This came to me when I was thinking about the name "Ashley". I think a couple of other stories have asked the question, but I thought I'd take a stab at it. Set after 'Next Tuesday'. Oh, and those who listen to the podcasts will recognise the booty call comment… I heard it today and couldn't help but laugh. EDIT: This story has been edited as of 8-11-11, because I am going back and rewriting all the stories that give me the heebie-jeebies.
One Name For you
Will and Helen walked side by side to her office for their morning briefing. She hadn't said as much, but Will knew she didn't want to be alone today. It was Ashley's birthday, and behind all the hullaballoo about him going to Iceland and the confession of a German booty call, he knew there was a good reason he was needed today. Today she was a grieving mother who wanted nothing more than to have her daughter back in her arms. Well, he couldn't give her Ashley, but he could be there for her with whatever she needed.
They entered the study and Will immediately noticed the tension in both Henry and the Big Guy. It would seem Dr. Magnus was not the only one who knew what day it was. If Kate noticed the change in mood, she didn't say anything and instead had found interest in the photos on the shelf showing Helen with her various friends. Henry was reluctant to meet their eyes, though Will couldn't tell if it was because he himself was upset or because he was afraid of seeing Helen. Probably both. The Big Guy had taken up the space near the window and was silently watching Kate scan the photos, waiting for the exact moment she came across one of the few modern pictures there- the one of Helen with Ashley, no more than ten, standing on a balcony overlooking the Eiffel Tower. It sat next to the one of Ashley with her deep-sea fish, and Will had noticed it a week after Ashley had died.
"Good morning" said Helen, breaking everyone out of their mood and causing them to focus. Once again Will was amazed at the woman's strength- her voice was steady, and as cheerful as always, and if it weren't for the slight nod she gave Henry in reassurance, it could have been any other day at the Sanctuary.
"Any news for me before I send you all on your way?"
Henry cleared his throat before speaking. "Uh, that Backa we caught yesterday had to be moved to the SHU last night- he cut right through the bars of his containment"
"Very well. Did you explain to him the purpose of your moving him? I can't imagine he'd be very happy"
"He wasn't, but after I told him just how strong his claws were, he promised to work on controlling himself so he can be moved back"
"Good. I may check in later if I have time. Any other issues?"
"Uh, underfunding, lack of law enforcement co-operation and… we've run out of coffee" deadpanned Henry, with a sad puppy look.
Helen smirked and rolled her eyes. "Our budget is going to be stretched for the next few months while the other Sanctuary's continue to get back on their feet. Sorry Henry, no extra-curricular experiments for the moment. I've spoken to the Mayor about more police training after the debacle catching our friend yesterday, but there's not much we can do without revealing what we do. And as for that disgusting slop you call coffee" Helen paused and quirked an eyebrow at Henry. "If you're so desperate why don't you take Kate with you to the store and buy some. Put it on your company card if you need"
Henry grinned with glee and Helen couldn't help but smirk in amusement.
"And while you're there you might be so kind as to get some Fruit Loops. We've just run out"
All but Kate widened their eyes at that, but nobody said anything, and they all ignored the questioning look Kate shot around the room.
"Uh, sure" said Henry, walking out the study door.
"You sure you want me to go with him?" asked Kate. "It's a shopping run, not brain surgery"
"Firstly, if there's to be any brain surgery around here, I think the surgeon should conduct it, don't you" said Helen with open amusement and a raised eyebrow. Kate grinned back. "And second, I need you to make sure he doesn't go crazy in the hardware shops. We really are on a tight budget"
Kate grinned a little more and nodded before following out the door.
Kate spun around.
"… I want you to keep your ears out for an abnormal that's been vandalising the area. It's nothing more than a petty thief, but I'd like to make sure it doesn't go further than that"
"Right" drawled Kate, continuing out the door, obviously wondering why the Doctor didn't just say to Henry it was a recon mission.
Helen turned back to the Big Guy as he started speaking.
"I have to speak to Thomas about food for the Yashanu. He says he has new product available"
"Very well. But don't let him charge you any more than he already does. Last time he got new product he tried to be sneaky and charge new prices as well"
The Big Guy nodded and left the room, leaving just Will and Helen. She walked behind her desk with Will following, and slumped down with a sigh. Will took a seat in the chair on the opposite side. Showing her trust in him and revealing just how emotionally taxing the day ahead would be, she laid her head back against the top of the chair and closed her eyes.
She opened her eyes and gave a sad smile. "Ashley's favourite. Ever since she was a little girl she made me eat a bowl of Fruit Loops with her on the morning of her birthday. It was the one day of the year that I would do whatever she told me"
"Even drink coffee?" asked Will with a smirk, keeping his tone cautious for fear of overstepping.
Helen let out a huff of amusement. "She was cheeky, but she wasn't cruel. No, she limited her torture to eating a bowl of Fruit Loops, watching The Wizard of Oz and going ice-skating. Every year we held the tradition… except for one, when we were both in Paris. I took her out… we saw all the sights… we climbed to the very top of the tower…"
Will smiled and allowed them to fall back into companionable silence, letting her get lost in her memories. He looked at the picture on her desk again, and imagined the young Ashley running around Paris, showing her mother wondrous things she had long been overlooking as an adult of 144 years. Helen Magnus was an enigma on the best of days, but he didn't need training in psychology to know she needed space to grieve. Looking at the picture on the desk of the smiling little girl, with her blonde hair in two haphazard pony tails, grinning under her mother's arm, he let himself feel Ashley's loss for the first time since her memorial. He barely caught Helen's next comment, spoken so softly that he wasn't sure she knew she was speaking out loud.
"You know, I never thought I'd have to say goodbye to a second Ashley Magnus"
When she noticed Will's confused look, she realised she needed to explain, and she sighed before sitting straighter. She hadn't wanted to tell this story, but she knew if there were one person she would tell, it would be Will Zimmerman.
"Ashley… the name… from my time…"
"Yeah, it's a boys name. I was going to ask about that… but then… and it never… seemed like the right time"
"Yes… it was a boys name" She took a deep breath before continuing. "It was my brother's name"
Will looked up from the picture and leant forward in his chair.
"He died, years ago"
"How old were you?" asked Will gently. He was under the impression he had died an old man- another reminder to Magnus that she would inevitably outlive all those she loved, one way or another. Helen gave a small, sad smile.
"I was seven"
Will sat back, slightly shocked. Helen often mentioned the people she had met through her life, but there were very few times she talked about her childhood- or any time in her life before the source blood changed her.
"I lost… two people that year. My brother… and my mother. She died two days after his birth. Not even my father's brilliant mind could stop her from haemorrhaging" She wiped at an errant tear on her cheek before continuing, her voice still strong.
"She fought, but she just wasn't strong enough. We just weren't medically advanced enough in those times. It was a reality my father fought against his whole life. My brother- he held on for a few weeks… but he was so small…"
She sniffed and wiped her eyes again, looking down to her hands in her lap, trying to compose herself- to stay strong. She hadn't intended to tell this much, but she trusted Will with her deepest, darkest secrets. Surely this qualified.
"He was 29 weeks when he was born- far too young, even today. I remember visiting his crib- he was so... so tiny. My father hardly ever saw him- had accepted that he might not live, I suppose. I snuck in one night when Ashley's wet-nurse was asleep. I ran my finger down his cheek… My father did his best, but... my brother got an infection…"
"He couldn't save him" finished Will, his elbows resting on his knees as he leaned forward in his chair. She sniffed quietly and wiped her eyes again.
"We buried him next to my mother in Kensal Green cemetery. I remember looking at my mother's grave as they lowered his coffin next to hers. I remember my father sobbing, and holding my hand so... so tight. After that day I had always intended to name any son I bore after my brother, at least in some capacity"
She hesitated, and Will finished her thought for her.
"But you had a daughter"
Helen looked up and met his gaze, nodding gently with the smallest of smiles. "Yes. I had a daughter. I suppose I thought I would name my daughter after my mother… but then Ashley came along in the twentieth century, and the name was used more for girls than it was for boys... It just felt right. I gave her my mother's name as a second name. I thought perhaps the two of them could live on in her- allow me to know them even though they were long gone"
She stopped and took in a deep, shuddering breath, stopping her tears and pulling herself together. She looked up and gave a watery smile.
"And hence, Ashley Patricia Magnus was born, on this day twenty four years ago. One name for the brother I never knew… One name for the mother I lost as a child…"
"And one name for you" finished Will with conviction. Helen looked up with shock. She had never considered that Magnus was her name now- that the reputation and respect it garnered may have begun with her father, but it lived on with her. Will leaned forward without hesitation, holding her gaze, his face kind but firm.
"One name for you"
He didn't look away. His conviction and surety offered her reassurance, and Helen looked down again, holding back another round of tears.
"Three generations of Magnus women" he whispered, again eyeing the photo of Ashley and Helen.
"I never thought I would say goodbye to another Ashley Magnus", whispered Helen, and for a moment she allowed herself the chance to cry for the family she no longer had- for the loved ones she would never again see- knowing Will would not judge her for her moment of weakness nor push her for more history. There was nothing more to tell, and yet the revelation of the reason behind Ashley's name proved to him one thing; Helen Magnus was more human than any of them gave her credit for, and for that he would sit there silently, allowing her to cry, knowing that in that moment, she was not the Great Helen Magnus. She was a daughter, a sister and a mother. She was one human being looking for connection to another, just like everyone else, and his presence was like holding out his hand, allowing her to take it just this once. Just to feel human again.