Helen sleeps so much that he starts to worry. He doesn't dream of waking her up but he paces outside of her room for several hours early in the morning and when she finally wakes up, closer to lunch than to breakfast, she's slow to get going.
The new Sanctuary is mostly empty. It's ready, but not working.
She ties the sash of her robe - odd, the things she bothered to save - and lets him follow her around the living compartment like a little puppy. She puts on water for tea and doesn't startle when she turns around to find him right there.
Instead, she raises her hand and rests it against his cheek.
"Did you not sleep?" she asks, softly.
He hadn't, actually. He'd been amped up from travel and the surprise of what she'd had waiting for him. The joy to find her alive and well. The concern that she'd been down here, alone, for weeks. She'd brushed his worry aside. But here they are, touching in her little kitchen and the worry swells again in his chest.
"I couldn't," he admits. Her other hand rises to his other cheek and she holds his face for a brief moment.
"We'll eat," she says. "And then you'll sleep."
She doesn't put him back in the little bed she has in the spare room. She takes him to her own bed. While the spare bed had seemed sterile and foreign, something about this room already smells like home. Maybe it's because it smells like Helen, or because there are a few things he recognizes. Her black sweater, her silver hair clip. She pulls back the rumpled blankets and he slides in and the pillows are soft and sweet. She sits on the edge of the bed and puts her cool hand on his forehead.
"You were gone," he says, eyes heavy now.
"It was hard for me, too," she says.
She hums a little, something he doesn't know but it's comforting like a lullaby. He doesn't know if he wants her to be his mother or his lover or his boss or his wife, and right now it doesn't matter. He just know that he wants her and finally, she's here.
They spend a couple days alone. She shows him every nook and cranny of this massive place. They eat, they rest, they drink tea in the morning and wine at night. They laugh and mourn and straighten things out between them. It's an idyllic location and it feels like the vacation she never quite let him have. Except better, because she's there.
But it cannot last.
"There are refugees up there," he says. "And people that love you. Who don't even know if you're safe yet. Who are worried about me too, now."
"I know," she says.
She doesn't want to return to the surface with him. She gives him a list of suppliers to visit, of people to bring back. The Sanctuary is ready to open its doors and become home to people, but it will take some time to become self-sufficient. They'll need to rely on the surface a little longer.
"Come with me," he begs one last time. They stand at the hidden entrance, the exit. One way in, one way out. Helen likes to have control.
"No," she says. "It's better that I don't."
Will disagrees but knows he won't convince her.
"I'll come back," he promises. Her eyes get wide and she smiles.
"I never thought that you wouldn't," she says. "Is that naive of me?"
Standing in the mouth of the cave, it's hard not to remember before, in Bolivia, jacked up on the water. How angry he'd felt at the notion of Magnus controlling his life by paying for his education, by watching him from the shadows. It had seemed so unfair and he'd hated the way she'd seemed to feel entitled to his time.
Now, himself again, he realizes that he wants her to have his time and he wants to have hers.
"If I had another life after this one, I'd give that to you, too," he blurts.
Her little smirk fades away into something akin to awe, to pleasure.
"William," she murmurs. "So sweet."
They're in a new place, he and Magnus. The new Sanctuary, yes, but it's a new emotional place as well. They're more than just friends but he doesn't know how much more. Partners, certainly, but there is a gray area that he's just been aching to explore. She steps into him, tucks her chin against his shoulder. They hug.
"Hurry home," she says.
He holds her, his hands against her lower back. She tilts her head and kisses his cheek, right at the jaw line and then steps away so quickly that he wonders if he just imagined it.
"Off you go," she says and turns around, heading back into her new home. She doesn't watch him go and they don't say goodbye.
Kate sleeps against his shoulder.
They've been traveling all around together and they're both exhausted. They both want to go home. Kate back to her new life in Hollow Earth and Will, back to Magnus.
"What about Abby?" Kate had asked. He and Magnus have delicately avoided the subject of Abby all together but Kate is Kate and cuts right to the chase.
"Abby works for the FBI on the surface," Will had said. They'd talked about trying to make it work but Abby knew that if Will found Helen, he'd never come back.
"What if I don't find her?" Will had asked.
"I don't want to be your consolation prize," Abby had said.
Soon, he and Kate will have to part ways. Will is going to miss her. They'll see each other sometimes, but it's not the same as living in the same place.
They're in the back of a bus and the bumpy ride wakes her up. She sits up and blinks, rubs her eyes.
"How much longer?" she asks.
"Maybe half an hour," he says.
"Good," she says.
"You excited to leave me?" he asks.
"Excited to get off this barf bus," she says. "I haven't been home in three weeks."
"Yeah," he says.
"So you're really going to do it?" Kate asks. "Stay permanently in the new digs?"
"I mean," Will says. "I work for Magnus and that's where..."
"Okay, stop," Kate says, waving a hand in front of his face. "Wake up, dummy. You don't work for Magnus. A job is not your whole life."
"I don't..." He doesn't understand.
"Maybe she gives you a paycheck and maybe you follow her orders but come on, Will." Kate rolls her eyes. "You and Magnus have been you and Magnus for too long now to call this your job."
He stares at her.
"It's a lifestyle," he says.
"You've known her for longer than I have, I'll give you that, but I'm a woman and I know what her face means when she looks at you, bro," Kate says. "And you look at her like..."
"Like what?" he says.
"I don't know. Like a thirsty man in the desert."
"Shut up," he says. Kate pretends to bash her head into the window.
"You have your Abbys and your Claras and she has her entourage of Nikolas and Druitts but at the end of the day, you two go home to each other. I don't understand, NO ONE understands why you all gotta make it so complicated all the time."
"Because it's inappropriate to date your boss?" he asks.
"Inappropriate," she mutters. "Jesus mother fucking Christ."
"Are you mad at me?" he asks, so deeply confused.
"No," she says. "I feel sorry for you."
He crosses his arms, looks at the ragged countryside outside of the bus.
"Love is inappropriate, Will," she says after a while. "That doesn't make it bad."
"Love," he says.
"I know you love her," Kate says. "And I know she loves you. The rest is just details."
They get off the bus and hike to the rendezvous point. They don't talk about love anymore, or Magnus, or Abby or anything. It's hot and they're tired.
They meet up with their group. Kate leaves with her people to return to Hollow Earth. He leaves with his to make his way back to the new Sanctuary. She waves at him and he waves back.
He doesn't have much time to think about her words, which is lucky, maybe.
Magnus hasn't assigned him his own living space yet, so he returns to hers.
He hates the damn cot; it's creaky and uncomfortable. She's out, dealing with the new intakes and had told him to go get some rest. He showers and then, thinking that she'll be gone for hours yet, gets into her bed. He's done it before with her permission.
He wakes up because he's no longer alone. The bedroom is empty, but she's left evidence of her return all around. Her denim jacket on the chair by the door, a glass of water on the nightstand next to him. That's what woke him - the ice shifting as it melted.
The shower is running and then shuts off. He hears the curtain move - wet feet on tile. Helen.
He closes his eyes. He's still tired, too tired to drag himself from the comfort of her soft mattress for the sake of propriety. Tired enough that he dozes off again and comes to only because she wakes him. Her hand on his shoulder.
"What time is it?" he asks.
"Dinner," she says. He's slept the day away and still feels like he could sleep the whole night. "You have a little fever."
He does feel off but he had thought it was just exhaustion.
"I'm sorry," he says. She waves it away.
"I'm going to bring you a tray," she says. He opens his mouth to argue. "Doctor's orders."
She eats with him, cross-legged on the bed in soft clothes with wet hair. She has no makeup on, or jewelry. He picks at his food, not hungry, but drinks all his water and takes the pills she drops into his open hand.
When he gets up to pee, she hands him his pajamas. He changes, brushes his teeth, washes his sweaty face. He goes back to the little room but the cot has been folded up and tagged for transport.
He is confused at first though the message is clear enough.
She finds him, touches his back.
"You should go back to bed," she says.
"Just like that?" he asks. She shrugs.
"You wanted a partnership," she says. "I do too, Will. I always did but things take time to settle. I wasn't ready before."
"And now you're settled," he says.
"I didn't want to ever give you half of me," she says. "I didn't want to be unfair."
He thinks of Abby, knowing already that she'd always been his second pick.
"I was unfair to Abby," he says now. "I kept her around even though I was waiting for you."
"Come to bed," she says again. This time he follows. She gets into bed with him, curls up so her knees are pressed into his side.
Kate said it would happen and here they are.
Just sorting out the details.
Will and his handful of days.
He feels like his life is passing him right by, he feels like he's just a small blip on her radar. He appreciates the irony - she is going to be his entire life but he's the one that feels like he's missing out on the best parts of her. She has lifetimes behind her and countless stretched before and he worries that what he can give her is never going to be enough.
Because everything to Will is, to Helen, just a handful of days.
She tells him she loves him. His hands are deep in her hair and her legs are around him. It's dark and quiet in their room except for the linens rustling, the sweat covered bodies, the sharp exhalations of breath. He rises and falls, dips in and out and tries not to get lost. They look at each other, lock eyes. She has a tiny smile.
"I love you," she says.
Helen loves him now. In this moment, on this day with Will right in front of her, right inside of her. It's temporary, though, it's fleeting. He'll grow old, he'll die, Helen will mourn him and move on. She will fall in love again. There's proof enough of that in her history.
Will tries not to let it bother him. It's not like he believes in everlasting love. He's a scientist, a doctor, a human. He knows better than that.
Helen sleeps softly beside him. Will has sat up for most of the night, thinking too hard about time. How to slow it down, how to stretch it out, how to make every moment count slightly more than the one that came before it. Helen shifts; the sheet reveals one bare shoulder and the top swell of a breast.
She's changed a lot in the time that he's known her, but on the outside, she hasn't changed at all.
She opens her eyes - dark lashes, blue irises startlingly clear in this hazy gray light of dawn. She doesn't say anything, but she does reach out to put a hand on his forearm. He doesn't have to explain it to her. She's his boss, his doctor, his best friend. She knows exactly what the forlorn look on his face means.
She's lost so many lovers before.