Author's Note: Last bit for this particular fic... enjoy?


"What are you doing here, Miss Hayes?"

The young woman who had been staring into the distance started, obviously not expecting his consciousness, let alone words. Instantaneously, she was at his side, reaching out to touch him, to take his hand, only to withdraw it awkwardly before making contact.

"I thought I'd left you in charge," Declan said with a feigned tone of admonishment. The teasing tone faded entirely as he digested the consequences of her presence. "Don't tell me you've let Osbourne push you out."

"Not at all." She smiled mischievously. "Believe it or not, he actually does feel a little remorse for his snap judgments as to my loyalty."

That was difficult to believe. But good for Miss Hayes! The only real thing preventing her from becoming a good leader was her apparent lack of assertiveness, an inability to take solid command of others. But it looked as if she had found other ways in which to deal with the dearth.

"That still does not explain why you have abandoned your post, Miss Hayes."

"How many times do I have to ask you to call me 'Penny', sir?"

Not at all trying to change the subject are we? To be quite honest with himself, he was happy to see her despite -or perhaps because of- the disturbing wraiths of feverish nightmares still lingering in his psyche. Unwilling to see any harm, any discomfort however small come to her, he allowed her to dodge his inquiry.

"Apparently, one less time than I have to ask you to call me 'Declan'," he said. A pink hue rose in the roundness of her cheek and she averted her eyes. No doubt recalling their last face-to-face conversation... He felt the heat rise in his own skin over the remembrance of her feel, her taste. Not to mention the evil fantasies that featured the young woman.

"I believe I owe you an apology, Miss Hay-Penny." Simultaneously he was too embarrassed to look at the prettily blushing brunette, and couldn't keep from studying her reaction.

"No." She cut him off sharply, a slight look of alarm in her eyes, before she continued more reservedly, quietly, but no less adamantly. "Please don't."

Declan hesitated, if only out of pure bafflement. Why shouldn't she want him to apologize? Was what happened (admit it, man, your near assault of her) something she did not even wish to recall through his making amends? Maybe she was trying to tell him that she knew it wasn't his fault, that he wasn't quite himself? Or was it...

She met his eyes, and then hastily looked away once more.

It was purely, sincerely, out of selfish reasons that she did not wish to hear those words. He saw it in her crystal blue eyes; the anxiety, the hurt, that he might take back how he touched her, kissed her, wanted her.

An awkwardly silent moment stretched on between them. There was nothing he could think to say. How did one respond to such a revelation, especially a nonverbal one? Neither could deny that her feelings weren't known to both, but nothing had been said, nothing was irrefutably real in the way only words lent solidity to expressions.

"Temporary heads of household are required to keep their incapacitated (or otherwise deemed incapable to discharge their duties) superior apprised of the status of the sanctuary so that they may be better reintegrated upon their reinstatement." She quoted one of the bylaws no doubt penned by Magnus' own hand a hundred or so years ago. Her spine straightened, her eyes hardened a bit, and Miss Hayes returned to the business-like state within which she always appeared most comfortable.

She began reading aloud a list of updates for situations that had been volatile, investigations that had been imminent, and the minor internal political squabbles he had been sorting when he had fallen ill and left abruptly. Admittedly it was a slight blow to his ego, but she had appeared to resolve basically all of the problems that supposedly required his intervention. From there, she proceeded through research updates, very briefly mentioning the majority and only touching more in depth upon the ones she knew held a particular interest to him.

Damn, she was bloody good. And bloody beautiful in her understated way. While he was on a confession spree, he might as well cop to adoring observing her even when she was all business and boring reports. The way she brushed a stray dark lock of hair behind her ear. Or how she worried her lip or chewed the end of the pen when she was deep in thought. How she relaxed into the formality of it, seemingly entirely at ease despite the straight spine and daintily crossed ankles (no doubt the work of that old school gran of hers). And often so damnably cold, unattainable in that alluring fashion generally attributed to sexually repressed librarians with a hidden kink to them.

But she had warmed to him -oh, how she had warmed to him- and he hadn't even realized. And now it was likely too late. Would he ever be able to touch a woman again without destroying them? Miss Hayes was almost temptation enough to try to find out. That was, if he had read that glimpse of her carefully guarded emotions correctly, that she might want him to try...

"You do know there are such things as the telephone?" Declan said before she could work her way down the list to the severely trivial. If she were trying to break him through monotony, make him forget the look she had given him, she could think again. "Or to be shockingly modern, email."

He caught her off guard. There was no rehearsed response. A gentleman would not point out a lady's emotional susceptibility, and thus she must not have expected it of him. Because for some reason beyond him, she appeared to think him such a stalwart example of manhood. Hell, she probably hadn't expected to reveal so much to him in the first place. Her only thought had been to be at his side.

"I...er…" She stumbled shyly for a moment. "I wanted to see for myself that you were alright."

Glancing sidelong, she gave him a small smile. He stared at her a bit. Really, he just couldn't help himself. It was as if he had never truly seen the woman before. Strange, what a viral-fueled snog can do to one's world. Honestly, he couldn't deny that he had appraised her in a non-platonic fashion before. He was a man after all, and to be perfectly frank, there probably wasn't a woman he'd ever encountered that hadn't been considered, at least in some part, by his brain (or other bits of anatomy) in a sexual light -even if only to be immediately rejected.

The similarity in features between Magnus and this ripe young girl were even more apparent now that he were aware. None would mistake one for the other, but they were of the same type, for certain. Whereas the revelation had only led to confusion upon its first assertion into his conscious mind, its consideration presently led him to a much more solid conclusion. His latent attraction for Miss Hayes had not been a result of a subconscious desire for Helen Magnus. Rather, his ease and acceptance of intimacy with the gorgeous leader of the Sanctuary network was a result of a burgeoning attachment to the young woman currently at his bedside.

Concern bit at him when he finally noted the dark circles ringing her eyes.

"You look tired," he said.

"I am a little." She gave him a weary smile.

"When was the last time you slept?" he asked.

He recognized the look of determination on her face. "It's fine. You're the one we're supposed to be worried about."

"If we're both incapable of running London house, it'll fall to Osbourne," he said, equal parts seriousness and humour. "And that's a mess I rather die than attempt to tidy up."

She laughed lightly.

"Likewise."

"Go have a lie down, Miss Hayes." A bit of command returned to his voice. "And don't tell me that Magnus didn't provide you with a room, because I know better."

"I don't-" She sighed, and began to look timid once more. When she spoke, it was soft, barely audible, and she refused to look him in the face. "I rather stay here, with you."

"Penny, you need rest," he said, drawing her attention as much by the informal address as the hand he placed gently under her chin. When she lifted her face, he noted that she had flushed in that simultaneously frustrating and endearing, shy way of hers. And yet there was a smoldering in her blue eyes. Bloody hell, she could play the coquette.

An enticing notion, which he most definitely should not entertain, crossed his mind. He shifted over as far as he could on the narrow bed, freeing a meager few inches beside him, and patted the space whilst raising an eyebrow in a facetious manner.

"Plenty of room."

Her mouth twitched, a smile beginning in her pursed lips and spreading outward to her whole person. And just like that, her reserve apparently snapped. Within seconds, she was hopping up onto the narrow mattress beside him. Well, mostly on top of him, curling about his side with her head resting on his shoulder, a hand against his chest. He snaked his arm about her, hugging her close and she cuddled into him, contented noises emerging from the back of her throat.

Declan couldn't help but sigh -as much in relief as in pleasure over the physical contact. There was no denying Magnus was brilliant, that he trusted her implicitly and with his life. Yet despite all that, doubt had continued to plague him, through his hellish battle with the virus, the mad feverish dreams, and even beyond to his recovery. Perhaps it was the loss of control it had signified, the hunger, the hunger that might never leave him, that might be there at the edge of every single thought he had for the rest of his life.

But here he was, with a delicious morsel of a young woman in his arms, and he had resisted ravaging her so far. Not that he didn't want to, wouldn't do so later for other, personal rather than primal, reasons. It was simply enough to hold her close, to feel the reassuring warmth of her without the urge to consume her life's energy. To know she was there. And that he could be with her without necessarily harming her.

Later, later he would kiss her. Long and slow, and deep. Without the horrible hunger driving him, he would take his time with Penny until desires entirely their own hastened their knowing of each other.

For now, he held her. And it was enough.

...

"Whoa," Will said, watching the video feed on the monitor with a little bit of shock as the dark-haired visitor unexpectedly jumped the head of the London Sanctuary. And Macrae seemed quite happy to receive her.

"I thought you said he was cured." He attracted Helen Magnus' attention to the amorous scene unfolding in high def on the computer screen. Granted though, the pair only appeared to be cuddling, whereas previously the afflicted man would've probably already had his tongue in her throat.

Glancing briefly at the image, Magnus smiled.

"Pre-existing condition," she said, winking at Will.

The young man chuckled as his enigmatic boss left the room, sobering slightly as he found his eyes lingering on the sway of the soft curves of her figure. Was there just something magnetic about the heads of house in the Sanctuary network, that drove persons under their employ mad with carnal thoughts?

END


A/N: Random, awkward ending? Sort of left hanging, but admittedly, I have been playing with Declan and Penny some more...