Nikola watched Helen carefully as she bargained for their room in Khartoum. He wondered just what she felt after their escapades, and the version he could ask was no doubt thousands of miles away and would look back on the events with a hundred and twelve years of addition experiences in the way.
Nikola wondered if this was the moment when he'd won her? If somehow, in all his double dealing, all the carefully constructed lies and shields and the longing glances that he swore he'd kept to a minimum, if somehow it was today that Helen Magnus had fallen in love with him. The bright fire in her eyes, her desperate fight for his life, the possessive flare against that idiotic queen in the tacky dress, the laughter in her eyes when they'd won through and escaped the blast.
How could he hide everything from a Helen who loved him back?
It didn't help that he was hungry. He'd been mortal for an uncomfortable six months, though his wife had assured him it would be resolved to his satisfaction, she'd given him not a jot of details about this day. Now the blood lust was flaring through him hot and hard, and there was no one that was more delicious than Helen Magnus.
She practically pulled him into the room, and he hadn't missed that she told the wizened hotel manager that they were husband and wife. She'd used the ruse often enough in the 1920's, but now he felt she just might not want him to sleep on the floor. And he wasn't sure if he could deny her, not when the desire was so strong, not when he'd not held her in his arms for far too long.
He stood in the middle of the floor, trying not to look at the comfort of the cream sheets on the serviceable bed, trying not to think of Helen laying there, tempting him, begging him to fuck her until she screamed.
"Nikola," she whispered, as though his name were a revelation. He closed his eyes and tried to think of Plank's equations, Edison's idiocy, or the three hundredth digit of the Fibonacci series, anything but the wonder in Helen's voice.
She stepped closer, her cheek laid bare against his shoulder, the heat of her calling to him, begging him to taste. He could smell the blood pounding through her, hear the rapidity of her heartbeat, scent the subtle beginning of arousal like the most alluringly addictive drug ever known.
"Nikola, you must be hungry." Her voice was pure sex, just as he remembered. It spoke of a thousand promises that he knew could be fulfilled past his wildest dreams.
"Helen, we're both tired. Perhaps I can find another room and we can both rest. In the morning…"
She spun him around, looking into his eyes and seeing the fear, and the desire. He couldn't hide from her, not like this, not so close. "I won't change my mind, Nikola. I want…"
He pulled her into a kiss, taking her mouth with all the passions he'd suppressed for long lonely months in her presence, pouring all the love he'd felt over a lifetime, since the very moment he'd spoken of on the edge of death, when she walked into a classroom in a crimson dress and sent all of Oxford reeling. All lips and teeth and the taste of her, finer than all the wine on the planet, in this time or any other. He broke away, seeing those eyes full of desire and blatant need and the love she'd not even given voice to.
"I love you Helen. Remember that I was missing for sixty years. Look for me when you know how."
He spun on his heel and strode out the door before she could gather her wits, and he began running before she could follow, embracing the speed he held once again, the impossible vitality of being a vampire.
He stopped under a rickety overpass, his hands on his shins as he regained his breath, the shadows lit only from a flickering streetlamp that had seen half a century of life. The cars and jitney buses creaking across the bridge over his head distracted him from the sound of his pulse in his ears.
"I was so very angry with you, Nikola. I think I broke every breakable thing in that room. They'll never let me back in that establishment."
He reared back to his feet, his eyes black and fully alert, and his wife walked toward him out of the darkness, so similar and so different from the woman he'd just left high and dry in the hotel room. She'd grown her hair and dyed it the right deep shade of brown, and found a leather coat very near to the one that Helen favored in the last few months. Perhaps she'd even bought it in the same place, making sure to avoid her counterpart of course. The last hundred and twelve years had been her avoiding her counterpart, and teaching him how very important that was.
"Why didn't you tell me about Afina?"
"You haven't seen me in months, and that's what you have to ask? No attacking me with kisses and giving me love bites that last for weeks?"
"Soon enough, ljubavi. But I want to know why…"
"You've done everything perfectly Nikola. You've played the hardest role possible, and won through every possible situation. I'm sorry, but reliving your near death was too difficult, and I was terrified that if I told you how close you came to dying, that you would somehow actually die this time. I was actually outside the cave with Ashley, ready and waiting to transport you to a hospital for emergency surgery. I can't lose you, timeline be damned!"
"That I can understand, but did you really think I would fall for Afina? She was ridiculous!"
Helen laughed, and dear God had he missed that beautiful, vibrant laugh. His Helen was so much more open, so much less weighed down with life, despite the vast intricacies of her long journey toward this moment. He'd missed the sound of this laugh, he'd missed the stars in her eyes. "You know, I remember I actually thought you were serious about the woman. Ready to play Papa to a whole race of vampires."
"I think our two children along with Ashley are more than enough for me to handle fathering, thank you."
"Oh, I don't know. Let's see if we manage to save the world this time 'round and maybe another might be called for. We do have eternity you know."
"They have turned out rather well." He stepped closer, finally pulling her into his arms and tucking his head into her neck, breathing her scent in. Same Helen, same scent, but oh, so many memories that he could allow to surface again.
"You are hungry, Nikola. And I have another room. And I'm not dehydrated and tired from a day of madness and explosions. Plenty of me to drink…I never saw you again until I jumped, Nikola. I'm standing in that hotel room, cursing your name, loving you, and I won't speak with you again for forty eight years."
"Did you love me then, Helen?" He held her closer, wanting but fearing to look into those beautiful eyes that held a thousand thousand secrets.
"At Oxford, I talked myself in and out of love with you a dozen times a day. I thought you didn't care. By the time I figured it out, it had been decades and we'd both built walls impenetrably thick around our hearts. Then you disappeared for sixty years, and then I lost my daughter. Tonight was the first chance I'd really had to look at you and remember Nikola."
"I love you, wife."
"And I love you, husband. Come home. We have a month to prepare for Armageddon, but tonight I have a newly made vampire to seduce."