The Big Guy had always moved in and around the Sanctuary unencumbered. The combination of his quiet earnestness and lumbering bulk had engendered him to all who lived and worked in the building, from the boss right on down.
No one knew exactly what his duties entailed – he seemed to do a little of everything – but to him his role was quite clear. It was his job to care for, and take care of, the lady of the house. Fierce loyalty was his way, and he had it in abundance for the woman who had saved his live. And this loyalty had burned strong through over two decades of service. She needed him, though he doubted she'd ever admit to it easily.
It was he who kept her tea fresh and hot, an ever full cup always on her desk. It was he who appeared at her side, a plate of food in hand, prepared to watch her eat it if need be. It was he who had driven Ashley to and from school, revelling in the child's bubbling prattle. It was he who knew each of her favourite seasonal flowers, always sure to keep the vases well stocked and tucked away around the Sanctuary to draw out an unexpected smile from her busy day. It was his job to help her, indulge her, and distract her.
Now more than ever.
By his reckoning, it had been forty-two hours since she had last emerged from her office, blurred eyes being the only indicator of distress she would permit. And this was likely only because she was unaware just how distressing for others those eyes of hers could be. She had eaten little, merely nibbling on the madeleine he had judiciously placed on the saucer of her tea in the hopes that her favourite would entice her.
She hadn't slept in all this time, he was sure, and had barely slept the session before. Henry had tried to get her to sleep but had merely received a hug and reflected sympathy for his troubles. Will, likewise had been unsuccessful, his presence only sparking yet another debate on the validity of her theories. It was time to pull out all the stops, send in the Big Guy, so to speak. No one could stare her into behaving better than him.
Swinging by the kitchen to pick up a plate he knew full well she wouldn't eat, he headed up to face the lion stubbornly holed up in her den. He had it all planned out. He would not be taking no for an answer.
Slipping through the doors to her study, he felt the sunlight filtering through the Old City skyline to warm his fur. This was his favourite room in the Sanctuary, it was where everybody came together and breathed life into the room. After hours, it was where he and Helen Magnus co-inhabited. She hard at work, he tidying and, with that slow deep voice of his, filling her in on the comings and goings of the house, happy to provide her with a little undemanding company.
He crossed the room, his wide bare feet sinking into the carpet in familiar patterns. The image before him, however, was far from the norm. Head tucked into the crook of her elbow, Helen was sitting asleep at her desk. The last tea he had prepared sat on her side table getting colder with each second.
Setting down the plate, he grunted softly as he circled around to her side of the desk. With very careful fingers he moved a tumble of curls back over her shoulder to reveal her face. Even in sleep her expression was tense and pained. The calm that had taken up residence ever since Ashley's birth had shattered, a few desperate fragments wilfully holding on around the edges.
This was not the first time he had found her asleep at her desk, but she normally had enough good sense to take herself off to bed (and out of range of his doting) before it got to this stage. Ashley's 'disappearance' had stripped this remaining practicality from her mind, and even now as she slept her fitful sleep her hand clutched her pen, ink slowly bleeding out onto the paper, it's black pool coating the ideas she had so urgently scratched out earlier.
Gently easing her back into the chair he rolled her out from under the desk. She sighed as he worked the pen loose from her clenched hand, but did not wake. Sparing a second to ensure her modesty should they encounter anyone between here and her quarters (though at this hour he highly doubted it), he lowered himself and scooped her up into his arms.
Despite spending nearly every day together in one capacity or another, moments of contact like this were rare. A brush of the hand while passing a piece of medical equipment or fresh china. The dexterous dancing of her fingers as she sutured him up, and the pressure of her hand on his shoulder in assistance, praise, or comfort – for even in this time she had not neglected the emotions of those around her.
Holding her now like this only emphasised how human she truly was, despite her years, and just how careful he must be around her. She was more fragile than she ever appeared, delicate despite the unassailable presence she projected. He studied her as, in her sleep, she moved closer into his warmth, her fingers taking up a secure hold on the hair around his neck.
Carrying her through the empty halls to her quarters was hardly an effort, her relative weight barely registering. Propping her up on the edge of her bed, he grunted softly, fondly, as she rested into his chest, her arms circling halfway around him, their shorter length not quite meeting. He removed her jacket and shoes to be placed neatly over her dresser, knowing how careful she was with her clothing.
Lowering her down onto the bed, he pulled the blanket up over her sleeping form and, in a moment of rare indulgence, kissed her softly on the forehead. Her brow wrinkled then smoothed as she settled into her bed. He wished he could smooth her waking hours as easily, but knew that until Ashley was found, one way or another, she would not rest completely. This was the one burden he could not take from her shoulders.
Turning to leave her to whatever peace she could find, he found his path blocked by a figure reclining in the doorway. Henry looked on into the room with the expression of poorly concealed grief that seemed to have taken up permanent residency on his face. He started sadly past the Big Guy at the woman in the bed, watching the way her hand had clutched the pillow firmly, desperately.
"I miss her," Henry said, plainly and simply.
The Big Guy grunted in acknowledgement as he moved to stand beside his friend. He lifted a hand to touch the back of his head, fingers moving in almost in a caress. "I know, me too."