Sequel to 'Volume 1: The Source Blood'.

/-/-

Volume 2: The Middle Years

/-/- Late Spring, 1902

Nikola watches Helen for a moment as she stares out her window. Then she looks to him and he steps closer to her.

"You've just found out that you're never going to age, that you'll potentially live for hundreds, if not thousands of years." His voice grows softer, "You're realizing that all your family, all your friends, the man at the butchers, the people who walk passed you on the streets, the trolley driver- all of them, will die while you live on." His voice trails off and his gaze falls over the city. Helen doesn't say anything; she just watches, waiting for him to come back to the present. When he does, it's rather abrupt. He blinks and turns his head sharply to look at her. "Doesn't it terrify you?"

"Some days. I haven't been living with it for very long, honestly."

"Right." He looks back through the window. When he starts talking, his voice is low, almost whispery. "It was exciting at first, I have to admit, to think that I would live for life times. I can't even comprehend how much I'll be able to accomplish. The legacies I'll leave behind. But when my oldest sister died a few years ago, it started to sink in. My other two sisters will eventually fade away. As will Nigel and even James, despite his best efforts." He looks at her again. "And you, I thought."

There's a beauty about Nikola that Helen notices as she looks at him now. It might have something to do with the way his face softens as he looks at her, the way the lines around his eyes wrinkle upwards or how his lips relax into a half smile. But it's definitely his eyes, the way they look at her like nothing else matters, devotion at its purest.

Almost of its own accord, her hand reaches out to take his. He looks down to watch as their fingers intertwine and she smiles at him. "Maybe it is frightening me and maybe all that will sink in soon but... It's not so scary knowing that I'll always have my best friend with me."

/-/- Summer, 1913

"To the destruction of some of the most disgusting looking termites I have ever seen!" Nikola pronounces as he pours wine into Helen's glass. "And maybe they be gone forever!" Helen laughs and raises her glass to that. Nikola smiles at her over the rim of his glass, then swallows a healthy portion of his wine. "I feel like we should name them... termiticus! Termitici..."

"Nikola, sometimes I honestly think you get drunk on life, rather than alcohol now."

"Not drunk on life," he says and plops down unceremoniously onto the couch beside her. "Drunk on your presence."

"Oh god, stop it now."

"That was a compliment."

"And a horribly pathetic one at that."

Nikola takes another sip of wine. Awkwardly he readjusts himself so that his feet hang over the coffee table and his back is arched comfortably off the cushions.

"I should scold you for putting your feet on my table."

"But you won't because you know you find me irresistibly sexy." He flashes a dazzling smile at her as he holds his wine glass just off to the side of his face. She barely hides a blush as she shakes her head at him.

"Actually I'm not going to because you've just volunteered to be my footrest." With that, she swings her legs up and lays them over his lap. Nikola is, for a moment, unsure of what to do, but then he leans off to the right and rests his glass on the table next to an electric lamp. He must admit that he likes the look of these new straighter, skinnier dressed on Helen – much more flattering. Today she wears a white skirt, stripped vertically with black lines. The jacket tailored almost like a man's suit, but cut to flatter the hips and waist. He focuses on his hands as they slide the hem of her skirt up to her knee.

"Nikola!"

She tries to bat his hands away but he looks up at her and grins, and slaps her hands away. "Shush. I'm just trying to help." He pulls on the lace of her boots, which is up near her knee. It comes free easily and he pulls the strings loose until he can easily take the one boot off. She sighs a little bit and flexes her toes, before hiking her skirt up a bit more, making it easier for him to get to the second set of laces. He's trying not to let her see his smile while he removes the second, albeit with a bit more difficulty this time.

"Better?" He sets the second boot down next to its partner and she nods.

"Thank-you."

"And you thought I was going to take advantage of you! I'm deeply hurt." His smirk reveals that's he's absolutely not.

"You'll get over it."

Nikola leans back over to get his wine and sips idly while Helen lounges back into the plush armrest. They're quiet for a time, during which Nikola's hand finds itself resting on top of Helen's stocking clad foot.

"So how's the new guy working out?" Nikola speaks softly.

Helen hums against the cushions, then says, "All right so far. Still rather... jumpy."

Nikola nods and presses his thumb in the ball of Helen's foot. He starts to rub gently as he speaks, "So you think he'll work out?"

"Yeah. I suppose so. That feels nice."

"I don't know how you women manage to stand in those shoes all day. They just keep getting worse as the years go by."

"At least we've moved past bustles."

"Yeah." Nikola's fingers stop moving for a moment as he looks up into space. "I never did understand what those were for." Helen laughs and he looks over at her, offended. But she just nods her head and smiles at him. "Thankfully men's fashion has remained, largely, completely untouched. I prefer it that way."

"Of course you would. What vampire has time to take over the world AND keep apprised of the latest fashions!"

"Precisely! I'm glad that you understand the hardships I face in life." Nikola smiles at the snort that escapes Helen. Absently, his hand changes its attention to Helen's right foot. She sighs again and relaxes a little more into the armrest.

They fall silent again, as Nikola's thumb massages Helen's foot. Some time later, she takes another sip of wine. Nikola gestures to her glass and asks, "Would you like some more?"

She looks down to see that it's empty. There's a slight frown on her face but then she sighs and shakes her head. "No. No, I should get to bed." As she speaks, she drops her feet back onto the ground; Nikola copies her, then leans forward to place his glass where his feet just were.

"Retiring so soon?"

"Soon? Nikola, it must be two in the morning, at least. While I might not need much sleep, I do require some."

"Hmm."

Helen rises to her feet and Nikola quickly follows, still ever the proper gentleman. "Let me walk you to your room."

"You don't have to-"

"Of course I do." He picks up her boots and holds them in his left hand, offering his right arm to her. "Shall we?" She laughs at his silliness, but thanks him and takes his extended elbow in her hand. He smiles over at her, and slightly down, now that she's a few inches shorter without her heels.

It wasn't a very long walk from her office to the east wing where all the rooms were housed, but they made good use of their time as Nikola animatedly recounted their most recent mission of termite exterminating, describing her face as she first saw them and the way Alistair screeched like a little girl when one of them crawled over his foot. He made her giggle and that was a job well done in his book.

"Well," Nikola sighs when they reach her door. "I suppose it is goodnight."

"Yes, I suppose it is."

She leans against doorframe, one hand on the handle. He smiles awkwardly at her then remembers her boots in his hands. "Oh, here."

"Thanks." She takes them from him and holds them limply at her side. "Goodnight."

Nikola opens his mouth to say something, however he closes it immediately after. He looks off to his right and rocks forward onto the balls of his feet as he thinks. When he looks back at her, her eyes have fallen half shut with drossiness and he, for a moment, he feels guilty keeping her awake.

"I just wanted to say... Thank-you."

"For what?"

"Letting me work with you again."

"Why wouldn't I? Nikola, you're my friend, and you're too brilliant to keep locking yourself away."

"I'm doing work while I'm locked away."

"Yes, I know. But you can do just as magnificent work here."

"Of course." He rocks again. "I have missed it."

"Missed what?"

"Working with you. Working with abnormals. It's nice."

"I've missed you too."

She surprises him then by leaning forward and kissing the corner of his mouth. The kiss is chaste and short and when she leans back, she has the decency to blush and look away. But Nikola just smiles.

"Missed me a lot, it looks like?"

"You're my best friend. Of course I have."

The last time she had called him her best friend, they were standing hand in hand looking out of her bedroom window over London. He had wanted to kiss her then, to seal his promise that he would always be there for her. But, like the coward he always was, he didn't dare. Tonight though, he didn't feel like quite so much of a coward. Perhaps he was drunk on life, because tonight he steps closer and holds Helen's gaze. Her brows knit closer together as he starts leaning towards her, but she doesn't move away or raise a hand to his chest, and he takes that as a positive sign. Then he's kissing her, gently at first as he gains courage. When he hears her boots thump on the floor and feels her fingers tangling through his hair, he gets the incentive he needs to deepen the kiss. He nips at her lip, gently though to keep from hurting her, then runs his tongue along hers. It's when he hears her moan that he stops and smirks at her.

"I guess I should have done that a long time ago?"

"Goodnight, Nikola."

"Goodnight? I thought we were just getting started."

She cocks an eyebrow at that statement and pokes his chest. "You should retire to you room."

He ignores her advice and instead brings his lips to her ear. "Are you certain that's what you want?"

"Nikola..." her voice trails away into a sigh when he kisses just under her ear. "Please don't do this."

He moves so he can see her. She won't look at him; he cups her face in his hand, strokes her check with his thumb. "Don't do what?"

"Play around like this."

"I'm not playing." He kisses her again; his hand snakes around to her neck, holding her there.

She's breathless when he releases her lips. He kisses her jaw up to her ear, then kisses the soft spot below her ear, hoping to make her moan. And he does. She wraps both hands around his neck and leans into him. "I love you, Helen," he whispers into her ear. She leans back, not sure how sincere he is. He sees the questions in her eyes as the words form on her lips. He kisses her again, keeping her from speaking.

Helen's hand fumbles for the doorknob and shakily she manages to twist it opened. She pulls at his vest to lead him forward and he holds her hips, keeping her close to him and guiding her around the door. Inside, she undoes his tie and Nikola kicks the door closed.

She's already got his vest and shirt undone before he has any idea where to start on her outfit. She lets out a deep and throaty laugh, then clings to his vest as she lifts up onto her toes and purrs into his ear, "Really, Nikola, it's not that complicated." Then she releases him and steps back. She takes her time with the five buttons on her coat. His eyes, which have now darkened more than the average male's, watch her hands intently. The jacket slides over her shoulders and crumples to the floor. His eyes flicker down towards it and then back to her. Her skirt is much easier; one button and it's loose enough to drop to the floor.

"Close your mouth; it makes you look mildly unattractive."

He bristles with the tease, but then smirks at her and steps closer. "I highly doubt there's anything that could possibly make me look unattractive."

There's a playful glint in her eyes as she raises a brow at him, one hand pulling lose her own, slimmer tie. "Oh really? Nothing?"

"Certainly nothing could make you unattractive." He steps closer and she pokes a finger in his chest, keeping him at bay. He looks down in annoyance at her finger, but is quickly distracted when she begins unbuttoning her shirt. He watches for a few minutes before pulling his vest and shirt off in one motion. He discards his shoes quickly after, just as the blouse slides down Helen's arms.

"Why must you women wear so many clothes?"

"To tease men."

"Well you're doing much too good of a job of it." He moves forward quickly and captures her lips again. He pulls randomly at the strings and ties while her hands work in the front to undo her corset. Eventually she's naked against him and glances down at her between kissing her jaw and neck and shoulders. "You're beautiful."

Soon after, he lays her on her bed and rides himself of the rest of his clothing before joining her. He holds himself above her, their bodies just barely touching. Helen reaches up and strokes his cheek, a soft smile playing on her lips. "Kiss me." He does as she asks, keeping the kiss tender. Her leg wraps around his while their lips are still locked together and carefully moves inside of her, giving her the time she needs to adjust to him.

No words pass between them. The only sounds in the quiet room are the mingling of their pants and the hushed sighs of pleasure as Nikola rocks against Helen. She keeps one hand against his back, her nails occasionally digging into his skin as she gets closer. The other plays in his hair or strokes his cheek. He keeps smiling down at her and stealing kisses between moans.

When he feels her clenching against him, seizing in pleasure, he spills himself inside of her. Spent, he collapses onto her breasts and pants against her flushed skin. Helen plays with his hair, eyes closed, content.

"I really do love you, Helen."

"I know. I know you do."