Written for Sanctuary Bingo, only just barely covering the prompt 'Whump: Broken Heart'.
Fire and Ice by PoorQueequeg
If Helen had bothered to look she would have noticed the gentle snow drifting past the window of her bedroom but she was too busy filling her trunk to notice, caught up with the excitement of heading home for Christmas. She loved Oxford with a passion but there was something about this time of year that made one long for the comfort of home, the familiar faces of the London house and, although Helen would never admit such feminine folly to her fellows, the Christmas shopping. Besides, it had been snowing on and off for days and the novelty had started to wear off, morphing instead to irritation as her skirts were invariably soaked and her boots slipped on the slush covering the footpaths. She huffed a sigh as she folded her clothes into her case and longed for the time when she might be permitted to wear trousers or some other equally practical attire.
Deep in thought she did not notice the first dull thump against the window, turning instead to organise a great sheaf of papers that leaned haphazardly on top of a small table in front of the fire. At the second thud, she raised her head and stared into the flames burning in the hearth and when there was only a protracted silence, returned her attention to the task at hand. Another, louder thud a few minutes later most definitely caught her attention and she stopped what she was doing and turned to look around the room. A rat perhaps, she thought walking over to the desk as the sound repeated. She hoisted a shoe in the air and looked around the room with narrowed eyes in search of the wretched creature, gripping her skirt in her other hand so that she would be prepared to pounce when it finally showed its face. Slowly she circled the room, hoisting the valance on her bed and cautiously peering into the dark space underneath but there was still no sign of the beast. With a sigh of resignation she dropped the valance and straightened up, turning slowly away from the bed to be greeted by pale face leering at her through her bedroom window. Helen screamed.
"John!" she chastised, yanking open the window unceremoniously. "What on earth are you doing? You frightened the life out of me!" He grinned at her in amusement for a second before shivering fiercely.
"I can no longer feel my feet, I am sure I shall fall at any moment if you leave me out here!" John uttered breathlessly. Helen could not resist his pitiful plea, clutching at his coat and pulling him forward over the window ledge as his legs scrabbled against the climbing ivy outside. The window was somewhat narrow and despite being very slim, John still had to twist awkwardly to get through. The snow on the ledge was melting where his gloves were pressed into it and when he bent his knee to push against it, he slipped and collapsed into Helen's open arms. She let out an oof of surprise as she tumbled backward, still gripping onto his coat and pulling him down with her to land in a sprawling mass of limbs on the carpet.
"Oh my," Helen chuffed as she peered up at him and John chuckled wickedly before pressing his lips to hers in an opportunistic kiss. "John, you cad! Let me up at once!" Helen cried, squirming away from under him.
"Forgive me, my love. I am not myself," John replied meekly, leaning back on his knees and pulling her to a sitting position. "I fear I have contracted some manner of brain fever from too long outside." Helen smiled at him somewhat dreamily despite herself as he took her hand and kissed the back of it tenderly.
"Your hands are like ice, John," she said in a concerned tone. He chuckled.
"I must have been there ten minutes, I think perhaps you need your hearing tested," he teased, sticking his frigid finger into her ear. Helen gasped in surprise and twisted away from him as he laughed.
"Brain fever indeed," she chided. "Only you would be so melodramatic John Druitt!"
"It was worth it to see you," he told her earnestly, swaying slightly closer and Helen longed for him to kiss her again but she stilled him with a gentle touch to the shoulder. John licked his lips and hesitated for a before leaning back on his haunches and pushing himself up to stand. He pulled her up beside him and they stood for minute a gazing at one another tenderly. Silently, Helen took his hand and lead him closer to the fire. He allowed her to peel his damp coat from his shoulders and hang it over the back of the armchair before guiding him to sit.
"That's better," Helen crooned in a quiet voice and John hummed as she began to pull his gloves from his hands, rubbing his chilly fingers between her palms to warm them up.
"I could not bear to let you go away without saying goodbye," John intoned sadly and Helen smiled at him fondly, stroking her hand across the fuzz of his sideburn. "Promise you will write to me every day," he breathed and Helen smiled lazily.
"I think you should grow rather tired of my letters," she said playfully. John shook his head fiercely and kissed her palm.
"Never," he promised and wrapped his arms around her waist as she chuckled mildly. "Come here," he whispered and Helen shook her head but let him pull her onto his lap anyway. She turned her face away as he stroked his palm across her cheek and buried his fingers in her hair. "Helen," he murmured quietly, craning his neck to catch her lips but she twisted her head away again.
"Your hands are freezing," she complained but John would have none of it. He wrapped his arms around her tightly and pulled her close against him.
"Kiss me," he begged and pressed her against the side of the chair with his lips. Helen whimpered and squirmed for a minute until she could resist him no longer. She melted into his embrace and kissed him back, her palm pressed against his chest. John sucked on her lips hungrily and Helen slipped her hand up to stroke across his neck, sighing against his mouth. The kiss grew more heated, the touches more frenzied until Helen pulled back, gasping for breath.
"John," she murmured as he brushed his lips against her neck, his hand stroking across her shoulder and squeezing firmly.
"My darling," he hummed against her skin and Helen's eyes fell closed as he began to caress her arm, across her waist until his palm closed around her breast.
"John, we mustn't..." she uttered but before she could protest any further he kissed her again, turning to press her against the back of the chair. He sank to his knees and pulled her down across the cushions, leaning across her to claim her lips in another kiss.
"Helen," he rasped as his hands wandered and she writhed beneath him, twisting her head from side to side. "I think I shall die!"
"John, please stop," Helen choked and John sat back on his knees, pulling her towards him to sit on his lap in front of the fire.
"Why?" he croaked, his breath tickling her ear and his voice hoarse and desperate. Helen met his stricken look and sighed, stroking his face with her fingertips before laying her head on his shoulder.
"I don't want to have a child, yet, John," she answered tiredly and he exhaled slowly through his nose, cupping the back of her head.
"You know I would marry you in a heartbeat if you would have me, Helen," he told her as he buried his nose in her hair.
"Oh, John," she answered, exasperated. "We discussed this." He huffed and Helen felt him stiffen as he turned his head to stare across the room with a brooding expression. "Come now, don't be like this!"
"How can I be otherwise Helen?" he snapped and Helen scowled, pushing on his chest and rising from the floor.
"Why must you spoil our last evening together?" John clenched his jaw as she walked away to stand beside her desk.
"Forgive me for being a little sore at your constant rejection," he spat bitterly and Helen whirled to face him.
"If you think I am going to be seduced by means of this...blackmail, you can think again, John Druitt," she growled and John gaped at her.
"Blackmail!" he cried and Helen shook her head at him, a cynical look spreading across her face.
"You know my feelings about marriage! You know I intend to practise, how can you ask me give that up?" John shook his head vehemently, rising to his feet and stalking across to stand before her.
"I have not asked you for anything that you would not willingly give!" he told her angrily. "Did I not promise you that I would allow you to do as you pleased, even after we were married? What other man would allow you such liberties?" Helen shoved his arms away as his hand came up to clutch her shoulders but he held her tightly.
"Do not speak to me of liberties!" she snarled, pushing against him hard so that he staggered back a way. John clutched at her wrists, pulling her across the floor with him and Helen screwed her face up and smacked him hard on the chest. "Unhand me!"
"How can you be so cold?" he sobbed, pulling her close. "Have you no pity? Do you care for me at all?" Helen shook her head, tears pricking her eyes as she turned her face away from him but John was insistent, burying his hands in her hair. Helen dug her nails into his skin through his shirt and struggled, pushing hard on his chest and staggering back a step. When John attempted to pull her close once again she clenched her jaw, rage bubbling up within her and she raised her hand and slapped her palm hard across his cheek.
John swayed under the blow and teetered back a step. Pressing one hand to his stinging cheek he stared at her aghast for a moment, the hurt evident in his eyes. Helen stood with clenched fists, her chest heaving with hard panting breaths as she glared at him furiously.
"Helen..." John began, his voice constricted with sorrow and regret. "Helen I..." He took a step closer but Helen stepped back, maintaining the distance between them. The room was silent but for the ticking of a carriage clock across the room.
"I think you should leave," Helen said after a while.
"Helen...darling," he breathed again but Helen would not meet his eyes, turning her head to the side to stare into the fire. John gazed at her profile with sad eyes, unable to miss the hard clench of her jaw. "Please..." he tried again and took a step towards her.
"Don't!" she rasped, through gritted teeth. "Just...go." John stood frozen, his hands falling to his sides and he felt a wave of despair wash through him.
Helen did not raise her head as he made his way towards the door, staring instead at the carpet as though it were the most compelling thing she had ever seen but when she heard the click of the lock as the door closed behind him, she lifted her chin stared mournfully at the space where he had been.