Summary: Sometimes it really is the little things. Will, Druitt, Kate, Magnus Zimmerman, and a certain locket.
Spoilers: major for "Pavor Nocturnus"
Author's Note: Thanks to talkofcake over at Livejournal for helping me tighten up the Will/Druitt bit and for the general encouragement in stepping outside my comfort-zone. I never thought I'd live to post Will/Kate but it works in an "all we have left" way.
"To audacity," Will murmured, leaning forward and tapping his snifter against Druitt's.
It was the last of the brandy but somehow this seemed like an only appropriate occasion to share it. Taking out Boston would rid the world of hundreds of thousands of palefaces in under five minutes.
"Not at all, William," he answered with a sad smile and a shake of the head. "To a certain audacious woman without whom neither of us would be sitting here today."
Will's heart caught in his throat at that. He couldn't be seen to be weak in front of the others right now, so he'd walled off a piece of his heart, much as he imagined Magnus herself had during her life. It didn't mean that he didn't mourn, only that he didn't let it show if he could help it. Grief remained, though, a cold flame that only amplified his resolve.
"To Helen Magnus," he agreed quietly, touching his glass to Druitt's again with a bitter smile.
"Trust a pair of guys to be getting 'faced when there's a world to save," a 'cheerful' voice drawled. Like the rest of them, Kate had become good at keeping up her game face.
Will smiled up at her as she entered the small, makeshift office. "Hey. Thought you had a sortie?"
"Moving out now. Wanted to wish John luck first."
"Watch your back, Kaitlin," Druitt directed, turning his cheek to her as she bent to kiss it. "Individuals such as yourself are few and far between these days. The human race rather needs you."
"Ditto to you," she answered, winking at him. "We'll trade war-stories when I get home, yeah?"
He smiled, a faintly pained expression. "Most looking forward to it, my dear, as always."
"Peace out." She touched his shoulder for a second and then turned to Will. "Okay, so, I got a pigeon from a contact in LA and it looks like there may be coffee in the near future."
Will stared, fighting the urge to lick his lips. "It's not nice to tease a guy, Freelander."
"Who's teasing? Jeb says he thinks the lead's legit. If you're a good boy, I'll even share." Ruffling his hair, she strutted from the office.
"I do believe she likes you, William," Druitt chuckled when she was gone.
Will scoffed. "Get real. What Kate likes is giving me a hard time."
"If you say so," he answered wisely, sipping his brandy. "She's probably a tad young for your taste anyway."
Will winced involuntarily. "Don't be like that, Druitt."
"Mmm, my apologies. In all seriousness, I have a request."
Will looked up, startled by his tone. "Anything, Druitt."
"I need you to keep something for me while I'm in Boston."
Leaning forward, Druitt took one of Will's hands in both of his, pressing something small and metallic into his palm.
Will frowned uncertainly, glancing down at the locket. "It's…"
"A picture of Helen, one she had taken especially for me. By rights it should have been Ashley's but I think Helen would have liked for it to fall to you should anything happen to me. You sang her off so beautifully at the Memorial Service," he added almost absently.
"Druitt, I… that's…" He shook his head, not sure how to express it. "I'm honored that you want me to hold this for you, but…"
"Hush and let an old man ramble," Druitt directed, one long finger lightly tracing the scar on Will's cheek.
Will closed his eyes at that. He'd lost his sight and been lucky not to lose the eye itself. Sometimes it felt like yesterday, the first time he'd needed to put a paleface down. He'd hesitated in the action and nearly been killed for his troubles. Magnus, rest her soul, had taken such wonderful care of him after. As she had every other time he'd been injured in this nightmare. As she had since he was eight years old.
"When I first met you, I was concerned by the amount of sway a mere child held over Helen."
"Druitt, I never…"
"Which I well know, despite the amount of time you spent together alone. Now listen, son."
He looked up at Druitt with wide eyes. A lot of diminutives had been bandied about but 'son' had never been one of them.
"You were never anything but good for Helen. You are bright, creative, righteous, passionate. In a more peaceful time, you would have been the next James Dewey Watson, which is not a compliment I offer lightly. In this time, forged in fire… you are a leader of men and with good reason. No one who sees you can fail to respect and love you. Your commitment and dedication are what drew her to you, I'd imagine, the willingness to sacrifice all for a greater cause."
Will stared up at him, mouth dry. Close as he'd grown to Druitt, the praise was unexpected. And, so soon on the heels of Magnus' death, it just left him feeling achingly alone.
"Helen loved you, son. And with good reason. I can think of no one I'd rather see fill her shoes now that she's gone." He drained his snifter and climbed to his feet. "And, with that, I've a tacnuke to place in downtown Boston. I'll see you in a few hours."
"Don't be a hero," Will murmured, staring uncertainly up at him. "The human race needs you, Druitt."
"Not, perhaps, as much as it did when this outbreak started and the Colonies were being established, but the sentiment is gratifying. Until we meet again, William. You keep that safe for me," he added, nodding to the locket still absently clutched in Will's hand.
"I'll have it waiting for you. Watch your back," Will answered, climbing to his feet and offering his hand.
Druitt took it and give it a firm squeeze and shake. Will answered those with a quick hug and another murmured injunction to be careful. The old man answered that with an enigmatic smile, patting the hand clutching the locket once or twice before vanishing into thin air.
"Will?" Kate asked, leaning into his bedroom. He was sitting there, staring at something in his hands and crying, silent but shaking. "It's true, then?" she sighed, sitting down next to him.
Everyone had been saying it but she hadn't really accepted it until she saw the state Will was in. He hadn't even cried when Magnus died. His only answer was a faint nod, his attention still clearly focused on what was in his hand.
"He's gone," he murmured, sighing and staring down at what she now saw was Druitt's locket. "He couldn't escape in time without risking the palefaces finding a way to disarm the bomb. He opted to stay. Boston's a smudge of ash now but he took a couple hundred thousand with him."
"Christ," she sighed, pulling him into a hug.
He threw his own arms around her in response, sobbing into her shoulder. It was a first for her. She was sure he had cried, as they all had in the past seven nightmarish years, but she'd never actually witnessed it in Will who, until recently, had had Magnus to comfort him when he needed it.
"We're it," he told her after what seemed like hours in which he just wept against her. "The only remnants of the Sanctuary."
"Yeah," she agreed softly. "But at least we still have each other, right? We aren't completely alone."
His hands tightening against her back and shoulder, Will nodded weakly, letting out a pained moan.
"Let's get you to bed, okay?"
"Not yet," he answered, shaking his head. "Just sit with me for a minute?"
"Sure," she answered readily. "Any time, Will. I kind of owe you," she pointed out, remembering how he'd been right there for her when the news about her family came.
"That's not how the world works any more, Kate," he sighed. "If we fall into a mode of thinking where things like basic compassion are traded like food and ammo…"
"You're right," she answered, patting his back. "And you know I'd do it anyway. You're my friend. It's okay, Will. Just rest now. I've got your six."
"Can't think of anyone else I'd rather have watching it."
Smiling weakly at her, he nodded once, putting on the locket and laying down on his bunk. Sighing, she took his hand, giving it a squeeze. She frowned when she took in how he was looking up at her: speculative, thoughtful, completely lost…
"The rest of my family's dead. You're the only person I have left that I really care about." He closed his eyes, rolling onto his side, away from her.
"We have each other and we have our memories. That's just going to have to be enough," she told him, sighing.
"Are you okay? I know you and Druitt were close."
"I'll live but you're right. I learned a lot and he was always there. It was kind of like having a father again. In a weird 'join me, my child, and together we shall overthrow the Emperor and rule the galaxy' way."
He let out a laugh that sounded more like a sob, rolling over and smiling up at her through his tears.
"Kate Freelander, Sith Apprentice."
She smiled weakly and told him, "He was really grateful for the way you've been there for him since Magnus was killed, Will."
"Not there enough, Kate. I should have realized he wasn't ready to go back in the field yet."
"Don't second-guess yourself. You're brilliant, yeah, but you aren't exactly on the top of your game right now."
Which had to be the understatement of the century. Since Magnus' death, he'd alternated between near-catatonia and this grim mirth that could be pretty scary, especially right before he went into battle. She couldn't go so far as to say a piece of him had died with her, but it had definitely decided to take a protracted vacation to sunnier climes.
"No one's been at their best for several years. That's no excuse for me to have been that asleep at the switch."
She sighed, burying her fingers in his hair. "Just get some rest, Will. I know you haven't been sleeping. Your nightmares are back."
His expression turned sheepish. "The screaming gets that loud?"
"Sorry. I didn't realize. I'll go back on meds."
"Have you actually looked down in the infirmary lately?" she sighed. Most drugs were in short supply these days and anxiety and sleeping meds had been the first to go.
"Right," he answered, shaking his head in disgust. "Jesus."
"We'll get you through this."
"We'll get each other through it," he countered gently, smiling and squeezing her hand. "Deal, Kate?"
She smiled and nodded. "Deal, Will."
"Well, fella, it's a shitty world to belong to, and your dad and I are sorry for that but who knew that condoms get all fragile as they age, right?" Kate murmured, smiling down at the sleeping baby. "Mom and Pop love you to death which is all that counts."
"Kate Freelander, I had no idea you were such an incurable romantic," a low voice chuckled.
She turned around, startled. "Hey, Will. Thought you'd be gone by now."
"Got pushed back. We leave in about twenty minutes. I was thinking and I realized that there was something I wanted Magnus to have."
"He's a little young for you to be trying to buy his love with gifts. They're usually one or two before they start responding to that approach." Smiling, she added, "And, for future reference, the gifts are supposed to come after you get home from your business trip, not before."
"Katie," he sighed, reaching up and removing the locket that had become a fixture with him since Druitt's death. The tone of voice, the reverence with which he tendered it to her, told her all she needed to know about it.
"Her picture's in there?" she asked as she accepted it from him, not bothering with jealousy. "Magnus'?"
She adored Will and he adored her. The fact that he also loved Helen Magnus beyond what it normally meant to love a person was entirely incidental to what he had with Kate Freelander.
Will was a good man, a gentle lover, and an attentive husband in a world where all three were in short supply. Kate had never been the type to expect professions of undying love from a man. Will showed her he cared in a thousand little ways. Some were sweet, like the way he'd randomly start singing to her when they lay tangled together in bed, too wired for sleep but too exhausted for sex. Others were heartbreaking, like the way he flinched away from any touch but hers. All were genuine and that was all that mattered.
"Anything happens to me, he gets that, okay?" he asked in that uncertain but still somehow insistent way he had.
"He gets it either way," Kate assured him, wrapping her arms around him and kissing him gently.
She'd seen Will spend hours in silent contemplation over the locket and, even not knowing what was inside, she'd been touched by that. She'd known it had been a gift from Druitt, of course, so it having a picture of Magnus inside made sense. But Will had never once opened it, either, which had made her think it must be empty or have a picture that didn't mean much to him. He'd just sit and cradle it in his hands. She'd assumed it was just his last link to something of his life Before. Now it occurred to her that seeing a picture of a younger, happier Helen Magnus was just been too heartbreaking for him to bear yet.
Will sighed as he returned the kiss, hanging on to her in that way he sometimes did when tenderness was lain aside in favor of the desperate need to just be close to another human being, warm and vital: alive.
"He gets that if anything happens, okay?" he directed again.
"So he knows his patron saint and guardian angel was real. Absolutely, Will. Promise."
"Come home to us, Will. There's more than just the human race needing you these days."
He kissed her again, gentle this time, slow and thorough and promising so much more when he returned from his run to the mainland. She moaned, melting into his embrace and sighing when he ended the kiss.
"I have a few more minutes before I'm expected," he murmured against her lips, smiling sadly. "Will you sit with me?"
"Sit. I'll be right there," she answered, moving to the basinet and lifting Magnus to her chest before sitting next to him.
"He's getting so big," Will breathed with that look of quiet wonder he always wore when regarding their son. He always treated it like the first time.
"He's strong and healthy," she answered, smiling proudly down at the newborn. "The midwife's really impressed with the way he's growing."
"Hey, with a name like Magnus he was always going to be something special," he pointed out, chuckling.
"True," Kate conceded, resting her cheek against his shoulder and smiling up at him. "We're in a good place, Will, right?"
"A better place than I thought this world was capable of producing," he answered, wrapping an arm around her and pressing his lips to the top of her head.
She sighed happily. "Speaking of fit and healthy, the midwife says I'll be good for active duty again soon."
His smile faded slightly. "But it's only been a few months."
"It was a quick, easy birth with no complications. In some cultures, I'd have been back out working the fields that day." She shook her head, absently patting his chest. "Besides, you're the one who always says you can't think of anyone you'd rather have watching your six."
"That's true," he agreed. "As long as you're ready."
"Rearing to go," she told him honestly. "Sitting on my ass all day isn't my idea of a good time. Not like there aren't plenty of nursing mothers here who'll be happy to take care of Maggie for a few days or weeks at a time."
"Do not call my son Maggie!" he laughed, giving a good-natured growl.
Kate, who only used the nickname to bait him, frowned innocently. "Why not, Will?"
He shot her a dirty look, but his eyes were still laughing. "If I'd known you did diminutives, I'd have gone with Gregory instead. Maggie…"
"Could be worse," she teased. "If it had been a girl and we'd gone with Helen, I'd have had to go with a nickname like Hellion."
"Would be fitting for a daughter of yours," he answered, smirking and catching her wrist when she tried to swat him. "Play nice or you'll wake up Magnus."
"Come on, Will, where's the fun in playing nice?"
He ignored that, lightly stroking Magnus' cheek with one finger and smiling up at Kate as he sang to her.
Goodbye to you, my little one
You gave me joy and helped me find the sun
And every time that I was down
You would always come around
And get my feet back on the ground
We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun
But the wine and the song like the seasons
Have all gone
She smiled and shook his head. Trust Will to work a reference to the nuclear winter into a romantic serenade. "Dork."
"Hey! That's Acting Field Marshal Dork!"
Sergeant Santos, a big, burly man with more battle scars than Will appeared at the door of their quarters, smirking.
"Your men are waiting, Acting Field Marshal Dork," he informed Will, body shaking with suppressed laughter.
"Thanks, Marco," Will muttered, shaking his head. "Can we not tell the men about this?"
"Dunno, Will. Might have an impact on them to find out even Kate Freelander respects your rank."
"Maybe when your wife isn't watching."
Kate laughed, kissing Will tenderly. "Go," she murmured against his lips.
"Yes, ma'am. See you in a couple of weeks."
"We'll be waiting. Keep safe."
"I plan on it," he answered, climbing to his feet and lightly brushing his fingers over Magnus' cheek again. "Like you said, I have a lot more important considerations these days. I love you, Kate."
"I love you, too, Will. Now get your ass out there and go fight the good fight."
"The locket," she nodded. "If anything happens, he'll get it. But you'd damned well better come back for it. Don't be a hero, Will. Remember that you're only human."
Smiling, he gave her one final kiss. "Katie, I haven't felt this human in a long time. I'll see you two when I get home," he promised, following Santos from their room.