As Small as a World and as Large as Alone
Disclaimer: Alas, not mine. Not anyone's who cares about them. I bought them ice cream and took them back home.
A/N: Entirely stand-alone. First time kinda stuff. The title is from a favorite poem by a favorite poet. Kudos if you know which one ;)
A/N 2: The story contains an artefact known as Harrigay's Masterpiece, used by another writer, corchen, with her permission. To quote: "Harringay," Helena said, "was a rather lacklustre painter who accidentally summoned a devil of some description into a painting. When the creature," and here she gave the canvas a little shake, "attempted to convince him to part with his immortal soul in exchange for the ability to paint a masterpiece, Harringay showed surprising strength of will and painted the thing over with a tin of 'Hedge Sparrow's Egg Tint' enamel paint that happened to be in his wife's boudoir. Thusly, as far as we could tell, sealing the unfortunate imp into the painting for all time."The other artefact that appears in the story is, for good or bad, mine ;)
Myka stopped in the middle of the aisle and carefully set down the awkwardly shaped bundle she was carrying. Despite having been neutralized, the damn thing still seemed intent on misbehaving. She'd been wandering the stacks now for what seemed like hours in search of the proper location for Edwin Beard Budding's lawn mower. Artie had muttered an aisle and shelf number around a partially masticated corned beef sandwich, but he had clearly been mistaken, as there was nary a free spot available for what seemed miles of warehouse.
Her search had also been hindered by the need to keep stopping and re-wrapping the mower in what amounted to neutralizing purple saran wrap. Still, considering the vicious little thing had a taste for human blood and preferred fingers and toes and feet to grass, it was worth the time consuming effort.
She had just rejected another set of shelves when she heard a voice, one with which she was rather intimately familiar, coming from nearby.
"I'm afraid it's all a bit of a mess," Helena said with a trace of sadness. "It's been three months now, and they still don't trust me. Not really. Pete and Claudia put on a good show, but I can tell. I can see that hint of suspicion still lingering in their eyes."
Apparently whoever she was addressing replied, resulting in a sardonic, "Yes, well, you would say that, wouldn't you?" in that elegant British drawl.
Keeping one eye on the lawn mower, Myka edged along the aisle, peering somewhat unsuccessfully through the breaks in the shelving. She kept glancing back at the mower, quite certain that it had moved a little from where she had set it down, but her attention strayed rather easily to the one-sided conversation taking place in the next aisle.
"I don't think that bribery is really the way to go in all this, do you? Oh, look who I'm asking," Helena sighed, and Myka could imagine the eye roll that accompanied the sound.
Standing up on tip-toe and balancing herself against the shelf in front of her, Myka could just make out the top of Helena's head, her hair blue-black in the muted lighting. She was sitting on the hard concrete floor, legs crossed in front of her, leaning back on both hands. Myka tilted her head and tried to make out who Helena was talking to, but she just couldn't see from where she was standing. She glanced back at the lawn mower, absolutely certain now that it had managed to eat through some of the wrapping and inch along the aisle. She was about to grab it again and fix the wrapping when Helena's next words floated up, disembodied, from the other aisle.
"At least Myka trusts me, perhaps too much. There are so many things she doesn't know, things I'm loathe to tell her, and yet, I feel I must. I swore that I would never do anything to betray her faith in me and I intend to keep that promise. I just wish that I didn't feel as if I am placing her in an untenable position, having to choose between me and her colleagues, her friends," Helena mused softly.
Myka heard what sounded like a series of thuds, followed by a short, humorless bark of laughter from Helena. "No, I don't believe that offering to take over the world and clothe her in ermine and jewels is the way to her heart. Has anyone ever mentioned that for a demon you are singularly unimaginative? You might have done better convincing Harringay if you'd come up with a little better material. Not everyone is interested in fame and fortune, particularly at the price of his or her immortal soul."
Myka frowned at Helena's last words. Harringay? Helena was talking to Harringay's masterpiece, or rather, the imp encased in it? She bent down, finding a hole between Monet's easel and a football from Super Bowl I, and peeked through. From this angle she could see Helena's back and the pale green enamel of the painting. The paint seemed to be moving, weird undulations that at times seemed to be a hand or a flattened profile, though of what, she didn't even want to guess. Whatever it was, it was talking back.
"What would I offer up my immortal soul to attain?" Helena responded to it, shifting forward to sit up straight, pulling her legs up to cross them at the knees. "Nothing you could give me, I assure you. The chance to save my daughter, to bring my Christina back to life; a feat that no one, not even you or whatever master you serve could accomplish. The only other thing for which I would gladly pay that penalty is Myka's love, something else that I fear is far beyond anything I could hope to gain."
Myka swallowed hard at the lump that gathered in her throat at Helena's words. She had expected to hear Helena admit that she would forfeit anything to have been able to save her child. She hadn't expected such an astonishing admission of love and longing. She stood up quickly, intent on making her way to where Helena was sitting and telling her in no uncertain terms that she did love her, more than she could know. However, as she turned to walk towards the end of the shelf and around the corner to the other aisle, she caught a movement out of the corner of her eye.
The lawn mower.
It had eaten through the layer of plastic and was moving at a good clip down the dingy concrete floor, the click-click-click of the metal against the cement slightly hypnotic, like the snick of tires against asphalt. Myka took off after it, rounding the corner in a broad, decidedly graceless curve, her eyes growing wide with fear as she saw the mower heading straight down the aisle towards where Helena still sat, engrossed in her cockeyed conversation with Harringay's masterpiece. The mower had sensed easy prey, and was on a collision course with the dark-haired woman.
"Helena! Run!" Myka yelled, gratified when Helena immediately sprang to her feet, although the other woman did hesitate, taking in the advancing machine and Myka's anxious face in one swift glance. "Helena!"
Instead of running however, Helena waited, poised, muscles taut as the little churning wheel of metal surged towards her, its sharpened blades sending up little sparks as it gathered speed. Just as it reached her position, Myka only a few feet behind it, Helena leapt into the air, easily clearing the mower and landing cat-like mere inches from where Myka had slid to a stop, her tennis shoes squeaking against the hard floor. The mower ground to a halt and swiveled, once more identifying the location of its prey. Helena grabbed Myka's hand and pulled her off in the opposite direction, pushing Myka in front of her as they ran, the sound of their feet against the concrete echoing loudly amid the towering shelves.
Despite the imminent threat of being mowed to death by the ferocious little contraption, Myka couldn't help the surge of warmth that spread through her at the feel of Helena's hand in her own. Nor could she stop the rather silly grin that plastered itself on her face at the knowledge that Helena had not only chosen not to abandon her and run away from the mower, but that she had stayed and risked being mowed down, literally, in order to protect her. Apparently the old adage was true: you don't really know someone until faced with a crisis.
They had reached a section of the warehouse that contained an old desk that had once belonged to Walter Winchell. Helena ordered," Climb up on it," pushing at Myka from behind, the metallic roar of the mower growing closer and closer.
Myka scrambled onto the desk, reaching out a hand and tugging Helena up beside her just as the rabid mower caught up with them. It banged into the legs of the desk, blades churning, spinning and grasping, unable to find enough purchase to climb up the battered metal of the desk. It looked for all the world like a small, infuriated dog who, having cornered its prey, was unable to get to it; a yapping terrier who had treed an opossum, only to have it just out of reach. Myka doubled over a bit, grasping her side as the air tried desperately to fill her lungs. Helena's hand was still in hers, both of their palms sweaty with exertion and despite their rather dire circumstances, Myka couldn't help but imagine feeling more of Helena's skin against her own, slick with sweat from an entirely different, much more pleasurable kind of exercise.
Helena was chuckling, and Myka looked up to see a wide grin of triumphant amusement curve Helena's gorgeous mouth. She couldn't help but grin back as the enraged little mower continued to bash impotently against the bottom of the desk. Myka straightened, reaching out to grasp Helena's other hand, as they stood on the desktop, and pulled the other woman close to her.
"I love you," Myka said, loud enough to be heard over the grinding of metal and the click of the blades. She felt a rush of pleasure at the soft gasp that escaped from Helena's lips and the look of astonishment that quickly morphed into quiet joy in those dark eyes. "I've been trying to figure out how to tell you, but this seemed as good a time as any. Nothing says love like being chased by a bloodthirsty lawn mower."
Helena smiled, a smile Myka had never seen before, gentle and tender and so very insecure, the expression in her eyes echoing it perfectly. "Are you sure, my love?" She whispered, her gaze intent and searching as it swept Myka's face.
"Positive. We've both been dancing around this for months now, waiting for the other person to make the first move. I wasn't sure how you felt, although I thought that you might feel the same way I do, but I was terrified to say anything in case I was wrong and all the touching and the smiles and the looks were just some cultural difference, you know?" Myka rambled, entranced by the shifting shades of mink and sable in Helena's eyes.
"I promise you, darling, that even Victorian women do not do this with just friends," Helena pronounced softly, pulling Myka flush against her. She slipped one hand behind Myka's head and urged her closer, and Myka willingly went, capturing Helena's lips in a slow, sultry, decidedly un-friendly kiss.
They parted only after a particularly violent shove by the mower against the battered frame they were standing on caused them to stumble sideways a bit. Looking down, Myka could see that the little machine was even more incensed at having fresh blood so close and yet so far. If it had been a small dog, she had no doubt it would be foaming at the mouth by now.
"Darling?" Helena's voice pulled her back from her momentary distraction by the mower. "Just how long had you been in the vicinity of that aisle before our little friend here managed to extricate itself from its bonds and proceed to seek out fresh prey?"
Myka glanced down at her hands for a moment, worrying her lower lip between her teeth. After a minute's pause, she looked up to meet Helena's eyes, guilt written all over her lovely face. "I might have been trying to find a place to put the mower for a few minutes," she admitted contritely.
"And during those few minutes, did you, perchance, overhear a snippet or two of my not-so inner musings?" Helena inquired, her expression oddly blank, her voice flat.
"Maybe just a few words here and there," Myka lied. Badly. Lied very badly. The next moment the truth tumbled out like gumballs from a broken paper bag. "Okay, so I heard everything. Well, not everything obviously. But a lot. From when you were worrying that Pete and Claudia still don't trust you, which they do, by the way. I think you're just being a little overly sensitive, because I know that they both like you and Claudia totally has a little crush on you and well, Pete, Pete's just over-protective, you know. And he knows that I have feelings for you and he's worried I might get hurt. And why am I talking so much?"
Helena chuckled lightly and pointed down to the small video placard that marked the artifact. Myka bent to read it, springing back from the edge of the desk just in time to avoid the mower taking off a few curls, as her hair spilled over the side. Walter Winchell's Desk: Causes anyone who sits at it to be completely truthful and not a little verbose.
"Apparently standing on it has the same affect," Helena murmured, wrapping a hand around Myka's upper arm and steadying her as she pushed herself upright.
"So, you know that I'm telling the truth. I love you," Myka said again, her gaze firm and unwavering as she slipped her arms around Helena's slender waist and again pulled her close.
"I love you, my dearest Myka. As you clearly overheard, having my feelings reciprocated is not anything I ever imagined possible. Or ever believed I deserve," Helena responded with a bright shimmer of moisture in her dark eyes.
"I know. We're going to have to work on that, the believing part. We also need to find you someone else to talk to that isn't a demon sealed up in a crappy painting," Myka assured her, tightening her grip on the woman in her arms, leaving not even a paper's width between them.
Helena's only answer was to once more claim Myka's lips, any doubt, any hesitation gone as Myka willingly, happily drowned in the slick warmth of Helena's mouth. It was the sudden silence that this time roused them from their embrace. They looked down to find that the mower was gone. Only a flash of metal just disappearing around the corner of a far aisle gave away its location.
Myka gave an embarrassed smirk. "I suppose we should go and catch the damn thing, huh? I don't really want to have to explain to Artie that I lost it, although, I don't think he wrapped it as well as he should have."
Helena was about to reply when the women heard a loud yell, followed by the heavy tread of running feet. Well, trotting anyway. As the figure passed the opening that bisected the nearest aisle, Artie's voice could be clearly heard.
"MYKA! Stop kissing that woman this instant and catch this thing. NOW!"
Myka paused, imagining the hours of searching for the Little-Mower-that-Could, compared to the wonders of exploring each and every inch of Helena's gorgeous body. She jumped down from the desk, reaching up a hand to help Helena to the floor. However, instead of heading off in search of the Artie-chasing-mower, she resumed her former position, pressed tightly against Helena's supple form. "Did you hear something?" Myka asked finally, a distinct gleam of amusement and lust in her eyes.
Helena slipped her hands up under the thin shirt Myka was wearing, her hands ghosting along silken skin. "I didn't hear a thing, darling" she murmured, cutting off any reply with a very satisfying kiss. "Not a thing."
** Edwin Beard Budding (1795-1846) was an English engineer and the inventor of the first lawn mower (1830).