Chapter 4: Reality
The return trip to Old City was courtesy of John's special ability. As such, it was instantaneous, giving Helen little chance to catch up with herself, and no chance to confer with her colleagues at the London sanctuary. One hour later, she found herself standing in her office, alone.
The past hour had been a whirlwind of activity. No sooner had they arrived in a flash of light, than John demanded she summon Will, Henry and Tesla to join them in her office. Then, John had shared the whole story of his past few weeks in England. It wasn't pretty. In fact, his account was worse than anything Helen could have imagined. It seemed Jack had returned with a vengeance. Only by the most severe exercise of will had John managed to keep Helen safe at his flat. Now, he insisted on being confined in the SHU while the others worked on finding his miracle cure.
It all happened so quickly. With John's cooperation, Henry and Bigfoot had placed him in a secure cell in the SHU, while Helen monitored the process from her office. She couldn't bear to accompany them, but knew she would have to visit their prisoner sooner or later. In spite of everything she'd been through, she was still in shock from what she'd heard only minutes ago.
Declan's dossier hadn't begun to detail Jack's recent crime spree. Helen was horrified when John told her exactly what he'd been up to since last they were together. By his own admission, there were five dead, all perfectly innocent citizens who had the poor fortune of meeting up with one of history's most notorious serial killers. He'd escaped detection by traditional law enforcement much as he had in nineteenth century England. You couldn't track what you couldn't see and John expertly vanished with the best of them!
All of it left Helen with renewed moral conflicts, emotions that had haunted her for decades. John or rather Jack deserved punishment for his cruel, inhuman, criminal actions. She'd known that since the day she'd been prepared to kill him in the back alley of a London slum, even as he took the life of one more hapless woman. From the standpoint of justice, she knew she ought to turn him over to the police, yet she realized that would be a futile effort. On the simplest level, without an EM field to hem him in, he'd simply abscond to carry on his nefarious deeds. At least if she kept him here he'd be contained and with any luck cured. Once that happened, there would be a whole new set of questions she was in no hurry to answer.
"We missed you at lunch," Will said as he poked his head in through the open door.
Helen looked up from her desk, greeting her protégé with a look of qualified welcome. Silently she motioned for him to come in.
"I know," she said belatedly, "I wasn't hungry."
"I'm surprised you're not in the lab with Tesla."
"Going over some things here before I join up with him," she clarified. "We often see things from different vantage points. I need to be completely clear on mine."
Will nodded silently as he walked around the desk and took a seat. Helen looked up again, realizing he wanted to talk.
"That's what I wanted to see you about," Will said. "Exactly what is your goal in all this? What's going on with you and Druitt?"
She held her tongue, not giving rein to the first thoughts that crossed her mind. She wanted to say this was personal and none of Will and anyone else's business. She was wrong of course. It would, all of it, affect each and every one of them in its own way. It was imperative she remember that one certainty. Her future and most likely the future of the Sanctuary would be impacted by her next decisions. She'd learned that much in the horrifying glimpses of a possible future only a few short months ago.
She owed Will a straightforward answer.
"I still love him," she replied, doing her best to say the words in a strong, fearless voice.
"I'm working with Nikola on a cure for his madness."
"I thought you'd done that before … and failed."
Helen looked at Will sharply, as though she'd been slapped. Yes, she had failed. She knew that all too well. Still something about hearing the words from her protégé stung painfully.
"Yes, my efforts were unsuccessful," she conceded. "I'm hoping that with Nikola's help things will turn out differently."
Will took in her words with more than a little skepticism.
"He's the Ripper, you know," Will said flatly. "And from Declan's report he's been killing again."
"I know," Helen replied. "I know better than anyone what John is."
It was Will's turn to wince. Not so much at his employer's words but her accusatory tone. He'd hurt her. He hadn't meant to, but he was afraid her lack of objectivity could risk everything she'd built up over the years in her effort to save John Druitt. More than once she'd charged him to be her "moral compass" and that's exactly what he intended to do. Hard as it was, he'd have to be the one to tell her the truths she might not want to hear.
Will sat down on the opposite side of the desk. Reluctant to break the tense silence between them for fear of what might follow, he held his tongue, pondering what best to say.
"What if this goes wrong?" Will finally queried without finesse. "What if this serum you and Nikola concoct doesn't cure him? What then? How long will you keep trying. How long will you keep … him … here?"
"I don't know the answers to all those questions yet," she admitted, her proud voice softened. "But you should know by now, I'd never do anything to jeopardize the Sanctuary."
Will nodded appreciatively. He owed Magnus that much at least. Trust in her instincts and her loyalties. At the same time he suspected how much Druitt meant to her, maybe more than she realized herself.
"I do know," Will confirmed. "It's just … well, you know … your relationship with Druitt …"
Helen took pity on Will and rescued him from the quicksand rapidly consuming him.
"He was Ashley's father, the love of my life," she confirmed. "Yes, I know. That's why I'll depend on you to keep me rational about all of this, my moral compass, as you said." While speaking, Helen realized anew how difficult all of this would be to navigate. So much could go wrong. John was on a downward spiral and there was no way of telling how quickly he would fully devolve, leaving behind nothing more than Jack.
"I intend to do all I can for John," Helen continued. "If it doesn't work, that will be the end of it."
Despite her definitive tone, Will suspected Helen wouldn't be able to bring herself to give up on Druitt. Still, he'd see her through this.
"So what's next," he asked.
He'd been in the SHU less than twenty-four hours. In less than a quarter of that time John Druitt had tired of his new role as prisoner and test subject. "Bigfoot" or Nikola himself had been in all too frequently to draw blood samples. Bigfoot had been back with meals on two occasions. Other Sanctuary personnel had stood outside his enclosure on occasion, much as one would observe a caged animal, at least that's how Druitt saw it.
But there had been no visits from the one person he'd wanted to see, Helen. He'd placed himself in this position for her, yet she was nowhere to be found. He told himself she was busy in the lab, doing her best to develop whatever serum would finally deliver him from the nightmare even now claiming his soul once again. But what if she had given up on him, what if what she'd said in London had simply been a ploy to imprison him? She was, after all, the only one left in this world who had the power to bend him to her will, the only one who could make him as vulnerable as he now was.
Before John could pursue this depressing train of thought any further, he looked up to see Helen hovering just outside his enclosure. She looked beautiful as always, her now dark hair hanging loosely around her shoulders, incongruously contrasting with the sterile white of her lab coat. Separated from him by the glass barrier and the EM field, she seemed and literally was, unreachable. He groaned inwardly at the thought that she'd always been exactly that, unreachable in so many ways. It was ironic, but he was after all, the king of irony.
"Hello, John," she said as she breached the confinement space, immediately resetting the EM field.
"What, no guard to protect you? I was certain you'd at least have Tesla with you, fangs at the ready."
Helen stood silently, directly in front of him. She regarded him carefully, endeavoring to decipher his true meaning and his present state of sanity. It was a task easier said than done, she remembered. He had fooled her before and she feared he could and would do it again.
"No, no guard, John," Helen replied. "But I am ready to defend myself if necessary. It won't be necessary, will it?"
He tipped the smallest of smirks in her direction then turned away. Unable to meet her eyes for his shame, he said, "No, it won't be necessary." And in silence he prayed he spoke the truth.
"I'm glad you came," he admitted after a moment's silence. "I'd begun to worry you'd given up already."
Helen walked around to face him. She stood solemnly then bowed and shook her head deliberately.
With a tentative smile, she protested, "You should know me better than that. It will take much more than initial frustration to dissuade me from a course of action."
"Ah, that's my Helen," John said, "stubborn to a fault."
She shot him a warning look.
He held up his hands in a look of surrender.
"Not a criticism, my dear," he protested, "simply an observation and one I hope will stand me in good stead. By the way, how are you and Nikola faring?"
"I won't lie to you John, this may be more difficult than I'd hoped, particularly given your current state. We'll have to be patient."
"You'll excuse me if I'm not overly patient given my current accommodations," John stated frankly. His tone was pleasant enough, yet Helen knew she shouldn't let her guard down entirely.
"You know very well why you're in the SHU," Helen countered. Then she softened, "Still I'm sure we could make it more comfortable. I'll have Henry see to it."
"Actually, more visits from a certain charming lady would help greatly," he said.
"I'm sure that could be arranged," Helen replied. In spite of her best intentions, she would never be completely immune to John's charms. She would have to be on her guard, every minute she was with him. Of that much she had no doubt.
A/N: I just finished reading a brilliant piece called Starting Over Backwards by DramaLexy.
It's a wonderful tale of John and Helen's reunion. I encourage you to check it out.
Reading it, I decided to have this much shorter piece turn out differently, thus the angst.
Most likely two more chapters to complete this one; sorry it's taken so long. Real life has a way of interfering.