Within the view-screen of the Farnsworth, Pete stumbled forward a little as Claudia jumped onto his back so she could lean over his shoulder and thrust her face into the frame.
Myka’s smile was only slightly forced.
“Hey, Claudia,” she replied. “Looks like you guys are keeping warm.”
“Barely!” countered Pete. “We only just managed to thaw out before we called you.”
Claudia slid down off of Pete’s back and moved around to push him so that they could both fit, side by side, within Myka’s view.
“Have you heard anything from Artie?” Claudia asked.
Myka nodded. “Yeah, he made it out just before the blizzard hit. He’s with his son. And where’s Steve?”
“On the phone, making a last-ditch attempt to find us a flight out of here, tonight,” Pete explained. “Not looking good.”
Myka nodded again. She felt a small catch in her throat as she said, “Well, I know it’s not perfect, but at least you three can celebrate together.”
She’d tried to sound nothing but upbeat, but Pete must have noticed something off. He gave her a small, sympathetic smile.
“I really wish you weren’t stuck out there,” he said.
Claudia chimed in. “Yeah, it won’t be the same with you, Mykes. I mean, I’d normally enjoy a good ‘white Christmas’ as much as the next girl, but with you snowed in at the Warehouse, and us stuck in Buffalo…” She trailed off into a shrug.
“You’ll just have to hit Pete with double the amount of snowballs, for me,” Myka replied, smirking at Pete’s exaggerated expression of offense.
“Ganging up on me right in front of me?” he protested. “Have you no shame?”
Claudia laughed, and Myka’s smile wasn’t nearly as forced as before.
There was a sound, then, of a door opening, and Steve’s voice sounded over the Farnsworth.
“Boy, what a day. Oh. Hi, Myka!”
Just a corner of Steve’s face—one eye, half his nose—was briefly shoved into the frame, before he moved away again.
Myka reflexively smiled in greeting, and even once he was out of sight, she could still hear him, as he explained, “No luck, I’m sorry. We’re definitely stuck here overnight, and probably longer than that. Because of the lake effect off Lake Erie, things are even worse than I thought they’d be.”
Claudia groaned and threw herself backwards onto the hotel room bed.
But Myka just kept her smile plastered to her face. It was fine. She was going to be alone on Christmas, but she would keep smiling, and everything was going to be fine.
None of this would have happened, if she hadn’t gotten sick.
It was right before she and Pete had been about to leave for Pittsburgh for an artifact retrieval, with Claudia and Steve heading to Buffalo for a separate artifact.
But that morning Myka had woken up at 5am with a high fever, chills, and an achiness all over. Artie promptly declared her unfit for duty, and she’d been ordered to stay at the B&B and rest, while Pete, Claudia, and Steve all teamed up together—heading first to Pittsburgh, for the more urgent situation, and then on to Buffalo as soon as they could.
Covering the two artifacts sequentially, instead of at the same time in separate teams, meant that the whole thing had taken longer than it otherwise would have, though. And by the time they’d managed to snag the second artifact, two big things happened: it was Christmas Eve, and the huge snowstorm that had been blowing across the country caught up with them before they were able to get a flight out.
So it would have to be Christmas in Buffalo for the three of them.
As for Myka, she’d remained holed up in bed for nearly a week, before she started feeling better. She hadn’t felt up for traveling, so planned to see her family in Colorado sometime in early January, instead. And there were plans already for a small holiday celebration at the B&B. Since everyone else was supposed to be out of town, Abigail had arranged for her family to come stay with her. Her parents, younger sister, brother-in-law, and two nephews had all arrived a few days earlier, and Abigail assured Myka that they’d all be happy to have her join them for Christmas.
Once she felt strong enough, though, Myka’s guilt for making things harder on her fellow-agents led her to go over to the Warehouse to help catch up on paperwork and inventory.
And then, well, Myka had known that a storm was heading their way—Abigail had been sure to remind her not to stay out too long—but it was easy to lose track of time in the Warehouse, and Myka liked to take the time needed to do things right, when she could, and there were so many truly fascinating artifacts and people to read about as she did her work, and…
By the time Myka had realized how long she’d been working, it was too late. The blizzard had arrived, she had four missed calls from Abigail, and the roads were completely impassable.
So. Christmas in the Warehouse. Alone.
Myka was sitting in Artie’s office, drinking coffee and reading a book, when she heard the noise.
There was something in the Umbilicus.
For a moment, Myka was ready to write it off as just echoing wind from outside, but… No, those were definitely footsteps.
There was someone in the Umbilicus. There wasn’t anyone who should be there.
Myka was on her feet in an instant, Tesla in hand, and she moved quickly over to the office door. Not wanting to give herself away, she refrained from looking through the small window in the door, and instead stood off to the side, ready and waiting.
The intruder began opening the door, and as soon as it was open wide enough, Myka reached blindly through the gap, grabbed hold of the person’s coat—there was a small yelp of surprise—yanked them through the doorway, and shoved them back into the wall, with Myka’s Tesla held threateningly against their throat.
It was only then that Myka got a good look at the intruder.
In spite of her position thrust back against the wall, Helena’s smile was wide and happy.
“Hello, Myka,” she greeted calmly. “Just like old times, isn’t it?”
“Huh?” was the best that Myka could manage.
Was she still sick, after all? Was this some kind of fever dream?
Out of the corner of her eye, Helena glanced down at the Tesla in Myka’s hand.
“Still meeting at gunpoint,” Helena explained. “It seems to be our thing!” She sounded quite pleased with this fact.
Myka lowered the Tesla, but, still feeling out of sorts at Helena’s sudden and inexplicable appearance, she didn’t think to release her tight hold on the front of Helena’s coat. They remained standing together, just a foot apart, and Helena seemed to have no complaints at being pressed up against the wall.
“What are you doing here?” Myka asked.
She hadn’t seen Helena in a little over a month. She was working for the Regents, now; not a Regent herself, nor a regular agent, but something in between. Myka didn’t fully know what Helena did, really, but it meant that she made semi-regular appearances at the Warehouse, and for that, Myka was grateful.
Helena smiled. “A little birdie named Pete got in touch with me and explained your predicament. No one should be alone at Christmas, Myka,” she said.
“You’re here to rescue me?”
“Well you’re hardly one to need rescuing,” Helena replied with a light laugh. Her expression was kind, and warm, and so very beautiful.
Their current position, so close together, finally seemed to register with Myka. She felt a blush start to creep up her cheeks, but still, she didn’t let go. If anything, her arm flexed as she pulled Helena just the tiniest bit closer.
They weren’t dating. Not really.
Myka didn’t think they were, at least. They hadn’t really talked about it. For two people who both loved words so much, they hadn’t been all that good at actually using them to discuss what was going on between them.
But, well, there had been kissing, a few times. And it had been really nice. Myka knew that much, certainly.
Her gaze was drawn down Helena’s lips as Helena continued, “I simply thought you might—”
Whatever Helena meant to say, she didn’t get to finish. Without allowing herself to think about it, Myka closed the last bit of distance between them, angling her face downwards to press her lips tightly to Helena’s, kissing the other woman with an urgency that she didn’t quite know where it came from.
Helena made a small sound of surprise, and after just a short moment, Myka pulled away, flustered. She finally released her hold on Helena, and took a step backwards.
“Sorry, I— I shouldn’t have done that, I don’t—”
“No!” Helena exclaimed, interrupting. She laughed. “Just give a girl some warning, next time.”
With that, Helena’s hands reached for Myka, grabbing hold of her by the upper arms and pulling them back together. With the space between them erased, one of Helena’s arms wrapped around Myka’s back, as the other reached upwards—her hand tracing along Myka’s neck, her jaw, and then up into her hair, fingers grasping hold of the curls at the back of Myka’s head. She tugged only lightly, but Myka groaned and practically melted into her, bringing their lips together again. One of her own hands fell to Helena’s waist, as the other reached out to steady herself against the wall.
It was some time before they pulled apart again. Myka could only grin happily at Helena before a thought occurred to her.
“Wait, how did you get here?” she asked, remembering all of the snow.
Helena smirked but did look somewhat sheepish as she explained. “I… may have threatened one of the members of the Regents’ security detail into driving me here in a snow plow.”
Myka laughed. “You what?”
Helena merely shrugged. She looked straight into Myka’s eyes, unrepentant.
Myka’s expression softened, and she couldn’t keep the wonder out of her voice as she said, “I can’t believe you’re here.” She reached up and lightly drew her fingers down the side of Helena’s face before returning it to rest lightly against Helena’s hip. “How long can you stay this time?”
Helena’s gaze shifted away, then, and she actually looked somewhat apprehensive. Myka felt her heart drop—not long, apparently.
But then Helena spoke, saying, “I wanted to talk to you about that, as it happens. I’ve spoken with my direct supervisor among the Regents about, well, about the possibility of my being based in Univille on a more permanent basis, even as I continue my work with them.”
It took Myka a moment to parse out the meaning of Helena’s words.
She blinked, her heart suddenly beating much faster. She asked, hesitant, “Does that… Do you mean that you’re staying?”
Helena looked back up, bringing her eyes again to Myka’s. There was a real weight to her next words, as though she hoped Myka would understand all of what she was asking when she said, “If you think that would be a good idea, that is?”
Myka didn’t hesitate. “Yes,” she replied. “I do think that would be a very good idea.”
Helena grinned. “Then it’s settled,” she said with a nod. “I suppose I can speak to Abigail about it when we return to the B&B.”
They still had more to talk about, Myka knew. But for now, it was enough. Helena was in her arms, she was staying, and they were together for Christmas. It was more than enough.
She couldn’t stop her own happy smile from crossing her face. “Thank you for rescuing me,” she said. “Merry Christmas, Helena.”
“Happy Christmas, Myka.”
And with that, because she could, Myka leaned in to kiss Helena again. Returning to the B&B could wait just a little while longer.