Author's Note: Aw, thanks guys. You are all awesome beyond description. This has been so much fun that I'm sorry it's ending. Last chapter... be sure to let me know what you think. Even if it's bad.
Disclaimer: I sort of wish I owned the characters and show, but I don't and they seem to be in capable hands.
Nikola chuckled at Helen's tremulous growl and finally pulled away, smiling mischievously at her. She still looked angry enough to kill him, but at this rate, he thought it might at least be a quick death. "Close your eyes." He instructed, taking her hand, the left one this time.
The look she gave clearly said she was tired and still a little disgusted with him and his behavior.
He swallowed and held up a single finger, indicating she needed to be patient just a while longer.
With a sigh, she did as he asked and he started leading her out of the dangerous Cathedral, back into the Sanctuary proper. Hurrying slightly, he guided her along, careful not to let her trip on the long rugs or go astray in the winding ways of the dark corridors. Down the levels they went, past the paintings on the walls and vases on small end tables that decorated her home, all the way to the rear intake area and into the chilly night air. The sky was dark and there was a strong wind picking up, fluttering the hem of Helen's silk nightgown and catching her soft dark curls, sending the locks into a wild dance across the pale skin of her left shoulder.
Nikola felt a clenching in his chest that had nothing to do with his raging anticipation of her reaction. He simply stopped for a second, barely away of the soft click of the door shutting tight behind them and watched her. His hand raised, seemingly of it's own volition and with one delicate finger, he edged the hair back, just barely brushing against her delicate skin.
A soft intake of breath from Helen recaptured his attention to her face. Her eyes were still closed, but she had definitely felt his touch. Her lips pressed together, neck and chest delicately taut, and a quiet noise escaped through her nose. He couldn't tell if he was imagining it, but it sounded a little bit like a suppressed whimper. A hard breath escaped her then and she spoke in a shaky tone. "Nikola?"
Right, he had been doing something. Something incredibly vital to his continued survival. Quickly, he retook Helen's hand and led her down the steps. Sitting in the drive was a van, black and large, which he pulled her up to. "Stay here a second." He let her go and she tottered for a second, but was obedient. He needed to hurry while this lasted. Snapping open the back doors, he swung them wide. A scathing hiss made him back up a step, glaring at what lay within. Then he turned to Helen. "Okay." He said, smug. As her eyes fluttered open, he made a sweeping gesture at the contents. "Ta-da."
The second her eyes focused, her mouth dropped open on a gasp, breath officially stolen.
He allowed himself to preen slightly. "Tell me that isn't more impressive than Muybridge's moving picture show." He said, referencing the time way back in the old days of their friendship, when he and Helen had first seen picture stills flip so fast the horse in them appeared to be flying.
Eyes flicking over to him and back, Helen stepped closer. The creatures in the large cage strapped in the back of the van hissed again, backing away. The leathery skin of their front legs, stretched to their sides so that it resembled a bats wing, drew back to reveal the sickly yellowed edges of their sharp front talons. Poison that both of he and she were greatly familiar with. "Razor Sills?" Her tone was disbelieving.
Nikola gave the unruly creatures a distasteful sneer, keeping well back even as Helen leaned in to get a better look. "Of course Razor Sills." When she looked at him incredulously, he shrugged defensively. "I had to leave the other day because it was already past time for them all to start their hibernation cycles. I couldn't waste any time if I wanted even a chance of finding some that weren't already asleep. Luckily I found a few stragglers that hadn't yet left the migration path."
For the first time since he had arrived, she smiled at him and the effect was dazzling. "So you left to find them for me? You brought them back here, for me?"
He shifted uncomfortably, looking away sulkily. "Annoying little pests. No wonder you had such a hard time with them." Out of the corner of his eye, he caught her giving him another look. Grimacing, he put one fist on his hip and looked back at her. "It was sort of my fault that you were so rudely interrupted when trying to capture a few, so I went to do it for you, since you were definitely in no condition to do it yourself. No big deal. Though, if you wanted to find a different way of thanking me, I wouldn't say no." He waggled his brows suggestively, a grin spreading over his lips.
She rolled her eyes, as he had expected her to. Then her expression turned teasing. "What do you mean, 'sort of' your fault?"
He furrowed his brow at her. "Hey, am I responsible for what some crazy nuts are willing to do to have their own way?" He looked her up and down in an exaggerated way.
"If you're trying to infer that I am crazy..." He swallowed as she stepped closer to him. Nikola didn't dare move, feeling like prey caught in the gaze of a predator as her voice slid into a sleek husk. "I shall remind you that I always carry a gun."
Already strained breath catching in his throat, Nikola couldn't help but look down at the less than concealing black night gown. He was indeed impressed if she managed to hide a weapon in that, but he wisely decided not to put it past her.
"-and have no qualms about shooting you." She added sharply, seeing his roving eye.
He nodded, managing a smile even though his insides were squirming. "Point well taken."
She inclined her head, smirking slightly in triumph. However, when she looked back at the Razor Sills, her expression turned slightly wistful. "Why can't you ever just let something be a sweet and caring gesture, Nikola?" It wasn't accusatory; she said it as though asking a serious question.
His smile slipped as he regarded her suddenly saddened face. Looking down at his shoes, he mumbled toward them. "I'll deny it if you tell anyone, but... I don't like disappointing you."
"Disappointing me?" She asked, surprised, turning back to him. Her blue eyes, tinted more gray in the dim light, held a gentle sorrow. "Nikola... you only disappoint me when you pull away from me. When you deflect by trying to distract me." Stepping toward him, she placed a gentle kiss on his cheek before he realized what she was doing.
He stood, stunned into immobility.
"Thank you, Nikola." She said quietly. "For everything."
Blushing slightly, he nodded.
Her anger returned, luckily mellowed now. "But you need to develop your communication skills... and the next time you run off like that, I will track you down and make you regret it."
"I believe you." He answered sincerely, feeling a little light headed. Lifting a hand to touch his tingling cheek he couldn't help but smile wide. Maybe there was hope for him yet. "I definitely believe you."
P. S.- I rewrote chapters 28, 29, and 30. You can read it if you want, or leave it the way it was originally written.