A/N: This is my first Sanctuary fic, so it's a bit of a step-off for me. Started with a conversation between myself and Astraperaspera and became this fic. Thanks to her, Pengyn, Solo and Babncat for the edits. (I didn't need that many betas, just that much confidence.)
Escaped gases curled above the surface of the frozen liquid, only occasionally thinning and parting to reveal what lay submerged beneath. Yet those brief glimpses were enough to keep her coming back here to this most secret of places in what was already one of the most secret of places. Her inner sanctum. The vast, poorly lit room contained only one object - a large barrel-shaped apparatus with a transparent lid connected to the wall by a series of wires and pipes. Yet inevitably, the small canister within would call her back, demanding her attention. It was her greatest treasure; it represented her greatest fear.
She shouldn't keep it. She knew that, logically. There was no reason. Yet even in those early darkest days when the self-recrimination and the grief and pain had been nearly overwhelming and she'd been faced with decisions no one should ever have to make, she couldn't destroy it. For years she'd tried to tell herself - had possibly even succeeded in convincing herself - that it was her father's influence. The small bundle of cells was, after all, potentially useful and might one day be needed. There was no reason to destroy what could so easily be kept secure and protected. It was what she did, and personal sensibilities shouldn't be allowed to interfere.
Only that had never been the reason. With time had come wisdom and a freedom from self-deception or, at least, gradually decreasing self-deception, until she'd finally managed a measure of honesty with herself.
She wanted this child. This specific baby - not just any one. Despite all the dangers and the risks of what might happen if somehow, against all reason and probability, he survived and should ever find out. Despite knowing that carrying it to term would open up old emotional wounds so deep and traumatic they had never properly healed. Because by now she'd had plenty of other opportunities, and even other offers. For while he had been the first, his hadn't been the only bed she'd shared. Yet none had been like him - none had made her feel even one fraction as alive as she had felt in those early glorious months or come close to soothing the pain which had become her constant companion in his place. He still owned the heart he had destroyed, and no matter how long she lived she would always love him. And he was forever lost to her.
But she could have his child. The embryo held frozen in that canister she could barely see was a part of him, just as it was a part of her. And while it could never replace him, at times like this when the walls of her Sanctuary became more prison than protection, she knew it held the key to ending her loneliness. At least then maybe something - someone - good might come from it all.
It was the reason she kept coming back here: the best of them both, all their hopes and promise combined. But no one knew better than she that there were no guarantees. His offspring might also inherit the worst. And that was a chance she could not take. It was the reason she had never acted. Only dreamed. And hoped. And wished for the strength and courage to do more.
It had started with a phone call, not much more than a week ago.
"Dr. Magnus? Dr. Helen Magnus?"
"The Dr. Magnus?"
"As far as I know I'm the only one." She was, for good or evil, used to such unusual phone calls at all hours of the day or night.
"The Dr. Magnus who is.. Who runs… I've heard of a place called Sanctuary?"
Helen smiled, hoping the other woman would hear it in her voice. "Yes. That's me."
The relief in the voice on the other end of the line was palpable. "Thank God. I had no idea where to turn… what to do… I need… I don't…"
Helen cut the other woman off before her panic became absolute. "Please. Slow down. Lets take this one step at a time. I assume you called because you have a 'situation' with which you think I may be, shall we say, specially qualified to help?"
"Yes." The voice seemed calmer now, more rational. "Exactly."
"Good. Now, are you in immediate danger?"
"No. I mean.. it's not even me…" Her panic rising again, the woman took a deep breath before continuing. "It's my son, Justin. He's… Ever since his father died he's… I can't…"
Helen interrupted. Long experience told her there were faster ways. "Can we meet somewhere to talk? If you would give me your address? Or you could come here?"
"Yes. That would be good. I mean.. here. That's perfect."
Helen reached for a pen and proceeded to note the address the woman gave her. "I can be there in under an hour. Will that be alright?"
This time, she could hear the deep sigh of relief. "Yes. Perfect. Thank you, Dr. Magnus."
"You're more than welcome. I'll be there shortly." And, after returning the phone to it's cradle Helen stood up and headed for the door.
-to be continued in Chapter 2