She could hear her father pacing down the hallway. Thirteen steps, pause, turn, thirteen steps; a pained decrescendo followed by its equally broken return. Her grandmother had turned him from the room, claiming this was no place for a man – though Helen would have gladly exchanged her place for his. After all, he was a doctor, surely he could help. Surely he would be of more help than her aged grandmother (woman or not) could be.
Her mother's cries had swelled for hours, an aching wave that flowed through them again and again and again. Until it just didn't anymore. Helen had been preparing for this moment for weeks, she knew exactly what her role would be. The linens, boiled and cleansed were at the ready to be transferred directly into her grandmothers waiting withered hands. They never were, laying cold in their pristinely folded pile.
Her mother's eyes landed on the bent body once before rolling away. As though she had used up every ounce of energy remaining, she issued a whispered whimper and then she was gone. Jumping to work with nary a tear, her grandmother started to set the body right for viewing, affording her the dignity owing the dead.
The same was not awarded to her brother, red and misshapen on the bedding. Reaching out a hand Helen smoothed the downy hair on his head, soft as a baby rabbit. Hearing the clock chime, slicing out the early morning hour, Helen placed a gentle kiss on his forehead before wrapping him in the prettiest cloth she had.
"Happy birthday little brother."
As the sun's light first light filtered through the trees John slipped his hand into hers. She looked down to see his long pale fingers lacing with hers against the fabric of her gown.
They had never made it to the theatre, stopping instead at the meadow neighbouring his land. They had sat and talked by the light of his lantern for hours, chasing away the night with their words. Slowly closing the gap between them, John placed the most gentle of kisses on her lips, as though he were afraid she might break at his touch.
There would be hell to pay when she got home, she knew, but right here and now she did not care.
When Helen had been a child, she had heard all manner of noises coming from her father's study in the middle of the night. She had never quite known what they were, but had, with the faith of all young girls, trusted that her father had known what he was doing.
As she grew, and one by one learnt her father's secrets, this faith did not diminish. They became bolstered with a remarkable amount of awe, to be sure, but falter they never did. He was more than her father, he was her mentor and role model, and he could do no wrong in her eyes.
Over the years leading to his disappearance he had taught her everything he had known. Passing on every piece of knowledge to equip her in the mantle she had determined to take up. She had studied his research for years, worked at his side for even longer.
And so here she was: the product of his tutelage.
And she was terrified.
The weight of his legacy was now fully on her shoulders. The lengths to which she had taken it, far further than the single lab in the basement of her childhood home, now seemed too large, far too impossible for her to control. 'The Sanctuary' she had named it. A research venue and safe haven in the heart of London, it already housed near a hundred abnormals, and this was only its first day of operation. And all of it under her purview.
There was no way she was sleeping tonight.
Ashley had stopped counting the bodies. It had helped before, the counting, in a morbid kind of way. If she triaged ten bodies, she told herself, then they would stop arriving. If she sorted thirty, the trucks would stop driving up. Fifty would stop the gunfire. She was out of digits, and she was out of prayers.
All she could do was watch. Watch the injured fall around her and, in the middle of it all, watch her mother jump from body to body, patching what she could and comforting those she couldn't. All night.
It was a very long night.
Last Tuesday. Will was out on a mission, and Henry had taken Kate to the movies. She had paperwork to do, and late night feedings to attend to.
Besides, she never really slept anyway.