letting herself be hypnotized into bliss by Myka’s image. She had no idea how long she sat there gazing at her (nor did she care) before placing the picture on her desk, propping it up against the wall so it would be the first thing she’d see when she opened her eyes every morning. She made a mental note to write Claudia a return letter and ask Mrs. Frederic permission to send it.
Beneath the envelope that contained Claudia’s letter lay the one Helena had been expecting from Myka, and it was all she could do not to tear it open for fear of damaging the contents. With patience she didn’t feel, Helena took great care in unsealing the envelope before eagerly snatching and unfolding the papers inside.
Truthfully, Helena barely read Myka’s letter at all. In fact, she was almost sure she wasn’t meant to, and that the words written on the page were trite filler: nothing more than a façade. All that mattered were the words whispered in Helena’s mind through the power of Wellcome’s Pen.
I love you, Helena Wells.
Smiling, eyes tear-filled, Helena kissed the letter, planning to put it under her pillow and listen to it over and over again. She would have, if not for the second page’s whisper catching her attention.
Frowning slightly and carefully stowing the page worth more than gold in the front pocket of her jumpsuit, Helena examined the second part of Myka’s letter. The agent’s elegant handwriting only took up a single line with, PS: Talk to you soon. The otherwise blank page bespoke more, however – literally.
Take this page to the shower with you, Helena; you’ll want to follow my instructions in private.
Helena folded the letter back up, excitement fluttering in her heart and lower. The last time she had taken a good long shower was after she and Myka had admitted their dreams to one another, that wonderful night when they finally expressed their love. Tired as she’d been, Helena had stumbled into the bathroom and indulged in fantasies she no longer felt guilty about having, gasping Myka’s name in release without shame. Now it seemed that Myka was actually prompting her to do so, and Helena had no intention of disobeying.
It took all her self-control not to sprint to the shower for fear of making the Regents suspicious, but once the bathroom door had closed, Helena eagerly unfolded the letter to hear Myka’s next instructions.
Turn on the shower just hot enough to feel like my mouth is on your skin, all over you. Her voice quivered, and Helena could almost hear the woman’s blush. Smirking to herself, Helena turned on the hot water as commanded, undressed as quickly as possible, and stepped beneath the spray, sighing as she imagined the droplets as Myka’s kisses raining down on her skin. Keeping her head dry as she lay down on the tile floor, she propped the letter up beside her and lost herself in Myka’s voice.
Close your eyes for me, Helena. Close your eyes and…p-pinch your nipples. It’s me, Helena, me touching you.
Now Helena knew Myka had to have been blushing, nervous about being so open and forward. But her words made Helena’s blood heat in her veins, and she gasped in arousal as she obeyed.
Pinch your nipples, roll them between your fingertips – I’m holding your breasts, gently kneading them as I take the stiff buds in my mouth, between my teeth.
Indeed, Helena’s nipples were so stiff they ached, and her sigh was one of relief as she tugged them and pinched them, cradling her tender breasts in her hands. Myka’s voice seemed to gain confidence as she continued, the woman most likely having become aroused herself as she penned out the contents of her heart.
Lie back, Helena – spread yourself for me. I’m kissing you all over, and the fingers sliding into you are mine.
The way she said “mine” was so lustfully possessive that it made Helena shiver with desire as she entered herself with Myka’s hand. She closed her eyes and nearly cried as Myka’s voice stroked her as surely as her fingers did, caressing her ever-higher.
I’m as deep as I can go, Helena, feeling you clench around me, so soft and warm. Thumb your clit, baby – love it hard and feel my tongue against you. God, I can’t wait to taste you for real.
Helena’s heart, already beating wildly, leapt and stumbled at Myka’s endearment, and the dark-haired woman gasped a sob as the pressure on her clit sent a bolt of pleasure ricocheting through her body. Her muscles were taut and trembling as her touch – as Myka’s voice – pushed her closer to the edge.
I’m gliding in and out of you, Helena, pressing hard and deep with each thrust, curling my fingertips to find that sweet spot within you. Find it, Helena, and rub it with my fingers inside you.
Helena obeyed, reaching as deep as she could, nearly just… She bit her lip so hard she drew blood, and it still did little to muffle her cry as her fingertips found their goal. But they were Myka’s fingers, they were, caressing her very soul with their gentle adoration. Helena was tumbling towards her peak with wild abandon, giving herself to the woman whispering in her ear from miles away. She was so close, so close. She just needed one…last…
Come for me, Helena. Come for me knowing that I love you with everything I am.
That was all it took for Helena to fly, agonizing pleasure bursting from her core, rushing through her veins and crackling along her nerves until her entire body, taut and arching with ecstasy, was caught within its glorious embrace. All the while, Myka was there, around her, within her, consuming her, and she had never felt anything more beautiful.
Oh God, if this is what it was like with only her voice beside her… Helena quivered with aftershocks and the imaginings of what awaited when she and Myka finally met in love.
It was with great regret and nearly physical pain that Helena tore up the second page of Myka’s letter and forced it in pieces down the shower drain. Secret or not, the…message…was not something she could risk the Regents getting their hands on, whether they found a way to extract it from the pen’s ink or not. She did keep one piece, however, letting it whisper to her from under her pillow as she fell into a blissful sleep.
I love you with everything I am.
When Helena next turned on her lantern, Myka was lying in bed with a smirk on her face. “Did you get my letter?” she purred.
Helena offered her a rather smoldering look in return. “I did, darling.”
“It was…” Helena got a rather distant look on her face as she tried to find the perfect description.
“The great HG Wells at a loss for words,” Myka teased.
“On the contrary; I don’t think there are any words quite able to convey…” The dark-haired woman closed her eyes and stretched in her own bed, letting out an indecent moan. The sound combined with the look of remembered pleasure made Myka shiver with lust.
“Oh, Helena, the things you do to me…”
It was the Victorian’s turn to smirk. “I can only imagine.” She looked over Myka’s shoulder, noticing that the view out her window seemed almost familiar. “Darling, where exactly are you now?”
The agent bit her lip. “I suppose it’s all right to tell you. I am in the fabled City of Lights.”
“Ah, Paris,” Helena sighed. “In that case, I have a question for you.” When Myka raised an eyebrow, she continued, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?”
“Helena!” the brunette gasped, pretending to be scandalized.
Helena chuckled. “Not that I wouldn’t have already known the phrase, but Claudia introduced me to Moulin Rouge.”
“Remind me to thank her…or hit her.”
“But you haven’t answered my question, darling.” Helena leaned forward, a predatory look on her face. “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi? After that wonderful experience your letter provided, what kind of person would I be if I didn’t reciprocate?”
Myka chuckled. “Not even a game of French Scrabble or a bottle of wine?” she teased. Helena’s responding leer made her shiver.
“Oh, I think we’re well past that.” She leaned forward, resting her chin on her hands and piercing Myka with her gaze. “Now…voulez-vous…coucher…avec moi?”
Myka blushed, her breath catching in her throat as she felt the flames of desire flicker to life within her. Yearning for the inferno, Myka bit her lip and nodded, slipping under the covers of her bed. Blushing further at what she was about to do, Myka performed the sexiest hidden striptease she could muster.
She started by lifting her arms above her head, dragging her pajama shirt with her but not revealing any skin below her collarbone. She dangled the fabric in Helena’s view, pleased by the desire smoldering in the woman’s eyes, and dropped the shirt over the edge of the bed. Then, squirming beneath the covers and leaving no doubt in Helena’s mind what came next, Myka pulled her pants from beneath the covers – followed by a pair of white lace panties that made Helena’s heartbeat go into a frenzy – and dropped them on the floor as well. Myka was naked but for the furious blush on her face, but Helena’s next words erased all nervous embarrassment.
“Won’t you at least let me look?” she asked in a plaintive whimper.
Myka smirked. “You’ll get to look when you get to touch,” she teased, but her eyes shone with hope and a promise that her words would come true.
Helena’s responding smile was so filled with love that it nearly blinded Myka with its intensity. When the glorious haze in her vision cleared, the dark-haired woman’s smile had turned lustful as she voiced her ravenous desires at last.
“Oh, Myka. What I wouldn’t give to be kissing you right now, capturing your mouth with mine, searching you with my tongue…”
Myka took a shaky breath and closed her eyes, the bliss of her arousal and Helena’s words already evident on her face. She slid two fingers into her mouth to wet them, then trailed them across her lips, imagining it was Helena’s teasing touch.
It was Helena’s turn to breathe with a shudder. “I’d trail kisses down your neck, dipping my tongue in the hollow of your throat to taste your skin – I can’t wait, Myka. I won’t be able to get enough; I’ll suck hard at your neck until I mark you as mine.”
Both women understood the significance of her use of “mine” and the emotion with which she spoke, and it made Myka whimper as she ran her fingers down her neck before pinching the skin where her neck met her shoulder. Her whimper became a gasping moan as she twisted her fingers, feeling instead Helena’s lips and teeth claiming her as her own. Helena moaned herself when she saw the mark Myka had created. “Yes, darling…all mine…” she whispered, voice husky. A beatific smile crossed the brunette’s face, her pleasure far from imagined. “I’d kiss my way down your chest, down to your beautiful breasts. Oh, how often I would stare when you weren’t looking, Myka, imagining cupping them in my hands and sucking on your nipples. Cup your breasts, Myka. Pinch your nipples and feel me.”
Myka groaned as she trailed her hand down her chest, below the covers and out of Helena’s sight. A moment later, though, she returned her fingers to her mouth, and the way she sucked on them set the dark-haired woman’s arousal flaring. Then Myka slid her hand back beneath the covers and sighed as she cupped her breast, pinching her nipple between wet fingers, feeling Helena’s mouth tugging and sucking. She slid her other hand down to cup her neglected breast, and Helena bit her lip as she watched her love writhe beneath her own touch.
“If we had time, I’d touch you all over,” Helena murmured, heart aching. “I’d worship every inch of you with my hands and mouth and show you just how deeply I love you. But now, now I’d slide my hands lower – kiss my way down your sweet body until I reached the heat between your legs.”
Myka keened as the adoration of Helena’s words swept over her, and she slid her hands down her body to rest against her dripping core. “So wet,” she gasped. “Helena, so wet for you.” Once, long ago, she never would have done something like this, but this was Helena, and she loved her, and she was far too aroused to feel any shame.
Helena shivered. “Show me,” she demanded, pleaded. “Show me how much.”
Myka didn’t think she could get any more drenched, but Helena’s words sent another flood from within, trickling down her thighs. The brunette dipped her fingers between her folds, gathering the copious fluids and showing the slick digits to Helena. The dark-haired woman quivered, and the raw desire in her eyes emboldened Myka. Her own eyes sparkling, the agent sucked her fingers clean, wondering with a new surge of arousal what Helena would taste like on her tongue. The display made the dark-haired woman give a shuddering moan, and the sound sent Myka spiraling higher.
Helena had to fight to find her voice again. “I can’t bear it anymore, Myka,” she gasped. “I cannot keep up this seduction; I need to see you come – slide your fingers deep within yourself and love your clit and come, and imagine that it’s me. God, Myka, I want to make you come undone - I want to hold you in my arms as you come undone.”
Myka cried out with longing as she reached back beneath the sheets, driving two fingers deep within herself as she rubbed and pressed furious circles against her clit. Helena was left breathless as she watched the brunette thrash in pleasure, her skin flushed as she tossed her head back and forth, eyes clenched shut in her ascent to climax. The outline of her hips bucking beneath the covers had Helena mesmerized, and Myka’s chanting of her name set the rhythm of her heartbeat, overflowing with devotion. “Yes, darling, that’s it,” Helena found herself whispering. “I’m with you, deep inside you, I’ve got you, Myka, I love you. I love you so much, darling.”
Her presence – her voice – her love – sent Myka flying over the edge. Helena’s name left her lips in a yell as ecstasy burst from her center to surge along her nerves and pulse through her veins until she shook with the power of her release. Helena sighed, the anticipatory tension leaving her body in a release of its own. “Oh, Myka,” she murmured as the brunette fought to catch her breath. “My love, you have always been beautiful, but especially so when you come.”
Myka’s smile looked sent from heaven. She reached for the globe of the lantern with fingers coated in arousal, and Helena licked her lips, craving to taste. “Then we’ll have to make it a point to do this often, when both of us can feel it,” the brunette whispered, voice husky with echoes of pleasure in the afterglow.
Helena smiled, tears of happiness and longing combined filling her eyes as she nodded. “When both of us can feel it.”
* * *
Claudia was twice as surprised to receive Helena’s letter as Helena had been to receive hers. She was also rather bemused by how mundane the message was. HG’s words were very cordial, but she seemed to speak in excess, and her sentences were sloppy. The missive was typewritten, and some of the letters were doubled – typed one on top of the other, though not in alignment, making the letter even sloppier.
Rather miffed, Claudia was about to put the letter aside when she stopped and looked at it again. A genius such as HG Wells would not put her message in plain writing, and Wells knew that Claudia was enough of a genius to realize this and decipher the true message.
Grinning like a maniac, Claudia went over the letter again, noting which letters had been doubled and which words seemed out of place. Knowing that a letter-to-letter code would be easier to crack and figuring that HG knew this, too, Claudia applied several letter-to-number sequences she knew before one finally clicked. When she looked at what she’d uncovered, she couldn’t help but be awed: not only did the doubled letters indicate numbers, but the word order of the entire letter was part of the code as well.
Marveling at HG’s skill, Claudia went back through the message and came out with a series of numbers in sets of three. Not sure what to do with those yet, Claudia went back to the first number she had uncovered: 9780575095175. Something about the first few digit was familiar, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Maybe Myka would know…
Wait. Myka. Hours in the library with Myka. Hours in the library looking at books old and new. New books had ISBNs, and 90% of them started with 978.
Suspecting she already knew exactly what she would find, Claudia typed the number into the Warehouse database she probably shouldn’t have had on her laptop. The result made her smirk and remark with satisfied sarcasm, “Well, what do you know?” The ISBN was for an edition of The Time Machine – the modern edition the Warehouse just happened to have in the HG Wells section.
If there had ever been a speed record for sprinting from the alternative B&B to the HG Wells section and back, Claudia broke it twice over. Collapsing next to her laptop long enough to catch her breath, she looked at Helena’s letter again, now understanding the sets of three numbers: page, line, word. It was a tedious process, but it didn’t take Claudia long to get through them all. When she finally looked at the complete message – the real message – her breath caught in her throat.
I love her too much to hurt her. Thank you for everything.
Claudia stared at the words for a long time, their honesty provoking more contemplation than any code ever could.
The ISBN for The Time Machine is the one from my copy of the book.
Chapter 11: Caught
Something about HG’s letter had stirred up curiosity and suspicion in Claudia’s mind – not suspicion of Wells herself, but of the events of her past. A woman who loved as clearly and deeply as HG did couldn’t possibly be the monster everyone thought she was. By this point, Claudia was fairly sure she’d picked the Warehouse’s brain as much as it could be picked on the artifact subject, so she at long last concluded her “Help Myka” search and began her “Help Myka, Part Two” search: digging through HG’s secret history.
The files on Helena were much easier to hack, and soon Claudia had access to all the nitty-gritty details of the author’s years at the Warehouse – perhaps more than she wanted to know. She confirmed with sickening detail what Helena had meant by making Christina’s killer suffer, but the more she read about the events afterwards that led to her bronzing, the more she understood that Helena was a woman consumed by her grief, and though it did not condone her actions in any way, it softened Claudia’s previous judgment of her.
She was about to close the file when she noticed a detail on her search program that made her pause. The original file had been logged when the Warehouse first started its computer log, due to its age, but part of it had been changed some ten or fifteen years ago. Curiosity and suspicion ramping up a notch, Claudia tried to locate the paper file so she could have a look…only for the search to tell her that the original file had been destroyed.
“I call shenanigans,” she muttered, opening a top-secret program she’d written for purposes of the “Help Myka” project. In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, “of course, you do realize, this means war!”
With the press of a key, Claudia once again ordered her virtual troops into the bowels of the Warehouse brain (if that made any sense), scouring its depths for the original file. The phalanx met heavy resistance, but the bowmen managed to punch holes in the archive’s defenses with their unceasing attack. The Trojan warriors wormed their way through the cracks and opened the gates for the cavalry, who came charging in with a vengeance. The battle was swift and bloody, the Warehouse’s pike men being no match for Claudia’s determination as she ordered her generals to make a frontal assault while her trebuchets and ballistae bombarded the inner keep. The monarchy refused to surrender, but Claudia’s best spies had already infiltrated the treasury (“Checkmate!” she whooped with a first-pump. “Hah!”), and within ten minutes, the spoils of war appeared on the victorious hacker’s computer screen. What she saw made her jaw drop.
No… Oh no, oh no, oh no….
She needed to contact Myka. Now.
* * *
“Moulin Rouge?!” Myka demanded the instant Claudia’s face popped up on Skype.
It took the hacker a moment to figure out what Myka was talking about, but when she did, she cringed, shaking her head. “I’m not sure I wanna know how that conversation started. I’d love to hear how it ended, though,” she added, propping her chin on her hands and looking at her friend with eager interest.
Myka flushed as she deigned not to answer, which only prompted an evil cackle from Claudia. “Was there a reason you called me? Myka prompted, raising her voice over the girl’s laughter. Said laughter immediately faded, and when Claudia bit her lip and looked away, Myka couldn’t help but feel a growing dread. “Claud…?”
Claudia tapped a few keys on her computer, and Myka’s attention was drawn to the file that had just been transferred. “It’s HG’s – the original,” the hacker emphasized. “Read the last entry.”
Myka did, and Claudia looked on with sympathy as the information sank in. As the brunette’s eyes flicked back and forth across the screen, her expression went from curiosity to shock, then dismay, then unbearable sadness, and then something that made the young techie shiver. Myka’s gaze had become hard and cold, but her eyes held an inferno of roaring fury that Claudia hadn’t imagined her capable of. Igniting within that inferno until its own flames entwined with those of her rage came a bloodthirst, a craving for justice and vengeance, and the hacker suddenly pitied anyone and everyone who tried to stand in Myka’s way.
Claudia gave the fire more time to burn before asking in a quiet voice, “Are you going to tell her?”
Myka looked up at the girl, and her eyes softened. She bit her lip as she thought for a moment, then shook her head. “No,” she murmured, “but you can bet it’s coming up at the trial,” she added with a growl.
Claudia gave her a vigorous nod. “I’ll back you up all the way.”
The brunette gave her a grateful smile. “Thanks, Claud. That really means a lot to me.”
The techie was about to respond when she heard swift footsteps heading in her direction. “Shit! I gotta go – someone’s coming!”
“Love you, Claud. I really do,” Myka said in farewell.
Claudia beamed at her. “Love you, too,” she replied before cutting the connection and erasing all traces of their conversation.
She had just closed her laptop when Pete came through the hole in the alternate B&B wall. Claudia looked up, feigning surprise. “Hey, Pete, what’s…”
The expression on his face made her feel like she’d just done a polar bear plunge off the coast of Antarctica. Gone was the despondent-but-healing Pete she had sadly come to accept and in his place was a Pete she wouldn’t have believed possible if he hadn’t been towering over her. He stood tense and rigid in a way that could only be interpreted as menacing, especially considering the way he was clenching and unclenching his fists. His eyes burned, and the unrestrained fury on his face actually made Claudia afraid of her friend. This wasn’t the controlled, directed rage she’d seen in Myka but a wild force threatening to lash out in all directions.
“You were talking to her!” he accused, growling through clenched teeth.
“I told you weeks ago,” Claudia began, trying to remain calm as she packed away her computer. Shouldering her bag and standing, she continued, “I’m testing the – ”
“YOU WERE TALKING TO MYKA!!!” he roared, making Claudia flinch. Unable to deny anything now, she bit her lip, debating how much to tell him.
“I’m helping her with an assignment,” she admitted, treading carefully. “Mrs. Frederic ordered the project, and it’s top secret. I wasn’t allowed to tell you.”
Hurt flashed across Pete’s face before it went back to anger twice as strong as it had been, which Claudia didn’t think possible. “The hell you weren’t!” He grabbed her arm and began dragging her out of the B&B. “Let’s see what Artie has to say about this, shall we?” His voice was dripping with venom that could only come from envy and bitterness.
Claudia was so stunned that she gaped in disbelief for a moment before remembering to fight back. “Pete, let go! You’re hurting me!” He ignored her. If anything, he gripped her harder as he dragged her along.
Terrified by his violence, Claudia stopped struggling, letting herself be led through the Warehouse. This time she was biting her lip to hold back tears. That Pete didn’t care if he hurt her was far more painful than his grip could ever be.
Chapter 12: Cut Off
College + medical bs = delay. More thanks than I can ever sufficiently express to elizabethlives for accompanying me this far, but the rest of this journey must be made alone. Also, I swear that the ending of this chapter just wrote itself. I just sat at the keyboard and typed it.
Artie wasn’t bothered or even surprised by Pete’s announcement of Claudia’s continued contact with Myka, but when he heard that it was because Myka was on a mission from Mrs. Frederic, he leapt to his feet from his seat at the dining room table, and Leena had to catch his chair before it could hit the floor. No matter how much Claudia tried to explain, he just couldn’t seem to comprehend her involvement.
“Why would Mrs. Frederic pick you?!” he raged. “You’re just a kid! You’re not even an agent!”
“A ‘kid’ who happens to know the Warehouse computer system inside-out!” Claudia shot back, affronted.
“Only because McPherson helped you hack it,” Artie spat, his words uncharacteristically venomous.
Claudia flinched, stung. With equal vitriol, she snapped, “It wasn’t all with his help. And maybe the reason I know it is because while you sit on your ass eating cookies, I actually work on cataloguing the artifacts!”
Even as Leena was covering her mouth to hide a smirk, Artie was swelling up like a very red balloon. He was about to unleash what was sure to be a rather explosive tirade when –
The familiar, commanding tone caused him to immediately deflate, and he turned around with the expression of a schoolboy with his hand caught in the cookie jar – the one Claudia rightly accused him of being so fond of.
“Mrs. Frederic,” Claudia acknowledged, shocking the others with her use of the woman’s full name. Even the Caretaker raised an eyebrow before turning to Artie.
“Whether you like it or not, Claudia is acting under my orders, and I did indeed swear her to secrecy…a confidentiality Mr. Lattimer has now broken,” she added, giving Pete a pointed look. That he didn’t even had the decency to look ashamed caused the Caretaker’s other eyebrow to rise and Leena’s jaw to drop. Declining to comment on what could be considered an act of insubordination, however small, Mrs. Frederic turned to address Claudia.
“You have sent Agent Bering your final findings, have you not?” She inquired, and Claudia nodded. “Good. Keep those findings close and to yourself.”
“What was she researching?” Artie demanded, apparently forgetting whom he was talking to.
Mrs. Frederic turned to him, once again arching an eyebrow, but this time with slow imperiousness. “You do know the definition of the word ‘confidentiality’, do you not?” Put in his place, Artie sat down with a sheepish expression. “And everyone else understands this?” Leena gave her a vigorous nod, but Pete’s affirmation was reluctant. “Good. I’m glad this has been cleared up,” the Caretaker finished, her tone indicating that the discussion would go no further as she turned and left the dining room.
After a moment of indecision, Claudia went after her. “Mrs.–”
But when she turned the corner, the woman was – as usual – gone.
Pursing her lips in frustration, she turned to see Pete standing in the doorway. Frustration became unrestrained anger. “You’ve ruined everything, Pete!” she screamed, finally letting her tears fall. “EVERYTHING!” Her fury was such that she gave no thought to twisting the knife she’d just thrown. “I was helping Myka, and you were so selfish that you went and tattled like the jealous four-year-old you are! What, so if you can’t talk to her, nobody can? You’re such a fucking child, Pete! Myka is on the most important mission of her life! Everything that’s ever mattered to her is on the line, and if she fails, it will be because of YOU!!!”
The stricken look of realization and horror on Pete’s face gave her such cold satisfaction that it made her sick. Turning on her heel like a relay runner, Claudia sprinted across the hall and took the stairs two at a time.
Locking herself in her room, she opened her laptop and immediately began protecting her research. Claudia encrypted everything – her work on the mystery artifact, the differing copies of HG’s file, and the author’s coded message – before containing it within lock after lock and password after randomly changing password. Finally, and with some regret, she rigged it all so that one mistake in any step would cause everything to self-destruct, reasoning that since Myka had a copy it wouldn’t be completely lost.
After eradicating every single trace of her electronic research and what few indications remained of her communications with Myka, she sent a final text to the woman’s burner phone.
Pete found me out. Mrs F covered. cant talk again. ur on ur own. good luck. luv u.
After sending the message and wiping the number from her phone’s memory, Claudia curled up on her bed and sobbed herself to exhaustion.
* * *
“My goodness, Myka, where on Earth are you?”
Myka looked behind her at the crumbling wall of her hotel room and the tattered curtains making feeble movements in the hot wind. “I’m…east,” Myka said, turning back to Helena and trying not to grin.
“Uh-huh…” Helena drew out. She was trying to look over Myka’s shoulder at the newspaper on her bed: it was obviously in a different language, as it was written with a different alphabet. It looked familiar to her, but she couldn’t quite place it before Myka knocked the paper out of sight.
The dark-haired woman chuckled. “You can’t blame me for trying, darling.” She arched an eyebrow. “I know you’re good with languages, but I can’t imagine that you speak all of them…”
Myka flushed, twirling one of her curls around her finger. “I’ve been using Frederick Saussure’s comb – not too much,” she assured her. “Just enough that I can get around.”
Helena tilted her head as she gave the brunette a scrutinizing frown. “I don’t know, I think you may be using it a bit too much…” She ran her finger over her own upper lip as if indicating the presence of something foreign. Myka clapped her hands over her mouth, eyes wide, and she leapt from the bed to check the bathroom mirror. There was a pause, then –
“Helenaaaaaaaa!” Myka whined, and the dark-haired woman burst out laughing, nearly collapsing on her own bed. She was still laughing when the brunette reappeared, her nose wrinkled in the resigned scowl of one who’d just been had.
“Oh, you are just too gullible, darling,” Helena grinned.
“And you are far too pleased with yourself, Ms. Wells,” Myka remarked, pursing her lips. The author pinched her fingers together in a “little bit” gesture, and it was the agent’s turn to chuckle.
“It’s safe to guess though, darling, that you’re getting closer to your goal?” Helena prompted. But instead of the sly grin she’d been expecting, the brunette’s laughter faded into a look of solemn anguish. “Myka?”
“Helena, I…” Myka bit her lip and looked away for a moment. When her eyes met Helena’s again, they were shining with tears. The breath she took was shaky. “If…when I find what I’m looking for…I won’t be able to contact you again – even with the lantern, it’ll be too dangerous. I…” She tried to take another steadying breath, but again, she shook. “This is the last time we’ll be able to talk before the trial.”
Helena felt her heart twist. Her nightly correspondences with Myka were what kept her sane. The knowledge that each evening brought the brunette’s smiling face was what kept Helena going through each monotonous, solitary day. To have that ripped away from her…
The dark-haired author put on the bravest face she could. She knew that, were she to show how much this disconnection would unravel her fragile happiness, Myka would immediately blame herself and take unnecessary risks to keep in contact. Steeling herself, Helena forced a reassuring smile. “Well, at least I have your letters to keep me company. I only wish you could have something similar of mine.”
Myka, realizing what Helena was doing and marveling at the woman’s strength, forced a smile of her own. “I’ll buy a copy of The Time Machine,” she decided, “and when I read it, I’ll remember how you read it to me.”
The smile Helena returned was one of genuine happiness, and the two women gazed into each other’s eyes for a few moments, each savoring the distant but tangible presence of the other. Then the dark-haired woman cleared her throat in an effort to fight back tears. “There’s still one thing we have left to do, darling.”
The look Myka gave her was both wary and intrigued. “And that would be?”
“You have to tell me a story.” Helena adjusted herself into a more comfortable position on her bed and rested her chin in her hands, every bit the attentive listener.
Myka chuckled, shaking her head. “What story should I tell?” she asked, trying to hide her nervousness. As well as the brunette knew and loved Helena, she was still the great author HG Wells.
Said author saw right through the brunette’s feigned nonchalance. “Anything, darling,” Helena coaxed, her voice gentle.
Myka took a deep breath, still unsure, but then Helena smiled at her, and the brunette knew. The woman she loved had trusted her with the most passionate, painful, soul-revealing story she had. Now Myka would do the same.
Though the nervousness had not left her completely, the brunette began with surety. “Once upon a time there was a girl named Myka. Myka’s parents loved books and owned their own bookstore, so Myka learned to read and love reading when she was very little. But her father always seemed disappointed in her for some reason, even though her mom assured Myka that he loved her just as much as he loved her younger sister, Tracy. So when her father was feeling especially disappointed or when Myka was feeling especially alone – or both – she lost herself in a book.”
Despite the sadness Helena felt for a young, lonely Myka, the author smiled at the image of the brunette wedged in a corner with a huge book propped in her lap, oversized reading glasses perched on her nose while she tried to keep her riot of curls from obscuring her vision.
“Myka read everything she could get her hands on,” the agent continued, “from Alice in Wonderland and Little Women to Shakespeare and Euripides. She sailed with pirates, journeyed through the center of the Earth, met Lilliputians, and travelled in time machines.” This she said with an eyebrow-raise and a sideways smile at Helena, whose own smile broadened in return. “She found that answers to so many of her questions and solutions to so many of her problems were hidden in the works of her favorite authors, woven into the words for her to find, comprehend, and learn from.”
And so Myka continued, telling Helena of her ascent through adolescence and college until she ultimately decided to join the Secret Service. And then came Sam and Denver and guilt.
“I still don’t know how I could justify sleeping with him…justify why I did. He promised me he’d leave her, but he didn’t want to hurt her, but we already were…. I don’t doubt that he loved me, but I think he still loved her a little bit, too. And then there was the mission, and he was too early, and I was too late…and then his wife didn’t find out about…until the funeral…” The brunette wasn’t even conscious of the tears running down her face, tears she thought she’d long since spent.
“His death wasn’t your fault, Myka,” Helena soothed, her voice soft. “You couldn’t have predicted what happened. You know as well as I how easily the people we love can be taken from us.”
Myka reached from the bed and put her fingertips against the globe of the lamp. Helena met and mirrored them with her own as the two women shared each other’s sorrows. After a few moments of silence and a shared gaze, the brunette continued her story: about meeting Pete and teaming up with him on what was supposed to be a typical assignment but turned out quite differently. “And that,” Myka said with a wry grin, “was how I ended up at the Warehouse.”
Myka spent the next hour or so regaling Helena with tales of her and Pete’s exploits – some exciting, some terrifying, some hilarious, some all of the above, and all of them Warehouse-class strange. Helena found herself laughing and crying and on the edge of her seat all at once. She held her breath all through Myka’s account of her adventure with Lewis Carroll’s mirror and ached for her when she was once again faced with the guilt of Sam’s death. She couldn’t help but laugh at the misadventure within the Warehouse when it nearly broke down – like Artie, she admitted to having the same experience with a few fellow agents – and lauded Claudia’s ingenuity at using the alternate B&B as headquarters from which she could talk to Myka. When the agent told the story of Edgar Allan Poe’s journal and pen, Helena couldn’t help but feel proud of Myka and how she had reconciled with her father, and told her as much.
The story of Artie’s near-death and how McPherson had actually saved him by slipping the Phoenix Talisman into his pocket stunned Helena at first, but after a moment of thought, she came to a conclusion right as Myka asked the corresponding question. “Why save him? Why would McPherson save Artie if he hated him so much?”
“Two reasons, I think,” Helena replied. “One, because despite everything, Artie had still been a friend, once; and two…he wanted to make him suffer.” At Myka’s startled look, Helena elaborated, “McPherson never told me about Artie and the Phoenix Talisman, but based on his…” she choked, “…our plan, I can guess that he probably wanted Artie there to see his victory – for his once-good friend to feel ultimate failure before the world ended with the hope – however small – of starting anew. It was his revenge.” Helena gave a short laugh, though it was devoid of any humor. “How horribly ironic that…our vision of a better, kinder world was to be implemented with such an act of cruelty.
Wizard’s Second Rule, Myka thought, but said nothing, knowing Helena wouldn’t get the reference. Instead, she pressed her fingertips against the lantern globe again. “Helena…whether anyone else believes it or not right now, you weren’t yourself when you were following McPherson’s plan – not really. Your judgment was clouded by pain. You wrote it yourself: it was like a blessing. You would find the peace you sought and take the world with you. Your years in Bronze, your years suffering – it’s more than any one person can or should bear. You deserve another chance, Helena – a chance to heal, and I will make the Regents see that.”
Even if she wanted to, Helena couldn’t have stopped the tears rolling down her face. “Oh, my dearest Myka.” Even amidst painful memories and with an ocean between them, her smile was joyous. “If I deserve that chance, it’s because of you. You taught me how to love again.”
Myka’s own smile was blinding, and the two women once again fell into a shared gaze of love and longing, letting their emotions fill the silence speaking for them. Only when the waves of longing devotion had stilled did Myka take up the tale again, describing how she and the rest of the Warehouse team had tracked HG to England and learned that she was a woman.
Myka smiled despite the nature of the memory. “Even though you had Pete hostage, the first thing I thought when I saw you was that you were the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen,” she admitted, her face flushing.
Helena chuckled. “I was thinking much along the same lines, darling – or curves, as it were,” she amended with purr, giving Myka as much of a once-over as she could.
“Helena!” the brunette pretended to protest, placing a hand to her chest in a scandalized gesture. This only made Helena chuckle again.
The agent prudently skipped the story of being stuck to the ceiling (though she admitted that, despite her distress at being trapped, the fact that technology from HG’s books actually existed had secretly thrilled her) and of McPherson’s demise, instead continuing to when they met at the university.
“Really, dear, if you wanted to participate in autoerotic asphyxiation, all you had to do was ask,” Helena interrupted, her face the picture of innocence. Myka couldn’t even say the other woman’s name this time – only make a few strangled noises and bury her head in her hands as Helena laughed.
“Helena Wells, you are absolutely incorrigible,” she finally groaned.
“And you wouldn’t have it any other way,” Helena smirked.
“No, I wouldn’t,” Myka agreed. “You did sweep me off my feet, after all.” Both women smiled at the memory. Despite the danger of the moment, it had been the moment each had realized the nature of their feelings about each other, even if neither of them – not even Helena – was ready to admit it at the time. “And I really was coveting your grappler,” Myka admitted.
“I knew you were,” Helena chuckled. “Though what I found more interesting was your comment to the scientist later on – about me being an agent under you, doing whatever you say…”
Myka blushed, even as she smirked. “It was an unconscious slip at the time, but I regret nothing.” Both women laughed again, then sighed as they gazed at each other. “You told me that day to keep an open mind,” the brunette continued. “And I knew you were talking about returning to the Warehouse, but part of me…part of me heard it as keeping an open mind about you…and me.”
Helena’s smile was so loving that for a moment Myka felt she was there beside her, the raven-haired woman cradling her in a tender embrace. “Part of me meant it that way,” she murmured, and Myka’s smile was blinding.
* * *
The story, as all stories must, finally caught up with the two women speaking to each other across thousands of miles. “And so it was that Myka Bering found herself hopelessly in love with the great HG Wells, and was lucky and blessed enough to be loved back. And so it was…” Myka choked on her words, both in sorrow of the not-quite-ending tale and fear of the chapter that came next. “So it was that Myka was forced to take the final step of the journey alone – face the final test that determined success or defeat.”
There was a moment of thick silence before Helena murmured, “I believe that last part was incorrect, darling.” When Myka gave her a stunned look bordering on incredulous, Helena elaborated, “And so it was that Myka was forced to take the final step of the journey alone in body, but with Helena’s love as her constant and forever companion. Despite what she may think, even in times of deepest despair, Myka will never be alone.”
Helena was smiling as she pressed her fingertips to the globe of the lantern, even as tears filled her eyes. Myka, whose own tears were streaming down her cheeks, reached out to meet the semblance of Helena’s touch, the dark-haired woman’s smile encouraging a shaky one of her own. Without needing to speak, both women leaned towards the globes of their lanterns and pressed their lips against the glass, eyes open as they savored the kiss they could only wish for.
“I love you,” they spoke together, and the simultaneity brought smiles to their faces.
As when Helena shared the novel of her heart, the two had talked until it was dawn for Helena and dusk for Myka. Neither was ready to let go of the other, inevitable as it was.
“I’m coming back for you, Helena,” Myka promised, her voice fierce even as a murmur. “I will return to you and I will never leave your side.”
“I know, darling. I’ll be right here waiting for you.” Helena kissed the glass of the lantern once more. “I love you, Myka Bering. You’re never alone.”
Myka returned the kiss, both women’s hearts crying out for more. “I love you, too, Helena Wells. Keep me close to your heart, and you’ll never be alone, either.”
And then, as if overloaded by the hours of emotion sent across the distance, both lanterns went dark in bursts of sparks and smoke.
* * *
Helena gaped at the broken lantern, her heart having stopped the moment the light went out. “No…no…” She grabbed the artifact and shook it. “No, Myka, come back! Come back!”
Again and again she shook the lantern and tried the knob until she let it slip from her hands, defeated. Helena fell back on her bed and curled into a ball, shaking and sobbing and chanting Myka’s name over and over. A moment of cognizance made her reach under her pillow for the letters imbued with Myka’s voice and Helena clutched them to her even as she cried, clinging to the soft words of love reaching her in a jumbled murmur. But the sobs wrenching her heart drove her to exhaustion before Myka’s soothing whispers did.
* * *
The scream that left Myka’s throat was one of pain and anger and anguish and heartbreak all shredded and re-mangled into sound. She lifted the lantern and was about to throw it into the wall when she stopped – not because she cared about damaging an artifact, but because it was the only thing left that connected her to Helena, even if it no longer did.
Falling back on her own bed, Myka clutched the lantern to her chest and curled her body around it, rocking back and forth as she sobbed for the woman she loved. She was still clinging to the last vestige she had of Helena when her tears carried her into an exhausted sleep.
* * *
The creation of an artifact – especially a bifurcated artifact – is a rare thing indeed, but for an artifact to be remade is even rarer. Neither woman could have realized that Paul Revere’s lanterns, far from breaking, were being enhanced by the love that had been poured into each. Were either Myka or Helena to turn on their lanterns the next day, they would find that they indeed still lit. Were both of them to reach for each other against the glass, they would find that they could feel each other’s fingertips, skin against skin. But it was best that they didn’t, for their first kiss should not be across oceans, but rather in each other’s arms.
Myka was willing to admit that she was afraid. She would be a fool not to be. Each step into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher felt like it carried the weight of thousands, the burden of her quest pressing in on her even in the lofty cathedral. She mumbled apologies to the other tourists she had to push through (glad that their backpacks made hers less conspicuous) as she wound her way to judgment. She was not the first agent to set foot in the Holy Land, but she was the first who knew which way to go. She was the first who knew what must be done.
She was the first willing to sacrifice everything for the woman she loved.
And suddenly, there it was, encased in glass: the door that marked the final step of Myka’s journey.
The agent was thankfully alone by the sacred display, so no one was there to see her take Francois Villon’s Inkwell (that had been a trick to acquire) from her pack and pour it onto the glass. Quickly replacing the bottle, Myka reached through the portal it created and pressed her hand to the cool stone. Her fingertips tracing the deep gouge in the rock that held even deeper meaning, she whispered the words first spoken in pain and grief and despair, now in wonder and fear and hope.
The cathedral shifted and blurred around her, and in the time it took Myka to blink and take a dizzy stumble backwards, she found herself in the darkness of a stone cavern. Though there was no source of light that she could discern, she could see the space clearly: the rough walls around her, the sand beneath her boots, and the crudely-hewn archway before her. But beyond the arch was a blackness so dark as to be solid. Myka reached a tentative hand towards the door, and though her fingertips disappeared into the inky beyond, she felt no different, though neither did she feel the other side. Closing her eyes and filling her head with memories of Helena, Myka stepped forward.
* * *
Pain. Pain like nothing Myka had ever imagined, let alone experienced. Bone was breaking; skin was tearing; her entire body twisted and writhed as if trying both to pull apart and contract inward until everything was inside out. Myka barely registered that the screams she heard were her own; everything was a haze of red and black and agony.
Helena. She tried to summon the woman in her mind even as her bones became razors against her nerves. Helena, Helena, Helena. Black hair, pale skin, soft eyes, lips quirked in a warm but wry smile, that soothing voice saying her name…
* * *
Myka fell face-first into the sand, sprawling across the ground in a sweat-soaked heap. She gasped for air as she rolled onto her side, her body still twitching with echoes of unspeakable agony. For what felt like hours, she could only lie there in shock, choking out sobs as she tried to process what she had just endured.
Finally, she sat up and looked back at the black archway, its already sinister appearance barely hinting at the horror that lay within. Shuddering, Myka forced herself to her feet and turned from the source of her ordeal. What she saw made her take an involuntary step back. Three skeletons lay against the wall in front of her, each one twisted and arched in unnatural positions that could only come from agonizing death. The sight of what she could have been nearly made Myka turn back, but the thought was fleeting; nothing would stop her in her quest to save Helena. Not even the second black archway in her path.
Wiping the lingering sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand, Myka caught a glimpse of her watch and did a double-take. She had entered the cathedral on a Friday. Now the digital display told her it was Saturday. Unless the archway had somehow messed with her watch (or time itself), she had been in the blackness for a whole day.
Twenty-four hours of unceasing pain. No wonder the skeletons appeared as they did.
Undeterred but still fearful, Myka took a deep breath and released it with a shuddering exhale as she braced herself for whatever came next. Facing the second archway, Myka closed her eyes and whispered Helena’s name before stepping through.
* * *
She had prepared herself for pain, but this was infinitely worse.
It was the pain of having a father who never seemed to love her; the pain of being shunned and taunted and bullied; the pain of losing the people she loved, of watching people she cared about suffer, of everything that ever battered her weary heart until it shattered into a thousand pieces.
Myka knew this time that she was the one sobbing, pleading for forgiveness, crumbling under the weight of every emotion she had buried every day of her life. Her sorrow came in screams as she relived Yellowstone again and again and again, holding Helena’s revolver against her own head as she commanded the woman to shoot her, commanded her to end it all, and oh how Myka wanted it all to end…
Hands pressing together through the glass. Smiling and forgiveness, even through tears. Loving sobs over soul-baring stories, words of devotion and promises of reunion, whisper-guided ascents to ecstasy and crying out each other’s names as they yearned across the distance…
* * *
Myka landed face-first once again, but she didn’t hesitate to roll onto her side and hug her knees to her chest. Sobs wracked her body, harder even than when the lantern had cut her off from Helena. And just as she had then, Myka cried for her, wishing the woman was there to hold her and comfort her and guide her through this ordeal. The memory came unbidden through her tears:
“And so it was that Myka was forced to take the final step of the journey alone in body, but with Helena’s love as her constant and forever companion. Despite what she may think, even in times of deepest despair, Myka will never be alone.”
“Not alone…” Myka gasped, half-delirious. “Helena…not alone…”
Pushing herself to her knees, Myka looked at her watch. Sunday. Another twenty-four hours of excruciation. Lifting her head to take in her surroundings, her weariness was replaced with a surge of hope. Yes, there was a skeleton to her left, its curled position one of listless defeat, but to her right was the boulder she had fought so hard to reach.
Now she just had to get it out of the way.
* * *
Though she had brought both food and water with her, just in case, the water was the only thing Myka touched, needing to wash away the rawness left by her sobs and screams. Bottle drained and hope renewed, Myka pulled the book from her pack first. She had marked the pages she thought she would need, but she was ready to recite the entire second half of the tome if need be.
Placing her hand against the boulder she knew to be a door, Myka said the words again, hoping they might grant her entry once again.
Undeterred, Myka flipped through the book until she found the entire passage that contained the words, reading aloud in a sure, confident voice.
Myka refused to feel uncertainty, even as it crept along the edges of her mind, instead flipping to the next passage and speaking words of hope, her hand never leaving the stone.
Shoving her growing fear to the back of her mind, Myka flipped back to the first passage and spoke through the entire chapter, beginning with sorrow and ending with promise.
Were it any other book and were she in any other place, Myka would have tossed the tome aside in frustration. As it was, she merely pursed her lips and let out a long sigh. “Fine,” she muttered, opening her pack and replacing the book with care. The next item she produced was a crowbar. “We’ll do this the other way.”
Myka was under no illusion that she would be able to pry any other boulder this size from its place in the sand but, just as the book wasn’t any other book, this wasn’t any other boulder (which is why she whispered several apologies as she wedged one end of the crowbar into the crack). Planting her feet, Myka gripped the bar and pushed as hard as she could. Failing (unsurprisingly), she threw her entire weight into the bar, which also failed. Changing tactics, she moved to the other side of the bar and pulled instead, again using all of her weight to do so. This only succeeded in sending her flat on her ass in the sand after having lost her grip. Trying not to curse as she got to her feet, Myka tried again.
For hours, Myka worked at the crowbar, hoping against hope for even a millimeter of progress. Even when her strength began to flag and she was nearing exhaustion, thoughts of Helena gave her the energy she needed to continue, even as sweat and tears poured down her face. But just when Myka began to move, just when she thought that maybe, maybe this would work, the crowbar snapped.
For the third time in her ordeal, Myka crashed face-first to the ground. Not even bothering to get up fully, she propped herself on her elbows and stared at the pieces of the crowbar in shock and horror. Metal that strong didn’t just snap, not even under the pressure of a desperate agent. The boulder was keeping her out.
Stumbling to her feet, Myka threw the pieces across the cavern with a roar of frustration and rage and despair and everything she’d been trying to keep in for fear of desecrating this holy place. She threw herself against the boulder in a sobbing delirium, pounding the rock with her fists until they bled, screaming the words over and over again, this time for herself and her own pain and not that of another. Finally, her blows began to weaken, and her body slumped against the stone, and with one final, desperate kick at the boulder, she slid to the ground with her back to the impassable door, burying her head in her knees and letting her sobs come in full.
Only then, only in those wracking cries of anguish, did Myka truly think of giving up – of abandoning this quest that had been hopeless from the start and hoping that her words would be enough to set Helena free. Helena would understand; Myka was sure of it. She would understand how impossible this quest was, and how there was never any chance of success, and understand that Myka had tried her hardest, but there was nothing that could be done. “I’m coming back for you, Helena,” Myka had promised, her voice fierce even as a murmur. “I will return to you and I will never leave your side.” Wasn’t that all that mattered, now?
“I know, darling. I’ll be right here waiting for you.”
No. What mattered was that Helena needed her. Helena believed in her. And that was why Myka needed to succeed.
Myka forced herself to take steady breaths until they turned from sharp gasps to deep inhales and exhales.
“I love you, Myka Bering. You’re never alone.”
And with those words in her heart, Myka stood on shaky legs, vowing to leave that cavern with what she came to find and bring it back to Helena. She was heading to her pack to retrieve the book again when she tripped over something sharp. Entirely sick of falling on her ass at this point, Myka turned to glower at the offending object.
And there it was.
The tears that trailed her cheeks were those of wonder as she knelt before the object, its very presence making her quiver in awe. Even as she took a containment bag from her backpack, Myka’s eyes were drawn to the artifact she’d shed sweat, blood, and endless tears to find, unable to believe it was there, before her, real. She reached for it without a thought of putting on gloves, needing to feel the roughness against her skin. The moment it touched her fingertips, she was filled with warmth and light and acceptance and understanding and peace, the kind of peace she’d only ever felt with Helena. Holding the artifact in trembling hands, Myka turned to the boulder one last time, blurred by her tears.
“Thank you,” she whispered, the very words a prayer of praise. “It will never be enough, but thank you.”
The artifact didn’t shoot sparks when Myka placed it in the bag with infinite gentleness; instead, it radiated a brief but soothing golden glow before falling silent. Even as she slipped it into her pack, she somehow felt its power radiating through the silver bag. Clutching her backpack to her chest, Myka stood…
...and found herself back in the first cavern. Behind her, the black arch remained; before her, the stone wall rippled in transparence, revealing the entrance to the cathedral. Myka didn’t need to check her pack to know that the artifact had come with her; she could feel it like a comforting hand on her shoulder, even as it carried the weight of the world. She walked through the portal with the same shifting dizziness as her entry and walked down the front steps of the church.
Myka took deep breaths of fresh air, resisting the urge to stretch and spin in circles after three days of claustrophobia.
Looking behind her, she could see that the portal was gone, and all that remained were tourists and locals alike heading into the cathedral for its most important day of the year. But the hand on her shoulder urged her onward even as it offered her peace, reminding her that her quest was far from finished.
It was time to return to Helena.
If you think you know the words and/or what the artifact is, message me the answer and I'll give you a shout-out in Chapter Fifteen, when all will be revealed.
Chapter 14: The Trial
Claudia couldn’t stop fidgeting in her seat. It wasn’t really a seat as much as a bench in a circular-ish room with a judge’s podium at one end and a table with three chairs at the other. Filling in the gaps and shaping the room were two arced sets of tiered benches and tables, almost like you’d see in a lecture theatre. Claudia and the rest of the Warehouse agents sat on the benches to the right of the podium while a gathering of Regents sat murmuring to each other on the podium’s left. Part of the reason Claudia was fidgeting was that Leena was the only one willing to sit next to her, leaving Claudia at the end of the bench, closest to the table and thus Mrs. Frederic.
Though the Caretaker was her usual, unreadable self, Helena, sitting in the middle seat and thus directly opposite the podium, was just as fidgety as Claudia was. Myka had yet to appear, and the closer it got to ten am, the more Helena began to panic. Claudia, feeling much the same way Helena was, decided to send the agent a text (it was Judgment Day – no need to hide their communications now).
yo Myks, tick tock.
Claudia barely had to wait for a reply. Almost there. About five minutes.
The hacker raised her eyebrows. holy sst, batman, did you teleport or some shit? She wasn’t surprised when Myka didn’t answer, but at least she knew the woman was on her way. She also knew that she should probably let Helena know this somehow.
Glancing to the right to make sure that Leena was still mediating the argument Pete and Artie were currently having, she leaned towards the table and gave a soft hiss to get Helena’s attention. Both she and Mrs. Frederic turned, the inventor with a curious frown and the Caretaker with a hint of amusement. Claudia held up her phone and tapped the screen before giving Helena a thumbs-up. Helena’s frown deepened for a moment but was followed by a look of understanding and a slump of relief. ‘Thank you,’ the dark-haired woman mouthed to Claudia, and from the look on her face, the hacker knew she meant it for more than just that moment. Claudia, touched, smiled back at her and nodded, letting Helena know as best she could that even without Myka there, she had at least one person on her side. Helena smiled back before wiping at her eyes to hide what looked suspiciously like a tear. Mrs. Frederic, to Claudia’s surprise, nodded to the girl as well, who was almost too blown over by the gesture to nod back.
In any other situation, it would have been amusing how so much more was being said in simple gestures than in muttering between the Regents and shouting between two Warehouse agents. All of this ceased when the Regent Judge entered the door at the back of the room and walked to the podium. Everyone rose from their seats in respect and watched in tense, anticipatory silence as the regal-looking woman passed the table where Helena and Mrs. Frederic were seated, crossed the room, and stepped up to take her seat behind the stand, towering over all of them. She reminded Claudia of Dr. Calder (who was seated with the Regents), but nowhere near as friendly.
“You may be seated,” the Judge said, and everyone obeyed. But before she could say another word, the double doors at the back of the room burst open, and when Helena turned to see the cause, she forgot to breathe.
Myka came sprinting into the room, clutching a black messenger bag to her side and wearing a look of exhausted relief. In a move reminiscent of her prison conversation with Helena, she skidded to a stop by the seat to the woman’s right and dropped down without preamble, immediately reaching for Helena.
The moment their hands met, the world seemed to blur and noise seemed to fade and all that mattered to each woman was the feel of the other’s skin against their own. Though they couldn’t look at each other – not yet, not here – they gripped each other without any intention of letting go, the simple contact still radiating waves of love that crashed over both women with the promise of hope.
The mood of the room immediately changed. The Regents, Judge included, all wore the same look of wary surprise, but the reactions of the Warehouse agents spanned the spectrum. Artie looked like he was about to have an apoplectic fit; Pete’s jaw was hanging open in shock and dismay; Leena’s mouth was quirked in that knowing smile of hers, and Claudia was absolutely beaming. Even Mrs. Frederic had allowed her lips the barest upturn.
The silence, now much heavier than it had been, was broken by the Judge clearing her throat.
“Well then…let the trial begin.”
* * *
The first of the trial’s many surprises came in the middle of Helena’s account of Yellowstone. She was speaking of her standoff with Myka when Kosan interrupted, “That’s not how you describe it in your book.”
Helena’s and Myka’s faces both paled. “Wh-what?” Helena replied, cursing the timid trembling of her voice. To her horror, Kosan took a very familiar manuscript – though now it had been bound – from his briefcase and flipped to one of several tabbed pages.
“‘Her entire body screamed in terror, but it only crossed her face as growing uncertainty,’” Kosan read aloud. “‘Pain she had not felt since Christina’s death roared to life with a vengeance as Myka held the gun in the woman’s hand to her own head, demanding that she shoot her. The woman finally screamed and dropped the gun, the horror of her actions overwhelming her. The woman knew she should have abandoned her plans long ago, but had convinced herself that what she desired even more than Christina’s life returned to her was something she could never have. She realized then, as she dropped the gun, as she dropped to the ground, that she could destroy the world, she could destroy herself, but she could never, ever harm Myka.’”
Dead silence followed these words, everyone staring at Helena and Myka with expressions ranging from intrigued to horrified to, in Claudia and Leena’s case, fond. “That’s mine,” Helena finally protested with the same timid tremble.
To her surprise, Kosan smiled. “Indeed, Ms. Wells. Your book is probably the best testimony you can give.”
It was one of very few times in her life that the author found herself lost for words. “You’ve read it? All of it?”
The Judge nodded. “All the Regents have. It’s quite good, actually.”
“What does a book written by a madwoman have anything to do with this trial?!” Artie sputtered. Helena, Myka, and Claudia winced, and Myka squeezed Helena’s hand tighter, rubbing gentle circles on her skin with her thumb. The Judge gave Artie a scathing look that both put him in his place and gave the offended women some vengeful satisfaction.
“As Mr. Kosan said, this book is probably the best testimony she can give.” The Judge turned to Helena. “Enough with the actual events; tell us why you did what you did.”
“I…I…” Helena fought to conjure the words, but once again, she couldn’t find them – not even with Myka holding her hand. Convinced that she was doomed, she was startled when Mrs. Frederic pulled a bound manuscript from her own bag – another copy of Heart of Bronze.
“In your own words, Ms. Wells,” she encouraged.
Anchored by the Caretaker and Myka, knowing that there was nothing left for it now, Helena opened her book and began to read out her soul.
* * *
So far, the amount of silence that had occurred during the trial nearly trumped the amount of speaking, especially after Helena had finished reading about her arrest (though the Regents may have read the entire book and thus her further confessions of love, Helena found what she’d already revealed to be embarrassing enough and didn’t feel that the rest of the book was relevant to the situation).
It was Artie who broke the tension again, though he did not break it so much as he made it worse. “What does this have to do with –”
The Judge slammed the gavel for the first time during the trial, making everyone jump. “The point is not to determine guilt, Agent Nielson! The purpose of this trial is to determine the necessary response to these events! Now…” She swept her gaze across the room. “Is there any further evidence or testimony anyone would like to present?”
Pete and Artie began to leap to their feet, but Claudia beat them to it, file already in her hands. “I do.”
“Ms. Donovan,” the Judge nodded, giving her permission to start.
The hacker couldn’t help but glance at Artie and Pete, who were looking murderous. But Myka and Helena were looking to her with hope, and so Claudia straightened her back, took a deep breath, and opened the file. “During Helena’s incarceration, I had the opportunity to exchange a letter with her, and the contents of her reply made me think that she’s not the villain everyone makes her out to be. So I did a little research into her Warehouse records and found that they had been altered.”
“Altered how?” Kosan asked with a frown.
“Well, the original file had been entered into the system when the Warehouse first began computer logs, but it had been changed over a decade ago. When I went to look for the original paper file, it had been destroyed, so I figured something was up.” Flipping through the papers in her folder, Claudia removed two sets of printouts. Leaving her seat, she handed one set to Kosan and the other to the Judge. “It took some work, but I managed to retrieve the original log. It has to do with Helena’s Bronzing.”
This got everyone’s immediate attention, and all eyes were on Claudia as she returned to stand by her seat. “HG Wells was meant to be the first person to test a rehabilitation program involving Bronze. She was supposed to be released in 1999, a hundred years after her Bronzing, and then reintegrated into the present day. It was designed to be a new start for people who wanted and needed one. Only later did the Regents of that time learn that people who had been Bronzed remained awake, and so the project was abandoned, but Helena was still set to be released. The file change…” Claudia shifted from foot to foot, biting her lip. “The file was changed by MacPherson to say that Helena was never meant to be released. Not only that, but he…” The hacker let out a shaky breath and spread more of the printouts from her folder across the curved table. Each one was a timestamped screenshot from a surveillance camera, and each one showed MacPherson standing in front of a Bronzed HG Wells. “He spoke to her. There’s no audio on the footage, but from what I could get from lip-reading software he said the most horrific things to her.” She pulled two last sets of printouts from her file and once again took them to the Judge and Kosan. “Those are the transcripts I got from the lip-read. I think…I think he must’ve been trying to prepare her – to turn her into the sort of person that would help him end the world. He needed someone like HG to do it, and…” Claudia shrugged, slumping back in her seat.
Myka had known about the rehabilitation plan, having read the file Claudia sent her, but she’d had no idea the hacker had gone deeper than that. Hearing that MacPherson had verbally tortured Helena – her Helena – made her seethe with undiluted fury that grew with everything Claudia revealed. As the room erupted into shocked conversation, Myka finally turned to Helena with the intent to comfort her in any way she could, but the look on the inventor’s face stunned her anger away. A smile of joy lit her face, even as tears filled her eyes.
“It’s not my fault,” Helena gasped, letting go of Myka’s hand so she could grip her shoulders. “Myka, don’t you see? MacPherson made me into the monster I was and you saved me from it! He’s the one to blame! He’s the one who manipulated me! I’m not…I was never…I was meant to be restored, Myka! It wasn’t my fault!”
Myka could only stare in amazement at the woman she loved. “Oh, Helena,” she whispered, taking the author’s hands from her shoulders to grasp them in her own. “You were never a monster.”
Oh, but how they wanted to kiss each other, then, right there, in front of everyone, but they knew it still wasn’t time, as much as it hurt not to. The sound of the gavel turned their attention back to the Judge as the room quieted again, but they did not release each other’s hands.
“And what do you think, Ms. Donovan?” the Judge asked. “Do you believe that Ms. Wells deserves the rehabilitation she was meant to have?”
Claudia looked over at Myka and Helena. “Absolutely,” she replied with conviction, turning back to the Judge. “Helena was manipulated by MacPherson, who used her own grief against her. Myka helped her break free of that, and she’s helped her become who she’s meant to be.” She smiled at the two women in question, who were both blushing and shifting in their seats.
“Thank you, Ms. Donovan. Your testimony and evidence will be taken into consideration.” The Regents, who were reading over the lip-read transcript and cringing at MacPherson’s words, looked at the girl and nodded in fervent agreement. “Is there anyone else who wishes to speak?”
“Yes!” Artie spat, snapping to his feet. Claudia pursed her lips and glowered at him, knowing that the forthcoming tirade was going to be decidedly unpleasant. Leena, who was usually quite serene in the face of Artie’s anger, looked just as annoyed.
“Agent Nielson,” the Judge permitted, though she didn’t look too happy either.
“This woman is a murderer!” he shouted, pointing at Helena like the whole situation was a TV crime drama. “She killed MacPherson –”
“– who wasn’t supposed to be able to set foot in the Warehouse, anyway,” Leena remarked.
“– she killed those boys –”
“– who chose to open the temple doors in the hope of treasure,” Claudia interjected.
“– she killed Valda –”
“Actually, he sacrificed himself,” Myka threw in.
“– she tried to kill Pete and Myka –”
“I had no idea that Warehouse 2 had that failsafe!” Helena protested, putting her hands up.
“– and she tried to kill Pete’s girlfriend!”
No one had a comeback for that one, and Helena’s shoulders slumped in guilt. The author bit her lip as she fought tears of remorse, and only Myka’s squeeze of her hand kept them from spilling.
“She is insane! She was Bronzed for a reason! She killed men out of revenge –”
“ – who would have been killed anyway, had they been caught and convicted,” Claudia cut in again.
“SHUT UP, CLAUDIA!”
“NO!” She was on her feet again, staring down the shocked man who was the closest thing to her father. “I am not going to let you stand here and tear her down when –”
Helena’s voice was soft and soothing, and Claudia turned to the author with tears in her eyes. The dark-haired woman gave her a smile that was as sad as it was fond and reassuring. “He’s allowed to have his say.”
“I know, darling. I know.”
Claudia sniffed and sat down with reluctance, wiping furiously at her eyes.
“Look at how manipulative she is!” Artie sneered, gesturing at Claudia and Helena alike. “Look how easily she gained Claudia’s trust!” The girl in question tried to stand again, but Leena’s hand on her shoulder kept her in place. “She uses her words against all of you and you just accept it without question! She’s a writer, for God’s sake – it’s what she does best!”
“I think that was almost a compliment,” Helena murmured with bemusement, and Myka barely hid her snort of laughter.
“She doesn’t deserve any more chances! None! She needs to be thrown back in the Bronze Sector and left there!” Artie finished, evaporating the brief moment of levity between the two women. Myka could feel Helena tremble and squeezed her hand tighter, wishing she could just take the woman in her arms and keep her there until all this was over. A glance from Helena let Myka know she felt the same, but both also knew that neither could be seen to waver under the onslaught. All they could do was hold on.
“Is there anything else, Agent Nielson?” the Judge asked, definitely more annoyed than when Artie had begun his rant.
“I believe it’s all that needs to be said,” was his smug reply as he sat back down with satisfaction. It was obvious to everyone but him that the Judge was barely holding back an exasperated sigh.
“Is there anyone else who wishes to testify?”
“Has anyone thought about asking the aura reader?” was Claudia’s dry response. “Sorry,” she muttered to Leena as an afterthought, who smiled her understanding before leaning forward to examine Helena’s aura. Or, rather, she would have examined Helena’s aura, were it not tangled so thoroughly with Myka’s, the two women almost blindingly bright.
“There’s no evil that I can see. Darkness, yes, but it’s healing. Not evil.”
Artie scoffed, but a warning look from the Judge shut him up. “Thank you, Leena.” She turned to Pete. “Agent Lattimer? Have you anything to say?” Pete had his arms crossed on the table, and he was using them to rest his chin as he stared at nothing. “Agent Lattimer?”
“…I thought I did. Have something to say. But now I just… Everything I thought I knew has changed. So I don’t know what to say. But I’d listen to whatever Myka says,” he added, finally breaking his staring contest with the cosmos to nod at Myka. “All this time she’s been away…I should have just trusted her – her and Claud.” Both women stared at him in shock as he continued. “I know, I know, HG tried to kill my girlfriend and all, but…I dunno. I dunno anymore.” Staring into space once again, he missed the looks of admiration and forgiveness on the faces of the women he hurt most.
Clearing her throat to break the tension that so seemed to love filling the room, the Judge turned to the three women sitting at the table before her. “Agent Bering? Mrs. Frederic? What have you to say on behalf of Ms. Wells?”
Mrs. Frederic spoke first and simply. “She is neither a threat to the Warehouse nor a threat to anyone associated with it. The only person in this room she poses any threat to is herself, which is why I suggest a chance at rehabilitation under the guidance of Agent Bering.”
“Thank you,” Helena murmured to the Caretaker, voice thick with awed gratitude. Mrs. Frederic merely nodded.
“And you, Agent Bering?”
Myka was so shocked by Mrs. Frederic’s statement and exchange with Helena that it took her a moment to register the Judge’s words. “Actually, I have one better than a statement,” she began, rising from her seat and placing her messenger bag on the table. Mrs. Frederic gave a sharp inhale, and Claudia clapped her hands over her mouth as she stared at Myka with wide-eyed elation. “I think it would be better for an impartial voice to testify,” the agent continued as she unzipped the bag and pulled out the silver containment pouch.
Helena had no idea what was in the bag, but she could feel its power resonating outwards, almost as if exploring the room. Even as its presence made her tremble under its sheer force, something about that force also calmed and soothed her fear. “Myka?” she whispered, hoping for an answer.
The brunette smiled at her, eyes alight with victory that bordered on delirium. “I love my love with an artifact,” she murmured, which only deepened Helena’s confusion.
“You wish to use an artifact to manipulate her fate?!” Artie demanded. This time all the Regents gave him a look of irritation, and he slunk down on the bench, sufficiently cowed.
“What impartial voice is this?” the Judge prompted.
Myka’s smile became one of triumph as she opened the containment bag. There was collective gasp as she held the artifact aloft for the room to see.
“The Voice of God.”
Chapter 15: Christus Laudmus
Apologies for inconsistencies I just noticed: the capitalization of Bronze(d) and the spelling of MacPherson. The chapter title comes from the song "Diem Ex Dei," by Globus, which I had playing on repeat while writing chapters thirteen through fifteen. Also, I borrowed a line from episode 4x01 and referenced the Charlton Heston version of Spartacus. See if you can find both.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The silence in the room was that of awe and humility and endless wonder as every gaze rested on the artifact in Myka’s hands: the vines, dark and brown with age, twisted one over another, over and over until the ends came together, barbed and beautiful.
“Is that…” one of the Regents began, barely able to speak.
“…The Crown of Thorns.” Myka’s own voice was breathless as her palms shook, the circlet both delicately light and yet carrying the weight of millennia of faith. “The Crown that bleeds on the heads of the remorseful that God has forgiven.” The presence Helena had felt before, now free of its confines, settled over her in a blanket of warmth and greeting, and the gentle sense of peace brought tears to her eyes.
“But…how???” the Judge choked.
“Mrs. Frederic’s permission, Claudia’s help,” Myka replied, nodding to each in turn before turning to the woman next to her. “And Helena’s love. Without that, I never would have made it to the Crown. I wouldn’t have lived to make it to the Crown.” Helena’s breath left her in a stunned gasp at Myka’s admission, and the love present in their shared gaze was nearly as powerful as the holy aura from the artifact.
“This is what you were searching for?” Helena whispered. “This is how you wanted…how you want to save me? Myka, I…” There were no words for this, no way to describe the overwhelming adoration and awe of the depth of Myka’s devotion – that she would go so far and face so much to save one woman from an eternity in Bronze. There were no words for this kind of love.
“But…but…” Artie sputtered. “Why would she…how could she ever be…”
“How am I worth this?” Helena seemed to agree, voice cracking as she stumbled for words – stumbled to express to Myka exactly how much this meant. “How am I worth this?”
“‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.’” The words came from Claudia, her voice ringing out. She wasn’t quite sure what made her say them; somehow, she felt as if she had been asked, or urged – that some invisible hand on her shoulder had encouraged her to speak. “‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you.’” Now all eyes were on her, and all she could do was give a helpless shrug. “They made us read the Bible a lot in the psych hospital; I think it’s how they kept their funding.”
“I would hardly call it falsely,” Artie spat. Myka lowered the Crown and shot him a glare, and she was about to launch into a tirade of her own before Helena put a hand on her arm.
“He’s right, Myka.” When the agent looked at her with anguish, the author continued, “I am not a good woman – not after what I did in 1899, not after what I did at Yellowstone. What makes you think the Crown would ever bleed on my head?”
“Because I believe in you, Helena,” Myka replied with fierce conviction. She sat again so she could meet Helena’s eyes with her own, holding the Crown between them. “I made you a promise when I went looking for the Crown that I would come back to you, and if I’d had even a shadow of a doubt that it wasn’t worth it, I wouldn’t have been able to keep that promise. I trust you and I love you; I couldn’t have done this if I didn’t, and if it meant saving you, I’d do it all over again.”
Helena’s tears fell freely down her cheeks as Myka’s words washed over her and cradled her like an embrace. Claudia and Leena were wiping their own eyes, as were a few of the Regents. Hands still shaking, the brunette lifted the artifact.
“Are you ready?”
“I love you,” Helena whispered, giving herself to Myka in those words.
Myka smiled her own love in return and gently placed the crown on Helena’s head.
Everyone in the room held their breath a Helena’s fate was hung from the cross. The artificer tensed as she felt the thorns prick her skin, and the presence that she had felt before – the presence she now knew to be some outreach, some essence of God – seeped below her skin and into her soul – searching learning, deciding…
There was no reaction. The Crown simply sat on Helena’s head. It was Artie’s turn to look triumphant, but it was Myka’s expression that seared into her. The same look of betrayal she’d seen in Warehouse 2, seen at Yellowstone, reappeared on her face, but magnified tenfold. It was an expression of shock and pain and despair and excruciating heartbreak. Helena’s own heart shattered at the sight and, unable to bear the slowly unfolding grief of the woman she loved, she closed her eyes and sobbed, a single tear trailing down her face.
The sound of gasps and screeching chairs and variations of “Dear Lord!” cacophanied the once-still room. Helena opened her eyes to see that Myka’s expression had become one of undying love overtaken by awe. She let out a strangled laugh, covering her mouth as her own tears sprang forth. Confused and scared, Helena lifted a trembling hand to wipe away the warm droplet on her cheek and gazed at her fingertips.
Blood. She was crying blood. Further warmth trickled through her hair and down her forehead, barely missing her eyes. She lifted her hands to her face and pulled them back again, discovering her palms to be stained with red. The presence declared its judgment through the bleeding of the Crown on her head.
She was forgiven in the eyes of God.
Helena’s sobs intensified, and she sagged in her chair as the presence left her, taking with it the once-inescapable weight of grief and sorrow. She felt the crown being taken from her head and she was suddenly enveloped in warm, strong arms. She buried her face in familiar soft brown curls, returning the embrace with both ferocity and relief, her heart singing as she held the woman she so desperately loved. Myka pressed her closer, running her fingers through Helena’s hair, neither one caring about the blood that smeared them both.
“If they Bronze you again, I’m going with you,” Myka whispered, rubbing her cheek against Helena’s.
The artificer pulled back in horror. “Myka, no, no, no…” she choked in protest, but Myka cut her off with a shake of her head.
“I don’t care, Helena. I can’t live without you. I wouldn’t have lived without you. You’re my love, you’re my life, and I would rather be still and silent in your arms forever than face each day alone.” The blood from Helena’s skin had rubbed off on Myka’s cheek, making the brunette’s tears an echo of her love’s.
Then, right then was the moment first kisses were meant for. There was no other way for Helena to express that she felt the same – that an eternity in Myka’s embrace would be eternity well-spent. But there were still too many eyes, too many who would pull them apart, even amidst the shock. So instead, Helena pulled Myka close again, kissing her cheek. “There’s nowhere in the world I’d rather be.” The words made the agent hold her tighter, pressing her own kiss to the Victorian’s cheek. For that shining moment – a moment they’d later swear was edged by that presence in what felt like a smile – it was enough.
Even the sound of the Judge’s gavel was shaky as it split through the astonished conversations and exclamations flying about the room. “The impartial voice has spoken,” the Regent managed, though she was barely clinging to composure.
“Preposterous!” Artie all but shrieked, his turn to send a chair screeching backwards as he staggered to his feet. “This is outrageous! Artifact – even…this artifact! – or not, her actions condemn her completely."
“And what about you, Artie?” Myka demanded, regretfully leaving Helena’s embrace to stare down the man who was her mentor. Her eyes were blazing with loathing potent enough to burn down the Warehouse. “Remember MacPherson?” she began. “Remember how the last thing he said to you was, ‘I’m sorry, Arthur’?” The presence had settled across her shoulders, guiding and strengthening her voice so that the truth of her words resounded through the room. “He understood how much he had hurt you and how much he wished he hadn’t! And even if none of this had ever happened – Warehouse 2, Yellowstone, any of it – you would still condemn Helena for her mere existence! You only saved her life in Russia so you could turn her over to the Regents! Nothing she can or will ever say or do can make you stop hating her, just ‘cause she was in the Bronze Sector – where she asked to go! She was sent there so she could change, so she could be better, so she could start a new life, and you still don’t care! If you’d had your way, she’d be Bronzed without a second thought. And even if you learned later that she was destined to save the Warehouse or something of the sort, you still wouldn’t feel a shred of remorse because you’d argue that you acted with good intentions! You blind yourself with your stubbornness, thinking that everyone you’ve ever met is like MacPherson, and that everyone will betray you! So tell me, Artie – if your good intentions led to evil, would you still believe you were right? Would you feel remorse for your actions? Would the Crown of Thorns bleed on your head?”
Artie’s face had gone white in the sudden stillness of the room. He opened and closed his mouth a few times in search of a retort, but found none. He looked to Pete, Claudia, and Leena for help only to be met with accusatory glares. Stricken, the man dropped back into his seat, finally on the receiving end of the condemnation he was so free to give.
“Well spoken, Ms. Bering,” Mrs. Frederic murmured. She and Helena were both seated again and staring at the agent with blatant admiration, Helena’s mixed with shock. Myka gave them both a shaky smile as she sat beside them, gripping her love’s hand under the table once again.
“I think I had help,” she mumbled, glancing at the Crown. The combined air of purest innocence with unlimited power that radiated from the artifact was both calming and disconcerting. Unable to bear its aura any longer, Myka carefully returned it to the static bag, where it once again glowed instead of sparked, accepting the containment without a fuss.
Once again, silence. Then the Judge cleared her throat. “There will be a temporary recess while the Regents determine their verdict. We will reconvene in an hour. Court dismissed.” She finalized the command with the gavel.
* * *
As much as Claudia was dying to bombard Myka and Helena with questions and congratulations, the two women requested time in the bathroom to clean themselves up. Mrs. Frederic was required to be their chaperone, and Myka took the messenger bag with the Crown with them, refusing to let it out of her sight. Under the Caretaker’s neutral but watchful gaze, Myka and Helena used the bathroom sinks to clean their faces (and in Helena’s case, her hair) of the Crown’s judgment. They were silent all the while, gentle in their cleansing of each other, careful not to let their hands roam as they tried in vain to rid the blood from their shirts. Finally, when all but stained fabric remained as evidence of what would be remembered as a defining moment in Warehouse history, the two women embraced, closing their eyes and swaying in each other’s arms, knowing that their audience would neither mind nor divulge their actions.
“You said you would not have lived to get to the Crown without me,” Helena murmured as she stroked Myka’s back. “What did you mean?”
Myka hesitated, though she never stopped running her fingers through Helena’s hair. “There were…trials I had to pass. I couldn’t have gotten through them without thinking of you.”
If Helena had had any tears remaining, they would have sprung anew at this declaration. “Oh, my darling Myka,” she choked, pulling the brunette closer. “I did tell you I’d always be there for you.”
Myka smiled, and Helena could feel the curve of her lips against her neck. “And you were.” She sagged against the artificer’s smaller frame, and Helena realized that she must have had only slivers of sleep between her retrieval of the Crown and the events of the trial. Helena guided them both to sit on the floor, maneuvering so that Myka was curled up across her lap with her arms around her shoulders.
“I don’t know how you can ever expect me to thank you enough for all you’ve been through or be able to repay you for any of it,” Helena remarked, trying to keep her tone light but betrayed by the emotion in her voice.
“Just love me forever,” Myka whispered into Helena’s shoulder.
Helena kissed the brunette’s forehead. “Always, my dearest Myka. Never doubt that.”
* * *
Myka dozed in Helena’s lap until Claudia poked her head through the ladies’ room door to let the couple and the Caretaker know that it was time to reconvene. Had the situation not been so dire, the girl would have “awwww”-ed over the overt display of affection, but the thought of all the possible verdicts the Regents could come up with had her jittery.
When the Judge banged her gavel to call for order, Helena and Myka were clutching each other’s hands like lifelines, bracing themselves for the worst. Leena and Pete were only just refraining themselves from fidgeting in their seats, and Claudia was all but chewing her knuckles off. Even Mrs. Frederic looked like she might be worried (though she hid it well, as usual).
“Helena Wells,” the Judge began, and the woman in question stood, though she didn’t let go of Myka’s hand. “You have been sentenced to a monitored house arrest for the next two years, effective immediately. You will be implanted with a tracking chip that will allow the Regents to pinpoint your exact location. Your monitor will be Agent Myka Bering, hereby reinstated to the Warehouse. She will have her own proximity implant that will alert the Regents when the two of you are outside a distance of five hundred yards. In addition, you will be required weekly therapy sessions with Dr. Abigail Cho for as long as she deems necessary.” She looked at both Myka and Helena and had to hold back a smile at the women’s shock. “Are these terms agreeable?”
“Yes!” the couple blurted at once with quite some emphasis.
“Good. Then I hereby declare this court adjourned,” the Judge finalized with one last rap of the gavel.
Pete, Leena, and Claudia began cheering, leaping from their seats to smash into a group hug, even as Artie slumped in defeat. Helena pulled Myka to her feet and into a crushing embrace, both of them overcome with relieved joy.
“You’re free, Helena,” Myka whispered. “You’re free.”
In Chapter 13, the location of the Crown was the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Old Jerusalem. Myka put her hand on the crack in the Rock of Cavalry and said "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" which is Hebrew from the Bible passage Mark 15:24: "And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’" (interesting note: 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?' also begins Psalm 22). When Myka was pounding the rock she was trying to move (three guesses as to what it was and the first two don't count), she would have been shouting the words in English.
Chapter 16: Becoming One
I cannot apologize enough for the delay in posting this chapter. I had it all ready to go when my laptop decided to die. I've only just accessed the hard drive and retrieved the file today, so here it is, finally.
The end proceedings of the court moved with surprising speed. After Claudia had crushed them in an ecstatic bear hug, Myka and Helena discussed the details of the parole conditions with Dr. Calder, who would visit the Warehouse the next day to implant the trackers. After Helena took a few minutes to speak with Abigail about the prescribed therapy sessions, the Warehouse team trekked wearily to their cars, more than ready to go home. Pete and Artie would be driving Leena’s car back in what was sure to be a tense silence while Leena, Claudia, Helena, and Myka all piled into Myka’s car. Claudia immediately called shotgun while Leena took the wheel so that the finally-reunited couple could have the backseat together. But instead of tender murmurs and whispered love, the two exhausted women fell asleep in each other’s arms, taking advantage of the two-hour journey. This time, Claudia didn’t bother holding back her “Awwww!” which made Leena roll her eyes with a smile.
Claudia continued to watch Myka and Helena as Leena drove on, unable to tear her gaze away. They were curled up face to face, legs entwined, hands clutching each other’s shoulders with ferocity, even in sleep. Forehead to forehead, noses brushing, they breathed in perfect sync, their expressions those of contentment, even in their weariness. Just observing them tugged Claudia’s heartstrings every which way, the sight of their long-awaited embrace nearly bringing tears to her eyes.
“They deserve this. This peace, I mean,” the redhead amended, realizing what her first statement sounded like. “Not all the badness and horror but the sleep and contentedness and –”
Leena cut her off with a chuckle. “I know what you meant, Claudia. And you’re right.” She glanced in the rearview mirror at the blissfully slumbering couple. “They do deserve peace after all they’ve been through. You know more about Myka’s journey than I do,” she added with a nod to the hacker, “but I can imagine just from what little she said at the trial that her very soul was put to the test, just as Helena’s was when the Crown was placed on her head. Those two walked through fire to get where they are now, and they’re going to need each other more than ever.”
Claudia pondered her words for a minute, then asked with quiet caution, “Do they…is that what you see in their auras? What do they look like?” She had never really asked the innkeeper about her abilities before, but after putting her on the spot at the trial, she genuinely wanted to know more.
Leena smiled. “Their auras are tangled together so thoroughly that I don’t think it’s possible for them to ever be separated. And the closer they are to each other, the brighter they burn. And they’ve embraced it – they’ve caused it. But even if they hadn’t brought themselves together, this whole ordeal would have.” She met Claudia’s curious gaze for a moment and her smile widened. “Just as I said that they’ll need each other more than ever, I don’t doubt for a second that they’ll hold each other together.”
The redhead nodded slowly, Leena’s words relieving her of her worry for the woman she saw as an older sister and the woman she was learning to trust again. She looked back at the women in question with a wistful sigh. “I wish I could have someone like that.”
“Someday, Claud. Someday.”
* * *
When they reached the Warehouse, Leena carefully extracted Myka’s messenger bag from the backseat and passed it to Claudia. “If anyone can be trusted with this, it’s you,” Leena assured the redhead, who was staring at the bag in wide-eyed disbelief. “You helped Myka find it, and it spoke through you at the trial. It knows you, Claudia.” Gulping, Claudia finally nodded, clutching the bag to her chest.
The redhead stood and watched with the artifact in her arms as Leena drove away, waiting until only dust was left in her wake before turning to enter the Warehouse. Passing through the umbilicus into Artie’s office, Claudia gently placed the bag on the desk before dropping into the swivel chair, nearly toppling over. For a moment, she just stared at the bag, and though it could have been a figment of her imagination, she could have sworn she felt the artifact within stare expectantly back.
After another moment of deliberation, Claudia unzipped the bag and gently pulled out the static pouch containing the Crown, handling it as if it were glass. Taking a deep breath, she opened the bag and stared inside. The same presence she had felt in the courtroom reemerged, warm and comforting. The redhead swallowed, slightly intimidated even as she was soothed. “Hi,” she whispered, her voice cracking. The presence sent her an equally casual, almost amused greeting, and Claudia knew that she wasn’t imagining things this time. “Listen, I…I just wanted to say…thanks. I don’t really know what Myka had to do to bring you back here, but…I just…thanks for being there. Thanks for going with her, and thank you for forgiving Helena. I mean, it might not be my place to say, but…I think…I forgive her, and I know Myka does, and maybe now that people have seen your forgiveness, they’ll learn forgiveness themselves. So…thank you. Just…thank you.”
The response from the Crown was an unmistakable “you’re welcome,” and Claudia felt it smiling at her, enveloping her in unconditional love. Eyes blurring with tears, Claudia smiled back.
* * *
Leena waited a minute or so after parking at the B&B before softly shaking Myka’s shoulder. “We’re here,” she murmured as the brunette groggily became aware of her surroundings. Feeling around for her bag, she panicked.
“Leena, the Crown!”
“Claudia has it,” the innkeeper reassured her. “It’s with her at the Warehouse. She’ll take good care of it.”
Myka bit her lip and nodded, knowing that she would have to relinquish the artifact eventually but wanting to keep it close to her at the same time. She had gone through so much just to hold it and it had given Helena back to her. Looking down at the still-sleeping woman in her arms, Myka fell in love all over again, lost in her very visage. She pressed a soft kiss to her forehead, cherishing the feel of Helena’s skin against her lips. “Wake up, love,” she whispered.
The artificer’s eyes fluttered open, drawn to the sound of Myka’s voice. “Hmm?”
“We’re back at the B&B.” Myka couldn’t seem to stop running her hands through raven hair, and Helena leaned into her touch.
“I’m going to let you two get settled in while I get some groceries for dinner,” Leena gently interrupted, still keeping her voice quiet. Myka and Helena nodded their thanks, knowing what the innkeeper was giving them and unspeakably grateful for it.
Never taking her hand off Helena, Myka gently guided her from the car and to the door of the B&B neither woman had seen in so long. Leena pulled away as Myka unlocked the door, having kept her key in the hope that this day would come: the day she would bring Helena home. They ascended the stairs and walked the hall to Myka’s room in silence, and when Myka opened the door, she found everything just as she had left it when she began her journey. Still clinging to Helena, she locked her door behind her, the sound echoing in the anticipatory silence.
Finally, finally, finally together, standing before each other, gripping each other’s hands to reassure themselves that they were really here, Myka and Helena’s gazes met with hope and desire and yearning and need and love. The moment was perfect and the spell was broken and they fell into each other’s arms as their lips found each other’s like they’d been kissing all their lives, two halves of a soul finally becoming one.