Title: That Which Remains
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Summary: They had been the only two of the Five still on familiar terms, still pursuing their original goals after all these years. 1600 words.
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the world is not. I claim nothing but the plot.
Fandom: Through Sanctuary 1.13, "Revelations, Part II"
Notes: Full of spoilers and unfounded (?) speculations regarding the aftermath of the two-part finale. Contains references to Helen Magnus/John Druitt, and vague allusions to other possible pairings.
It wasn't until after they'd brought Ashley back into the fold and regretfully destroyed the vial of Ancient blood in the Cabal's possession that the loss of James Watson fully sank in for Helen. She'd always known that in the end she would be the last of the Five; that sooner or later the others would be lost to the effects of age or to the destructive side effects of their gifts. Mere knowledge, however, had never been sufficient to conquer the heart, and somewhere deep in her own she'd never believed that James would truly leave her.
Neither of them had ever entirely recovered from John's betrayal; the shock of discovering that their lover and friend had become Jack the Ripper had splintered them apart and made it difficult to face one another in person. The memories were simply too strong, too painful to be borne. Despite that, however, they'd kept up a thorough correspondence over the years, and relied on each other for circumspect assistance in a number of sensitive situations they'd dared entrust to no one else, not even Griffin or the increasingly unreliable Tesla. He had been the one to ultimately encourage her to finally go through with her pregnancy with John's daughter, and take in an orphaned, adolescent werewolf as more than just another resident; when age had finally begun to set into his bones, it had been her help he'd asked in constructing the miraculous support braces he'd designed. If ever a man had seemed likely to achieve physical immortality by sheer effort of will, it had been James Watson, the man behind the legend of Sherlock Holmes.
Losing him was-- unfathomable. They'd only just reassembled the Five for the first time in a century; he and John had barely begun to bury the hatchet, and she'd foolishly allowed herself to begin to dream of a more lasting reunion. To imagine John stable enough to take up a more reliable role in her life and Ashley's; to think of inviting James to pass the leadership of the U.K. Sanctuary to someone else and take up that consulting position on her staff he'd been hinting about of late; to picture cozy evenings of good food, strategy games and lively conversation. Henry would have enjoyed seeing more of James as well, she knew; he'd been one of Henry's few strong, abnormal male role models growing up. And of course, she would have greatly enjoyed seeing that delighted understanding make a frequent reappearance on Will's face.
Will, who still wasn't aware of the truth.
Helen dropped her eyes to the last page of his file, written closely in her own coded variation of Latin, and rubbed at her temples. Damn James anyway for leaving this to her; Nigel had taken care of passing on the lore of his own gift, and John had been training Ashley in the finer points of his since her retrieval from the Cabal. It remained to be seen whether the trigger the Cabal's scientists had administered had brought Helen's gift out in their daughter as well as John's; but regardless, the entire affair had been a strong confirmation that what the Five had done to themselves with the Ancient blood had had permanent, and inheritable, genetic consequences. She had suspected before, but now she was certain of the origin of Will's extraordinary perceptiveness, and could not understand why James had apparently not bothered to even track, much less train, his own descendants.
Surely he would have treated Will differently if he had realised that Dr. Zimmerman was more than just Helen's latest protégé? Or would he? She had not precisely hidden her interest in Will since stumbling upon him at a young age after his mother's death at the hands of an abnormal; had James been watching as well, and decided to leave his great-grandson's esoteric education in her hands? Yet how could he have believed that to be in Will's best interests?
Will thought of himself as "normal", and she'd never challenged him with her suspicions that he might be anything else-- but she'd seen the amazement wash over him at finally finding someone who thought the same way he did, and could not help but think that it would have benefited him greatly to have had that support all along. She'd observed he and James "geeking out" together, discussing what they could "see" that no one else was able to perceive, and wondered at the time that neither had seen what was right in front of their faces: how very alike they both were.
Perhaps James had seen it; his last words in this world had been for Will. Perhaps he'd simply preferred not to risk the likelihood of disappointment, before; he'd married twice in the decade immediately following the original sundering of the Five, and none of the children produced by those relatively brief marriages had ever developed intellectual gifts approaching his own. When Ashley had first begun to exhibit hints of John's strength and temper as a little girl, he'd shared with her a little of the alienation he'd always felt from his own children; and how very much he'd cared for them despite that, until they'd left the nest of their own accord. It had pained him to speak of it, though it had comforted her at the time.
It pained her to think of it now. Helen brushed a fingertip over the carefully coded notations regarding Will's recently confirmed genealogical background, then frowned as her fingers encountered a drop of moisture. She stared at the page a moment longer, wondering where it had come from; then felt a warm splash on the back of her hand, and realised how very blurred her vision had become.
"Oh, James," she murmured, then closed the file, pushed her chair back from the desk, and brought her hands up to cover her face. Nikola had disappeared again, undoubtedly to turn up in pursuit of more mischief in the future; Nigel's granddaughter had returned to Baton Rouge despite her obvious attraction to Will; and she knew better than to expect John to stay once he was convinced that Ashley was truly recovering from the forced manifestation of her new powers and the guilt she carried for the deaths she'd caused while under the Cabal's control. Even if Helen could bring herself to fully trust him again, she doubted John would trust himself; true redemption for him might very well take the full length of another lifetime, and in the meantime Helen would be even more alone than she'd been before.
She should have visited James more often; should have called him to her side for more than the direst of emergencies, despite the deep emotional ache always stirred up by their meetings. They had been the only two of the Five still on familiar terms, still pursuing their original goals after all these years; and now, that number had finally been reduced to one.
"Dr. Magnus? ...Helen, are you all right?"
A worried voice roused her from her grief, and Helen turned a watery, but sincere, smile toward the doorway. No, that number was still at two after all, wasn't it? Whether he'd known it or not, James had left an heir to take his place. And how very capably the young man before her filled that role. Given a few more years to grow into himself, Dr. William Zimmerman would truly be a marvel to witness in action; and she already relied on him more than she'd ever expected to, in personal matters as well as professional.
"I'm alright, Will," she said, wiping the remaining tears from her eyes. "Everything's just caught up with me all at once."
The alarm in his expression faded into something softer, and more concerned, at her words. "That's to be expected," he said. "You've been through a lot-- we all have-- in the last few weeks. If you want to talk about it..." He shrugged, obviously not expecting her to take him up on his offer, but making it anyway; a gesture more from the heart than professional obligation, she suspected.
She stared at him a long moment, a sad smile curving her lips, then drew a deep breath. "Actually," she said, "if you wouldn't mind hearing me reminisce a bit about James..."
Surprise, then a quickly subdued flare of anticipation, lit Will's face. "No, I wouldn't mind it at all," he said hastily, taking a tentative seat in the nearest armchair. "Remembering the happier times can definitely help blunt the grief of a painful loss, and I know how much he meant to you."
Her heart swelled with affection for him. He was so earnest, so transparent, and yet, so very good at his job; and already so very committed to her cause. She hoped James could see this, wherever he was; that he realised the value of the gift he'd left behind.
"Where to begin?" she asked softly, half to herself.
"Wherever you'd like," Will shrugged, leaning forward attentively in his chair. "Was he always so..." He made an expansive gesture with one hand.
"Oh, yes," Helen said, chuckling sadly, and wondered if Will would recognise himself in her stories. It wasn't time to tell him quite yet, she thought; but soon, after things had settled with John, Ashley, and Henry, who felt nearly as guilty as Ashley did for walking right into the Cabal's trap. In the meantime, she could at least acquaint Will with the full story of the amazing man he'd known so briefly.
"As a matter of fact..."