/-/- Summer, 1942
No matter the vintage of wine, stuffy rich people parties were not Nikola's idea of a pleasant evening. He found the conversation dull or pointless, the food inedible, and, most importantly, the high concentration of human blood too much to handle. No, Nikola preferred to sulk in the corner with his Bordeaux. Well, he'd much prefer to not even be there, but, on this occasion, Helen had dragged him there. It was something about someone she wanted him to meet. Completely uninteresting, but he would do it for her.
As he takes a rather long sip from his glass, he hears from behind Helen say, "And this is my good friend, Nikola Tesla."
Nikola sigh; he would have liked at least a moment of preparation before being forced to endure the company of lesser mortals. He turns with a slight flourish of his hand, enough to sweep his jacket out of his way so his hand could rest on his hip. Firmly in place is a hint of arrogance on his face, over-shadowed perhaps by the cocky tilt of his head and hips. He expects nothing striking about this person, and yet what he sees is completely unexpected. Helen stood leaning against some man, both hands wrapped around his left arm. She was grinning widely and Nikola fought to hold back the scowl ready to form as he looks up to see the man she is with. He's tall – her type, of course – with curly ginger hair. Irish, or Scottish, or something. Well built. Angular face. Dressed neatly but not sharply. Nikola hates him instantly.
"Nikola, this is Professor Patrick McMillan."
"It's a pleasure, Mr. Tesla." The Scot extends his hand to Nikola, who glances down at it, then back at the man's face, and then to Helen.
"He's a professor of what, exactly?" Nikola waves his wine glass in front of him to gesture at the Scot as he speaks.
"Electrical engineering.," Patrick answers. Nikola huffs. "At the University of Edinburgh. I couldn't believe when Helen told me she is a friend of yours."
"Yes, well, Helen does have a fascinating assortment of friends."
Silence descends upon the group for a few awkward moments. Nikola shifts his weight and sips from his wine, hoping that's all he has to communicate.
"So I've been reading a lot about this death ray weapon you're working on –"
"I prefer when they call it the peace ray, however teleforce is more accurate."
"Yes, well, I was hoping you could tell me more about it. It's fascinating, theoretically."
"Do you have a question, Mr. McMillan?"
"You've stated that you have a mechanism for generating a great amount of electrical force, but how are you going to intensify that to the necessary levels?"
Helen knows that smile forming on his lips as he looks over to her. He's about to be a cocky jackass, the exact kind that lost him, and her, friends at Oxford.
"Mr. McMillan, you might have been educated in the principles of electrical engineering, but the work I've been doing recently I'm quite certain is extremely far beyond your understanding." He pauses shortly. "I think I'm going to go get more wine."
Nikola brushes passed Patrick but, after making it only a step away, he turns and addresses the pair. "And Mr. McMillan, the lady should always be on your right." His eyes catch Helen's. "Men these days, absolutely no sense of gentlemanly manners anymore."
As he walks away, Helen pats Patrick's hand and smiles apologetically at him. "I'm sorry about him. He gets moody at these sorts of things. He's really quite wonderful once you get to know him. Please excuse me for a moment. I just want to talk to him in private."
"Of course. I'll be around."
Helen finds Nikola a couple of minutes later, hiding on a veranda overlooking the courtyard. He's leaning one hand against the granite railing and swirling the contents of his wine glass with the other. He doesn't indicate that he hears her approaching, but she knows that he can sense her – probably the iron in her blood or at least the soft clicking of her heels.
"When did we become members of the privileged, elitist class?"
She chuckles at that and approaches the railing next to him. "When we injected vampire blood."
He looks over at her. "I thought the point of that was to do the opposite. Break barriers; create our own class?"
"Yes, until everyone realized how well it actually worked."
"We simply are too wonderful to not be invited to rich, stuffy partiers."
"These rich, stuff parties ensure that we keep getting the funding we need. Both of us," she emphasizes.
"Yes, yes." Nikola sighs and shrugs. Then he turns to look at her straight on and rests his hip against the granite. "So you and professor what's his name?"
"McMillan. And yes, he's a good man. Quite brilliant. You should speak with him; he could learn a lot from you." Nikola cringes openly at the idea of teaching anyone. "Talking to him, please."
"I'd rather not."
"Why are you being so rude to him?"
He shrugs and moves closer to her. "I don't like him."
"You don't even know him."
"I know enough."
"Enough for what?"
"To know that's he's not right for you."
"Oh please. That is not what this is about."
"Yes, it is."
"No, you're jealous." Nikola bristles. "Jealousy doesn't becomes you, Nikola, it never did."
"Yes, well, I was right about Johnny."
He's not sure what exactly just happened, it happened so fast. But in the aftermath, his face was turned to the right; his cheek stung and closet to his ears tingled; Helen stood breathing hard and her checks flushed.
"You slapped me?"
"Leave. Right now."
"The party's not over." He flashes a smile and spreads his arms out, as if charming her might achieve something. Her expression remains firm; discouraged, he pulls his arms back in closer to him. The wine sloshes but doesn't spill from the sudden jerk. "I'm sorry. My comment was out of line."
"At least have the decency to look ashamed while you lie."
"I'm not lying."
"You have always been an insensitive prick when it comes to discussing John."
"He turned into a serial killer! I think I'm allowed to judge."
"Yes, the vampire is certainly well-suited to judge murderers."
"I've never killed anyone! Which shows an exceptional degree of restraint on my part, might I add." There's a crack in her defences, a slight softeningof her eyes. Nikola's shoulders relax. "He was a bastard before he starting killing people anyway."
In a second the icy stare returns. Her arm is rigid as one finger points to he door. "Now, Nikola."
He places his wine glass on the patio table, then bows his head gracefully before taking his leave. She can't watch him leave and so she turns away, wraps her fingers around the granite banister, and closes her eyes.
/-/- December 31, 1942
It's late at night; Helen walks swiftly through the dark street and to her house. As she's turning the key to unlock the door, she hears from the shadow, "Did you get my letter?"
"Nikola!" Helen holds her hand to her chest and takes a deep breath. "Don't do that."
"I'm sorry." Helen glances behind them, her eyes scanning through the dark, unlit city. "Did you?"
"Did I what?"
"Get my letter? I need help, Helen."
"Yes, yes, I got your letter."
"Will you help me?"
Helen turns towards him; he's hiding half in the shadows, making it hard to see his face. She takes off the small, leather bag resting on her shoulder and pulls from it a thick envelope. "Here. Take this."
"What is it?"
"A passport. It says you're an American –"
"I am an American."
"An American by birth. Try focusing on your accent some. You're starting to lose your Serbian accent already." He straightens sharply at that comment, but she continues on regardless. "I've got travel plans for you to make it by train to Switzerland."
"They're neutral. You can stay there until the end of the war –"
"If there's an end to the war."
"They'll be an end."
"And then another war. How many wars are we going to live through, Helen?"
She doesn't answer, just shuts her eyes and sighs. "Please, Nikola, just get to Switzerland. Be safe."
Nikola looks down at the envelope in his hand. He doesn't know what to say for a moment, but then he shakes his head and looks up at her. "How is this going to help me exactly? Go into hiding forever?"
"No... You're eighty-six, Nikola. As it is, we've both expended an egregious amount of energy trying to maintain the appearance that you're growing older. I think it's time that... that the public believe Nikola Tesla to be –"
"Yes. Start a new life, one where you don't have to be burdened with so much publicity."
"You're going to fake my death?"
"Yes." Nikola nods mutely, looking down at his feet and the envelope. "Do you have a problem with that?"
"You're asking if I have a problem with you killing me?"
She grimaces at the way he phrases it, however she shrugs. "You're right. I'm sorry. Please go, Nikola. You're train departs early in the morning."
He stands there at first not knowing what to do. There's more he wants to say, mostly concerning how much he doesn't approve of her plan. He passes the envelope between his hands and looks up at her. "Thank-you, Helen."
"You don't have to thank me."
"Yes I do," he steps out of the shadows so he's standing close to her. "Thank-you, Helen." He leans into her, his eyes on her lips, wanting to kiss her one last time, to show his appreciation. But then he sees the ting of disapproval, that tint of anger still hardening her eyes when she looks at him. When he leans even just a bit further, she turns her face away and his lips land on the corner of her mouth. He steps away quickly. His posture is hunched and he doesn't look at her again. Merely nods and plays with the envelope. "Right," he mutters. "Ok, well, thank-you. I'll send you a letter once I've made it."
"No, it's best if we do not correspond for a while."
He nods once roughly then steps backwards into the shadows. "Goodbye, Helen."
Then he's gone. Helen just stands there, staring into the shadows. Her eyes close; she holds her breath. There was something extremely final in the way he spoke, in the kiss he gave her. Once it was all over, once she had officially made her longest and dearest friend dead to the world, she suspects she'll never see him again. He's never coming back. Tears stream down her face but she remains quiet, gasping in soft, quick breathes to stop from sobbing.
She slaps her hands up to her face and wipes the tears away. She sniffs and draws the back of her hand under her nose. Looking out into the darkness, she calls quietly, "Goodbye, Nikola. Good luck."
This is the end of the second part of my 'The Story of Nikola and Helen' series. The third part will be up in the next month or so and will be title 'Volume 3: ...' .