Magnus had shaken the hand of many an important person. Scientists, artists, politicians, royalty: she had taken all their hands in friendship, allegiance, or duty. They had all sought her out over her long years, eager for her help, her advice, her influence; they had all been eager to hear her, to be seen standing beside her.
She had encased their hands within her own, one after another, and yet she had felt no closer to them than she had before. Their pulses lie under her fingertips but still they did not connect. They did not touch her. No one ever did.
John's fingers danced across her own, their graceful dexterity making quick work of the pale expanse that was her hand. His skin was warm, so unbelievably warm, as it slipped over her own. So mesmerised was she by that enticing heat that Helen barely even noticed how deftly his splayed fingers had laced with her.
It was a solitary life, one to which she had long ago become accustomed. It was with pride that she walked down the halls of her Sanctuary – indeed any of her sanctuaries. She was proud of the work she had carried out in her father's absence, of the victories she and her organization had accrued. And, credit where it was due, she could not have succeeded without their help. Despite the bubble of solitude she lived in she was never truly alone, surrounded as she was by all manner of people – abnormal or no.
Wherever she went she was greeted with deference, a respect no one could deny she had earned over her long years of dedication. The passing of each door granted her a nod, a bow, or exuberant wave. The Good Doctor never passed unacknowledged.
From those she considered friends, those for whom she lowered her century-old walls, she was met with more: affectionate smiles, teasing eyes, even doting exasperation. But still, always proper, always from a distance; even here their words feel just out of her reach.
Leaving one hand firmly embedded in hers, his other travelled gently up her side. Skimming and scraping gently at the heavy fabrics covering her burning skin, he never managed to lay a hand on her and it made her want to scream. It made her want to forget everything she had ever been taught about being a lady and help him in any and every way she could.
Reaching what was now clearly his destination, his teasing digits disappeared into her mass of curls, threading through the strands to cup the back of her head. Moving his face closer to her own, Helen prepared herself for his kiss, his promise to end the torment she was (however willingly) enduring.
Instead, his lips found their way to where the smooth skin of her neck met her ear. He nestled there for a second, breathing in the scent of her before his words, delivered with the reverberating strength she heard in her dreams, collected in her ear.
"How pleasing it is to see you again, My Helen."
His words of greeting were not unusual, being the ones he met her with every day. They possessed the perfect balance of gentlemanly chivalry and a courter's affection. But tonight, in this new and marvellous context of sensation, his whisper ran through her entire body in a way no other greeting ever could. She would live within those words for days.
In between missions to all corners of the earth, Magnus spends her days accumulating and shifting through data. A life as long as hers amasses no small amount of paperwork – and even in today's digital arena, there is always something to be read, signed off on, and always for her eyes only. Reports, requisitions, proposals, they all come flying to her, screaming for her attention.
There were days when this was all too much, even for the seemingly unending patience of the great Doctor Magnus. And it was on these days that she would pack herself up – too disciplined to leave her work entirely behind her – and seek out the presence of another living being, desperate for companionship.
She would continue her research in her lab, his required assistance a perfect excuse for the Big Guy's comforting presence. She would drop by to 'check in' with Henry and his latest experiments, allowing his excitement at her personal attention to keep her there for hours longer than necessary. She would circle around to the gym, telling herself it was because longevity was no excuse for inactivity, only to stop in the doorway, transfixed by the sight of Kate offloading on the punching bag she had helped Ashley fix to the ceiling, a mother's worried eyes watching her daughter atop a stepladder. And she would, most frequently, take her own tablet or pile of papers, to the library, sitting alongside Will as he carried out his own research amongst tomes she had stopped consulting decades ago. Occasionally she let him become distracted from his own work, permitting prying questions into her past.
These visitations were not infrequent, and her presence was always welcomed. And yet she never truly felt at home within these rooms – her ownership of the entire building making no difference. Each change of position was accompanied by a deferring glance, each bump of an elbow an apology. Even the most accidental of brushes were silently qualified.
Helen considered herself a scientist, she knew of the biomechanical aspects of love, and yet she had never thought that she could feel like this. The length of John's body was aligned with her own, his presence a steady and all together wonderful pressure. She was faintly aware of an arm circling her corseted waist, but she was far more focused on the marvellous things John was doing with his mouth, his tongue, the things he was silently coaxing her into returning.
She barely noticed when his hand reached the hem of her dress. And her endorphin drenched brain refused to rouse itself long enough to report the activity of his palm sliding up her stockinged leg. It wasn't until he slipped under her garter belt, his fingertips caressing the soft skin of her thigh, skin that had never before seen the light of day, let alone been subject to another's touch, that she realised.
The foreign touch, so small and yet far more intimate than anything they had shared, caused Helen to start. Her eyes flew to his, momentarily shocked, yet strangely unpanicked. She expected to see some degree of guilt in his eyes – they weren't married, after all. If not guilt, than an apology for not asking permission to touch her like this, to touch her there. But his eyes were clear, confident as he smiled (somewhat cheekily) down at her. And in that she realised that she had already given him permission: she had, after all, already given him her heart.
With a renewed sense of passion, she sighed contentedly as he rearranged the fabrics of her skirt, hitching her leg around his hips as he leant in to layer her shoulder with kisses. She didn't know how she knew, but this felt so right.
Helen Magnus lived a solitary life. Had done for more years than she could possibly recall. Lovers had come and gone, friends had moved on ... children had died. This was the way of life, and the price she had paid for her cause. But no one had told her just how high that price would be, just how hard it would be to endure. No one could ever have told her would spend the rest of her limitless days craving the simplicity of true and honest human touch.
Just one touch.