Author: Golden Waffles
Disclaimer: I own none of these characters or concepts. Only the writing is my own.
A/N: Hello! I know I'm a little late to the bandwagon, but, like everyone, the second that "Instinct" ended, I ran straight to my word processor to fix it. I hadn't necessarily planned on posting this tag, but I recently noticed how close it was to being finished, and I just had to wrap it up. So here it is! It's my first official foray into Bering & Wells. It's short and simple, but I hope you like it. I'm leaving it as tentatively "In-Progress." I usually like my one-shots to stand alone, but if I were to continue any of them into a miniseries, it would be this one. So let me know in the comments if you'd like me to go on.
Now, without further ado:
It was almost a half-hour after the big black SUV had driven away– Myka waving up until the last second of sight, tears in her eyes and a heartbroken smile on her lips– when Nate came to collect her from the driveway. She was still staring off in the direction where Myka and Pete had driven off. The sensation reminded her of being Bronzed– her feet were rooted to the ground, her body frozen in a single position, but her mind was still ticking away, and her heart was still aching with loss.
The hesitant touch of his hand on the small of her back unbronzed her, and she forced herself to turn to face him. He almost looked like a stranger now, with his perfectly masculine form backlit by the perfectly normal house in the perfectly normal town. She imagined she probably looked like a stranger to him as well, with all of her lies now revealed, laid out before him like pages from her books.
Nate cleared his throat awkwardly.
"I thought they were still out here," he said, possibly just to fill the eerie silence of the sleepy little street. Helena shook her head, her eyes drifting again to the spot where Myka had vanished from sight.
"No," she murmured distantly. "She's gone." It wasn't until she had already said it that she noticed the singular pronoun. She didn't bother correcting herself. Nate was quiet for another moment, apparently trying to gauge her expression.
"Come inside, Em– Helena. It's cold out here." He gently tugged her sleeve towards the house, and she acquiesced without argument. It wasn't cold, but she understood his intent. She followed him in silence, her head bowed. Usually they would sit together on the couch in the living room, but now he took a seat at the table. A pot of tea and a teacup waited by one of the other chairs. She almost smiled at the gesture. She poured herself a cup, more for something to do than for actual want of it. When she picked up the cup, a slight tremble in her hand made it rattle against the saucer. She thought she saw Nate flinch at the sound.
"Where's Adelaide?" she asked, taking a sip. The tea was weak and lukewarm, but she swallowed it down regardless. It was better than doing nothing.
"I put her to bed. She was tired, after… everything that happened." His voice held the slightest undertone of accusation. She just nodded, avoiding his eyes. He took a deep breath. "Emily… I mean, Helena. I'm sorry. I haven't gotten used to it yet." He shook his head, embarrassed and uncomfortable. Helena set the cup back down on its saucer.
"It's quite alright. I imagine you have more than a few questions on the subject." She attempted a faint smile.
"You could say that." He looked at her with subdued suspicion. "Would you answer them?"
Once again, she turned her eyes away again. He was a trusting soul. She had taken no pleasure in lying to him, and she had no desire to continue any charade.
"Perhaps not all of them. I am afraid that my life up to this point has been rather out of the ordinary. Some of it can not be taken easily."
His forehead wrinkled and the corners of his mouth turned down in frustration.
"I'm not an idiot, Helena," he snapped. "I think I deserve a straight answer from you after today. After everything."
Helena nodded, chagrined.
"Of course you do, darling." He winced at the unconscious endearment. "And I very much wish I could tell you, but I'm afraid that the whole story would provide you with far more questions than answers."
He frowned down at his own teacup, though he hadn't poured anything into it. He had never cared for tea.
"Those two. The ones who were here. Pete and Myka. Do they know?" He spoke as though addressing the teacup, unwilling to look across the table for her answer.
"Yes," she whispered.
"The woman. Myka. Who is she to you?"
Helena's hands froze around her teacup.
"What do you mean?"
"Was she really your roommate at Iowa Tech?"
A strangled laugh burst from her lips before she could contain it. Nate didn't seem nearly as amused, so she forced her face into a more serious expression.
"No. No, she was not. I never attended Iowa Tech, or any university– particularly none in this country."
"Then who is she? She kept staring at you like there was something wrong. Like you were acting crazy. Why? Who is she to you?" His voice grew louder as bitterness lent it strength, but Helena was more interested in the question than his tone. She squeezed her eyes shut, remembering the feeling of Myka's eyes on her, remembering the spectrum of expressions that crossed her face with each fact of her new life that was revealed. Confusion at finding her in the crime lab. Betrayal at the sight of Nate. Concern at the sight of Adelaide. Amusement at the mention of cooking classes. Heartbreak as she drove away into the night.
"Myka is…" she tried to find a word to describe their layered relationship, but none surfaced. Her voice died in her throat.
"What? Why is she allowed to know everything about you, and not me?" His anger was bleeding into hurt. Regret burned her heart. She never should have let things get this far. She should have known better.
"Myka is the single person I have ever met who is capable of rescuing me from myself," she said finally. Before she continued, a sad sigh passed through her lips. "I have not led an exemplary life, Nathan. I have done unforgivable things, even to those who care about me. Perhaps especially to those who care about me."
"Is that what happened to your daughter?" Helena looked up sharply at the comment, cold anger rippling through her before she could bite it back. Under her harsh gaze, he almost seemed ashamed to have suggested it. "Pete told me."
"No. What happened to Christina was tragically out of my hands. I did everything I could to set it right. Everything. But there was nothing to be done."
"I'm sorry." He bowed his head apologetically, and she forced herself to calm down.
"Thank you." She dialed back her glare and returned to her main point. "Her death created a darkness inside of me that never disappeared. It led me to do terrible things. But no matter what I did, Myka continued to place her faith in me. She always saw through the darkness. She brought me back to the world."
He gave her a long look now, like he was trying to stare through her to whatever truth she refused to speak directly.
"You love her, don't you?" Apparently, he had found it. For an instant, she considered lying again, but it wasn't worth the effort, and she honestly loathed the idea of it.
"It appears to be unavoidable."
"Then why did you come here?" The anger had drained from his voice, replaced with muted resignation. He wanted to know why she had stumbled so recklessly into his life. It was a question she had asked herself frequently, especially over the past few days.
"Nathan… The world that Myka and I and Pete come from is… a world of endless wonder, but also a world of endless danger. Though Myka has always forgiven me for my transgressions, others in that world have proven less forgiving. I thought, perhaps, if I left that world and tried to construct a more traditional life for myself, I might be able to leave the danger and darkness behind. But it seems to have followed me even here."
He shook his head to himself and shoved the teacup away from him so that he could lean his arms on the tabletop.
"So what are you going to do?"
"I wish I knew."
"Adelaide loves you." She noticed he avoided saying if he did or not. Part of her appreciated this.
"And I adore her. She is a very special girl." She meant it. The only true regret she would harbor if she left would be that she had hurt Adelaide. She had no doubt that Nathan would recover, but his daughter might harbor disappointment for some time. And Helena would have to live with the guilt of that.
"So… Are you staying?" It was a question, not an invitation, and she knew to take it as such.
"Am I allowed to stay?" she countered. This prompted a yawning silence across the round table that seemed to stretch for hours.
"Yes. But you can't lie to me any more."
She had half-expected to feel relief, but none came. Just the same faint sense of guilt and regret.
"I have no desire to, nor any intention of doing so."
"And if anything else like this happens again…" he started to warn. She didn't even let him finish.
"I will of course not remain if my presence will place Adelaide in danger." In the back of her mind, part of her doubted it would even be possible for her to avoid danger. The world of the Warehouse seemed to be forever drawn to her, no matter how she tried to escape. It reached out to her across states, and even across oceans. It was possible that it might never lose its interest in her.
"Okay." He stood, running his hand roughly through his hair, making it stick up. "I think I'll sleep on the couch tonight. I need some time to sort everything out."
"I understand." Helena stood as well, but motioned him towards the stairs. "Please, take the bed. I think I might need a walk to clear my head, and I refuse to put you out after all that's happened."
"Alright then. Goodnight… Helena."
Her walk only took her a few short blocks before she found herself sinking down on a bench, overwhelmed by the emotional avalanche that the day's events had caused. Her life for the past several months had been almost unbearably simple. The pretty woman with a normal job living with a handsome man with a lovely daughter in a quiet neighborhood. Emily Lake, the forensic scientist who attended cooking classes and watched television. It was easy. It was safe. It was boring.
She felt something in her hand and, looking down, it took her a moment to recognize it as a cell phone. She blinked, and felt her fingers pressing a familiar series of buttons. She had dialed the number before, several times, but had always refrained from actually placing the call. This time, however, she hit the green send button. Holding it against her ear, she heard the digital ringing sound– in her opinion, a strange homage to the phones of her own time– until it cut off abruptly, replaced by a voice.
"Hello again, Myka." She almost felt silly using such a typical greeting for such a strange situation.
"Helena?" Myka's disembodied voice was riddled with surprise. "Or… are you back to Emily now?" it hesitantly continued.
"No, I think Emily is done for. Again. Poor girl can't seem to find a place for herself."
"I'm sorry." Helena wasn't sure if either of them were particularly sorry or not. "Did you talk to… Nate?" Myka said the name with a subtle hint of distaste. Someone who didn't know her as well might not have noticed it, but Helena did. It provoked a faint smile.
"To an extent. He's doesn't understand why I can't tell him the whole story."
"Well, you know… all Warehouse agents get a 'one.' One person we can tell. I guess you aren't technically an agent anymore, but…" She paused. "Is he your one?"
Helena didn't answer for a long time.
"I forget sometimes, Myka, how well you know me." It wasn't a real answer, but they both knew the answer was 'no.' "Do you know, Nathan was curious about you. About what we were to each other."
"What did you tell him?"
"The truth." The word held too many definitions to mean anything, so she clarified. "That you were the one person in the world who was capable of rescuing me from myself."
"You were right, what you said before. About Adelaide. About me."
"Helena, I didn't mean… I wasn't suggesting that you were putting them in danger on purpose. You have to know that."
"I know you weren't, Myka. I am truly sorry that I was so cross with you."
"You were just scared."
"I was being defensive."
"I shouldn't have pushed you so hard. I know it can't have been easy for you, with everything. The Janus coin, the astrolabe. Maybe you needed to get away from it all." There was a hesitant pause. "For awhile."
A smile crossed the inventor's face.
"Perhaps," she agreed. For awhile… her mind echoed.
"Do you want to stay there? With him?"
Helena sighed heavily, leaning back on the bench.
"Myka, darling, as I'm sure you know better than anyone, it was never about him as much as it was about her."
"She's a wonderful girl."
"She seems… very fond of you."
"I know she's not Christina," Helena insisted quietly. "But I do love her." It was the one good thing that came of her flight to Boone, Wisconsin, and it would be the one terrible thing about leaving it.
"Enough to stay in Wisconsin?" Myka asked. Even over the phone, she could hear the nervousness in the agent's voice. Helena sighed, running a hand through her smooth, black hair.
"Maybe enough to not stay in Wisconsin. I'm still puzzling through everything that's happened of late." If more artifacts made their way to her, it would put Adelaide in danger, and she would not have that. "If something happened to her, I don't know what I would do." It was a common enough phrase, but for Helena, it had dangerously literal connotations. She didn't know what losing a second daughter would do to her, mentally or emotionally, and she couldn't afford to ask Myka to rescue her and forgive her yet another time.
"Maybe it was an isolated incident," the agent suggested, albeit halfheartedly. Helena smiled sadly.
"I have been in our world too long to not believe in omens."
Myka couldn't argue with that.
"The Warehouse wants you back," the agent said finally, in a voice that implied something deeper. "It misses you. A lot."
The sad smile crept further across Helena's face.
"I miss the Warehouse, too," she whispered. "It's funny. When I realized that an artifact was in play, I thought I would be frightened, or at least nervous. I thought I would be afraid of this normal life crashing down about my ears." She shook her head, although Myka couldn't see the gesture. "I was wrong. In reality, I felt curious and excited." That old sense of wonder had washed over her. Her heart had beat faster. Her brain had whirred into gear. It was the same feeling that overcame her when she solved puzzles and built inventions, the heady sensation that let her mind soar when she speculated about the glorious promise of the future. "To be perfectly honest, I felt like H. G. Wells."
"Is that good?"
"Well, it's a hell of a lot more exciting than feeling like Emily Lake."
Myka laughed, and the sound made Helena's heart beat faster again. The glorious promise of the future.
"Exciting in a good way, I hope."
"Good and bad. But I would be lying if I said I didn't miss the feeling."
"So what does this all mean, Helena? What do you want?" The voice was almost pleading now. Myka wanted an answer– a real answer.
"I think I want to go home."
"And where is home now?"
"In a world of endless wonder and possibility." In a place that always smelled like apples and felt like home. A place that hummed with energy and electricity and history and hope. And a place where there would be someone to remind her who she was when life made her forget.
There was a deafening silence for the span of a few heartbeats.
"We just crossed into Minnesota. We could turn around." The offer sounded serious, and she heard a muffled "Pete, pull over," in the background. Helena looked back towards Nathan's house, marked by the porch light still blazing in the night. Her heart was painfully torn by the offer, and her vision blurred with suppressed tears.
"You can't imagine how much I want to say yes." Her voice held the slightest quaver. She had never been good at hiding things from Myka.
"I think I can," the agent argued, and Helena could hear the muted note of longing beneath her words.
"I am sorry, Myka, but I believe I must make my amends here before I leave. Emily Lake has obligations, and Adelaide deserves a proper goodbye."
"How long will it take?" The words were heavy with resignation.
"Not long, I hope. A few days. Maybe more." The thought of it made her heart sink. Now that she had seen Myka again– now that she was imagining going home– the thought of living another week in Emily Lake's life felt like a cruel exercise in self-inflicted punishment.
Silence dragged on again as the words sank in for both women.
"Okay," Myka said finally. "Do whatever you have to do. Then come home. And don't you dare back out, Helena. I mean it. I've– We've– already lost you enough times. It's time to come back and stay back. Understood?"
She couldn't help but smile, even as a few of the tears fell from her eyes.
"Yes, Agent Bering. You are understood." Her tone was forcibly light, but powerful undercurrents flowed through the message.
"Good." Myka's voice suggested that she heard them clearly. "Then do what you need to, and call me– or us– if you need anything." There was a hesitant pause. "And don't be shy about calling. We've missed you."
A lump formed in Helena's throat. She had to fight it down before she could respond.
"Of course, darling. I have missed you, as well. Intensely." She knew that if she didn't hang up soon, she wouldn't be able to. "But I must go now. I must make plans concerning Emily Lake's imminent departure from Boone, Wisconsin. And, I suppose, the world."
"Okay." Myka sighed quietly into the speaker. "Call if anything comes up. And be careful."
"I will. I promise you."
"Good." Myka's voice softened again. "Goodbye, Helena."
Helena couldn't say goodbye. It was too final, and she had said it too many times already.
"I shall see you soon, Myka Bering." And, with that, she pressed the glowing red button on the phone, ending the call. 'Hanging up,' they called it– yet another relic from her century's phones. She set the marvelous little machine down on the bench next to her and closed her eyes. The next several days would be busy. Quitting her job, leaving Nathan, breaking the news to Adelaide, arranging for transport to North Dakota. Perhaps she would even call Myka again, just to keep her apprised of her ongoing progress. That thought, at least, was comforting.
She continued sitting on the bench for another long while. The night was warmer than most, and part of her dreaded returning to Nathan's house. For the moment, she still felt like Helena G. Wells, and she wanted to stay that way for a little while longer, before Emily Lake was forced by necessity to return. The streets here were empty at night, save for the electric street-lamps that dowsed every inch of asphalt and concrete with cold artificial light. She didn't think she would miss the town when she left. Suburbia was not for her.
Finally, weariness persuaded her to move from her seat and begin the short walk back to Nathan's house. She reached for her phone and was slipping it into her pocket when the sound of a car broke the silence. She instinctively raised her head to look for it, and was rewarded by the sight of a black SUV turning onto her street. It approached her slowly, motor purring, and slid to a stop right next to her. The passenger door opened, and one Agent Myka Bering stepped out of the car, arms crossed nervously.
Helena suddenly realized that she was holding her breath.
"Myka," she whispered, emotions swirling as the younger agent stood before her for the second time that night.
"I thought you might need some help moving," the brunette explained, with a tentative grin. Helena felt the anxiety immediately ease from her shoulders. She stepped forward before she could talk herself out of it and wrapped her arms around Myka, pulling her into a grateful hug. For just an instant, she felt Myka tense with surprise, but then her arms closed around her back, and for a moment, Helena thought she smelled apples. When she pulled back, she felt more like herself than she could ever remember. She offered Myka a broad smile.
"Well, darling, I think that would be lovely."