Disclaimer: I don't own any of the dynamic and fascinating characters from Sanctuary.
Author's Notes: My take on the scene from "End of Nights II" (2x02) between Helen and Nikola in the lab, from Nikola's perspective.
Spoilers: If you've seen Season 1 and the beginning of Season 2, you're good.
100prompt: #59 – No Way Out
Jasmine. Juniper berry. And the faint hint of exotic spices.
Nikola Tesla, who until now had been working deftly with the chalk between his slender fingers, stilled as the distinct scent of Helen Magnus gently brushed his senses. His eyes drifted shut as he breathed it in, marvelling at how something so simple could still drive him to distraction. It had been ever present during their time at Oxford, the gentle flavor teasing him when Helen sat next to him during lectures, or when she was leaning towards him while they worked together on their papers in the library. Now, with the Sourceblood amplifying his senses, the fragrance was almost intoxicating, almost deadly. It was only a matter of time before she followed it. He would enjoy it while it lasted.
"So I'm guessing you've never been in love then."
"Countless times, my friend. See the difference is, I recognize the emotion for what it is: an irrational, self-destructive impulse which is disguised as joy."
He recalled his earlier words to the protégé and ignored them. Moments like these were few and far between, and were all that he would allow himself. He still stood by what he said. He had made a decision after their little encounter in Rome. He would not become entangled with Helen Magnus. It wasn't for lack of wanting. The want was there, amplified by years of history and shared experiences. Their meeting in Rome had demonstrated that their chemistry was still very much alive. The genuine concern in her eyes when he struggled and survived Gregory Magnus's electrical tunnel. It made him grin to think of it.
"You still like me, it's so obvious."
Oh yes. The want was there. But for now, it was a matter of first things first. And world domination was certainly still on the list.
God how he wished there was a way to get both.
The sudden clicking of approaching boots followed her scent and snapped him out of his reverie. Shaking his head and clearing his thoughts, he returned his attention to the board. He wanted to be busy when she came in. Focusing on the formula again in front of him he resumed his writing on the chalkboard, the clicking of the chalk against the slate synchronizing itself with Helen's approaching steps.
He suspected he knew what the visit was about. His device had failed to disable Ashley and the other superior abnormals. While he knew that it was his fault, he also knew that the task he had been given was near impossible. He'd warned her it wasn't his best work. He'd tried to discourage her from the beginning. But what Helen had needed wasn't criticism. She'd needed hope.
She had instilled her faith in him. And despite his aloof and often mischievous attitude, the thought that he had failed her made him feel a rare pang of guilt, despite the difficulty of the task given.
So when she came in to find him scrawling on the board, he gave her a quick glance and immediately took the defensive.
"I know, I know. I know. The spectrum settings were totally off. I'll fix it."
She stood next to him, her scent intoxicating him. He wondered how Tiny Tim dealt with this problem, having similar heightened senses. He braced himself for her disappointment. Instead, she posed a question.
"Nikola, did I ever tell you why my father founded the Sanctuary network all those decades ago?"
He could hear the sadness in her voice, and it hurt him. Her scent and the familiar warmth coming from her body were crippling him. If he was going to keep his mind in check and focus on the task at hand rather than her in any faculty, he would have to stay busy. But since she wasn't going to let him do that at the board, he would have to move.
Trying to cover up his desires and disappointments, Nikola dropped the chalk, avoided her gaze and came up with a catty remark.
"Because he was a crappy doctor?" he said, moving to his table to engage his hands and mind in something, anything.
He was comforted to hear her breathe a small laugh, knowing that he didn't fully mean what he said. He fought to focus on the task at hand as she again invaded his space, coming over to where he was working on the weapon.
"Because there was a need. A multitude of beings lost, in need of help. The Sanctuary was founded more out of necessity than for science."
He wouldn't look at her as she spoke. He didn't want to take the chance to see the hurt in her eyes, the disappointment in him. He hadn't only failed her as a scientist. He'd failed her as a friend. He kept his eyes on his work and nodded once to acknowledge her words as she continued.
"We protect the two dominant species of life from one another. Humans and abnormals. It's a fragile balance that cannot be compromised. If we fail, fear and chaos would reign, and the Cabal would win."
Nikola tried to focus on the pliers in his hands, but Helen's voice wouldn't allow it. He knew what she was doing, what she was saying. It wasn't for his sake. It was for hers. She needed to hear aloud the reason that they were all involved in this. She needed to remember what the bigger picture was.
Which was why, when her voice suddenly softened, he stilled.
"You knew the weapon wouldn't work."
He stopped and looked up at her then. Her voice wasn't accusing in any way, or disappointed. Simply sad. She could just as easily having been telling him, as she did all those years ago, that John was an infamous serial killer. It was the same voice. Not accusatory. Only broken, as though only now coming to a realization that was so obvious to everyone else. It broke his heart a little.
Nikola looked down and fought for something to say. "Helen—"
She interrupted, her voice still soft. "I asked you to make a weapon that would only disable Ashley. Not kill her. I realize now that was an impossible task."
He knew what he wanted to tell her. He wanted to give her hope, to tell her he could find a way. But they'd both known each other too long to lie. It would only add to injury. He conceded and looked at her.
"Quite impossible," he admitted honestly.
She stared at him then, as though she had been struggling to make a decision, and he had just helped her decide what course to take. As though his confession had been the last piece of a puzzle, and now she could see clearly the picture that it made. Her hands fumbled and she pulled out a small, slender vial full of red liquid.
Nikola stilled. He knew what it was. Gently, he put down his pliers to reach for it.
"This is Ashley's, before she was changed."
He took it delicately from her, making sure that his fingers didn't graze hers. He was having a hard enough time fighting off urges to comfort her. A simple touch could break his will.
Nikola looked up at her and studied her face. He knew what Helen was asking him to do. But he wanted to be sure that she knew. That she knew exactly what would happen, and the consequences.
She was the executioner, and she'd just given him the axe to sharpen. The same one that would soon end her daughter's life.
He had to be sure. They both did.
Nikola kept his voice level, but soft. "You realize if I do this, the weapon will be completely effective. I mean completely."
He felt his heart clench as she looked at him. She had been staring at his mouth as he spoke, watching his mouth form the words to make sure that she didn't miss a thing. But now that he was done her gaze met his and he saw how completely helpless she was. How truly alone she felt. When she looked at him, he heard her broken heart.
"What choice do I have?"
The Sanctuary, the lives of all the abnormals... it wasn't a matter of decision.
It was a matter of acceptance.
Helen Magnus had to give up her daughter to save the world.
Giving one last look to the vial of blood in Nikola's hand, Helen silently turned and left him alone to do his work. To carry out what she had just asked him to. To finish making the weapon that would allow her to kill her only daughter.
He looked down at the vial of blood in his hand and wished he did have another way to save Ashley. For Helen's sake, he wished with all his heart that he could think of something. Because he knew full well, Helen would never be the same after this. She was a strong woman, but everyone had their breaking point. There was a good chance that Ashley was hers.
Placing the vial down, he poured himself a glass of wine. She needed him to do this. And for the first time, he took no comfort in being the only one able to help her. Not in this case. Not with this.
With heavy hands, he picked up the pliers and went to work.