Just a little thing I wrote the other day. Thought some of you might enjoy it.
Framed against the background of the city, Helen Magnus looked quite beautiful, Nikola noted silently to himself as he studied her. Then again, to him, she looked beautiful all the time; she could have been wearing a potato sack and been covered in grime (despite the fact that was far below her dignity) for all he cared and she still would shine like the brightest of stars in his dim little world. Even now she appeared to be some godly being, her skin glowing faintly from the city lights that reflected on it and the way the lights framed her just so.
She was far too perfect, Nikola realized in that moment, even if it was a fact that had remained unspoken in his mind for quite some time now. She was the sort of person who could convince thousands – no, millions – to do what she wanted with just a few glorified words. She'd exhibited such since the day he'd first met her. Perhaps that's why he was so drawn to her in the first place, the idea of that much power; but no, there were far more things than that which made him love Helen Magnus as fiercely as he did.
Stepping forward, he made sure his shoes crunched against the gravel loud enough for her to hear him over the soft hum of the car's radio and the noises of the city below. While he could never imagine startling her, he didn't want to take the chance with her teetering so closely to the edge of a large drop. She was sitting on the hood of the Tesla Roadster that was parked at the top of the lookout, staring out across the city, and made no move to acknowledge his presence as he drew closer. It had been clear by the way she had left her cell phone behind and disabled the car's tracking system that she didn't want to be found, but Nikola was quite a determined man.
"You're hard to find when you don't want to be found, you know." He said very quietly, his voice lacking its usual amusement. He took it as a good sign that she made no retort nor move to shun him away. He easily slid up onto the hood, maintaining a respectful distance away from her for the time being. He had to admire her tastes in hiding spots, however, when he noticed the spectacular view of the city. The river was visible, and not far out the sanctuary could clearly be seen, it's clear Victorian and Gothic influenced architecture standing out almost like a sore thumb among the modern buildings of the city.
Glancing sideways, he discreetly assessed Helen. She'd been crying, that much was certain, and that alarmed him instantly seeing as in all the years he had known her, she had cried perhaps three times, now included. Her face was reddened, but not as puffy as it should have been so Nikola assumed she had stopped crying some time ago. She was still visibly upset, especially with the way she had her knees drawn to her chest and arms wrapped around them, as if she were trying to draw in on herself.
"You shouldn't bottle everything up like you do, Helen. It's not good for you, especially when you end up in this state." Nikola said, looking over at her. She didn't look at him, but he saw her gaze flicker down to stare at the two or three feet expanse of ground that separated them and the two hundred foot drop straight down.
"After the mess I've just dealt with involving the Praxian abnormals, I think you of all people could give me the least bit of a break." She said, British tones laced with bitterness. "God forbid the great Helen Magnus were to break down and show the slightest imperfection."
"So you're crying about not being perfect?"
"You know good and well it's not that." She muttered and rested her head against the top of her knees. She was shivering, though Nikola couldn't tell if it was from something else other than the chilly wind that whipped around them. He shrugged off his jacket anyway and wrapped it around her shoulders. She didn't protest to his relief, but instead pulled it tighter around her. Snow was starting to fall again, adding to the slush on the ground. It hadn't been a particularly white Christmas, so to speak, but it seemed the weather was going to make up for it now.
Nikola continued to study Helen. In all the years he had known her, she had not changed of course, but he could see the wisdom reflected in her eyes. She was a woman who had seen far too much in her life; part of him wished he could take it all back. Let her live some semblance of a normal life. Then again, the term 'normal' has never applied to any of them. Even if he had managed to get to her before John, Nikola knew their lives would still never be 'normal'. It came with the line of work. Still, there were things that he wished Helen had never had to experience, such as intense heartbreak or the loss of a child.
He watched the snow swirl, remembering vaguely the first Christmas he'd spent with their little group back at Oxford. They had taken a break from the lab that particular day and spent the day at Helen's home, ending with a rather fantastic Christmas dinner and a gift exchange. The scene had been similar several nights ago, but the faces around the table had changed. Overall it had been a . . . nice affair, but he could see the haunting look in Helen's eyes, part of what had led up to this moment now. She was good at hiding it from the children, but there was very little she could hide from him anymore.
She moved beside him, letting her legs stretch out in front of her. One foot rested against the front bumper, the other dangling to the side. He couldn't help but watch her, taking in every little movement. Even now, she still moved with the grace of a Victorian lady, the grace she was born and raised with. Even when she was out kicking ass or elbow deep in some disgusting abnormal autopsy, she still managed to look graceful. Nikola wasn't sure if she was aware of it, or if she did it on purpose, but he knew he liked the way remnants of the past still clung to her - including her accent and love for tea.
The years had taken quite a toll on her, though. With only three of the five (and one positively insane) remaining, her daughter gone, and more things going to hell than he would care to admit, it was easy to read the stress on her face every morning. The lines on her face aren't from age: they're from constant stress and the frown that seemed permanently written across her face. While a few years may have been a blink of an eye to both Helen and himself, Nikola knew that time could do much more damage in that blink of an eye than anything else, especially when coupled with stress (particularly the amount she had been under the past few weeks).
"What is it you tell me all the time? Everything's going to be all right." Nikola said, his gaze not wavering from her. Helen finally looked at him with a blank expression for a long moment, as if she were debating some sort of snappy reply.
"You don't know that for sure."
He certainly hadn't been expecting that response. She was in a deeper depression then he had first thought. Frowning, he quickly began to calculate a way to remove her from it. Of course, it wouldn't be easy, but Nikola did love a good challenge.
"Yes, I do. No matter what sort of nonsense comes to pass and no matter how badly things seem to get, there's always something good that comes from it or something good that will soon come to pass." He replied. Dear Lord, he sounded like a fortune cookie. Helen studied him a long moment.
"As far as I'm concerned, everything has hit rock bottom." She admitted quietly.
"Not everything. You're alive. I'm alive. The children are alive and relatively happy." He listed. "The sanctuary is still in one piece. All that's left to be repaired is you. You should have seen the moping way the children lurked about the place today without your presence. It was quite alarming, really." He continued, fingers reaching over to close around her arm. His fingers slid across her skin, moving downward to close around her fingers and lace his between them.
"You're going to make yourself ill if you don't get out of this slum." He added.
"How am I to pull myself out when all I want to do at the moment is crawl under a rock and wait for a nuclear holocaust to kill me?"
Well, she certainly was growing deeper on the depressing scale.
"Helen, you are the strongest person I have met in my entire existence. You have far more to live for than what you realize, and there are many people who's lives depend on you – human and abnormal alike." He said. "You can't tell me you would willingly give that up just because you're in some terrible mood."
Her fingers grew tighter around his hand in response, as if she were clinging to him now. Nikola didn't move, only held her hand tight, an anchor, an escape from whatever world she had wrapped herself in.
"Tell me what's wrong, Helen." He urged and her shoulders fell in defeat. Her gaze switched back up to sweep the city, her crystalline eyes reflecting the lights. Even in her mussed stated, she was still the beautiful woman Nikola loved; it pained him to see her in such a condition and he wanted so desperately to fix it.
"Eventually we're not going to be able to hide the abnormals anymore. Not after what just happened with the Praxians. We barely escaped that without the general public getting wind of it." She began quietly, reaching up with her free-hand to pinch the bridge of her nose. She was suddenly all business and Nikola could practically see her raising her shields again, the invisible armors and masks she shrouded herself in on a daily basis. There were cracks and dents within the armor, that much was clear.
"So the public finds out. That's not the end of the world."
"Abnormals would be in even more danger than what they are now." Helen insisted firmly, fingers growing tight on his hand. "I'm not sure I'd be able to protect them all. And what happens when something happens to me? I'm still not sure is capable enough to handle the emergency situations I do weekly."
"First of all, nothing is going to happen to you. I will make sure of that personally if that means I have to become your bodyguard. I'll get the cool sunglasses and the fancy suits and everything if it makes you feel better. Secondly, give a little faith in your protégé. You've raised him well enough to be able to handle himself in situations decently – and quite personally I don't think he could fill those lovely heels of yours to handle the situations with your grace and discreet ways. Still, he could manage." Nikola continued, his thumb tracing small circles on the back of her hand.
"Anything else?" He inquired.
"Sorry." She muttered a moment later. "I shouldn't burden you with this."
"I'm more than willing to accept it. I've been more than willing since the day I met you and you went off on your rant about the biology professor."
"His facts were wrong." Helen replied instantly, almost in a child-like, defensive manner, an action that Nikola found to be a step forward away from her depression. "Still, you don't have to sit here and listen to me complain."
"I willingly sought you out – I figured you'd be pitching a screaming fit at me by now, so hearing you complain is nothing compared to what I was bracing for." Nikola mused. Her lips twitched that time, almost as if she did honestly want to smile. He tugged her hand gently and she sighed heavily, giving in to his embrace. He wrapped his arms around her, her head tucked beneath his chin as he rubbed familiar, soothing circles along her back in reassurance.
"I don't deserve you." She murmured, voice muffled slightly.
"Funny. I was just thinking the same about you. Now that we've come to accept our problem, the next step is to go about fixing it." Now he sounded like a self-help book. Perhaps he would write one, or perhaps he could start writing fortunes for those nasty cookies. Both ideas sounded quite entertaining, to say the least.
"When you have your next breakdown in three-hundred years, could you at least pick somewhere a bit easier to find and perhaps not out in the cold or that close to a cliff?" He requested after a few moments of silence between them. Helen was silent for another long moment in return.
"You still plan on being around in three-hundred years?" She inquired seriously, pulling away so she could look at him, the smallest of frowns crossing her face.
"Barring some horrific death, indeed I do. Clearly Wilhelm and his band of cohorts aren't capable enough to care for you when you get yourself into this state." Nikola replied, voice filled with irritation. Yes, the children had been quite unhelpful in his search for her and had bothered him to no end about where she had gone. As if he had known! While he often did gravitate toward her like she was his own personal beacon, even he didn't know where Helen was at all times, especially if she needed to be alone.
She stared at him, mouth slightly open as if she wanted to say something, but seemed to think better of it and closed her lips. They thinned out into another frown as she looked down at where she was holding his hand. This was certainly new. Had he somehow rendered the great Helen Magnus speechless? He definitely wasn't letting her live this one down anytime soon.
"Why?" She blurted suddenly, head snapping back up to look at him. He couldn't detect the emotion on her face, so he answered with the same answer he had always intended to give to that particular question.
"You know good and well why." He said. "Don't make me say it again, please." He added. Honestly, if Nikola had to say it one more time to her without her saying it in return, he'd go insane. Besides, this was about her feelings, not his. He wasn't laying his out on the line to be seen, merely trying to pull her out of her mood and return her safely to the sanctuary. While he had been confident she wouldn't have tried anything suicidal, he would admit fear had run through his mind when he had seen her parked that close to the edge of the drop.
"That's about the third time you've apologized tonight. Stop it."
"Will you say it again?" She asked kindly, fingers wrapping tighter around his. Both of their hands were entwined now, resting between them on the hood of the car.
"I want to hear it."
Nikola sighed, knowing full and well he couldn't deny her. But those three little words by themselves clearly weren't enough. Perhaps an elaboration would make her see reason.
"I love you, Helen Magnus. I have from that first time we fed the pigeons together by the pond. Truth be told, had John Druitt not waltzed into our perfect little life at Oxford, I would have asked you to marry me despite the fact your father would have likely hit me or threatened me with one of those rabid little animals if I ever broke your heart. If I didn't love you as much as I did, I wouldn't irritate and bother you as much as I do now, nor would I be lingering still. If you ask why I left during those sixty or so years, I figured you wanted nothing to do with me and were better off alone at the time since you were busy with your sanctuary. I'm making up for lost time now, and understand that when I say I would follow you to the ends of the earth because I love you, I mean it with every part of my entire being."
Clearly she hadn't been expecting that sort of response, but it had elicited a small smile that seemed to brighten up her entire face and lit up his world like the brightest of light bulbs.
"You could have just said the first part and I would have been happy." She murmured after a beat before she leaned forward and pressed her lips against his in the briefest of kisses. "I don't have anything that fantastic to say at the moment other than 'I love you'."
He smirked and drew her into his embrace once more.
"Feeling better?" He inquired as the snow began to pick up around them. Helen was starting to grow cold in his embrace he could tell, and she was discreetly trying to hide shivers and the way her breath was coming out to form a cloud in front of her face.
"A bit, yes."
"Then let me take you home and tuck you into bed and assure the children that you are indeed safe, sound, and sane." Nikola prodded and with ease, lifted her off the hood of the car. She was obviously more than able to walk, but he preferred carrying her. She weighed nothing more than a feather in his arms anyway. He deposited her in the front seat of the Roadster before he climbed in the driver's seat, finding the keys still in the ignition.
"I should have known you'd have one of these cars."
"If I didn't, you likely would have made sure I did."
Helen remained silent, curled within the front seat of the car as Nikola sped along the road back down toward the city. It was only when they were approaching the sanctuary at last did she speak again.
"How long do you really intend on staying this time, Nikola?"
His lips quirked upward at the corners. It was a serious question, one he had finally worked out an answer to.
"Several years at least." He said, glancing over at her. "Forever, if you'll have me."
"I quite like the sound of that."
"I was hoping you might."