In loving memory of my Pa.
She was old. Finally, after all this time she was really, really old. And it showed. No one around her really knew how old she was, after all she'd barely aged since that fateful experiment all those years ago but every single test they could run told them the same thing, she should be dead. She shouldn't, couldn't look like a 45 year old woman when every single one of her internal organs were breaking down. She was an impossibility even to these highly evolved humans. Their science was beyond her, beyond what she had been. Because that was the problem. It was one thing to live for nearly a thousand years but it was another to ask her body and mind to keep up. They'd served her so well for so very long and it was only now that she was all but a shell of the woman she'd been that her body had needed the assistance of their machines. Her life had been unnaturally prolonged so it was only fitting that her death be stretched out in excruciating comparison.
And by all accounts, she'd lived a good life. A life full of pain and suffering and loss but also filled with joy and discovery and, after a time, love. In all her years she'd known the love of many but returned the love of only a few. It had been a self defence mechanism, used to avoid getting attached to those who could not possibly keep up with her forever. Of course there were some who'd fought to the bitter end, never really leaving her until she gave them no other choice. Will had been one of those. Their love affair had been brief but intense and, right up until the moment he died, Helen had worked to find a way to bring him into the next century with her. Of course, a swift bullet had ended that dream.
Back in the beginning there'd been John and, while they'd continued with their illicit affair for three century's, when he finally died, the jagged edges of her raw and broken heart had also felt a kind of relief she'd never expected. She had loved John yes, with her whole being when she was young and then in a different, more twisted way but she had loved him so she shouldn't feel glad when he was gone. It had taken her decades to fully understand and disperse that guilt but it wasn't until now, until she was teetering on the precipice between lucidity and the world of fantasy she lived in most of the time that she could really comprehend what her mind had been trying to tell her. For John, tortured soul that he was, death had given him the chance to move on and away from the tie that bound them for all eternity. It was a release from not only her but from the sins he couldn't atone for.
Then there'd been sweet and fiery Charlotte, the one night stand she'd never managed to shake. Not that she really wanted to shake the girl off. She'd lasted longer than Will but not by much. Helen had had to push her away. She'd simply been too close to really knowing the girl for her comfort. They'd spent years together, on and off and while Helen had occasionally wanted a more permanent solution, the fact that the young scientist had been willing to give up her life had told Helen that it was time to move on and give her the chance to have a normal life. She couldn't bring herself to be selfish enough to claim that love for her own.
Of course, there had been others. Abnormals who she'd saved, people she'd met, people she'd almost killed, protégé's here and there but it had taken her quite a while after John's passing to really love once more. But, once again, she'd been too late. By the time she'd listened to that tiny thrum in her heart that told her to follow the dream that had been floating through her mind for way too long, her mind had already started to slip. She recognized it long before anyone else did. It started so gradually, little slips of the tongue, moments of confusion that, after a time turned into complete incomprehension. Her memory had been perfect but she first got confused on the order of things, once or twice even asking to speak to those she'd buried long ago.
He'd noticed it a little too quickly for her liking but, before he'd ever been able to confront her she'd learnt to cover it up. Headaches here and there, diverting her power and her influence slowly but surely to those she were sure to last the next decade or two. At the time she'd hadn't known how long it would last, how long she'd still have her own mind but, always one to be proactive, she'd set up measures almost straight away, 'just in case' provisions that had stayed locked in her draw until it had become too much for her to hide.
That had been the hardest thing, admitting openly that she was going, that she was slipping away. Some had refused to believe it, some had given her pitying looks, some had asked to double check her findings but only one person walked away. He'd gotten angry at her, positively furious. He'd accused her of cutting him out, of giving up too easily, of being unwilling to fight for him. They'd fought for days, screaming and yelling and bellowing that he didn't love her or she didn't love him. In retrospect she should have seen it as another symptom but, at the time she'd been obsessed with destroying him, wanting him to suffer the way she suffered. She wasn't normally an angry person and her temper could usually be restrained but nothing had been able to stop her from chasing him from her home and from her life.
And like that he'd left. He'd left her alone in the big empty house they'd shared for twelve glorious decades. He'd been such a fixture in her life, such a constant, right from Oxford all the way up to now that it had taken her the better part of a year to acclimatize to not having him there, of going to bed alone and waking up cold.
Ten years, ten whole years went by before she saw him again and by then she'd almost forgotten who he was. Literally and figuratively. He'd stood on the door step, sheepishly smiling at her, suitcase in hand and she'd stood there, face blank and uncaring. He'd stuttered, stumbled and eventually a single tear escaped. She'd almost shut the door on him.
He was shocked by her transformation, shocked to see just how far downhill she'd slipped. A few hours later she'd recognized him but, unable to melt the barriers he'd forced her to place around her heart, she'd refused to see him. Well, she did until a few hours later the childish side of her came out once more and she'd practically skipped down the corridor to his room, throwing herself into his arms as she let out a gleeful laugh. He'd been taken aback but, after having been briefed on her swings and just how bad it could get, he'd managed to hide most of his shock.
Until she'd tried to kiss him, that was. Her actions had been sloppy and uncoordinated but her determination was the same as ever. He'd been out of his pants before he managed to fight her off. Then she'd grown tired and crawled onto the bed, collapsing in exhaustion.
When she'd woken hours later and he'd explained how she'd gotten to his room, she'd been mortified. It wasn't the first time she'd acted as such but it had only ever been around those who knew her, truly knew her and, at the time she'd refused to count him as one of those people. She was private when it came to her condition, rarely leaving the wing she'd been given let alone attending formal Sanctuary functions. It had been eight long years since she'd been relieved of her post and in that time, while her body had not changed, her mind had slipped quickly into a place from which everyone feared there was no return.
But not him, oh no. He'd come waltzing back not because of a guilty conscience but because finally, after ten long and painful years he had a solution, a way to make her better. Only now, ten years later it was too late. Helen Magnus had well and truly left the building, only popping her head in for a visit every few days if they were lucky. His treatment, as outlandish as it might have been most likely would have worked, freezing her more permanently in time, stopping the decline of her mind and preventing the multisystem organ failure that had her strapped up to thousands of machines.
Modern medicine was brilliant, it had kept her going when her kidneys gave out, it had eased the arthritis that slowly encroached her limbs, it head meant that even when she was unable to swallow that her body remained nutritionally sound but even now, hundreds of years after she should have died, their understanding of the brain was just as poor as always. They gave her dopamine to help with her tremors and memory lapses and it had helped for a bit, making her brighter but after a time, when the dosage could go no higher and it became nothing more than something else to shove down her throat, they'd given up on it. Of course they'd tried a multitude of other drugs, a little of this, a little of that but it was life preserving and this was no life.
The small strokes that robbed her of her hearing had come without warning and while they'd debated the idea of surgery that could reverse such effects, she'd written with shaky hands that it was time to stop, time to rest. They'd all looked at her like she was crazy, like she hadn't a clue what she was talking about but eventually they'd seen the clarity in her eyes. She was lucid, there was no denying it. He'd still fought it though, saying that such a sharp decline in three months meant that they needed to do more but his pleas had fallen on deaf ears.
After a time he'd given up, letting go of the idea that he could save her because it meant he was able to spend more time at her side. He gave up the lab for the hospital-like room, holding her hand as she grew weaker and weaker. In her own mind, she'd flitted between memories, of heady experiments in disused labs at Oxford, of pretty rings given after theatre expeditions. Some days her memories were of more recent events, of his arrival on her door step, of the way she'd broken down after forgetting his name yet again.
Hazily she drifted from reality to fantasy, unable to distinguish much more than what was before her. She fell asleep with her eyes open and she spoke too loudly. Once or twice she'd said inappropriate things, or made inappropriate suggestions but while they sometimes hurt those they were directed at, no one could really reprimand her. It wasn't as if she could remember it when they did and, after making an attempt to do so it became painfully apparent that it wasn't going to make any difference. Helen Magnus was gone.
When the time came, when she was blinking lazily at the gossamer cover for her four poster bed, she knew. His face was drifting in and out of her gaze and while she knew that she ought to focus, all she could think about was the delightful warmth in her body. She was tingling from head to toe, it was absolutely fantastic. She turned her head slightly, she needed to tell him how good it was, how nice it felt.
He was there when there were five, he saw it dwindle to four, he held back tears when it became three, he cheered internally as the fell to two but now he was not part of the Five, not even part of any kind of subsection of them.
He was the One. Her One. The only One left standing.
And so the One cried.