A/N: Thanks as always to my amazing beta AstraPerAspera for not only proofreading but for the insightful discussions which lead to the fics in the first place. (and yes, hun, they are.,. don't snort)
He struggled to surface through the haze of sleep surrounding him. Part of him rebelled. He hurt - everywhere. But he had to know where he was. What was happening. The last thing he recalled had been the darkened alley and the rage of the creature within him flaming to full strength at the sound of her voice behind him…
"He wakes." It sounded like Big Foot. Which meant…
"Another 10ccs. Now." He had been right. It was Helen. He struggled even harder to open his eyes despite the wave of exhaustion sweeping over him, threatening to pull him back down into unconsciousness.
"He's fighting it."
"Dammit, John…" she murmured from somewhere near his right side, a frisson of frustration breaking through her normally calm demeanor, "go back to sleep."
The next time he woke, all was quiet around him. Drug-induced sleep no longer threatened to consume him and the pain had receded to the edge of his consciousness.
He opened his eyes. As he'd suspected, he was in a private observation room in Helen's infirmary. And he was alone. Really alone, for the first time in…
It was so silent. Even the beeping of the machines which surrounded him seemed muted and distant. The great roaring… the tumult and rage which had filled him for over a century save for those few precious hours when he had temporarily been free of it, was gone. Completely.
She had done it.
He closed his eyes again, finally really at peace, and drifted back to sleep.
She was exhausted. Between the Marmandia's habitat breaking down and reviewing urgent weapon requisitions with Kate and Henry she'd barely had a quiet moment to think all day let alone sit down and actually rest. Still, despite her weariness, and without real conscious decision, Helen found her path leading not to her chambers as originally intended but inexorably towards the guestroom she'd had John transferred to late the previous evening. Which was perfectly reasonable. After all, he was her patient.
And she knew she couldn't truly rest until she'd checked on his condition herself.
When she entered the room, he appeared to be sleeping peacefully. She stepped to the bed and, placing her hand upon his neck, checked for his carotid pulse. It was there, slow and steady beneath her fingers. Quite a change from the thready beat of a few days earlier, but even that had been a relief after losing him several times immediately following the extraction.
Still, it had all been worth it. Or would be once he awoke and she could ascertain for herself that the creature truly had gone. That they had truly beaten it, once and for all.
That John was back.
She watched as he slept on the bed before her, his skin pale and wan in the dim light cast by the single lamp glowing on the bedside table. Yet his flesh was warm beneath her hands, and even now when the drugs should have worn off his sleep remained restful and undisturbed, the corner of his lips curved upwards in a gentle smile. More at peace than she had seen him since before….
Helen sank down into the chair against the wall. She wouldn't stay for long, but she would stay for a little while. Just to make sure he really was all right. To make sure the demons - the Demon -that had haunted him for so long really had been vanquished.
To be there should he awake.
But only for a little while.
This time, John woke fully aware and in pain; the last of the drugs must have finally left his system. Still, while he hurt, at least it was his pain - pure and unshared. It felt good just to be able to feel again.
Opening his eyes, he realized he was no longer lying in the infirmary but in one of Helen's many guest rooms. The room was dark, the only light coming from a small lamp at his bedside, but it was enough to clearly illuminate Helen as she sat curled in a nearby chair, fast asleep. Her neck was tilted at an awkward angle, long waves of hair falling forward across her cheek, casting her features in shadows.
Despite all that had come to pass - all the years that had come between them, all the words and deeds that could never be taken back or undone - looking at her like that, as she slept… The years had hardly touched her at all.
He could almost pretend it had all been a dream. Nothing more than an illusion of memory.
Only it hadn't been, of course.
And, finally free of the creature's influence, with no idea what his personal future might hold, John remained certain of one thing. He had said it before and he had meant it each time he had said it. He would spend the rest of his life trying to make her happy. He would take all of eternity, if that's what she needed.
But watching her sleep, her features veiled and controlled even in sleep, he couldn't help but wonder. After all that had happened… after everything she had seen and all that she had been through… after everything she believed she had done…
Would even forever be long enough?