Author's Notes: This takes place after the Season 4 finale. It also makes reference to my previous Helen/Charlotte fics, "Hang Out" and "Love Potion Number 9" – You don't have to have read them, but it really will help. It seems I'm creating a whole lovely continuing timeline following the developing relationship between these two! It started off as a "Oh hey, wouldn't that be a fun/cute little fic" idea, that turned into the longest single piece I've ever written… … Woopsies!
Please note I have never been to Yale, or New Haven, or in fact anywhere close to that area. While I try to do all the research I can, all places and people I mention are fabrications of my own mind! (Scary, I know!) I apologize for any glaring errors in demographic/geography of New Haven, etc.
Thanks go to MidWifeOnBoard for beta'ing this mess of a chapter, and to NoCleverSig for the unending support.
Heeeeere we go!
Magnus goes to School
The professor was completely unaware that she was being watched. The figure was hidden from view, anonymous in a lecture hall filled to the brim with eager young undergrads. The professor normally wouldn't be teaching such a class. Being the co-chair of the department she worked with PhD candidates, in much smaller settings. She wasn't even supposed to be at the University today, but the professor in charge of the class had caught food poisoning and begged her to substitute for him. She'd agreed after being promised a nice bottle of red. The watcher hadn't been pleased when they showed up at the professor's apartment only to find it empty, so instead quickly tracked her back to the University, slipping into the hall mere minutes before the class started. The watcher stayed still, chest barely moving with deep, controlled breaths, eyes wide, shrewd, and observing. The professor spoke with a confidence born from years of experience, and a knowledge base that continued to grow and prosper. The watcher knew they had chosen wisely, and grinned in anticipation. The watcher knew this was the professor's only lecture of the day. Not only that, it was the first class of the morning, and a Friday. Once over, the professor would be not be expected back at the University until Monday. The watcher could make a move, and no one would be the wiser. No one would notice the professor was gone.
The watcher observed as Dr. Charlotte Benoit suddenly frowned, stretching her back minutely as if trying to banish an uncomfortable shiver. She paused, glancing quickly across the crowd of the lecture hall. Around the watcher, the faces of the students started to furrow in confusion at the sudden silence. The teacher cleared her throat, resisting the urge to rub the skin of her arms to banish the goosebumps.
"Anyway, as I was saying…" she continued her lecture.
For two hours the watcher waited, taking in every detail of the professor. The tall woman was clad in a crisp, white blouse, an elegant brown skirt that brushed the top of her knees, and nude heels, but no stockings. It was early September but New Haven was suffering an Indian summer, and the temperature hovered around 81®. Air conditioning blew gently through vents circling the floor and ceiling, but with 300 students crowded in, the hall was even warmer than outside. The professor was barely perspiring, used to the heat, the picture of control.
The watcher grinned again. The professor wouldn't be in control for long.
At 10am sharp, Professor Benoit happily dismissed her class, hoping that at least some of them might start their reports that evening. It wasn't her class, but she still wanted them to succeed. She had a pretty good eye for future PhD's, and a few of the young students had caught her attention. She'd have to let Professor Wilkinson know to keep them in mind. Charlotte Benoit was never one to play favourites, but being aware of potential was a necessary component to teaching.
The Doctor smiled as her students filed out, wishing their temporary professor a good day, or a good weekend. The class had gone well. It was a bit of an adjustment, moving from a PhD class of a few, focused individuals to a large group of kids barely out of high school, but they'd done well. Even so, her smile was strained, as the uneasy feeling she hadn't been able to shake started to grow stronger. She could have sworn that throughout the lecture she could feel eyes on her. Not the dull, strained eyes of an 18 year old student at 8am on a Friday, wishing for the weekend, (as she was) but the keen eyes of someone who saw beyond what regular people see. Who looked not at a person, but into them.
Someone in this room didn't belong. She carefully watched each student go by, searching for anyone that shouldn't be there. Since her adventure on Grand Comore, the virologist's eyes had been opened to anything that seemed out of place, potential dangers, and new people. Not to say she was paranoid, just… aware. She'd enrolled herself in a self-defense class, and had even toyed with the idea of taking a gun course. She'd wanted to contact Helen Magnus and ask for advice, but had felt foolish as soon as she picked up the phone to dial. Charlotte still couldn't understand why Magnus would be at all interested in her. She didn't want to call the older woman and blather childishly about wanting to know how to hold a gun. Right at that moment, however, she wished she had.
The last student left the room with a "Thanks for subbing," and suddenly Charlotte was alone. The door to the hall closed with an ominous click, and her sense of danger skyrocketed. She heard a noise behind her, and her body tensed. Unconsciously holding her breath, Charlotte steeled herself for whatever she was about to face, and whirled around.
There was no one there.
Frowning, she slowly scanned the hall. Still nothing. She heard the noise again, this time off to her left, by the door. She turned sharply, but there was only the door, quietly standing guard. Through its square window she could see short bursts of people walking past, going about their day. She heard the noise, behind her once more. Her heart was hammering, her breath was becoming least she had plans that night. If she didn't show up, someone would know. They'd start looking for her.
Stay in control, Charlotte, keep calm. She reprimanded herself. She stayed still for a minute, closing her eyes, straining her ears to try pinpoint the location of the noise, but there was only silence. Was she just being paranoid? She'd been extremely busy with work lately; maybe the stress was getting to her. God she could use a few days off. Thinking of her plans for the evening, the professor gave a small smile. At least she could look forward to that. Oh, who was she kidding? She was dreading the evening, but it still provided a safety net for her current circumstances.
Out of the silence she suddenly heard a loud thud, as if someone had dropped a hefty biology textbook. Her body froze. Not paranoid after all. With a sense of dread, she turned to face her unseen pursuer.
The professor's breath left her in a loud gasp as her jaw dropped and her eyes went wide.
Helen Magnus, perched delicately atop Charlotte's desk, burst into laughter.
"Dear God Charlotte, you should see your face!"
The professor went red, clamping her jaw shut.
"I'm sorry," Magnus continued to say between spurts of laughter. "I couldn't help it. You look adorable when you're suspicious."
Charlotte crossed her arms defensively and glared at the precocious brunette.
"You think it's funny, do you, stalking people?"
Magnus snorted and nodded.
"Scaring poor innocents? Inciting paranoia? Make them afraid that at any second some rabid monster might jump out at them from behind a chair?" Charlotte started towards her desk.
"I'd hardly call you an innocent," Magnus smirked.
Charlotte cocked an eyebrow as she continued her approach. She stopped a few feet in front of Magnus, arms still crossed. She was leaning back on one arm, the other gently placed on the thigh of a demurely crossed leg. Charlotte's eyes dropped to Magnus' feet, and slowly, she raked her gaze upwards. Black, 4 inch heels gave way long expanses of leg. Several inches above the knee was a black skirt. A dark purple blouse with the sleeves rolled to the elbow was loosely tucked into the waist band. Not two but three buttons were undone. Magnus could still walk down the hall of Yale University and look professional, but up close… Charlotte kept her eyes on the hint of flesh revealed between the blouse's undone buttons as she walked the rest of the way to Helen.
"Ok, maybe not so innocent," Charlotte admitted. Magnus grinned, smugly.
"Tease," Charlotte accused.
"Me?" Magnus replied, her eyes wide.
Charlotte glared again.
"Are there cameras in this hall?" Magnus asked off-handedly.
Charlotte frowned. "Cameras? Um, I'm not sure. The new facilities all have them of course, but this is one of the older halls. I don't think it's been updated yet, no. Why do you ask?"
Magnus smiled affectionately at her. "Still a bit of innocence after all," she said wistfully, before reaching forward, grabbing Charlotte by the collar, and pulling the professor towards her.
Charlotte felt her knees go weak as soon as she felt Helen's lips on hers, reaching out blindly to grasp the edge of her desk. After steadying herself, Charlotte took hold of Helen's knees, trying to force them apart so she could step between and get closer to her. She huffed in frustration as Helen's legs resisted. Magnus pulled back, taking in a quick breath before suddenly hopping down from the desk. Charlotte took a surprised step back, recovering quickly and leaning forward to reclaim her lips. Instead she encountered a hand.
"Not so fast," Helen said, smiling widely. She placed her hands on Charlotte's hips, and slowly turned them around so that Charlotte's back bumped against the edge of the desk.
"Your skirt's less restrictive," Magnus explained, before clamping her hands down on Charlotte's hips, and lifting up. With a surprised yelp, Charlotte landed on top her desk, and her binder of notes for the class tumbled to the floor.
Outside in the hall, Shay Westall frowned and stopped mid-step. He looked around at his fellow students. Had no-one else heard that crashing noise? He looked to his right, seeing he was almost at the door to a lecture hall. He mentally rifled through the school map and class schedule. Dr. Benoit had just finished a lecture in there, hadn't she? Worried she might have been cleaning up and somehow hurt herself, Shay strode quickly to the door. His hand grasped the handle as he worriedly peered in through the small window.
His hand froze and his breath left him in a gasp.
Yes, Dr. Benoit was still in there. But she had most certainly not been hurt. Shay stared, transfixed, as a hot brown-haired woman made out with his virology teacher, balanced atop her desk. Unable to move, he watched as his professor buried a hand in the woman's long, thick hair while the other slid down the woman's side to run over her fine looking behind. Shay felt his head get light, blood rushing southward as shock numbed him. In the next moment he felt himself stumbling sideways.
"Hey," said Zach Green, the friend who'd just nudged him. "What are you staring at?"
"Nothing!" Shay swore, wincing at his high-pitched voice.
Zach snorted. "Right, ok, nothing. You were staring like you were witnessing a super nova!" He moved towards the window.
"I wouldn't do that," Shay warned, trying to grab his shoulders and shove him away, but it was too late.
Zach's eyes went wide. He stood still for a moment before turning around, very slowly. "Well that's interesting," he said.
"Told you not to look," Shay mumbled. Was his face heating up?
"Uh…" Zach replied.
"Can we just… pretend we never saw that?" Shay suggested.
Zach contemplated for a moment, before nodding. "Sure. It never happened."
Who would believe them, anyway? Sure, some of the students gossiped about their professor's love lives, and Dr. Benoit didn't wear any rings, but who could have ever guessed that she was into… Hadn't she been dating Professor Calloway for a while? He was certainly a man. Shay shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. He focused on Zach, seeing a distant look in his eyes.
"I think I'm going to head out," said Shay, nodding his head toward the end of the hall. "I've got some, uh… homework to do."
"Yeah me too," nodded Zach. "An essay."
The friends nodded farewell, and took off down opposite sides of the hallway. Not to homework, but to their dorms, and cold, cold showers.
Back in the lecture hall, Charlotte fought to suppress a moan as Helen's hands, wrapped around her, gently massaging Charlotte's shoulders. Charlotte didn't notice when one of the hands left her shoulder. Suddenly, there was a warm hand on Charlotte's knee, sliding up her brown skirt.
"I've had professors before," Helen confessed in a low voice, "But never one from Yale."
"Helen!" Charlotte squeaked as Helen pinched the skin of her inner thigh, continuing upwards. "What if someone sees us?"
"Hmm?" Helen's lips left hers, travelling down Charlotte's cheek, jaw, to her neck.
"A student… could, you know…" Charlotte struggled to find words. "Report us!"
"Report us to whom, exactly?"
"Dr. Levin, the Dean!"
"Oh don't you worry about him," Helen replied with a sly smile.
Charlotte's eyes went wide. "Please tell me you haven't slept with my boss!"
Helen pulled away from Charlotte's neck indignantly. "Charlotte! I said I've slept with some professors, not all of them!"
"I mean, I don't know of Dr. Levin was some stud 40 years ago, but…"
"Charlotte," Helen said firmly. "I have not had any kind of sexual encounter with your boss, at any time recent or long past."
"Then what do you mean by 'don't worry about him'?"
Helen huffed. "What are you accusing me of? You think I have to use my feminine wiles in order to achieve anything? I can't simply have a colleague who owes me a favour or two?"
Charlotte still felt that something was fishy. She also knew she'd probably never get the full story.
"Are we going to continue arguing?" Helen sighed. "Because while I do love seeing you get riled up, I haven't seen you in four very long months. I'd much rather kiss you right now."
Ok, Charlotte could see her point. She nodded. Helen smiled. They kissed.
In the hallway, Amber Williams shuffled along, books clasped tightly to her chest. She couldn't believe she'd forgotten to give Professor B. her paper! How many years had she been at this school, and never forgotten to hand in an assignment? Amber, a regular student of Charlotte's and a member of her PhD group, had taken a particular interest to the interaction of viruses on an already compromised immune system. She was creating a proposal for a study involving volunteer participants with auto-immune diseases, and Dr. Benoit had offered to help her with it. The professor had said she might even have time to look over it during the weekend!
Amber arrived at her destination door and distractedly knocked on the hard wood, looking over the papers in her hand and making sure they were in order. When no one answered, she frowned and knocked again. At 5'1, she wasn't the tallest 25 year old around, so she had to stretch upwards to look through the window. All she saw was a quick blur of brown hair before the door opened.
"Amber!" exclaimed Professor Benoit, breathlessly, a large smile plastered on her face. Amber, too caught up in her anxiety at having forgotten to hand in her paper earlier, didn't notice the flush to her teacher's face, or the muss to her hair. Or the fact that her blouse was un-tucked.
"Hi Dr. B! I'm sorry for disturbing you, but I completely forgot to give you my proposal after class yesterday!"
Charlotte stared blankly at her student. The door opened wider, and a woman Amber didn't recognize stepped forward.
"Proposal?" she asked in a British accent, shocking Charlotte out of her momentary stupor.
"Right! Your proposal!" Dr. Benoit said, reaching out her hand.
"Thank you so much for helping me with this Dr. B," Amber babbled excitedly. Magnus looked on, amused and rather nostalgic as the enthusiastic youth spouted off some of her ideas for the study. She seemed a bit jumpy for her age, but looked smart. Magnus stayed still as she let her eyes drift to look at Charlotte, seeing the way she focused in on her student, getting carried away by her enthusiasm. To avoid getting caught reminiscing, Helen let a different feeling take over.
While Charlotte nodded and occasionally hummed in acknowledgment, Helen leaned forward as if to look over the proposal herself. Her chest pressed gently against Charlotte's back and shoulder as she moved in. She felt Charlotte tense. Very slowly, Helen raised her left arm, sneaking it under Charlotte's un-tucked shirt and settling against the small of her back, softly drawing lazy patterns. Crowded near the doorway as they were, no one in the hall would be able to see the contact, but Helen's long fingers burned against Charlotte's skin. The professor swallowed roughly.
"Amber," she said, cutting the young woman off. "It looks like this could shape up to be an excellent study. But unfortunately Dr. Magnus here has travelled a long way for our meeting this afternoon, and I'm going to have to get back to that now."
Amber started, having completely forgotten about the other person there. She glanced up at the statuesque brunette standing behind her professor. Amber frowned a bit upon seeing the bright blue eyes, the lush hair, and the tall figure. She quickly shook off her thoughts. It was ok to be short, it was! Height didn't make a different to how smart someone could be. Neither did looks. She didn't have to be tall or gorgeous to get the best damn mark in her course.
Amber nodded at her professor. "Ok, right, sorry! I know I get carried away sometimes. I have to get to my next class, anyway. Have a nice weekend!"
"Oh, she will," Dr. Magnus replied, quickly shutting the door as Amber stepped back. Amber's smile faltered as she turned and started walking down the hallway. That was weird. Why had that doctor woman replied for Professor B? And what was that look on her face when she closed the door? Once again, Amber shook her thoughts clear. It didn't matter. Time for chemistry!
"Helen!" Charlotte admonished, reaching behind her back, grabbing Helen's hand, and removing it, turning around to face Magnus head on.
"Oh come off it. These young people need to be shaken up every now and then."
"Your hand was up my shirt!"
"She didn't seem to notice."
"What if she did?"
"She didn't. She was much too wrapped up in her project. Believe me, I know how little else people see when they're focused on the experiment at hand."
The image of Nikola Tesla suddenly popped into Charlotte's mind. "Yes, I suppose you do."
"I'm never going to be able to think of this room in the same way again," Charlotte groused, happy that she rarely lectured there. Looking towards the desk, she saw several books scattered on the floor. Shaking her head she walked towards them, and knelt down to pick up the debris. Helen knelt down beside her to help, looking anything but contrite. Once her desk had regained some semblance of order, Charlotte leaned back against it, crossing one ankle over the other.
"So what are you doing here anyway?" she asked.
"A girl can't just drop in for a surprise visit?"
"Well I'd hardly classify you as a 'girl', and no, I don't see you as just dropping by as a surprise."
"You randomly showed up at my Sanctuary."
"You gave me your card, remember? Address included?"
"Yale isn't very hard to look up. Or maybe I was just in the neighbourhood."
Charlotte pursed her lips, trying to glean Helen's agenda by simply looking at her. It was no good. The woman had her poker face down to an art.
"Look, Charlotte, let's just accept that I'm here, alright?"
Charlotte bowed her head. "Ok, I'm sorry. It's not that I'm not happy to see you."
"I hope you are," Helen said softly.
Charlotte looked up at her. "Of course I am."
Helen leaned in and kissed her gently. "I missed you," she admitted. With the destruction of her home, and subsequent unveiling of her new Sanctuary, Magnus and her team were still getting accustomed to operating from underground. The degree of public awareness about the existence of abnormals had gone through the roof since the same time last year, and with the new knowledge, a host of problems had arisen. But that was work, and Magnus didn't want to think about that right now.
"I missed you too," said Charlotte. The women exchanged emails, phone calls, or Skyped as often as they could, but it was nothing compared to seeing each other in person, being able to see, smell, and touch.
"Do you have any plans for the rest of the day?" Magnus inquired.
"I only had the one class this morning, so my afternoon is free…" Charlotte paused.
"Only your afternoon?" Helen slowly asked.
"Uh, yeah, see… some colleagues and I actually have plans tonight."
"Yeah. Every so often, for special occasions or something we go to a place called The Raven. It's just a pub, nothing special, but it's the local haunt, so…"
"What's the occasion tonight?"
Charlotte winced. "It's, um…"
Magnus frowned, not hearing the mumbled end of her sentence.
"It's my birthday, ok?" Charlotte said quickly, looking anywhere but at Magnus.
"Is it now," Helen said thoughtfully, crossing her arms.
Charlotte dared to look back at her and was suddenly caught up in her lover's luminous blue eyes. Realization dawned slowly.
"You knew!" Charlotte cried.
Magnus' eyebrows flew to her hairline. "Knew what?"
"This really is a surprise visit, isn't it? A birthday present?" A wide grin spread across Charlotte's face, she suddenly felt very warm inside.
Magnus shrugged. "You caught me."
Charlotte laughed and jumped forward, gathering Helen in her arms and squeezing her tight. After several long moments she pulled back, beaming.
"Best birthday present ever!" she declared.
"Oh I think I can make it better still," Helen promised with a lascivious smile, moving in for a kiss. Charlotte thwarted her.
"Nope. No more here at school." She started gathering her personal belongings.
"Thank god your apartment is only a 15 minute walk away! A lovely walk, too. I have a fondness for Elm trees."
Charlotte hesitated and looked up at Helen. She opened her mouth to say something, but stopped.
"I don't even want to know how much you know about my life," she finally told the older woman.
"I only look these things up because I care, my dear," Helen promised.
"Mmhmm. For all I know you could have satellite surveillance peering through my bedroom window."
"If I do, it's only to ensure you're safely tucked in at night."
Charlotte shook her head in wonderment. "I don't know about you sometimes. I think you need a new hobby."
"Yes, the abnormals do give me so much free time for hobbies. It gets terribly boring."
Charlotte sobered for a moment. "How did you get away, anyway? How long do you have here?"
"I'm here for the whole weekend. As to how I finally managed to get away… let's not talk about that."
"I sense Will has an exciting weekend in store for him."
Helen chuckled. "Probably. But so do we."
"You have plans for me, then?"
"You could say that," Helen winked. "But for right now, I was thinking lunch. My treat."
"It's only 10:30 in the morning."
"Brunch, then. Elevensies?"
Charlotte's mouth quirked up. "Elevensies? Are you following the meal plan of a Hobbit now?"
"One of my favourite ideas of Tolkien. Such a charming concept."
"And let me guess… he was a good buddy of yours? Called you up to help him with the ideas for orcs and goblins?"
"There have been myths of such creatures throughout all time, Charlotte," Helen said, opening the door and pointing her hand out to let Charlotte know she was holding it open for her. "He only wanted me to help him with the finer details."
Charlotte shook her head as she walked past. "Right. Of course."
The women's banter continued all through the sunny walk to Charlotte's modest apartment. The professor wanted to drop off her work bag before heading to lunch.
So caught up in their repartee, neither woman noticed the man sitting on the park bench outside of Charlotte's apartment. They passed by him and entered the building, oblivious to his penetrating stare. As the doors closed behind them, he quickly looked down at the notepad in front of him, and started writing.
The watcher had become the watched.
To be continued…