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Catalysis
By winged_mammal

 

Chapter 1

The first time it happens, you dismiss it as simply being one of those things that always happens to Warehouse agents and try not to make a big deal about it. It's just an artifact, after all, there's no reason to get all worked up and freaked out. It's nothing, really.

Well, maybe not nothing. You and H.G. did sort of have sex. But no clothes were even removed, so it's not like it counts.

Okay, fine. You're an independent, not entirely heterosexual modern woman, you know what constitutes 'sex' is entirely up to those involved. And if you're not going to be a complete hypocrite and go by how you've always defined it in your head, then...

Mutual orgasms occurred.

Sex was had.

It's a weird story, really. So, just like any other story you have to tell from your time at the Warehouse, you suppose, but this is weird even by your standards. Artie was still pissed about H.G. being reinstated so had assigned you as her handler - a not unpleasant job, you admit, and certainly more fun than inventory - and put you both on cold case duty. You were never clear on why, exactly; the impression you'd gotten between his yelling about not wanting H.G. in his Warehouse and your indignation on her behalf was that he didn't trust her to be out in the field where she could 'take advantage.'

Take advantage of what, you didn't know. But whatever his logic, it left you in the ridiculously charming company of H.G. Wells, investigating the whereabouts of known artifacts that had gotten lost and looking into old reports of possible artifact-related incidents that had for whatever reason never been investigated. You'd taken the opportunity to teach her how to use the Warehouse computer system - and if you ever had any doubts as to her ability to adjust to the leaps technology had taken in the past century, the look of delight that crossed her features when you explained what the internet was and she basically reinvented Wikipedia in her musings on the possibilities for its use was enough to reassure you that she would thrive.

You should have known to never underestimate the imagination of an author. Certainly not hers.

H.G. had selected a file at random from the cold case database, which is how you presently find yourselves at a high school an hour outside of Boise whose 1987 prom had ended in, according to the official report, an 'unexplained outbreak of abnormal behavior' that had destroyed the gym. Students who had participated in the riot had nothing concrete to offer police at the time, other than the suggestion that something 'freaky' had happened, and they had felt out of control of their bodies. Though there had been no injuries, school officials had felt sufficiently wary of the entire incident to seal off the gym and leave it undisturbed for 23 years.

'Undisturbed,' in this case, meaning they used it for storage of what looked like every broken piece of furniture and out of date textbook they had ever needed to dispose of. Convenient for them, you suppose, but when combined with the fact that they never bothered to replace any of the long-since burned out light bulbs, makes for a rather treacherous search for whatever artifact had made its way into a high school gymnasium in the middle of nowhere Idaho. The light filtering through the partly painted-over windows near the ceiling is barely adequate enough to determine whether it's physics or algebra that you're stumbling over at any given moment, and if the muffled curses are any indication, H.G. isn't faring any better.

A faint crash followed by a surprised gasp interrupts your idle contemplation of a battered copy of A Separate Peace. You glance across the gym to find H.G. leaning on a decorated lectern near what appears to once have been the backdrop for the students' official prom photos, pressing a hand to her chest.

"H.G.?" Moving closer, you can just discern the muscles of her jaw working rapidly as she seems to struggle to breathe. "Hey, are you okay?"

She fails to respond and you close the distance between you with three long strides, shoving a rolling office chair out of your way and into a large pile of abandoned Norton anthologies. You come around the side of the lectern and lean toward her, one hand on its surface, reaching out for her with the other. "H.G., what-"

As your hand comes to rest on her back, several things happen in rapid succession:

You realize H.G. has discovered the artifact you've been looking for;

H.G.'s head turns sharply toward you, her eyes far more dark than the dimness of the gym would warrant;

You become acutely, painfully aware of every inch of contact between H.G.'s body and your own and the sudden charge that fills the air between you;

Finally, a brief moment of wonder for what would have caused a lectern of all things to become an artifact that makes you feel this flits through your mind, only to be discarded as wholly irrelevant almost as soon as it occurs to you.

"Oh god."

You don't know who says it - speech becomes as irrelevant as thought as eager hands reach out to desperate bodies, tugging ineffectually at clothing and H.G. pushes you against the backdrop on the wall. Or maybe you pull her toward you but who cares, as long as she's there. She moans your name into your lips, your hands mirroring hers as they tangle in her hair, needing her to be closer. And hands... hands...

You need more hands. Two are simply not enough because when your legs fall into place just so you abandon her hair and seize hold of her ass - and holy fuck, you're grabbing H.G. Wells' ass, and you're pretty sure it's the nicest one you've ever encountered and when did you become an ass girl anyway? - and grind yourself against her thigh in what any remaining rational part of your mind would surely find a completely undignified manner.

Rationality has long since gone completely out the window though, and your only thought is that the friction of her jeans against the seam of your own (and all praise and glory be to whoever decided to put the thickest ridge of material in a pair of jeans there, because really, this is just glorious) needs to never, ever stop. You're dimly aware of H.G. mimicking your actions against your own thigh, and you imagine you'd probably hear the low sounds of pleasure that you can feel vibrating through her throat if she didn't have her hands clamped around your ears to keep your mouth in place as she tries to taste every inch of it.

It's not like you'd pull away if she weren't holding you there. But maybe you should. Maybe this is the sort of thing that would irreparably screw up your working relationship (because really, if this were Pete you'd - no, you are so not going there) and then who would she have to help her navigate this ridiculous screwed-up world of airplanes and computers and artifacts that make you dryhump each other into sweet oblivion -

And oh hey, you're dryhumping H.G. Wells to orgasm. And H.G. Wells is doing the exact same fucking thing to you. Maybe you should focus on that.

Or maybe you shouldn't have focused on that, because as soon as you do, as soon as you take note of her writhing muscles and desperate motions and the smell of her sweat and arousal, you're gone. You shudder against her, tearing away from her mouth and utterly failing to take the breath your lungs scream at you that they really rather need as your body spasms and your hands tighten their grip on her, having enough presence of mind to note that she needs just a little more, and you're nothing if not a conscientious lover.

You're rewarded with a gasping expulsion of air that whispers over your neck as she comes against you, and you feel the effects of the artifact fading away with the last of the waves fluttering through your abdomen. Her hands come to rest on your shoulders and it isn't until you've both spent an inordinately long amount of time trying to regain equilibrium that you realize yours are still resting where they really shouldn't be. You swallow thickly and clear your throat, unsure whether you should fling your hands away from her or leave them where they are so as to not draw attention to them.

You settle for trailing them lightly up her spine to come to rest in the middle of her back, which really has the opposite of success at lowering the unexpected intimacy of the moment. "H.G...."

She gives a rueful sort of laugh - a huff of air, really - and steps back, letting her hands trace down the length of your arms as they fall away, her fingertips momentarily brushing against yours. "I'm sorry, Myka."

The extremely disheveled state of your clothing catches your attention and you absently retuck your shirt, taking in H.G.'s demeanor with a keen eye. "It's not your fault."

"Perhaps not, but you deserve better than to be treated to the lascivious whims of an artifact." She sighs, turning away from you to glare daggers at the lectern in question if the resentment in her voice is any indication.

"Hey." You step up behind her, a hand rubbing her shoulder soothingly and you duck your head slightly to come to her eye level. "It's okay. We're Warehouse agents, these things happen." She glances sidelong at you and you give her a reassuring smile. "We're okay."

And, surprising as it is, you are okay. You imagine you should feel way more awkward and uncertain than you do, but for whatever reason, looking at her now, it simply fails to manifest. You watch her for a moment longer, indulging in the almost burning sensation of her skin under your hand, before a thought occurs to you and you frown.

"H.G., was that the first time you'd..." You make a vague hand gesture toward the wall. "Since you were debronzed?"

She crosses her arms over her chest. "Since... quite a while before being bronzed, actually."

Oh, crap. And there's the awkwardness you'd been missing, along with quite a heaping side of feeling like a particularly terrible human being. "Oh god, I'm so sorry, I didn't - "

She turns toward you, stilling your inarticulate gestures with a hand on your forearm. "Myka." Light dances across her eyes, and your breath most certainly does not catch at the sight of her smile. "It's all right. These things happen, remember?"

"Right." You stare at her, trying to gauge how much of her nonchalance is false bravado before concluding there's really just no way to tell with this woman and sighing, taking up her previous posture with your arms folded as you glare at the lectern.

H.G. follows suit, though her glare has taken on more of an air of amused consideration. "Well, it would seem that the mission has been a success, at least."

"I don't see how that would have caused the riot, though." With another sigh, you let your arms drop and hunt through your pockets for gloves.

"Perhaps the effect is magnified with the presence of more people."

"I guess if anyone can turn an artifact into a sex riot, it's teenagers at prom."

"Hormones were already running high, I imagine."

You blink, H.G.'s sage nod absurdly punctuating the moment as you become struck with the full reality of exactly what had just happened, and a strangled burst of laughter erupts from your throat before you bury your face in your hands. "Oh good god, there is no way I'm including this in my field report."

"The fact that an artifact caused us to rut against each other like adolescents?" She still sounds entirely far too amused.

Unable to reply, you merely nod your head, looking askance at her with your mouth and nose still covered in abject disbelief at what your life has become.

"I most wholeheartedly agree. It will, however, leave the question of how we knew the lectern was what we were looking for."

"I suppose breaking it and just pretending we couldn't find anything is out."

H.G. nods in acknowledgment when she sees you snap on your gloves, and starts clearing books and furniture off the floor for you to move the lectern. "It is in rather poor taste for a Warehouse agent to destroy an artifact."

You eye the lectern warily as you step up to it. It is covered in various decorations to fit the prom's theme, whatever it may have been, and though any one of them may be the actual artifact, you can't recall having touched them. "Then I vote we say we just started pouring neutralizer on things until we got sparks." A ghastly squeaking noise echoes through the gym when you push on the lectern, but at least its wheels still move.

"After narrowing down the list of test subjects to the likeliest candidates, of course."

"Right." A decent path has been cleared toward the nearest outside door, and you follow behind H.G. as she continues tossing debris out of your way. "We conducted a very thorough investigation into where the students were when they first experienced symptoms and worked from there."

"Hardly any tripping over school supplies in the dark involved at all, really." H.G. opens the door with a flourish, bowing slightly as you shove the lectern outside and flash her a grin.

"Exactly."


The second time it happens, you don't realize it is the second time until hindsight strikes several weeks later. H.G. had selected another cold case at random, a report of the crowd having a little too much fun during a carnival in Crawford, Nebraska. Admittedly highly circumstantial evidence had led you to the home of a woman whose uncle had been involved with the planning of the carnival, and perhaps it's the lack of compelling evidence that leads H.G. to take to blithely picking up random objects in the basement barehanded, inspecting them idly as you follow close behind.

Of course, your inclination to be close to her has nothing at all to do with the all-too intoxicating presence of the woman. You have a good eye for detail, that's all. So when H.G picks up a smooth marble-sized stone and eyes it from all angles, you sidle up to her and think nothing of it. At least, until you become struck by an overwhelming desire to seize her by the shoulders and kiss her.

Then subsequently give in to that desire.

No thought runs through your mind as you press your lips against hers and they're exactly as hot and smooth and perfect as you remember, and after a brief moment of startled inaction from H.G. she responds eagerly and you pull her body closer against yours. Tongues meet, and fuck, if this isn't the most erotic kiss you've ever experienced you'll do inventory for a month. Someone moans, you feel H.G. move her hands between you, then -

A flash of sparks, and you pull away to find H.G. holding a neutralizer bag and looking flushed. "The missing piece of the Blarney stone, I imagine," she says breathlessly. "Contrary to popular legend, all it does is make people want to kiss whomever is holding it."

You resist the urge to lick your lips, willing your body to calm down. That explains the carnival, at least. "But the Blarney stone is embedded in a castle wall."

H.G. seals the bag and motions for you to turn around. Her breath dances across your neck as she unzips the messenger bag stuffed full of newspapers and town records slung over your shoulder and unceremoniously shoves the artifact inside. "This fragment became altered slightly when it was broken off. The attractive properties of the original stone are directed toward the stone itself. What other reason would people have for wanting to kiss a stone that thousands of other people have kissed before them, if it were not an artifact compelling them to do so?"

"Maybe they just believe the legend of magical flirting powers? Not everyone can be as charmingly British as you, you know."

"English, darling." H.G. circles around you, brushing her chest quite deliberately against your arm. She leans into your ear, and although a good two inches of space separate them, you swear you can feel the burn of her lips against your skin. "I am, in fact, devastatingly English."

Her boots thunk soundly against the concrete floor when she walks away. As you stare blankly after her, you utterly fail to consider that this might mark the start of a trend.

 

Chapter 2

The third time, you know exactly what you are looking for. H.G. had gone with the lost artifacts file to select a random case, and you had to admit it was nice to go into a mission fully aware of what it was that you sought for a change, even if you weren't sure where to find it.

But you still probably should have immediately vetoed the idea of going after the missing gear from Joseph Mortimer Granville's first electric vibrator.

The artifact history was complete up until 1974, when it had gone missing after a museum transfer. You had wondered why the Warehouse agents of the time had kept such meticulous records of its whereabouts instead of simply retrieving it - H.G. had said that artifacts deemed relatively harmless were often left out in the wild during the days of Warehouse 12, awaiting retrieval when its agents weren't busy, and that perhaps this was simply a matter of previous agents never finding the time. Then she had claimed to know where to find the gear, based on its last known whereabouts and the subsequent health and financial records of a museum employee tasked with transporting the exhibit. You narrowed your eyes at that, resolving to have a chat with Claudia later about what exactly she was teaching H.G. to do with her computer.

Nevertheless, you agreed with her assessment as to where you would likely find the gear, and as you watch H.G. casually pick her way through the large storage locker in Wichita where Neil Martin's family had stored his things after his death you wonder how much they knew about how he passed most of the time on his "business trips." It was little wonder why he would have wanted to make off with the gear. It was, essentially, an extremely powerful aphrodisiac, and while its effects were somewhat short lived at fifteen minutes - the typical length of one of Granville's treatment sessions for female hysteria - it was said to be a particularly "intense" fifteen minutes.

Martin had met a younger woman while he was working at the museum and carried on an affair with her until his death two years ago. His family had subsequently discovered the affair and relocated most of his possessions to this locker, from which they sold it off piece by piece. It was slightly less than half full now; easy to walk through, but still nearly impossible to find any one thing in particular.

"I had heard of this miracle cure for hysteria," H.G. notes aloud, a gloved finger trailing over the curve of an ornate bookshelf in a far too distracting manner. "I never had need for it myself, of course."

Her eyes flash suggestively and you turn away, warmth suffusing through your cheeks. "Why doesn't that surprise me?"

"It was terribly amusing to hear the women in Charles' circles extol its virtues. They had no idea that all they needed was a sure hand." Her hand wraps around a dented metal vase and raises it slightly, testing its heft as she casually adds, "I made several offers to help alleviate the condition myself, but only two ever accepted."

You try valiantly to not picture H.G. seducing other Victorian women, with all their corsets and petticoats and blushing naïveté, but as she goes on describing the public reaction to Granville's invention and the nostalgic lilt of her voice washes over you, the image rises unbidden to your mind in far too vivid detail.

She would undoubtedly have been very good at it.

"I'm given to understand that this vibrator invention of his is still popular. Is that right?"

It's fortunate that she has turned her attention to pulling things out of a battered cardboard box that sits on a waist-high table, as you don't think you could handle seeing her smirk when her question jolts you out of your reverie. You think you might have been staring at her fingers far too intently. Though to be fair, they are teasingly long and elegant and would probably -

You clear your throat, resolutely banishing the thought. "They're, uhm, a lot smaller now, and you definitely don't need a doctor, but yeah, they're still around."

H.G. turns the box over onto the table, its varied contents that evidently once belonged to Martin's tool collection spreading out onto the surface. "And do you own one?"

You gape at her for a moment, but the faint "damn" that passes between her lips spares you from having to find a response. "H.G.?"

"My glove," she explains, waving her right hand at you to display the tear in a fingertip of her glove before pulling it off.

If, in the future, anyone were to ask you what the most ridiculously unbelievable moment in your career as a Warehouse agent was, you would look back on the following minute or so of your life and after a moment's reflection decide they'd never believe it and probably go with the time Claudia turned you into a superhero to defeat a nerd with Charles Atlas' workout underwear. It's a sequence of events that is improbable at best - bordering on truly ludicrous, really, and it doesn't help that you only have yourself to blame.

In the process of reaching behind her to retrieve another glove from your messenger bag, H.G.'s hip jostles the table enough for one of the numerous bits of metal junk from the box to fall off the surface, and she instinctively catches it with her right hand. You learn this part later, of course; your back is turned away from her until you hear the thump against the table. She appears flushed when you glance over your shoulder, and that by itself should have been enough to raise several alarm bells in your mind, given what sort of artifact you're dealing with. But some very important part of your brain seems to have taken its leave of you, as you ignore not only the state of her surface blood vessels but also the sudden hitch in her breath when you step closer to her, full of unwary concern, and strip off your own gloves to press a hand to her forehead.

She is warm - too warm, and when you move your hand down to her wrist to check her pulse she jerks her arm away, causing her grasp on the object she had caught moments earlier to slacken. It slips out of her hand and into yours, and although you open your mouth to ask her what happened it soon becomes irrelevant as in short order you realize you've both somehow managed to manhandle an artifact without neutralizer gloves for the third time in two weeks.

There will be time for self-castigation later though, because right now, you know nothing but an all-consuming immediate need for her that you see reflected in her eyes as they flick up and down your body. Unlike with the lectern in Idaho you still feel in control of yourself, you are still you, only with the added complication of being ridiculously aroused and if you're entirely honest with yourself it's probably as much to do with the thought of sating your need with the woman standing before you as it is the fault of the artifact. You could hold back, you think - but H.G. is here and clearly more than willing to take the fun way out so why wouldn't you?

Your eyes meet, understanding and questioning and consent passing between you in the space of a heartbeat and you step toward her, trapping her between your body and the table. "This is happening again," you mumble between kisses against her neck, fingers tugging at her shirt.

Her hands come up to your shoulders, pushing your blazer down and off as they trail down the length of your arms. "Yes."

"This needs to stop happening." Undoing the buttons on her shirt proves to require too much coordination, and you stop after only managing the bottom two in favor of roaming your hands over the now exposed skin of her stomach. The flesh at your fingertips is warm, smooth; it trembles against your touch and moves in closer.

"Agreed."

She proves to be more adept at unfastening buttons than you and she pushes your shirt as much out of the way as she can manage with your hands still wrapped around her, her own hands sliding underneath your tank top toward your breasts. "Can you - " your lips move blindly along her jaw. "Neutralizer..."

Her mouth finds yours and for long moments you forget you'd asked anything. "I can't," she finally breathes, and you feel absolutely no regret.

It was only a token effort anyway.

"Myka, I - "

You cut off her words with another searing kiss, and her hands glide around your ribs to your back. When the clasp of your bra comes undone with seemingly little effort and she grazes her thumbs lightly over your nipples, you let out a startled gasp, your head falling away onto her shoulder. "Oh god."

H.G.'s movements turn insistent, dragging your hands away from their hold on her skin so she can finally divest you of your shirt and pull your tank top over your head. As she guides your bra down your arms she pulls you in closer, murmuring into your ear. "I very much need to take you right now."

Which is certainly convenient, because you want nothing more in this moment than for her to do just that. Her breath washes over your skin as she trails her tongue from your ear to your clavicle - and oh hey, you're half-naked in front of H.G. Wells, no big deal - making it impossible for you to come up with any response to her statement other than another "oh god," a hand coming up to the back of her head to draw her mouth closer.

She doesn't seem to mind, though; you can feel her smile - probably more of a predatory grin, really - against your skin. Your belt comes undone under her deft fingers, the button and fly of your jeans quickly following. You feel yourself being spun around, back against the table, as her thumbs hook your boyshorts and jeans and drag them midway down your thighs. She lifts you easily onto the table, carelessly sweeping the contents of the box aside, and you marvel for a moment at her strength as she kisses your sternum and brings a hand around to the small of your back -

Then there are fingers inside you, and all thought is swept away.

Your spine abruptly straightens at the contact, coincidentally bringing your breasts level with her lips and she draws a nipple into her mouth. Teeth lightly graze across it as her fingers expertly find your g-spot and begin a rapid forceful pressure against it - no teasing, no hesitation, just the frenetic insistence of a woman determined to make you crawl out of your own skin with delirious pleasure.

And she is certainly succeeding. Your hands clasp around her ears and pull her up to meet your lips - you can scarcely breathe anyway, you may as well be kissing her while not doing it. A moan rises low in her throat and her hand shifts, her palm now pressing against your clit with every curl of her fingers. Your legs wrap around her thighs as best they can, tangled as they still are in your jeans, her body stumbling forward against yours and it's so much, too much, the warmth of her flesh inside you driving your hips into her touch as your climax takes you.

It's far too soon; you don't want her to stop, as much as you know she'll have to separate herself from you eventually, but her fingers continue to work inside you, guiding you through the shudders that send your muscles from strained tautness to endorphin-filled blissful relaxation. Her movements slow and you finally manage to take a full breath, an incredulous laugh ghosting over her lips as you glance down to take stock of yourself.

Flushed skin - no surprise there. Light nail marks trailing down your chest - you don't remember those happening. Jeans still hanging uselessly around your knees - that can't have been comfortable for her hand, but she certainly made do with it. It's all rather undignified, really, but you can't bring yourself to care. You swallow thickly as she withdraws and you see your wetness coating her skin, and your throat stops working entirely when she brings her hand to her lips and licks it away, pointedly not meeting your eyes.

You groan and reach out for her, suddenly no less desperate for her than you were when you first touched the artifact, though this time you manage to unfasten the buttons of her shirt and shove it away from her body in a reasonable amount of time. She chuckles as she pulls your boots off then finally frees your legs from the tangle of material around them. Her head cocks lightly to the side and you follow her eyes to your sock-clad feet. She seems to consider them for a moment, then tugs the socks away and lets them fall to the floor, apparently for no other purpose than to get the full effect of you sitting before her, entirely exposed.

It's what you would have done, if your positions were reversed.

"You are exquisite, darling." The reverent whisper seems somehow out of place in this situation, and a flush crawls over your skin under her wanton gaze. It's somewhat unfair, you think; you're sitting there naked on a table for her, and she's still got on everything but her button-down. You don't know if you're terrible at focusing enough to divest her of her clothing, or if she's simply really, really good at getting you out of yours. At any rate, you're naked and she seems to have ideas about what to do with the opportunity presented to her and you're all too willing to find out what those ideas are. She steps closer, your hands falling to her hips as she kisses you softly, her fingers tickling at the muscles of your abdomen.

After a moment she pulls back and smiles at you, bringing a seldom seen brightness to her eyes. God, she's beautiful. You knew this before, of course. It's hard to miss. But in this moment, with her hands gently massaging the bare skin of your thighs as she looks into your eyes, you're left breathless at the sight of her. She is captivating, this woman; in moments such as these, certainly, but in everything else she does as well. She's brilliant, intoxicating, incredibly charming and a shameless flirt -

And oh god, she's sucking on your clit.

You had been watching her as she moved down your torso, but apparently the region of your brain tasked with processing this information had been doing so while entirely divorced from reality, focusing on all that she is rather than everything she is doing and god, what she is doing is just fucking perfect. You fall back slightly, propping yourself up with your hands on the surface of the table as you take in the unbelievably arousing sight of H.G. kneeling between your legs. Curtained hair obscures her face from view, but you can feel her lips curl into a smile when her tongue trails languidly over your folds, and she hums in pleasure at your taste.

Her fingers slip back inside you, a gentle shallow thrusting rather than the all-out assault on your senses she had performed earlier. A wayward bolt from the box is sent scattering across the floor as you momentarily lose your balance and fling a hand out to catch yourself. She brushes her hair behind her ear and looks up at you, delight in her eyes as she maintains the contact and grazes her lower lip over your clit. And god, looking at her while she's doing this to you was the worst idea that ever crossed your mind. Or maybe the best. The focused intensity of her stare, the feather-light caress of her tongue; it's too much for you to cope with, and you nearly come undone.

You sit up and pull her closer to you with both hands at the back of her head, a low groan rumbling out of your throat as your body hunches over hers. "Oh god, Helena..."

If you were any more coherent you'd be concerned about cutting off her supply of oxygen as you fuck yourself on her tongue and fingers but you can think of nothing else but the fire she has set coursing through you, and her free hand wraps under your thigh to cling to the muscle of your ass in the same desperate need to devour you anyway so it's not like it would be entirely your fault. A litany of curses tumbles out of your mouth in lieu of anything resembling regulated breathing and you come with her mouth on you and her fingertips inside you and you can't recall ever having been fucked quite so affectionately.

You'll consider the implications of that later, after you've caught your breath and given to her as good as you've gotten - because there's no way you're going to let her keep getting the upper hand in these ridiculous situations you seem to find yourselves in far too often. Her tongue is still laving over you, her eyes now closed as she savors the sensation. Your hands move to her arms and haul her up as you slide off the table, barely registering the surprise in her expression before you crush your mouth against hers and taste yourself on her lips. The sound that you make then is probably more akin to a growl than you would like to admit.

"Myka, you don't have to - "

Your fingers make quick work of her bra and it falls to the floor. "Yes I do," you counter. Or well, okay, maybe you don't have to, but god, do you ever want to. Your hands bypass her breasts on their way to her hips - you want to save that for when you've finished with the immediate task at hand and can take in the full effect of having her bare before you. With gentle force you guide her down onto the haphazard bed of discarded clothing at your feet, planting another brief kiss to her lips before moving down to pull off her boots. As you do you're struck with the absurd thought of what you must have looked like as she took you on the table, jeans that you otherwise would have long since kicked away trapped under the shaft of your boots - clearly whoever had the idea that calf-height boots worn on the outside of tight jeans would be highly fashionable never had the necessity of quick and easy access for artifact-fueled tabletop lesbian sex in mind.

Shaking the thought away you turn your attention to the rest of her clothing, her belt coming quickly undone at your fingertips and her hips lift as her hands start to push her trousers down her thighs before you've even finished unfastening them. You drag the material away and toss it (and her socks, you add, biting your cheek to prevent a grin from erupting) aside then lean back, pausing as you sit on your shins between her ankles and look up at her, your eyes greedily taking in every inch of her gloriously naked form.

"Holy crap," you breathe, and a shy smile dances across her lips. She props herself up on one hand behind her, leaning toward you, and you meet her halfway as you surge forward, needing to feel her skin against your own. Your tongue slips into her mouth, legs tangling when you drape yourself over her and the searing heat of your bodies melding together draws a soft moan from one of you. Maybe both; you honestly can't discern who's making what sound.

But the whimper that results when you press a thigh into her, evidence of her abundant arousal smearing over your skin - that's definitely her. The nails of her fingers dig lightly into the thick flesh between your shoulder blades and you let out an admittedly somewhat smug groan at her growing desperation.

You won't take the time to gloat, however; you fully recognize that you're as desperate to be inside her as she is, the carnal need to feel her slick warmth surrounding your fingers building with each passing breath. Your left hand trails down her torso, pausing briefly when your palm brushing over a nipple causes her breath to hitch and you smile against her mouth. Your leg shifts, your fingertips reach their goal, and you play lightly in her wetness before trailing back up to circle around her clit and god, you'd forgotten the heady power inherent in making a woman arch into your touch, seeking more and not receiving it until you decide to give it.

"Myka..."

You're not a tease, though; as delicious as it might be to see her truly beg, that's an experiment for a later date, when you're less uncertain of what exactly is going on between you and it doesn't take artifacts to get you to this point. And whether such a time will ever come is yet another concern for some unknown point in the future - right now, you've got an eager female body at your fingertips and a nearly overpowering need to see her come undone by your hand.

Two of your fingers firmly curl up and into her and she breaks away from your mouth at the contact, exposing her throat as it produces another moan. Being inside her is wildly erotic, filling you with power and humility all at once, her smooth flesh closing around you, trying to draw you in further. You withdraw slightly and begin a steady rhythm, the copious moisture of her arousal easing your way and you are struck with the fact that this is the first time in more than a century that anyone has touched her in this way.

Though you suppose she certainly could have taken matters into her own hands, so to speak, and god, isn't that just a lovely mental image?

You move down to explore the lines of her throat, feeling the rumblings of her restrained cries as your tongue traces her skin and the chain of her locket falls lightly against your chin when she tries to turn her body into yours. Your fingers move more deeply within her and press into her on each upstroke - her muscles tighten in response, her hands scrambling for a hold on your shoulders.

Freckles dot her chest, one lying almost obscenely tantalizingly on the side of her breast. As you bend to kiss them an irrational flash of jealousy at the knowledge that you're likely following a path marked by any number of her previous lovers courses through you, causing your fingers to work inside her more feverishly and her hips only surge forward all the more fiercely to meet them.

"There, Myka," she gasps, and you forego any further thrusts of your hand in favor of giving the same focus to her g-spot as she had given you. Sweat has gathered between her breasts, her hair is matted to her forehead - the room has become positively smothered with the smell of sex, and you don't think you've ever been more intoxicated by it in your life. Your lips finally make their way to the freckle on her breast and your tongue darts out to draw the line between it and her nipple. Air flows over the trace of saliva on her flesh when you exhale, causing goosebumps to rise and she gives an involuntary shudder.

Your thumb reaches up to brush over her clit; the angle is awkward, but it proves to be effective and you feel the beginning of tremors within her. A leg wraps around the back of your thighs as she seems to try to crawl into you, a hand coming up to tangle in your hair when you bite down on the nipple between your teeth. She strains against you for a few moments more and when her orgasm finally strikes it is with a strangled shout of your name.

Her muscles continue to spasm as your fingers guide her through. You draw back to watch her - her eyes are wrenched shut, her mouth gnashing at the air, and the hand not bruisingly clamped around your bicep tangles through her own hair in an amusingly familiar gesture. The sight is breathtaking; the knowledge that you were the one to bring her to this state is even more so.

At last her body relaxes, collapsing back to the floor, and when her eyes open she smiles, open and wide. It's infectious; you lean down and meet her lips with your own, letting your fingers slip out of her. She gives a small sound of loss at that, and, heedless of the wetness still coating them, you bring your hand up to her cheek and run your fingertips along the bone.

You lie there together for an interminable amount of time, long, languid kisses punctuating the silence that has descended. A part of you feels as though something should be said, although what that would be, you couldn't say. The feeling isn't from any desire to voice your thoughts, merely an acknowledgement of the fact that this is a situation that should result in the sort of deep conversation that in all honesty you're perfectly okay with avoiding entirely.

By apparent unspoken agreement your lips eventually fall away from each other and you settle your head onto her arm, your body lying slightly askew over hers. Your eyes fall upon a discarded neutralizer glove lying under one of her boots, and you suddenly remember exactly what had created the situation in the first place.

Fifteen minutes, the file had said. That was how long a hysteria treatment session had lasted, and that was how long the effects of the artifact were felt. You had noted the time when you entered the storage locker - 11:17. You estimate you had come into contact with the gear no more than five minutes later.

You turn your wrist slightly where it rests against Helena's sweat-slick skin and glance at your watch. It reads a minute to noon.

Fifteen minutes. The file had been quite clear.

 

Chapter 3

After the fourth, fifth, and sixth times, you start to get a little suspicious.


After the seventh time, you are still licking the taste of her from your lips when you hear a muffled curse from across the room where Helena is neutralizing the artifact in a tub of goo. You step over to her - both of you still utterly naked, because really, what's the use of modesty at this point? - and find her staring at a worn leather bracelet held delicately between her thumb and forefinger, a puzzled expression playing about her features. "Helena?"

She starts, glancing at you briefly before turning back to the bracelet. "It came off with my glove," she explains absently, twirling the leather between her fingertips.

You watch her movements intently for a moment, your brain working furiously somewhere in the part of your consciousness that doesn't like to talk to you about exactly what it's thinking. You don't get vibes, but you do excel at connecting the dots, and this bracelet is a very large dot. You'd noticed it before, of course - that's what you do, after all - but had never seen fit to ask her about it. But with this small bit of possible serendipity, you see a very good reason to ask about it now.

"Helena, where did you get that?"

"It was in the crates with the rest of my effects from Warehouse 12. I don't..." she pauses, brow furrowed. "I don't know why I've been wearing it."

You nod slowly and reach for the neutralizer bag underneath the vat of goo at her feet. "May I...?"

She drops the bracelet into your outstretched palm. Holding the bag at arm's length you take a breath, shielding yourself against any possible sparks, and drop the bracelet inside. A pitiful crackle emanates from the bag along with a solitary spark, but it counts. It's an artifact.

Helena frowns. "That is... rather disconcerting."

"Do you feel any different?" You doubt, given its evident lack of any great power, that the bracelet could have affected her that much, but you have to ask.

She considers the question. "No," she concludes with a brief shake of her head, finally looking up at you. "Do you think..."

"I have an idea, but we'd need to test it back at the Warehouse."

The solid thunk of the neutralizer tub's lock echoes through the room and she pushes it aside. "And what might that idea be?"

You bite your lip and try desperately to not stare when she bends over to pick up the clothes strewn about the floor. "I... don't think I should say. It might be one of those things that doesn't work if you know how it works, you know?"

"Ah," she agrees, and steps into her incredibly lacy, incredibly small, black boyshorts.

That trip to the mall had been so worth it.

"I mean, it already might not work just from the fact that we know it's an artifact now..."

"I leave it in your capable hands, darling."

Your natural inclination is to get the matter sorted out as quickly as possible, but your natural inclination hadn't figured on Pete up and deciding that it was high time for everyone to take a family vacation as soon as you get back to the Warehouse. Or for Mrs. F showing up out of nowhere and going all Mrs. F on Artie and all but ordering him to allow it. She gives you and Helena a significant look as you pass her on your way out the umbilicus, and from the way she tells Artie to stay put you figure a serious talking-to is about to ensue. Or a talking-about.

Whatever the case, you don't want to be there.

Helena defers the decision of what to do with your collective weekend off to you; you in turn defer to Pete and Claudia, who waste no time in agreeing on a trip to Cedar Point and the frequent flyer miles you have accumulated over the past two years come in quite handy when they insist on flying out that night to get to Sandusky in time for the park's opening in the morning.

So it is that you find yourself wandering around an amusement park full of screaming children and kitschy music with Helena strolling bemusedly by your side. Claudia asks her if she wants to join in when she, Pete, and Leena ride Millennium Force first thing; Helena takes one look at the indicated ride and its three-hundred-foot drop and seems offended at the suggestion. "I think not," she says flatly, and the others run off to join the line.

You had come prepared for this eventuality though, suspecting that Helena would share if not your mild fear of heights then at least your lack of enthusiasm for the thought of traveling at highway speeds in an open air vehicle hurtling upside down over solid concrete. Several books that you figured she would enjoy weigh down the messenger bag slung over your shoulder, and you guide her to a bench near the ride's exit to wait for them to show up again. The books are forgotten, though, when Helena asks about the mechanisms behind the functioning of the roller coasters around you, and you quickly become absorbed in a technical conversation that you know Pete would only mock you for enjoying so much.

Much of the day progresses in a similar fashion, Claudia and Pete dragging Leena - whose token protests are, you're fairly certain, only for their benefit - along with them on nearly every ride while you and Helena do nothing but talk while waiting for them, the conversation dancing between recent scientific advances and your respective histories with the Warehouse, and she even tries to explain the workings of her time machine to you again but even three weeks after using it yourself you still fail to understand it. After lunch, when Pete leads the pack on a march to the four-hundred-foot tall vertical monstrosity that is the Top Thrill Dragster and you smile fondly after them, Helena quietly pulls a small notebook out of her back pocket and makes a note in it.

"What's that?"

Her lips curl into a private smile and she hands you the notebook. The word "awesome" is written in large letters at the top, the names Pete, Claudia, and Leena listed below it. A series of tick marks are next to each name; Pete has seventeen, Claudia sixteen, and Leena has one. "They say that word far more often than they realize, I think."

You raise an eyebrow. "Leena?"

"I believe she only said it under duress."

You nod in understanding, unable to keep from grinning as you pass the notebook back to her. "You know you can't ever show them this, right? They'd just take it as a challenge."

"It is rather endearing, actually. In their own way."

You choose to keep your own counsel about how the same could be said of this new hobby of hers and instead rise, offering your hand to help her up with a smile. "They're going to be in that line for at least an hour. I don't know about you, but I could use a break from all the crowds."

She lets you guide her through the throngs gathered around the pavilion, maintaining a loose grip on your hand. "What do you propose?"

"The beach," you say simply, your thoughts somewhat scattered as you try to rationalize her continued holding of your hand. A particularly oblivious group of teenagers forces you to part soon enough though, and you do your best to ignore the sudden empty chill of your palm. Lake Erie comes into view as you round the corner between a corkscrew-like ride and an arcade hall and Helena pauses on the edge of the concrete separating the park from the white sand of the beach, absorbing the sight.

"I never had occasion to visit any of the great lakes," she says, a hint of wonder in her voice. "Photographs do not seem to do them justice."

The view is a spectacular one, you have to admit. The water before you stretches beyond the horizon, seeming more an ocean than a landlocked lake. Sailboats and cargo tankers dot the surface in the distance, and gulls circle overhead, occasionally landing for a discarded scrap of park food. You fold your arms across your chest, fighting back a grin. "Would you call it... awesome?"

She turns to you, and a wisp of hair propelled by the cool breeze flits across her eyes. "In the true sense of the word, perhaps."

You laugh and with a jerk of your head you lead her across the sand, eventually camping out in a patch of shade where you can almost forget you're in a crowded park with thousands of other people, if not for the occasional shout from the building behind you whose shadow you are inhabiting. The lack of a beach towel isn't ideal - you're going to be shaking sand out of your pants for the rest of the day, you just know it - but it'll do.

Helena certainly doesn't seem to mind, her fingers lacing behind her head as she promptly lies down in the sand at your feet with a sigh. She looks up at you, one eye squinted closed. "How shall we pass the time?"

You let your bag fall to the ground and sit cross-legged by her hip, your back to the water so you can talk to her directly. "I did bring a few books," you offer, sifting through the bag to retrieve an old copy of The Martian Chronicles. She props herself up on an elbow and you pass the book over to her questioning hand. "He's one of my favorite science fiction authors."

"Present company excluded, I hope," she idly teases, examining the description on the back cover with interest.

It strikes you, then, that the extraordinary circumstances of this woman's existence had, somehow, faded into just being... her. You had never once considered the fact that Helena's own writing had led the way for Bradbury, and that she might be interested in seeing how the genre had evolved; you had simply seen the book sitting on your shelf and thought she would find it a thought-provoking and absorbing read.

At some point she had stopped being H.G. Wells, brilliant inventor and world famous author who you had admired even as a child, and simply become Helena, an amazing, complicated woman whom you now know, with the utter certainty that always seems to accompany such revelations, that you're going to end up completely, hopelessly in love with.

And somehow you can't bring yourself to freak out about that.

"I did say one of," you point out finally, watching as she peruses the first page, her lower lip pulled lightly between her teeth. "Your ego is safe."

The book closes softly and she raises an eyebrow at you. "I wasn't concerned for my ego, darling, merely for your taste in literature."

Her airy tone and gleaming eyes belie the remark; you feel your lips curling up into a wide smile, and her carefully schooled expression crumbles when she glances over to you and can't fight a rather more subdued smile of her own.

So in love.

"This seems quite promising," she concedes, passing the book over to you. "An intriguing concept."

"I really think you'll love it."

She settles back onto the sand and closes her eyes. They soon reopen when you take an indulgent moment to watch the play of the dancing shadows of her hair about her features, and she stares up at you expectantly.

You flush, settle the book on your lap, clear your throat, and begin to read.

Three days later the memory of her fingertips idly lacing with yours as your hand rested on her thigh - you had smacked it lightly when her chest rumbled in amusement at your tongue stumbling over the name "Ylla" - is still unaccountably vivid. It's not as though you'd never touched her before, in all kinds of ridiculously inappropriate ways. Like that time you'd taken her from behind in Santa Fe, her body splayed out across a hospital administrator's desk, and her shouts had -

Yeah, maybe you shouldn't be thinking about that in Artie's office.

But the point is, that simple contact on the beach in Ohio pales in comparison to your previous experiences. Apart from the fact that it didn't occur under artifact influence, that it came just after you'd realized that you were rapidly falling in love with her, there's nothing that should distinguish it from everything else and okay, fine, even Pete wouldn't be this oblivious. You're a shy thirteen-year-old and the pretty girl in math class looked at you and might even check the yes box on your do-you-like-me note.

So what happens now?

"Have you found the answer to our mystery artifact problem, then?"

Helena's voice cuts through the still of the office, and you spin in your chair away from the desk to see the umbilicus door closing behind her, willing away the blush you feel starting to form. "Maybe. Sorry to make you wait out there so long."

She waves off the half hour she'd whiled away in the South Dakota sun while you made a trip to the Warehouse floor with a dismissive hand and leans against the desk next to you. "No bother. It gave me the chance to make a phone call to my lawyer in Paris." She brandishes the smartphone Claudia had given her, the bracelet you'd asked her to wear hanging loosely around her wrist, then tucks it into her pocket. "It did take me some time to translate my computer skills into figuring out how to find him on this, but I managed."

Knowing Helena, 'some time' corresponded to approximately ten seconds. "You have a lawyer in Paris?"

Her expression clouds over with a sigh. "The firm I entrusted to see to Christina's estate."

"Oh." Crap. "I'm sorry, I didn't - "

The hand you've awkwardly reached out to her elbow is stilled by one of hers. "It's in the past," she says with a feigned smile, and pats your hand once before pushing off from the desk and wandering about the office.

You eye her movements carefully. Artie's office had any number of odd contraptions that would catch the eye, especially one such as hers, but one did need to exercise caution. She'd never had the chance to explore without Artie's resentful stare at her back; but now, with him having begun to begrudgingly accept her presence at the Warehouse - at least enough to trust her to not burn the place down in your presence while he supervises Pete and Claudia doing inventory in the comic book aisle to ensure some work actually got done - you can see her hooded expression gradually become one of genuine delight as she pokes around and comes across the typewriter that transcribes its users' thoughts.

"Don't get any ideas about that," you warn, fondly remembering the times Artie's jumbled thought processes became too much for his ability to convey them to the rest of you. "Artie would kick you out for sure. He loves that thing."

"Shame. It would be quite useful for a writer."

The room falls silent for a moment, your naturally inquisitive mind wondering what the typewriter had printed but knowing better than to ask. "Helena, I was thinking..." You start, then cut yourself off, suddenly unsure.

Her eyes flash in amusement. "A dangerous pastime, darling."

"Someone around here has to do it," you counter. An oddly adorable bark of laughter erupts from her then, and you worry absently at your knuckles for a moment more before leaning forward in the chair and addressing her boots. "I just thought... You know, Cedar Point was nice, but that was a lot of people, and it was loud, and a little crazy, and - and loud, and I'm not much for noisy crowds of people, and I don't think you are either, and I thought maybe we could just... go somewhere. Quieter. Together."

Helena is silent; when you finally look up it is to find her lips slowly spreading into a wide smile. "Are you trying to court me, Agent Bering?"

You don't really know; but if you are, you certainly seem to be doing a fine job of bungling it. Suddenly restless, your body surges forward out of the chair and you take a step toward her before stopping yourself. "I don't know. Maybe. Yes? I think..." You sigh loudly and fold your arms across your chest - you're a Secret Service agent, dammit, you shouldn't be getting this flustered. "I just want to spend some time with you, Helena. Outside of work, and not where people we know are going to demand we watch movies with them or whatever." A beat, and you add, "I mean, we've already had sex six times, I think we should get to know each other a little more, don't you?"

"Retroactively try to preserve our honor?" You bite back a laugh and nod. She stalks toward you, then, looking intent, her hand trailing along the cluttered table beside her and your eyes widen as they follow its movements.

"Helena, stop," you say firmly. She freezes midmotion, brow furrowed in question. You gesture toward her hand on the table. "Look."

The gear from Granville's vibrator lies inches from her questing fingertips; she glances down and recoils with a jerk. "Why in God's name is that in Artie's office?"

"A test," you explain, pulling a glove from your back pocket. "I guess the bracelet still works even with us knowing about it."

She watches as you drop the gear into the neutralizer bag you'd used to carry it up from the Warehouse floor. "So it would seem," she agrees, stripping off the bracelet and adding it to the bag you hold open for her.

"I put some other artifacts out too, to see what you'd go for." You wander around the office, retrieving the artifacts in question. All were fairly harmless, but you'd still made sure Artie was nowhere near when you borrowed them. "You went right past them, didn't even touch the typewriter like I thought you might with or without the bracelet. The gear was the only thing it was interested in."

Her foot nudges a chair aside and she leans against the table. "So we have an artifact that seeks out and induces the use of artifacts, and it focuses on ones of a sexual nature."

"Looks like it."

"I learned long ago to never bother wondering what created certain artifacts," she says resignedly. "I am somewhat at a loss to explain how it ended up in my possession, however."

"That's probably something else we should just chalk up to life as Warehouse agents." You let the bag fall onto Artie's desk and peel off your glove. "What I want to know is, are we... obligated to use it?"

She looks startled at that. "That is... an interesting question."

"Right? We're Warehouse agents, we're supposed to snag, bag, and tag all the artifacts out there that we can, and this thing practically guides us to them. Sure, they're maybe not as dangerous to the world as others, but they're still artifacts."

"Myka, I think you're forgetting something."

"Artie? Oh god, Helena, please don't make me tell Artie that we've been having accidental artifact sex every time we've gone on a cold case."

She laughs lightly, patting your crossed arms in reassurance. "I would no sooner do that to you than allow Pete to come out in the field with me and the bracelet."

Now there's a terrifying thought. "Oh crap. I never even - Oh god, they can never know about this. I am not - there is no way I'm going out there with Pete anywhere near that thing. Or, god, Claudia? She doesn't need that."

Your pacing around the office turns agitated; she steps toward you and wraps her hands around your forearms. "Myka," she begins, her eyes kindly stern. "We're still not certain that it will continue to work in the field." Your mouth opens in protest, but she forestalls it. "I was able to prevent myself from touching the gear once I realized I was about to. Now that I know precisely what it is and what it does, I will be constantly wary of coming into contact with an artifact while wearing the bracelet. It's likely that its... unique ability to force me to find an artifact will be negated."

It sounds reasonable enough, and you nod slowly, thinking. "We need another test. One more cold case."

"Agreed."

You look into her eyes then, her proximity making it incredibly difficult to force out thoughts of what you've just agreed to possibly end up doing yet again. Sweaty, tantalizing, wildly erotic thoughts. You lick your lips and take a breath. "And maybe, wherever we end up, we can, I don't know, find a museum or something to visit."

God, when she smiles, she smiles. "I think I would enjoy that."

Ignoring the incredible thought that you might have just made a date out of an artifact retrieval, you move back to Artie's desk and pick up the neutralizer bag. "I'll just go put these away before Artie comes back, then we can figure things out."

"Myka." Your hand stops halfway toward the handle of the door, and you turn back to her. She pulls something out of the pocket of her vest, hesitating for a moment as she examines it. "Take this with you."

Moving closer, you see that she is holding a slightly tarnished metal compact. She offers it to you and you turn it over, noting the initials L.A.B. engraved on the surface. "Helena, what is this?"

"Don't open it," she says sharply, and you still your fingers. "That is one of the items I took from the Escher Vault. I had it on my person just before I was bronzed; I had rather thought that it would prove useful."

"How?"

"It belonged to a woman named Lizzie Borden. She murdered her father and stepmother, and looking into its mirror causes you to commit much the same violence, toward those you love." Her eyes become blank, as you've noticed they tend to do when she talks about her past. "It was the last artifact I ever retrieved at Warehouse 12, and I kept it. I never had a certain use in mind for it. Only possibilities, as troubling ideas began to take root in my mind. I asked to be bronzed before I could enact any of them. But when MacPherson released me, I had had more than a century to..."

Her jaw clenches and she looks away briefly before returning her attention to you. "Suffice it to say, I no longer want it in my possession. Its presence is... disturbing."

That hadn't really answered your question, and only raised more. But you know her well enough to be certain that's all she's ready to say on the subject, and you push aside the heaviness that has settled in your chest to give her a small smile. "I'll take care of it."

Her eyes briefly search yours, then she nods once. "Thank you, Myka."

You feel her eyes on your back as you leave the office, and you can't shake the feeling that something of great significance has just occurred.

 

Chapter 4

The eighth time it happens, the artifact retrieval goes without incident. Good old fashioned detective work leads you to a pair of wedding rings in the outskirts of D.C., the artifacts behind a sketchy report of a wedding turning highly awkward for all involved.

You're lying on the bed in your shared hotel room - the only bed in your shared hotel room, and you wonder if you have the bracelet to thank for that - ostensibly reading the Washington Post for old time's sake but actually contemplating where on Earth you can take Helena on a date that might not be a date but you think probably is (even if it is a bit late for all that you've already done) that won't make you feel like the most ridiculous human being ever for taking a woman from the nineteenth century to see, when you hear an incredulous laugh come from the desk where Helena has been sitting.

"What is it?"

"I found our artifact," she explains, gesturing to her laptop. "David and Samantha Franklin's wedding rings, first retrieved in 1937."

You really need to have that talk with Claudia. There's no way in hell she should be able to access the Warehouse's database here, from a laptop, on a hotel Wifi connection. Ignoring your reservations about her bad habits you fold the newspaper and toss it onto the nightstand, giving her your full attention. "What do they do?"

"It seems that the bracelet does still work, at least in that it did result in my choosing a sex-related artifact to track down. I imagine that's all it will accomplish anymore, given that I didn't find a way to end up with a ring on my finger." Her lips quirk self-deprecatingly at this. "At any rate, aside from the usual aphrodisiac effects, the rings seem to result in two individuals who come into contact with them achieving simultaneous orgasm. It appears the Franklins were rather fixated on the idea."

"Oh."

"Indeed." The lid of her computer closes with a soft click and she kneels out of sight on the other side of the desk, rummaging around in her overnight bag. "The effect is only achieved if those involved both touch one ring at the same time, or if they each wear one. Of course, if they wear them, they are rather disinclined to stop having sex. Which explains the wedding."

"So wait, they were in the Warehouse at one point?" Helena stands and nods, then moves off to the sink alcove to wash her hands. "I wonder who took them out. And how they ended up here."

"I imagine it was an agent who shared the Franklins' penchant for mutual satisfaction," she says airily, and turns back to you. Her movements are slow and exaggeratedly deliberate as she steps toward you, picking the neutralizer bag with the rings up off the desk, and comes to a stop at the edge of the bed. Her eyes lock onto yours and you sit up slightly, catching the movement of her hands in your periphery as she opens the bag and lets one ring fall out onto her open palm.

You turn your gaze briefly to the gleaming metal in her hand; she follows suit, then looks back at you, an eyebrow raised. "Sometimes I am dreadfully clumsy."

God, nobody's voice should be able to get that sultry. "You're unbelievable," you murmur.

"I know."

She's wearing that cocky smile of hers, the one that turns your knees to jelly and makes your breath hitch. Her eyes, though, are almost... nervous, and something in your chest constricts at her evident vulnerability. The artifacts have been a crutch, you realize - a way to get what you want without having to fully acknowledge that you want it. You've begun to accept it, even pursue it, but you wonder if perhaps she hasn't gotten there yet.

You don't need the crutch any longer, but maybe she does.

The muscles of her forearm twitch as you reach out to trace your fingertips down the length of it. She gasps slightly, and her pupils enlarge when your fingers tangle with hers and you trap the ring between your hands. The sheets rustle as you kick them out of the way and pull her down onto the bed with you, and you don't know if the surge of arousal that courses through you is from the artifact or the softness of her lips when she kisses you as she settles over you. You blindly reach out to toss the ring onto the nightstand and you feel the tip of her tongue teasing gently against yours.

Hands work at clothing, then, carelessly tossing it aside as they seek out the familiar flesh underneath and roam over soft curves and taut muscle, desperate to meld into its warmth but unwilling to focus on any one patch of skin at the expense of the rest. Your knee raises into the air and she settles her hip between yours, your bodies creating a natural rhythm against each other and you feel your thigh become slick.

An arm slips between your neck and the bed, the hand coming around to grip your opposite shoulder and the bed dips slightly as she shifts her weight to her forearm. Her chest arches up over you briefly before she resettles and then her long fingers are slipping inside you and you claw at her back in delirious ecstasy before having the presence of mind to reach between you and return the favor.

The sensation is overwhelming, your brain becoming incapable of deciphering the impulses being fired along your nerves. You are touching and being touched, taking and being taken, the slickness you feel at your fingertips yours and hers and both, muscles clenching around fingers that only work more intently inside welcoming heat -

She breaks away from the kiss and your head pushes back into the pillow, exposing the ridges of your throat which she promptly begins to map with her tongue. "Oh god, Helena," you manage, the words a breathless benediction to the ceiling. Her thigh comes up behind her arm, giving additional force to her hand as she moves within you and your hips drive against it. "God, Helena, oh fuck - "

Speech becomes beyond your reach as she takes you to the brink and far beyond, the artifact or her skill keeping you there impossibly long and you're writhing against her, your nerves burning patchwork holes through your skin as the sensations she is causing within you look for an outlet and are denied. Your fingers curl all the more forcefully inside her, and finally she moves away from your throat.

The eyes you look into then are dark with unchecked arousal yet somehow still blazing with a fire that is doubtless reflected in yours. Your lungs scream and you realize you've stopped breathing; the gulp of air you take then is expelled in a shout from low in your throat as your spine arches into her and your orgasm tears through you. You catch sight of her own release taking her in her eyes and you've never done this, could never have done this - looked into someone's eyes as you're both at the height of pleasure by the other's hand - not even with Sam, but it feels right now, with this woman, and this woman is -

You feel her body tremble beneath the hand clutching her back and she lets out a choked sob as her head falls onto your shoulder, and your jaw clenches at the sudden influx of emotion warring with the continued spasms of your climax.

- everything.

As your muscles descend into pleasure- and exertion-induced uselessness your fingers fall away from her, hers shortly following suit and brushing lightly over yours on their way up to your stomach. She presses her lips to the skin before her, and her hair obscures her expression as she makes a trail of delicate kisses over your chest, down your sternum, and finally comes to rest on her side against you, her head facing away from you just beneath your breasts.

You watch her rise and fall with your breath, the movements gradually becoming rhythmic as your nerves calm. She sighs, a tendril of hair fluttering into her face and you let your hand fall to her shoulder when you brush it away. You feel tension riddling her body, can sense her need to purge herself of some demon that you suspect she had begun to cast away the day she returned the compact to the Warehouse.

You had wondered when this would emerge; there was simply no possible way she could have survived the murder of her daughter, the torture and death of the killers at her own hand, and a subsequent century with nothing but her own guilt and grief to keep her company and not come out damaged. But whether you should be thankful she has maintained her aura of utter confidence this long, until you are ready to be there for her with all that you have to offer, or whether you should plead for forgiveness for not having been able to help her heal in the past, you can't say.

Finally her voice breaks through the still in the room.

"You have no idea the depths to which you have affected my soul, Myka."

Her tone is bleak, so full of despair as to be nearly emotionless. Your instinct is to gather her into your arms and try to kiss away her pain, but you refrain, knowing this is a conversation she needs to have. You bite your lip against the stinging at the back of your eyes. "So tell me."

Helena's fingertips abruptly finish their wandering dance across your abdomen, and there is silence for a long moment. "You have changed so much more than you realize, simply by being who you are," she finally murmurs into your navel. Another sigh passes between her lips and she continues. "The last time I told someone I loved them was more than a century ago, and I wasn't even in my own body. And she was already dead."

Before you can attempt to respond, she has turned to face you, still resting against your stomach, and you are unsurprised to find her eyes glistening as she looks up at you. "It's not something I shall ever truly move past, nor do I believe I would want to. But you..." Her eyebrows raise helplessly, a tearful smile gracing her lips. "You make me want to try."

You can't stop yourself then; with an arm around her waist and a hand at her neck you haul her body over yours and crush your lips together, trying to convey with your kiss all the words of comfort you know you would only mangle if you tried to express them. She pulls away after several desperate moments and you close your eyes to catch your breath. "Helena, I... I won't say it, if you need me not to. But I want you to know that I can - I... I do, so much..." You cut yourself off, feeling somewhat like an idiot.

She laughs, not in amusement, but in apparent self-loathing. "You may wish to revise your opinion of me," she mutters, rolling off to the side.

You follow, wrapping your body around hers, your chest pressed against her back. "I doubt that." A hand captures hers and you plant a soft kiss to the knuckles. "What's this about, Helena?"

She shudders and speaks into the pillow, almost to herself. "The things I was planning to do, and the actions I was prepared to take to accomplish them..." Her hand pulls away, tucking itself between the bed and her ribcage. "I don't know that you can handle knowing what I am capable of."

"Whatever it was, you didn't do it. You're not capable of it."

Silence falls between you again as she gathers her thoughts. Your thumb grazes idly over her abdomen, and finally she takes a breath. "I told you once that I had become quite mad, before asking to be bronzed in one of my increasingly rare moments of lucidity. I asked never to be awoken, as I knew that I would only have descended further into the darkness of my own mind, as surely a madwoman must when left with nothing but the company of her own thoughts. My concerns were proven correct."

She pauses, and you're about to ask what she means when her voice forestalls the question.

"I was going to destroy the world."

Were it anyone else, in any other profession, you'd think they were exaggerating. But you know her, and you know the Warehouse, and you have no doubt that she is completely sincere. You reach down and tug her hand free, tightly entwining your fingers. "What changed your mind?"

"I met you," she says simply. "The thought of harming you became quite distasteful." She pauses, then adds, "And seeing dear Claudia, and her sweet innocence, and even Pete in his way... I would have destroyed you, your family... In time, I simply found that I could not."

"Then how is this a bad thing? You're healing, Helena." She shifts slowly in your arms, turning around to face you, and you press a soft kiss to her lips. "I'm going to be here to help you, any way you need."

A breath of air flows softly over your skin as Helena buries her head between the pillow and your shoulders. "You make the world seem not such a frightful place, Myka."

The exhaustion spreading throughout her body is a palpable thing; you roll onto your back, pulling her along with you, and reach out to rescue a sheet from the floor. You drape it over your bodies to block the slight chill of the autumn night and draw her closer as she succumbs to sleep, watching the play of light from the window across her features as the world outside carries on, oblivious to the retribution nearly wrought upon it by the woman in your arms.

You're not certain how to process the fact that you were all that prevented it. It's clear that her demons are more pervasive than simple mourning left to fester over more than a century. The darkness that plagues her won't be conquered with one wrenching confession. She has only begun to heal; the impulses that compelled her to bring about the destruction of the world are still there, and you're the only thing standing in their way. It's an unbelievable responsibility.

But you love her, and it's a burden you will gladly bear.


The first time it happens, Helena's soft cries echo through your room at the bed and breakfast as you whisper into her ear, all thoughts of artifacts and the Warehouse and sins of the past lying forgotten in their wake.

The End

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