Myka and Sam kiss, for the first time, after a shooting in Baltimore, after Myka has filled out the forms and written her statement and given her statement and signed her statement and scrubbed her hands raw in the sink of her dingy motel room while steadily refusing to quote Shakespeare.
She can tell it’s Sam by the way he knocks, and she ignores him to splash tepid water on her face, looks at herself in the mirror. Myka tilts her head one way, then the other. She doesn’t look any different, she thinks. Sam knocks again, harder, and she goes to let him in, wiping her palms on her pants.
“Hey,” he says, and Myka can see him about to say other things, like it was a good shooting and you had to so she pushes him back against the closed door with her hands fisted in his lapels and slips her tongue into his mouth.
Her first kiss with Helena is very similar.
Myka suspects the reason H.G. has begun to wear boots with significant heels is to even out the height difference between them.
“Mature,” she says at breakfast, and H.G. winks at her, her fork dangling casually in one hand, her vest undone over her button up shirt and her cuffs rolled up, very dashing.
“What?” Pete asks, assuming Myka is nagging him, “I’m not doing anything!”
“You’re ridiculous even when you’re not in motion,” Myka says, “Brownian motion.” She steals a chocolate chip pancake off Pete’s plate and eats it like a cookie, leaving little smears of chocolate on her fingers.
“Brownies?” Pete asks, perking up. Claudia throws him a look.
“Children,” Artie says from behind a small mountain of manila folders. Myka rips the remaining bit of her pancake in half with her nails and then in half again. She sighs and drops them back on Pete’s plate.
“Score,” Pete cheers, and shoves them in his mouth. “Yeah Artie?” Little bits of pancake spew from his mouth and dot the tablecloth. Claudia and Artie lean back, used to it, but H.G. looks vaguely horrified. Steve hands Pete a napkin.
“Ping in the Bay Area,” Artie says. “Four suspicious deaths at an Egyptian museum.”
“Artifacts looove the Egyptian,” Pete agrees, and hands the files over to Myka without pause.
“Oh,” she says, more resigned than biting, “are we not even going to pretend anymore that I’m not the only one to read the briefings?”
Pete grins at her. “Why waste time?”
“Take that one with you,” Artie says, gesturing at the other side of the table.
“Hey!” Claudia objects, waving her own folder in the air, “I thought I was going to the Lake of Salt with Jinksy.”
“You are,” Artie snaps, “I was talking about Thing 2.”
“Oh,” H.G. says. “Lovely.”
“Really?” Myka asks. Artie looks at her. “No,” she recovers, “that’s good. Surprising, but... good. It’s good.” She socks Pete on the shoulder and he jolts.
“So good,” he says quickly, and does a small fist pump. “Yeaaaah.”
“I think,” H.G. cuts in smoothly, “what they’re trying to say is that we’d expected me to undergo a... probationary period.”
“You’ve already had two,” Artie grumbles, “at least if you’re there you’re not here. With me.”
“Dude,” Claudia says, this time admiring, and offers H.G. a fist. H.G. looks rather blank. “We’ll get to it,” Claudia says, “we’ll start small.” And then Artie is shooing them away from the table, Claudia’s arm thrown over Steve’s shoulder and Pete trailing after Leena, talking about waffles for the road.
“Welcome back,” Myka says, and smiles. H.G. smiles back.
“You have chocolate on your hands,” she says. Myka starts, then flushes.
“Sorry,” she mutters, and drags her tongue across the flat of her palm, up between her fingers. When she looks up H.G.’s eyes are very wide.
H.G. goes ever so slightly pink. “I’ll get my bag,” she says, “meet you and Agent Lattimer in the car?”
“So,” Pete says. He drums his fingers on the steering wheel.
“She’s getting her bag,” Myka says, and does up her seatbelt.
“Chocolate chip pancakes,” Pete says. “That’s a lot of sugar. You know Leena made a fruit salad.”
“I must have missed it,” Myka says. She stares out the window.
“Right,” Pete says. “Sure you did.”
“Pete,” Myka says, sharp, and he sighs.
“Mykes,” he says. His fingers slip over hers on the gearshift, and she turns to look at him. “Hey,” he says.
Myka takes a deep breath. “Hey.” The back door of the car opens and closes, dull thunks, and H.G. leans into the gap between the front seats.
“Off we go, then?”
Myka pulls her hand away from Pete’s. “Off we go,” she says.
“Emily Lake,” Myka says, handing H.G. her new passport.
H.G.’s face twists, very slightly. “Well, at least I’m no longer American.”
“Yeah,” Pete says through a mouthful of airport donut, “that accent was not a good look for you.”
“Quite,” H.G. mutters. “Flying machines, dear Lord.”
“Come on,” Myka says, and tugs on the edge of H.G.’s sleeve. “Security takes extra long, they’ve got to run our badges and credentials to let us bring our... firearms onboard.” It’s not until she’s shoved Pete to the kiosk and stepped up behind him that she realizes her fingers are still hooked in the cuff of H.G.’s shirt. H.G. smirks, flicking her hair back, and Myka rolls her eyes, flustered.
Pete tips his head back against the headrest as soon as they find their seats and is snoring within seconds, slumped against the armrest and lolling into the aisle. Myka kicks him the calf and shoves him fully into the outside seat. “Here,” she says, turning and giving the woman trying to push past H.G. a full stop glare. H.G. has rocked forward, hands balled into fists at her side and looking more uncomfortable than Myka has ever seen her. And Myka has seen her bronzed. She twitches her arm to move her blazer a few inches back, showing the gun on her belt. The woman takes a measured step backwards.
“Take the window,” Myka says. She gives the woman a last arching look and slides into the middle seat, elbowing Pete sharply. “You’re fooling no one,” she hisses, and Pete lifts one corner of his mouth at her without opening his eyes.
“Oh,” H.G. says sharply when the engine thrums. “Still not used to that,” she mutters.
“Close your eyes,” Myka says, and flicks open the in flight magazine to find the sudoku. “It’ll all be over soon.” There’s silence for a beat, and Myka looks up to see H.G. with one eye cracked open at her.
“Bedside manner is not quite your forte,” she says dryly.
“Oh,” Myka says, snapping the magazine shut and sitting up. “Right. Of course.” She stares at H.G., and then reaches out tentatively and pats her shoulder. “There there?”
H.G. laughs, sudden and a bit bright, and Myka grins, settling back into her seat.
Myka wakes to her ears popping as the plane descends, and it jolts her awake, her fingers clenching on her knees. Pete bumps his shoulder against hers and she calms, taking a deep breath. “Thanks,” she mutters, and he nods, stretching out until his shoulders crack.
“Hey,” Myka says, shaking H.G. by the shoulder. “Wake up, look.”
H.G. blinks at her, and Myka takes half a second to appreciate the glaze of sleep that makes her face slightly slack and her blinks slow before H.G.’s smooth veneer snaps back up. “What? Have we arrived?”
“No,” Myka says, leaning over her to slide the shade up the small window. She presses a fingertip to the double plated plastic. “Look.”
“Oh,” H.G. murmurs. “That is quite something, isn’t it.”
Myka watches the lights of San jose get closer and closer, spread out under them like a pulsing map of yellow and gold, H.G.’s breath huffing against her neck.
“It’s weird, Mykes,” Pete mutters, leaning against a giftshop display board. Myka reaches out and grabs the front of his jacket as he topples backwards. The board clangs loudly against the floor and Pete jolts awkwardly. Myka doesn’t bat an eyelash.
“It’s not weird. It’s not weird for her to team with us while she... transitions.”
“Okay,” Pete says, “okay seriously I just, I can’t--”
“Peeete,” Myka drawls, “you’re doing that thing where you--”
“I wasn’t going to say anything,” Pete says, his hands gesturing wildly. Myka ducks a flailing arm. “But then you and her and the ‘ooooh H.G. look at the streetlamps isn’t it freaking romantic’ and the staring and the crying--”
“There was no crying,” Myka snaps, and then yelps as Pete grabs her by the arm. “Hey,” she objects, but Pete is dragging her sideways through a doorway and then she’s standing in front of urinals and a mirror that smells like cheap antiseptic and Pete is pantomiming some kind of panic attack in front of her. “Ewwwww,” Myka says, and then realizes there are two men standing at the station, staring at her. “Oh put it away,” she says, flashing her badge. They flee and Myka taps her foot on the ground. “Pete,” she snaps, “I want an explanation for why I just saw a lot more of those gentlemen than I ever needed to. Ever.”
“Okay,” Pete says. He takes a breath. “Are you going to reassign with H.G. as your partner?”
“What?” Myka says, her voice going high. She clears her throat. “What? Pete are you--” she smacks him, once, thinks about it, twice, “are you kidding?”
“Well no,” Pete says, “I--what?”
“Okay Lattimer,” Myka says, and twirls her index finger around in a circle. “Turn around, come on.” Pete turns, and Myka sighs. “H.G. and I--I don’t even know what we are. But you and me, Pete? We’re partners.”
“Yeah,” Pete says finally. “My pep talk was better.”
“Oh shut up,” Myka says, and steps forward to lean her forehead against Pete’s shoulder, takes a deep breath.
“Is there a party in here,” H.G. calls, coming around the corner balancing a cardboard tray of coffees. “Or---ah. I’m interrupting.”
“No,” Myka says, jolting back, “let’s go, come on. The car should be ready.”
“The President wants to come here.” The curator of the Egyptian Museum of San Jose sounds less than believing. “You know this isn’t the San Jose Egyptian Museum. That’s across town.”
“The... President was quite clear,” H.G. says, smiling winningly. The curator looks even more disbelieving.
“You’re not even American.”
“The Prime Minister is also considering it,” Pete says without missing a beat.
“Okay,” Myka cuts in. “This is a matter of national security. You are... you are required to let us complete our threat assessment.”
“Fine,” the curator says, “whatever. We close at three, everyone’s gone by five.”
“Good,” Myka says, “we’ll come back. Do we need badges to get by any guards or alarm systems?”
“We don’t have any,” the curator says bluntly, and leaves.
Pete checks his watch. “We’ve got three hours. Burrito time?”
“Fine,” Myka says. “But a real restaurant this time.”
“Aww, Mykes, but--”
Myka shoves a finger in his face. “No buts, Pete. Last time we went to a food truck I got turned into a zombie.”
“I’d love to hear this story over lunch,” H.G. says cheerfully. “Shall I check in with Claudia and Artie?”
“I want seafood,” Pete says. “It’s the Bay Area let’s do clams. Fried clams and fried fries.”
“Salad,” Myka demands, “someplace with salad and dressing. Dressing that isn’t ranch.”
“Done,” Pete says, and digs out the brochures he’d snagged at the airport.
Myka unfolds the the files over the table, making the middle aged waitress blanch at autopsy photos. “Three deaths,” she says, tracing a finger over the police reports. “Natural causes, different sexes, different ages, but families and friends reported they all visited the museum three days before they died.”
Pete pulls out a packet of peanuts he’d squirreled away and tears it open. “How’d they die?”
“Illness,” Myka says, flipping through the pages. “Sweating, fever, headaches, hallucinations. Spent the last day in hospital.”
“Good Lord,” H.G. says suddenly, bent over the smudged plastic menu. “There are bacon and syrup milkshakes.”
“Really,” Pete says, perking up. He pulls his own menu towards him.
“There are only three main exhibits,” Myka says, unfolding the map of the museum. H.G. tears her gaze away from the pictures of bacon brownies and leans in.
“Five smaller exhibits,” she notes.
Pete crumples the empty peanut bag and tosses it aside. “We have nothing to go on? Are we just going to goo everything until something sparks?”
“Well not nothing,” Myka says, distracted. The waitress edges over and she lets Pete order for her, flipping through the reports. H.G. touches her shoulder.
“A plan?” she prods, and Myka jumps.
“Yeah, right. Sorry. Listen, even this museum has got to have more than three people visiting. So it’s not something that everyone would touch, it’s something that just these three people touched.”
“Narrows it down,” Pete agrees, and then his face twists. “I forgot to order the bacon milkshake.” He leaps up to find the waitress and H.G. watches him go, smiling.
“It is nice,” she says hesitantly, “to be part of a team again. A--a family.”
Myka skims the statement of the admitting nurse at the hospital. “Mm,” she says, and when H.G. laughs she looks up.
“I’m trying to have a moment,” H.G. says. “To apologize, and to--to thank you, Myka.”
“Oh not this again,” Myka says. “Haven’t we discussed this?” H.G. reaches across the table and takes Myka’s hand.
“I’ll be as thankful as I wish,” she says, “and you--could call me Helena. You used to do so quite frequently.”
Myka squeezes their fingers together, once, very quickly, and then Pete is back, sliding into the booth, and they’re disengaging to pour over the museum pamphlets for possible connections.
“Well,” H.G. says as Myka flips on the lights and locks the front door behind them, all three snapping on purple gloves. She leans closer to a display. “This will narrow it down considerably.”
“No kidding,” Myka says, “we might not even need to spend the night.”
Pete looks confused. “One of you ladies gonna fill me in?”
“This is fake,” H.G. reports, peering into a glass case containing a sarcophagus. “I think it might be plaster.”
Myka runs a finger across a elaborately painted bust. “This is fake too, lead in the paint.”
“Just because it’s fake doesn’t mean it’s not an artifact,” Pete points out, and straightens when both women turn to him. “What? I can be right about stuff.”
“Let’s start with seeing if anything could be legitimate,” Myka says, “and if we get no hits we can come back to the knockoffs.”
H.G. sticks her head down a hallway and calls back, “these two exhibits have been shut down since before the deaths.”
Pete snaps his fingers. “We should start in the giftshop.”
“Pete,” Myka says, “this isn’t an actual visit to a museum, you can’t just skip to the giftshop.”
“No listen, where do people go in museums and actually touch stuff? All three victims were out of town, right? We should be checking keychains and postcard racks.”
H.G. leans to peer into a mummy’s face. “That does seem more likely than anything here.”
“Yeah,” Myka says, sighing, “I have the feeling most of this stuff has ‘made in china’ stamped on the bottom. Gift shop it is.”
“Score,” Pete says. “we should pick up something for Artie while we’re down there... after we find the artifact, of course.”
“Of course,” H.G. says seriously, and tosses Myka a little smile behind Pete’s back.
The gift shop is almost comically tiny. “I say we stand here and spray,” Pete says, squeezed into the tiny entryway. “I think we could fit the whole thing in one static bag.”
“Okay,” Myka says, “we’re looking for something obscure enough that only three people would have picked it up or touched it.”
“Something that relates to sickness,” H.G. adds, and they fan out as much as they can in the small shop.
Myka slips behind the counter and examines the register, trailing a finger across the credit card reader, shifting the take-a-penny-leave-a-penny dish to the side. She spins the display of cheap earrings around twice and moves across the aisle to the bookshelf.
“God,” she mutters, withdrawing a worn volume. “Garfield. What does this have to do with Egypt?” She flips open the cover and finds a sticker declaring it the property of the Michigan State Library System. “And it’s used. Perfect.”
“Mykes,” Pete calls, “come here, we’ve got the three most unappealing tourist trap products.” Myka puts the comic book away and crosses the room in five strides.
“Bulky bright blue scarab beetle necklaces,” Pete counts, “dead moth lollipops, which are kinda cool by the way, and a trucker hat with a picture of a weird catman.”
“The God Anubis,” H.G. corrects. She reaches into her coat and comes out with a small spray cannister. “Shall we?”
Pete bows elaborately, “Goo away.” They lean away as H.G. generously sprays each object. No sparks.
“Damn,” Myka mutters, and draws out a stack of static bags. “Be systematic,” she reminds Pete as she passes them out. “Let’s do the gift shop tonight and come back tomorrow for the rest.”
“Oh,” Pete says, “let’s keep an eye out for those guestbooks or comment cards, only three people ever seem to write anything in them.”
“Bust,” Pete grumbles as they walk down the cheap carpet of the motel. “Huge bust. Hugest.”
“Yeah,” Myka says, “whose idea was it to start with the gift shop?”
Pete makes his fingers into a ‘W’ shape. “We got conjoining rooms?”
“Yeah.” Myka passes him a cardkey and turns to H.G. “you mind bunking with me?”
“My pleasure,” H.G. says.
Pete waves his Farnsworth at them, “I’ll check in.”
The room is nice, as shitty motels go. The twin bedspreads have no visible stains and the bathroom smells like bleach. Myka throws her go bag on the bed closest to the door and exhales as she lays down, shoes and all. She closes her eyes, her thumb pressed to the space between her eyebrows. A breeze flutters on her face and she can feel the mattress dip beside her.
“You look wretched,” H.G. murmurs. A warm, dry hand presses against Myka’s temple. “You’re warm.” Myka slits her eyes open to see H.G. leaned over her, frowning.
“It’s the flying,” Myka says, “throws me off. The pressure, all that stale air. I’m just tired.”
“You should eat something,” H.G. says. “I believe Pete mentioned something about ordering Chinese.”
Myka lets her eyes close again. “Not hungry. Too much salt.” She can feel herself starting to slip. “‘Mm tired.”
“I’ll wake you when the food comes,” H.G. says.
“You smell like apples,” Myka mumbles, and dozes off before H.G. can respond.
It feels like seconds later that H.G. is shaking her. Myka throws off her hand, rolling over to press her face into the pillow. There’s another few seconds of peace and then she feels a bounce beside her, followed by a solid presence that can only be Pete.
“Hey,” she says, blinking the sleep out of her eyes.
“Dude,” Pete says, “you’ve slept for like fourteen hours. It’s time to go back to the museum, nearly four thirty.”
“What?” Myka sits straight up, running fingers through her hair. H.G. nods at her from the chair, lacing up her boots.
“You never sleep this long,” Pete says, frowning.
“I’m fine Pete, don’t be weird.” Myka cracks her neck, stretching, and grabs her bag. “Ten minutes, I’ll be ready.”
They start in the mummy room, Pete keeping a running commentary of Abbott and Costello plot points, and by the time they’ve tested every item and moved into the next hall, he’s attempting to recite the entire Who’s on First routine for the benefit of H.G.
Myka presses the back of her glove against her forehead, feeling overheated, sweaty. When she straightens from testing an electrical outlet her vision narrows. She takes three steps into the next room before her cannister falls from her fingers and she sways forward, catching herself on the wall.
“Oh my god,” she says, and Pete and H.G. turn. “I can’t believe it,” she says, and then giggles, her fingers pressed over her mouth. Her hands are shaking. “I smell fudge,” she says, and faints.
She wakes on top of that shitty motel bedspread, and for a single disorienting moment she thinks that she’s dreamed going to the museum for a second time. But then H.G. leans over her, face pinched, and calls to the side. “She’s awake.”
“Ugh,” Myka groans, and Pete appears with the first aid kit from Myka’s bag.
“Thermometer,” Pete says, and hands the plastic machine over to H.G., who takes one look at it, puzzled, and gives it to Myka.
“I don’t know how to work this.”
Myka slips it under her tongue. “Why’re the lights on so high?”
“They’re not,” Pete says. He points his fingers at her like tiny guns. “Whammy’s on you!”
“Godammit,” Myka groans. “Turn the lights off, please.”
Pete walks over to the lightswitch. “Claudia owes me fifty bucks.”
“It’s just going back in the pot,” Myka says, throwing her arm over her eyes. “You’ll get it next time.”
“No way,” Pete says, “Claudia hasn’t got whammied in ages.”
“Wait!” Myka says as the thermometer beeps, “I want my money on H.G., she hasn’t gotten in yet, she’s totally up.”
“Helena,” H.G. grumbles.
Pete’s face twists. “Damn. You’re right.”
H.G. takes the thermometer out of Myka’s mouth and doubletakes hard. She shakes it back and forth, looking frazzled.
“It’s Fahrenheit,” Myka says.
“Ah,” H.G. says. “Right.”
“Okay,” Pete says, clapping his hands together. “There’s no cold medicine in the kit so we’re just going to find the artifact fast. What’d you touch that we didn’t. Hit me.”
“I’m not sure,” Myka says, frowning, and--”hey! You told me you refilled the kit in Tampa.”
“Let’s move past that,” Pete says.
“Okay,” Myka says, swinging herself up. She sways backwards and grabs at H.G.’s sleeve to steady herself. “Let’s go back and focus on the sections that I did, bag it, and go home. My head is killing me.”
“Do you want to punch me for not putting Tylenol in the kit?” Pete asks.
“No,” Myka groans.
“You can do it when you feel better,” Pete offers, and she smiles at him.
Three hours into spraying every inch of the exhibits Myka searched she has to sit down, her head throbbing. Her neck feels swollen and stiff and every muscle feels like it’s been pulled.
“Maybe I’ll just supervise,” she mumbles, and presses her face against the cool glass. “Let me know when you need... more supervision.”
“Myka,” H.G. murmurs some time later, “we’re moving to the gift shop, we need you to point out what you touched.” Myka staggers to her feet, one arm slung over H.G.’s shoulders and moves towards the gift shop in shuffling steps.
“I feel weird,” Myka slurs, her feet slipping out from under her. “Lost fifty bucks to Pete life is so unfair.”
H.G. props Myka against the wall to help Pete unlock the gift shop and Myka slides down, slumping in on herself. She struggles weakly with the buttons of her shirt. “Hot,” she says, and H.G. and Pete are speaking in low voices to the side. She pulls at the collar of her shirt, her eyes slipping closed, and falls forward.
Pete catches her, pulling her against his shoulder. “--call Claudia,” he’s saying. “I’ll go back to the diner.”
Myka sleeps for fourteen hours. She has disjointed, fragmented memories of waking to H.G.’s hand on her forehead, the roughness of a towel soaked in cold water against her neck.
She dreams of Sam, and of Tracy.
Tracy died while Myka was away. She remembers getting the call to come home, sitting in the bookstore tracing her fingers of Voltaire in the original French, and coming home to her mother sitting on the front steps of the house with her hand over her mouth, her eyes wet and unfocused, her hair falling out of her bun. Her father was standing in the kitchen, one hand around the handle of the fridge like any minute he would reach in and pull out one of the beers he only drinks when he’s in the worst kind of mood, his eyes glued on the magnet from the dentist they’d gotten the previous year.
“Dad?” she asked, her voice trembling, “What... what’s wrong with mom?”
Myka has never ever looked at her father, not once in the twenty years since it happened, without seeing him the way he looked in that moment, when he turned his head, met her eyes, and said “Your sister is gone,” before walking away.
Later, sitting on the edge of her sister’s bed with her head in her hands, Myka takes a deep breath and locks away every urge she’s ever had to rebel, to dye her hair strange colours and get impulse piercings at the mall, shuts them down low and deep and small in the center of herself. Then she gets up and starts to get on with living with the rest of her life.
The best thing Tracy ever taught her was that control is key, control is everything. Keeping it together when other people can’t, even when you think you can’t, is how you get through the worst moments of your life.
Myka opens her eyes. “Sam,” she gasps, her hand outstretched. H.G. braids their fingers together.
“Myka,” she says urgently, “you need to think. What did you touch, that we didn’t. Myka.”
“I was late,” Myka says. Her head is killing her. “No--he was early?”
Pete walks into her field of vision and throws a full cup of water into her face. “We talked about this,” he says, and she splutters. “We have a deal,” Pete says, and his face in a pinched in the way it was when they found Steve lying cold and alone.
The last vestige of lucidity rises in Myka and she grabs at H.G.’s wrist. She pulls weakly, and H.G. leans very close to her. “You’re so ill,” H.G. murmurs. There are worry lines around her mouth and under her eyes. “You’ve always been good at saving yourself.”
Myka pushes herself up the best she can, until her lips brush the shell of H.G.’s ear. “I hate Mondays,” she whispers, and sleeps again.
Myka sits up and winces, her entire body screaming. She feels cold, and crusty, like she’s sweated through her blouse and her slacks and dried off again. She groans and realizes there’s an arm thrown across her waist. She follows it back up to familiar set of shoulders.
“Pete,” she groans, thumping his side. “What the hell.”
Pete sits up like a jack-in-the-box. “Myka,” he breathes, “oh--thank god.” He hits her in a hug, and Myka topples back, still feeling weak. Pete lands on top of her. “Don’t do that to me,” he says into her neck, very quietly, and Myka takes a deep breath, feels his ribcage pressed against hers.
“We have a deal,” she says, pushing him back to run her fingers through his hair soothingly. “I don’t break deals. What the hell happened to me?
“You better not,” he says, sighing. “Meningitis, that book in the giftshop---”
Myka snaps her fingers. “Michigan. They had that outbreak a few years ago, because of the unvaccinated kids, I read about it in a journal article about herd protection.”
Pete stares at her. “What do you read.”
Myka shrugs. “Some girls buy Cosmo...”
The door creaks. “Is she--oh.” H.G. slips inside, her eyes fixed on the ceiling. “I’m interrupting again.”
Myka and Pete look at each other, suddenly realizing that they’re lying on top of each other, their hips pressed up close and their faces inches apart. “Oh,” Myka squeaks, pushing on his chest. Pete rolls off her so hard he falls from the bed onto the floor, popping back to his feet quickly.
“We’re not--I’m gonna. Go. Call Artie.” He flees, and Myka stretches experimentally, feeling the almost-good pull of rolling sore muscles.
“You two are close,” H.G. says.
“Of course,” Myka says. She stands, and blinks her way through the headrush. Her mouth feels like it’s been stuffed with cotton, and there’s stored up tension in her temples and behind her eye sockets.
“I wouldn’t want to step between anything,” H.G. says, stiff. She sticks her hands in her pockets and rocks from her heel to her toe. Myka tilts her head.
“Helena,” she says, her voice gravely from illness and disuse, and H.G. takes a step towards her like she’s been pulled forward.
“I,” H.G. says, and Myka reaches to trace her fingers down H.G.’s cheek. She falls, still off balance and feeling peaky, and her palm slips to the hollow of H.G.’s throat, a strange mirror to the time they met before. She squeezes on reflex and H.G.’s pulse thrums against her skin, faster and faster. Myka feels utterly clear headed, and she pushes forward hard, until H.G.’s back thumps against the wall. She tightens her grip and H.G. sucks in a breath, harsh.
“Helena,” Myka says again, and she’s close enough to see Helena’s eyes dilate.
“Myka,” Helena says, and their lips meet in the the middle of the air between them. Myka pushes herself up on her toes to get the leverage of height, pressing down, her hands clenched into the loops at Helena’s belt, Helena’s fingers twisted painfully through the knots in Myka’s hair.
“I bring chocolate,” Pete sings, coming back into the room with foil wrapped packets from the vending machine in the hall, “your--oh my god.”
Myka springs backwards, tripping over her own feet, and Helena pushes herself back against the wall. Her lips are swollen. “Um,” Myka says, “um--”
“Um,” Pete says, in some kind of extremely strange echo.
“I’ll just--” Helena flees, but not before one last glance at Myka as she slips through the doorway, her eyes tracing the flush from Myka’s cheekbones down across her collarbones where it disappears under her shirt.
“Okay,” Pete says. “I--”
“It’s fine,” Myka says, “don’t make it weird.” She turns to retreat into the bathroom for a shower and Pete moves into her path.
“Wait, Myka. It is fine. It’s all fine.”
Myka meets his eyes. “Really?”
Pete takes a deep breath. “Yeah. I mean, you’re kind of ruining the ladylove for me, but.”
Myka socks him, gentle, and they share a smile. “Thanks partner.”
Pete brushes a kiss across her temple and steps back, clearing his throat and pretending like he was trying to lick chocolate off her cheek. “Anytime.”
“Inventory,” Artie says after she’s turned in her reports. “So much inventory.”
“He had money on Steve,” Claudia explains, typing at the computer, and Myka sighs. Artie catches her in the doorway.
“You’re okay, though?”
“Yeah,” Myka says, “I’m okay.”
“Good,” Artie says. “Good. H.G. and Pete have already started, they’re in the American Gothic aisle.”
When Sam died Myka went home and sat on the edge of her bed. She thought of Tracy, of Sam’s wife, of the way Sam kissed her on the morning he was murdered, of kneeling beside his body with his blood slick and hot under her palms as she tried to stem the tide of it pouring from his chest.
“Sorry, Trace,” she murmured. “I forgot.”
Myka turns the corner, reaching for the pen tucked behind her ear, and stops dead. Pete is lying in the middle of the aisle, eyes closed and an unearthly glow to his skin, and Helena is standing over him, holding a pitchfork. Myka makes a strangled noise in the throat, and Helena’s looks up.
She looks at Myka, looks at the pitchfork in her hand, and jolts. “Ah,” she says “this isn’t---it’s not--don’t...” she pauses, clearly searching for the correct colloquialism, and in any other circumstance Myka would find it quite charming. “Don’t freak out,” she says, and her accent is quite charming regardless.
Myka gapes at her. “Don’t freak out? Don’t freak out? Have you met me?!” She kneels beside Pete, pressing fingers against the pulse point in his neck. “What the hell happened?”
“It’s not the trident!” Helena practically shouts.
Myka stares at her. “I know that,” she says, her voice gone shrill, “I’m not Pete.”
“Ah.” Helena says. “Good. Yes. He touched something and everything fell and--” she gestures, rather helplessly, and Myka grabs one of the fire extinguishers Claudia had upgraded some time earlier.
“Put that down, for God’s sake,” she snaps, and Helena disappears from her sight as she liberally sprays Pete, the floor around Pete and the shelves surrounding him with purple chemical foam.
“Tastes like cream cheese,” Pete groans, sitting up. Helena comes back around and offers him a hand, pulls him to his feet.
“Pete,” Myka says, her hands propped on her hips, “what have we said about touching.”
“To not,” Pete says glumly. He picks up his clipboard off the ground, the paper clumped together into a mess of purple pulp.
“Go decontaminate,” Myka says severely. “No dawdling--I’ll know. I’m going back to give this,” she hefts up the extinguisher, “to Claudia for refilling. I’ll be back to help you finish inventory.” She directs the last comment to Helena, who nods. She watches Pete leave, glaring, and is turning back towards the main office when Helena catches her by the wrist.
“You really didn’t think I’d betrayed you again,” she says, and Myka turns her hand up to braid their fingers together.
“I really didn’t,” she says, and something eases in the line of Helena’s spine.
“Hey,” Myka says, “I had to use one of your emergency tanks. Where’s Artie?”
Claudia spins in her chair. “Leena needed help with something or other.” Myka hands her the tank and Claudia pets the top valve like a kitten. “How’d my baby do?”
“Beautifully,” Myka assures her, and turns to leave.
“Wait,” Claudia blurts, and shifts uncomfortably in her seat. The plastic casing around the wheels creaks. “How’s your... measles?”
“Meningitis,” Myka corrects. “And it’s fine. I’m a little annoyed the vaccine doesn’t guard against the artifact strain, but I’ll live.” Claudia vibrates a little in place. “Did you... want to ask me something else?”
“I wanted to show you something,” Claudia says, reaching across the table for her jacket. She flips the material in her hands, fingers searching. “A-ha!” She pushes the lapel out for Myka to see two identical pins, plain white with black writing. No H8, one with the pink symbol for women and the other with the blue symbol for men.
“Very nice,” Myka says, and tries to hide how clueless she feels.
“One for you and one for Jinks,” Claudia says, looking uncomfortable. “I know you and me, we’re not feeling feelings people, but uh. We--”
“Yeah,” Myka says, “I know.”
“Good,” Claudia murmurs, “that’s--that’s good.”
“Pete told you, huh?”
“Yeah. We haven’t told Artie yet, though, we thought you should have the pleasure.”
Myka laughs. “Thanks Claud. Although, if there’s one for me and one for Steve, shouldn’t there be one for Helena?”
Claudia pulls the jacket around her shoulders. “What you two need separate gestures now? You’re one of those couples?”
Myka pinks. "We're not... we haven't."
"Oh god," Claudia says, "please, no gory details. I mean I'm rooting for you and all but--"
"There are no details," Myka interrupts. "There's really no. Nothing. I mean, there's all this history between us and then the warehouse and then work and us and--" Myka cuts herself off, staring at Claudia, who's making a large production out of checking her pockets, then the drawers of the small desk. "What are you doing?"
"Looking for a fuck that you should be giving," Claudia says. "Oh look, there aren't any!" Myka stares at her some more. "Myka," Claudia says, "you should be happy. You deserve to be happy. Don't waste time." She coughs. "Or, something else slightly less likely to be found in a Nicholas Sparks novel."
Myka grabs her hand. “Inventory, come on.”
“Noooo,” Claudia moans, but she skip hops to match Myka’s stride, her arm looping around Myka’s waist and her head bouncing on Myka’s shoulder.
Myka thinks of Tracy, just once, and feels the flush of sisterly love instead of anger. She smoothes Claudia’s hair past her ear and smiles.
Myka taps her pen on her clipboard. “Hardhats,” she reminds, and hears twin exhales of exasperation behind her.
“Life without danger isn’t worth living,” Helena says.
“I don’t understand why I need supervision,” Claudia whines.
“Do you remember the last time you did inventory without supervision?” Myka asks, checking off Durkheim’s pocketknife.
“And what happened?”
Claudia makes a noise of deep and eternal emotional pain. “I tried on one of the Stratford-Upon-Avon Ophelia dresses and tried to drown myself with Artie’s bottle of Desani.”
“Yes,” Myka says. “Hardhat.”
“You’re cramping my style, Mykalita,” Claudia says with a gusty sigh. “Oh hey, H.G., be careful with that rope, it came from Salem during the witchy trials. You don’t want to trip and accidentally strangle Myka. The Dictator.”
“Yes well, Miss Donovan,” Myka hears Helena say, and she can tell by the tone that she’s smirking. “I rather like it the other way around.”
“What?” Claudia says. Myka squeaks, her clipboard banging on the shelf and almost upsetting the small collection of Albert Einstein’s actual marbles. “Oh,” Claudia says as Myka refuses to turn, her face bright red, “Oh gross, oh god. It’s like mom sex. Mom... sister... sex.”
“Oops,” Helena says cheerfully. Myka turns to glare at her. “Notice I am wearing the protective headgear,” she points out helpfully.
“I’m going back upstairs,” Claudia grumbles. “You two finish the inventory---and think about what you’ve done! My virgin ears.”
Myka waits until the clumpclump of her fashionable multi-coloured combat boots has faded to prop her clipboard next to a collection of original Theodor Geisel’s anti-immigration newspaper clippings and turning to fix Helena with the stare that makes Pete cower like a little boy with his hand in the cookie jar. Helena looks utterly unaffected.
“You make that hat look like a crown,” she says, leering, and Myka rolls her eyes.
“Flattery will get you nowhere,” she says, “especially when you’re pulling it out of your ass.”
“I assure you I mean every word,” Helena says, and reaches out to tug at the collar of Myka’s button down shirt. Myka swats at her.
“Professional,” she says, moving her hands in a rough rectangle shape. “Personal.”
“Doesn’t the saying involve spheres?”
Myka sighs. “The faster we’re finished with this the faster we can do other things.”
“Smashing.” Helena grins, and Myka flushes again.
“Other things like paperwork,” she says, but she can feel that old urge coming back, the one that made her convince Sam to go into work late and take weekends off, the one she thought she’d never have again, and before it leaves she ducks in, their hardhats banging against each other, to press a kiss to the corner of Helena’s mouth. Be happy, Bunny Sam whispers in her ear, and vanishes.
“Positively scandalous,” Helena murmurs, and the corners of her eyes crinkle when she smiles.