This is it. The end is finally here. Thanks to all of you who've been reading since the start of Monster. The two fics must total to well over 60,000 words by now, and I'm still writing. There will be more.
And by the way, my spelling of oestrus isn't wrong, it's English. We keep the Greek vowel digraphs (aesthetic/esthetic, for example).
Will paused outside Magnus's study door, she was sat at her computer, probably reading e-mails, as if nothing significant had happened. Typical Magnus; suppress, suppress and keep suppressing. Will sighed and tapped on the door.
"Magnus?" She looked up.
"Will." She smiled and gestured to a chair opposite her. Her poker face was insanely good.
"There are a couple of things I need to run by you." She tilted her head slightly. "Firstly, can we move Druitt out of Isal now? He'll be here for a few weeks, so..."
"If you think it's a good idea, of course."
"OK. Where can he go?"
"First floor, west wing, perhaps? There are a few spare rooms down there." And it was just about the furthest in the Sanctuary you could get from where Magnus slept. Will sighed.
"OK. Fine. About rehabilitation; I think we wanna get going on that as soon as possible."
"I won't tell you how to do your job, Will. It's your decision." The light tone, the unaffected expression, so typically Magnus when she felt threatened, but not threatened enough to break off communications. Safe to push her? Probably.
"Are you sure about that?" She blinked and adjusted the angle of her head.
"Why wouldn't I be?" Will hesitated.
"He's kind of a special case, Magnus. You have a lot of history with him."
"Which is just that, Will. History. It has been over a century since I knew Druitt," She called him John to his face. "and we've both changed a lot in that time. To all intents and purposes, he's a stranger to me now. You at least have spent time working with him of late." Will fought to match Magnus's poker face.
"Yes, I have, and he's cooperating, but," Will hesitated, choosing his words with care. "you were... very close to him for a long time."
"A very long time ago, I repeat."
"Oh, for God's sake, Magnus, you were going to marry the guy, you had his kid!" Will knew at once he'd crossed a line. The shutters closed behind Magnus's eyes and she cut across him.
"That is irrelevant. People change out of recognition in twenty years, let alone a hundred and twenty. I claim no affinity for John Druitt. He's an abnormal in need of help, nothing more, nothing less."
"Magnus, would it kill you to admit what's between you? I'm not asking you to act on anything, just acknowledge it."
"There is nothing to acknowledge, Doctor Zimmerman." Will saw any opening there had been close as soon as he heard his surname. "There is nothing between us now. Did you have anything else to say?" Will faltered. She was now lying outright rather than just evading the truth. there was nothing more to be gained there, and he did need her consent for a few other things. He sighed.
"OK. The two main problems with Druitt are that he has no idea how to handle a computer and, more importantly, he's forgotten how to interact normally, but you can't sit down and teach that, so my plan was to maintain an hour or two of one-to-one daily, but in the form of teaching him technology, so he doesn't feel like he's under a microscope so much. I'd like to bring Henry in in a week or so, then gradually more people; you, Steeve, the Big Guy, later Kate."
"I have many demands placed on my time, Will." Magnus put in defensively. Will ignored her.
"Later, I'd like to take him out of the Sanctuary and get him interacting with the public. It would start with things like walking down to the store to buy a newspaper. I'm not sure how far past that we'd get in a month and I don't think we have to worry about him running." Magnus nodded once.
"I can't see any obvious problems there. If any arise, let me know." She stood up. Will copied her, knowing that she wanted him out. She could be so obstinate when she felt threatened. Will turned and walked back out, not bothering to say goodbye in any capacity.
"Mum!" Ashley called, catching sight of her. Mum looked up from the cage she was looking in to.
"Is Fran, Cethydral with... you know..." Ashley gestured to her hip. Mum understood. The Cethydral who'd dislocated his hip a while back. "Is he out of cage rest?"
"Yes. He has been for a fortnight. Why?"
"He is the one we want to mate Libby with, isn't he?" Ashley asked. Captive breeding was all that was keeping Cethydrals going. If you fed one slug poison, it would secrete a very strong stimulant for an hour or two, then die. What some people would do for a few bucks...
"Yes. Is she in oestrus?"
"I think so." Ashley replied, raising her hands. "She's making weird waily noises and she was bolder than usual when I went in to feed her."
"That sounds like oestrus for a Cethydral to me."
"Wait, don't you wanna check?"
"Sweetheart, I trust you, for heaven's sake. You know what you're doing. We need to catch Fran. Are you busy, or will you help me?"
"Sure." Ashley nodded.
Cethydrals responded badly to electrical stunners and tranqing Fran right before putting him in with Libby would have been practically murder. They were left with no choice but graspers and nets. It was nearly half an hour of trying to corner or sneak up on Fran before either of them managed to get a grasper on him and, out of breath and laughing, they transferred him to Libby's enclosure.
Watching the pair of abnormals, neither more than twenty inches long, circle each other, flitting back a foot or so every so often, Ashley gathered her courage. There were things she needed to hear from her Mum.
"D'you think she knows?" She gestured at the abnormals.
"Where this is gonna lead." Mum paused for a second.
"I don't think any viviparous creature could be oblivious to it once her offspring start moving."
"No, I meant this." Ashley gestured at the Cethydrals, as Libby rolled on to her side, resuming her wailing, then leapt up and bit Fran when he got close and pinned him in a stranglehold.
"To some extent, they must. Even specimens with no experience behave in the same way." Ashley braced herself. It was usually parents like this with kids, not the other way around.
"It means more to us though, doesn't it?"" Mum blinked and looked down at her concernedly.
"Sweetheart, are you alright?" Ashley nodded. Fran pulled free of Libby and chased her up a tree.
"It's not me, Mum." Libby jumped out of the tree, Fran followed and she turned on him. "You've always said, if a guy hurts you, leave and don't go back, ever."
"Yes." Fran darted away from Libby, a vivid gash in his side. "I have." There was a long silence.
"Well..." Libby rolled and resumed her unearthly wailing.
"Is this about Druitt?" Ashley almost flinched at her mother's sudden directness.
"Yeah." Ashley stood still, waiting for her mother's anger, watching Fran begin to inch back towards Libby.
"Are you afraid I'll go back to him?" Ashley nodded. "Sweetheart, I won't." Libby leapt at Fran again. "In 1888, I loved him with all my being, but love is built on trust, and he destroyed that. If he'd trusted me as I did him, he'd have told me as soon as he knew, or even suspected, that anything was wrong, he'd have let me help him. Trust can be destroyed in an instant, let alone a century." Ashley nodded. "Does that reassure you?" Libby retreated, limping a little on her left foreleg, spines on the back of her neck standing up.
"Yeah." Ashley put her arm around her mother. "Thanks."
Half an hour later, confident that the Cethydrals wouldn't do each other permanent damage and her evening rounds complete, Magnus returned to her office. The night-lights of the city cast a strip of light from the window in to the room. She poured herself half a glass of claret and wandered over to the window. It was a strange dynamic between her and Ashley. Maybe it was a consequence of raising a daughter alone, without a father present, and Ashley not leaving home. Ashley still deferred to her and usually did as she was told, but both Magnus and Ashley took the other's advice seriously and, particularly since Ashley's return, behaved more like equals than parent and child.
Ashley's concern for Magnus was touching. Magnus understood Ashley's despising Druitt, even if she didn't feel it herself. Or did she? She understood that Druitt was potentially dangerous, but Will believed that he wouldn't kill again. Magnus felt a line of tension in her spine. Did she trust Will's judgement? If she thought he was wrong, she had a duty to report it and request a second opinion. But she did trust Will on this type of matter, she'd seen for herself the pain it had caused Druitt to recall what he'd done. So why did the recollection of it turn her cold inside? By any standards, he'd been a notorious serial killer; untraceable, uncatchable, victims spattered across the globe.
But it was more than that. She'd dealt with killers before. Familiarity had almost bred contentment. Whenever Druitt appeared, she became vulnerable. Whenever she was near John, her defences collapsed. Had it really taken her so long to recover? Had she not yet accepted that the man she'd once loved had not been all he'd seemed? Was a part of her still screaming in agony that John, her John, the man she'd trusted implicitly in every way, the man she'd have followed to the ends of the earth, the man from whom she'd withheld nothing, had been the Whitechapel Ripper?
She was stronger than that. She was not still mourning a lover she'd lost in the 1880s, she barely ever thought of the half dozen who'd been since. Yet still she thought of him. That said, he was currently living in her house, not that she particularly wanted him there, particularly given how edgy his presence made Ashley. But it wasn't only Ashley. She, Magnus, behaved differently around him too. She was... cautious, defensive, took offence at nothing. All the behaviour she adopted when she felt vulnerable. So was that it? He made her feel vulnerable. Because she remembered that pain? Because she feared more? But how could he hurt her if she felt nothing for him?
The answer manifested itself at once, resounding through her, terrifyingly clear, so certain. But wrong. The answer was wrong. That couldn't be true, not after all this time. She couldn't feel...
Magnus stood up sharply, setting down her almost untouched glass, pushing the answer away, out of sight. There must be something she could be doing. She walked out of her study briskly, away from her mind.
Magnus stood silently by the trunk of a tree, looking out across the Sanctuary grounds, concealed from view. Above her head, the buds of leaves were beginning to break, but she paid them no heed. Two men stood by the wrought iron gates, one carrying a case which held most, if not all, of his worldly possessions. The past century had taken everything from him. John Druitt speaking to Will.
"...you actually managed quite a lot considering."
"Hardly, Doctor Zimmerman. If you recall, I achieved most of that before..."
"Maybe. But you weren't a qualified doctor in '88 were you?"
"No, but in '14... The Western Front was crying out for medics and I still felt an affinity for my homeland and I had learnt a lot from Helen and James."
"Well, it sure made it a lot easier to find you a possession, once you've finished retraining, and that won't take long."
"I could hardly have returned to work as a magistrate, where reputation is so vital."
"There's more demand for Doctors anyway."
"I don't doubt it." There was a pause.
"You do know where you're going, right?" John laughed softly.
"Yes, Doctor Zimmerman. I am to teleport to Kent, the one in Washington that is, as it's the nearest I've been to Seattle, there I meet Doctor Fitzgerald, who will take me to where I am to train." Will nodded.
"And you know you can call us if things go wrong."
"I doubt that will be necessary."
"Then I guess all that's left is to say thank you." Will offered his hand, John took it. "I've enjoyed spending time with you in the past two months"
"I think I should be thanking you, Doctor Zimmerman. I wish you the best of luck in whatever awaits you and bid you farewell." John turned and covered the distance to the gate. He was leaving. Magnus stepped out and strode after him, moving as fast as she could without running. She had to talk to him. There were things she couldn't leave unsaid any longer. The gate swung open before him. He was leaving. She had to talk to him. He stepped through the archway. The gate swung closed behind him. She had to talk to him. Fire lit the gateway for an instant, then he was gone. Too late.
"Magnus?" Will was looking at her, with a face that said he'd understood that far too well. She looked down at the ground, breathing hard, commanding herself to be calm.
"Will, the resident psychiatrist at Tokyo wants to talk to you as soon as is convenient. She has an abnormal, an empath, on suicide watch and wants advice." Will looked at her quizzically.
"Is that all?"
"Yes." She replied firmly. Will raised his hands slightly in a gesture of futility.
"I'll get right on it."
Magnus nodded, turned and walked back towards the main building, Will half a pace behind her.
Thanks to my Mum, for encouraging me to pen my ideas in the first place, about three years ago.
Thanks to my brother, for being a pain and teaching me to imagine.
Thanks to my Grandmother, who has just had her second book published; Broken Warrior by Joy Mawby, for being an inspiration.
Thanks to Tapping, Kindler and Wood for creating this world we can all visit.
Thanks to God, for, well... everything.