Author's Notes: While "Out of the Blue" was one of the most effing amazing character episodes I've ever seen in my life, chock full of incredible subtleties, metaphors, and insights, there were a few specific things that jumped out at me. I tried to touch on as many as I could within this story. If you have seen "Out of the Blue" as many times as I have now (Ahem) You'll realize I changed the order of John's statements at the beginning. It's called creative license ;) Warning: Angst ahoy! Please enjoy! Thank you to NoCleverSig for the fastest Beta ever.

"Clean Slate "
Copyright MajorSam, 2011

"Helen, look at you," John said. You're exhausted… alone." Helen's heart thudded painfully in her chest as each word rang true.

"Is this better than the life I'm offering?"

She looked at him but didn't know what to say.

"I'm offering you a life without boundaries. We can go anywhere, be anyone. Anything... I'll give you anything. Just not a divorce."

She looked at him sharply. He would never let her go. His return proved that, and now his words reinforced the fact. No matter how twisted and shattered their relationship became, he would never give her up. He couldn't. Could she ever let go of him? A deep weight settled in her stomach. He pushed forward the bottle of pills and the piece of folded paper.

"You need to choose your true happiness."

His voice was soft and rich. He turned and started to walk away. With every step her heart beat faster, and the sense of dread in her stomach grew overwhelming.

"Wait!" she called out. He stopped, but didn't turn around, waiting for her to continue. She suddenly had no idea what to say, unable to form the words she needed. She didn't even know what she was feeling. How could she communicate it to him? She hadn't had to talk to anyone besides her agent in a long time. The only company she had was Henry, and so long as he had a scratching post, milk, and some tuna, he was fine. No demands, no need to talk about things, no pressures. She didn't know how to talk to people anymore. All she knew was that this was a turning point in their lives, and the thought of John being finally gone, forever, was suddenly too painful to imagine.

"I want to go back to England," she finally said. She heard his breath catch ever so slightly, but still he didn't turn around.

"But not to London," she continued, words pouring from her mouth without her knowing it. "To the countryside. Just… some small cottage, somewhere. By the sea."

He was breathing deeply, she could tell by the rise and fall of his shoulders.

"I just want to be free," she whispered, unable to say anything more.

He bowed his head, and she feared he would continue his walk out the door. If he did, she wouldn't stop him. She was rooted to the spot, paralyzed. Indecision, confusion, pain, and longing swirled within her in a maelstrom of discontent. She was too tired to try to sift through it all. She didn't know if John was the right one to help her. In fact, he was probably the last one she should be turning to. He literally had taken everything of importance; her heart, soul, mind, and trust. But he was here now, and she needed someone. She hated asking for help, wouldn't directly. But if there was any vestige left of the man she once loved, she wouldn't need to speak the words; he would simply know.

After several moments of aching fear, John took a breath and slowly turned around. They both stood still, gazing into each other's eyes, trying to figure out what the other was thinking.

"I'll take you anywhere," he said, his voice so quiet she could barely hear him.

The pain in her chest grew tighter, and she could barely breathe. A few of the tears that she'd been fighting since he'd arrived finally escaped down her cheeks. His face crumpled at the sight, and he walked towards her. Her first instinct was to back away from him, and she winced, steeling herself, holding her ground. He approached her cautiously, as one would a wild animal, set to flee. When she didn't move, he brought his hand up and gently touched her cheek. His thumb caressed her, wiping away her tears, and a tiny sob escaped her. Damn this man! How could she hate him, yet love him so much?

"It will never be the same as before." She finally found her voice, but it was small, timid. She hated what she'd become. She'd been pulling away from people for so long, she barely knew how to talk to anyone anymore, never mind interact on such a personal level.

"I know," he assured her. "We'll make it better."

She had no energy to argue, and when he tentatively moved his arm to wrap it around her, she let him. Encompassed in his arms, pressed against his soft, warm chest, she breathed a sigh of relief, and felt that maybe, just maybe, he could be what she needed to get her life back on track.

Helen lost herself in John's arms, allowing herself to truly relax for the first time in months, if not years. He held her as her breathing evened out, and her body melted into his. She'd fallen asleep; a true testament to her bone-deep exhaustion. He gently picked her up, walked over to the couch, and laid her down. Picking up the soft blanket draped over the side, he placed it over her, tucking in the edges. He then sat down on the plush love seat, sinking into the deep cushion. He sat perfectly still, watching her, drinking in the sight of her peaceful slumber.

John knew their failed marriage was his fault. Despite what Helen may think, he thought about it every day and hated himself for it. He'd known at the time, to a degree, that he'd been pulling away from her, becoming obsessed. Every day he would think, "Just a few hours and then I'll go home." But then one day turned into another, and another, and soon he'd barely seen her for weeks. She had tried to talk to him about it, spend time with him, but he'd shut her out. She'd planned walks, visits to galleries, even cooked special dinners. She even tried to become involved with the case to get him to discuss it with her so that she could help him, but he ignored her. "You wouldn't understand," he claimed, and took to hiding the case documents. For a time he'd convinced himself that the murders involved were simply too horrific for her to know the details of, and that he was merely protecting her from the horrors of The Ripper.

When John thought back on it now, he could scarcely believe himself. Helen was the strongest woman, no, person, he'd ever known. Whatever front she put on of being a sensitive, bohemian artist was only that, a front. Beneath the surface was a passionate, fierce human being. John felt the urge to laugh. If he'd let her, she probably would have helped him solve the case months ago. Their whole, cracked relationship could have been saved if only he'd let her help him. He prayed it wasn't too late.

With a sigh he stood up and walked to the kitchen, needing a glass of water to soothe his dry throat. Opening the cupboard, he was glad to see the kitchenware still arranged as he remembered. He turned on the tap, letting it run for a few moments to cool down and looked out the large window. He could see the house across the street, and wondered at the new neighbours. The couple had moved in not quite a year earlier. He'd already been mostly vacant from the house and had never met them. He winced as sunlight hit a spot on Helen's car and reflected into his eyes. The sun shone in a mockery of the darkness inside the house. He was surprised she hadn't put up curtains. She had cut herself off from the world in every other way. Why would she leave her home still so exposed? Perhaps it was a façade, a dare to any outsider to claim she was a recluse. When they were first married, she'd been as open, free, and exposed as the windows. They'd chosen this house, their home, almost 20 years before. The layout was perfect for Helen to have a studio with abundant natural light. There was lush greenery all around to inspire her. There were several rooms to fill full of laughing children. A top-rated school was only a 10 minute drive away…

John shook his head, cursing himself. They'd given up on that life years ago, after Helen's third miscarriage. The experience had torn too much at their souls, at her soul. He couldn't ask her to go through it again no matter how desperately he wanted to keep trying. He couldn't hold a grudge for that. Well, he tried not to. He picked up his glass and filled it with water, taking a long, cleansing sip. He turned around to glance at Helen again and saw her pill case. His grip tightened on the glass, and rage swelled within him.

He'd thought she was better. He'd been the one to go to the doctor about Helen's problems. Initially, he'd dismissed her behavior as temporary depression after the last miscarriage. When she continued to degrade, he'd had enough. John went to his doctor and pretended he was the one with the insomnia, anxiety, nightmares, and mood swings. He'd picked up his prescription for Lorazepam and confronted her. She'd been outraged, and an incredible fight had ensued. She slept on the couch for the first time that night, refusing to enter their bedroom. When he woke the next morning, he berated himself quite thoroughly and went downstairs to dispose of the pills. He found the bottle, open, beside a glass of water. Helen was sleeping more peacefully on the couch than she had with him for months.

He'd made breakfast for her, a touch concerned when she continued to sleep so deeply. He decided she was just catching up on much needed rest. When the office called and said they'd found a new piece of evidence, he only thought about staying home for a moment. Throughout the day, the thought of talking to her about the pills drifted further and further from his mind. When he got home that night, he'd been too tired to think about it. He barely noticed she slept on the couch again. A few nights later, she was back in their bed, and he'd felt hopeful. He wrapped his arms around her and held her close, promising her they would do something together, very soon.

They never did.

Helen told him in passing that the prescription had run out. He was working from his home computer and didn't realize she was asking him for more, admitting that they had helped. She silently walked out the door. For a few months she was fine, recharged by the sleep she'd caught up on. She'd painted some of her best work, and to everyone around them, they looked like a perfectly happy couple. Then the nightmares came back. She started to pull away, and he let her. Cases like this one, the Old City Ripper, could take years to wrap up. He'd known that going in, and so had she.

Eventually, Helen went to her own doctor and admitted her issues, garnering an on-going prescription for Lorazepam. "Only when you really need it," the doctor cautioned. "Of course," she replied. She'd meant it, at first. She only needed one every few days, to catch up on some sleep. Once in a while became every other day. Then every day. Soon she couldn't even think about sleeping without the help of her little, white friend.

Helen stayed in their bed still, but John didn't know that while he was away at work, she would take her pills and fall asleep on the couch. He didn't know that the pills caused dizziness, a shift in balance, and that she sometimes knocked over chairs, or dropped her paint brushes. When she had large bruises on her hip and shoulder, she said she'd fallen while out running. He didn't know she'd passed out and lain still, unconscious, for almost an hour in the middle of the kitchen after collapsing and hitting her head on the granite island countertop. He hadn't been able to see the bruise through her dark hair. She went back to sleeping on the couch after that. The final straw had been just over a year ago. He'd come home from work to see her sleeping, wrapped up in the soft blanket her mother had made. He was used to the sight, and thought nothing of it, setting out things to make dinner. When it was ready, he went to wake her.

She didn't wake up.

He looked at the little orange bottle, open and tipped on its side. There were only a few pills left. She'd picked up the new batch only three days before. A sick dread settled in his stomach, and he grasped her arm, shaking her.

"Helen," he called, louder each time. He shook her harder, but her body was limp, her skin cool. He fumbled to grab her wrist, fingers shaking as he checked her pulse. He found it, and his heart started to beat again. It was slow, sluggish, but it was there. He grabbed both of her shoulders in his strong grip, pulling her upright and shaking her fiercely. Her head lolled about on her neck, her mouth hanging slightly open.

"HELEN!" he roared. Her body jerked, and her eyes flew open, gasping. Her arms instinctively flew up to hit him away, but she was weak and disoriented. Her eyes were glazed and rolled about in their sockets, unfocused. She tried to talk to him, but her words were garbled. He gathered her up in her arms and carried her to the car, kicking and protesting the whole time. He started to drive, and she passed out again. She didn't see the tears that streamed down his face, or his hands, white knuckled on the steering wheel as he navigated through the night.

She woke up in the hospital with John by her side, holding her hand. She looked at it, then at him, and pulled her hand away. The next time she woke, he wasn't there. When she was released, she took a cab home but was shocked to see him there, waiting for her, fingering the innocuous, plastic bottle that had almost ended her life.

"I'm not suicidal," she stated.

A whisper of a smile crossed his face.

"I know."

She regarded him, dressed in a crisp suit, his shoulders tense.

"I'd like you to leave," she asked quietly. His shoulders slumped, and he nodded, resigned. He stood and reached beside the couch, picking up the suitcase she hadn't seen. He walked straight to the door, pausing only for a second beside her.

"I'm sorry," he answered, and walked out without a fight.

That night instead of pills, she cried herself to sleep.

Some of this John knew and some he didn't, but dark thoughts continued to well up in his mind as he came back to the present, staring at the little bottle of pills sitting so innocently before him. Her right arm had shaken when he pushed them back towards her, along with his letter of resignation. Whether from the urge to push the bottle away, or the need to take more, he didn't know. John looked over at Helen's sleeping form and wondered how many she had taken today, and if she would be waking up anytime soon. She slept soundly on. He took a few minutes to look at her paintings again. A clean slate, new ideas. She was finally trying to move on, get her life back, and here he was, demanding she give that up and take him back. He was a selfish bastard. He hated himself, but good lord he couldn't help it. He needed her.

Two hours later, and John's concern was growing. He hadn't tried to wake her, too afraid of a repeat of the last time he'd done so. Finally he gave up, needing to see her blue eyes again, needing to talk to her, touch her. He went to the couch and kneeled down beside her.

"Helen," he said softly. Much to his surprise and relief, his voice and gaze seemed to penetrate her, even while sleeping.

She woke up with goosebumps, confused for a moment, shaking off the feeling that she'd just been somewhere else. She heard a light cough and opened her eyes to see John, close. She breathed in, smelling the musky citrus that was him. She closed her eyes, and shook her head, sitting up, unraveling herself from the blanket, acknowledging that he'd wrapped her in it. Taking a deep breath she stood, moving to her… their, kitchen. He followed. She looked out the window at the setting sun.

"Water?" he offered after a few moments of awkward silence. She nodded, and he took a step towards the cupboard, but she picked up the glass he'd left on the island and took a sip from it instead. He tried to hide his smile. Neither of them knew what to say.

"So… England?" John said, taking the leap. She nodded.

"When would you like to leave?"

"Tomorrow," she answered immediately, taking him aback. He wasn't sure if she'd thought about this or was flying by her coattails. She usually planned things out, but her paintings showed she could also live in the moment, be purely spontaneous.

"I'll purchase the tickets." He started to walk to their home office, intent on booking the flights right then and printing them off so that he could have hard, written proof, a solid commitment from both of them, to do this thing together. As his tall form moved away, Helen felt that irrational panic return.

"No!" she cried, louder than she'd intended. He stopped and turned around, frowning. Her mouth bobbed open and closed, at a loss for how to explain to him that she just needed him right now, close to her. He'd been gone for so long that she almost feared she was hallucinating, and if he left her sight, he'd disappear again, truly forgetting her. He sensed her unease, and came back. She reached out and grabbed his sleeve. He looked down at her clenched fingers, then back up to her, amused.

"I'm not going anywhere, Helen. Not this time."

She nodded, but didn't look convinced. He moved in closer, bringing his free arm up, brushing a bit of hair from her cheek.

"I really have changed," he promised. She wanted so badly to believe him.

John saw the doubt clouding her eyes and knew words would have no effect on her. The hand on her cheek spread out, cupping her face. Her breathing became shallow, and she shivered at his skin on hers. He leaned in very slowly, giving her ample time to push him away. His lips touched hers, barely there, and her hand went to his chest, but she didn't push. She curled her fingers into the crisp shirt, holding him firmly in place. He pulled back after only a second, his eyes boring into hers, asking for her final consent. She breathed deeply, closed her eyes, and waited. His lips pressed against hers again, and she was lost.

The kiss stayed light, tentative, for several minutes. Neither wanted to be the one to push and scare the other away. They simply reveled in being close again, relearning one another's lips. Helen eventually let go of her grip on his arm, sliding her hand up along his firm shoulder to curve around his neck. His newly freed arm slipped underneath her thick sweater, lingering in the curve of her waist before sliding around her back, bringing her closer to him. Her hand clasping the front of his shirt relaxed, smoothing his shirt and coming to rest over his heart. It jumped at the warmth of her hand, and his mouth opened to breathe in. Helen's tongue slipped inside instead, and he decided he didn't need air. He could live on her taste alone. She was sweet and soft, yet spicy and addictive. In a rush, he remembered the early days of their romance, and the blissful happiness they'd felt. He hadn't lied. He would do anything to get that back. His hand trailed from her face to bury itself in her thick, lush hair, so soft and smooth.

Helen's grip tightened on his neck, her thoughts running parallel to John's. His hard body was flush against hers, pushing away her fears and doubts. She tried to think of something to say, knowing they needed to talk, but her mind was becoming increasingly cloudy. And not in the same way the Lorazepam took her away. This was so much sweeter. Her hand moved from his chest to wrap around him, needing him closer, and he tightened his grip around her waist. Their lips molded together like they were meant for each other, softly dueling tongues forcing the others mouth wider, pushing deeper in.

Helen's knees were starting to shake, going weak with the intense emotional and physical response to her husband. He held her upright, crushed against his body, stumbling around a few steps until she felt the hard, granite countertop press into her back. She gasped at the rough contact, and he swallowed her tongue even deeper, morphing the gasp into a moan. He pulled his hand from her hair, running it all the way down her back to her jeans-clad bottom. The tight grey material was thin, conforming itself to her body like it was barely there. From the moment he'd walked into the house and seen her, he'd wanted to peel them off. For now, he contented himself with running his hands over her, squeezing her, causing little hitches in her breath that he couldn't get enough of.

Helen involuntarily thrust against him, his hands on her backside driving her crazy, and he groaned. He gripped her tighter and suddenly pulled upright, picking her clean off the floor and depositing her on the island then moving his hands to her waist. Her legs spread and he pushed between them, never taking his mouth off of hers. She wrapped her legs around him and this time he thrust forward, both of them groaning in unison. His hands skimmed up her sides to grasp at the edges of her sweater.

He'd noticed her wrapping it around herself when he'd arrived. She'd done that a year ago, too. Wrapping herself in its comfort, shielding herself, using it as a barrier to the outside world. He'd bought it for her when they'd gone on a ski trip to Whistler, in British Columbia. It had been an unexpectedly cold few days, and she'd wanted something warm and comforting to wear inside. He found it ironic that she now used his own gift as a shield against him. He gripped the edges of it and pushed it backwards. Her arms left him willingly as he pushed the sweater off. She was already starting to sweat, his touch igniting her, and she was grateful to shed it. As cool air hit the bared skin of her arms, she suddenly needed to get rid of more, feel more air, more John.

Her own hands left him and fell to the bottom of her shirt, shaking with adrenaline as she wrenched it over her head. His hands hit her bare back and her body jumped with the contact, shirt dropping to the island from useless fingers. It dropped onto the water glass, knocking it over. It clunked against the granite, the sound ringing clearly through the heated breaths and blood pumping through their brains. They froze. Helen felt a cool wetness against her bum, and with a sound of distaste jumped off the counter, forcing John to take a step back. He still didn't let go of her, and she had her arms on him again.

Their breaths hit the others' faces as they sucked in air, realizing how much they'd been lacking oxygen. Their thoughts slowly gained a semblance of order, and Helen blushed. She looked over John's shoulder and through the window to the Zimmerman house. A curtain shifted, and she hoped to god no one had seen them, shamelessly making out in her very exposed kitchen. She looked down at herself, and her blush deepened. She was shirtless, for god's sake! She looked up and saw that John's eyes had followed hers, and he was smirking. Her gut instinct was to be mad at him, but as he stared at her, his eyes dark, passionate, loving, her anger faded. She'd been alone for so long… long before he'd physically moved out. It felt so good to be wanted again.

She licked her lips, trying to calm her heaving chest. He finally looked back up at her, the fading sunlight glowing in her wide, blue eyes. He opened his mouth to speak, but her gaze did funny things to his mind and as usual he didn't say what he wanted to.

"Your trousers are wet," he said. She couldn't but laugh at the unexpected comment.

"Yes, they are."

They continued to stare.

"You should change out of them."

A perfectly logical statement that sent shivers down her spine. She felt she was at another crossroads. Did she dare step over the line? Looking up into his deep eyes, she knew.

"Help me," she breathed. They both knew she didn't just mean with her pants. She was finally asking for help, as she hadn't been able to for years. Their marriage had crumbled while his work and her stubborn pride had let it. She was finally realizing she didn't have to, couldn't, live her life alone, cut off from the rest of the world. She needed help, and she prayed she wasn't making a mistake letting John back in.

"I always will," he replied. She bit her lip and fought new tears. "I love you, Helen," he continued. "For all eternity."

The world suddenly shifted around her, shaking, white noise scratching in her ears. She saw herself standing outside a large door, John in front of her, looking forlorn. She was in a carriage with long, blonde hair, and John was holding her hand. She was in a tub, the world was blue and black, bright lights blinded her, and water lapped at her sides. Her vision cleared, and she shook her head, frowning, suddenly tense. John's hand was on her face, holding her steady, looking worriedly on.

"Are you alright?" he questioned, having no idea what had just happened.

"I… I'm fine," she assured him weakly. She didn't want to tell him of the most recent issue that had arisen in her life. She didn't want to think about the confusing symbols, or why her neighbor kept appearing in the eerie visions alongside her.

"Do you need to lie down?" He was worried she was still feeling the effects of her latest self-dosing. She looked him straight in the eye.

"I want to lie down with you."

He gulped, blood rushing south, hoping she meant what he thought she did. She put any doubts to rest by leaning forward and capturing his lips, kissing him hard for just a moment before pulling back. He grabbed her hand in a tight grip and set off towards their bedroom, dragging her until she caught her feet and ran to catch up. The door was open when they got there, and they stumbled towards the bed, hands fumbling at zippers and buttons, focused solely on finding more skin. Helen had managed to get John's tie and coat off in the hallway, while he had stumbled out of his shoes and unfastened her jewelry. Helen ended up ripping the final buttons on his shirt to get it off him before her foot hit the side of the bed. John felt the shudder of impact run through her body and effortlessly picked her up, carrying her over the edge of the bed before throwing her down and climbing onto the mattress himself. The light in his eyes as he looked down at her was feral, and her heart beat wildly with anticipation. He dived down to meet her lips, but she moved to the side, throwing him off of her. He growled and moved to grab, her but she rolled away and off the bed, half running to the windows to draw the curtains closed. It was the first time she'd closed them in months.

When Helen was done, she turned back to him, lit only by the light of the moon that had risen, peeking through the edges of the blind. Her long, dark hair rested in waves across her shoulders, highlighting her pale skin. Her bra was grey, a simple material, but was edged with a trim of lace. His gaze raked down her taut stomach to the edge of her tight jeans. He'd gotten the button and zipper open, and could tell her panties matched. His own pants were growing uncomfortable, and her mouth quirked up in a grin when he shifted, trying to ease the pressure. She bent forwards, and his mouth fell open. She made sure to take off her knee-high boots slowly, the grinding of the zipper echoing in the silence of the room. She let them fall to the side and quickly dealt with her socks, flicking them playfully aside.

Outside the windows and across the street, Will Zimmerman glanced out of his bedroom towards his mysterious neighbour's house. He frowned. The curtains were closed. Not once in the time he'd lived here had he seen her curtains closed. He looked down and saw a second car parked in her driveway. He'd never seen that either. He suddenly felt upset, empty, though he didn't know why. He'd just thought he'd made some kind of… connection with her, lately. It was as though he'd been on the cusp of discovering something about her that would somehow help him understand the nightmares he'd been having. He heard Abby call his name from the bathroom and sighed. He was probably just imagining things. Maybe he was just scared about the baby and looking for a way out. He should be ashamed. He turned away from the window. He wouldn't bother Helen anymore.

In her bedroom, Helen wiggled her toes, enjoying the sensation of the soft carpet on naked feet. She walked towards the bed, deliberately slow. John scrambled to get out of his trousers before she arrived. Her eyes were predatory as she climbed onto the bed on hands and knees, slinking towards him. He stared, transfixed, as she moved above him, brushing his thighs with her legs, planting her hands on either side of his head. To him, she was a sultry goddess, strong and confident. In truth, she was terrified. She hadn't done this in so long, she didn't know if she could. She'd lost confidence in so many aspects of herself, but this was one of the most beguiling. Physical contact… She'd attempted one date after he'd left, which had been so disastrous they hadn't even made it through dinner. She'd stayed fit, but her eating habits had slipped. She was often too wrapped up in her work, or her own introspection, to remember to eat. Did she still look in shape, or was she too skinny? Was he attracted to her at all anymore? She quelled these concerns as best she could. She'd gotten herself into this situation, and she would follow through with it. She took a deep breath, ready to fake confidence until it returned.

Helen grinned, her eyes smoky and half lidded, and leaned into John, capturing his bottom lip between her teeth and tugging. He moved his arms, intending to continue de-clothing her, but she grabbed his hands and forced them back to the bed, giving him a sharp look. He railed at the command, but nodded, tersely. He'd been the cause of her addiction to medication. It was his fault she'd lost control of her life, mind, and body. She needed to take that control back. He lay pliant beneath her, and she felt her heart soften against her will. She wanted to punish him, scream at him, demand he fix everything he'd broken, but she didn't. She knew that somewhere, deep inside, she should have worked harder. She should have been able to bring him back while she still could. She should have seen his obsession with the Ripper sooner. At the beginning of the case she'd already been married to him for almost two decades and hadn't been able to accept the truth that she was losing him. They were both guilty.

John witnessed the shadows crossing her delicate features as thoughts raced through her mind. He knew she needed control, but perhaps for tonight, he could help her relax, prepare her for the time when she was in power once again. He eased himself up into a sitting position, knees pressed together between her thighs, a posture of prostration. He held her eyes, making sure this was ok, and she nodded. He let his gaze travel down her body to the band of her jeans. He skimmed his fingers across the skin above, making her shiver and tilt her head to the side, closing her eyes. He leaned in and brushed her exposed skin of her neck with his lips, eliciting a ragged breath from her. He trailed light kisses up and down, from her collarbone to behind her ear, as he ran his hands over her bottom and down her outer thighs. He really did love those jeans.

He put pressure on the backs of her legs, encouraging her to sit up on her knees. This brought her chest to his eye level, but he ignored it, focusing on slipping his fingers into her pants, coaxing it away from her skin, and peeling it down. Creamy, soft skin was revealed as he reverently stripped her. When he got to her knees, she lay down on her back, head at the foot of the bed, and stretched a leg over his head to join the other by his side, allowing him to pull the jeans the rest of the way off. He flung them aside then brought his hands back to her feet, massaging them gently for a moment. She let her mouth fall open and her eyes roll back, pressing her thighs together. John noticed the gesture and stopped, shifting his hands to glide up the expanse of her long legs, delighted to find them smooth and silky. Whatever lifestyle she'd fallen into, she at least still cared for some aspects of her physical self. He reached the edge of her lace panties and fingered the sides. Her hips shifted, trying to get him to move inwards. John briefly wondered why she would wear such fine underthings, who she was wearing them for, but quickly quelled his jealous thoughts. Helen had always liked to wear nice things. Even if she had been with other men in the time he'd been gone, he didn't want to know about it.

John leaned forward so his face hovered right above her center. His hot breath washed over her, and her primal instincts responded, sending wet heat rushing through her core. He breathed in deeply, smelling her through the flimsy barrier, and his mouth watered. He grit his teeth and moved past that temptation, the tip of his nose, the edge of his lips skimming over her stomach as he travelled up her body. He paused again at her bra, and brought a hand up to skirt the top edge of the lace. His eyes flicked up to hers. He couldn't clearly read her expression, but he knew there was desire. His attention returned to her chest as he took a breast in his hand, squeezing it. He kneaded and rolled it, feeling her nipple tighten beneath the material, seeing it peek at the fringe of lace as he worked her, begging to be let free. He looked up at Helen as he took the lace between his fingertips and slowly pulled down, releasing her breast. He kept his eyes on hers as he found her nipple, stroking it softly before gathering it up and rolling it between his fingers. Her eyes creased and she bit her lip, not daring to break the connection between their eyes. He lowered his head down and laid a gentle kiss on her soft skin. She breathed out.

He tore his gaze away from her beautiful face to look at her... All of her. He drank in the sight of her full breast, pale skin topped with rosy pink nipple, fully erect from his touch. He kissed her again, and again, taking the bud between his lips then finally allowing his tongue to reach out and taste her. Her hands moved to grip his head, pulling him into her, gently massaging as he sucked on her. He skimmed his teeth over the sensitive skin, nibbling, biting, then soothing with his tongue. After a time he pulled the cup down from her other breast and gave it the same treatment. By this time she'd wrapped her legs around him, her center throbbing with need as she made little mewling noises every time he bit her. She didn't tell him to stop, to take off the rest of his clothes so she could have him inside of her once again. She was afraid if she spoke she would break the spell and he would leave, or she would wake up, and find this was just a dream.

She spoke to him instead with her body, arching her hips so that she came in contact with his boxers, and the hardness beneath. He shuddered, biting down a bit harder and she tensed. He'd always had a dark side. He felt her body stiffen and pulled back, mortified that he'd hurt her. He opened his mouth to apologize but she brought a finger to his lips.


She gently rocked against his hips again, and he knew what she wanted. He took his hands in hers and pulled her upright. Her breasts hit his chest and he could feel the wetness of his mouth on her. He held her tight and twisted them, turning so that she lay down again, but with her head on the pillows by the headboard. He reached out to her shoulders, sliding the straps of her bra down her arms before reaching behind her to unclasp it. He pulled it away and wondered how he'd survived so long without the sight of her naked before him. He remembered he was sitting on her hips and slid down, revealing the dark panties she still wore. He paused when his hand reached them, and he looked at her. She thought for a moment, and then smiled, nodding, remembering what John liked. He grinned in thanks and grasped the material. With a sharp tug they ripped off cleanly into his hand. He resisted the urge to smell them, knowing he would be at the source soon enough. He tossed them aside to join the rest of their scattered clothing and made quick work of his boxers, baring himself to her as well. He hoped he was as she remembered, as she wanted. She stared at him, and his ego swelled.

Helen reached out to touch him, but he gripped her thighs and pushed himself down her body before she could reach him. He pushed her legs apart and they shook with need. He leaned in and kissed her leg, working his way up until he almost hit her center, before moving to the other leg. He finally came to rest right above her, feeling the heat she exuded. He pushed her further open and tasted her for the first time in a year. They had made love the night before her near death experience but not once since.

Her mind was awash with pleasure as John's lips moved over her, his tongue reaching out to play with her folds, gathering her juices, sliding wetly over her. He dipped his tongue inside and she moaned, hands reaching out beside her head to grasp the pillow's edge. After a few minutes she frowned, realizing this was not what she wanted.

"John," she called to him, breaking his concentration. He looked up at her, concerned, with her arousal glistening around his mouth.

"I don't want that tonight," she told him. "I just want… you. Only you." Her voice was near breaking at the end, still feeling fragile, unbalanced. He bit his lip to keep from smiling at her words, his heart thumping, nodding silently and moving up her body. He gave into the urge to suck at her nipples one final time as he made his way up to her mouth. She could still taste herself on his lips when he kissed her, gripping the pillow even tighter as his hands moved over her naked torso. She finally let go of the pillow and touched him, mapping out the skin of his back, feeling the coiled muscles that she'd missed so dearly. Their kiss was heated, deep, passionate, and soon John couldn't hold himself above her anymore. His elbows wavered and he dropped down, catching himself before he fell on her, but not before his hard arousal brushed against her juicy center. They both gasped and knew it was time.

Their hips moved in unison, positioning themselves correctly, both of them relieved at the physical memory they'd retained of one another. John gripped Helen's hips and let her touch him, long fingers grasping his manhood, guiding him to her. He slid in with little issue, grunting at her tightness, thankful she was so wet. He felt like he'd finally come home. They held each other's eyes as he set up a rhythm, thrusting solidly in and out. He expanded within her, her snug heat driving him wild, spurring him on, faster, harder. Her legs were up around his back, and she was holding onto his shoulders as if she'd never let him go. They kissed, grew dizzy with lack of air, pulled apart to breath in once, then kissed again.

She dug her heels into his back, demanding more, and he moved a hand across her slick, sweaty hip to between her legs, instantly finding her clit. She cried out when he touched her, spasming around him. He rubbed against her, rolling her underneath his thumb, plucking at her with his fingers, and a constant stream of noise erupted from her. Her back arched and he watched her perfect face scrunch tight as she came. He pounded into her, hitting her womb with every fierce thrust and she might have sobbed at the increase in pressure. Sweat covered him, his heart racing, and blood rushed through his veins as he sought release. Helen sensed his need and put her hands on his chest, pinching his small nipples. He cursed, and she pinched again. The bed shook as he took her, and in a sudden fit of inspiration, he let his hand return to her clit. He pinched hard, and she let out a small scream as she found herself coming again, even harder. Her tight channel rippled around him, squeezing, and he let go, his essence bursting forth to fill her.

They shook together in the aftermath, holding each other's burning bodies, fitting together like two halves of a puzzle. When he finally grew soft within her, they shifted. He pulled out of her and gathered her in his arms, rolling them to the side. He pressed against her, his chest to her back, arms wrapped around her, hand brushing across her stomach. He kissed her shoulder, her neck, and she squeezed his hand. Neither of them spoke. What would they say? They'd said everything they could, for now, with their bodies. Helen knew they had to talk, and the path they'd chosen would be fraught with trouble. There would be heated arguments, anger, bitterness, and regrets. But for the first time in years, she believed they might actually be able to make it to the other side. She'd finally get the help she needed, and so would he.

John was her true happiness. Helen fell asleep with a smile on her face and hope in her heart.

She woke up in a tank full of water. Cameras, bright lights, and blurry faces glared harshly at her. Her body jerked violently, and water splashed over the sides. Her head pounded, and her body was sluggish and weak. Voices shouted at her, lilting, loud then soft, and her thrashing grew more pronounced. Hands closed around her limbs with harsh, unforgiving grips, forcing her down. She coughed, spitting out water, trying to clear her lungs. After several moments of struggling, she found herself too weak to fight, and let herself go limp. The hands let go of her, and she opened her eyes, channeling her energy into focusing on the blurry face in front of her.

Dr. Zimmerman?

"Magnus," he called.

What the hell? Magnus was her maiden name. How on earth could he know it?

"Magnus," he called again, "You need to calm down, please!"

His voice was urgent, distressed, and she sensed she should listen to him. She forced her breathing to even out. Sounds were becoming clear, and the haze in front of her eyes was fading.

"Will," she croaked. He smiled widely.

"Yeah, Magnus, it's me!"

"How do you know my maiden name?" she asked. His smile instantly vanished.

"Magnus, how old are you?" he asked.

"What?" she breathed. What kind of question was that? "I'm 42."

She heard a cacophony of voices and moved her head. Several people were standing behind her tank. She frowned, growing restless again, and moved to sit up. Will quickly grabbed her arm and helped her.

"What's going on? Where am I?"

She looked around at this familiar place. With a jolt, she remembered her dreams, her nightmares, the sense of wrong that she'd been feeling the last few days, the surreal quality of her life. An icy hand gripped her heart, and she couldn't breathe.

Oh god, please no…

Magnus turned around and looked at the people standing there.

Henry. Kate. Virgil.

With a rush she remembered who she was, how old she was, everything. She was Helen Magnus, not Druitt. Her stomach twisted, and hot tears escaped unbidden down her cheeks, masked by the water of the tub.

She could still feel his touch, taste his lips, hear his breath. She felt the hope she'd so cautiously accepted be crushed into oblivion. They were asking her questions, but she couldn't answer, couldn't speak at all. Her body moved on instinct, numb, as she stood and stepped out of the tank. Someone handed her a large towel that she mechanically wrapped around herself, wishing she had her soft, warm sweater.

Will was explaining something to her, the reason she'd been in the tank.

"…So they kept us sedated in our little 'dream worlds' until the healing was complete. I'd known something was wrong with our little suburban haven, but decided to let things play out. I just knew, somehow, that everything would be fine. I went to bed one night and woke up here!"

She nodded, not looking into his eyes. Virgil took up the next part of the story.

"When we tried to wake you up, we had a little trouble," his voice was arrogant, but laced with respect. "You've been trying to escape for most of the three days, and thanks a lot, by the way, for trying to kill my doctors, but in the last few hours you just went blank. Like you were sleeping really deeply or in a coma or something. You totally gave into the sedative. Too bad you couldn't have been like that from day one!"

If she'd given in and accepted her 'dream world' maybe she could have had a few more days, even a few more hours, with John.

Helen found herself walking with the group up a flight of stairs into a messy room. One of the walls shifted to the side to reveal a giant worm-type creature. She should have been interested, even fascinated. She nodded her head when appropriate, but couldn't muster enough enthusiasm to respond. There was a black hole in her chest, eating away at her insides, sucking out any trace of love, hope, happiness. The idea of a life-long companion, someone who would love her, for all eternity. A few key words filtered through her fuzzy mind, and then there was silence. She started and looked around. So many faces looked at her, demanding her attention, expecting her to have all the answers, to come up with a plan to save them all from this life and death situation. She said something about getting back to the Sanctuary. They all nodded their heads eagerly, pleased with her seemingly strong voice. They didn't know that inside she was empty.

They filed out of the room, Magnus being the last to exit. She paused in the doorway before passing through. Back to her old home, her old profession, her old life.

Back to being alone.

The End

Are we all feeling suitably happy by now? *cackle* Sorry… I've talked to many people about this episode, and the things we wanted to know more about. Did I touch on anything YOU guys thought about/wondered at? Please let me know if I did, or rage at me for what I missed :p Also: I made references to at least two other Sanctuary eps, and one of my favourite classic scifi books/movie… did you catch them? ;) Thank you for reading, MSam