Will doggedly followed Tesla when the man surged suddenly towards the veranda, leaving Abby standing shocked at the refreshment table as he responded to the vampire's obvious alarm. They stumbled together through the open patio doors, and Will's heart leapt to his throat at the sight of Magnus pressed tightly between Druitt and balcony rail.
Something glinted in Druitt's hand, and Will's lightning quick senses saw it for what it was—a weapon, a blade poised to murder Magnus.
"Helen!" Tesla's shout startled both Magnus and Will, though Druitt didn't even seem to blink. He remained focused on the woman he had trapped in his arms, whose panicked gaze arrested Will where he stood. He'd never seen her so frightened before.
Tesla reacted instantly, his hands arching as claws sprouted from his fingertips, a growl scraping from his throat. His eyes darkened in the split second it took to launch himself forward. In a blur of motion, Will moved to follow, but with a crack of sound Druitt disappeared into thin air.
Magnus fell forward as soon as Druitt's weight disappeared, with Tesla's charge sliding to a halt just in time to catch her as she stumbled. Will surged up behind them, pulse racing.
"Magnus! Oh my god—" His flustered exclamation was ignored when Tesla pulled her attention to him.
"Are you injured?" he asked, voice low and gentle. His hand held Magnus', but she pulled it from his grasp as she shakily tried to gather herself.
Her eyes blinked rapidly. "I'm fine…"
"You're bleeding," Will pointed out, his eyes zeroing in on the sluggish line of blood trailing from the slice carved into the skin of her throat. Jesus… Another ounce of pressure, and he would've actually done it. Druitt would have killed her.
Magnus brushed his concern away. "I'm fine, please, just…" She tried to push away entirely, but when Tesla kept a gentle hold on her, she stopped, almost sagging against him. Suddenly, she wasn't the picture-perfect doll of Victorian fashion, but an exhausted woman who had lived too many years.
Tesla turned his head towards Will, but his eyes didn't leave Magnus. "Get the car, we're leaving," he instructed firmly. He turned back to Magnus, his fingers gently brushing her cheek. "We're leaving."
The carriage ride home was silent. Well, relatively so, at least. Bessie reported all the gossip she'd overheard throughout the evening, little nuggets of information mined from her fellow maids and chaperones. Helen barely heard her.
Her fingers tingled with the remembered touch of Mr. Druitt's hand. He'd been so gentle. As though she were a goddess, and he so honored to be her acolyte. And the interest he'd shown in her studies, inquiring without testing her—a feat even James Watson had yet to master. Watson constantly challenged her, in the spirit of scholarly camaraderie.
But Mister Druitt… John… He guided her, helped her along in ways she didn't even realize she needed. And he had his own insights, which only made him more intriguing. He had a way of looking at things, took the oddity's in such stride… and he was passionate, if perhaps not as vocally as Watson or Tesla.
Helen descended from the hansom when it pulled up in front of her father's town home, and made her way inside and up the stairs in a daze. Bessie followed, falling silent as though recognizing the stupor her ward was in.
When her hair was undone, her nightshift settled across her shoulders, Helen mutely registered Bessie's departure from her room. She sank onto the plushly cushioned bench situated at the foot of her bed, her hands pressed to her chest as if they could slow her racing heart, or ease the flutter in her stomach.
She'd never felt like this before; never felt anything like it. Helen tipped her head back, leaning against the bedpost with a wistful sigh. It had only been a few months, but she already knew. In her heart of hearts, she knew.
If John asked it, she would spend the rest of her life with him.
It took all of Helen's considerable fortitude to get home without crumbling.
She'd gotten away with a simple adhesive bandage on her neck, though the scratch had already stopped bleeding by the time they'd arrived home. Both Nikola and Will offered their services in helping her undress, neither offers laden with anything other than concern. But she'd asked Kate instead, who knew something was wrong and had the courtesy to not ask Helen anything. Kate helped lift the heavy gown over her head, loosened her corset—Helen nearly coughed at the sudden release.
She was down to her shift when Kate finally spoke. "Y'know, Doc…"
Helen looked up at her, failing to find the words with which to respond. Kate shifted her stance, clearly uncomfortable. "You know where to find me, if you need anything… right?"
Forcing a smile, Helen nodded. "Of course." She swallowed. "Thank you, Kate."
"I'm just gonna, ah…" The younger woman motioned towards the door, and Helen nodded again, giving her permission. She was fine. She'd be all right.
She always was.
A moment later, Helen was alone. Sitting in front of her boudoir mirror, she began the task of letting her hair down. Pin after pin was worked from her tresses, fingers nimbly seeking out the fixtures before brushing her hair. The usually comforting routine put her ill at ease, however.
Her reflection stared at her, a spectre of her past. Helen looked at the glass and saw the same haunted look as she had that night she'd approached John in the alley, seen the monster he'd become. The monster she'd created.
She set her brush down with a snap, turning from the accusing mirror as she rose, leaving the dressing table to move towards her bed. She was tired, so very exhausted. Halfway there, she stumbled, tears blinding her as a suffocating sob rose in her throat. Helen caught herself against the bedpost, fingers gripping it desperately as her knees shook, threatening to collapse where she stood.
A trembling hand lifted to her throat, fingering the bandage resting there. A groan pulled from her throat, and she shut her eyes against the memory of the steel brushing her skin, the blade so vilely familiar it sickened her. It had been dark on the veranda, but she would recognize that blade anywhere. It was the same razor he had threatened her with in London, the same blade that had been left lodged in the plaster wall of her study.
Tears poured down her cheeks as sobs overwhelmed her, pouring from her in loud, gasping heaves of sound. Her heart thundered in her ears, mocking her. She collapsed to her knees as her fingers clenched around the bedpost, clinging to the wood as though her life depended on it. It was her anchor; it kept her here, in this room, in this time.
She gave in to the waves of grief, sorrow borne over the course of a century. Heartbreak over not only John, but for herself, for the woman who died the same night she lost John. Never again. This was her solemn vow, invoked as she released her anguish into the night.
Never again would she lose herself to another's heart, so long as she may live.