Sequel to About Memory and On Contact.


Within there runs blood,
The same old blood!
The same red-running blood!
There swells and jets a heart—there all passions, desires, reachings, aspirations;
Do you think they are not there because they are not express'd in parlors and lecture-rooms?

- I Sing the Body Electric, Walt Whitman

oooo

Helen plans a trip to Italy for work but it's almost a year to the day from their trip to Mexico. He doesn't say anything because for as strong as Helen is, when it comes to relationship stuff, she spooks easily. Still, there's no reason one of the European Sanctuaries couldn't bag the beast and so Will suspects that perhaps this is, at least partially, a ruse. That maybe he's going to get to see that villa after all.

And then he sees that Kate is scheduled to go with them.

"Italy? Hell yeah!" she says, elbowing Will jovially. "Finally, everything is coming up Kate."

"Indeed," Helen says, the tip of her finger circling the lip of her tea cup absently. "My contact says he believes this creature to be a distant relative of the Stenopelhabilis."

"Oh," Will says. Both women look at him. Helen looks slightly perplexed. "Then it makes sense you want Kate to come. She has the most experience with the Steno."

"Of course I'm coming," Kate says. "You're the brains, I'm the muscle." She grins. "And the Doc is the eye candy, obviously."

"Quite enough," Helen says, rising from her desk. "We leave Thursday morning."

Will walks with Helen down to her lab. He has plenty to do, but he finds she's the most open with him when they're en route to somewhere, so he's picked up a habit of accompanying her on her rounds mid-morning after meetings. But today, she is quiet, hugging her portfolio to her chest as they walk.

"Are you sure you're up for travel?" he asks when it becomes clear she's not going to say anything. It will be their first big trip since their return from hollow earth.

"I'm fine," she says. "My tests have all been clean."

"I know," he says. "But a clean bill of health is more than good blood work."

"Are you concerned about me?" she asks, calling for the elevator. "Do I seem not myself?"

"I didn't say that," he says. "I'm just... doing my job."

She makes a noncommittal noise in her throat and steps onto the elevator. Will doesn't follow, just tucks his hands into his pockets and watches the doors slide shut.

oooo

Kate on a plane is always a struggle, but these long flights are the worst. Helen is two rows up, her nose buried in a book and Kate is peering out the window, her expression one of slight distaste. Somewhere, near the middle of the plane, a baby starts to whimper.

"Duuuude," Kate says, straining to turn around in her seat and spot the perpetrator.

"Just relax," Will says.

"Crying babies make me want to rip my own uterus out," Kate says, huffing and flopping back into her seat. Will stares at her, disgusted. "Too much?"

"Uh, yeah," he says. "Read a magazine or something."

"I can't," she says.

"You can't read?" he teases.

"Can it, Poindexter," she snaps. "You know I hate confined spaces, so you don't need to be a dick about it."

"I'm not being a dick, Kate, I'm just trying offer helpful suggestions on ways you could sit still and stop bitching," he says.

"Maybe if you would just stop being such a-"

Her voice stops. In front of them, Helen has risen and excused herself into the aisle. She walks toward them and then stands by Will's seat, her arms crossed and her expression cool.

"I can hear the two of you arguing from up there and I've had quite enough," Helen says.

"Sorry, Doc," Kate says. Will feels relieved, however. Helen will make Kate switch with her and then maybe the remaining ten hours won't be so miserable.

"Sorry," Will offers. Helen narrows her eyes, slightly.

"Will, why don't you take my seat. I'll sit with Kate for a while," she says.

"What?" he says. "Me? What did I do?"

"The man sitting next to me is a very nice fellow and has done nothing to deserve Kate as a seat mate," Helen says. "Now go, the flight attendant is giving me a look."

Will shoots a nasty glare at Kate who sticks her tongue out in response and Helen sighs and mutters, "Honestly."

The man next to Helen's empty seat stands when he sees Will coming.

"Sorry," Will says.

"It's all right," the man says. Helen has left her book on the cushion and her bag under the seat and a trace of her perfume surrounds him when he settles down. He looks at the book in his lap - a leather bound edition of Leaves of Grass. When he opens the book, he notices there's a red wine stain on I Sing the Body Electric.

"Dr. Magnus says you work for her?" the man asks. Will looks up at him and smiles, polite but disinterested. That question has started making him a little uncomfortable. What he wants to say is that he sleeps with Helen Magnus but also he works for her. But he knows the truth of the matter is that the work will always come first, that it will go on even if the other ceases to be true.

"Yeah," he says.

"She's a fascinating woman," the man says.

"She really is," Will says and flips to the start of the book to settle in for a long flight.

oooo

It's raining in Rome when they arrive. They stand under an overhang discussing whether it would be easier to use public transportation or to rent a car - to take a hotel room and wait out the storm or to set out knowing the next twenty-four hours will be spent miserable and cold. Lightning flashes across the sky and Kate seems to be swaying on her feet a little, exhausted. She hunches over with the weight of her big backpack. It has been a long day and from what Will has read on the file, they're not going to find this thing in inclement weather. It's just going to burrow down into the earth and wait out the sun so it can resume its task of eating everything in sight and destroying the crops of the locals.

Kate starts to lean into him and he can feel her shivering. He coat is too thin to have any hope of breaking this wind and she just looks damp and exhausted and miserable. She must be if she's using him as any support. Even Helen looks short-tempered and tired.

"I say car and room and we try to sleep through this storm," Will says. He uses an authoritative voice, a voice for decision making and it seems to snap Helen out of some kind of dazed moment. She looks up at him, nods once, and then heads off toward the rental desk. He'd offer, of course, but he doesn't speak the language and her Italian is flawless and so he stands with the bags, trying to stay out of the flow of people around them. Kate curls into him, pressing against his chest.

"Cold," she says and sounds so pathetic that he puts his arms around her.

"We could go back inside," he offers but she just stands there and so he rests his chin on her head in the way he can't do with Helen because she's too tall.

"Is the boss going to be upset?" Kate says. It takes him a moment to sort out her words.

"It's weather, it happens," he says.

"No, doofus, that I'm using you for your heat," she says, already sounding more like herself now that she's warming up.

"Don't be an idiot," he says.

Kate nuzzles closer and Will stomps out a flicker of concern that insults and compliments are hard to untangle for her. He wraps his arms a little more tightly, offering to her what he can give and is simply glad she found the Sanctuary network.

"We're all set," Helen says, walking up with a receipt and keys on a plastic tag. "Insurance was outrageous but after that helicopter, one can't be too careful."

"I'll drive," Will says, watching her face carefully but she doesn't seem at all concerned about Kate's sudden bout of affection.

"Like hell," she says and picks up her duffel bag. Kate unwinds herself reluctantly and trudges off after Magnus.

Helen has a preferred hotel in Rome and she takes them there, unconcerned about things like reservations or grounded planes in lightning storms. When they arrive, he carries the bags and plants Kate in a chair in the lobby with a warning to not drip on anything that looks antique. At the desk, the concierge looks bored but when Helen speaks Italian, he looks a little more willing to accommodate and when she says her name, suddenly they do have a room. Still, Helen doesn't look pleased.

"We'll have to share," she translates when she pushes the credit card across the marble counter. "The storm has upset a lot of travelers."

"At this point, I think any horizontal surface will do for her," her says, nodding at Kate who has curled up like a kitten in the chair.

"They're sending up a cot," she says. "Come on, I need a shower."

It's not as if Kate doesn't know about Will and Helen. Everyone knows because there's nothing to hide, but Helen isn't one for public displays of affection and even though Will sleeps in Helen's bed nearly every night, he still has his own room in the Sanctuary and still spends a decent amount of time there, because it's where he keeps his stuff. Still when the cot comes, Will volunteers to take it and then Kate rolls her eyes and tells him to shut up and then he snaps back at her about manners and it quickly degrades into the bickering of weary travelers.

"Enough," Helen says. "I have had enough of both of you. I swear, you are like small children today."

"Sorry," Kate says.

"Let Kate have the cot," Helen says. "Everyone in this room knows we sleep together, so who exactly would you sleeping in the cot be a performance for?"

Kate snorts back laughter and Will glares at her.

"Go shower," he says to Helen. "If anything it might improve your mood."

And suddenly, Kate has found something fascinating in the small pocket of her backpack and she turns away from them, rummaging ceaselessly while Helen stares at Will with her mouth slightly ajar. He's about to apologize when she simply picks up her bag and disappears into the bathroom. Kate is quiet and won't meet his eyes.

He doesn't mean to be rude or cruel. Maybe he's a little hurt that this is their anniversary, of sorts, and she hasn't said one word to him about it except to take him to Italy but bring Kate along as if it's all some sort of very creative punishment for a crime he's not sure he committed. Maybe she really doesn't remember. She's lived a long time and has had a lot of important dates come and go and maybe he's just an asshole.

"Oh god, I'm an asshole," he says.

"Yep." Kate says, finally pulling an emery board from the pocket and starting on her thumbnail.

"Shit," he says. "But we have been bickering a lot. Let's just... keep it together for the rest of this trip."

"We always bicker," she says. "Doc just usually isn't around to see it."

He used to bicker with Ashley a lot too and Helen always was around for that because Ashley bickered with everyone because she was independent and prickly and liked to fight. Will sighs and wants to rewind the clock and try again.

"I'm going to go apologize," he says.

When he knocks, Helen says nothing but it's not a large room so he knows she can hear him. He tries the handle and finds it unlocked. Helen is sitting on the closed toilet seat in her underwear, her damp clothes hanging over the towel rack. She hasn't even turned the shower on yet.

"Helen," he says. "I didn't mean that the way it sounded."

"We're all tired," she says dismissively.

"I'm sorry anyway," he says. She nods, an acceptance but doesn't move or respond. "Why don't you run a bath and I'll read you some Whitman?" he offers.

"It's... not the same with Kate," she says. "As delightful as that sounds."

It is odd to have Kate nearby. She and Will push all the furniture against the walls to make room for the cot and when it arrives, the room feels even smaller. Helen emerges in soft pants and a long sleeved shirt which is far more than she ever sleeps in so Will knows she's a little uncomfortable. She sits on the bed and plaits her hair and then pulls out her laptop to track the storm while Kate showers.

Will showers last and when he emerges, the room is dark and both women are in bed. He's careful not to jostle the cot as he passes and when he slips into bed, Helen doesn't roll toward him and this, too, is strange. He can see that she's lying on her back and her eyelashes flutter as she blinks. He mirrors her pose, studying the ceiling, the moulding that separates it from the wall, the thin crack traveling from over his head and so deep into the darkness that he can follow it no more.

He reaches for her hand under the blankets, but she tenses when he touches her, rolls over and curls into a ball, her back to him. Kate, hearing the movement, seizes her opportunity to shift as well, the cot squeaking softly.

Something coils low in Will's gut, something uninvited, something that settles heavily like it intends to stay.

oooo

Helen wakes them at the first sign of dawn. In the car, it takes time to get out of the city and Kate uses it to speak to Henry on the phone. Henry helps them get their bearings, sends maps and directions and alternate routes to their phones. There's tracking data too, but it's not exactly Will's department, though he is getting better and better with the technology. Still, Kate is the tracker, and Helen, of course. The city gives way to winding roads and Helen drives fast, a line of concentration in her forehead.

"We wasted too much time," she says, when she catches him staring.

"We would have been lost in that storm," he says. She knows it, but she doesn't have to like it. In the back, Kate has the window down and watches the scenery pass. It's cold and the cold air fills the car, but no one tells her to roll it up. Will offers to get Helen's gloves from her pack, but she shakes her head once.

Will doesn't have to be a tracker to know when they're getting close. The fields around them are mangled. The earth seems churned and the crops destroyed. The abnormal is a burrower and Will has a flash of an old b-movie about burrowing monsters in Texas. About things rising to devour from beneath.

Kate's phone starts to beep shrilly and Helen swerves the car off the road, her foot on the break hard. They all lurch forward and then Kate is out, running into the field with her stunner out on front of her, and before Will even has his seat belt off, Helen is trotting after her.

The capture is not easy - such things rarely are - but it is quick. Will binds the hands and the feet on the unconscious beast while Helen calls for a helicopter to lift the beast out. Kate kicks at one of the big paws with the toe of her boot and sneers.

"It doesn't look anything like my steno," she scowls. She has a black eye that is just starting to show. He'll be surprised if she can open it by dinner. Helen ends her call and puts her phone into her pocket and turns to inspecting the restraints.

"This fellow is going to Berlin," she announces. "Heinrich will be here within the hour to take you to the airstrip." She says this to Kate and then crouches down by the creature's head. "He'll need to be crated, of course, upon arrival."

"Wait," Kate says. "You want me to go to Berlin?"

"I'd be much more comfortable if you oversaw his intake," Helen says, rising. She has a scratch on one cheek and the blood has clotted but it looks painful and has ruined the collar of her shirt. Will walks back to the car before Kate and Helen start to argue and digs around for the first-aid kit. By the time he returns, they are silent and Kate looks resigned to her fate. Will opens the kit and activates one of the ice packs. Kate catches easily and holds it glumly to her eye.

"Now you," Will says to Helen. Helen glances at the beast but it doesn't move.

"All right," she says. "Kate, keep an eye on our friend here." And then, realizing her faux-pas, winces. "Sorry."

"Yeah, yeah," says Kate.

Will and Helen walk back to the car and she sits on the open back hatch while he swabs at her face with an alcohol wipe.

"You're sending Kate to Berlin?" he asks. She tries to nod but he pulls his hand away and she stills. "We could be back in Old City by morning."

"If that's what you want," she says. He lets her words sit between them for a few minutes as he applies a butterfly bandage to either end of her cut. Helen will heal fast, though, she always does. He'd wear that wound for two weeks but it will hardly be noticeable on her in a matter of days. Helen is unfailingly honest about her longevity and suspiciously tight-lipped about other aspects of her physiology. Will wonders, not for the first time, what she knows about herself that he doesn't.

"What I want," he repeats, putting the supplies back into the kit, trash and all. "I was unaware I had options."

"You think I don't know," she says.

He scoffs.

"I know what I said, Will."

"I just didn't think things would get so complicated that you'd want to quit," he says.

"No one has said anything about quitting," she says, touching his forearm. "I had no idea what this capture was going to be like. But I thought if it went well, as it has, I could send Kate along to Berlin and we could spend the weekend here."

"I need... I need you to tell me things," Will says.

"I need the work to come first," she says.

He feels like this might be two separate arguments and it's not the place to have either one.

"Does anything else hurt?" he asks. He'd stayed out of the fight and so he feels the least he can do is patch them up.

"I'm all right," she says. "Go help Kate."

When the helicopter comes, he and Kate stand over the abnormal with their weapons out but it doesn't stir. Will appreciates more and more when the tranquilizers work like they're supposed to because more often than not they barely slows something down. Helen's file on the creature had argued that the beast wasn't violent, it was just hungry. Will is simply glad it's going to Berlin because their food costs for the abnormals are already outrageous.

Once the abnormal is secured, Will grabs Kate's bag from the car and trots it over to the waiting helicopter. She takes it and extends her fist to him. He bumps it with his own.

"Don't have too much fun without me," she says with a wink and then climbs into the helicopter and closes the door. He and Helen watch it rise into the gray sky and, slowly, disappear. Helen turns to him, gives him a small, strained smile and heads for the car.

oooo

They return the car and stand in the airport terminal with their bags at their feet. Helen looks at him expectantly, her big eyes bright and blue. Her lashes curl up at the very ends and it makes her whole face seem wide and open.

"Well?" she asks.

"Well what?"

"We can go home or..."

"Or..." he says, allowing a small smile. "Are you saying it is up to me?"

"I am," she says. He leans in, hesitates only for a moment, and then kisses her softly. He's about to tell her yes, the villa, the vacation, all of it, when his phone starts to ring. She pulls away.

"It's Henry," he says. "What's up?"

"We got a problem, man, big problem," Henry says. Will's face falls enough that Helen reaches out and snatches the phone right of this hand. He mentally kisses the villa goodbye.

Helen walks while she listens, pacing a few steps back and forth with her finger pressed to her other ear. When she finally hangs up, she slips his phone into her pocket forgetfully.

"What happened?" Will asks.

"Henry was upgrading some systems in the SHU," she says. "Long story short, my volucris monachus is now pregnant."

"But..." he says. "We only have one of those."

"I know," she says. "But Henry seems quite sure and it's going to take some time to figure out who and how and... I'm so sorry, Will."

"It's okay," he says. "Another time."

"I promise," she says. "Another time."

"Will you at least sit next to me on the plane this time?" he asks, nudging her. He uses it as an excuse to slip his hand into her pocket and retrieve his phone. She raises an eyebrow but allows it.

"I suppose that could be arranged," she says.

oooo

Will, Henry, and Kate are out on a bag and tag. Helen is at the Sanctuary, dealing with any number of internal political issues. Will has been working hard to stay out of it. It's not that he doesn't need to know what's happening, it's just that he can tell this is all snippy, underhanded political maneuvering and Helen is far better at keeping the balance if she's simply left alone to work. She'll fill him later, when the dust has settled. He'll probably even learn a valuable lesson.

He's still thinking about Helen when they stumble across the nest of abnormals and one of them leaps onto Will's back and sinks its fangs into his neck.

"What the fuck!" Will says, hunching and flailing until Kate shoots it and it falls off of him. The bite stings and then burns and then starts to radiate a blinding, epic pain. He looks down at the slain beast for only a second before Henry and Kate grab him and start to run. It looks like a cross between a cockroach and a cat.

He thinks he's going to throw up.

"Not good!" Henry is saying as they stumble toward the ladder that will lead them up and out of the sewer. "This is not good."

"Guys," Will manages because he's on the verge of passing out and he doesn't want to fall face first into sewage.

"Hang in there," Kate says, dipping her head under his arm so she can drape it across her shoulders. He tries to hold on but he can't feel his hands or his feet anymore. "We're gonna get you to the Doc." Henry takes his other arm and they start pushing and pulling him up the ladder.

He passes out before they make it to the top.

oooo

When he wakes up, he's not sure where he is at first, but the steady beeping of the monitor is reassurance that at least he is alive. Past experience has told him that being alive doesn't necessarily mean that he hadn't died, but alive is alive and he'll take it.

He feels cool fingers against his forehead. They trail down his cheek and then press into his neck, checking his pulse. Helen.

He opens his eyes. She looks ragged, worn out, exhausted, and deep lines of concern have set into her forehead. She's not looking at him, but over him at the large clock on the wall as she times his pulse herself. When she looks down at him, she gives him a smile, one more of relief than reassurance.

"Welcome back," she says.

"How long?" he manages. She gives him some water and it helps.

"Nine days," she says. "Did I or did I not tell you not to get bitten?"

"You did," he says. "My apologies."

"Yes, well," she says and then seems to collapse under the weight of it all. She lets her head fall and presses her face into his side and his arm. He lifts his other hand. He feels groggy and the simple motion is costly, but he settles it on the back of her head and strokes her hair a little. Her shoulders tremble - she is crying. He feels a stab of fear - if he hadn't actually died, then it had been awfully close for her to react as such.

"Tell me what happened?" he says.

"Will," she weeps, lifting her head. "Please forgive me."

"Forgive you?" he asks. "It seems like you saved me."

"You don't..." She shakes her head. "I had to make a choice and I chose selfishly and now we can't... know the consequences and I don't want you to hate me but I just... couldn't imagine losing you, Will, you can't ask me to lose you, too." Her tears are real, big and salty and winding down her cheeks, through her heavy and old make-up. She hasn't slept, that's clear. He blinks, takes her hand and squeezes it.

"I'm not going anywhere," he says. "Tell me what happened."

"The poison moved so fast," she sniffs. "We had such a small window and I needed... I needed time to synthesize the antidote."

"Makes sense," he says. "So, what, stasis chamber?"

"I gave you a blood transfusion," she whispers. "Several, actually."

Will is smart and quick and this is the first time he wishes he wasn't. That he needed her to spell it out for him, that he could drag this over long minutes until the conclusion unfurled slowly and unevenly before them. But he knows exactly what she means. It's why she seems so listless and ashen, why the line of her make-up is clear on her jaw.

Helen's blood is not like Will's blood. Will's blood type is A negative, a bit on the rare side. Helen doesn't have a blood type. Helen's blood type is so far beyond rare that she shares it with unicorns and dragons and other creatures as mythical as she should be. Will doesn't know what it means to have her blood pumping through his veins. He knows that other than feeling sluggish and tired, he is not in pain. He knows that with each passing moment of consciousness, he feels a little bit better.

"Come here," he says, and makes an effort to scoot over.

"I should really..."

"Helen," he says. "Lie down."

She is careful not to jostle his IV when she sets herself next to him. Her head on the pillow, her face next to his. She curls up carefully and makes her self small.

"Are you upset with me?" she asks after a while.

"No," he says. "Thank you for saving my life." She whimpers a little and closes her eyes.

Maybe nothing at all will change. Maybe his body will filter out her blood and make a new batch of normal, A negative blood to take its place. Maybe all they really had bought was time.

Helen sleeps fitfully beside him for several hours filled, perhaps, with terrible dreams. She quiets when he touches her but whatever ails her always seems to return in time.

oooo

Will looks up from his desk and the clock on the wall reads 3:14am. He isn't tired. He works through the night.

oooo

It's Will's turn to do the 2am feedings. He scrapes his finger on a jagged piece of plastic on a broken five gallon bucket. He bleeds for a moment and puts the finger in his mouth. By the time he's finished, a little over an hour later, the cut is gone.

oooo

It's raining so he does his workout inside on one of the treadmills. He runs his usual five miles and still has energy to burn so he runs another five, and then a few more before he has to stop because he has a teleconference scheduled at eleven.

oooo

It's the first farmer's market of the season and Will rearranges Helen's entire calendar so she has time to go. He does this without asking, but since the accident, their balance of power has shifted enough that she won't say anything. She'll give him her time. Time, after all, is something they both now have in abundance. He's in the shower while she dresses and when he comes out, towel wrapped around his waist, she's sitting on the stool at the vanity, waiting for him to zip her up. Her dress is dark, but it flares out loose at the hips. Not quite business attire, but a little morbid for a trip to buy corn on the cob and honey in mason jars. Lately, she's been dressing like she's in mourning. He isn't sure what for.

The zipper moves easily - expensive clothes do not snag. She thanks him and turns to look at her face in the mirror. She reaches hesitantly for one of her brushes, the small one meant, he thinks, for her eyes. He doesn't watch this process. She's only recently allowed him to see her from start to finish and then cycle through again. Most of his clothes are in his room, but lately when he sheds clothes for the night and drops them carelessly into her hamper, they've been returning to her room with her laundry instead of appearing folded on his comforter.

He puts on a pair of jeans and a light blue t-shirt.

She puts her hair up in hot rollers and then goes back to working on her face.

Will sits on the bed and tries to remember what he did on Saturday mornings before he worked at the Sanctuary. He hadn't ever been much for sleeping in but he remembers that Meg liked toast and coffee in bed. While he's waiting for Helen to finish, he looks Meg up on Facebook and sees that she's listed as married and that her picture shows a baby bump.

"Huh," he says.

"What?" Helen asks, pulling out pins and letting her curls down.

"My ex-girlfriend is pregnant," he says.

Helen's hands still in the air for a moment and then continue their task. She compresses her lips - he sees it in the mirror.

"I didn't even know she got married," he says, tossing the phone away from him. Helen tucks her hands into her skirt, a gesture leftover from another time.

"What made your relationship with her end?" Helen asks finally. Will looks at her, her young face done up in dark eyes and glossy lips.

"I met you," he says.

oooo

Kate turns thirty and demands a party. Will and the Big Guy go to the party store late, just before it closes. The Big Guy wears an overcoat and fedora even though the weather has been muggy all week. He pushes the cart and Will walks beside him, looking at all the bright colors under florescent lights. He wants to go with a graveyard theme, over the hill and all that, but the truth is, as funny as it is to call a someone who is thirty old, aging cannot be a joke within the walls of the Old Town Sanctuary. Will is pushing hard on thirty-six now and he looks younger than Kate.

Helen thinks he's still aging, just slowly and that as more time passes, his aging process will return to its normal rate.

"It doesn't have to," he'd said in her lab, but she wouldn't comment on that either way.

Instead, Will picks streamers in brown and green, something classy that won't clash with the dark furniture of the dining room. They buy a happy birthday banner and some festive napkins and Will orders balloons while the Big Guy wanders down the baby aisle - all soft blues and pinks.

When they pay, Will handles the interaction, handing over the business card and signing the slip with an illegible scribble.

The girl at the register smiles at him and Will thinks she might be eighteen, maybe, but she has no idea that she's way too young for him. The Big Guy carries the bags to the car.

"Ashley hated pink," he grunts.

Will looks at him, surprised and confused, but the Big Guy doesn't elaborate.

oooo

Will's hands grip Helen's inner thighs, pushing out harder and harder until she is as open to him as her body will allow. It's hot and the sheets are damp beneath her. Her bangs stick a little to her forehead and his thumbs glide easily as he makes little half circles on her skin.

He doesn't touch her yet, just looks his fill while her chest rapidly rises and falls. Her eyes are glazed, lids heavy but she allows his inspection. There is no rush.

His thumb presses into her clit and she jumps, her hips moving of their own volition, seeking the contact, wanting more. Her eyes close and he rubs small circles, pressing not quite hard enough. By now, he knows just what it will take to get her off, knows just how to stretch it out long and slow, burning the hours of the night.

He slips a finger inside of her; probing at her entrance and then, finding wetness, pressing in. Her teeth work her lip and everything on her seems pink and swollen and ripe for the plucking.

"Helen," he says and she opens her eyes. He presses his other hand against the skin just under her belly button. His thumb never stops moving and she's having some trouble focusing so he presses a little harder, his fingers splayed wide. "It's not too late to try again."

Her brows furrow in confusion and she shakes her head once before looking down and seeing his hand. And then she gets it, what he's saying, his hand hovering over her womb.

She pushes his hands off of her, scrambles off the bed and into her hastily discarded robe.

"Jesus, Will," she mutters, and slams the bathroom door behind her.

oooo

Druitt shows up on a Friday night when Helen is out and Henry is out and Kate is out. Will is in the library, reading. Bigfoot is somewhere, but Will doesn't worry or think about him. When Druitt walks into the library, pulling a leather glove off his hand finger by finger, Will realizes that Bigfoot must have let him in through the front door. That Druitt hasn't been a problem for them in so long, that why wouldn't he be welcome?

"William," Druitt says jovially. "Nikola tells me you are defiling Helen and have been for some time now."

Will jumps off the sofa, the book falling loudly to the floor and puts both his hands up.

"Well," Druitt says, taking off the other glove in the same, even manner. "I've come to slit your throat."

"Wait a second," Will says.

"Oh," Druitt says with a small smile. "We'll have plenty of time."

"Druitt, hey," Will says, trying to edge toward the door. It will do no good. He needs to start stashing weapons places or at least learning the places weapons get stashed. "Do you really think Helen will want you back if you kill me?"

"Helen will never want me back," Druitt says, a flicker of something like real emotion across his features.

If Will were in the lab, there would at least be a panic button to hit on the wall, to lock everything down and alert someone that something is wrong, but in the residential wing, Helen's security is minimal compared to what surrounds the abnormals. They're going to have a talk about this when this is all over. If he lives.

"We should talk about this," Will says. Druitt is getting closer, is close enough that he can reach out and grab Will, which he does. Will gets in one good punch but it doesn't do hardly enough damage. Druitt's hand is warm around his neck.

"Oh, let's," Druitt says, his lips curling into a smile as he drags Will's face right up next to his own. And then, there's that falter in his expression again and he's studying Will in a different way, his eyes moving all over Will's face. "Say," he says. "You're looking..."

"Helen," Will manages, choking enough that the word is barely recognizable. "Blood," he tries and though it doesn't exactly work, Druitt seems to understand perfectly well. His lip curls up in disgust as his fingers clench tightly and then everything gets very, very dark.

oooo

Will opens his eyes to see Kate sitting in a chair, reading a comic book. She has the chair kicked back on two legs and her boots are resting on the edge of his bed. His infirmary bed. He doesn't remember what happened this time, but he's getting pretty used to waking up this way all the same.

Kate notices him and she smiles and leans forward, thumping loudly as the chair rights itself.

"Hey buddy," she says. "How you feeling?"

Will frowns.

"Kate?"

"Yeah," she says, reaching out and touching his shoulder lightly. "Can you see me?"

"Yes," he says. "I just wasn't sure it was you. You sounded too nice."

She scrunches up her face for a moment but then smooths her features out again and smiles. "Magnus will want to know you're awake."

"What... why am I here?" he asks. Kate rubs her hands on her thighs and stands.

"I'll get her," Kate says and rushes out.

Will tries to take stock of how he feels. He doesn't hurt but that doesn't mean anything. He knows the lull of medication - he doesn't hurt because he can't really feel anything at all. He's floating on an opiate high. He feels a little stiff, but that's to be expected. There's some resistance when he moves his head but it doesn't hurt. He can see the IV in his hand but everything else is covered - long sleeves and blankets. He's afraid to try to move - things feel uneven and bulky and he suspects that he's hooked up to a catheter too and upsetting that sounds especially unpleasant. So he waits. And waits.

He has drifted off again when Helen comes in, but he's not sleeping deeply. He hears the door, he quiet clicking of her heels on the hard floor. Hears her settle into the chair and then the rustle of fabric as she leans closer to him.

"Will?" she says softly, like a test. Not really to wake him but to see if he'll respond at all. It takes him a moment to gather enough strength to turn his head and open his eyes. Her eyes are wide, but dark.

"We have to stop meeting like this," he says and she smiles, a genuine one of relief and affection.

"What do you recall?" she asks. He thinks back but it's hard and he gets frustrated with the trying and just wants her to tell him.

"Nothing," he says. She purses her lips and leans back a little in the chair. "Except Kate was nice, so it was bad?"

She winces and then sits up straight again and leans in, reaching for him. She takes the tops of his blankets and then eases them down until he can see almost his entire body. She has him in scrubs, but he can tell that under the fabric, there is gauze. A lot of it. And there are a few places where the blood has soaked through even the gauze and into the scrubs. It's all over, like something slashed him up good.

Or someone.

"Ripper," he says. He remembers now, Druitt and his gloves and he can't be sure but he'd bet if she'd let him look in a mirror right now, he'd see bruises in the shapes of long fingers around his neck.

"It took... some time to locate you." Her voice is steady enough, but he can't seem to tear his eyes away from his own body to get a look at her. He's getting flashes now, memories maybe, though his brain isn't really letting them through. He can feel the weight of a man sitting over him, the pressure on his hips, the warm feeling of blood gushing out and then clotting, gushing and clotting.

"Oh God," Will says. He's going to be sick, maybe. He starts to heave a little and Magnus is there, helping him to roll over and holding a plastic container under his chin. When he's finished, she clears it away and gives him more morphine. She wipes at his chin with a wet cloth.

"I'm so sorry," she says.

When he wakes up again, he feels a little better. Helen is gone and Bigfoot is keeping his vigil. It's night - there are no windows but he can just tell by the way Bigfoot slumps in the chair, thumbing through a novel. They're all readers in the Sanctuary, even Kate generally keeps a book in her bag for long stakeouts. Bigfoot is the most voracious reader of them all and the one with the least discerning palate. He reads what Helen refers to as total rubbish. Romance novels with no real plot to speak of, or spy thrillers that are so poorly thought out that it's hard to follow what's happening.

Will watches him read for a bit and then tries to move. His whole body feels stiff and itchy and he realizes he must be covered in stitches.

There's blood flowing through the IV and it's definitely going in and not out, a deep and viscous red. He hurts - feels stiff and sore, but it's not like before. He doesn't need more than one guess to know who the blood came from. It's not a solution, her blood. Yes, his body can handle it because it has before and yes it will heal him quickly and efficiently and add years to his life one pint at a time, but Helen is a doctor and she should know better than to solve problems this way.

"She didn't want you to scar," Bigfoot says, not looking up from his book.

They had agreed that if things got to complicated, they'd call it off. They'd return to their working relationship and Will had believed at the time that this was a possibility. That he could go back to the way things were easily because the Sanctuary and the work that was done there was so important.

Helen's blood is a complication on several levels and it is literally pouring into him.

"Where is she?" Will asks. Bigfoot just grunts, turns a page. "Do you think maybe we could renegotiate this catheter situation?"

"You'll pull your stitches," Bigfoot says and he does sound a little sorry.

"So," Will says. "Where did they find me?"

Bigfoot stills and finally lowers the book to his lap. It falls closed around his thumb.

"The stables," he says after a long silence.

"Here?" Will asks. It almost makes sense though, in a peculiar sort of homicidal, murderous way. With the EM shield running and keeping Druitt trapped, choosing a place within the shield but away from the house was almost clever. Helen must have taken it poorly - Druitt acting that way on her own property. He chuckles at his own selflessness. Here he is, lying cut to shreds, and he's worried about the psychological implications it will have on Helen.

Bigfoot is watching him carefully.

"Will," he says. "I didn't know what he was here for. When I let him in, he said Magnus had summoned him."

It's the beginning of an apology but the actual apologizing doesn't come. Bigfoot opens his book and looks back down at the pages. Will watches the blood flow in and he swears he can feel every single beat of his heart.

When he sees Helen again, it's morning and the first thing she does is remove the catheter for him. Then, carefully, she undresses him and there is several minutes of her easing away gauze and tape. She knows his body well, knows better his tolerance for pain. His chest is a mess, unrecognizable and he could only imagine what he'd looked like when they found him.

By the time she gets to the gauze on his legs, she is weeping.

"Stop," he says. "Just... stop it." His whole body feels hot and tender and her hands are steady but he can't stand the sound of her shallow gasps as she fights against the tears.

"You're going to scar rather badly, I'm afraid," she manages, pressing the sleeve of her lab coat up to her nose. "The transfusion will help and if we put you on a regiment of transfusions, they will get better with time."

"With time," Will repeats. "You can't... just... keep pumping your blood into me like it's some sort of cure-all elixir."

"You don't deserve this fate," she says. There's a tremor in her voice and it's easy to give it a name: guilt. "I've got to do what I can to make it right."

He understands why Druitt didn't actually kill him, as promised. He understands that Will was not meant to be a trophy, but a lesson intended for Helen. He gets, totally, why Druitt sliced Will up and down his body but didn't touch his face. Will is Helen's young, beautiful lover and now every time Helen looks at him, all she'll be able to see is John.

"In the morning," Helen says, having regained some of her composure. "Perhaps some of these shallower stitches can come out." She touches him lightly, prodding at patches of angry skin with two latex covered fingers. Then, in a practiced move, she snaps them off. "Try to get some rest."

But his veins are humming with her blood and they both know how that feels.

oooo

Will is still off the mission list, still wearing soft clothes, still carrying himself too carefully, afraid of splitting open skin. There is plenty to keep him occupied, paper work and budgets and payroll. He can sit at a desk all day. Kate and Helen bring in a new abnormal and he doesn't even bother to go see it until the next day. Life continues around him; he heals slowly.

He's been sleeping in his own bed simply because he keeps different hours now. It sucks to be on the disabled list, but there's something achingly normal about getting up around seven and going to bed around eleven consistently, like he's a normal adult male.

He also wakes up a lot in the night. Kate mentions, in a way that she thinks is casual, that maybe he should try talking to someone about it.

"Like a shrink or something," are her exact words.

"I am a shrink," he'd said. She'd dropped it. Talking about his nightmares to a stranger isn't going to help him. And really, the problem is that they're less nightmare and more memory. He's not scared of what could happen, he's scared of what did. Druitt scares him because he is capable of torture and the idea that Helen loved him, perhaps loves him still, is almost too much for Will to stomach.

He skips dinner - not hungry - and just heads for bed.

Helen had mentioned that perhaps he ought to stop by the lab that night so she can make sure everything is still healing properly, but he skips it. If she were truly worried about infection, she would have insisted on it so he thinks, maybe, that it's a trap. A situation wherein he'd be forced to open up to her. He doesn't want to open up - she hardly looks at him in the eye and he's not sure how she expects him to share anything with her when she won't even look at him.

He's reading in bed when she knocks and lets herself in. She has her robe on. It's late and it's her house, but it's unlike her to appear in common areas in such a state. He sits up a little more and stares at her. She tugs the belt of the robe a little tighter.

"Hello," she says.

"What's up?" he asks. She looks different than she did earlier in the day. She has more make up on, darker at the eyes, and her hair is down but tousled. Her lips shimmer and look wet. And under all that she seems a little nervous, which is odd. Taking a breath, she unties the robe and lets it fall to the floor. He feels his eyebrows shoot up. "Oh," he manages.

Helen is not a small woman, nor delicate, but there's something so feminine about seeing her waist cinched up so tightly that makes him want to hold her. Her breasts are spectacular, nearly spilling out, trembling with each breath. Her long legs are bare.

"Corset?" he manages.

"Usually a popular choice among my lovers," she says, cocking one hip out a little. "Too much?"

"No," he says. "No, no... unexpected."

"Ah," she says.

"Helen..." he sighs. "As beautiful as you are, this isn't necessary."

She walks toward him, kneels on his bed, crawls toward him. "Sex as recreation is never necessary," she says. "But we do it anyway." Helen on all fours is a sight to behold and when she moves to kiss him, he can't find it in himself to stop her. Still, she is careful, holding her body away from him. Their lips are the only things that touch.

But the taste of her is familiar enough to make him ache. It's been weeks since they've kissed, longer since they were in any position to share a bed and her tongue slides across his willingly. He touches her hair, her face, the places where her skull curves into her neck. She breaks the kiss long enough to suck in a lung full of air and then starts all over again.

He feels himself growing hard under the soft fabric of his pants. She still hovers above him, so he slides his hands down to her bare shoulders and applies some pressure.

"We don't have to do anything you're not comfortable with," she says, sounding breathless.

"Am I not allowed to touch you?" he asks. It comes out sounding bitter and the words hang in the air for a moment between them. She makes a face of surprise, tucking her chin in a little. He's not exactly sure where that came from either.

"All I can think about is you touching me," she says, finally. "But only you know what your body is ready for."

His body is ready for more, certainly, though he does sort of feel like lying on his back and allowing her to do the work. He eyes the corset - the ribbon in the back and the fasteners in the front. He wonders how many corsets Helen has worn for Druitt over the course of her long lifetime.

"How do I take it off?" he asks.

"Slowly and with great relish," she says. She tucks her legs under her and sits on her knees, facing him.

"You used to wear these every day," he says, reaching out to run his fingers across the stiff fabric. The corset itself is black but up close he can see there is some greater detail that shines in the light.

"Yes," she says. "Though, they were more practical than this design."

"Practical?"

"Less showy," she concedes. "First, you loosen the the back, but don't unlace it completely."

"Okay," he says. She turns for him, offering her back. He can see that small pair of underwear she has on are ruffled across her butt. He eases the ribbon out of its bow and then gives a few experimental tugs. He knows he's got it when she takes a deep breath. He touches her shoulder and then leans in and kisses the skin just above where the corset sits. He makes a trail across her shoulder blades and then pushes her hair aside and kisses her neck too. She tilts her head, offering more, and he can taste where she's dabbed perfume onto her skin. Her skin is flawless even after all this time, smooth and pale and soft.

He sits back. She looks at him over his shoulder, seeming young and coy but the smirk dies from her lips when she sees his expression.

"What?" she asks.

"When you... found me... where was Druitt?" he asks. No one will tell him exactly what happened and he thinks he won't be able to move forward at all until he knows.

"He was there," she says. He appreciates that she doesn't lie. "He was waiting for me."

The corset is slipping a little now that it's loose and when she shifts to sit more comfortably, it reveals just the top of her pink areolas. She is beautiful and for a moment he can't look away but for as pretty and willing as she is, he just has to know.

"What did you do?" Will asks. She sighs and tucks her hands into her lap and looks at him with pity and sorrow. "Why didn't you shoot him?"

"He didn't resist," she says.

"Are you kidding me?" Will asks, his voice rising. "He was killing me!"

"No," she says. "He wasn't. Not really."

"I can't believe you're defending him to me right now," Will says.

"I'm sorry," she says and maybe she is.

"Where is he now?" Will asks.

"London," she says. "Nikola is helping him with his... treatments. He should be able to control himself better for some time."

"You're just gonna let him go," Will says.

"He'd escape any incarceration I devised eventually," she says. "Will, I know this is hard for you to understand but John is... important."

"You love him," Will says. "Despite what he did to me."

"Despite what he's done to us all," she says quietly.

He rubs his hands over his face and feels a little like crying. He feels the bed shift and when he looks up, she's standing and slipping on her robe.

But as upset as he is, as hurt as he feels, he doesn't want her to go.

"I'm not asking you to choose," he says. "I would never... it's not like I'm trying to win or something."

She crosses her arms across her body but doesn't go.

"I will be here for a long time after you're gone," she says, finally. "It's not about choosing, Will, it's about loving who you love when you love them."

"I don't want to die," Will says. "I don't want to live without you."

"Good," she says with a nod.

"I don't want this to be the complicated thing that overturns us completely," he says.

"It doesn't have to be," she says.

"I don't want you to..." He shakes his head. "I don't know how to say it without hurting your feelings."

"Come now," she says. "I'm made of sterner stuff."

"I don't want you to dress up for me... in a way that he would like," he says. "Druitt."

She looks down at herself and then up at him, surprised. "That isn't what I was trying to do," she promises. "I just thought it might... thrill you. I didn't even... God, I'm sorry."

"You don't have to go," he says. "But if you stay, you have to take it off."

She lets a smile break through. "A fair deal." She puts her hands on her hips. "We could go to my room."

"Now?"

"It's more comfortable," she says. "And no one lives down the hall."

"You planning on making some noise?" he asks, already rising from the bed and stepping into his shoes.

"Perhaps," she says.

They move quietly, turning off the lights and so carefully closing Will's door behind them. The halls are dark and she walks softly, but with purpose. Her bare feet make no noise on the carpet and when they cross tile, he tries to step lightly.

They almost make it until they pass the gym and Kate comes out, sweaty with her ear buds still in her ears. Will can hear the tinny music and she looks at them, their state of dress, the way Helen has slipped her hand into Will's.

But Kate simply pulls the wires from her ears and gives them a small smile.

"'Night, you guys," she says.

"Goodnight, Kate," Helen says.

Helen gives his fingers a squeeze to get him moving again.

oooo

Will isn't usually so passive in bed, but in this instance there's nothing he wants more than to lie and watch Helen move on top of him. She balances easily, one hand behind her on the mattress, the other working lazily between her own thighs.

She'd said, "Tell me what you want."

And he'd replied, "I want to feel you come."

So she sits astride him, not riding him exactly, but working him all the same. For what she lacks in movement, she makes up for in exquisite muscle control. It's amazing, feeling her tighten and release and he realizes it's just another way she shows him her strength. She has incredible control and has been keeping them both on edge for a while now, but he can tell that she's getting too close. That soon she will teeter for a moment at that pleasurable brink, and then fall.

He hears it in her breathing first and then her voice. She whimpers and then it turns into a cry and her fingers start to move with a sure purpose. He wants to touch her but he's afraid if he moves, he'll lose it and miss the end of the show so he digs his fingers into the comforter and just watches. Her breasts are perfect, rosy and peaked and he can't help but be impressed that her longevity seems to include fighting gravity as well as time. His fingers twitch but she's so close now - she's baring her teeth in effort to stave it off just a few moments longer.

"I can't," she says, her eyes opening to meet his. "I'm going to..."

"Yes," he says.

"Oh God," she manages and then it happens. "Oh, oh, oh." He can feel her clenching and she presses down hard, her hips grinding into his. She works her way through it, her fingers drawing it out and then drifting away, moving up his belly. They're wet enough that he can feel them glide across his skin. She opens her eyes one at a time, long lashes fluttering, and she looks pretty pleased.

"That feel good, Doctor?" Will asks.

"Yes," she says, slow and slurred. He still achingly hard inside of her and when she sits up a little, the angle change makes him buck his hips up and grit his teeth. "Oh," she says, as if she'd forgotten totally about the foreign object buried so deeply inside her. She starts to rock, leans forward and puts her weight on both her hands. He groans. She's so wet that she has to be careful not to rise up too much because he'll slip right out. But Helen knows what she is doing and keeps a steady rhythm - burning and a little too slow. She looks down at him, her breasts just brushing his chest.

"Does that feel good," she drawls. "Doctor?"

"Fuck," he hisses, "Yes. God, yes."

She thrusts lazy for a few more moments and then starts clenching again, clamping her muscles tightly each time she rises and it feels incredible. It's almost enough if she would just move faster, harder he could get there.

She swivels. She twists her hips, clenching and rising and sinking again and he grits his teeth against it, hoping to get there and hoping to hold it back and it's a burning, this pleasure, like a fire at the end of the night, smoldering quietly until only ash remains.

"Will," she whispers, her hand over his heart. "I've got you."

It's what he needs to let go and she helps him through it, the bursts of pleasure, hard and wet and hot until she's all there is: a perfect moment at the end of a long night.

oooo

He wakes up to her rubbing a salve into his chest, a sticky, sweet concoction over all of his tender, new skin.

She looks at him, a fondness in her eyes.

"The scars will heal over time," she promises.