When her eyes finally fluttered open for longer than a few seconds, Magnus sighed. She closed them again, searching through her memory, trying to remember what happened… With a gasp it all flooded back, and her body started to convulse out of pure instinct. She passed out.

The next time she woke up, Will was there. She looked into his eyes for only a few seconds, confirming that he, at least, was ok, before turning away to stare at the wall as a well of emotion swelled from her chest up to her throat. The look in his eyes… Neither of them spoke.

She woke again. Her whole body thrummed, but the pain was slightly dulled. She could shift slightly without the searing pain she had become used to. Who had healed her? She was always the one that did the healing. She took care of everyone else; they did not take care of her. She could never be submitted to a normal hospital, thanks to her special physiology, but none of the family, workers, or residents of her Sanctuary had the skills to bring her back from what had happened… How had she even escaped from wherever it was she had been? Had any of the others from her Sanctuary been captured? Was everyone ok?

Several weeks later, she sat gingerly at her desk, jotting down some notes on a recent addition to her Sanctuary. She looked down at her hands – the bruises and cuts were gone now, but every once in a while they still shook. By the time she'd recovered enough to try figure out what drugs she'd been filled with, their damage had been done and was untraceable. The main casts were off both her arm and foot, but she still had braces on, and walked with care. Sitting was still difficult due to her ribs, and sleeping was worse. She fingered the scarf around her neck. It was kind of ridiculous to hide the still bruised and red handprints circling her neck underneath; everyone knew they were there… She heard a sound, and looked up as Will opened the door. He glanced at her for approval before quietly walking and sitting down at the chair across the desk from her.

"Helen," he began; his usual confidence lacking. She cut him off.

"Will, I don't know who they were, where we were, or why they did what they did, but for right now, I do not care. I would appreciate you not trying to analyze me, and get me to talk my way into full recovery."

She paused.

"I have lived through a lot of horrible things in my life. This will be yet another of the dark, haunting memories I'll have to live with for the rest of my insufferably long existence."

He was silent, absorbing her little speech. He nodded, stood, and walked to the door. He hesitated. He walked through, closing it behind him. She sighed, dropping her pen; she hadn't written any actual notes in close to an hour.

Was this all worth it? Her research, her efforts? Did the human race deserve to evolve further? She had seen so much hate, so much pain in her life… She just wanted to help people, to learn, to better herself and her people by accepting the new forms of life she discovered. But throughout all of human history those who tried to break free from the mold of the time were persecuted, hated, and hunted. Science used to be thought of as witchcraft for gods sake!

She admitted that though she'd endured more emotional trauma than most people could imagine, she'd been amazingly deft at avoiding intense physical trauma. There had been a few occasions where she'd been down for weeks at a time, but usually because of some accident in the lab, an abnormal out of control, a drunk driver… Never before had she been the victim of such reckless passion and hate as she had with…whoever it was He had been. He'd never even asked a single question. She wished He had. Had He done it all for just the thrill of it? Why her? Was He one of those sick minded people who had no reason for what they did? Maybe she was so fixated with abnormals because she had lost hope in ever trying to understand her own kind. She hated her weakness at the self pity she felt. She knew countless women suffered sexual assault every day, but… the physical pain didn't hurt her as much as her total loss of control had. She'd panicked – she'd given in to the pain, to whatever drugs they'd given her, and she had just lost it.

She didn't trust herself anymore.

If she couldn't trust herself to maintain her position as leader and protector, how could she ever ask anyone else to? She swore to herself she'd never let anyone get too close, but she knew she'd failed. How could she ask Henry, the big guy, Will… Ashley… to follow her if her own faith was broken? She'd done unforgivable things before, but if something happened to any of them because of her, she doesn't think she'd survive. She took a deep breath.

Time can heal all wounds she thought bitterly. I certainly have enough time.

She looked up as she heard the door being opened again. A tentative blonde head peeked around the corner. Ashley approached her nervously.

Did Will talk to her? Did he tell her to come? No, stop… you're being paranoid. I just can't handle any more pity, any more worry.

"Mom… I just…I just wanted to say I'm proud of you."

Helen frowned.

"I know you've told me only a fraction of the crap you've been through in your life, but I can only hope that this has been one of the worst. And you made it through."

Helen had to clasp her hands together to stop them from shaking.

Had she made it through?

She looked up at Ashley, and could see her daughter's eyes were glistening.

"You're the strongest, most kind-hearted person I've ever known, and I'm not just saying that cause I'm biased. You didn't deserve any of what happened to you, but… you made it through, and I just wanted to say that I'm really glad you're Ok."

Tears were falling down the young woman's cheeks now.

"I… I really don't know what I would have done if you hadn't made it."

She stopped speaking. She looked like maybe she wanted to say more, but didn't. She just nodded, hoping her message had got through, and walked out.

Helen made sure the door had fully closed before letting a small sob escape.

Ashley…

Maybe there was something worth living for after all.

Fin


Well.... that, as they say, is that!!! I hope you liked it.

Thank you SO much to all my wonderful reviewers, and for those who stuck through this whole thing :D You guys rock!!!

Also, a huge shout out to my brilliant beta Mandy!!!! Thanks for all the input, the second pair of eyes, and the publicity ;)

MSam