Summary: They used to lie to each other, telling each other what they wanted to hear, but ever since Adam Worth had reunited them, they had little time for lies. Spoilers for "King and Country" and "Vigilante".
She hung up the phone with a small sigh, turning back to look at John somewhat reluctantly. She eyed him, strangely calm and almost at peace, as she nervously tapped the satellite phone against her palm. She was running out of time. She could feel it in her body. Even the fall down the cliff, as oddly exhilarating as it had been to lie on top of Montague John Druitt for the first time in over a century, had bruised the few parts of her body which had been as yet untouched by the radiation sickness.
"That was Declan." She said, feeling the need to say something to break his odd fascination with the horizon. "I asked him to look into the history of the region. It was occupied by a number of nomadic empires. Any of whom could have cleared out that chamber."
He looked at her with the same kindness and compassion with which he'd looked at her when she'd been recovering from that first test of the Source Blood. It was the tenderness of the lover and poet she'd first come to love at Oxford. "Come. Sit with me a moment." He said, patting the empty space on the rock beside him.
She wanted to refuse; she had to refuse. "We have to stay on task, John."
"We can't sit and talk at the same time?" He asked with a slightly amused rebuke as he repeated his request. "Come."
She reluctantly sat beside him on the rock, the pain shooting through her entire body as she changed position. She must have bruised a rib or two on the tumble down the cliff. For a moment, she simultaneously craved his touch and appreciated that he kept his distance. That moment in Cambodia where she'd allowed herself to lie in his embrace for the first time since...since the night they'd conceived Ashley...
Of course, she'd been ill in Cambodia with the radiation sickness that was draining the life from her here and now, though admittedly, she hadn't known it. She'd merely thought that the weariness which had transcended from her spirit to her body was a byproduct of having glimpsed the man with whom she'd truly fallen in love at Oxford before she stood by and watched him sacrifice his own freedom and become, once again, the monster that she'd come to fear.
But when he'd awoken for that brief moment to feel her in his arms, she'd known it had been a mistake. She'd sent him a signal that she yearned to be with him once again, and while he was incarcerated with that electrical entity in his body, she couldn't afford to be close to him. And if he was ever free from his prison...there had been far too much violence and murder for him to ever truly be himself again. Or for her to ever truly trust him again.
"It's been a long time since you and I enjoyed a sunset." John murmured from where he sat beside her.
She didn't have to look at his face to see how pleased he was that he'd managed to get her to sit, and it bothered her. It bothered her that even after a century of mastering the dance where he fell into her life for a time, tried to win her trust back, did something to absolutely devastate her again, and disappeared in his disgust for his own actions, he could still read the parts of her that she tried to hide from the rest of the world.
"Declan was able to match the description of the keystone to an artifact acquired by the British museum thirty years ago." She said, pretending that she hadn't noticed his nonverbal shift in mood. Undoubtedly, he was about to tell her something that she didn't want to hear – as he often did after he scoffed internally at her "clinical disposition".
"It's a wild goose chase."
"We have to try." She said, passionately.
"Do we? You're the one who didn't want to show Worth the map."
She swallowed, thinking once again about her quest for a cure for her longevity. She'd learned when she'd arrived in that post-Apocalyptic world that she hadn't been so desperate as she'd thought. Then, she'd looked at the blood sample only to hear from Will and Nikola that it was she, in fact, and not only Worth, who would suffer the effects of radiation sickness.
She had to admit that the idea of eternal rest had seemed appealing at the time, and then, they'd begun to treat her like she was dying, and she quickly remembered the pain of being treated with kid gloves at Oxford and throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Now, she felt an inner fire volleying her forward with greater and greater velocity as she searched for the cure that would not only save her life but also her father's life.
"And all this traveling is not good for you." John finished, reaching for her hand as he would have back at Oxford. "Let me take you home."
"To do what?" She asked, shooting a look at him instantly. "To die?"
He must have seen her indignation because he managed a sad, but affectionate smile, as only he could do justice. "Oh, no. No, we'll find another way."
"And what about my father? And the underground city?" She begged, feeling each decade slip from her mind as she got lost for a moment in those blue orbs which had once been her very world. "Please, John." She whispered. "There has to be some truth to what Worth said..."
"Has there?" He scoffed, clearly skeptical of the idea.
"We found the pedestal."
He seemed hardly impressed, and she swallowed, knowing what she had to do to finally help him see that she was desperate for his help.
"John." She whispered, as she once had as he lay over her in the privacy of his English cottage in the countryside. "Take me to London."
She could tell that he, too, had not forgotten that night as he looked deeply into her eyes for a moment. "It's been a long time since I heard you say that."
They returned their gaze to the sunset for a few moments as Helen willed herself to relax and let her body rest. Almost without warning, the cough which had begun only a few hours before came back and she pulled her hand away from her mouth only to find the expected, but still disconcerting, drops of blood which she had expelled from her lungs.
"You should rest." John murmured, handing her a handkerchief.
She didn't answer, merely cleaned up the evidence of her illness.
"We still have a few hours before the British Museum opens."
She raised an eyebrow, skeptically.
"All right, maybe an hour." He conceded. "But either way, we have time for you to rest."
She sighed as she looked around them. "And where do you think..."
He stood, and reached for her hand. She eyed it closely before she accepted it. He easily helped her up. "How are your ribs?" He asked, concerned, as she grimaced with the force of her return to an upright position.
She stopped, instantly schooling her features back into neutrality. "Where do you suggest I rest?"
He took her by the hand, and walked slowly with her down a narrow path toward a grassy meadow, reminding her once again of the man who would pull her from the lab after spending the night working in the lab and take her for a stroll through the Botanical Gardens.
"What are we doing here?" She asked as John stopped in the middle of the field.
He knelt on the ground and reached for her other hand.
She studied his eyes for a moment before she shook her head. "No."
"Would you rather I took you to the belfries of St. Paul's Cathedral in London?" He asked, facetiously. "Or perhaps back to your own Sanctuary? I'm sure young William would have a few words to say about how you've worn yourself."
"I'm sure that by now, you've decided that it was a mistake to wrap yourself in my arms in Cambodia?"
Her eyes grew hard as she resented his frustratingly playful tone.
"Helen, you're not well." He said, finally. "I know I have many sins to atone for, and that redemption will not come easily, but perhaps you only came with me because you know you have nothing else to lose?"
She hated that he was right. Hadn't she just told Will that "either way" it had to be her?
"This is no indication that I've decided you are any less a threat," she said as she finally got to her knees, trying to forget that the last time she'd been on her knees in front of this man, he'd pulled a small knife out with the intention of slitting her throat.
"Accepted." He said as he pulled her gently onto the ground, cushioned on top of him for a moment before she easily rolled to his side.
He gently brushed an errant strand of hair from her face as he had often times back in their days at Oxford.
"Please, John." She murmured, her lip trembling. He couldn't tell if it was because of the tremors that had begun only moments before or if it was some unconscious signal of the internal struggle she suffered every time she allowed herself to think of the good times they'd had in England. "Don't."
He reached his finger down from her temple and to her lips, gently pressing it against them. "Sh," he whispered, softly. "I'm only here to keep watch and to cushion your body against the hard ground. Or don't you remember what used to happen when we'd lie together?" He teased, thinking of the times when he'd been learning how to control his teleporting that he'd unconsciously taken Helen with him to the real-world places he dreamed of. The fields outside his boyhood home, Trafalgar Square, and once, even to India.
He saw the flicker of something in her eyes – a wish, a deep longing for those days – and it caught him by surprise. She was usually so guarded with him that her eyes became deeply veiled. As he often did when he was with her – at least after she'd bandaged him up once again – he felt strong enough to combat the beast within him even if it was only a momentary gratitude.
She rolled over, as if aware that she had just revealed the depth of her loneliness to him, and he wrapped his arms around her, knowing it was probably a bad idea, but unwilling to keep pretending that he didn't still have strong feelings for this woman.
She tensed in his arms momentarily before he leaned in to her ear. "Rest, Helen," he murmured softly.
He felt her breathing, though somewhat uneven because of the pain associated with each breath, deepen little by little.
It felt good to have her in his arms again, he mused. Better than when he'd been drugged up in Cambodia since he was the one now awake enough to enjoy it. He looked down at her, almost wondering where it had first gone wrong. It had been before the Ripper killings – even he knew that there had to be some innate rage on which this entity that inhabited his body seemed to capitalize. He sighed internally. How many times had they fought about her obsession with her father's Sanctuary? How often had he begged her for the very things that she had begun promising him after the Ripper killings had started?
"Please, John," she had asked when she'd first found out. "We'll find ourselves a cottage by the sea. I'll go into London on special cases with the Sanctuary, but then, I'll come home. To you. And you'll write sonnets, and we'll be happy. Just promise me you'll stop."
"Helen?" He murmured, almost hoping that she'd already fallen asleep so that he could pretend he hadn't been reduced to asking her for what he knew would be her own lies much like the ones she'd begged him to tell her when they'd been reunited by the Prime Minister to find Adam Worth. "Tell me that Ashley's the reason you didn't want to show Worth the map. Tell me that if she was still here, you wouldn't rather die than put the safety of the Sanctuary in Adam Worth's hands. Tell me that you didn't inherit Gregory's unhealthy attachment to his work."
Helen lay in his arms, her body as still as it could be with her eyes closed and her cheek pressed against his arm. She wanted to open her mouth and tell him everything that he wanted her to say. She wanted to feel alive in his arms like she had at Oxford. She wanted to ignore the fact that he'd killed so many innocent people and that he'd broken her heart more times than she had known she could endure. She wanted to give into the craving she had for his touch and his love, a craving she'd stifled since Ashley's birth, but which had only strengthened since she'd caught that brief glimpse of the man she'd agreed to marry.
In truth, her body ached to be in his arms once more, and her heart was tired of battling against the devil himself for John's salvation.
But she couldn't answer. She couldn't answer because while he'd spoken of some of her reasons for ignoring Adam Worth's request to see the map of the city her father had sent when he spoke of wanting to end the loneliness that Ashley's death had returned to her life, he'd also spoken of her unyielding devotion to her work – a devotion which she'd inherited from the father she was trying to save almost more zealously than she tried to save herself.
She had her own set of requests. That he promise her that he would never kill again, and that he would keep his promise. That he would stay by her side and not retreat in an effort to "protect" her.
No, she couldn't tell John Druitt what he wanted to hear, but then...neither could he.
She was standing in the warehouse – the warehouse where they'd first found Ashley. There, in front of her, stood her beautiful daughter, now transformed into a mindless monster by the Cabal. "Ashley," she began, slowly taking a step toward her as she tried to prove that she was not a threat. "It's me."
Ashley hissed at her, her claw-like fingernails inherited from her hidden vampiric traits were ready and awaiting the opportunity to slice Helen into pieces.
John, Nikola and Will had all taken their turns to protect her, and now, they were all gone. She felt like she was going in slow motion when she tried to take another step, only to hear the familiar whirring of John's teleportation. Before she had a chance to figure out where he was, he had wrapped his arms around her, and transported her back to the Sanctuary.
"Take me back!" She cried, pounding on his chest. "Take me back!"
Her eyes opened almost instantly. John had fallen asleep – she could tell by the evenness of his breathing. She sighed softly before she slipped out from underneath his embrace, and took a few steps away to watch the coming dusk settle over the valley.
She'd had nightmares about John transporting her against her will for weeks after Ashley died. Dreams where John deliberately pulled her from Ashley just as she started to make headway with her daughter – as if he'd tried to sabotage her efforts to rescue Ashley.
She wanted to believe he hadn't done so in reality, but the lines between reality and fantasy had felt so blurred since Ashley's death, that she wasn't sure what to think.
"Do we?" She almost heard John ask once again. "You're the one who didn't want to show Worth the map."
What she hadn't mentioned was that she felt like Ashley was pushing her toward Hollow Earth, reminding her that she wasn't the only one who was at risk – that her father may very well be facing some sort of capital punishment for helping Will to stave off Kali's near-disaster. Sometimes she could almost hear Ashley's voice in her mind and in her heart pushing her toward something – like inviting Kate to join the Sanctuary team, oddly enough.
It had always amazed her how much she seemed to learn from the blond angel who had entered her life unexpectedly at first when she'd discovered her pregnancy and then, miraculously, when she'd realized the embryo had survived the cryogenic stasis. There were things which John had bequeathed to Ashley that Helen had come to love again: her passion, her determination, her strength.
She'd been surprised when John had made some reference to being Ashley's father, only to have Ashley retort "Then, start acting like it. And that does not mean kidnapping me every time you want to have some quality time."
She looked back at her sleeping traveling companion. Perhaps things would have been different if he'd had time to truly be accountable to Ashley for the things he did. She sighed. Or perhaps, Ashley would just have been dragged into the cycle of hurt that her mother had endured for a century.
The thought seemed to initiate physical pain for Helen, and she braced herself against it, reaching into her pocket for the prescriptions she'd brought with her. They really needed to get on their way. She may have estimated weeks when it came to her condition, but her body was telling her that it was less than that as it slowly shut down. So far, she could feel the effects of the radiation on her lungs, kidneys, heart, and nervous system.
She tried to close the prescription bottle, but her hands trembled too much for her to succeed in her task – much like they had when she'd been taken host by the microorganism which had led the mermaid population to utterly annihilate themselves.
"The effects are spreading." John said from behind her.
She willed her hands to be still and for the moment, it seemed to work. "We should get going. It must be nearly nine-thirty in London." She said, efficiently closing the bottle and stuffing it into her jacket. "Declan was going to make arrangements for us to have instant access to the artifact using our contacts in the British government."
"I still think you should let me go alone."
"It has to be me." She said, simply. "You know that."
"If I haven't learned by now, I suppose I never will," he said, throwing the comment to the wind as if it was casual.
"What's that supposed to mean?" She asked, looking at him, questioningly.
"You never were one to let someone else be the hero, Helen." He said, honestly. "Even when I was completely honorable."
"Oh, I..." She began, angrily.
"What?" He interrupted. "You had to be the one to test the Source Blood, Helen. You had to lead the hunt for Adam. You always had to save us – first by being our physician, and then by being our zookeeper."
She felt indignation well up within her. "Zookeeper?" She demanded.
"Yes, Helen," he said, nodding. "Zookeeper. You want to lock us away in your beloved Sanctuary where we can be dissected and studied while you save the rest of humanity from our dark sides."
Her eyes flashed violet for a moment, like they often did when he had hit a nerve. "You, John Druitt, should be the last one to accuse me of locking you up. As I recall, you've managed to escape me before, and I daresay, you'll do it again."
"You practically let me go," he said, brushing aside her indignation. "You and Watson both. If I were the jealous type, I would have thought you were keeping each other very well distracted."
He could see the simmering anger in her eyes, and he found a moment of pleasure in the knowledge that he had so easily riled her up.
"How dare you," she whispered with hot tears brimming in her eyes.
"I don't blame you, Helen," he said, more kindly. "I was not exactly the most worthy of suitors at that time, and I daresay James never broke your heart."
She swallowed. "He didn't have to," she finally admitted before she was overcome with a coughing fit, spewing blood onto the handkerchief John had offered her earlier. She turned back to him, trying to ignore the pity in his eyes as she hid the handkerchief from view. "We should leave now."
"Helen," he protested once again.
"Please, John," she whispered, vulnerably, before he could try to convince her otherwise.
He took a step toward her, standing so close to her that she could smell his peculiar scent – a unique blend of warm brandy, the fog of London, and the whisper of exotic places. Her heart began to pound loudly in her chest as she looked up into his eyes both afraid and hopeful that he would lean his slender neck down and bring his lips close enough to meet her own.
His lips moved toward her cheek, and she could feel his breath on her ear as he grabbed her arms in his hands. "As you wish," he finally breathed, making her dizzy with his warmth as he pulled her out of Mongolia and transported her just outside the UK Sanctuary – the place where they'd first met so long ago when her father had unwittingly brought together the legendary Five.
John reached for the bell as Helen took in the Gothic structure rising to the heavens before her. She'd settled into the New City Sanctuary in part because it reminded her so much of her childhood home – a mansion just outside the city limits of London with an underground Sanctuary.
"Helen!" Declan invited as he walked out of the building.
She turned a thin smile to the UK Sanctuary head as she walked toward him. "Declan."
"Will told me about your condition," he said, soberly. "Let our physicians take a look at you before you go any farther."
She shook her head. "There's no time for that. You've contacted Nigel?"
He nodded. "I used your name as you asked, and he said he'd take care of it."
"Excellent." She said, efficiently. Helen faltered for a moment, and John quickly caught her by the waist as she won a concerned look from Declan. "Are you sure you should be going with him?" Declan asked, soberly. "I could..."
"I'll be fine." She said, shaking her head. "I just...haven't eaten much..."
"I'll have a sandwich prepared," he said, reaching for his radio.
"We really don't have..."
"Five minutes, Helen," Declan interrupted. "I think you can wait five minutes while we make you a sandwich."
She looked at John, who seemed to sympathize with Declan's position. Finally, she nodded, reluctantly. "Very well."
The head of the UK Sanctuary turned away for a moment, and Helen turned her attention to the corridor where she'd come upon Will covering Clara Griffin's lifeless body with a tapestry. She felt sick at the memory. She had been responsible, in some part, for Nigel Griffin's last living relative's death.
Strange that anytime she was relieved of her command, she felt the weight of the organization she'd almost single-handedly founded on the base of her father's work rest on her shoulders.
"Helen?" John inquired, still with one hand around her waist as he supported her gently.
"I'm fine," she said, forcing herself to stand uprightly again.
"I don't think you are." He said, honestly.
She swallowed. "It...it wasn't my radiation sickness." She said after a moment. "I was simply thinking of Nigel. And how one day, if there is a life after this, I'll have to explain to Nigel Griffin how I let his only living heir get slaughtered, quite possibly by my own daughter."
For the first time since Ashley's death, she really watched John as he heard his dead daughter's name spoken aloud. His jaw tensed and it was clear that he was staving off one of his violent tendencies. She put a gentle hand on his arm, the way she probably should have tried after Ashley's death. Her fingers barely touched his arm as she calmly ran her hand up and down his arm in a featherlight caress. "She's at peace, John," she whispered, reflecting back to her own feelings on the subject of her daughter's passing. "Wherever she is and whatever she's doing, she's at peace."
He studied her for a long moment. "My dear, sweet Helen," he whispered, emotionally. "I've failed you so many times and in so many ways. You believed in me when I did not even believe in myself, and I repaid you with slaughtering innocents with the desperate prayer that you, not James or Nigel or Tesla, would find me because if you did find me, it would mean that you had been searching for me."
She swallowed as she felt for one of the first times since their days at Oxford, his absolute sincerity.
"Helen, I should not have failed you in finding our daughter," he whispered, his throat thick with tears. "I should not have let them take her in the first place, and I should have been strong enough to bring her home."
"Oh, John," Helen whispered after a moment.
Declan coughed to announce his presence. "Am I, uh, interrupting?"
Helen swallowed down her emotion before turning. "No, Declan, we were about to leave."
The younger man offered her the sandwich before turning another sandwich to her companion. "If she hasn't eaten, then, I assume you haven't either." He said, solemnly.
"Thank you," John said, accepting the small package. He looked over at Helen who had stuffed her own sandwich into her coat pocket. "I suppose it's time to go now."
She swallowed before she nodded. "Yes," she said, her mind still processing the revelation that John blamed himself for Ashley's kidnapping. "Yes, I suppose it is."
He wrapped an arm around her, tenderly, as he instantly transported her to the one thing that stood between her and the gates of death.
"Yes?" A busy receptionist asked, looking down at the couple from his perch behind the information desk.
"We have an appointment with the curator," Helen announced without hesitation.
"What is it regarding?"
"An artifact that was found in Mongolia. We've called ahead to make arrangements to see it."
The receptionist nodded before quickly entering something into the computer.
"He's on his way." She said, efficiently. She pointed toward a leather couch a few yards away. "If you'll have a seat..."
Helen and John nodded, turning their backs on the woman as they walked toward the seating. Helen inhaled sharply as she sat, her breath hitching as a sharp pain shot through her torso. John reached for her hand as he sat beside her, and gently patted it in an effort to comfort her.
"John," she whispered after a few moments.
"Yes?" He asked, turning his whole attention to her.
"Should anything happen to me..." She began slowly. "I...I would never forgive myself if I hadn't told you at least once..."
He raised an eyebrow, clearly interested in what she had to say.
"I never blamed you." She said, evenly. "At least, not for Ashley. I never believed you responsible for Ashley's disappearance, and I never once found you weak for being unable to reach her." She swallowed. "If anything, I thought myself weak for not seeing the Cabal's true purpose in sending us after the Source Blood." She swallowed. "I know I was hesitant to tell her who you were, and honestly, even after she knew, I was...concerned about how she would handle spending a great deal of time with you." She looked at her hands, now clasped together in an effort to minimize the shaking which had begun again more forcefully than before. "Now, I wish she'd only had the chance to spend more time with you." She swallowed. "To learn what I learned about you when we discovered the electrical entity that you've kept contained within your body."
John looked away, but she continued. "I feared you for decades, John, but not because I feared you would ever truly hurt me. I knew I could take care of myself." Her jaw tensed as her gaze dropped. "I feared you because I thought I should have been able to see the signs that you were capable of this." She looked up at him, honestly. "I know it seems too convenient that another being, consumed with rage and bloodlust could be the Ripper I feared had hidden within you for so long, but..." She swallowed. "I suppose it's given me back the one thing I feared I'd lost forever."
He looked at her questioningly, and she exhaled softly. "You."
He leaned his forehead against hers for a moment as he caressed her cheek with one hand. "You have no idea how grateful I am to hear that," he whispered before he finally leaned in for a simple kiss.
A cough alerted them to the presence of another being, and they turned to see an impish man with large round spectacles staring at them. "Dr. Magnus?" He asked, his voice nasal. "Follow me."
Helen nodded as John helped her to stand. She exchanged a look with him, one that had her almost more nervous than she'd ever been before with Montague John Druitt. But then, brutal honesty always brought with it unpredictable consequences.