Sequel to About Memory.
"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live."
- J.K. Rowling
Traveling with Magnus doesn't always have to be crashing aircraft and waiting around to be rescued in inhospitable conditions. When Will travels with Magnus for work, he 100 percent expects at least one thing to go catastrophically wrong. It's just the way of the world they live in, filled with dark, shadowy monsters who lurk in the night.
Magnus would frown if she heard him use the term monster, of course, and he really doesn't find the majority of abnormals he encounters to be monstrous, but some of them are terrifying killing machines with a lust for human flesh and those are definitely thought of as monsters if only in the privacy of his own head.
This trip, though, isn't for work. This is vacation and for all the hardships Will has endured during travels on behalf of Helen Magnus, the woman certainly knows how to vacation in style. He'd expected a couple nice hotel rooms or perhaps a large suite, but instead they have an entire house sitting only yards from a small stretch of private beach. The house is clean and open, filled with sunshine in the day but private and guarded by expertly planted foliage in the night. When they'd arrived, in the early afternoon, they'd found the kitchen stocked and the place brimming with fresh flowers.
"Isn't it better with a little mystery?" Magnus had said, squeezing his arm.
The house isn't far from one of the more exclusive and luxurious resorts so maybe the house is owned by them, but Will hasn't seen a single soul since arriving. They'd had a driver waiting for them at the airport who'd dropped them off after Magus's gentle instructions in flawless Spanish, but now they are without a car and it feels nice, this bit of isolation.
Magnus has been asleep for almost four hours. Will has been sitting on the patio, looking at the water and drinking his way through a bottle of white wine. He's got a nice buzz on because, hey, vacation, and the weather is just... perfect. Warm but not hot, and there's a salty breeze that picks up every time he thinks about going inside. It convinces him to stay just a little longer.
He brought work with him, but he hasn't bothered to do any of it yet. Maybe he deserves this vacation, too.
His cell phone sits on the table and buzzes softly. He picks it up and it's a text message from Kate.
I hate you.
He chuckles and tosses it back onto the wooden table carelessly. If he were Kate, he'd hate him too.
"Something amusing, Dr. Zimmerman?"
Helen stands in the doorway behind him. She's in white linen pants and a little blue tank top - what she'd put on to sleep. He's used to seeing her in full professional attire, buttoned up and battle ready, but this is a new, unguarded Magnus that she has only just begun to show him. He can see her easy curves, the skin of her chest and shoulders. Her hair is rumpled from sleep and she tucks it behind her ears like she knows he's thinking about it. Her feet are bare, her toes a metallic bronze this time that seems to suit their location absolutely.
"Good morning sleepy head," he says. "How do you feel?"
"It's hardly morning," she says, stepping fully onto the patio and taking a deep breath. "The sun will go down soon. I've slept too much."
"No," he says. "That was only the beginning of you getting sleep. I expect you to sleep the night as well."
"Bossy," she says, settling into a chair next to him. "As I recall, you work for me."
"We're not at work," he reminds her. "And maybe you'd like taking orders for once, instead of giving them."
"I guess we'll never know," she says, smirking. She reaches over and snags his wine glass and brings it to her mouth. She makes a face because the wine isn't exactly chilled any longer. "How long have you been out here?"
"A while," he says. "I was thinking about making dinner but I didn't want to wake you."
"I'm famished," she says. "We could always walk into town."
"Tomorrow," he says. "Let's just stay in tonight."
She nods her agreement and stands taking both his wine glass and the bottle inside with her.
Cooking with Magnus is something he's never done, but they fall into a rhythm as easily as they do with most things. She doesn't want much more than an elaborate salad so they stand side by side chopping vegetables and shredding lettuce. There's a five minute pause while they both search the cupboards for a cheese grater and then giggle with one another when Will finally decides to check the dishwasher and finds a few things inside it - the grater included. He grates while she dices the tomato last, her hands steady and the cubes all uniform in size and shape as a surgeon might do.
He sets the little table on the patio while she makes a dressing and then he hunts around for a few candles because the sun has sunk low enough that it's getting dark. He finds a stock pile in the room Magnus has claimed for own. The big bed is still made, but rumpled like she had just slept right on top of the covers. The window is open and her suitcase is closed, but unzipped, her travel clothes folded on top of it.
Will holds three candles close to his chest and fishes in his pocket for the lighter he keeps there. He's never been a smoker but it's amazing how often people need fire, especially at the Sanctuary. Magnus watches him through heavy lids - watching him without being obvious about it - as he walks by her and back outside. She watches him arrange the candles and light them and then straighten one of the forks. It's cooler now, but not cold, and when he steps back in he looks right at her and she looks back down at the cutting board and they both know that she's been paying close attention.
"Want me to find you a sweater?" he asks.
"There's a wrap in my suitcase that should do," she says evenly, drizzling her dressing over the salad.
There was a time he wouldn't even have entered her office without knocking, but now he searches her suitcase without a second thought. Her soft fabrics, well made and tailored to fit, the little scraps of lace he won't let himself think about for too long, the curling iron with the cord coiled tightly around it, and then, her wrap. It's green, a sort of soft and hazy shade that reminds will of a warm rain. It will suit her - all of her clothes suit her - and he holds it in both hands as he carries it out.
They have a shorthand, now, that wasn't there at the beginning. In staff meetings, she doesn't even have to finish her sentences anymore. He knows what she's asking and can simply nod or twitch his fingers into the air or say one or two words and then they're ready to move along. Bigfoot's job is to maintain the household but it's Will who has really become Helen Magnus's partner in running the Sanctuary. She's no longer reluctant to leave him in charge, her staff goes to him with problems before they go to her, and she's even started consulting him on decisions.
"This is your vacation, too," Magnus says, shifting the wrap across her shoulders.
"Why do you say that?"
"I can see you thinking about the Sanctuary."
"Thinking about you," he corrects. "And me. I mean, our working dynamic lately."
"Something not sitting right with you?" she asks, picking up her fork.
"It isn't that," he promises. "The opposite, in fact."
"Good," she says. They eat quietly, drink their wine and listen to the ocean.
"Your last protégé," he asks. "How long did he work with you?"
"It was a woman, the last time," she says, tilting her head. "Only a year and a half, I'm afraid."
"Ovarian cancer," Magnus says. "Before that was Rupert and he was with me for nearly fifteen years."
"And why did he leave?"
"Oh, I think he just lost the taste for it," she says. "He was older when he came aboard, already in his forties and he just couldn't maintain the stamina this job can require. He had a wife and a child and... I missed him but it was the right choice." She stares at him, a slightly perplexed expression. "Have we truly never discussed this?"
"Nope," he says. "Maybe that's my fault. I always want to know about the Churchills and the Ghandis."
"After we lost Natalie... Henry was just a boy and Ashley only a toddler. It seemed like such a bother to find a replacement and I knew that someday you'd be ready so I just waited." She smiles. "One of my better choices, thus far."
"And what was her field of study?"
"She was rather like Kate," Magnus says. "I took her under my wing and she turned out to have an aptitude in the lab so I began training her properly. She was a right good shot as well."
"He was a Xenobiologist," she says.
"Any other psychiatrists?" Will asks.
"You are my first, I'm afraid." She says this ruefully, but Magnus does nothing by accident. Maybe she had watched him from his childhood, biding her time, but if she hadn't wanted a head doctor on staff, she wouldn't have bothered.
"Why now?" he asks. "Why not someone better in the lab or a weapons expert or a diplomat?"
"I have Henry for weapons and I had... well, Ashley of course. And you are an able lab assistant, don't sell yourself short."
"No really," she says. "You vomit far less than you used to!"
"Gee, thanks," he says.
"And I think you and I know you are the best diplomat of all of us," she says.
"Says the woman who gets called on by governments at least annually," he says.
"Really, though. I have experience, yes, and you'll likely never catch up to me there but you are a natural and I must always stamp down the urge to throttle everyone in the room," she says, pouring them both more wine - the last of the bottle. "Will, I don't say it enough but I am really pleased with your work and more than that I consider you... well, essential. I hope you'll give me ample warning if you ever decide to resign."
"I won't," he blurts before he can help himself. She graces him with a soft, knowing expression.
"I hope so," she says but she doesn't sound convinced, exactly.
Will sleeps in, letting the light wake him instead of an alarm and it feels like a ridiculous luxury. It isn't all that late, but there's the time difference and it still feels decadent to wallow in bed for a few minutes. He'd meant to get up in the night and check on Magnus, to make sure she'd actually gone to bed but he'd slept straight through instead.
He showers and shaves and when he gets out of the bathroom, he can smell bacon.
"I really like bacon," Will says, coming out of his room.
"I know," she says, standing at the stove with a fork in one hand and a spatula in the other. "I did a very thorough background check as you'll recall."
"Funny," he says. "Need help?"
"No," she says. "It won't be very complex."
"Breakfast shouldn't be," he says.
Magnus is already dressed, her hair damp and curling around her shoulders. She's in a sundress, something he's never seen before, and it goes all the way down to her ankles. It's lavender and dips enough to reveal her shoulder blades. He can see that she's also wearing a swimming suit under the loose garment. There is black nylon knotted around her neck, the top half of what he can't help but hope is a two piece.
She seems less tired, more relaxed already. He watches her transfer the bacon to a paper towel and then to a plate already filled with fluffy scrambled eggs and toast.
"There's melon, too," she says indecisively. "I could cut it."
"Let's save it," he says. She nods and nudges a plate toward him.
"There's water for tea," she says. "I know you prefer coffee, Will, and I did try talking myself into making some for you but I just couldn't force myself to brew the muck yet, not even for you."
"It's all right," he grins. "If it's a good vacation, I don't even need coffee, right?"
"I'll ween you from it yet, just give me time," she says. She pulls another mug from the cupboard and drops a tea bag into it for him. The water in the kettle on the stove is still steaming when she fills the mug, the bag floating up for a moment and then settling back to the bottom. They carry their breakfast things to the little glass table in the dining room and eat inside, the sun through the blinds already heating the room. In a few hours, it will be unbearable to be inside at all.
"What would you like to do today?" he asks.
"I'd like to go to the beach," she says. "Perhaps you might feel up to reading to me?"
"Perhaps I might," he says. "On one condition. You pick the book this time."
"Now that is a condition I can live with," she says.
They leave the dishes in the sink, rather carelessly, and carry towels and water bottles to the beach with them. Magnus has a straw bag over her right shoulder containing any number of mysteries. Because it's so early and heading into the off season, the beach is deserted. Their little slice is supposedly as private as their mysterious house and Will can't see anyone in either direction. Only water and sand, big jagged rock formations, and buildings in the distance.
"This will do," she says, dropping her bag and spreading out her towel. She rummages through the bag for a moment and pulls out a tube of sunscreen. "I'll do yours if you'll do mine."
She smirks because she knows exactly what she's doing.
"Sounds like a fair trade," he says, playing it cool. She extends her hand to hand him the bottle. If she sees his hand tremble when he takes it, she kindly says nothing.
Magnus isn't shy around him, she never has been. He watches her push the straps of her dress past her shoulders and let the fabric puddle down around her feet onto her towel. She stretches her arms above her head, making her body long and lean. She's pale, but her skin is creamy and clear. He can't help but stare.
He squeezes some lotion into his hand.
"Where should I start?" he asks.
"I suggest your arms and legs," she says, smiling at him. "And don't forget the back of your neck."
He chuckles and nods, bested. "Fine."
She does his back for him, her hands moving across his skin as they always do - efficiently and smoothly, familiarly, just shy of clinically but just as precise. When it's her turn, he tries to do the same, though he digs his thumbs into the muscles of her shoulders and she does sigh a little and tilt her head.
"Maybe later," he offers, handing the bottle back to her. She takes it and tosses it into her bag and mutters something that sounds a lot like "cheeky."
Will goes down to investigate the water while she stretches out on her stomach and tucks her chin into her folded arms. The waters is cold - it is nearly November - but not frigid. Still, he doesn't want a swim. By the time he goes back to his towel, she's flipped over and appears to be asleep. Her stomach is flat, though soft looking. The top of the suit is fairly modest. He is surprised Magnus has it in her to wear a bikini given her upbringing, but perhaps she is telling him she trusts him.
Her legs go on for days, just days and days. She has long arms too, is a long and lean woman and he finds her to be exquisite.
"If you're done gawking, perhaps you could read?" she says. He settles down onto his towel.
"I wasn't gawking, I was simply admiring the view," he says. She smirks, one eye opening.
"In my bag there is a novel," she says. "You may begin at any point as I have read it before."
"Where's the fun in that?" he asks, reaching across her to feel around in the bag. The book is not hard to retrieve.
"The fun is in the listening," she says. "The cadence of your voice is soothing."
He looks down at the hardback. "Harry Potter?" he laughs. "You're kidding."
"Quite serious," she says. "Just read to me Will. It's what I want."
And there it is - she's asking him for the thing he most wants to give. He opens the book.
Helen makes noise about walking into town, but they never go. There's so much food in the house and it's not like they haven't been to Mexico before. Maybe she feels guilty about not doing more but finally he says, "Helen, it's fine. Let's just stay in," and she doesn't even make a comment about him saying her name.
Will's skin is noticeably browner when he changes his clothes in the bathroom. Helen is noticeably pinker but not burned and it just makes her look young and carefree, in a way. She opens a bottle of red and starts on dinner in the kitchen, the radio on low. The songs are all in Spanish but it feels right and she moves her hips a little as she makes her way around the stove.
"It's nice to actually have wine on hand," she says, offering him a clean glass. "Nikola has done irreparable damage to my collection, I'm afraid."
"There's always time to build it back up again," he says.
"Yes," she murmurs. "Always time."
He didn't mean it like that.
"What can I do to help?" he asks.
"Nothing," she says. "I do like cooking but I never have the time to do it when I'm home."
He settles in the living room with work. He feels vaguely guilty pulling out the case files while on vacation but as long as Helen isn't working, he doesn't think any rules are getting broken. He can listen to her and work at the same time. When he was still living with Meg, she used to make dinner almost every night and he'd sit at the table and work while she did it. There's something familiar about hearing the banging of pots and pans, the sound of the knife against the cutting board, the faucet coming on and off. Magnus humming.
She sets down a plate in front of him and snatches the file from his hand in one quick motion.
"Hey," he protests but he doesn't really mean it.
"No work during dinner," she says. "Haven't you any manners?"
She scoops up the rest of the files and carries the across the house into Will's room. When she comes back, she takes her own plate from the kitchen and sits next to him. They aren't at the table, they're still in the living room but she just sits next to him on the sofa and they eat from their plates on their laps.
"Sometimes when I felt particularly hopeless, I'd go get into bed with Ashley."
Helen leans forward and puts her empty plate on the coffee table and Will does the same. He doesn't say anything, just decides to let Helen's story bloom in its own time.
"When she was small, she'd get into bed with me of course but that stopped around 11 or 12 as is normal. I missed it though and sometimes I'd go get into her bed late in the night when she'd been asleep for hours and I'd..." Helen falters a bit but clears her throat and tries again. "I'd press my nose to the back of her neck and I'd smell her."
"Did she wake up?" Will asks when it seems like Helen won't go on.
"Occasionally," Helen admits. "Mostly she was used to me and would tolerate it. But there's something about the smell of your child that can right all matter of wrongs and I so... so desperately miss that."
"When is the last time you shared a bed with someone, Helen?" Will asks.
He has managed to surprise her - her eyes go wide.
"I mean," he says. "Not sex, but companionship. Cuddling. Being held. Contact?"
"Ashley would let me stay if I kept to myself," she smirks. "If I got too clingy, she'd sigh and roll her eyes and get up. She was always so independent, that one."
"When she was small, though, she'd curl right up into my arms. I never have needed much sleep but I'd happily lie in if Ashley was there with me." She smooths her dress. "She grew up so fast."
"You didn't answer my question," Will says.
"It's been a long time," Helen says. "You know the kind of life I lead, Will."
He thinks that's a lame excuse but he doesn't call her out. He just nods and picks up the plates to carry them to the kitchen. She cooked so he'll tidy up.
"Well," he says. "You know where I sleep if you change your mind."
She gives him an indulgent smile and lets the issue drop.
The hinges of his door squeak upon opening and he wakes up. She doesn't say anything, just moves quietly to the bed and then stops beside it, looking down at him in her nightgown, her hair braided over one shoulder for sleep.
He lifts the covers for her and she hesitates only a moment before getting into the bed next to him. It's awkward at first and he wants to talk to her, to reassure her that everything is okay but he thinks words will spook her so he lets the covers fall and shifts his arm up, offering her the contact she must so deeply desire.
She scoots into him, letting her head rest lightly on his shoulder. When his arm comes down around her, she seems to relax a little. His hand is flat and warm across her back. They are touching stern to stern, her hip against his, their feet brushing deep beneath the blankets. She takes a breath and then another and he feels her exhale against his collarbone.
It turns into a long night. Will doesn't sleep much because he is worried about her and she doesn't sleep much because she is Magnus but they both doze on and off as the hours pass. Every time she shifts, he tightens his hold and doesn't allow her to go very far. This is about contact, after all, about touching and it will not do for her to roll away from him. Around three, she moves enough that he must release her and she does put her back to him, but then he tucks her in close, his knees against the backs of hers, his nose in her hair and she doesn't seem to mind this at all.
An hour or so later, she shifts back to their original position, worming under his arm and sighing into his neck and it makes him feel warm all over. His fingers find the top of her spine and rub her lightly there, soothing circles against skin and bone. Will is trying pretty hard not to think about sex because that's not what this is about and he's doing a decent job of it by focusing on the psychological elements of what they're doing - contact as a therapeutic tool and other highly professional thoughts - when she throws a wrench in everything and kisses his jaw.
It's innocent enough at first, just her lips moving lightly along the stubble that has grown between his ear and his chin over the course of the day and night. She kisses him once, twice, lightly and his fingers stop moving and press hard, hard into her skin. Is this what she's been doing all night? Lying here trying to decide whether or not she really wants to do this with him? From her tentative touches, Will thinks she hasn't really decided at all, that this is just testing the waters by dipping a toe in - she wants to gauge his reaction.
But then she throws a wrench in that theory, too, because her tongue darts out to taste him and he hears a low groan emerge from the back of his own, traitorous throat.
Her teeth close down over his moist skin and he feels her nibble a bit, and then her mouth moves from his jaw to his neck and she starts again - light kisses, a taste, a little bite. Her hand moves from where it has been nestled against his side and slides across his belly and his chest.
Oh God, he thinks. Helen Magnus.
He hears her mouth leave his skin with a wet pop and she nestles back up into him, her face in his neck and she breathes out again, hot and a little shaky and her fingernails press little crescents into the skin just about his left nipple. She won't push him any further - she's waiting for him to do something or do nothing and let her know what he wants to happen next.
He has so many desires that it's hard to sort through them all. He wants her to touch him. He wants to touch her. He wants her to want him not because he's a body but because he's Will. He wants Helen to be okay. He wants Helen to want to live even though Ashley is gone. He wants Helen to understand the complex, tangled, endless things he feels for her. He wants Helen to love him.
He moves his hand up from her back into her hair and tugs until her face is pointed at his. He waits a few moments, locks eyes with her. She looks a little frightened, but not so much that it makes him think he should back off. New things are always just a touch frightening, even for someone like Helen. If she wants him to stop, now will be the time she lets him know, but she says nothing, only parts her lips slightly in anticipation.
As far as first kisses go, this one definitely makes his top five. He and Helen have shared pecks before but this is the serious business of kissing for pleasure; deep, long kisses that are wet and hot and full of exploring tongues and swollen lips and roaming hands. At some point, they have moved enough that the next natural step is for him to settle on top of her and so he does. He nudges her legs apart and settles into the space provided for him by this action. He is hard, has been hard since her lips touched his skin, and he presses shamelessly into her. She gasps into his mouth, arousal and surprise and pleasure. He feels her fingernails drag across his scalp and he pushes her nightgown up past her hips, arching his body so he can see what is revealed.
Cotton panties and flushed skin. He'd watched her body all day, a little drunk on the amount of skin she'd allowed him to see and now he gets to touch her stomach. It is flat, soft and delicate to the touch. He swipes his thumb across her belly button and goosebumps break out in its wake. She unwinds her arms from around his neck and raises them above her head and he takes the whole nightgown off. Her breasts are perfect - full and heavy and just as flushed as the rest of her. He latches onto one with his mouth and her hands return to his head with a moan of encouragement. He feels her nipple tighten between his lips, the other against his palm. He bites it softly and she starts to squirm under him. He bites down harder and she goes wild, bucking and groaning and when he twists it between his teeth, she whimpers her affirmations clearly.
He gives the same treatment to her other breast and he can feel the heat between her thighs, the wetness soaking through her panties and the front of his boxers.
She forces his mouth back to hers and kisses him in a new way. Before it had been passionate but controlled; now it is sloppy and forceful, like she wants all of him at once. She is rough, pulling his hair and digging her heels into the back of his thighs, forcing him to grind against her mercilessly.
Contact is a therapy that is good for both parties.
Her hands move down his back and under the waist of his boxers, cupping his ass and pulling, pulling until he has to break their kiss and press his forehead into her bare shoulder. It slips a little from sweat and he breathes feeling dizzy and helpless against her. Maybe she can tell that he needs her to take the reins for a bit.
She rolls them, all strength and agility, so she is perched on him, her knees on either side of his body. She settles easily against his groin and she takes his hands and puts them on her breasts. She tips her head back and sighs with pleasure. Her hair is wild around her head, long strands escaping from the braid and framing her face. If she weren't holding his hands in place, he'd pull the elastic from the end of the braid and make her shake her hair free. Just the thought makes him buck his hips up and she's moving against him in a slow, teasing rhythm and his eagerness makes her smirk.
It makes his breath catch in his throat. She thrusts her hips a little harder and he groans.
"Helen," he says, a warning that things could get too far before they've started.
"Will," she sighs back. Hearing her say his name is immensely gratifying. It reassures him that she is present with him, that she is here and not simply using his body to feel more and think less. That she is not picturing Druitt or any other of the lovers she's had over her long life. She releases his hands and he tries to touch as much skin as he can. Hips and thighs, stomach and breasts. He touches her shoulders, one of his favorite parts of her and then runs his palms down her long, long arms to her hands. She webs her fingers with his, both hands at once and stops moving. She's just on him, now, their underwear doing a poor job of masking what is going on beneath.
She smiles at him, warm and familiar and then leans down to kiss him again. Her breasts brush his chest and he untangles one hand so he can pull the elastic from her hair. She keeps kissing him while he undoes the braid, his fingers sliding through the long, dark curls. It easier then to cradle her head, to kiss her back, to tongue her teeth, the roof of her mouth, to suck her bottom lip into his mouth and bite. She clearly likes to be bitten.
He feels her fingers at the waist of his boxers and he lifts his hips so she can ease them down. It's a relief to be free of them and she navigates them over his feet and then tosses them to the floor. She runs her hands over his abs and then takes his erection into one hand, giving him a few experimental strokes. He groans, his vision blurring slightly.
"I can't," he manages and she stills.
"All right," she relents. She moves off of him, careful to lift her leg over his arousal and slithers back down to his side, allowing him to take control once more. He touches her breast, her hip and then strokes her through her underwear. Her knees fall apart and she bucks up, a clear invitation for him to remove this last barrier, a clear invitation for more.
He wants to taste her, that desire is clear enough to rise above all the others like lighting a match into the darkness.
He slides the underwear down, down her long legs and drops them at the foot of the bed. He kisses an ankle, a shapely calf, her knee. He scrapes his chin along the inside of her thigh and hears her moan. She spreads her legs even more and her hand reaches for him blindly.
"Yes," she says, giving him permission, though he really hadn't thought to ask. He can see her glisten in what little light comes through the big window and he darts his tongue out for a quick taste. She's panting now, the anticipation almost too much to bear. There's a small part of him that wants to hear her beg, but he pushes the thought out of his mind and focuses on the task at hand.
When he makes contact, real contact, he has to move an arm across her hips to hold her in place. He can feel her whole body shudder with each lap of his tongue and he watches her. She has one hand in his hair and the other arm is across her forehead. Her long neck twists, her face searching for pillow to muffle her cries - perhaps out of habit? He can't wait to make her come apart.
When he catches her clit between his teeth, he bites down hard - harder than he might have with an unfamiliar partner, but this is Helen and he has cataloged every one of her reactions that he has ever seen and he is certain about this. His certainty pays off immediately as she climaxes, her whole body rising up off the mattress and tensing as she cries out. He feels her shudder over and over again, twitching under his mouth until the hand holding his head to her starts pushing it away. He relents, freeing her and kisses her thigh as she comes back down, melting back against the bed, her breathing labored and erratic.
He kisses her hip, the skin just below her belly button and the skin just above it.
"Come here," she orders, but the words are slightly slurred and her eyes are closed as she languishes in what she is feeling. He complies, moving up, his erection bumping her leg leaving trails of moisture along her skin. She doesn't seem to mind. He hesitates but she kisses him without thought, tasting herself and wrapping him up in her arms and legs.
He's starting to feel a little desperate, frenzied and unsure. She seems to sense this and runs her hand up and down his spine, shushing him softly.
"Shh," she says. "Tell me what you need."
He needs relief. He needs to bury himself in her and to rut mindlessly toward completion.
He needs to get a hold of himself.
"You," he pants, the room feeling sticky and wet. "I want you."
"You have me," she says, bending her knees and tilting her pelvis. "I'm here."
"Yeah," he groans. She reaches for him, wraps her fingers around him and he thrusts into her hand. She guides him to her entrance and he makes himself push into her slowly, allowing her time to adjust. He can hear her gasping and he kisses her exposed neck as she tilts her head back. "Okay?"
"Yes," she assures him. "More than."
He likes that they're speaking now. He feels like communicating with each other is one of their strong suits and while remaining silent had added to the delicious tension of their indiscretion, this feels more natural.
"Good," he says and pushes the rest of the way in. She wraps her legs around him, her heels settling low on his back. He breathes, kisses her, inhales again.
"Bloody hell, Will, move," she orders when he's been still too long. When he still doesn't move, she clenches around him and he groans and starts to thrust, setting a deep and steady rhythm. She moves her hips to match him and then it all starts going fast, too fast. He's already faltering, losing his pacing and she's making these noises, these ragged little cries of pleasure and he can't... he can't keep...
"Magnus," he cries, a warning and then it's there, hot and pulsing and he slams into her and holds, feeling the orgasm get wrung out of him harshly.
He loses a little time. When he gets his bearings once more, he realizes he's still on top of her but she's taking his weight admirably. Her limbs are still coiled all around him and she's stroking his back, his arms, his butt with her long fingers and dropping kisses onto his sweaty temple. She makes a little humming noise of pure contentment and when he twitches, his first attempt at moving, she tightens her arms - lets him know he's just fine where he is.
"Perhaps we could sleep now, hmm?" she says.
"Yeah," he manages, the word muffled by her shoulder.
"Yes," she agrees.
Magnus is sitting on the foot of the bed. Her hair is wet and she's wearing her robe, though it falls open just so and allows him to see most of her legs and the inner curve of one bare breast. She has a mug in her hands and the string from the tea bag dangles over her fingers.
"There's coffee," she says. Her tone implies this is a great kindness on her part. "It's not made but I just have to push the button on the machine and it will start. Would you like that?"
"Yeah," he says. She stands and disappears from his room. He rubs his face and forces himself up and into the bathroom. He feels a little sore, but good, and Magnus seems normal too, so maybe this is all going to shake out to be fine. He hopes so.
He pees and brushes his teeth and then stumbles right back to bed. He has no idea what time it is, but he needs to be in a bed for just a little longer. The pillow he pushes his face into smells like Magnus and he smirks into the fabric for a moment.
He has never hooked up with a boss before. Sure, his bosses have almost always been men but still... although the term hooked up doesn't feel right, doesn't feel respectful enough. He cares about Magnus a lot or else last night wouldn't have happened.
Magnus breezes in with coffee for him and stops, frowning.
"I can tell you're thinking," she says and then sets the mug on the nightstand. "Having second thoughts?"
"No," he says, picking it up and sipping it. Heaven. "Just worried you are."
"Ah," she says, perching next to him and brushing his hair back with her hand. "We may have complicated things significantly, but I don't believe we made a bad choice."
"I'm glad," he says. "You do seem happier. More relaxed." He grins.
"Bit smug, are we?" she asks.
"You didn't seem to be complaining if memory serves," he says, hiding his grin behind his mug.
"No, no complaints," she says, leaning toward him, her eyebrow rising suggestively. "Though the first time with a new partner always does tend to stay a bit tame."
His smile disappears when his mouth falls open a bit. But he snaps out of it as he processes the rest of the sentence. "Does that mean there'll be a second time?"
"I'd like there to be," she says, stretching out next to him, tucking her damp head onto his chest. He holds his mug carefully so the coffee doesn't spill and puts his arm around her. "I think you're onto something with this contact therapy of yours."
"Yeah, strange huh?" he says sarcastically. She tsks and elbows him lightly.
"Be nice, I'm a frail old woman."
"Old, perhaps, but certainly not frail," he says.
"Will," she says. "You know I can't have a normal romantic relationship. This can't be about dinner dates and flowers on holidays and..."
"Growing old together?" he asks softly. He feels her sigh more than hears it.
"Yes," she says. "Exactly."
"So, if it gets too complicated then... then we'll just stop," he says.
"Just like that?" she asks.
"You seem like a woman who has some experience in letting a guy down gently," Will says. His tone is light but he has to make him self say the words.
"Some," she says, sounding distant. "Henry will not be pleased."
"What do you mean?"
Magnus lifts her head enough to look up at him. "Did he not threaten you? Lecture you about me?"
"Oh that," Will says. "We don't have to tell them right away."
"Please," she says. "You know there's no hiding it from Henry or the Big Guy and Kate is young but not stupid." She sighs and settles back into place. "It's Nikola who will be the terror."
Will winces. He really doesn't like that guy.
"And what happens if Druitt comes around?" Will asks.
"He'll try to kill you," Magnus says.
"I'm quite serious, Will," she says. "If and when John makes an appearance we'll have to have a contingency plan in place for your protection."
"Didn't you guys break up like over a hundred years ago?" Will asks.
"Well I'm somewhat of a catch, don't you think?" she asks. He can feel her smile.
"We'll see," is all he says.
Magnus calls the Sanctuary the moment they get into the car. She's back in a suit, nylons, expensive heels. She glances at the watch on her wrist and instructs the driver where to take them. It isn't the Big Guy, but some hired car probably arranged by Kate. The sign at the airport had said Zimmerman and Magnus had rolled her eyes at Will's grin.
"Henry," Magnus says into her cellphone. "We're fine, thank you. We'll be home in about thirty-five minutes."
She pauses and he can just barely hear Henry's tinny voice through the connection.
"Yes," she says, glancing at Will. "The trip was very informative. I'm glad we took the time to go."
"We'll talk when I arrive home. I'd like to do the feedings actually, get back into the swing of things." She means the 2am feedings, it's that late, and Will isn't sure how she just keeps going but she seems more like her old self at least, confident and alert and willing to do the work that needs to be done. Will slouches in his seat and lets his eyes close.
After a few moments, Magnus ends the call and he feels her hand touch his on the seat between them. He turns his head and looks at her.
"I know it was short," she says. "But thank you for the trip, Will."
"Maybe when you decide to go to Italy next I could tag along?" he asks. She laughs, a full laugh from her throat.
"If you and I can make it through an entire year without... complications that can't be untangled, perhaps we can celebrate such an accomplishment with a trip to my villa," she says.
When they arrive to the Sanctuary, Will carries the bags in and Magnus goes on ahead, her focus already almost completely shifted back to work. He takes his bag to his room and then takes her bag to hers and sets it just inside the door. He stops by her office on the way back to his room, pokes his head in to see her sitting at her desk.
"I'll work through the night," she says when she notices him. "I have a lot to catch up on."
"I'm sure," he says. "Just wanted to say goodnight."
He turns around and heads down the hall.
"Will?" she calls.
"Yeah?" he says, looking back in.
"Tomorrow night, I'll be quite tired, I imagine," she says. "Do you think that you might schedule me in for a session?"
"Magnus," he says, stepping fully into the office. "You don't need to schedule sessions with me."
"No," he says. "If you'd like to see me tomorrow night, just come see me. Or invite me to your room."
"Just like that?" she says.
"If you think of us sleeping together as therapy sessions then Tesla is right. I'm nothing more than your concubine," he says. "And I don't want that."
"No, I suppose you wouldn't," she says. "I didn't think of it like that. I'm sorry."
"You're Helen Magnus," he says. "You're amazingly good at your work, you're elegant and learned and well-traveled and beautiful and quite literally timeless. But I think you might be shit at relationships."
She frowns at his language but doesn't chastise him.
"Not all of them," she says. "Clearly the romantic ones, though, yes."
"Yes," he smiles. "We'll work on that, okay?"
"All right," she says. "Goodnight."
"Night," he says.
When he gets to his room, Henry is loitering outside his door holding a gun.
"Subtle," he says.
"Dude," Henry says. "I had to entertain Kate on Halloween while you were in Cabo with someone I know likes to travel in luxurious style."
"She's fine," Will says.
"Good," Henry says. "I know you wouldn't hurt her. I know you're one of us."
"And so the gun is for?" he asks.
"Oh this thing? Just taking it back to the lab," he says. He grins.
"Night," Will says.
"But no," Henry says. "If you hurt her, I'll shoot you in the face."
"Got it," Will calls.
"Will bullets," Henry says, turning a corner.
"Yeah," Will says. "Great."
When Magnus doesn't show up by midnight the next night, Will takes a little initiative and knocks on her bedroom door. He expects to be turned away, nurses that expectation so when it happens he won't be disappointed. When she opens the door, his hands are shoved in his pockets and he is regretting his knock.
But she smiles softly.
She's still dressed, still poised and coiffed and she does what she does best. Surprises him.
"I've been waiting for you," she says. She reaches out with a well-manicured hand and pulls him inside. Once the door is shut behind him, she slides her arms around his waist and tucks herself right into his arms. He hugs her back, tightly at first and then rubs her back while she rests her chin on his shoulder. They stand there for long seconds, past the minute mark before finally she sighs and pulls back. But she doesn't let go. He smiles at her and she smiles back and then leans in. He thinks she's going to kiss him, but she rubs the tip of her nose against his.
"Contact," she says quietly.
"Contact," he repeats.
She steps away, motions for him to sit in a chair that faces her bed.
"When Ashley was a baby, she was colicky," Magnus says. These stories about Ashley keep bubbling up and out of Magnus and Will thinks it's a good thing. She undresses while she speaks, first her jewelry and then the buttons of her blouse and her trousers. "I had to hold her almost constantly. I'd hold her and hold her and finally get her to sleep and then try to set her down and she'd wake up again and start to cry... You know, I was over one hundred but I didn't know very much about babies."
Will remembers a lot about Ashley but when Magnus talks about her, he realizes that he didn't know her well. He'd only been with the Sanctuary for a short time before she'd been taken from them. He's known Kate for longer and it's a startling thought.
"You learned the same way any new mother does," Will says.
"Yes," she says, stepping out of the pants. She has on simple underthings and he stares at her body; the curve of her hips and swell of her breasts. But it's not long before she shrugs on her robe. Ah well, he thinks. "She was an independent woman, Ashley. Didn't care for dating much, only just tolerated being touched." She snorts. "I had such malicious thoughts toward her during all those sleepless nights in her infancy. I wish I could have known that I should have been hoarding the contact. That I would lose her by age four and lose her again, for good."
He opens his mouth.
"I know," she says, cutting him off. "I should be well acquainted with loss."
"I hope you never get used to it," Will says. "It's important to care."
"Will," she says. "Will you sleep with me tonight? Here, in my bed?"
"Contact," he says. "Now that's something I'm pretty good at."
Her bed is about three thousand times more comfortable than his. Her sheets are expensive and smell clean, like detergent and sunshine. His always smell like hot metal and dryer sheets and he doesn't know how she achieves this, but he never wants to go back. He's still snuggling down into her bed when he realizes she's watching him with an amused smirk.
"Comfy?" she asks.
"You're out of town a lot," he says. "I would have been sleeping here a long time ago had I known your bed was this nice."
"No you wouldn't have. I would have known and anyway, you travel with me more often than not," she says.
"You don't think I could get away with it?" Will asks.
"Honesty is your best quality," she says. "Which is lucky, because you're a terrible liar."
"That's not true!" he scoffs. She perches on the bed next to him.
"All right," she says. "Fib to me now and I'll see if I believe you."
"That's not fair," he says. "You'll know the truth."
"Oh," she says, reaching out to touch his face. "I always know anyway."
She takes off her robe and her underthings and then orders him to do the same. She tells him she wants skin on skin and it doesn't occur to him to complain.
Will dreams of Ashley. Nothing cohesive, just images, just the feeling that she's nearby. When he gets woken up, he almost expects to hear her voice but instead it's Helen who has woken him. They had fallen asleep with her bedside lamp lit, so he has no problem seeing the slightly wild expression on her face as she pulls back the blankets covering Will and puts her hand on his inner thigh.
"What's wrong?" he mumbles, asleep and mildly confused.
"Nothing," she says, but there's a desperate quality to her voice that concerns him. She starts stroking his flaccid penis determinedly.
"Helen," he says. It feels good, but he stops her by putting his hand on her wrist and stilling her. "Did you have a nightmare?"
"No," she says. "I just want you hard. Come on, work with me here."
It's hard to argue with such sound logic, or so he tells himself. "Maybe... maybe if you use your mouth?" he offers.
"Yes," she says, hovering over him. "Clever."
Maybe Will actually is still dreaming. But her tongue darting out to taste the tip of him feels real enough and then she licks up the underside of him and lets him rest there, on her tongue. He grows in her mouth and as soon as she is satisfied, her mouth leaves him with a pop and she swings herself up and over him.
"Hey," he says, which is an achievement because her hand is around him and the tip of his penis is nudging her entrance. "Are you okay?"
"Yes," she hisses and lowers herself down. "I just want this."
He thrusts up to meet her and she lets out a groan and then stills for a moment, reveling in the feeling of him filling her. He puts his hands on her thighs and she starts to moving, setting a quick rhythm. He wants to know where the fire is, but she seems determined to come fast and hard and he decides to give her want she wants.
He slides one hand up her leg and finds her clit with his thumb.
"Will," she whines, her head falling forward. Her hair is obscuring her face but he's concentrating on working with her and it doesn't seem to take very long before she starts to keen and then collapses down onto his chest. He can feel her fluttering and clenching around him still and she offers no resistance when he flips them over and thrusts once, twice, a third deep time and comes.
"Thank you," she whispers, rubbing the back of his neck.
"What was that?" he asks, looking carefully at her face.
"I... was just checking," she says. "That Mexico wasn't a fluke. That I could still feel alive in my own bed."
"And?" he prompts.
"Very much so," she promises. He leans in and kisses her. For the rest of the night, she sleeps like a baby, her head tucked under his chin.
He wakes up alone in her bed. On the nightstand is a cup of coffee and a note in her perfect penmanship.
Staff at 9:00. Don't be late,
He smiles. Helen Magnus leaving him coffee - something he thought he'd never see.
He frowns, the coffee just at his lips. At least he hopes it was Helen. He really, really does.