EH MAH GASH it's the final chapter…!
Previously, on "Magnus goes to School"
Charlotte felt a small prick in her lower leg and shook it angrily, thinking she'd kicked up a little rock or been bitten by a summer fly. She absently glanced down and spotted something sticking out of her leg. It had a tiny red feather on the end of it. She gasped.
NO! She thought wildly. No, this can't be happening! The police aren't more than a few minutes away!
Another prick hit her in the arm and she knew she was done.
I'm so sorry, Helen, she thought as her vision went black and she fell to the ground.
Consciousness returned slowly. The first thing Charlotte registered was that she was lying down on something lumpy and uncomfortable. It wasn't too cold, though. She tried to stretch but found her limbs completely frozen. Her throat seized with panic, her eyes prying open as her breathing grew rapid and she continued to struggle against invisible bonds.
"It's ok," a voice said, but she ignored it. It wasn't ok, she was paralyzed and in the hands of the enemy once more! So help Freeman and his cronies, when she got the use of her body back she was going to kick their asses so hard they….
"Ms. Benoit, please, it's ok, you're at the hospital!"
Her eyes slid to the side and she saw a man in a white coat peering down at her. He certainly looked like a doctor. She heard an insistent beeping, and realized it beat in time with her racing heart. She was hooked up to a heart monitor. Another figure moved in behind the supposed doctor. He was in a police uniform, but it could be a trick!
"Charlotte, I'm Captain Grenville," he brought out his badge and showed it to her. "It's good to finally meet you." She stared at the badge suspiciously for a while, alternating her looks between it, the doctor, and the policeman. She finally decided they were telling the truth, and let her body go slack as she stopped fighting.
"Helen…" she breathed.
"She'll be ok," the policeman promised her. A sob of relief burst from her lips.
"We got to you just in time," he told her. "Freeman's men were hauling you off when the squad cars arrived. They tried to run but we got them. By that time you, Magnus, and your friend had all been hit with multiple tranquilizers."
"Not… our friend," Charlotte mumbled. Her tongue felt thick, her mouth stuffed with cotton. She could feel the gentle fingers of sleep caressing her, coercing her back into its tender grasp. She fought it, wanting to know more, but the drugs in her system were too strong, and she was pulled back under. The Captain frowned at her words.
"Keep an eye on her Doctor," he patted the doctor on the shoulder. "I need to go up the security on our "not" friend."
When Charlotte came too again, she panicked once more. After only a few moments, however, she calmed down, remembering quickly where she was. The beep of the heart monitor comforted her. She opened her eyes and saw the same doctor, now sitting on a chair making notes on a clipboard.
"Hey," she said. He looked up at her, uncrossing his legs and leaning forward.
"Hi there," he smiled. "How are you feeling?"
"A bit better," she said.
"Glad to hear it!" he nodded, making a note on his chart. "You were hit with some pretty strong tranquilizers."
"I'm hoping they'll wear off within about three days," he said optimistically.
She grimaced. Three days, minimum, of lying flat on her back, staring at the ceiling with nothing but her thoughts to keep her company.
As if he could read her thoughts, the doctor spoke. "We can move you to Magnus' room, if you'd like."
Her eyes flew to his. "Really?"
He nodded. "We had to do surgery on her arm and shoulder, as well as tend to the rest of her injuries, but she just came out of the OR, and is not in critical condition. She's very lucky her broken ribs didn't puncture either lung."
"What about her head?" Charlotte asked, remembering the blood and the memory loss.
"There was some swelling along the inner cranial wall, but it's thankfully already receding. I can't find any evidence of permanent damage."
Charlotte closed her eyes in weary relief.
"So long as you don't upset her or give any cause for her heart rate to spike, you should be fine in the same room," the doctor said.
"I promise I'll be good," she would have bobbed her head eagerly if she could.
"I thought you would," he grinned. "Oh, I have to warn you though…"
"We needed to stitch up the head wound. To get at the impact site we had to give her a little haircut."
"Nothing too bad," he quickly assured her, "Only a little bit of the surrounding area. The rest of her hair should be able to cover the bald patch."
Charlotte blinked her eyes in acknowledgment, a steady stream of internal curses being flung at her paralysis. "Thanks for warning me."
15 minutes later Charlotte's bed was wheeled into a different private recovery room. Several guards stood outside the door, but the Captain himself was inside, and beckoned them in with no fuss. Once Charlotte's bed was placed beside Magnus', the doctor raised the back of Charlotte's bed so she could easily look at the older woman, a few feet to her right. Charlotte smiled gratefully up at him.
"Thank you so much…" she paused.
"Greg," he supplied.
"Thank you, Greg," she said earnestly.
"Think nothing of it," he replied, waving her off. "She'll be out for a while yet," he nodded towards Magnus. "You need anything in the meantime?"
Charlotte looked pointedly at the aging Captain who stood beside Helen's bed. "Just some answers," she replied. Doctor Greg nodded knowingly, and left the room, closing the door behind him. Grenville waited patiently while Charlotte quickly took stock of Magnus' state. The 275 year old was very much unconscious, a strip of white bandaging running around her head. Her face was pale, the bruises on it stark in the unforgiving hospital light. Her black eye had returned with a vengeance. Her left side was swathed in bandages from shoulder to fingertips. Charlotte couldn't tell if her ribs had been set, or if they'd done anything to her legs which lay hidden underneath a thin blanket. Her heart monitor beeped steadily, though, and Charlotte let the rhythm soothe her. Satisfied that her lover would indeed be ok, Charlotte turned her attention to the waiting official.
"You said you got some of Freeman's men?" Charlotte started. They must have already done some questioning if they already knew Freeman's name.
The Captain nodded. "We currently have three men and a woman in custody. Several of them have already had an initial interview. We'll get into heavy questioning soon. We're hoping to lay charges of conspiracy, kidnapping, assault, and unlawful human experimentation, at the very least. It seems they've been running their little operation for several years, so we'll most likely find a few other things to charge them for as well." He paused and scrubbed a hand over his tired face. "I can't believe I had an abnormal faction using chemical warfare to take control of Yale professors operating right under my nose."
"They were being pretty subtle about it," Charlotte comforted him. "Until they snapped and started blowing up stuff, that is."
"Trust Helen Magnus to have been the trigger that made them go overboard," he sarcastically remarked, looking at the unconscious woman.
"She always does manage to find trouble," Charlotte said fondly. She wished she could reach out and touch her, just rest her hand on her arm or something. But she couldn't even lift a hand to raise a glass of water. She couldn't dwell, though, or she'd go crazy. "When are you taking down their headquarters?" she asked, looking back to the policeman.
"We secured the area right after we picked you up, thanks to some intel from Andrew. My men should be going in…" he glanced down at his watch. "Well, they should be back soon, actually. It's 1 in the afternoon, by the way, on Monday. We wanted to wait and ask you ladies some more questions about the layout, defenses, how many men there were, etc, but given the speed at which they cleared out The Raven on Friday, we knew we had to get to them as fast as possible. Andrew's information seems to have been valid. My men are conducting some on-site questioning." He shifted his chair closer to her. "You say Andrew is not your friend?"
Charlotte shook her eyes back and forth.
"Then who is he?"
"I have no idea," she admitted. "He's one of Freeman's guys, as far as I know. We ran into him while escaping. I had Freeman's son as a hostage and he was carrying Helen, but was tiring really fast. Andrew volunteered to take his place. That's all I know."
"Interesting," mumbled the policeman. "Maybe he saw the end was coming and hoped to lower his sentence by helping you."
Just then the walkie talkie at his belt went off. Charlotte listened as the team reported in, detailing a successful bust.
"We've got a pretty impressive stash of weapons, and a lot of scientific equipment," the officer on the other end said. "We'll need a hazmat team to clean that up."
Grenville got out a notepad and pen and started writing notes.
"We have three men in cuffs, and one casualty."
Charlotte's heart stopped. The man she'd flung down the stairs! Oh god no, she'd actually…
"Seems the boss got upset when his men didn't come back with the hostages. There are burn marks all over the man's face in the shape of hands. I don't know how that's possible, but…"
Charlotte slumped into the bed in relief. She hadn't killed anyone. She didn't know what she'd have done if she had. She registered the fact that the man had hand-shaped burn marks. She'd been wondering what Freeman's abnormal abilities were. She wondered why he and his men, assuming they were all abnormals, didn't use their powers more often. During their interrogation, in particular. Maybe they weren't in full control of them, or had a useless power like the ability to grow your hair really fast, or shoot air freshener out of your nose. The professor realized she'd tuned out of the conversation, and perked up her ears.
"Update me on the hour," Captain Grenville was saying.
He placed the radio on his thigh, looking down over his notes. Charlotte wanted to ask more questions, but wasn't sure what to ask. She was feeling tired again, and just wanted to see Helen open her eyes and confirm that she was, in fact, ok. Doctor's promises were well and good but she wanted HER doctor's promise. Charlotte's lips twisted upwards. Helen would surely insist that she was "fine" despite the obvious evidence against such a claim. She let herself drift off to sleep with the image of a head-bandaged, arm-slinged, paralyzed Magnus trying to get out of bed and go for a run.
"Ms. Benoit…Ms. Benoit, I'm sorry to have to wake you, but there are some visitors here who are rather anxious to see you."
Charlotte opened her eyes slowly, less than pleased with having her lovely dream of Helen in a hot tub interrupted. She performed her now usual test of limb function. Still completely useless.
"Who is it?" she asked through a dry and raspy throat. A glass of water was quickly held in front of her and she gratefully sipped at the straw.
The door to their private room burst open.
"Charlotte!" Anne screeched. Her daughter winced at her shrill voice. She was soon assaulted with a crushing hug from her mother, as her father stood nervously twisting his hands at her side.
"Are you ok?" Anne cried, pulling back and framing Charlotte's face with her hands. "We've been frantic! You disappeared, and then Helen disappeared, and they wouldn't tell us anything! Then suddenly you're in the hospital, but they wouldn't let us see you!"
"As we explained, Mrs. Benoit," Doctor Greg walked up to the bed. She really needed to learn his last name. "We needed to make sure your daughter was fully in the clear, and able to handle having visitors."
Anne let go of Charlotte's head, forgetting she was paralyzed. Charlotte's head thudded softly against the pillow as it fell back. "We would have been happy just watching her sleep!"
Charlotte knew the doctor had been keeping them out for her sake, allowing her to question the Captain and get some answers, as well as spend some time with Magnus. She gave him a smile that she hoped conveyed her thanks. He nodded.
"I'll leave you alone, now," he said, turning around. "But please keep things quiet. Ms. Magnus is still in a very delicate position."
Anne frowned, having forgotten about the other occupant of the room. She warily turned around and glanced at her daughter's… friend. Her heart lurched a bit, and she scowled. She might have extremely mixed feelings about the British woman, but she certainly didn't wish her any harm. She looked like a mess, and if what the police had told her was true, she'd incurred all her injuries while trying to protect Charlotte. She turned back to her daughter.
"What happened?" Anne wanted to hear it from her.
Charlotte pursed her lips, figuring out how much detail she could give them, and how much she'd have to gloss over.
"After leaving you guys in the lab, I went looking for Magnus," she began. "I was grabbed, and thrown into a van. They hit me with some kind of chloroform. When I woke up I was in a little room, god knows where, tied to a chair."
Anne's hand rose to her mouth in horror. Laurent quickly brought her a chair and helped her sit, before grabbing a chair for himself. Weren't these things supposed to happen only in movies? Not in real life, and certainly not to their precious daughter.
"I was left alone for a while. The next time I saw anyone, they had Helen. She let herself be taken. They shot her with some kind of tranquilizers that left her completely paralyzed." She paused, thinking again of how strong Magnus had been the entire time, despite being the overwhelming underdog. "It turns out our kidnappers were… extremists, who were trying to infiltrate Yale to help spread their political agenda. They were planning on kidnapping me Friday night, but Helen unknowingly thwarted their plans. They didn't like that very much, thus why they wanted her so badly. They, uh…" she paused again, licking her lips. She did not want to rehash the next part already, but her parent's expectant eyes compelled her. "They questioned us. They were going to… hurt, me, but Helen convinced them to let her take the brunt of it all."
Charlotte stared down into her lap. The image of Helen's arm snapping flashed through her mind, the sound of her scream. The baseball bat cracking into her shins and beating her torso before smashing against her head. Her neck had snapped forward so fast… Her head had stayed folded against her chest, unconscious, as blood poured out of the back of her head. It seeped down her neck, joining the stains on her shirt from the bullet, dripping onto her lap while Charlotte sat watching, powerless to help her, wondering if she'd be next, the metallic smell of blood filling her nose.
Bile rose up from her stomach, burning her throat and she involuntarily gagged. She'd forced herself to stay strong in that little room, but suddenly the fear and revulsion she'd kept pent up was pouring forth. Laurent stood up from his chair, searching around the room and finding a small garbage can between the two hospital beds. He held it up with one hand while he gripped Charlotte's shoulder with the other, forcing her onto her side to throw up over the edge of the bed.
When she was done he gently placed her onto her back, taking a tissue out of his pocket and wiping her mouth. Her face burned with mortified embarrassment. So much for being strong. Her eyes flickered to Helen's still figure, thankful she was still out, and hadn't witnessed the spectacle.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I don't know where that came from."
"Oh honey," Anne breathed, taking one of Charlotte's hands in her own. Her eyes glistened with tears. "I can't imagine what you went through."
There was a lump in Charlotte's throat. "I wouldn't have made it without Helen."
"From what the police told us, though," Laurent said slowly, "You were the one who actually made the escape?"
Charlotte shook her head. "Only because Helen took all the beating. Even then, she was the one who encouraged me, gave me the means to free myself, and stayed lucid long enough to give me the directions out."
"Give yourself some credit," her father softly reprimanded. "You apparently took out several of their men?"
Charlotte was surprised how much information the police had gotten out of the arrested men. And how much they'd shared with her parents. They could certainly be persuasive.
"I was just lucky," she mumbled in response. She was getting a headache, and wished she could raise her hand to rub at her temples. The older couple must have sensed her discomfort, because Laurent stood once more.
"We'll leave you be for a while," he said with a pointed look at Anne, who was already opening her mouth to protest.
"Thank you," Charlotte nodded quickly. Anne was crestfallen, but she tipped her head in understanding.
"I love you sweetie," Anne whispered, leaning down and laying a soft kiss on Charlotte's forehead. "We're so glad you're ok."
"Love you too," Charlotte said thickly. She watched her parents leave the room before letting her eyelids flutter shut. She appreciated their concern, but right now she just needed quiet. She turned her face to the side and tiredly blinked, freezing when she saw blue eyes staring back at her.
"Hi," Magnus grated out, trying to smile.
"Hey!" Charlotte called out. "We need some water in here!"
The door immediately opened to admit a nurse with some ice chips and a glass of water. Magnus accepted a few ice chips, savouring the cool sensation of them melting and soothing her throat before indicating that she was ready for some water. The nurse left soundlessly when Magnus was finished.
"Hi," Magnus tried again, her voice stronger.
"How long have you been up?"
"Just a minute."
She hadn't seen her throw up. Thank god.
"We got out?"
Charlotte realized this was the first time Helen had regained consciousness since their escape.
"Yeah," she confirmed.
Magnus smiled and bowed her eyes to Charlotte. "Way to go."
"It was a team effort."
"Hardly," Magnus snorted. "I flopped about like a moaning fish while you tackled people and negotiated with a mob boss."
"I wouldn't describe it like that," Charlotte argued.
"You saved my life, Charlotte," Helen quietly insisted.
Charlotte stared into Helen's blue eyes, drinking in the sight of them, finally open.
"It's a life worth saving."
They spent the next few minutes idly chatting, purposely avoiding talking about their ordeal. Charlotte said nothing of the way she'd broken down when Joe had left Magnus bleeding and unconscious, afraid that Magnus would never wake up. Magnus didn't bring up the shame she felt, the guilt at not being able to get Charlotte out herself, for having let her get captured in the first place. Neither woman confessed their desire to have participated in the police raid, itching to give a little payback. Instead, Magnus drifted off to the sound of Charlotte's voice as she told a story about a visit to Disneyland.
The next time Magnus woke up, Mr. and Mrs. Benoit were waiting for her. Her body instantly tensed, mentally wincing. She was afraid of what they would say, and was not yet feeling quite ready for this kind of battle. Her body still throbbed in so many places, the stitches on her head itched and her only method of relieving herself was less than comfortable, and completely out of her control. She'd hoped to delay this conversation for at least another day, but it seemed the choice had been taken out of her hands. Never one to shy away from confrontation, she gathered her strength.
"Good morning," she nodded towards them, letting them know she was wake and inviting them to say their piece. Their daughter was sound asleep in her bed, for which Magnus was thankful.
"How are you feeling?" Laurent asked, seeming genuinely concerned.
"Much better, thank you," she responded, wiggling her fingers to show she'd at least regained some movement. "They hit us with quite a lot of tranquilizer." Possibly twice as much as her first dose, Magnus theorized. Though her metabolism's slow processing of the drug could be due to the fact her body was busy healing everything else.
"I can't…" Anne's voice trailed off. Her hands were shaking. "I can't imagine what you went through."
Magnus kept her voice even. "I've been through worse. Please don't be upset on my account."
Anne frowned, not understanding how a doctor could have been through worse, but realizing she shouldn't push the subject. "Charlotte told us," she said instead, "How you convinced them to stay away from her. How you protected her."
Magnus wanted to shrug. "Protecting people is what I do."
"Maybe it is, but this time it was our daughter you protected, and to us, that means, well…" Anne was still having a hard time speaking.
"We're happy she has you," Laurent finished for her.
Anne looked skyward, chewing her lip for a moment before looking back at Magnus and nodding. "Thank you, Doctor."
"It's Helen, please," Magnus shook her head.
"Helen," Anne nodded. She reached forward and took Magnus' hand. "Welcome to the family."
Magnus regained fully mobility after a long three days of bed-ridden boredom. She'd called her team at the Sanctuary, confirming everything that Captain Grenville had told them on her behalf. She'd assured them that her and Charlotte were fine, and asked that they give the women a few days to deal with things before they came to visit. After another three days she was itching to get out of bed and get to work on something, anything, but under the stern orders of Doctor Greg, whose last name was Wendall, as they'd finally learned, she was forced to stay in bed to let everything else heal a bit more. Charlotte was selfishly thankful that Magnus had to stay with her while her own body came under her control once again. They managed to avoid any serious talk for the first two days, but with the gradual return of control, the women felt strong enough to confront the issues of their kidnapping.
"Do you remember when we ran into Andrew?" Charlotte asked, "When we were escaping?"
"Joe threw you to the ground when Andrew knocked him over. You cried out in pain."
Magnus nodded, choppy memories coming to mind.
"I got angry," Charlotte admitted, looking down at her hands. "I was so angry at him, for all he'd done… I wanted to hurt him, Helen. I wanted to really hurt him." She looked back at Helen with a lost look. She wasn't a violent person, she never had been. But their kidnapping had opened new doors within her, and shown her things about herself that she'd never wanted to know. She could kill someone, she now knew. The thought scared the hell out of her.
"Charlotte," Magnus said intently, "You're not a bad person for wanting to hurt him. I think most people would have wanted to, in your situation. You can't focus on that, though. You have to remember that you didn't hurt him. When it came down to it you were able to keep control. I've seen so many people give in to split second impulses and end up doing things they regret for the rest of their lives, but you didn't. After everything that happened, you still let him go. That says more about your character than anything else you were forced to do that night."
Charlotte thought of the broken, unconscious body at the bottom of the staircase.
"You got us out of there without a single casualty, and limited bloodshed, and I am so proud of you." Magnus said. "That's what you have to remember. That's what you need to be proud of."
"But I know," Charlotte whispered, "That if I had to… I would have. I would have killed someone to get you out of there."
"Knowing and doing are very different things," Magnus argued. "You didn't kill anyone. And I pray to god that you never have to."
Charlotte nodded and fell silent, adding Magnus' words to her internal rationalizations. Magnus sighed and let her continue to fight with her conscience. Helen and Charlotte had now spent a total of 14 days together. The first two had involved being held hostage, almost getting stabbed, being blown across an airport runway, and more. The second time Magnus had seen Charlotte she'd basically assaulted her, frantic and half-mad with lust thanks to a stray herd of nubbins. The few days after that had been spent largely in a laboratory. The time she'd finally tried to have a normal weekend with her young lover, celebrating her birthday, there'd been a bar brawl, surprise parents, more explosions, kidnapping, beating, drugging, and several days spent in a hospital. Their track record was not good. With a sinking heart, Magnus worried she might already have to give the speech she'd given to so many others. She'd been hoping to have at least a little more time with Charlotte… even a few years. But she couldn't let her own selfish desires keep putting Charlotte, and her family, in harm's way. She would not be responsible for bringing sweet Charlotte to the point of being a murderer.
"Charlotte…" her voice was wooden, as was her heart.
Charlotte's ears perked up at the tone of voice, and she turned to Magnus.
"No," the professor immediately said.
"Charlotte…" This time it was a warning. Charlotte's eyes filled with tears.
"No!" she said, her voice breaking only slightly. "There is no way we are breaking up over this."
"No!" Charlotte sat up. "You are going to shut up and listen to me, Helen Magnus," she said fiercely. "You are selfish, controlling, and often astoundingly arrogant."
Magnus' eyes rose up into her hairline.
"After 275 years I suppose you're used to feeling superior, and always getting your way."
Magnus opened her mouth to argue but Charlotte plowed on.
"But I don't give a damn how old you are, or how experienced. No amount of years gives you the right to dictate how other people live their lives, or what choices they make, however stupid."
Magnus' lips thinned into a tight line.
"I know that being around you puts me in danger, puts my family in danger. But do you see me running away? No." Charlotte put up a hand to forestall Magnus' protests before they even began. "And don't give me that line about 'I've been through worse.' I know you have. I know that I probably will in the future, too. But I don't care. There is no way I can go back to my normal, boring life now. I'm not saying I want to quit my professorship at Yale, but knowing what's out there, knowing that I might be involved in stuff like this again… it's exciting. I know it's horrible to find life and death situations exciting, but I can accept now that I do. It makes me feel alive, feel like I'm part of something bigger than I ever thought possible. That I can directly help people in a way I never thought possible. I've learned a lot of things about myself since I met you, Helen, but you're not the one who's caused the change. These things have always been inside of me, you're just the one who opened my eyes to them. And it's not ruining or corrupting me, its letting me become more, become the person that maybe I was meant to be."
She finally paused, taking a few breaths.
"I know how hard it is," she continued in a gentler tone, "For you to let yourself love people. I can't fathom the pain of seeing everyone eventually die, or drift away, or age… Maybe it's the most selfish thing I'll ever do, but I won't let you cast me aside. It'll hurt you when I die, whenever that may be, but eventually the pain dulls, right? Memories fade? New lovers come along? I only have one little life, Magnus. The memory of you will never fade for me. You've ruined me for other men. Or women… I don't know. Whatever, that's beside the point." She paused again.
"None of what's happened this weekend has changed my mind about wanting to be with you. I understand and accept the dangers. Remember, they wanted me to begin with; this really had nothing to do with you. You were just here at the wrong time. It was my fault you got hurt so badly."
Charlotte could tell Magnus was still not letting up, and blew out a frustrated breath for both Helen's stubbornness, and her own inability to sum things up.
"What I do with my life is my choice," said the young woman. "You can't tell me to just leave you be, throw me aside like a pet you no longer want, no matter how noble your intentions. I've chosen to love you, and be with you. I'd hoped you felt the same way about me, though I don't think I'll ever understand why you would love me, of all people. And now that my parents have accepted you…"
She was floundering now, unsure of how to continue. "If you don't actually love me," she said, her voice wavering, "Then I'll swallow my pride and leave. It'll be the hardest thing I'll ever do, but I'll try. If you do love me, though… Please, please give me the chance to make my own decisions about what's good for me."
She fell silent, a million words still running through her mind, but all of them seeming redundant. She could only beg so much.
"Love isn't always enough," Magnus said quietly, and then went silent, staring at the wall across from her bed, her face hard. Charlotte swallowed the lump in her throat, feeling her heart already starting to fracture. She thought of what she would say to her parents. After all she'd put them through, from her relationship with Helen, to the chaos at Yale, to their final, shocking acceptance of Helen... All for nothing.
"Yes, the pain dulls, and the memory fades," Helen started quietly, "But it still hurts so much, Charlotte. You understand some of the dangers I go through in my normal, business life, but love? Letting myself love? You will never come close to understanding how much it hurts. How all those faded memories still swell together to make one, never-ending ache, tearing at my soul."
Charlotte's stomach dropped further. Magnus didn't have the right to tell her what to do, but nor did she have the right to ask the doctor to knowingly put herself through that kind of pain, again. As Charlotte had been saying since the beginning, she wasn't really worth it. Charlotte started to envision her life from now on, alone. Her parents would worry about her, as usual, but secretly her mom would be glad that Helen was gone, no matter how accepting she'd become. Devon would still be there at Yale, reminding her every day of the normal, happy family she'd never have. She would hear about a "crazy" person thinking they'd seen a bizarre creature and know they were actually right, but not be able to tell anyone about it. Her life would still be better than lots of people, she supposed. She had a job, and a home. She'd just be alone. Well, she'd done just fine on her own until now, she could do it again. Glancing over at Magnus, seeing her blue eyes and long hair, even limp and unwashed from their days in the hospital, she knew she was kidding herself. She just couldn't let Magnus know that.
"A while back, I was stuck with Will in a cave in Boliva," Magnus suddenly said. "There was this water… it made us get a little, shall we say, testy, with each other. He was more honest with me than he'd ever dared be. He said he thought I was so jaded that I needed the risk of death to hold my attention."
She looked at Charlotte. "I think he was right. All my years of seclusion gave me a lot of time to think about my life. All the choices I'd made. There were times, sometimes years, where I began to make reckless choices, where the only time I felt alive was when I was near death." She didn't like talking about the darker times in her life, and so rarely did so. Charlotte knew that, and listened with rapt attention.
"You've changed that," Helen said. "It's been so long since I've had anything resembling a working, romantic relationship, and I fear I've done terribly so far, but over the last few months I've found myself looking for life, not death. I wake up in the morning excited at the prospect of another day, not dreading the continuous, never ending struggle that is my life. I look forward to talking to you, to seeing you, to sharing another adventure with you. You remind me of everything I'm fighting to protect. I tell myself every day to stop, the warning bells on high alert, reminding me of the other times I've let this happen…" She looked into Charlotte's eyes. "But god help me, I don't want it to stop. I don't want to let you go."
Helen's face was pained. "What if you do get hurt, Charlotte? What if horrible things happen to you, and it's my fault?"
"It won't be your fault," Charlotte said resolutely. "Because I chose it. Whatever happens, know that I chose to follow the path you showed me. It's not like you forced me to fall for you, I did that all on my own, and quite easily, I must say, despite your efforts to keep me away. You're the strongest person I've ever known. I know you'd be able to keep going."
"Damn it…" Magnus whispered angrily. Hope bloomed in Charlotte's heart. "You might end up hating me," Helen said.
"Not a chance."
"Never say never."
"Ok, fine. Maybe something crazy will happen and I'll end up bitter and hateful. But we don't know that. We can't plan the future on farfetched what if's and maybes. We can only base our decisions on the information we have here and now, and right now I know that I'm crazily in love with you."
Helen glowered at her before turning gingerly over onto her side, facing away from Charlotte. For several minutes Charlotte's heart twisted and her stomach churned. Finally Magnus turned back to her.
"Come here," the doctor ordered.
Charlotte slowly eased her body off the bed. She'd regained full mobility, for the most part, but her body was weak from lack of use, stress, and everything else that had happened. She lowered herself into the chair that always stood between their beds for visitors. Helen reached out with her good arm and touched Charlotte's face. Helen's eyes were watery and haunted, but determined. She'd made her decision.
"I love you," she stated simply. Nothing else needed to be said.
Charlotte's body sagged, her face turning into Helen's hand as tears sprung up in her eyes and fell down her cheeks. Helen's thumb wiped them away. Charlotte leaned down and kissed her, as she'd been wanting to so badly for days. Helen kissed her back.
Two hours later, Magnus' team arrived. She could only imagine what the hospital staff thought of her motley crew, marching down the hallway towards the much talked about "private room" that so many police and doctors had been going in and out of the last few days. Magnus smiled wryly and affectionately as Will, Kate and Henry trod through the doorway. Her eyebrows rose when they were followed by the ever impeccably dressed Nikola Tesla.
"Well, Helen!" the vampire said with much exuberance, "I always figured you liked it rough, but if this is what you end up like after a romantic weekend away…" he shook his head and set his eyes on Charlotte. "You know darling," he drawled, "You could be as rough with me as you want, and not leave a scratch." He ended with a wink.
Groans and eye-rolling prevailed throughout the room, Tesla grinning throughout the barrage.
"Dare I ask who's in charge at the Sanctuary with you all coming here?" Magnus laughed at her team.
"Oh don't worry, everything's under control," Will promised, avoiding giving an actual answer. She narrowed her eyes at him but let it pass, too happy at seeing her team. She hadn't realized how much she'd missed them, even after just a few days.
"I'm flattered you were all so concerned," she admitted.
"When that Grenville guy reported that you said you were 'fine' we knew something serious had happened," Henry piped up.
"Figured we better all come, just in case the local police missed anything and we had to do some clean up," nodded Kate, rubbing her fists together.
"I'm sure they did just fine," Helen defended her old friend. "But now that you're here…"
Her team grinned. They weren't used to having Magnus go off on solo missions, and felt the need to help with this one in any way they could, even though it was essentially done already. Although it was supposed to have been a normal weekend and no one could have foreseen the events, they all felt bad for not having been there when the action had gone down.
Several pairs of eyes turned to look at the one person in the room who hadn't spoken yet. Charlotte was picking nervously at the edge of her blanket, feeling like the odd one out amongst the family that was Magnus' team and coworkers.
"So," Will took charge of the conversation. "We hear we have you to thank for still having our boss."
Charlotte shrugged. "I helped a bit, yeah."
"Oh professor," Tesla sighed, "As attractive as the whole humble and coy bit is, you've earned gloating rights on this one. Own it."
"Do I even need to follow through on my birthday present?" Kate asked. The young woman had offered to give Charlotte specialized fight training. Charlotte had been wary but excited about the prospect.
"Oh I definitely still need the present," Charlotte assured her. "All my supposed fighting was using the element of surprise, and basic instincts."
"Well we'll train those instincts right up," Kate grinned.
"So the receptionist mentioned that we're not the first visitors to see you guys?" Henry changed the subject.
"No," Magnus confirmed. "We, um… Charlotte had some visitors."
"I bet your friends were all worried about you," Will smiled.
"It wasn't any friends, actually," Charlotte said nervously. The Captain, at her request, had kept any friends from being allowed to visit. "It was my parents."
The group was silent for a moment.
"You 'met the parents', did you Helen?" Tesla's face lit up in delight at the prospect of Magnus being put in her place by a pair of elderly mortals.
"I actually met them on Saturday," Magnus replied uncomfortably. She did not feel like divulging all the details of the weekend. Her team instantly picked up on the tension and backed off.
"I'm sure they're very lovely people," Will smiled at Charlotte, trying to end the conversation.
Charlotte grimaced and replied "Yeah."
"So!" Tesla clapped his hands together. "Where can a guy get a nice bottle of red in this place?"
"It's a hospital, dude!" Henry said disbelievingly.
"Honestly, Nikola," Helen shook her head ruefully.
"Exactly!" Tesla protested. "I'm sure at least half the people in this place could use a drink right now. I know I, at least, want to celebrate my dear friend's recovery after yet another of her madcap adventures. I swear if I could have heart attacks, you'd be the one to cause it," he glared at Magnus, who smiled broadly back.
"I would be more than happy to participate in a break out," the doctor suggested mildly.
Conniving grins sprouted on her team's faces, and Charlotte stood up straight in her bed.
"Do you want to incur the wrath of Doctor Greg, though?" Charlotte asked.
"I'm sure we can handle his ire," Magnus said confidently. At that very moment, the doctor in question strode into the room.
"And what, pray tell, are you planning to do that would raise my ire?" he asked, crossing his arms.
"Busted," chuckled Kate.
"We're going to break out," Magnus succinctly informed him.
"Are you now?"
Magnus crossed her own arms, the picture she presented only slightly less intimidating due to the fact that one was in a cast and sling. A silent battle of wills began. Finally Greg narrowed his eyes and nodded.
"Break away," he said.
Kate and Henry high fived as the Doctor walked out of the room.
"I like that guy," Henry announced.
"He lost, though!" Kate said.
"Yeah, but he still had the guts to go up against her in the first place."
"And he's managed to keep Magnus in here for several days already," Will added.
"A feat few have ever managed," Tesla intoned.
"Well he did," said Magnus, carefully throwing off her blankets. "And I've gone half mad because of it. Let's get out of here!"
Magnus' face lit up as her team brought forth a duffle bag she hadn't seen, conveying fresh clothes to both of them before exiting the room. Once they were dressed, Magnus having grudgingly accepted some help from Charlotte, they exited the room to find her team loyally waiting in the hallway. As they walked through the hospital and towards the doors, freedom beckoning beyond, she found she couldn't stop smiling. She shuffled along at the back of the group, her friends' conversation never stopping, everyone excited to be back together once more. She was still hurting, both physically, and from the weight of the conversation she and Charlotte had had that morning, but when Henry turned around to ask Charlotte's opinion on something, and the woman whose hand she was holding answered with a snappy reply, she knew everything would be ok.
Her family was all together, and together, they could face anything.
A/N: Aaaaah! And there we have it! What a ride it's been! What was supposed to be a steamy, amusing little one shot became the longest single fic I've written yet… woopsies! How DOES that happen! I just love writing this pair. I hope you've enjoyed reading about them :) Stay tuned for a *hem* faaaabulous new Helen/Charlotte story that, while able to stand alone, could be taken as the epilogue to this fic and will be posted separately. Not going to tell you the name, but as a hint: It's the next story I'll be posting. Keep your eyes sharp and put me on "Author Alert" to be the first to know! Warning: It will be smutty. As in ridiculous, shameless happiness. Something I rarely do so read it while ya can!
If we get past 200 reviews for this story... I might be persuaded to post the epilogue waaay ahead of time ;)
The Charity challenge for the epilogue: If you prove you donated $10 to Sanctuary4Kids… I will send you a big juicy sneak peek of the epilogue! WAY ahead of schedule ;)
Thank you especially to those who stepped up and reviewed like crazy during my Sanctuary4Kids drive. I'm honoured and humbled to report that we've raised over $200 so far! Just by reading and enjoying the show we love! The power of fandom. You guys are amazing. I actually able to tell Amanda Tapping herself about our little drive – she was very grateful.
I'd like to especially recognize: racyatsun, who first pledged to donate $1 for every review, if I could get up to 50 reviews. Well… I did! THANK YOU for your amazing donation of $50.
Thank you to kristamaxine11 who was the first to donate $20 to get chapter eight posted ahead of schedule.
Thank you to boriquacrunch who next donated $20 to get chapter nine posted.
Thank you to the beautiful, wonderful, stunning people by the names of gateworldrocky , arones_66, and csigurlie07 who all donated $20 to get chapter ten emailed to them ahead of time.
Thank you to all those who reviewed every chapter and helped rake in those $'s.
And finally thank you to everyone who reviewed even once. Every single dollar counts towards giving kids around the world a better life.
I hope you all enjoyed my little story :) *massive epic hugs all round*
… And don't forget the epilogue, coming soon, which will still have the charity drive open ;)