No Love Without Forgiveness
Summary: Saying goodbye is never easy, especially when you're Sherlock Holmes and the man you know you'll never see again just happens to be Jack the Ripper. The Five is falling apart and James Watson thinks the nightmare is only beginning. Druitt/Watson, minor Magnus/Druitt, unrequited Watson/Magnus
Rating: PG-13/T for drug use, talk of abortion, slashiness
Author's Note: There actually is a basis to a lot of the suppositions I'm making here. My reasons are all down at the very end of the fic because the list too long to put up here. You can scroll down and read it now or read it after the fic. Or not at all if you don't really care. Oh, except I will say here that I know the quote is anachronistic to the era of the fic. I don't care; it was too perfect not to use.
Enjoy the fic!
"There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love."
-- Bryant McGill
No Love Without Forgiveness
James tossed restlessly in his bed, unable to sleep. The simple truth was that he had become too used to a certain form of exercise more evenings than not and it was difficult to get to sleep without partaking. But John continued to distance himself.
No, that was unfair. Physically, John was distancing himself, perhaps because of his engagement to Helen. Emotionally and intellectually, he was accessible as ever. He joined James every night to discuss the details of the troubling "Ripper" case. James would pour out his theories and they would review. John would demand a clarification here, make a supposition of his own there, and generally just give James a sounding board.
Then he would climb to his feet, giving his friend and lover a chaste kiss and telling him how sorry he was that James had not yet found the solution to this current problem.
"Everything will be better for us both, my dear Watson, when you understand what is really happening here. The Ripper will have been stopped and all will be right with the Five again. Good luck, James. Stop the monster soon, for both of our sakes."
An injunction that would haunt him for more than a century to come.
Pounding at his bedroom door jerked him back to full consciousness. "John, is that you?" he called, rising and groping in the dark for his robe. He could not think of anyone else who would come to him at this hour, unless there had been another murder.
"No, James. It's me!"
"Helen?" He hurried to the door, forgetting his robe. "Helen, what is it?" he demanded of the pale, shaking woman before him, taking her arms and steering her towards his bed. "Helen, what is it? Is it John? Has something happened to him?"
A weak nod, then a bare whisper. "James, John is the Ripper…"
"What?" he demanded, irritated. "You barge into my bedroom at this hour to make a joke like that, woman?"
Then he saw the small revolver clutched in her hand, the way she was shaking, her tear-stained cheeks. She was telling the truth. His next conscious thought was to wonder why he was on the floor and where Helen had gotten her hands on such foul smelling salts.
"Here, let's get you into bed," Helen urged, helping him to sit up.
He grasped her shoulder. "Are you sure?"
"He confessed it outright, killed a woman before my very eyes, James. I tried to save her, but…"
Even though he was wearing nothing but a nightshirt, he drew her into his arms, cradling her against his chest. The two sat there on the floor next to his bed for a good half-hour, weeping over the betrayal. And over what spelled the loss of their mutual lover. The John they had known was dead, killed by the Source Blood.
Helen calmed first. Well, she had obviously already taken some time to cry over all this. He let her help him into bed, but turned his back to her, abruptly resentful. She would have wed John, where James had only ever been intended to be the other man's fun on the side.
Not that he should blame Helen; neither one of them had expected James to start loving John. It had been unforeseen. But that didn't make the love any less intense or the pain any less agonizing. He drew his knees against his chest, almost to his forehead, and started to rock himself, needing some form of comfort.
He froze when he felt Helen slide into the bed behind him, bending her body to match the contours of his and wrapping her arms around him tightly. Her body was warm against his, soft. Nothing like John's, but still not remotely unpleasant.
"Thank you," he whispered after a moment.
"I'm sorry. This is my fault."
"Yours? My dear Helen, I hardly think…"
"It was my experiment that did this to him, James. We both know that. The John Druitt who took the Source Blood was no killer. I released this monster into the world."
"And I failed to catch him again."
"How were you to have known?"
"I should have done. He practically begged me to stop him! Every night, those same words. 'Catch the killer. Make things right for the Five. For both our sakes'! He said that to me every night! Every God-forsaken night, Helen!"
"James, he was manipulating you. How is that your fault?"
"If I were half the genius I like to think I am…"
"Your heart blinded you. As it did me. There's no shame in that."
"Isn't there?" he countered. He rolled to face her, grasping her shoulder. "How did you discover all of this?"
"He hasn't been acting himself. He'd wake up screaming, usually complaining that he couldn't get the blood off. At first, I thought he must have been remembering some horrible beating at his father's hands, or some beating by a past lover. But then he started to be evasive with me about where he was going at night. I simply couldn't see why he would suddenly start being coy about his relationship with you. Then, the other day, you made that offhand remark about how much more time he was suddenly spending with me…"
"And you instantly suspected him of murder?"
"Of course not. I assumed there was another man. I was afraid it must be Nikola or Nigel."
James shuddered at that concept. Nikola had always been detestable and, since taking the Source Blood, Nigel had grown increasingly erratic.
"I hoped it was one of them," she admitted. "Because I hated to think that he might have gone back to dangerous, anonymous, back-alley sex with perfect strangers just as likely to beat and rob him as they were to sleep with him."
"But there were no other men?"
She shook her head. "There were women, James. Which was odd for obvious reasons."
James nodded. Helen was the only woman John Druitt had ever been physically intimate with. And he loved her with all his heart as he readily admitted. He loved Helen and was grateful to her. He also readily admitted a certain awkwardness with the female body in general. Hiring a female prostitute would never be his style. Unless something had changed.
"How many women?"
"Two or three a night, sometimes more."
James stared at her, stunned. "You observed?"
"As closely as I could. I had to understand." She sighed. "He was never entirely… capable with any of them."
"Not capable? He was impotent?"
"As you suspected the Ripper would be. And he would get so frustrated, weep tears of anger and embarrassment. If the girls were kind and understanding, he would just go on his way. If not, he might insult them, and then he'd go away muttering threats. Not that he ever seemed to act on them."
"Good Lord," he whispered. What Helen was describing might easily have come from the report he had given the Yard about the Ripper's likely behavior. "But by frequenting Whitechapel so often and never causing any serious harm to the girls, he would have gained their trust."
"They would be more willing to go somewhere private with him, even knowing a killer was on the loose," she agreed.
"The perfect cover. A shy, ineffectual regular seemingly without a violent bone in his body. A man who just wanted to be loved and reassured."
"Almost reminds me of the man I agreed to marry," she sighed, fresh tears trailing down her cheeks.
He tenderly smoothed them away with his fingertips. "Is that how he was with you? Ineffectual?"
She colored, not quite looking at him. "It took some experimentation, but we eventually found a comfortable way for John. I'll thank you not to ask for details!"
"My dear, Helen, I'm relative sure I don't want to know."
"Probably not," she agreed, sighing.
One of the hands she had been using to hug him suddenly twitched down to her own stomach. Her eyes widened at the slip and she quickly put the arm back around him.
"Good God, Helen! Are you sure?"
"Not by any means," she admitted, shaking her head. "It doesn't matter. Under the circumstances, I can hardly in good conscience carry a child of his to term."
"Don't you think that's a little drastic?"
"I don't know what I think right now, James," she admitted. "About most things. But I can't ignore the possibility that John's disordered thinking could be heritable."
"Just don't decide anything in haste. Discuss it with Gregory. He may have some insight or comfort to offer."
"'Father, I'm pregnant out of wedlock with the bastard child of a monster.' You honestly expect me to say those words to him?"
"Well, I imagine there are more tactful variations on the same theme."
"He'll be so disappointed with me," she sighed, rolling onto her back and staring up at the bed's canopy. "As he was over my conduct with the Source Blood. As he was right to be!"
"Helen," he sighed, reaching out and grasping her shoulder.
He wanted to draw her into his arms, hold her tight, and never let go. The only thing that prevented him was that he honestly wasn't sure if it was his desire to be close to and comfort his friend or his desire to hang on to this last connection to his lost lover.
He lay there for a moment, just lightly brushing his fingertips over her shoulder and the side of her neck, then sat up.
"Go wait in the other room," he directed. "I'll get dressed and bring you home. Gregory and the others need to hear this."
Helen nodded, sitting up. "I don't know what to say, how to explain."
He grasped her shoulder. "Then you just let me handle it."
"Thank you, James." She hesitated, then sighed and shook her head ruefully. "I can't believe I'm about to say this, but would you mind if I didn't wait outside?"
"Of course not." He shook his head. "I don't want to be alone right now any more than you. For various reasons." He walked over to his armoire, pulling out clothes. "In fact, it might be best if you not be alone at all until we catch John."
Bitter laughter answered that. She watched him dress with the same dispassionate eye she might turn on a patient. He felt a familiar pang at that. They had been fast friends since her first day of school and she had never seen him in any other terms. Never…
Perhaps that had been part of John's appeal to him, that connection with Helen. Or perhaps it was possible to have a natural inclination towards both men and women? Some German scientists and activists were starting to claim that homosexuality was something you were born to, just like heterosexuality. But where did that leave a man like James who found himself loving both?
The Source Blood had made him brilliant, but he was still not able to understand, let alone articulate the tangled nature of his feelings towards Helen and John. It was not just that one was a man and one was a woman and there was no sense to be had in the idea of caring for both. Their relationship to one another, what those relationships said about James' own relationship with each… They called themselves the Five but, to him, it had always been about the Three: Helen Magnus, James Watson, Montague John Druitt. They were the core. Nikola and Nigel just happened to work for Gregory and fell in with them by association.
"Catching him might be possible, James, but we both know that keeping him will not be," Helen sighed finally.
He sighed as well, sat down next to her as he buttoned his shirt. "That had occurred to me, yes."
"I thought he would let me help him. I was wrong."
A nod. "He laughed in my face and punctuated his point by killing that poor girl."
"The girl," he sighed. "The police will want me once her body is discovered."
"Leave a message with your doorman that you can be found at my father's house," she advised. "There's nothing disgraceful about being at the house of a male colleague at this hour. The fact that I live there as well is entirely besides the point."
"True," he agreed. "I just hope we have time to find and notify Nigel and Nikola before I'm called away. I mean it, Helen. I don't want you being alone right now. If John is truly lost to reason, he might well decide to come after you next."
She shook her head. "As often as he's shared my bed, James? If he wanted me dead, I would be. I saw it in his eyes. He wanted me to live. To suffer…"
"Oh, Helen," he whispered, wrapping an arm around her shoulder.
She leaned into him for a moment, then straightened and stood. "We should go now. Time is vital. The others have to know that they might be in danger from John."
"Yes," he agreed, climbing to his own feet. It was a painful thought, but she had to know. "Helen, now that I know for a fact who the killer is…"
"I know, James." She nodded, biting her lower lip and defiantly wiping away tears. "And I understand. Now come on."
"Druitt?" Nikola repeated, looking equal parts disturbed and amused. Shaking his head, he poured himself another drink. "Unbelievable."
Helen was sitting in her father's arms, not crying but still inconsolable. Nigel was pacing the sitting-room, his whole body shaking.
"Is that's what going to happen to all of us?" he demanded, distraught. "Is that what we're going to become?"
"Nigel, there's absolutely no proof that the Source Blood is dangerous to everyone," Gregory assured him.
"But it might be!"
"I wouldn't worry, Nigel," Nikola drawled. "Druitt was always a lunatic after all."
Helen jumped to her feet, crossed the room as quickly as if she was the one who could teleport, and backhanded Nikola. So hard that him and the chair he was sitting in toppled over backwards, leaving him in a heap on the floor.
"John was anxious! That is all!"
"Helen!" Gregory snapped. "Control yourself, girl!"
"That's it, then!" Nigel exclaimed, wringing his hands. "This is what we're becoming? John was the best of us! The man was a schoolteacher! Kind, gentle!"
"Nigel, either take yourself in hand or get out!" James growled. "I will not have you upsetting Helen further with that kind of talk!"
"John could well be an aberration," Gregory assured them. "I've always maintained that the teleportation had the potential to cause his body permanent damage. In this case, the damage appears to have affected his brain. Like that Phineas Gage fellow over in America. There's no indication that any of your new powers are causing you any harm at all."
"Indeed, there's no indication that all of us even have powers," Nikola pointed out, raising an eyebrow at Helen. Rather than get up and right his chair, he just sat there cross-legged with what was left of his brandy.
She sneered and shook her head at him.
"Oh, Helen, it isn't your fault," Nikola cooed. "Even if it does completely invalidate your theory that the Source Blood should have an effect on all humans no matter what."
Helen looked like she had been slapped.
"If you don't shut your mouth, Nicky, I'll hit you myself," Nigel told him.
"I'll hold him for you," James offered.
"Everyone needs to calm down!" Gregory shouted. "You were completely reckless and that has led to some terrible consequences, but you cannot allow yourselves to turn on each other! Now, more than ever, we need to cooperate. We have to stop John. We can't do that if we are bickering like children."
"You're right, Greg," James agreed, nodding. "We all need to take a step back here. We can worry about our possible negative side-effects from the Source Blood later. Right now, stopping John is everything."
"Maybe you shouldn't be involved in this, Doctor Magnus?" Nigel asked. "I mean, it was our mistake that caused this. You don't bear any responsibility."
"I allowed 'your' experiment to happen under my nose. I helped Helen obtain the Source Blood. This is most decidedly my problem as well as yours."
"Best thing might be to destroy the remaining Blood," Nigel said.
"Are you as cracked as Druitt?" Nikola demanded, finally climbing to his feet. "Nige, the Source Blood is power! Imagine everything that could be accomplished if we actually came to understand its properties!"
"It has the potential to do a lot of good," Helen agreed, sighing. "But now we've seen first-hand that it also has the potential for great harm. We should destroy it."
"No," James protested, shaking his head.
"James!" she protested, staring at him in shock.
"If there is even a remote possibility that the rest of us could end up like John, it needs to be preserved because understanding it is the only way we're ever going to understand what's happening to us. And if we don't know that, we're not going to know how to fix any damage."
Helen and Nigel nodded slowly when he fixed them with a questioning look, Nikola more readily. Gregory sighed and considered for some time before speaking.
"When I found out what you had done, I was so furious I nearly did destroy the remaining sample. But James and Nikola are right about the good it could someday do. It's hidden under the Vampire City and not even I could recover it at this point. Only the Five, working in concert, will be capable of retrieving it."
Nikola threw up his hands in disgust. "Making it completely out of our reach!"
"For the time being, yes," Gregory agreed. "But, if we can find a way to help John…"
"John is beyond wanting help, Greg," James told him when Helen looked unable to say the words herself.
"That doesn't stop us from forcing help upon him," Nigel protested. "This is John! We can't just abandon him to this!"
"Perhaps not, but good luck finding him," Nikola laughed, shaking his head. "The man could be anywhere on the planet right now, or quite possibly on the face of the moon!"
"You aren't helping, Nikola," Helen informed him, looking like she was fighting the urge to strike him again.
"What's there to help? It's true. He either keeps killing whores or he decides that, now that his secret's out, he should kill us instead." He shrugged and shook his head. "If he comes after me, I'll rip his throat out with my teeth. Likewise if he goes after you, Helen."
"I'm sorry, Helen," Gregory sighed. "If he really is beyond help, there's not a lot else we can do."
"Father, if he can't teleport, he can't escape us and we can help him. You can find a way to prevent him from teleporting; I know you can. Something to do with his inability to teleport with Nikola as a passenger, perhaps?"
"It might have something to do with some form of electricity," Gregory admitted. "I'll see what I can figure out."
Helen threw her arms around him. "Thank you, Father. None of this is his fault. We all need to remember that."
"So that's the plan?" Nigel asked. "We find a way to apprehend him, to keep him from teleporting, and you can fix him?"
"With any luck, yes," Helen agreed, nodding firmly. "Nigel, it's going to be okay. We're all going to be okay."
"There's one thing no one's mentioned," Nikola pointed out cheerfully. "And that's the police."
James closed his eyes. It had taken the arrogant bastard long enough to get there.
"If they get to him first, he's as good as dead." Laughing he added, "Or the bobbies are, in which case there's a price on his head. Do any of you honestly think we're actually going to be able to first find the man, then subdue him, then miraculously cure him of his brain-damage?"
James and Gregory each grabbed one of Helen's arms before she could lunge. She didn't even bother glaring at the two men. She was too busy shooting daggers at Nikola.
"We kill him if we have to," James said. "If."
Nikola leered at him. "You honestly think you'll have the stomach for that, 'my dear Watson'?"
James released his hold on Helen and punched Nikola in the gut. Which was immensely satisfying. More satisfying was the howl Nikola let out when James kneed him in the groin on the way down. The kick to the ribs might have been excessive, but he didn't let that stop him from raising his foot for another.
Of course, the Detective from the Yard would pick that moment to enter the sitting room.
"Bad time, Watson?" Abberline asked, frowning at the tableau before him.
Gregory quickly released his hold on Helen who walked up to Nikola and jerked him to his feet by the collar.
"Get out of my house!" she hissed at him, shoving him in the direction of the door.
"Not your house, Helen," he pointed out, sneering at her.
"Then get out of mine," Gregory advised quietly. "And don't come back until you're willing to refrain from that kind of unpleasantness."
Nikola shrugged and limped from the room.
"Sorry about that," James told Abberline, forcing a smile.
"I assure you, Detective, he deserved worse," Magnus told him, resting a comforting hand on James' arm.
She could sometimes sooth people with just a touch or a look, comforting them out of all proportion to her actual behavior. Her gift from the Source Blood, perhaps? Pacifism to offset homicidal rage?
He covered her hand with one of his own and told Abberline, "You're looking for a man called Montague John Druitt, a former schoolteacher."
"Are you sure?" he asked, frowning and pulling out his notebook.
"He confessed to Miss Magnus tonight," James answered, nodding towards Helen. "Greg, is there somewhere I can talk to the Detective alone?"
"Helen, you don't mind if they use your office? Mine is quite unpresentable at the moment."
A patient or specimen having to do with their work with abnormals, no doubt. Helen appeared to have reached the same conclusion. She nodded immediately.
"You know the way, James. It's unlocked."
He nodded and took her shoulders in his hands. "I don't want you alone tonight, Helen. Not for one second. Promise me."
She closed her eyes and nodded. "I couldn't bear to be alone tonight anyways."
"I know. I'll be back as soon as I can," he promised, kissing her forehead. "Take care of her for me, Greg."
"Always," he agreed.
"Talk to your father, Helen," he urged, giving her a meaningful look.
"Of course." She smiled weakly up at him. "I'll see you later, James."
"I'll go see if I can't hunt down Nikola," Nigel offered. "Given how he and John feel about each other, he probably shouldn't be alone either until this thing is over."
"Good man," James answered, nodding and grasping his shoulder. "Keep yourself safe, Nigel. And try not to worry too much. We have this under control," he lied.
"Right," Nigel agreed, nodding and leaving the sitting room.
When James and Abberline were alone in Helen's office, the Detective's first question was, "How close were you?"
"We all went to school together. We do a lot of work together, share several common goals. Did…"
"And now you're implicating him as the Ripper?"
"It's the right thing to do. I discussed the case with John! I bear some measure of responsibility for every one of those murders." He shook his head. "John needs to be stopped. Women need to be warned."
"I'll need a full description."
"Of course," James agreed, drawing a deep breath. "Can I offer you a drink?"
"Thank you, no. But have one to steady yourself, by all means."
"Oh, this is a little more than can be numbed with mere alcohol," James answered, walking to Helen's drug-cabinet and withdrawing a vial of cocaine and a syringe. "Besides, something tells me this is going to be a long night."
"That's a bigger dose than you normally take," Abberline observed as James drew it up.
"I need my wits about me."
"You aren't telling me everything."
"No," James agreed, rolling up his sleeve and finding a vein. "I'm not."
"Is it relevant to the case?"
"Is it relevant to the fact that your case-notes have always suggested that the Ripper is a homosexual?"
James hissed as the needle went right through his vein in response to that question. Cursing, he selected another one and tried again.
Abberline waited until James had put down the needle. "Watson?"
"John is a homosexual, yes. He has a history of seeking out anonymous sex with strangers at some of the known venues. To the best of my knowledge, however, since these murders started, he has been confining himself to women."
"To the best of your knowledge?" he pressed.
"The man's my best friend, Abberline. I would know."
"This is something you've discussed with him?" he asked, frowning in distaste.
"It… was relevant to the case. I… required some insight."
His disgusted expression grew more pronounced. "You always were a terrible liar, Watson…" He turned to go.
"It wasn't like that!" he protested, grabbing his arm. "The man was my best friend!"
"But that isn't all he was, either?"
"That bears zero relevance to this case!"
"He used you to evade justice and you can't even bring yourself to deny it? Peter denied Christ and you can't deny a killer?"
"It won't change anything." He shook his head. "Listen, consider me an abomination if you want. Hell, bring me up on charges if it'll make you feel better! But do not turn your back on the insights you know damned well I can offer you about this man!"
He shook his head. "When DI Reid finds out…"
"Reid doesn't need to know. It's not relevant to the investigation!"
He shook his head shortly. "You've been compromised, Watson. There's no way you can be objective. It is no longer appropriate or desirable for you to continue consulting on this case. Good evening."
Abberline turned to go and Watson grabbed the older man by the arm, shoving him into the wall and grabbing his shirt in both hands.
"Be as disgusted with me as you want, but listen," he directed in a low voice, intentionally getting his mouth a little closer to the other man's than he might have otherwise just to further unsettle and scare him. He needed to understand how serious this was. "I know John Druitt. I can tell you how long he's been in the care of a doctor for his mental illness. I can describe the character of that illness to you, compare and contrast it to his mother's illness. I can tell you what the man dreams about at night. I can tell you that after his third drink he starts weeping like a child and needs to be held and consoled until he sobers up. I can tell you that thunder makes him jump, even when he knows it's coming. I can tell you that, when he's particularly distraught over something, he takes nighttime walks across the Peckwater Quadrangle to clear his head. I can tell you that there is one woman in the world who he is not impotent with and that they needed to reach a special arrangement to make that happen. I can tell you his favorite butcher's shop and green-grocer, his favorite pub. And I can tell you for a fact that you will not catch him unless he allows himself to be caught and that there is only one man he will allow to do so."
He released Abberline and took a step back, folding his arms over his chest and staring the Detective down. The other man withdrew a handkerchief from his inner pocket and mopped his face.
"Frederick, my first priority has always been catching the Ripper. That has not changed, I assure you. I love the man, but he needs to be stopped."
That disgusted expression was back. "How can you love a killer?"
"He wasn't a killer when I fell in love with him. There was nothing like that in his nature."
"You don't just wake up one morning and decide to become a murderer."
"John did. Ask anyone who knows him. The old John was a gentle, compassionate man. Ask his friends, his students! Ask Helen!"
"Your woman?" he asked, nodding in the direction of the sitting room they had come from.
"Never mine," James answered, shaking his head. "Helen's never been anything to me but a school-chum."
He nodded. "He was a patient of hers and, later, they got engaged. That's how John and I met."
"Does she know you're buggering her husband?" Abberline scoffed.
"Of course not," he lied because there was no way he was exposing Helen to the kind of scorn that revelation would bring on her. His reputation was ruined; hers might still be preserved. "And he was only her affianced, not her husband."
"Lucky escape for her."
"I doubt she sees it so."
"No, I imagine not."
"I would consider it a personal favor if the media not find out about her connection to John. This is painful enough for her as it is."
"I'll have to ask her some questions, of course, but the papers don't need to know who she is or how she's involved."
"Thank you, Frederick."
"Okay. You come with me and we'll get a sketch and all the information you have on this… man and his… habits. If I suspect you of keeping anything back, I'll throw you in a cell, Watson."
"I'll tell you everything," he promised. "That's the first part of my penance. Which, I assure you, I will be paying for the rest of my life…"
It was approaching dawn by the time James was finally able to return to the Magnus home. Helen was sitting in the parlor with her father, leaning into him and resting one hand on his knee as he held her close.
"I told him everything," she whispered when James entered.
"There may be an alternative to ending the pregnancy or carrying it through," Gregory told him. "A way of freezing the process in its tracks for the time being."
"That might be for the best," James agreed. "It'll give Helen time to think, to decide, to find out if we can help John."
She nodded. "It can't hurt to have some time. What about you, James?"
"I told the Yard everything."
She frowned. "Everything?"
He closed his eyes and nodded, just once. He opened them when he felt her arms around him.
"They're not going to prosecute me for homosexuality, but I'm finished at the Yard. They even rejected my offer to use myself as bait."
"Will that stop you?" Gregory asked.
"No." James shook his head.
"Try not to get yourself killed, son," the older man advised. "Helen's going to need your help to carry on my work."
He nodded. "I'll be careful, Greg. You should both know, I don't think Abberline plans on pursuing this angle seriously. He can't overcome his distaste at the nature of my relationship with John enough to accept that I might still be capable of being objective in the matter. He thinks I'm just a scorned lover making wild accusations."
"James," Helen whispered, touching his arm. "I'm so sorry."
"It's okay, Helen. Abberline isn't the only detective on this case. Macnaghten thinks John looks good as a suspect." Always assuming he could stay off drink long enough to get the facts straight, but there was no need to trouble Helen with that consideration, either. "Did Nigel and Nikola come back?"
"For a few hours. Then they decided to go get drunk," Gregory answered, frowning.
James shook his head. "That's not wise of them. Nigel is probably safe, but Nikola…"
"I know," Helen sighed. "And I told him as much."
"He says between the vampirism and his preexisting abilities with electricity, he's powerful enough to defend himself against John," Gregory grumbled, shaking his head.
"He'll have no luck defending himself while drunk," James muttered darkly.
"Ultimately, it's his life." Gregory shrugged. "We could hardly hold him here against his will."
"You do realize the pair of them are probably as interested in whoring as in drinking?" he asked in disgust. "Sorry, Helen," he added.
"It's not as if I'm unaware of their proclivities," she answered, looking as disgusted as he felt. "But we did manage to exact a promise from both not to go to their own homes or other known haunts alone."
"Well, I suppose that's something."
"Nikola's talking about returning to Croatia for the time being," Gregory added. "Or maybe visiting the United States."
"It would probably be safest for him," he agreed. "John might be capable of following, but he doesn't know his way around either country."
Helen nodded. "And Nigel wants to go back to West Sussex. That's it. The Five is no more…"
"When this nightmare is over, the Five will reunite," he promised her.
She shook her head. "It's over, James. We're back to where we were in the beginning: just the two of us and Father."
"We may still be able to get John back."
"It's possible, James," Gregory admitted. "But you need to accept that there might not be any other option than to kill him."
"I know. I understand." He nodded weakly. "I should get home. But may I have a word in private with Helen first?"
"Of course." Gregory nodded, grasping his shoulder warmly for a moment. "We'll get through this, son. The three of us will take care of this problem."
"I know, Greg," he lied, forcing a smile.
"Well, I'll leave you two, then. Be so kind as to walk her back to my office before you leave us?"
"Of course," James agreed. "She shouldn't be alone, even in the house."
"Will you be safe alone?"
"I think so," he lied, nodding.
"Very well. But if you should require company, or anything at all, James…"
"I know, Greg. Thanks." When they were alone, he turned to Helen. "About this pregnancy…"
She sighed and shook her head, holding up one hand. "I know, James. I'm only staving off the inevitable this way. I will eventually have to come to a decision. I understand that, I do. I just can't right now. There's no way I could trust any decision I reached when I was in this much pain and feeling this much confusion and self-loathing."
"No, I know that," he assured her. "This is no time to make such an important decision, Helen. I was only going to say that, if you decide to keep and have the child, I'll be more than happy to marry you."
She stared at him with wide eyes. "James?"
"Helen, you're my dearest friend. I'm going to do everything in my power to preserve your reputation."
"James, that's very kind of you, but I would make you miserable and we both know it. I'm just too headstrong."
"I could make you happy," he assured her. "If you would only let me."
"At the cost of your happiness?" She shook her head. "James, no. I love you too much for that. It can never be. You must accept that, James."
"Because of John?"
"Because of us!" She hesitated for a minute, both hands over her face. When she let her hands fall away her expression was sad, apologetic. "John's shadow will always be between us. It will cause you to doubt your love for me and me to doubt my love for you. We'd never know if our love was genuine or merely two bereft lovers clinging desperately to the next best thing. It wouldn't be about us, only ever about John. Do you really want to live like that for the next thirty or forty years?"
"That sound you just heard was the rest of my heart breaking. But you're right." He offered her both hands. "Still friends, Helen?"
She took both hands and grasped them tightly, closing the distance between them and bringing their linked hands up to cover both their hearts.
"Then I'm happy." He smiled and kissed her cheek. "Come on. I'll take you to your father's study."
"Thank you for understanding," she answered, taking his offered arm with a grateful smile.
"You're one of the few women I do understand. I should hope that it goes without saying that the fact that you allow me to is a great honor."
It was a good four days before James allowed himself to sleep again. He sat with Helen while she was questioned, but avoided her and Gregory afterwards, needing the time to think, to accept the unacceptable. He did keep tabs on them. And on Nigel as he booked a carriage to Sussex. And on Nikola as he booked a boat for America.
Helen had been right about that much. The Five was fragmented and would never reorganize. Although, considering everything that had gone wrong, maybe that was for the best. He was tempted himself to never set foot in the Magnus household again.
But how did you turn your back on a man you had admired for years before you ever even got the chance to meet him? Or the woman whose quick wit and easy intelligence managed to steal your heart within the first five minutes? So he paid members of their staff to keep him abreast of events and sometimes even watched the house himself.
But mostly, he just canvassed every haunt of John's he could think of, asking if anyone had seen him. Of course, no one had, not since the night of the last murder. Which James supposed was to be expected under the circumstances.
He spent his nights prowling the Quadrangle, which brought up memories of Helen as well as John. It was here that he first met her, the day she audited her first class. This whole nightmare had started so innocently, with James offering directions to a lost-looking young woman who, for some odd reason, was being allowed to audit medical lectures…
Everything that had happened followed from that chance meeting.
Helen had agreed to introduce him to her father, a man whose papers on evolution James was already a great admirer of. Introduction to Nikola Tesla, a patient of Gregory's who claimed his ability to manipulate electrical current had come from being born in a thunderstorm. Fellow Oxford student Nigel Griffin, an inventor who occasionally created specialized medical equipment for Gregory. John Druitt, Helen's first patient: an anxious man whose speed and reflexes seemed beyond those of a normal human.
They became close friends all, which was natural enough given their shared interest in the abnormal world. They spent hours together every day, discussing the possibilities inherent in human evolution, debating ways to shape and direct it, artificially or naturally speed it, even.
Then Helen heard about the Source Blood, suggested its use. And they had agreed, each and every one of them. She had insisted on going first and, when it seemed to have no ill effects on her beyond causing severe pain right after injection, they injected themselves each in turn.
John screamed and begged for death before vanishing into thin air and reappearing in Helen's bedroom, presumably the one place in the world he felt truly safe.
Nikola's transformation was immediate and intense. And violent. It had taken all three men to restrain him until Helen managed to talk him into calming down, at which point he regained human form with a blush and a "Christ, I'm sorry…"
Nothing seemed to happen to Nigel but, some days later, he reported that he had cut himself shaving in the morning and suddenly been unable to see his own reflection.
For his part, James had been sure his head was about to explode. Unconsciousness, when it came, was a blessing and a relief. And it lasted for three days until he woke up, his head bursting with ideas and his perception of just about everything radically changed. Mysteries resolved themselves and puzzles and problems laid themselves open to him. All he had to do was look, think. Understand…
At the time, it had all seemed a blessing, although they spent a great many hours puzzling out how and why Helen was so utterly unaffected. A stronger immune system, perhaps, or a simple lack of genetic predisposition to mutate. James could not honestly remember whether it had been John or himself who had pointed out that they had all manifested responses at different times after receiving their injections and perhaps Helen was merely still in a latency period.
After a time, it seemed clear that she was not going to spontaneously express any new abilities and the conversation turned back to why she had not been affected. Helen started making plans to refine the serum she had synthesized from the Source Blood, ready to re-inject herself. Then Gregory found out what they had done and summarily confiscated the remaining Source Blood.
Which had seemed like the end of it. Even after the Ripper murders started…
So he spent his nights on the Quadrangle in hopes that John would show up and end this nightmare, either by killing or by letting himself be killed. Or, by some miracle, coming quietly and submitting to their help.
But, if John was there at all, he never approached James. The doctor/detective finally gave up. It didn't help that he knew that taking any more cocaine would be dangerous, so he was suffering a nasty case of withdrawal jitters in addition to everything else.
Throwing his hands up, he went home to try to rest. He had to rethink his strategy, find new places to search. But first he needed a clear mind and that meant getting some sleep.
The tea was soothing, but he was under no illusions. It was the morphine that ultimately allowed him to sleep. Which was probably why he felt so disoriented when he woke. Disoriented or not, he knew full well that he was not alone in his bedroom. Anyone else would have just woken him up, but John had always been the type to climb into bed and wait for James to become aware of his presence, just watching him sleep in the meantime. And, while there was no one in the bed with him, he could hear breathing close by.
The response was a shaky whisper. "That's right, James."
James closed his eyes and laid back against his pillows. "Are you here to kill me?"
"Not even if I were in a state of advanced bloodlust."
James froze at the feel of John's fingers playing through his hair. Those fingertips against his scalp felt better than they had any right to under the circumstances. He closed his eyes and let it happen, knowing it would be the last time and hating them both for it.
"You wanted me to catch you?"
"You asked me to?"
"Dear God, John, I'm so sorry!"
"As am I, James. As am I."
James shook his head as he felt familiar lips against his cheek.
"I know, James," he answered. "It was good while it lasted, yes?"
"Remember me that way, James. Please!"
"How can I?"
"I never wanted to hurt you. I was scared to tell you the truth, but I prayed that you would find out and stop me. That you would save me, save my soul. James, I don't know what to say! This is a nightmare. During the murders, I observe but do not control. I want to stop, scream at myself to stop, but I simply can't!"
James reached back, feeling the pistol under his pillow and wondering whether he would be able to follow through. "Come to bed, John. You'll feel better."
"Thank you, old friend, but perhaps I should go."
"Come to bed," he repeated more firmly.
The mattress shifted and he felt John move close. Their bodies were not quite touching, but James could feel the heat pouring off John.
"I know, James. I understand. And I am sorry. Beyond words."
"We both have a lot to apologize for. And I'm sorry, too, John, beyond words."
John gave a laugh that deteriorated into a sob.
"Oh, John. John…" James drew him into a hug, holding him close. "You're you again and that changes everything. We can help you! Why come to me and not to Helen? She can make you well!"
"How could I face her again after our last meeting? I'm assuming she told you the details?"
"She did. She told me and the Yard. We both told them things about you that only a lover could. You have to leave Britain, John."
"Just like that?" he asked. "Without paying for my crimes?"
"Your crimes were not your own! The Source Blood forced these actions upon you. The John Druitt Helen and I knew and loved would never have dreamed of doing the things the John Druitt who has taken the Source Blood did! I don't know whether you're really still in there, John. All I know is that you deserve a second chance. Swear to me that there will be no more killings and I'll let you go!"
"But how could you ever trust my word?"
"I shouldn't and I know it, but I will…"
"I'm losing my taste for the sport, old boy," John murmured.
"Thank God, John. Helen and Gregory and I can help you."
"I am beyond help. When these fits take me… The only thing I can do for any of you is to vanish, go somewhere where there's no one to hurt until the rage passes."
"John, Greg thinks he can help."
"Gregory is wrong. There is no help for me anymore. I'm beyond help."
"You don't know that, John."
"Yet I have my suspicions."
"At least let us try."
"I can't James. I need to go."
"Stay," James answered, grabbing his arms. "Let us help you."
"James," John sighed, sniffling hard. "Tell Helen I'm sorry, yes?"
"Tell her I tried to be the man she was going to make me. Tell her I would have done. Anything to be that person! Anything! Tell her?"
"Thank you, James."
He caught his breath. "I love you, John."
John hitched a breath, then caught James in a rough hug. "Old friend…"
James clung to John tightly like a shipwreck victim adrift in a storm and clinging to a life-preserver. "I know, John. I do."
"Tell me," John began, but faltered. "If you could find it in your heart to tell me…" He sighed. "I'm sorry. I can't even say it. How I should expect you to be able…"
James broke the hug, but only to bring his hands up to cradle John's face. "I forgive you, John, I do. And I should think it goes without saying that I love you as well."
"Thank you," he whispered. "When we started this, I never expected love to become part of the equation."
"None of us did. If we'd suspected, we wouldn't have allowed it to happen."
"No," John agreed, sighing softly. "I never told you, and I should have. You were never second to Helen in my love, merely different from her."
He closed his eyes as his heart finally finished breaking. "There's a pistol under my pillow. I was going to try to force you to agree to treatment."
"And now your resolve wavers?" Another sigh. "The worst part for me, James, is that you'll never know. You'll always doubt. You'll convince yourself that coming to you here tonight was a game rather than an honest attempt at an apology."
"Is it? Another game?"
"No, but that's not what you'll tell yourself and, for that, I am sorry beyond words."
Afterwards, James was never sure which of them initiated the kiss, or whether they both had, but it was a kiss he was never to forget. It lacked anything resembling passion and conveyed what words could not. Mutual love, anger, betrayal, profound sorrow, the knowledge that nothing would ever be the same again. The knowledge that they would never stop loving each other. The knowledge that neither would ever stop loving Helen. A promise to each let the other go his own way from now on.
The last was the hardest for James, on more levels than one. He loved John. He hated John. He wanted to help John and he wanted John to suffer for his crimes. The only thing he did not want was to let John go. Ever.
He would never know if John felt the same way because, the kiss still burning on James' lips, the other man was gone.
Drawing a deep breath and resisting the urge to weep like a child, James sat up, leaning against the headboard and drawing his knees to his chest. He needed to think.
Normally in a situation like this, he would have gone to John, a man who had always understood the way his mind worked. And, while she understood the way his mind worked, he could not go to Helen. She was in too much pain as it was.
Which left Gregory Magnus, a man who James had respected tremendously for years before they ever met. A man who was pragmatic enough to see the truth.
Gregory left Helen's bedside when James was announced, making a maid who understood the situation stay with her instead.
"I knew you were close," Gregory told James, passing him a snifter of brandy and sitting down. "Why keep the fact that you were lovers from me?"
Their shared love of the Classics made Gregory more accepting of such relationships than most, but he still looked irritated.
"To protect Helen, mostly."
"Helen has never needed or wanted any man to protect her."
"I hadn't noticed…"
Gregory laughed and shook his head. "But she did know?"
"That would be where the trying to protect her comes into things."
He stared. "It was her idea?"
James shrugged, shooting him an apologetic look.
Gregory shook his head. "That woman."
"She thinks of everything. It was a practical arrangement."
"John, presumably, being incapable of keeping off other men entirely?"
"Essentially," James agreed. "And Helen knows how I feel about the Greeks and Romans. She knew the approach wouldn't be offensive to me even if I were to decline."
"Which you didn't."
"I was curious, surprised to actually enjoy it." He shrugged. "I make no apologies, Greg."
"Nor should you, son. I'm sure the three of you knew what you were at."
"My only mistake was falling in love."
"Just with John?"
He looked away, unable to take Gregory's penetrating gaze just then.
"I thought so."
Now it was James' turn to stare. "You knew?"
"I'm hardly in your league, but I'm a moderately intelligent man. You should marry her."
"An offer she has now declined twice over the course of our friendship."
"That's a real shame. I think you could have made her very happy. Or at least helped her begin to heal."
"I don't think either of us will ever heal, Greg," he sighed. "There are too many wounds. Hurt and betrayal, yes, but also guilt. This is our fault, Helen's and mine. And now it's down to us to pick up the pieces."
"I can't help but wondering what Nikola wondered the night you and Helen told us about John. Do you have the stomach for it?"
He shook his head. "Nor, frankly, is John currently my greatest concern."
"Keeping the other members of the Five safe from what befell him."
"Ah." Gregory nodded his understanding. "What would you suggest?"
"Well, I will keep careful tabs on the others, Greg, but I'm going to need someone to keep tabs on me as well."
"That makes good sense. Do you plan on telling the others?"
He shook his head. "It would just upset Helen and Nigel and make Nikola contrary."
"In the meantime, perhaps we should start researching possible methods of purifying our bodies? If it means I don't end up like poor John, I'm more than happy to relinquish my newfound intelligence. I imagine the others will feel the same but, in the meantime, we should probably keep this research between the two of us."
"Yes," Gregory agreed. "A machine, perhaps, to purify the blood?"
"Assuming it's only in the blood this long after injection. Purifying the blood is a start, but only a start."
Gregory drained his glass and rose. "Let's go down to my lab and start brainstorming, James. We have a long night ahead of us."
"A long night?" James answered, shaking his head. "No, Greg. Long months, long years. Long decades in all likelihood."
"You really believe that?"
"In my heart of hearts? I know this nightmare is only beginning, and I don't just mean the possibility of another one of us turning into a monster. John's specter will haunt all of us for a long time."
Gregory regarded him thoughtfully. "You still speak of him with love."
"Yes," James agreed. "How do you stop loving a person who's meant so much to you. Besides, once, very long ago, I read that there is no love without forgiveness and no forgiveness without love. I have to forgive John because I love him. And I have to continue loving him because I have forgiven him."
"That's considerably more circular than your usual logic, James."
"True, Greg," he sighed. "But not even I can always think with my head. In this matter, I can't help but think with my heart instead."
"Then this will haunt you for the rest of your life."
"Not haunt, Greg." He smiled and shook his head. "The distinction is subtle, but it's there. This will not haunt me, Greg. It will torture me…"
(Justifications below if you need them. E-mail or PM me if there's something not listed here that you would like me to justify. Seriously, method to my madness.)
Here are a few of my reasons for various elements of the fic, but not all of them by any means. PM me if you want to know why I did anything I don't explain here because, I assure you, there really is a method to my madness:
1) The literary Sherlock Holmes used both cocaine and morphine.
2) In "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot" Holmes states definitively that he has never loved a woman. (I know, I know. Irene Adler, right? Wrong. In the literary Watson's words "It was not that he held any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler." Holmes admired Adler for being smarter than he was, kind of hearkens to Sanctuary!Watson's feelings towards Magnus, imo.)
3) In Sanctuary, Watson states that he has a great passion for the Classics. In Victorian England this sometimes translated itself into a willingness to experiment with homosexuality.
4) The historical Montague John Druitt, while a barrister, was also a schoolmaster from 1881 until shortly before his death in 1888.
5) The historical Druitt was suspected of being a practicing homosexual, which may have led to his dismissal from the school where he worked. He also had a family history of mental illness and his death was considered a suicide.
6) Druitt was named a suspect in the first place based on "private information" provided by an unnamed source or sources.
7) DI Frederick Abberline flatly dismissed the idea that Druitt might be a serious suspect. But if Magnus and Watson told him, that means he railroaded Chapman just to be able to call the case "closed". Assistant Chief Constable Sir Melville Macnaghten always considered Druitt their prime suspect.
8) Tesla's an ass in the fic because he was an ass in the show. *shrug*
9) Nigel Griffin is portrayed as somewhat flaky because the literary Invisible Man was very emotionally erratic.
10) Homosexuality was illegal during this time but not particularly uncommon, both because of the widespread embracing of Classical Greek and Roman ideals and because of the rigid gender-divide inherent in Victorian society. Anthropologists and sociologists claim situational homosexuality increases drastically in societies where men and women are consistently isolated from each other.
11) Oh, and I'm going on the supposition that Druitt was a patient of Magnus before he joined the Five. Magnus tells Will that he was her first patient, which could have been a lie because she didn't want him knowing about the experiment with the Source Blood. However, in a flashback in "Kush" he tells her that he's spent his "entire life, lost in a void, afraid of who I am. Of what I am. If not for you, I fear I would have remained lost. Instead I can now see that I am neither a freak of nature nor a devil." To me that pretty strongly suggests a preexisting abnormality.
12) Also working on the assumption that Tesla was also already an abnormal. For one thing, he never attended Oxford so he probably didn't meet the other members of the Five that way. Legend has it that Nikola Tesla was born at midnight during a particularly violent lightening-storm. And, when Watson mentions Tesla's powers in "Revelations Part 1", he says them as if they're two different things. "One, he had the powers of an ancient vampire. Two, he fell asleep in Edison's electric chair at full-current." If the electricity thing where a vampire thing, I don't think he would have mentioned it separately.
13) It goes without saying that, if Watson and Druitt had a relationship, a smart woman like Magnus would have known about it.