DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I hated the way Season 2 ended. I hated the waste of such an amazing character, seemingly written out of character to me, at least. I hated the waste of such amazing chemistry between Myka and H.G. So, I decided to fix it. Multi-chapters but I promise to finish them quickly. Honest. My first attempt at Warehouse 13, by the way, so be kind as I get the voices down. Thanks to darandkerry for the quick beta. Love ya, Tex-ass!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: Through Season 2, Ep. 12, Reset.
FEEDBACK: To Fewthistle[at]aol.com
By the Pricking of My Thumbs
She drove west on Interstate 90, across the windswept plains of South Dakota into Wyoming. The SUV hurtled down the highway, the road a wide gash of silver through the flat, desolate countryside, rocks and scraggly brush giving way now and then to outcroppings of evergreen and hardwood, brief oasis of green in a monochrome desert.
Desert. Fitting, she thought, that this debacle, this travesty had all been born in one desert, half a world away, only to end here in this equally unforgiving landscape. She didn't deserve forgiveness; not from Artie, not from Mrs. Fredric, not from anyone. She'd had the temerity, the hubris to roll the dice in a game with unfathomable stakes; she had risked not only her friends, her team, the Warehouse, but the world itself, all for a pair of dark eyes and soft lips, for a voice that promised salvation and delivered hell. All for Helena.
A bitter grimace twisted her mouth, a horrible caricature of a smile, as her lips soundlessly formed the name, a childish fear rising inside her that if she said it out loud, the woman herself would appear, like an apparition from Alice's mirror.
Helena. How appropriately named, Myka thought harshly. Like her namesake, she had turned sibling against sibling, had brought mighty empires crumbling to dust, had nearly laid waste to the whole world, the towers of Ilium burning around her. All for the promise of love.
The tears she'd refused to shed rose like bile in her throat. Since the moment she'd awoken in Warehouse 2, millennia of dust and sand coating her skin, coating her throat, the images had been playing on some torturous repeat cycle in her mind. Images of black hair spreading across her pillow, of silken skin glowing translucently pale in the moonlight slipping in through the curtains. Images of the elegant H.G. Wells coming undone, iconic figure reduced to flesh and bone, to blood pounding against a pulse point in a slender neck.
Like Paris offering the golden apple, she had offered up her good name to Mrs. Fredric, to the Regents, just for the prize of having Helena in her life. And like Paris, it had all been for naught. Oh, yes, her Ilium had been spared that final thrust of the sea-god's trident, but at the cost of her very soul. At the cost of everything she held dear.
The windshield of the SUV began to blur as the tears finally broke free, spilling over the dam like a raging flood. She just managed to pull the truck over, the tires catching the graveled edge of the road, sending a spray of stones in her wake as she slowed to a stop. Blindly throwing the door open, she stumbled out, the toe of her boot hitting the corner of the running-board, sending her sprawling onto the unyielding concrete of the highway. Pulling herself onto her knees, Myka Bering let the waters rush over her, her body quaking with sobs as she knelt on the hard, dry ground along Interstate 90 and prayed to drown.
Univille, South Dakota:
"Claudia, go to the Warehouse and find Miss Pittypat's smelling salts," Artie Nielsen ordered, not looking up from the supine figure on the bed. "They should be in the same aisle as Joe Lewis's gloves."
"Miss Pittypat?" Claudia queried, the worried frown creasing her forehead making her look far older than her nineteen years.
"Gone with the Wind," Artie supplied brusquely, "which is what you need to be. Now, Claudia."
"Are you sure those will help her?" Claudia asked, the fear in her voice quite evident to the other occupants of the room.
Before Artie could respond another voice cut in, this one calm and melodic and infinitely soothing. "Claudia, I know that you're worried about her, but the best thing you can do to help her is to go to the Warehouse as Artie asked and get the artifact."
"I know, but when she didn't come down for breakfast this morning and I came up here to get her, I thought she was just sleeping in. And so I didn't wake her up and I should have and I should have told you, or Pete or called Artie then and I didn't and now " Claudia rambled, words tumbling from her lips like the popcorn Pete had spilled all over the carpet last week.
"Claudia. Claudia. I promise, we won't let anything else happen to her. Trust me." Claudia stared into the speaker's eyes, a trace of her anxiety seeping away at the sincerity she found there. She released the breath she'd been holding, forcing her feet to take her toward the door, to take one step into the hall.
"You promise? You'll let me know if something else happens before I get back?" Claudia demanded.
"You have my word. Claudia, you know I would never let anything happen to Myka. Ever," H.G. said firmly, one hand gently grasping the cool, unresponsive fingers of the woman on the bed. Myka's fingers.
"Claudia, go!!" Artie shouted, clearly impatient with the show of patience. As the sound of Claudia's sneaker-clad feet disappeared down the stairs, Artie whirled on the woman standing by the bed. "And you. When I want your help, I'll ask for it. Which will be around the same time that hell freezes over again. Pete should be here in a few minutes. Maybe he has some idea why Myka's doing a Rip Van Winkle impression."
As she had done since returning to the Warehouse, H.G. simply ignored the jibe, her focus instead on the face of the woman laying unconscious on the bed. One slender finger reached out, catching the first tear as it made its way over the high curve of Myka's cheekbone. Dark eyes rose to catch Artie's look of distaste and suspicion.
"I wonder what she's dreaming," Helena mused softly.
"Nothing good," Artie supplied, "Clearly, nothing good."
Univille, South Dakota
"What the hell happened?" Pete demanded, storming into the room like a bull elephant, stopping short at the sight of his unconscious partner, her face wet with tears. "Is she sleeping or in a coma or what? And why's her face wet? Artie, what the hell is going on? I mean, I leave for a few hours "
H.G. remained silent, allowing Artie to answer the questions, intrigued as always by the brotherly affection that Pete harbored for Myka. She had worked with partners in the past, but never developed the relationship that existed between the two Secret Service agents. Perhaps it was her own inability to trust completely. Perhaps it was something else, something inside her that others could sense, something essential that she lacked, something that made them wary. People had always been wary of her. Everyone except Christina.
From their first meeting over the barrel of a gun, there was some indefinable quality, some fleeting recognition, as of strangers seeing in a new face some resemblance to one known and loved: the subtle sweep of a brow, the tender curve of a lip, the remembered color of the eyes. Some trace of the familiar in the alien.
And Myka had seen something else, as well, something good and solid, something she could rely on. Something few had ever seen: Helena's heart. Damaged though it had been, there was in it still a drop or two of human kindness, of compassion. Of love.
She half-listened to the frenetic conversation between the two men, Artie's tone beleaguered and tired, Pete's voice loud and brash, the undertones of fear resonating like the bells of St. Peter's, the sound vibrating like a tuning fork inside her. Odd, really. It had been so many years since she'd felt that kind of fear, felt the rush of protectiveness that seemed to erupt in her whenever Myka was near. It left her feeling off-balance and vulnerable, two things H.G. Wells despised.
And yet there it was.
"Dammit, Artie! Why doesn't anyone know what's wrong with her?" Pete demanded, his face reminding her for all the world of a very young, very frightened boy.
"I'm working on it, okay? There are no drugs in her system don't ask, it'd take too long to explain she hasn't passed out. There's no sign of foul play. According to you and Claudia, she came upstairs around ten, presumably went to sleep and hasn't woken up. Call me paranoid, but I'd say that clearly she's come in contact with some artifact. The question is, which one and where is it."
"She didn't. Go to sleep that is," H.G. said quietly, her glance at Artie through her eyelashes decidedly guarded.
"What're you talking about?" The belligerence in the question was far greater than usual, an animosity so strong and real that it hovered like a wraith in the corner of the room, unpredictable and menacing.
"I was merely attempting to clarify. I presume you are tracing Myka's movements last evening in order to either include or eliminate possible causes for her current condition, are you not?" H.G. stated carefully, her tone and facial expression determinedly neutral.
"What did you mean, she didn't go to sleep?" Artie repeated, the glower on his face growing darker with every passing moment.
"She did come upstairs, but she didn't go to bed immediately. She knocked on my door at half past ten. She came in and we talked for a little while," H.G. began to explain, only to be interrupted by the sharp edge of Artie's voice.
"Talked about what? She saw you most of the day. What did she have to talk to you about at eleven o'clock at night?"
"Half past ten. And I honestly don't see what our conversation has to do with the current situation," H.G. replied, the faint trace of a polite smile that touched her lips never reaching her eyes.
"I'll decide what's relevant and what isn't. What did you talk about?" Artie demanded harshly, moving around the bed to advance toward H.G.'s position.
"It was a private conversation. I assure you, nothing in it could possibly have any connection to what's happened to Myka." There was a thin layer of steel in H.G.'s voice now.
"Artie, I'm sure it was just girl talk, you know, guys, clothes, shoes," Pete began, only to be silenced by Artie's patented death glare.
Artie advanced closer to H.G., his posture clearly threatening, brows lowered to one dark line across his forehead. "I'm not going to ask again. What did you and Myka talk about last night?"
"Nothing. Everything. We talked about what happened to her in Denver, about her family and her relationship with her father. She told me how my books, how all books, had been a refuge for her growing up. We talked about all sorts of things, none of which could possibly relate to her current condition," H.G. said heatedly, dark eyes unflinching as she met Artie's stare.
"Did she eat anything, drink anything while she was with you?" Artie asked, animosity in every clipped syllable.
"We had some tea. Since Claudia so kindly gave me an electric kettle, I can make tea in my room now." Artie had her backed up between the bed and the far wall and Helena began to realize exactly how the lion felt as the tamer advanced with chair and whip at the ready. She wondered idly if Artie knew how often the lion won.
"Did you use tea bags? Mugs?" Artie demanded.
At another time, the look of disgusted outrage on H.G.'s face would have been comical. "Teabags? Mugs? Good God, no! I brewed a lovely pot of Assam. You can check it if you like. I was going to take them down and wash them this morning, but then I heard Claudia yelling for help. The pot and cups are still sitting on the table in my room. Check them. Check anything you like."
Without another word, Artie turned and stormed out of the room. She heard the door to her room hit the wall as it was flung unceremoniously open. Pete remained frozen in a spot at the foot of Myka's bed, a very forced, very apologetic grimace-like smile on his face.
"Listen, I know Artie can be a little, you know, intense, but it's just 'cause he's worried. Kinda like a Momma Grizzly and her cubs," Pete explained, eyes darting between Helena and the doorway, as sounds of less than careful searching issued forth from the room across the hall.
"I'm familiar with the sentiment," Helena murmured, now that the attack was over, her attention fixed once more on what was important: Myka. She ran her thumb slowly back and forth over the smooth skin of Myka's hand, her expression anxious and remarkably tender. "I would never hurt her. Never. Nor would I ever allow any harm to come to her were I able to prevent it."
Her statement was met with silence from the other occupant of the room. Finally H.G. forced her gaze away from Myka's face, glancing up in time to watch the realization dawn in Pete's eyes, as bemusement was replaced with a knowing look and a slowly spreading, slightly puerile grin.
Men, she thought. Well, in a hundred years, some things haven't changed.
"You like " The rest of Pete's sentence died quickly in his throat as Artie charged back into the room, his expression even more thunderous.
"If you poisoned her, I'll find out," Artie accused, his glasses riding low across the bridge of his nose.
"I didn't poison her. I didn't cast a spell on her. I didn't hide some artifact away, waiting for just the right moment to strike. I did not, would not, do anything to harm her," H.G. said quietly, the steady tone of her voice belying the dangerous flash of her dark eyes. "If there were an artifact in town, you would have already known it. I had nothing to do with this. Now, for God's sake, please, stop focusing on me and start looking for what might have done this to her, before it's too late."
Helena met Artie's glowering stare, forcing every ounce of sincerity into her voice, into her eyes, willing him to overcome his suspicions. Only when they heard the thud of Claudia's footsteps on the stairs did Artie look away, his eyes falling to the prone figure on the bed, her hand still clasped in H.G.'s. He seemed about to speak when Claudia burst into the room.
"Okay," she exclaimed, her breath coming in gasps, "I cross-referenced every known artifact with what we already have in the warehouse and I'm pretty sure I've narrowed it down to two artifacts. At least I hope I have. Do you know how many things there are out there that can put you to sleep, aside from Al Gore? Rocking chairs, baby rattles, a pair of Liberace's shoes, which I totally don't get, because you'd think "
"Claudia!!" The three voices yelling her name brought her up short.
"Yeah, sorry. So I've narrowed it down to two. Both of them are supposed to be able to put people into a deep sleep. Washington Irving's walking stick, or something called Frigg's spindle." Claudia finished quickly, sliding in close to Pete's side as the wave of animosity in the room washed over her.
"If she touched one of them, why didn't it take effect then? I mean, we got back from Pennsylvania yesterday morning. Why would it take that long to knock her out?" Pete asked, slipping his arm around Claudia's thin shoulders.
"It may have been blocked by some outside agent. Maybe it was wrapped in something, a cloth or plastic, so that the contact was indirect," Artie postulated, Claudia's information doing little to allay his suspicions about H.G. Wells.
"Or it was broken," Helena interjected, her head tilted to the side as she ran the possibilities through her mind. "Not broken as in no longer functioning, but literally broken. At Warehouse 12 we ran across several items that, while still powerful and potentially dangerous, had lost some of their potency because they were incomplete or in pieces."
"Okay, first, what exactly is a spindle?" Pete asked with a puzzled frown.
"It's used for weaving. It's generally wood, thin and rounded, to wrap wool or yarn around." Artie supplied. "Frigg was the Norse goddess of weaving and the hearth. Her spindle is thought to be the source of the Sleeping Beauty tales, although, trust me, this was no disgruntled fairy."
"And Washington Irving wrote Rip Van Winkle, about a man who fell asleep for a hundred years. From all accounts, Irving was quite a delightful fellow, actually," H.G. added, "although he always mourned the loss of his young fiancée, Matilda."
"So, Myka could have picked up a piece of wood or stick or something?" Pete asked, searching his memory of their recent trip to a small community outside Allentown for something, anything that might help.
"A sliver." Claudia muttered, eyes going wide as the implication struck her.
"Yes, I would imagine even a sliver would still hold some of the original power," Artie began, only to find that he was the one interrupted this time.
"No, no! I mean, yes, but no. I meant, Myka had a sliver. In her finger. After you guys got back yesterday, H.G. and Pete were putting the anvil away and Myka asked me if I had any tweezers. She said she had a sliver in her thumb. I helped her take it out," Claudia explained excitedly.
"What did you do with the piece of wood? Come on, Claudia, think!" Artie badgered, stepping close to the young woman and urgently grabbing her upper arm.
While he was questioning Claudia, Helena picked up Myka's hands, examining first one, then the other, peering intently at the skin on her thumbs. A red spot where the skin was slightly puckered and pulled away on Myka's right thumb was the only sign of the removal process.
"I don't know. It was so small, it took us ten minutes to get it out. It probably fell on the floor, or got dropped in the trash. It was tiny. I mean, miniscule. I doubt we could find it even if I knew where it was." Claudia answered, a slightly panicked look on her face.
"It doesn't matter," Helena told her soothingly, ignoring Artie's angry look of distaste. "Clearly, the sliver was small enough that it held only a minor portion of the artifact's power. Even if we found it and neutralized it, the effects would remain. We need to locate the original object."
"Well then, Pennsylvania, here we come." Pete pronounced. "Come on H.G. We got us an artifact to find. Don't worry, Myka," he reassured, squeezing Claudia's shoulders again comfortingly, as he promised in his best Arnold voice. "We'll be back."
Helena didn't even glance at Artie, knowing that the distrusting expression on his face would still be there, as it had been since she first reappeared at the Warehouse, despite the clear evidence that she hadn't been responsible for what had happened to Myka. Had it been any other situation, Helena would have been intent on finding the object merely to prove herself to Arthur Nielsen, but not this time.
This time, all that mattered to her was Myka.
Outside Bozeman, Montana
"MacPherson may have been the one who unbronzed me, but you're the one who brought me back to life."
"Why, Agent Wells, what a delightfully, wonderfully sappy thing to say."
Helena's voice had been so tender, so full of love, her hand warm and real and solid as she gently cupped Myka's cheek. Of course, Myka had joked about it, teasing Helena about the sentiment, as the emotions of the moment nearly overwhelmed her.
No one had ever made her feel so cherished, so loved. In a few short months, her life had undergone a transformation, no longer merely focused simply on her job and the Warehouse, but now on this remarkable woman who had eclipsed each and every one of her nearly abandoned hopes of finally finding someone to share her life.
Someone with the power to make her happier than she had ever imagined being. Someone who could leave her devastated. Someone who had the power to destroy her world.
Someone who had destroyed her world, leaving behind nothing but rubble.
Helena's loving words echoed torturously in Myka's brain, finding a strange, haunting rhythm with the hum of the tires as the truck barreled along Interstate 90 outside Bozeman, Montana. She'd given up on the radio hours ago, the lingering resonance of Helena's voice in her head drowning out the songs of heartache on the country station. She glanced at the green road sign as she flew past. Just another two hours and she'd be there.
Helena, Montana: 193 miles.
She wasn't certain what she was going to do when she got there. She only knew that it seemed a fittingly terrible end to what had begun as a fairytale. She'd never pictured herself as the tragic hero and yet, here she was, brought low by a fatal flaw, by hubris, by that greatest of sins: pride. The famous words of Othello's last soliloquy whispered through her mind, taunting her.
"I pray you, in your letters,
When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,
Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice: then, must you speak
Of one that lov'd not wisely but too well;"
Perhaps it was time for her own final soliloquy, she thought, pressing her foot a little more firmly on the gas.
Just a couple more hours to Helena.
Warehouse 13, South Dakota
"I thought that you were sitting with Myka," Artie questioned as Claudia entered the Warehouse office, her steps slow, her expression downcast.
"I was, but all I can do there is hold her hand and worry and stress and start to freak out, thinking, 'what if Pete and H.G. don't find anything. What if we can't figure out how to wake her up, and what's she going to think if she does wake up, but it's like a hundred years from now and we're all dead and she's in some corner in the warehouse', so I decided to come over here and help you find out about the artifacts. Leena's staying with her," Claudia replied, the words rushing out in one long breath.
"Yes, well, depending on which item caused this, we may not have to worry about her sleeping for a hundred years. Or even a hundred days," Artie stated morosely, watching absently as Claudia took her place at the other terminal.
"What'd you mean?" Claudia whispered, eyes growing wide with concern.
"If it's the walking stick, we should be fine. She'll just sleep until the artifact is neutralized and the effects wear off. If, however, it's the spindle, we have a much bigger problem than I thought," Artie informed her, fingers moving over the old-fashioned typewriter keys, the screen of the computer filling with all the known information on Frigg's spindle.
Claudia rose from her chair and leaned over his shoulder, eyes quickly scanning the flow of information, each line like a stone on her chest, slowly forcing the breath from her lungs. Finally, in a strangled tone, she asked, "So, does this mean what I think it means?"
"Yup," Artie replied concisely, heavy brows hanging like dark clouds over troubled eyes. "Not only does the spindle cause the victim to fall into a coma-like sleep; it preys on her deepest, darkest fears, creating lucid, terrifying nightmares. Victims have been known to literally die of fright."
"So, whatever happens to Myka in her dreams will happen in real life? I mean, if she has a heart attack or drives into a bridge abutment, she'll actually die?" Claudia's face had grown pale as she read, so that the shock of bright red hair took on a lurid appearance next to her pallor.
"It's possible," Artie hedged, seeing the look of fear and dismay on Claudia's face. The tilt of her head and the raising of one eyebrow demanded a more honest response. "Yes. Whatever happens to her in her dreams will happen to her in real life. But we don't know that it was the spindle. There's just as good a chance that it was the walking stick."
It was clear from his tone that Artie was merely attempting to allay her fears. Claudia demanded, "Okay, come up, Artie, fess up. You know more than you're telling me. What's going on?"
Artie took in a deep breath, his eyes still scanning the computer screen, refusing to meet Claudia's intent stare. Finally he spoke, his voice gruff and brusque. "She's been crying. A lot. Obviously something is happening to her in her dreams, something bad enough to make her sob in her sleep."
"Sooo .it was the spindle," Claudia said worriedly, her forehead creased in a deep frown. When Artie didn't respond, she repeated it. "It was the spindle, wasn't it? How much time does she have? I mean, before something really bad happens? Artie? Come on, how much time? A day, a week, a year? Dude, come on, tell me!"
"I don't know," he began, caught again by the dubious expression on Claudia's face. "Honestly, I don't know. It all depends on what is happening in her dream."
"Can we talk to her? I mean, you know, like when people are in comas they can hear you? Can we talk to her, tell her that her dream isn't real, tell her everything is okay?" Claudia asked, pacing quickly around the office.
"I'm not sure. I don't think it works that way. I have a feeling that for the sleeper, the dream is the only reality they know." Artie postulated regretfully.
"We need to let Pete and H.G. know that it's the spindle," Claudia said urgently, reaching for the Farnsworth.
"They already know. At least, she does H.G." Artie said grudgingly. "She was there when Myka started crying. As soon as you told us about the spindle, I'm certain she put it together as well. The Warehouse has been searching for the spindle for centuries, so I'm positive she knows what it is capable of doing."
"Well then, let's hope that H.G. is as good at being good as she was at being evil. Or, sorta evil. Evilish," Claudia pronounced, "You know, back when we thought she was evil. Not that I think she's evil now. Well, not really. Although she did creep the hell out of me when she was telling me what she did to the men who killed her daughter. But then, she saved Myka and Pete and so she wasn't as scary. And Myka sure doesn't think she's evil. She sooo totally doesn't think she's evil. "
"Unfortunately, I'm well aware of Myka's opinion of her. Let's just hope that Ms. Wells is as good as they both seem to think she is," Artie partially agreed. "And as for the not thinking she's evil? Speak for yourself."
Outside Allentown, Pennsylvania
The clouds had settled in low over the fallow fields, dark gray wool that hung from the sky like the stuffing from a ragged sofa cushion, spilling towards the ground in thick clumps. The rental car sped along Route 191, the more than occasional pothole sending a jarring shudder through the car as Pete navigated the narrow road that led to Bangor, Pennsylvania. Helena could feel each jolt reverberating up through the chassis, the accompanying thud of the tires punctuating every curve of the road, an infinite series of commas and semi-colons in a story for which she, as yet, had no ending.
She nodded her head intermittently to the stream of chatter coming from the driver's seat, her mind far too focused on other things to pay much attention to Pete's incessant rambling. Since they left South Dakota, he had been regaling her with the Pete-centric version of every artifact recovery he and Myka had attempted since joining the Warehouse, each one seeming to include an accolade about "being the man". While she now understood the modern, slang meaning of the phrase, Helena still found something in the statement a trifle misogynistic, as if being a man were the end all of existence.
Hardly, she thought, her mind returning to the decidedly female object of her musings. Myka.
It seemed as if she had thought of little else since their first meeting. Peculiar really. She'd had many lovers over the years, and yet she couldn't remember feeling this intensity of emotion, this longing to protect. The suddenness and fluidity of it all had astonished her from the very outset, leaving her with the sensation of quicksilver coursing through her veins, cold and shaking one moment and flushed and flustered the next.
The disconcerting nature of it had been like a match to her foot, urging her to run, to remove herself from the source of the flames. And yet she had found she couldn't leave. Didn't even wish to, welcoming the heat and the possibility of an inferno she couldn't control.
And we aren't even lovers yet, she mused, her mind wandering to the potential wonders that awaited them. But first, she had to find whatever had placed Myka under its spell and reverse it, before any long term damage occurred. Before anything terrible and irreparable occurred. Before she lost what she didn't yet possess.
"H.G. Hey, H.G.? You listening?" Odd how she hadn't realized before quite how annoying Pete's voice could be.
"Of course. You were relating the tale of the super-hero and his magic underpants," Helena replied, her eyes scanning the dull edges of the fields as they melded into the murky horizon. "You know, Nietzsche first postulated the theory of an ubermensch, translated by some into 'superman', during my time; an over-man capable of creating an entirely new system of values based on an ever-altering world, one in which traditional Christian morals were rendered useless. Of course Bernard Shaw also addressed the idea of superman, although his play was far more concerned with the human drive to produce those supermen, and of course "
Despite the sunglasses on his face, Helena could see the puzzled frown etched on Pete's face as he interrupted her, one corner of his lip curled in confusion. "Um, yeah. So what the hell does any of that have to do with the Iron Shadow?"
"Absolutely nothing. Do carry on with your tale," Helena sighed, feeling a pain shoot down her spine that had little to do with the constant jolting of the wheels against the potted road.
"Oops. Guess you'll have to wait to hear about Myka in spandex at a later time, 'cause we're here," Pete answered, as he braked the car into a slow turn onto a long, graveled driveway.
The barn was the same color gray as the lowering sky, weather-beaten and worn, pieces of the metal roof rusted and bent, the edges curled up like paper held to a flame. The wide, heavy door hung crookedly, leaving a large gap at the top which, combined with the two small windows above, gave the front of the barn the appearance of a face, eyes staring blankly, mouth askew in a mocking grin.
The cold air hit her as she stepped from the car, snaking under the hem of her long coat, insinuating itself under the edge of her collar. Helena paused for a moment, watching Pete's long strides as they took him across the dirt yard. She hadn't told him that she was certain that they were looking for the spindle. She tried to convince herself that she was attempting to keep his spirits up, but she knew that was a lie. Telling Pete the information would have only lead to more questions, questions and answers that she hadn't wanted to hear spoken aloud.
Still, it was time. Time for no more secrets.
"It's the spindle." She said to his retreating back, her voice almost lost on the frigid squall of wind that sent dust flying across the packed ground.
"What?" He spun on his heels to face her and she noted absently the gouge his boot had left in the yard.
"It's the spindle. It isn't the walking stick. We need to be looking for the spindle. Originally, it was probably anywhere from twelve to eighteen inches long, wooden, with a bulbous or rounded end. Who knows what condition it's in now, so keep a sharp eye out for anything that seems hand-made," Helena explained, neatly sidestepping the question implicit in Pete's voice.
"How do you know it's the spindle? Claud said it could be either of them. Or even Liberace's shoes, although I think I'd remember if I'd spotted a pair of silver sequined wing-tips," Pete asked, taking a few steps back towards her, the dark sunglasses incongruous in the deepening gloom of the day.
"The spindle ," she began, knowing how inclined to over-react the young man was and hesitating at how graphic a picture to present. Finally she sighed and continued, "The spindle doesn't merely put one into a deep sleep, it also causes very lucid, very terrible nightmares, terrible enough to cause actual harm to the sleeper if he or she isn't awoken quickly."
"Okay," Pete replied slowly, clearly processing the information. A particularly strong gust of frigid air swept through the yard, sending shivers along Helena's skin. "Okay, so the spindle is like an ancient Freddy Kreuger, right?"
"Nightmare on Elm Street? Sorry. Keep forgetting you were bronzing through the twentieth century. Anyway, so the spindle gives you bad dreams. I still don't get why you're sure it's that and not the other artifacts," Pete answered, a frown still creasing his forehead.
"Obviously, I can't be completely positive until we locate it, but I'm fairly certain. Myka was crying Pete, don't you remember? Something had upset her, something in her dreams, and I'm very worried that it will simply get worse. So, we need to find the spindle and get it back there before it's too late."
"Too late, as in before it kills her too late?" Pete pronounced grimly.
"Yes, before whatever it is she's dreaming kills her." Helena felt the weight of the words like a heavy mantle over her shoulders as she followed Pete to the sagging door of the barn, the two of them struggling against the force of the wind as they slowly pushed it open.
Inside the murkiness of the day was increased tenfold, the smell of old wood, the muskiness of the damp ground and mildew catching in Helena's throat much more strongly than it had three days ago when they had been here looking for the anvil. Both Helena and Pete slipped on the treated purple gloves, more cautious now that they knew there was another artifact in the old barn.
Switching on the lanterns they carried, they began searching, Pete along the right side of the barn, Helena along the left. They moved methodically, bending, stretching, at times crawling along the hard packed earth of the floor, picking up and examining every piece of wood, every broken bit of ax handle, every stray shard of timber eaten away from the ceiling beams by age and termites.
Pushing aside the accumulation of decades of moldy hay from a rotting manger and finding nothing, Helena began to feel the dread that had been simmering in the pit of her stomach since this morning come to a slow, rolling boil. She and Pete had been searching for nearly two hours now, combing the old barn inch by inch and still hadn't located the spindle.
Sitting back on the heels of her boots, she closed her eyes, taking in a deep breath and forcing the sensation of panic to subside. This had to be where Myka had come in contact with the artifact. There was no other solution; no logical one anyway. She'd re-examined the trip over and over, trying to picture Myka's movements, trying to remember something, anything that would help them locate the spindle, but so far, she'd drawn a blank.
Ridiculous, she chastised. You spend almost all of your time staring at the woman and you can't recall what she touched or where she was standing.
Images of last night however, were easy to summon up, images as vivid and vibrant as the field of bluebells that sprang up beside the road when she was a child, calling to her, so that she woke with the color of them still in her mind long years later. The smooth golden glow of Myka's skin in the lamplight, strands of hair curving around her face, eyes sparkling with laughter.
The unspoken attraction between them had been growing, morphing from the slight giddiness of a school-girl crush to the intoxicating rush of desire and longing. When Myka had appeared at her door, face scrubbed clean, bathrobe tied neatly at her waist, sweet smile on her lips, Helena had felt anew the sense of inevitability, the knowledge that there were some things beyond her poor abilities to control. Not that she wished to control this.
After hours of talking and laughing, Myka had reluctantly arisen, taking tortuously small steps toward the door, her touch on Helena's arm gentle as she'd turned and pulled Helena close. They'd kissed goodnight at Helena's door: a first kiss, tender, hesitant at first, the barest brush of lips quickly transforming, becoming more; melding, mouths moving together in a dance as old as time. When they'd parted, both slightly breathless, lips pink and bruised, it was all Helena could do to step back and not pull Myka tighter, to not crush her slender form against her and reclaim those lips; to not claim all of her.
Shaking her head abruptly, Helena pushed herself upright. Pete was still making a wide arch of the right side of the barn, muttering to himself. She had to concentrate. If there was any hope of waking her sleeping beauty, they had to find the spindle.
"Shit!" Pete yelled, foot connecting perfectly with an old milk bucket, sending it spiraling across the barn to collide with the weathered wall. "Nothing! I can't believe we can't find one lousy piece of wood. Damn it, she had to have touched it here, but I got nada."
"I know. I haven't found anything either. Granted we did spend quite a bit of time searching for the anvil, but I find it inconceivable that we cannot manage to locate it. We're missing something," Helena agreed, sighing heavily.
"Maybe you're wrong. Maybe it isn't the spindle. I'm calling Artie," Pete mused, pulling the Farnsworth from his pocket. In a few seconds Artie and Claudia's images appeared in the small black and white screen. Before Pete could speak, Claudia broke in.
"Did you find it?" She demanded urgently, her face pinched with worry.
"No. H.G. seems convinced it's the spindle, but we haven't found it. Artie what do you think? Isn't it possible we're looking for the wrong thing?" Pete asked, eyes darting sideways at Helena, their expression frustrated and wary, although he did have the good grace to look a trifle guilty.
"It's the spindle," Artie replied.
Neglecting, of course, to add the words, 'Helena's right,' the woman in question thought sardonically.
"You're sure?" Pete questioned, aggravation written in every line on his face. "How can you be sure?"
"Because Myka's been well, agitated. Crying. She looks like she's in pain. That tells me that whatever is causing this is causing nightmares as well. And that means it's the spindle. Now stop second guessing me and find it. I have no idea how much time she has," Artie ordered, the Farnsworth flickering off as he broke the connection.
Pete glanced at Helena, who regarded him evenly, no hint of annoyance in her eyes at his doubts.
"Let's switch sides. Maybe we'll see something the other one missed," Pete suggested with an apologetic smile.
Helena merely quirked her lips at him and began to follow the perimeter of the opposite side of the barn. They worked in silence for about ten minutes, then Pete's voice dragged her from the litany of horrible things that could happen to Myka presently coursing through her brain.
"So. You and Myka?" Pete tried to keep his tone light, but there was an entire universe worth of questions in that one simple query.
Helena refused to be lured in that easily. Whatever it was between she and Myka, it was too new and far too fragile to bring out and trot about, only to have Pete and his very large, very clumsy feet trample on it.
"Um, H.G.? Did you hear me?" Pete asked again, louder this time, stopping to stare in her direction, watching as she methodically examined the contents of what had once been a workbench of some sort.
"I heard you. I'm not discussing this with you. Not now. Not ever," Helena answered calmly, not looking up from her task.
"Okay then," Pete replied, tone and expression slightly hurt. "I just thought you might want to talk about it. You know, whatever it is."
"I don't. That isn't intended to hurt your feelings, by the way. I simply find the idea of discussing my personal life rather repugnant and in very bad form," Helena told him, her tone a little warmer.
"Yeah, I guess I can see that. It's just, you know, Myka's my partner hell, she's like my sister, and I just don't want to see her get hurt or anything," Pete responded strongly, his voice muffled as she bent over to peer under the edge of an old harness rack that had fallen on its side.
Helena straightened, drawing in a deep breath before replying. "I know that Myka is your partner, and I know, as well, the bond that the two of you share, so just this once, I am going to make an exception to my rule to say one thing. Yes, I do care for her and I promise you, I would never intentionally hurt her. Nor would I allow anything else to hurt her, were it in my power to prevent. Does that satisfy you?"
Pete nodded his head, a crooked grin spreading across his face. "Yeah. That satisfies me."
"Good. Now let's find this bloody thing, shall we? I don't intend to break that promise." Helena stated firmly, steadfastly meeting Pete's gaze.
An hour later and they still had nothing to show for their labors. Pete collapsed onto the hard floor, one arm flung up over his face. Helena leaned back against the edge of the workbench, tilting her head back to stretch the tight muscles of her neck. Opening her eyes, she found she was looking straight up at the ladder for the hay loft. The loft itself was falling apart, wide pieces of board missing, so that standing beneath it, one could look straight up to the ceiling. The ladder had been pulled down and hung on rusty iron hooks on the underside of the loft in order to prevent anyone from climbing up.
The ladder was old and dilapidated, the rungs a hodge-podge of mismatched pieces, one of which was rounded, about eighteen inches long, one end fitting snugly into the hole, the other too wide, held on with an iron bracket. Myka had probably reached up to attempt to pull it down and access the loft, before realizing that it was too dangerous to try and climb up there.
"Pete," Helena said excitedly. "Pete!"
"What?" he questioned, moving his arm to gaze dimly in her direction.
"I believe I just found Frigg's spindle." Helena announced, "Now get off your arse and help me get it down, will you? It's time for Myka to wake up."
Interstate 15, near Helena, Montana
She had long since given up any hope that she'd ever stop crying. Like the overwhelmed levees on Pontchartrain, once the waters breached the walls, there was no stopping them. A lifetime's worth of tears had been released: tears for a young girl who never won her father's approval, tears for dateless senior proms and passed over promotions, for lost dreams and lost socks.
Tears for everything.
For everything except the one thing that mattered. The one thing that had shattered her heart with the velocity of a bullet through glass. Because she couldn't cry about that anymore. She couldn't shed one more tear for Helena Wells.
The SUV rocketed along Interstate 15, the countryside a brownish blur out the windows as she raced north. Junior year in high school, she'd done a report for American history on Lewis and Clark. Being the geek she was, she'd read Lewis' account of the journey, of his awe at how the Missouri river seemed to come to an abrupt end, only to discover the Gateway to the Rocky Mountains in what was now Meriwether Canyon.
The huge cliffs rose majestically over the river. She'd always wanted to see them, see the ancient pictographs, perhaps watch a bald eagle soar over the wide waters.
It seemed as good a place as any to end her own exploration of unknown lands. She'd lost: lost her way, lost her faith, lost her trust. Lost Helena.
She wondered idly how cold the waters of the Missouri would be.
She'd soon find out.
Gateway to the Mountains, Meriwether Canyon, Helena, Montana
It seemed as if she had been climbing for days. The muscles in the backs of her calves protested as she inched her way up the steady incline. The narrow path of dark soil was strewn with small stones that cut into the thin leather soles of her shoes, shoes ill-suited for hiking. Somehow, when she had dressed this morning, she hadn't anticipated climbing a mountain.
But then, she clearly hadn't anticipated a lot of things. Odd, really, given her penchant for details, for itemizing and observing, for picking out the minutiae that others missed. She'd lived her life by the maxim that God is in the details, but as far as she could tell right now, there was no sign of God, of any god, in what had happened. No black. No white. No good. No evil.
Just a murky gray world, filled with murky gray people, with murky gray motives.
Pain. Jealousy. Anger. Desire.
Pain. That was the one she kept coming back to, the one that jabbed with knife-like precision into her lungs, robbing her of air.
The look of anguish on Helena's face, the pain that had been there all along, festering, growing. The pain she of all people should have seen, should have tried to ease. She almost wished that Helena had pulled the trigger. It would have been so much better, so much easier than the memory of the Englishwoman's anguished cry, the look of unbearable sorrow in her dark eyes as she collapsed to the ground.
The anger at the betrayal, the feeling of having been used, of having been a pawn in Helena's nefarious plot had faded quickly, morphing with lightening speed into a morass of emotion that coated her throat, that filled her lungs, so that she had the sensation of drowning in slow moving molasses. She should have seen what was happening, should have known that the agonized cries that pulled Helena from slumber were more than lingering nightmares.
Instead she had blithely stumbled along, ignoring Artie's warnings, ignoring everything but the rush of longing that suffused her whenever Helena entered the room. Ignored everything but the flush of warm skin against her own and the feel of soft lips and long, slender fingers tracing mysterious patterns on her body.
She had offered up her soul on the altar of Helena's avowed love. A fool's bargain.
The beauty of the scenery surrounding her faded, the blue of the sky reduced to the painted background of a cheap photographer. She could feel the burn in her lungs as she pushed herself harder, the answering burn in her legs as she practically sprinted the remaining distance to the top of the cliff.
Below her, the cold waters of the Missouri ran deep. A white passenger ferry cruised slowly along, the brilliant blue awning that shaded the cabin blocking most of the magnificent view of the rising cliff-face: strata upon strata of stone and fossil, life and history and the inexorable passage of time encapsulated in layers of rock that glinted like a billion small diamonds in the afternoon sun.
It also blocked the view of a slender figure standing poised on the edge of the precipice, arms outstretched to the sky, upturned face wet with tears that also glimmered faintly in the late day light.
Leena's Bed and Breakfast, Univille, South Dakota
"Where are they?" Claudia demanded rhetorically, for what must have been the fortieth time since Pete and H.G. had called to let them know that they had found the spindle.
Claudia sat by Myka's bedside, the older woman's hand clasped tightly in her own. Myka had been growing more agitated with each passing hour, the tears now a steady flow, rolling down the sides of her face to dampen her hair. Her expression was one of such pain that Claudia could hardly bear to look at her.
Around her upper arm, Artie had wrapped a large cuff from which several different wires protruded, all connected to a device that looked for all the world like a giant Geiger counter. The needles on all three of its dials had been moving erratically, bouncing back and forth into the ominous red zone like Mexican jumping beans.
"What does thing do again?" Claudia asked, glancing up at Artie's worried face at the bottom of the bed.
"It's sort of a heart monitor. And a brainwave monitor. It keeps track of her heart rate, breathing, and neural activity. It should let us know when things reach a critical stage," Artie explained far more patiently than usual.
"And when will that be?" Claudia inquired, eyes now fixed on the irregular movement of the dials.
"Oh, about an hour ago," Artie stated grimly. "Her breathing is very uneven, her pulse is racing and her brainwaves are off the chart. Whatever she's dreaming about, the situation isn't good."
"Where are they?" Claudia asked again, voice becoming more and more panicked as each minute ticked by.
"They'll be here any minute. I wanted to have the artifact here in the same room with Myka when we neutralized it. The effect should be much more immediate." Artie reassured, coming to stand with one hand resting lightly on Claudia's shoulder. "She'll be fine. I promise."
Staring at Myka's face, her eyes screwed tightly shut, lips compressed into a thin line, Artie mused aloud, his fingers gently squeezing Claudia's shoulder, "Leave it to Myka to have fears strong enough to kill her. If it had been Pete the only thing we might have to worry about is him being chased by a giant pepperoni pizza."
Claudia forced a pained chuckle, the quirk of her lips far more grimace than smile. "Yeah, and knowing Pete, he'd lasso it and use the Tesla to do a little re-heating."
They both fell silent, the only sounds in the room the faint clicking of the monitor's needles and the increasingly erratic rasp of Myka's breathing. Claudia glanced down for the thousandth time at her watch.
"Dammit, Artie, where are they?" There was a definite note of desperation in Claudia's voice.
Outside there was a sudden squeal of tires on the gravel drive and the slamming of car doors. The thud of one set of footsteps on the wooden stairs echoed unnaturally in the silence of the old house, followed by a much slower, uneven gait. H.G. rushed through the open doorway, Pete several feet behind her, walking with a decided limp, an artifact bag clutched in his hand.
Helena crossed quickly to Myka's side, crouching down next to the bed and taking Myka's other hand in hers. She didn't appear to register the look of distrust and animosity on Artie's face.
"Where have you guys been?" Claudia asked sharply.
"It does take a few hours to get from Pennsylvania to South Dakota, Claude, even when you're riding to and from the airport with Dale Earnhardt here," Pete explained, eyes fixed on Myka's face as he tilted his head in H.G.'s direction.
"You let her drive?!" Artie yelled, reaching out to snatch the bag from Pete's grip. "They'd barely invented automobiles when she was bronzed, not to mention that the British drive on the wrong side of the road."
"Yeah, I got reminded of that one the hard way when we almost sideswiped a semi outside Allentown. I hurt my back getting the artifact down, so I had to let her drive," Pete explained, watching as Artie opened the top of the neutralizing canister.
Eyes fixed on the dials of the instrument, and feeling the speeding pulse beneath her fingertips as they rested on Myka's wrist, Helena demanded roughly. "Could we possibly save the discussion of my driving skills for another time and wake her up before her heart bursts?"
Pete looked suitably chastised, although he muttered to Claudia, "Remind me to tell you the whole story later."
"Alright, everyone stand back." Artie ordered, glove-clad hand preparing to drop the spindle into the purple gel.
Pete and Claudia backed toward the wall. Claudia could feel the edge of an old trunk pressing against the backs of her knees as she closed her eyes tightly and said a silent prayer to whoever or whatever that this worked.
Helena pushed herself upright, bending slightly over the bed so that Myka was shielded from the minor explosion she was sure would come when the artifact met the neutralizing liquid.
She wasn't mistaken, as there was a muffled "boom" from the canister, purplish-silver sparks flying up into the air to fall harmlessly on the hardwood floor. Straightening, she peered intently at Myka's face, waiting for her eyes to flutter open. Helena could feel Artie's presence at her elbow and glancing across the bed, she could see what she knew were expressions similar to her own on Pete's and Claudia's faces.
Long seconds passed, seconds that swiftly became minutes, as the four people gathered around the bed waited for Myka to awake.
"Artie, man, why isn't she waking up?" Pete asked, a deep frown creasing his forehead, his speech rambling. "You said it was the spindle and we found it and brought it back and you neutralized it and she still isn't awake. You said if we found it she'd wake up, Artie. She's still sleeping."
"I can see that, Pete," Artie glowered. "Different artifacts behave in different ways. Maybe the effects of this one just take a little longer to wear off. I don't know."
"Artie," Helena began, only to be interrupted.
"I said I don't know," Artie bellowed.
"I wasn't going to ask that. Look at the monitor, Artie. It's getting worse, not better," Helena responded, trying and failing to keep the note of fear out of her voice.
The needles on the three dials were no longer jumping irregularly, but were now fixed in the red areas. Myka's breathing was coming in short, harsh gasps.
"Dammit! Why isn't this working?" Artie shouted, moving quickly around the bed to readjust the cuff on Myka's arm and the knobs on the monitor. "She should be waking up."
Claudia had been silent for the past few minutes, the terror of losing her friend clearly stamped on her features. Her face was pale, fingers nervously gripping the edge of the bed. Suddenly, she started, eyes going wide with comprehension.
"It's Sleeping Beauty's curse thing, right? Think about it. Remember? Sleeping Beauty had to be woken up by the handsome prince. Pete, you've got to kiss her!" She exclaimed excitedly, eyes swiftly scanning the faces of her companions, noting the instant looks of disbelief and skepticism on Artie's and H.G.'s faces.
"You think I'm handsome," Pete asked immediately, a smile creasing his face despite the circumstances.
"Pete!" Claudia barked, expression incredulous.
"Claudia, the legend part of it is simply the way they cleaned up these stories for kids. There's nothing to even suggest that the fairytale endings had anything to do with how the artifacts work," Artie explained, fingers on Myka's wrist as her pulse fluttered impossibly fast.
"That may be, but dude, dunking the spindle is obviously not working. It can't hurt, can it?" Claudia argued fiercely, pushing Pete toward the head of the bed.
Artie's mouth opened and closed several times before he nodded morosely, motioning to Pete to do as Claudia asked.
"Okay, I'll do it. But you gotta promise to tell Myka that you made me, otherwise, she's gonna smack me," Pete agreed, leaning forward, one hand braced on the headboard. "Right?"
"Fine, fine, I'll tell her," Claudia promised. "Just do it."
Pete bent down and placed a chaste kiss on Myka's full lips, feeling the heated, erratic puffs of her breath against his face.
The only response was the momentary fluctuation of the needles before they resumed their former position. Myka's face was deathly pale now, a faint sheen of perspiration on her brow.
"No! No, this cannot be happening. She can't die from a damn dream!" Claudia shouted, eyes swinging from one member of the team to another, begging someone to fix this.
Helena's face was a pale mask, eyes dark and unreadable, Myka's hand still held tenderly in her own, her voice breaking a bit as she spoke. "There has to be something else we can do. Claudia's right, we cannot allow her to die."
"MYKA! MYKA! Myka, come on! Please! Myka wake up! Myka, you've gotta wake up!!" Claudia pleaded, her voice hoarse as tears ran freely down her cheeks.
From the doorway came another voice, low, melodic, oddly calm. "It wasn't the kiss of a handsome prince," Leena said softly, her eyes fixed on Helena's face. "It was true love's kiss. True love. No offense, Pete, but in this case, you don't qualify."
Helena swallowed visibly, shock written on her face. Artie glanced sharply from Leena to Helena, brows lowering even further as the implications of Leena's words sank it. The stages of comprehension scrolled quickly across Claudia's mind, her eyes widening in surprise.
"Leena's right. Kiss her," Pete ordered Helena, his head nodding in staccato accompaniment.
"I don't think I mean, honestly, I we've barely," Helena stammered, color suffusing her cheeks, her words cut short as an alarm began blaring from the monitor.
"H.G.! Kiss her!" Claudia begged, panic in every line of her body.
Helena took a deep breath and leaned over, her lips lightly brushing Myka's, just as they had a few nights ago. Feeling the softness, the shrill claxon drowning out every thought except that this might be the last chance she would have to do this, she pressed her lips more firmly, lingering a moment, her hand gently cupping Myka's cheek.
As Helena raised her head, the warning alarm suddenly stopped and all three needles dropped, flat-lining out.
Meriwether Canyon, Helena, Montana
The wind whipped her hair around her face as she stood on the edge of the cliff. It was a gorgeous day, the sky so blue it actually hurt her eyes to look at it, the breeze crisp and cool, carrying with it the scent of the river and the distant mountains. There were certainly worse places to die: in dirty, crowded markets far from anything familiar; in pits of flame, buried beneath thousands of tons of sand in a distant desert.
No, this was much better, probably better than she deserved at this point. She had gambled for inconceivable stakes; gambled the world and almost lost it all.
"It is not reasonable that those who gamble with men's lives should not pay with their own." She quoted softly, her words drifting away on the vagrant breeze. "Not exactly what you had in mind when you wrote it, Helena, but fitting somehow, don't you think?"
The bitter laugh caught in Myka's throat as she pictured Helena's face, dark eyes twinkling with amused pleasure; heard that ridiculously sexy voice murmur, "Darling, how wonderful of you to be able to quote something of mine."
Myka closed her eyes, the light of the sun warm on her face, a brilliant, golden glow behind her closed lids and took a step closer to the edge, her heart hammering in her chest. She shuffled ever closer, her steps pulled up short as she heard a voice calling to her, Claudia's voice.
Turning, she peered back along her makeshift trail, along the tree-line in the distance, but there was no one there. With a sigh, she swung back toward the edge, stretching her arms out wide and took that final step, finding only air beneath her feet.
Leena's Bed and Breakfast, Univille, South Dakota
As the alarm ceased, there was a collective gasp. Claudia dropped to her knees beside the bed, her head resting against Myka's side, sobs wracking her body. Helena forced herself to breathe, tried to concentrate on the air flowing in and out of her lungs, on the sound of Claudia's crying, on the impotent anger and frustration erupting out into the universe from Artie's stout frame, on the disconsolate, crumpled expression on Pete's face.
On anything other than the still figure on the bed, warm hand resting motionless in her own. It seemed like centuries passed, but less than a minute later, the needles of the monitor moved suddenly, rising to the normal range and holding steady.
Myka moaned softly, her eyelids fluttering slowly open, her gaze unfocused.
"Myka! Oh, my God! You're okay! We were so scared. I thought you were dead. I can't believe you're alright!" Claudia's voice caught her attention and Myka tried dimly to understand what her young friend was saying.
"Wait. What happened? How did I get here? Did you pull me out of the river?" Myka whispered, voice faint and hoarse from disuse. Her face was a study in confusion.
"River? No, you've been here. You got a splinter in your finger the other day, remember, when you were in P.A.? I helped you get it out, but it was from an artifact. You've been zonked out for two days now," Claudia explained slowly, nodding toward the other side of the bed as she continued. "Pete and H.G. just got back with the artifact."
Myka's eyes shifted to the right, alighting on Helena's face. The other woman was smiling at her tenderly, thumb caressing lightly over Myka's knuckles.
"You!!" Myka exclaimed, eyes wild, voice now much stronger. She struggled to a sitting position, yanking her hand free of Helena's grasp. "What the hell are you doing here? How did you get out? Artie, what the hell is going on? Why is she here? Why isn't she in jail or re-bronzed or something?"
The look of complete shock and profound hurt on Helena's face nearly brought Myka up short. Pete and Claudia gazed at her open-mouthed and slack-jawed. Even Artie looked dumbfounded for a moment.
"Myka," Helena managed to croak, her awareness that all this was the result of whatever nightmare had held Myka in its thrall doing surprisingly little to mitigate the intense pain radiating out across her chest.
"No, you stay away from me. You betrayed us, betrayed me. You almost killed Mrs. Fredric, you got Valda killed. You shot me and Pete, you stole the Minoan trident. You almost sent the world into a new ice age. You're supposed to be locked up somewhere," Myka yelled, her mind unable to process what was happening, why Helena was standing here in her room; why Artie and Pete were allowing her to be there.
If possible, Helena's face grew even paler and more anguished, her eyes dark onyx against her pallor. She opened her mouth to speak and then closed it, her gaze falling to the ground, one hand clutching tightly at the locket around her neck.
"Myka," Artie stepped closer and spoke soothingly, as an odd feeling of sympathy for H.G. washed over him. "I need you to listen to me carefully. Three days ago, you and Pete and H.G. went to Pennsylvania to recover an artifact, John Henry's anvil. While you were searching for it, you accidentally came into contact with another artifact, one we didn't know was there. It's called Frigg's spindle. It's the source of the Sleeping Beauty legends and it causes the affected person to fall into a deep sleep."
He paused for a moment, caught by the look of complete misery on Helena's face. He continued, explaining gently, as one would to a bewildered child. "Unfortunately, it also causes horrible, lucid nightmares, nightmares so vivid that they seem like reality. They seek out your deepest, darkest fears and use them against you. That's what happened to you. None of what you just described actually happened. None of it, Myka. If it had, do you really think that she'd still be living, much less here?"
Helena blanched even more at Artie's final words, her eyes following the pattern in the area rug that lay beneath Myka's bed. In the ensuing silence, she finally glanced up to find Myka's perplexed, baffled gaze fixed on her.
She forced her lips to curve into the semblance of a smile: mirthless, pained and sad. She could feel Claudia and Pete staring at her, feel the waves of pity that flowed in her direction. She met Myka's eyes.
"Helena? Helena, I .it was so real," Myka whispered, her expression so profoundly troubled that Helena felt as if a hand had wrapped tightly around her throat, cutting off her air.
"I know, darling. Unfortunately, it would seem that I am your deepest, darkest fear," Helena murmured wretchedly.
"Helena " Myka said uncertainly, memories of what had been her reality still fresh and sharp in her mind.
Before Myka could speak again, Helena turned and fled the room, the sound of her boots on the wood floors echoing as dully as her heart.
Leena's Bed and Breakfast, Univille, South Dakota
The sound of Helena's footsteps faded away, a farewell sentence punctuated by the slamming of the front door. "Helena!" Myka called after her desperately.
Myka struggled into a seated position, awkwardly swinging her legs over the edge of the bed. With a tremendous effort, she rose and attempted to walk, only to stumble with the first step.
"Whoa! Myka!" Claudia cried out, unable to reach the older woman from the opposite side of the bed. Only Pete's swift movement saved Myka from crumpling to the floor. She sagged bonelessly against him as he guided her back to the bed.
"Steady, partner," he reassured, helping her to slide back into a semi-recumbent pose against the pillows. "You've been completely out for a couple days now. Take it easy."
"I need to find Helena," Myka asserted, shaking her head slowly back and forth in an attempt to clear away the remaining vestiges of her artifact induced slumber. It felt like cleaning out a corner of the attic at her parents' house, cobwebs clinging to her hands, as a feeling of panic overtook her. "I need to talk to her."
"You need to lie still," Artie said roughly. "You came dangerously close to dying, Myka. The last thing you need to be doing is traipsing around chasing after Miss Wells."
"Artie," Myka protested, running her hand distractedly through her hair, her bottom lip caught between straight white teeth, "I just told everyone that she tried to destroy the world. You saw her face, Artie. She was devastated. I have to explain I have to try and make sense of it."
"Speaking of making sense, why don't you tell me exactly what happened in your dream," Artie replied, maneuvering the conversation away from the annoying H.G. Wells. "You said something about Warehouse 2 and the Minoan trident, two things I had no idea you knew anything about, so I would be very interested in hearing all about this apparent dream of yours."
It took a few seconds longer than it normally would for the meaning behind Artie's syntax to sink into Myka's consciousness. "Apparent? Apparent dream? Wait a minute! You just told me none of it was real, that I was affected by the artifact and now you're saying 'apparent'? What the hell, Artie?" Myka's voice was higher than usual, her eyes wide and confused.
"None of it did happen. Honest, Myka. It was all a dream," Pete rushed to reassure her, his rambling prompted by the look of fear on his partner's face. "Artie didn't mean apparent as in, you know, might not have happened. He meant 'parent', like the mother of all bad dreams, didn't you, Artie?"
"Pete," Artie began, rolling his eyes at the agent's clarifying attempt to muddy the waters. "What I meant was, perhaps there's some precognition in the dreams, some hint of things that may possibly happen. After all, very few people know about either the lost Warehouse or the Minoan trident. It can't hurt to be prepared." He turned back to Myka, unprepared for the vehemence of the response.
"Artie!" Claudia argued, face outraged.
Her voice was joined by Pete's, his eyes flitting back and forth between his still groggy partner and their boss. "Come on, Artie, that's a little harsh, don't ya think?"
"Oh, please, people, get real what we know about the spindle's powers and effects could fit into a thimble .," Artie began to expound, his latest doctrinarian rant interrupted by Myka's voice.
"Get out, Artie. Get out of my room, now!" Myka said coldly, eyes stony. "I know you don't like Helena, that you said you'd never trust her, but if you have even a shred of human decency, you won't do this, you won't make this any worse for me than it already is. Now, please, just go."
Artie did a passable carp impression for a few moments, mouth opening and closing with no sound issuing forth, before he pressed his lips together in what might have been an attempt at an apologetic grimace and turned to leave. As he reached the door, Myka spoke again.
"Artie," Myka stated unemotionally, eyes unflinching as they met his. "Just for the record, I'm the only one who's read the Warehouse manual, remember? I've also spent most of my free time for the past year and a half going through the Warehouse files and inventory, including the list of the most sought after items. Warehouse 2 is mentioned several times. But more importantly, Artie, Helena didn't do it. She didn't destroy the world; she couldn't. Even in a nightmare, that's one thing I'm absolutely certain about."
Artie gave a half-hearted nod, muttering softly to himself as he stepped into the hallway, "Well, good. That makes one of us."
Myka closed her eyes, drawing in a deep breath, the images and emotions from her nightmare still vivid, although the edges had begun to blur and soften. Moments had already started to merge and separate, the woof and warp of time shifting and fraying, tearing at the seams. Random images, brief black and white stills flashed across her mind, but the spool of film itself had come undone. The only thing that remained constant was Helena.
"I have to find her," Myka repeated firmly, though it soon became clear as she once more attempted to stand that her voice was in far better shape than her legs.
"Dude, come on. Myka, seriously, you've gotta take it slow and give yourself time to get over this," Claudia cautioned, moving around the bed to gently grasp Myka's forearms, urging her to sit back down. "Pete'll go and find, H.G., won't you, Pete?"
"Um, yeah. Sure. I'll track her down," Pete readily agreed, obviously more than a little anxious to be away from the tension and emotion in the room, not that Myka could blame him.
"Would you? I really just need to talk to her, to explain," Myka asked, doe eyes wide and pleading. "Please, just ask her to listen to me."
"Gotcha. I'm on it," Pete responded, backing quickly toward the door. "Leave it to the Pete-ster."
"He'll find her," Claudia comforted her as Pete beat a hasty retreat. She climbed onto the bed, positioning herself next to Myka.
Sitting up against the headboard of Myka's bed, shoulders touching, Claudia listened as Myka related the contents of her dream in a dull monotone, the lack of inflection only serving to make the events more terrifying and dire. She intentionally left out the part about she and Helena being lovers. There were some things too private to share with anyone. Including Helena. Not that she had to worry about that now, considering that the woman in question had run away from her, possibly run out of her life completely.
"It was so real, Claudia. As real as this room, as real as the two of us," Myka said softly, her expression still so bewildered that Claudia moved a little closer.
As Myka finished her story, Claudia wracked her brain to come up with some new reassurance. "I know. But it wasn't. I swear to you, Myka, it wasn't real," Claudia promised her for what felt like the hundredth time, hand resting lightly on Myka's right forearm. "It was just a wicked bad dream."
Myka didn't reply, sinking into the murky depths of her thoughts. Every few minutes she would take in a deep, shuddering breath, her left hand in constant motion as she twirled a piece of her hair, the curl twining and circling her finger.
She still felt the weight of grief and anger and overwhelming sadness that had been her constant companion in that other reality, now tempered with immense guilt that she had caused the one person in the world she would never wish to harm such intense pain. The stricken expression in Helena's dark eyes seemed to have imprinted itself on her retinas, cast in negative when she closed her lids.
"I really need to find Helena," Myka said softly, her voice catching as she said the name. "God, Claudia, did you see her face when I was ranting about her betraying me? I hurt her so much. I need to talk to her, Claudia. I need to explain."
"Myka, she knows it wasn't you, it was that frakin' spindle. I'm sure Pete's found her," Claudia comforted, her voice filling with wonder as she continued. "It's actually pretty amazing, if you think about it. I mean, that much detail and that much time passing. You must have some fantabulous imagination to have come up with some of that stuff."
Myka gave a snort of bitter laughter. "I was a geek, remember? I always had my head buried in a book. It was my escape from my life and I learned to create these elaborate fantasies. I could read and picture every scene, every detail. I could even project myself into the story, become one of the characters, because anyone else's life had to be better than mine."
Claudia nodded empathetically. "Been there, done that, dude. Except for me, it was the virtual world. On a computer, I didn't have to be me anymore. I could control my life."
"I think that's one of the things that disturbed me so much about the nightmare: I had no control over anything. Even though I was living it all, it was like I was watching parts of it happen, but I couldn't stop it," Myka said grimly. "I ended up chasing this person who was supposed to be Helena, but who wasn't the person I knew, the person I trusted, and I didn't know how to reach her."
"So, you told Artie that H.G. didn't end up sending us all into the deep freeze," Claudia said. "You must have found a way to reach her. I mean, you said she didn't do it."
Myka shook her head suddenly, pushing away from the headboard to wrap her arms around her knees. Her eyes grew distant as she spoke, her gaze fixed inward. "That's the thing though. It's so easy to fall back into the idea that any of that was real. I know that it wasn't.
"And I think during most of my ordeal, that maybe, on some level I wasn't aware of, my mind knew that it wasn't real. I remember standing there as the dream Helena thrust the trident into the ground and thinking, 'she's not capable of doing this, not capable of harming anyone else's child'. I even said it to her.
"Even with everything that had happened, I knew that the person standing there threatening to destroy the world wasn't her. Not the Helena I knew, that I loved."
As the words left her lips, Myka gasped and froze. With a deep breath, she turned to Claudia, expression vulnerable and questioning.
"Myka," Claudia replied to the unspoken query. "Do you really think I wouldn't be cool with it? Or, to be honest, that, you know, I didn't have kind of a clue?"
"Really?" Myka asked, although to which part of the statement neither of them was sure.
"Really, no, I couldn't care less, and really sometimes I just want to yell at you two to either get a room or stop making goo-goo eyes at each other," Claudia laughed, a little of the tension lifting.
"Claudia, we do not make goo-goo or any other kinds of eyes at each other. We're professionals, not sappy, lovesick teenagers," Myka protested, her face suffused with color as she suddenly found something immensely interesting in the pattern of her bedspread.
"You so do," Claudia crowed. "And, now it makes perfect sense that she was the one who needed to kiss you."
"Kiss me?" Myka squeaked nervously.
"Yeah, you know, like in the fairytale. Nobody believed me, but when dunking the spindle didn't wake you up, I made Pete kiss you," Claudia recounted. Seeing the grimace of distaste on Myka's face at the mention of her partner's kiss, Claudia quickly moved on. "He was the nearest thing we had to a handsome prince. But it didn't work, so H.G. kissed you."
"Yeah, Claude, you could probably get away with describing Helena as handsome, although I'd lean more towards stunning, but either way, you can never call her a 'prince'," Myka protested, brows lowered in confusion.
"No, I know she isn't. That's the thing, it wasn't the kiss of a handsome prince. Leena reminded us it was actually true love's kiss that broke the curse," Claudia explained. "H.G. kissed you and you woke up. Hence, true love and all kinds of mushiness."
The planes of Myka's face softened, smoothing out like clay under a potter's fingers. A bemused smile touched the corners of her full lips, green eyes lit with an inner light at the knowledge that Helena's kiss had been what had awoken her.
"Great. I'm Princess Fiona. Now I guess I'll have to wait until the sun goes down to see if I'm a really a princess or an ogre," she chuckled quietly.
"Well, considering what H.G. looks like, I'd put my money on the princess. Now if Pete had done the deed, I might lean the other way," Claudia teased, pleased to see some of the sadness leaving Myka's face. In the next moment, however, the expression of sorrow returned, stronger than before.
Her breath ratcheted down her throat as a single tear tracked down her cheek. She quickly swiped it away, pressing her lids closed tightly to stem the flow that she knew was threatening to overwhelm her.
"God, Claudia, I really I care about her so much. I can't believe I hurt her like this. I just need to explain it to her, make her see that she was wrong," Myka lamented, her sense of reserve kicking in and preventing her form uttering that word again, that word that held far more power than the spindle.
"Wrong about what?" Claudia asked.
"She said that she was my deepest, darkest fear. She isn't. I am. I'm my deepest, darkest fear," Myka explained earnestly, voice thick with emotion. "I've spent my whole life second-guessing myself. Growing up, no one was right except my father, and so I learned at an early age not to rely on my own judgment. I'm the one who trusted her, I'm the one the Regents listened to. And all the time Artie has been telling me how wrong I am, how if I'm really lucky, I just might live to regret believing her.
"The thing is, I knew I was right. I still know it. I trust her completely. I just don't trust myself. And the thought of losing her, like Sam ," Myka's voice trailed off, a shadow settling over her eyes like clouds across the sun.
"That's not something about which you need worry, darling." The rich, soothing voice came from the doorway.
Myka's head snapped up, her breath leaving her in a gasp. "Helena."
"I do hope you'll forgive me for eavesdropping. At first, I didn't wish to be rude and interrupt your conversation, but I couldn't help overhear part of what you were saying and I must admit, my curiosity got the better of me," Helena explained politely, only the intense look in her eyes belying the casualness of the statement.
"Um, you know what, I'm gonna go and check on um dinner. Yeah, I'm gonna go see if Leena needs help with dinner," Claudia stuttered, inching sideways toward the door. When neither woman acknowledged her words, she simply slipped out with a murmured, "Pete, you are the man", pulling the door closed behind her.
Helena crossed hesitantly toward the bed, the small smile on her face uncertain.
"How much did you hear?" Myka asked, her own feelings of insecurity stamped on her features. Most of her was mortified that Helena might have overheard her confession concerning her feelings; however, a small part felt a rush of relief at not having to look into those dark eyes and lay bare her soul.
"I arrived just about the time that you were describing meeting Valda in Egypt. I know I either should have announced my presence or departed, but I was rather riveted by the tale, especially since I was one of the featured players, albeit the villain of the piece. I realize that I should have left but, to be frank, I felt like Daphne, grown roots and unable to move," Helena admitted chagrined, her voice and posture still somewhat stiff and stilted.
"I am so glad that Pete found you. I tried to go after you, but well, the spirit was willing but rest of me wasn't so cooperative," Myka explained urgently, needing Helena to know how desperately she had wanted to follow her.
"Oh, darling, are you all right?" Helena asked, all attempts at maintaining some emotional distance forgotten as she took the few remaining steps to the bed. Only when she reached out her hand to touch Myka's cheek did she pause, her arm dropping like a lead weight to her side. "Do you need Dr. Calder? I know Artie can't stand me, but he cares about you. I can have Pete or Claudia ask him to call her."
"I'm fine. Honest. I guess it took more out of me than I thought, that's all," Myka assured her. "I'm really fine."
Helena exhaled the breath she'd been holding, the tightness of her expression slackening in relief. "You're sure?"
"Helena, I'm okay. It's you I'm worried about," Myka answered, patting the bed beside her. "That's why I sent Pete to find you."
Helena sat gingerly on the very edge of the bed, the mattress shifting slightly. "Although I have no doubt that he made a Herculean effort, Pete didn't locate me. I came back of my own accord, after I realized that I was behaving like a petulant child. I hope you can forgive, Myka."
I hope you can forgive me. The words had an echoing resonance in her mind, as the nightmarish events in Warehouse 2 replayed. Closing her eyes and breathing deeply, Myka willed away the scent of dust and sand and the tingle as the arching energy of the Tesla met her body.
"Not real, not real, not real", she repeated over and over in her head.
"Myka? Darling, are you certain you're all right?" Helena asked, the concern and tinge of fear in her voice cutting through Myka's panicked mantra.
Forcing her eyes open, she met Helena's worried gaze. "I'm all right. I just I keep getting these flashes, images from the dream and they're a little disconcerting. I'm sure they'll stop soon. They're not nearly as sharp as they were earlier.
"And as for forgiveness, Helena, you have nothing to apologize to me about. Nothing. I'm the one who said all those horrible things to you. I'm the one who should be apologizing. And I do. I am so, so sorry."
Before she could say more, Myka felt the cool brush of Helena's fingers across her lips, silencing her quite effectively. "Myka, you were under the influence of a very powerful artifact, the effects of which I was very much aware, and yet, when you finally woke up, confused, frightened, utterly bewildered, instead of being understanding and patient, I bolted out of here like a startled horse. Not exactly the actions of a friend."
"Well, considering that I just accused you of being an evil villain intent on destroying the world, I think that reaction was pretty understandable," Myka countered, watching as the other woman drew back inside herself, like a turtle withdrawing into its shell.
Myka stared attentively at Helena's face, intent on finding the minute changes, the subtle shifts that no one else seemed able to see; the nearly undetectable quirk of an eyebrow, the twitch at the corner of those delectable lips, the narrowing of those mysterious, dark eyes. Intent on sussing out something, anything that would give her a glimpse into what Helena was thinking, what she was feeling.
Because if Myka had learned anything about Helena Wells, it was that time and experience had brought with them a caution, a reserve that was nigh on impossible to breach unless the lady herself offered the keys. She knew that Helena carried burdens that would have brought tyrants and conquerors to their knees: the horrific loss of her child, the brutal retribution she wreaked upon the men who had murdered her daughter; and finally her slow descent into mad obsession that had ended with the death of her colleague and ultimately led her to ask to be encased in bronze.
A hundred years of solitude, with nothing to do but think, unable to move, unable to escape, had surely marked her psyche in ways that Myka did not even want to begin to contemplate. That she was sane at all was a testament to her strength of character and her formidable will. And yet, despite all that she had endured, Myka knew, as surely as she knew that the earth would continue spinning on its axis eons after they were gone, that the good inside Helena far outweighed any faint potential to harm.
It had taken surviving a soul-scarring nightmare but Myka realized something: in the end, for her, none of that mattered; she loved Helena and that was all she needed to know.
"Helena?" Myka reached out a hand, wrapping her fingers gently around Helena's wrist, the bones beneath her hand seeming as fragile as a bird's. The eyes that met hers were clouded and unreadable. "Helena?"
"Did you mean it? What you told Claudia?" Helena asked, her voice little more than a whisper.
Myka knew exactly what Helena was asking, knew that they had been dancing a slow, decorous waltz around those few words, around all of her words, since Helena had come into the room. Funny, how much easier it had been to say them aloud to Claudia.
Now, suddenly, the tune of the dance had changed, the tempo segueing into the low, seductive rhythm of a tango, pulling them inexorably toward one another. Her body screamed for her to give in to the steady beat of the music, but her brain pulled away, as fear trumped longing.
"About what?" Myka hedged, nervously wetting her lips with the tip of her tongue.
"Myka," Helena said impatiently, "you know precisely to what I'm referring."
"Oh, you mean, when I said you weren't my biggest fear, that I am?" Myka offered, her voice rambling. She felt as if she were sliding a gambling chip across the table, unwilling to admit that she'd already shown her entire hand. "Yes, I meant it. I told you about Sam, about what happened and that I still have this part of me that thinks it was my fault. A part that constantly second-guesses every decision I make. The artifact played on that, on my judgment about you, about Artie's conviction that you can't be trusted, about what happened the last time I got too close and let my emotions take over."
"Myka," Helena began, her next words drowned out as Myka continued.
"And of course, there's the whole thing with my father, who is actually a lot like Artie, or Artie is a lot like him, anyway, they both have this insatiable need to be right and that's shaped my entire way of looking at the world and trusting other people. And trusting myself. Mostly trusting myself.
"I trust you, though. I really do. I know that you would never have done anything like that. I know you would never harm anyone else's child, that you would never allow any mother to go through what you did. I also know you would never hurt me," Myka barreled on, unable to stop as the words flowed out like water from a broken pipe.
"Myka," Helena's voice was sharper this time, as she tried to stem the flood of words, to little avail.
"Even in my dream, despite being controlled by the spindle, I must have been able to change some of the events. Because you didn't do it, you didn't destroy the world. You gave yourself up, for me," Myka finished, the last dribble of words falling with a tiny splash.
"Did you mean it when you said you loved me?" Helena demanded gently, eyes earnest, as her hand came up to cup Myka's cheek.
For a moment, all Myka could focus on was the warmth spreading from Helena's hand along her cheek and down the length of her neck to settle suspiciously close to her heart.
"Yes. I meant that, too. I meant that most of all," she pronounced solemnly, turning her face to place a fleeting kiss on the palm of Helena's hand. "Helena, my deepest, darkest fear? It's losing you, the way I lost Sam. What I felt for him wasn't even close to how I feel for you, and his dying nearly destroyed me.
"In my nightmare, everything, all my insecurities, coalesced into these spiraling events I couldn't control. Do you know where I was when you woke me up? I was standing on a cliff over the Missouri River, in Helena, Montana. I had just taken that last step off the edge. I found out what it felt like to lose you. I don't ever want to know what that feels like again."
Helena leaned forward, for the second time in as many days, and gently captured Myka's lips with her own. Myka could sense the gathering of emotion inside Helena rising, lava ascending through rough stone, seeking out the freedom of the air and earth; could sense that it was all the older woman could do to contain it, tempering the kiss with every ounce of tenderness and love she had within her.
It was Myka who deepened the kiss, Myka who pulled Helena closer, slipping one hand into the cool silk of her hair. She slid her other hand down to Helena's waist, grasping hold of the belt loops of her pants and suddenly levering her over, so that Helena found herself ensconced very comfortably across Myka's lap. Without conscious thought, Helena wrapped her arms around Myka's slender frame, fingers clutching tightly for purchase as Myka kissed her passionately, small moans and gasps punctuating the silence of the room.
Eventually a need for air drew them apart a bit. "Wow," Helena murmured, sounding for all the world as if she had just run a four minute mile. "Wow. I wasn't expecting you to be so demonstrative. Or quite so forceful."
Myka grinned at her, a furious blush spreading like wildfire across her cheeks. "Well, I I mean in my dream we had .we were ," she stammered, embarrassingly flummoxed at how to say the words out loud.
Helena laughed, the sound slipping like warm silk along Myka's skin. "You can kiss me like that but you can't tell me that in your dream we were lovers?""
"It was a really long dream," Myka explained, still blushing. "Months had gone by since our first kiss "
"Which was two nights ago," Helena supplied, a decidedly Cheshire smirk on her lovely face.
"God, that's right. I remember now. I mean, I remembered before, but you know, it was a much longer time ago for me," Myka rambled again, the intoxicating feel of Helena in her lap doing a very good job of short-circuiting what few synapses had managed to repair themselves since she awoke.
"So, we were lovers?" Helena purred, shifting a little to get more comfortable, completely aware of the effect her movements had on Myka.
"You did that on purpose," she accused, finding nothing but gleeful amusement in Helena's eyes.
"I did nothing of the sort. I was merely trying to find a slightly more comfortable position," Helena countered with a wicked smile. "So, did you find being my lover .satisfactory?"
Myka smiled back, brushing the back of her hand along the front of Helena's blouse, across her breasts, feeling the shiver that coursed through the body in her arms. "I suppose I could tell you about itor I could just show you---your choice."
Helena's voice dropped to a sinful register. "I've always been a firm believer in hands-on demonstrations." She tilted her head, eyes fixed on the lush mouth before her, but Myka's hand on her shoulder stayed her.
"I don't expect you to say it, you know," Myka said quietly, her mood shifting suddenly from teasing to somber. "I know you changed the subject, the way you always do when something gets too emotional, but it's okay. It doesn't matter."
Myka watched as Helena's eyes fluttered closed, for once the play of feelings on her face plain and clear as day. At length those dark eyes opened, the shear curtain of reticence that usually covered them gone. Instead, the whole of Helena Well's heart was laid bare for her to see and Myka finally discovered what drowning would have felt like.
"It does matter. You matter, more than I can possibly make you understand. You are all I have. I know I told you that the reason I wanted to come back to the Warehouse was because I had no other tether in this world, but I was wrong. You are my tether. You are the one thing that keeps me here," Helena said softly, leaning her forehead against Myka's collarbone.
"As much as losing me is your greatest fear, you have other things, other people about whom you care: your parents, Pete, Claudia, even Artie. Without me, you would survive; they would see to that. I, on the other hand, have nothing, no one else. Believe me, my dearest love, losing you would be the end of me, for I do love you, Myka Bering."
Myka couldn't stop the tears this time, but now they were tears of happiness, not the devastation she had felt in the jumbled memories of her nightmare. She tilted Helena's face up and kissed her, kissed her until they both forgot the possibility of separation, of loss, even of death. Until all she could remember of her dream was the feel of Helena's skin against her own, a memory she had every intention of recreating, over and over and over again.
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