Day Long Regret
Fathers are supposed to be there for their children. It was a fact. Every parenting book stated it; it was rule one. Mothers tend and nurture, fathers support and protect.
In some way he had always known that Ashley meant more to him than the fact that she was Helen's daughter. Call it instinct, the vampire in him sensing his offspring, but through denial and general stubbornness he let it slip to the back of his mind.
Helen didn't want him to be the father of her child, she wanted John to be, so he let her. It was easier that way.
But that didn't stop Nikola from wondering what it would've been like.
He sighed; if only he had the courage to tell Helen.
She kissed his shoulder just outside the corner of his mind, bringing him back to reality. She was straddled overtop him. She was beautiful, as she always was, her hair mussed, her body willing; he had to blink twice just to make he wasn't dreaming.
"Helen," he croaked out, his voice stubbornly sticking to the walls of his throat.
Helen ignored him and began kissing up his chest, pinning his shoulders even more to the bed.
She was guilt-ridden from what she did to him all those years ago, and he had taken advantage of that, like the coward he was. She offered herself completely and he bent, his desire for her more powerful than his hate. That had been an hour ago, down in his lab. He had succumbed to her forgiving fingers, he was angry and at the moment it felt justifiable; she had offered, he accepted.
But now, as the anger subsided and his mind traced back to it's original conundrum, and now it did not feel so justified.
He was in her room, surrounded by memories. Aside from one picture of The Five, there was none of him in here. There was a picture of James, pictures of Nigel, several pictures of Ashley, even John had a photograph, but not one of him. Just another reason this was a farce.
She neither wanted him in this bed nor in this room, but she was bending over because of her guilt. A guilt that she need not carry.
"Helen, stop," he said.
Again she ignored him, kissing down his chest, dangerously close this his pants line.
"No, no, Helen stop!" he shifted his body from under hers. "Please."
"I thought this was what you wanted," Helen said, looking at him incredulously.
"Not like this, not here," he said, pleading with his eyes.
"Well, what do you want then? How can I make up for the century of hurt I put you through," Helen pleaded as well; she was just as desperate for forgiveness as he was.
This is what they had done to each other.
"You don't have to do anything, Helen! I was upset back in the lab, I took advantage of you and I'm sorry for that but I will not ruin this sanctum! I will not have the only memory of me in this room be one of hate," he got off the bed and gathered his shirt off the floor.
"What are you talking about?" Helen cried, confused.
"You don't love me, Helen, and though I can handle that I cannot handle this," he gestured to her room.
"What is this?" she asked for clarification.
"Helen, you keep all the memories of the ones you love in this room; James, Ashley, Nigel, and this is the only one of me!" he picked up the frame of the group photo. "The extent of your affection for me comes from this, a loyalty to the group. It's not enough! And I won't violate that, not in here!"
Helen listened to him carefully.
"This was a mistake Helen, I should've stopped you before but my control slipped; you can stop trying to apologize, I forgive you, you don't have to make anything up to me," he headed for the door when he was shoved around to look at Helen.
"Are you trying to torture me, Nikola?" she cried.
"No, I just don't want you out of guilt," he said with brutal honesty. "You are not a whore, Helen, and I'll be damned if I start treating you like one."
Helen opened her mouth to respond but the words never came out.
With her silence he escaped from her room into the dark corridors of the sleeping Sanctuary.
Helen stood still, dumbfounded. There she was, ready to give him anything he wanted, ready to give him her body as payment for his suffering, and there he was curtly refusing it.
It pulled at her heart, how they kept pulling away from each other, kept hurting each other over and over again. It hurt because she saw how desperately he wanted to repair everything. She saw it in how he looked at her. He longed to be as close to her as they once were. Every step closer they took more of their painful past comes up separating them even further. But he kept trying, he wanted to tell her something, she knew he did, but every time he tried she didn't want to know. It wasn't even a conscious effort.
Whatever he wanted to tell her would bring them close to the edge, maybe even sever their friendship forever, and despite what he believed, she needed him in her life.
Sometimes she forgets that Nikola has a soul underneath all that arrogance and bravado; he could never be happy with just a physical agreement. She knew that. He was so fragile; his vampirism had protected him for a long time, but with it gone he was exposed.
Helen sighed and headed to the bathroom. She showered and changed into her nightwear, she took at all the photos scattered around her room. He had been right, there was a certain shrine like quality to her bedroom. The pictures all meant something to her, she could imagine it felt like a dozen judging eyes staring at him.
It sometimes shocked her how insightful Nikola could be.
The morning came sooner than she was ready for, and the normal everyday hustle and bustle of Sanctuary life carried her through the day, but her thoughts remained on Nikola.
He was nowhere to be seen, she assumed he was avoiding her, which was to be expected, she was ready for when he would come to her and they would call a truce to this battle and then move on till the next one came.
She had a wine bottle sitting on the coffee table, lying in wait. She would apologize for putting him in such a position and he would apologize for losing control, then they would silently agree never to speak of it again. They had done this dance many times before. The last time would've been after the trip to Columbia. He apologized for tricking her, she apologized for directing her anger at him, they shared a bottle of wine and then she tugged him to the library to show him the holo-city map as a truce.
She saved some her finest vintages for these occasions.
It was about early in the evening when he finally found the courage to come talk to her; he knew she would be waiting for him. But this time, he had resolved that he would not avoid the issue. It was time for this secret to come out, he was going to stop making the same mistakes he was always making. They were hurting each other, so he was going to stop the vicious cycle, even if it meant destroying the only constant relationship he had ever had in his life.
He knocked on the door.
"Come in," Helen's voice came from the other side and Nikola entered.
"Hey," he said, feeling uncomfortable instantly.
"Hey," Helen smiled weakly at him. "I was hoping you'd come."
"I'm sorry for…everything," he said, not moving from his spot.
"No, I am, you were right, I was trying to fix it by taking advantage of you, it was wrong of me," said Helen.
"It's not just that, Helen," Nikola sighed.
"Then what is it? Please tell me," said Helen, She maneuvered around her desk to come to him.
"I have to tell you something, it's important," he tugged her over to the couch and sat her down. "It's something I have to tell you."
"What's this about?" she asked.
"It's about that night, all those years ago," he took a nervous breath. "And Ashley."
"What?" Helen's head snapped completely into focus.
"Just listen to me," Nikola defended.
He handed her a chart that he held in his hand.
She took it hesitantly, flipping it open. Her eyes widened at first, then narrowed in anger.
"How long have you known this?" she asked, her tone sharp.
"Helen, it was never my intention to…"
"HOW LONG HAVE YOU KNOWN?" she shouted, her eyes raged with a white-hot anger at him.
"Since you gave me her blood for the weapon," he said softly.
"You never told me," Helen growled.
"It wasn't exactly the best time," he said.
"You let me go out there and kill her! You did nothing!" she cried.
"I was scared Helen, alright! I was scared! You happy now! I didn't tell you because I was afraid you would react the way you are right now!" he turned away from her, his frustration bubbling over him.
"Why did you do this, Nikola? Why did you run a paternity test on her? What could possibly possess you to do this!" she shouted.
"I had always suspected, but I thought you had forgotten! You never told me you seduced me, Helen! Remember that!" Nikola shouted.
"You bastard!" Helen stood up, her face fuming. "You bloody bastard! How dare you turn this on me!"
"I'm not turning this on you! I am not blaming you for anything! I blame myself! I lost control a century ago! I did this! Me! I let you believe John was the father, because it was easier than taking the responsibility, it's still easier! But I tried Helen! I tried to be there for her afterwards. When John said let's bring down the Cabal for what they did to Ashley I agreed! I'm sorry! What else do you want me to say?" pleaded Nikola.
"I want you to leave," Helen said harshly.
"Fine," sighed Nikola. "But not after you have heard me out, Helen. I'm sorry I was not there for Ashley, ever, I wish I could make it up to you and to her! I will spend everyday of my life regretting the decisions I've made, please, Helen, I beg for your forgiveness," he took her hand gently as he spoke, which only infuriated her more.
"Get out," she warned.
"Helen, please," he said.
"GET OUT!" she screamed lifting the wine bottle off the coffee table in one swift motion and hitting him across the face with it. The bottle shattered, and the wine drenched his upper torso and head and spilt on the carpet.
Nikola hit the ground roughly, using one hand to hold his bleeding face. Most men would've been knocked out by a hit like that, Nikola was a bit more resistant than most. Helen turned away from him, tossing the remains of the bottle on to the floor as she fought her own angry tears.
Nikola, on the other hand wasn't angry, just hurt. He struggled to stand up looking at Helen for a brief second with one sad grey eye.
"As you wish, Helen," he managed to say and he left her office quietly.
Helen blinked back her tears. She couldn't look at him right now, not after what he'd done.
The fact that he took it without question grinded her gears, she wanted him get angry with her, she wanted him to strike back, to do anything but accept his punishment.
Her fists clenched slightly; why was he always so difficult?
On the other side of the door Nikola leaned against the wall, the pain of a '46 Bordeaux across the head washing over him.
He picked out a few shard of glass from the contusion across his cheekbone, his eye was closed up and swelling, and blood trickled from his cut ear down his neck and stained the collar of his shirt.
His lip was split and he had three cuts along his forehead, a bloody nose, and he would probably have a massive bruise covering the whole right side of his face.
He groaned as he pulled out another shard of glass, his good eye squeezing shut out of pain.
Will came running up the hall.
"I heard screaming and a loud crash is everything ok?" he asked, Nikola didn't answer.
The other two came running as well.
"What happened?" asked Kate.
"Dude, are you ok?" asked Henry, noticing how much pain Nikola was in. Neither had caught a glimpse of his face as he turned his head away from them.
"Your soaked," noted Kate.
"Is Magnus, alright?" asked Will.
"She's fine," Nikola muttered. This was hard, his whole being threatened to break down in front of them, and he wasn't going to le that happen. He turned his head to face them, all three of them gasping.
"Holy crap, dude, who did that?" cried Henry.
Nikola winced, and Kate noted the sadness is his eye, he was in pain, and it wasn't just because half his face looked like her got attacked with a cheese grater.
"I think I've overstayed my welcome," he said sadly, pushing himself off the wall. He pulled his jacket off and brought it up to his face to stem the bleeding.
The three of them watched in shock as he walked away. They looked at each other.
"I'll go help him," said Kate and followed after Nikola.
Will nodded and headed inside the office.
"Magnus!" he shouted.
She was pacing angrily.
"I just saw Tesla out there looking like he had a run in with a wild cat, what the hell?" he demanded.
"Don't talk about that bastard around me!" she shouted back.
"Magnus, if you and Nikola are going to start killing each other I would like to know so that we won't get caught in the crossfire, tell me what happened!" he repeated forcefully.
"He lied to me! His whole bloody life, he lied to me! He lied o me, and he lied to Ashley!" she cried.
"Ashley? What does she have anything to do with him, they barely met," said Will.
Helen pointed to the file lying on the coffee table.
"He is cruel! No regard for others! I WANT HIM OUT!" she cried.
Will noticed the broken, green glass lying on the floor, as well as the reddish liquid seeping into the carpet.
He picked up the file hesitantly and opened it.
"Oh my…he's the father…I though Druitt was Ashley's father," Will looked up at Helen.
"I thought so too, but apparently not!" Helen fumed.
"He ran a paternity test?" Will continued to read the data.
Helen nodded, still pacing.
"He said he always suspected but he never told me!" her fists clenched.
"Wait, how is that even possible? You two were never together…were you?"
"Once, it was a long time ago, I was upset over John, I was young, I wanted an outlet for my frustrations. I seduced him, yes, I did! His control then was so fragile, and I knew that so I exploited it, it is a regret of mine, it's probably what has torn us apart all these years. I let him believe I was drunk so nothing would become awkward between us, shortly after that I realized I was pregnant, and I was still with John at the time so I believed…"
"Most frequent visitor receives the prize?" finished Will.
"Exactly, but Nikola had ran away to New York again…oh my god, he ran away…he's been hating himself ever since because he thought he took advantage of me," in an instant all the anger drained out of her. "It is my fault, I've been doing this to him."
She noticed the broken glass and spilt wine and reality came crashing down on her.
"What have I done?" she gasped. "I am so bloody selfish!"
She felt her heart clench.
"I have to find him, do you know where he is?" Helen turned to Will.
"He's pretty banged up, Kate went to look after him, he's probably in the infirmary," said Will and Helen ran.
She made it to the elevator and paced, frustrated at herself for being so blind. All these years she had wanted him to be open wither, and he finally shares his biggest and most painful secret and she attacks him. How she could apologize for this was beyond her, but she had to try.
The elevator dinged as it reached the infirmary level and she hurriedly got off, speed walking as fast as she could till she reached the infirmary doors. She heard voices and stopped. Fear gripping her.
"Hold still, Magneto," said Kate.
"Ow," winced Nikola.
"What did this to you, man? A pissed of creature with claws?" asked Kate.
"No, a '46 bottle of Bordeaux," muttered Nikola.
"Ouch, bar fight, been there," sighed Kate. "Keep the ice going."
"This wasn't a bar fight, this was a wake up call," said Nikola.
"Wake up call? For what?" Kate continued to stitch of the gash on Nikola's cheek.
"That I'm kidding myself," he said sadly. "Staying here at the Sanctuary…it brings too many painful memories for Helen and me, this is basically a big glaring signal that we'll never be how we once were."
"I think the Doc enjoys having you here," said Kate.
"Not anymore," Nikola looked down at his hand. "I was an idiot to believe she could ever forgive me for all the hurt I've caused her.
"Look it's not your fault, what ever you did, I know the Doc cares for you, and you care about her," said Kate.
"As much as I appreciate your sentiments, you have no idea what you're talking about, this is the end of it all, the fighting, the pain, me leaving is the best thing I can can do to keep from hurting her; the least I can do is respect her wishes," Nikola sighed.
Helen's heart broke looking at him, his face ravaged by her anger. Maybe him leaving was best for both of them. At least that way she couldn't hurt him anymore either.
"But you love her," said Kate standing back from him to look at him.
"Very much so, that's why I have to leave," he winced again.
"But you'll be alone," Kate said sadly.
"I've always been alone, it's no change for me," he got up off the gurney and held the ice pack over his face. "Don't worry about me, Katie, I'll be fine. This falling out was a long time coming. But at least she knows the truth, I can live with that."
"No, she doesn't because you haven't told her what she means to you! You guys are going to stay angry at each other forever and it's not fair to either of you," Kate shouted.
Nikola looked drained, emotionally tired, and he was tired. Tired of fighting this battle with Helen. This was him giving up. It killed Helen to know that she had taken the fight right out of him.
"What are you going to do, Nikola?" asked Kate, uncharacteristically using his real name.
"What I should've done long ago, I'm going to find some place far away, somewhere remote, maybe in a place with a high frequency of electrical storms, and I'm going to stay there," he put the ice pack down and smiled softly at Kate. "Look after Helen for me, will you? And tell Henry goodbye, he's truly been one of the best assistants I have ever had."
He headed for the door.
"You probably won't be seeing me again," he said before exiting the infirmary.
Helen was already gone, escaped to her room to cry alone.
She heard the door to the front entrance of the Sanctuary open and close and she rushed to the window. It was raining as the sun fell under the horizon. Nikola held his small suitcase in one hand. He was leaving. She wanted to run out and throw her arms around him and beg him to stay. He was throwing his life away, a life that could be spent with her because of one regret, a regret that didn't even belong to him.
Helen ran as fast as she could to catch him before he was gone.
She reached the front gate, the rain instantly drenching her.
"Nikola, wait!" she called, but no answer was received. She was too late.
"Magnus!" Will called from the front door.
"He's gone!" sobbed Helen.
"Get inside before you catch pneumonia!" he came out after her and pulled her inside.
The next hour was a blur, and she found herself sitting in her room, curled up on the settee in fresh clothes and a blanket and a hot mug of tea, staring at the fireplace.
"Is this the picture you were looking for?" Will sat beside her and handed her the frame.
"Yes," she nodded. It was an old picture, truly unique in the fact that it was taken on Nikola's own apparatus. Nikola's first foray into digital camera work, but he lost interest in it and moved on to other projects, but for about three months, she and the rest of the Five were subject to Nikola's photo frenzy. And this was one of her favorites. "He said that my room was filled with the memories of the people I love, everyone I want to keep with me has a photo in my room…I knew I had this photo somewhere…why didn't I mention it?"
It was truly one of her favorite pictures; Nikola and her at the park. This must've been one of the rare moments the two of them had been alone. The camera must've been on auto, or the Nikola Tesla version of auto, because no one was operating the camera. He had his head in her lap and she was reading something, absentmindedly stroking the start of a small mustache he was trying to grow.
She loved how relaxed they were with each other, how comfortable those days of friendship had been. He was perfectly happy just to lie there with her and let the world stand still for a few minutes.
They had never been the same after she fell for John.
"This was always my favorite picture of us, I've kept it for years," she sighed.
"It's nice, you guys look like you truly enjoyed each other's company," said Will.
"Back then we did, he was my best friend, way before The Five; we were very troublesome," Helen smiled sadly. "That was along time ago."
"I'm sorry, Helen," said Will softly.
Helen felt a tear trickle down her cheek.
"How can one mistake ruin our lives forever?" she said.
"Usually it isn't just one mistake, it's the same mistake repeated over and over again," Will patted her shoulder comfortingly.
"One mistake and I've lost my best friend forever," Helen sniffled and hugged the frame close to her.
This was the only memory she had of him left. One happy memory in a lifetime of regret.