Will had always felt an affinity for Old City; there was just something about its entwining streets that felt right to him. At his most introspective, he liked to take comfort in the way the chaotic nature of the city always managed to find its balance, finding just the right paths to smooth its design into a saving functionality. As a man who navigated minds, ones that often fought any degree of mapping, he took comfort in this.
The more rational half of his being, however, knew that his fondness of the city was more owing to the truth that it was here he had grown and come into his own, far more than any other city in which he had inhabited.
He had memorised the straight, grey streets of New York as a child, ducking and weaving, never letting an eye fall upon him, drinking in the cities minutiae to form his own detailed perspective of the world. He had walked down Boston's birch-lined paths, crooked arms aching with hard bound knowledge, the crinkling of deciduous leaves beneath his feet now always synonymous with learning and the first creeping steps of independence. And he had ambled through the parks and lanes of Chicago with Meg and patrol car in equal measure, walking that careful line of balance between the worlds of his life - and not truly able to devote himself to either. But Old City - the city and all its inhabitants - this was where he felt at home. Where he felt alive.
It stood to reason, therefore, that now when his very life had been turned upside down - or, rather, taken away and then restored in ways that he once never would have imagined possible - he had turned to the streets of Old City. He knew that he had only to ask, and he would receive the help that he would have advised for any patient. He knew that Helen was at this moment back at the Sanctuary, finishing off just one more item of paperwork, carrying out just one more avenue of research - anything to avoid one more night spent in a bed she had all too quickly become accustomed to sharing. And what's more, he knew that there were those back at the Sanctuary who needed his help - Kate had been quiet since Mumbai, he had still to talk with Henry about his experience, and Helen... well lonely or not, he knew she hadn't been sleeping in their bed or any other.
His isolation had settled over him like a tightly woven blanket, trapping the heat of his depression and uncertainty against his skin. He was desperate to shrug it off, but it clung to him fiercely. He wanted to reach out, feel the soft weight of Helen's body cushioned against his, have her perfumed hair tickle against his cheek as she nuzzled into the hollow of his neck. He wanted her. But he couldn't: couldn't make that step, couldn't step out of the cloak of hazy despondency that had become, ironically, his living state.
So instead he had taken to the street, wandering aimlessly down roads unknown, trudging his silent death march through Old City and trying beyond hope to glean some comfort from his surroundings. He had served and protected these streets - surely it was their turn to serve and protect him.
His feet took him past the bakery he and the Big Guy had discovered, the one that made the fine pastries they used to entice the boss when she was at her most thorny. And he knew if he took two turns to the left he'd come to the crumbling old revival house to which Henry liked to drag the half-heartedly protesting Kate. He took deliberate turns away from these, feeling irrationally betrayed by the city in his quest for solitary reflection.
With every turn he walked further and further way from everything he knew, each street corner drawing out his worries until he was little more than a wandering shell. He no longer felt the pressured discomfort that filled his waking hours... but now he felt nothing at all.
It had been several minutes since Will had passed a street name he recognized – no small detail considering his numerous forays into the abnormal-ridden backstreets. When one final turn, however, revealed a hidden cul-de-sac of stores, he paused in his steps. Feeling as though he had finally slipped into the centre of an ever confusing ringed maze, he breathed deep, smelling the slightly damp air, and circled around to take in his surroundings. He had never been here before, had never even known of its existence – and the lack of his fellow pedestrians seemed to indicate that not many others did either.
Will stepped up off the smoothly tarred street onto the cracked sidewalk, marred by years of weather, and entered the store before him. The nature of the store had been made quite clear by its proudly hanging signage; weatherworn wood hosting a collection of peeling letters that signified an antique store far clearer than any daring font of typography. And yet, even in the face of this, he had not anticipated the sheer volume of items that he would find within. His first step over the threshold had propelled him out of the brightness of day into a cool hushed dark, the air infused with a fine dust that made his skin prickle.
With but a passing nod of acknowledgement to the aging caretaker at the till, Will wondered furthered into the cave of a store. He couldn't help but wonder, as he ran his hand over ornately chiseled woodwork, just how many of these items Helen had had in her possession over the years. Not these particular pieces, to be sure, but ones just like them. He could see her flourishing a bow behind the filigreed music stand. Collecting a volume from a shelf encased behind cloudy glass. The china tea set, spider veins of destruction tracing its surface, just ached to be held within her gentle hands. And the rocking chair, the sturdy but worn chair in the corner, couldn't he just see Helen swaying back and forth, Ashley encased within her arms. She was part of him now, in body and in spirit. Try as he may, he knew there was no way the agonizing depths of his mind could overcome the hold she and her work now had over him.
A sigh of bemusement escaped his lips as Will acknowledged the end of his fruitless exile. Staying away would do little good, to him or to those whom depended on him. He cast his eyes about the store that had unknowingly returned him to the world, coming to rest upon a small collection of linen volumes. Poetry. He had seen Helen pouring over similar verse late at night when she could not sleep and the sanctuary had deemed fit to release her from its demanding clutches. Perhaps this would help him reenter her good graces…