DISCLAIMER: Sanctuary belongs to Damian Kindler, Martin Wood and Amanda Tapping and the Syfy Channel. I'm merely a fan.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Originally Written for the sanctuary ficathon for openended: Who requested amongst other things: Helen-centric, something based on "Set the Fire to the Third Bar" by Snow Patrol. I hope this fits the bill. And apologies for being so late.
WARNING: Contains male/female and female/female sexual pairings and oblique references to male/male.
SPOILERS: Back story episodes for Magnus and the Five.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To jo.raine[at]ntlworld.com
Miles from where you are
Steeling herself she raised her pistol and shot him. The blood blossomed on his face scarlet-black in the gaslight as he reeled back and vanished in a flash of sickly greenblue light. She had killed him or so she hoped and feared. It was over. It was just beginning.
Ten days later James Watson tracked her down in Prague, in a tiny room on the top floor of back street hotel hunched over a wash stand. The baby did not like the local food.
She whirled, backed away from him, one hand wiping across her mouth, her pistol pointing at his chest. He had never seen anyone look as afraid as she did just then.
"James! How did you find me?" Her lip quivered. "John he's not with you is he?"
"Helen, I've some bad news John's dead," he said gently.
She had regained some composure and her hand shook only slightly as she laid the pistol down on the bedside table. "I know " she said softly. "I thought I did, anyway, but I wasn't sure "
Her lack of focus intrigued and frightened him. "Your father is very worried about you," he said. "I managed to track you as far as Dover and then discovered you'd taken passage across to Le Havre. I took a wrong turn via Munich to Lucerne you covered your tracks very well."
"Not well enough. You found me," Helen swallowed convulsively as her stomach riled again.
"In my defence you are a somewhat unforgettable woman, Helen." She had always had difficulty in acknowledging her own beauty, even after the likes of Dante Gabriel Rosetti had camped before her father's door demanding to paint her after one glimpse of her. And she had been barely out of her teens then.
The shadowed glass over the washstand showed her what she expected to see, hollowed haunted storm blue eyes in a grey pinched face, her dulled hair caught up in haphazard curls, a wreck of the woman she had been a scant ten days before.
"I don't understand... none of us do... why did you run? Why didn't you come to one of us? We would have protected..."
Ire flashing in her eyes she turned on him. "I don't need anyone to protect me... I never have. I don't know why you all you, father, John, all society insist that I am some weak and pitiful creature. I am not... I am..." Her mouth worked silently for a moment as her ailing stomach threatened to overwhelm her again. She staggered to the washstand again, James politely turning aside as she retched. Once she had finished he took hold of her delicately by her elbows and steered her over to the bed and helped her lie down. He brought her a damp washcloth so that she could freshen her face and cool her burning cheeks, giving her a moment's grace to recover before repeating his original question.
"Why did you run, Helen?"
"I discovered the truth about John, I saw him... kill a young woman. I had come prepared. I shot him... I saw him fall, disappear..."
"You didn't kill him, Helen. I received a telegram from your father four days ago. John's body was recovered from the Thames he had drowned himself it seems, perhaps in remorse for his actions. His brother positively identified the body."
"That cannot be," Helen said flatly. "He felt no remorse. He revelled in his actions. What I can't understand is how long it took me to realise what he had become."
"You loved him. He used that against you, to deflect you from getting too close to him, to what he was becoming." James reached out as if to touch her hair, perhaps to brush back a tendril of curls from her cheek but withdrew as if he feared her touch would burn or contaminate him somehow.
"He had changed these last few months. It was becoming harder for him to hide I think."
"We were always careful. Always. The last time something was different. He was different. He did not care. He wanted me, wanted me completely. He treat me "
"Like one of his whores," James whispered, his gaze taking on vast distances she could not see. "He used such language, he was forceful, commanding and something in you enjoyed it."
"Yes," Helen whispered, her cheeks scarlet.
"The release, the freedom from all the strictures. For a moment, you became like him. There are theories, still controversial, of how pain and pleasure commingle, the giving of yourself "
Shocked, Helen realised that he was not just imagining John's encounter with her, he was telling her however obliquely about his own encounter. She had known for as long as she had known him that James Watson loved John Druitt as completely as any one person could love another. On John's part in was a deep and loving friendship, completely platonic. James had always wanted, needed more but both of them were English gentlemen. And for almost as long as there had been James and John there had been John and Helen.
It was five days later. James had taken the room across the corridor but spent most of his time with her. Their landlady would probably have been scandalised if she hadn't fallen completely for James's old English mannered charm. Her daughter watched them with a quietly amused smile. Her name was Agnete and she had taken care of Helen when her illness had incapacitated her. She knew the truth of Helen's condition: that she was with child and that the father of that child, the man she had intended to marry, was dead.
"You know that I have always... cared for you," James whispered. She lay across him, his fingers tangled in her curls, the sound of his heartbeat solid and reassuring in her ear. James would take care of everything if she let him, up to and including marrying her to provide a readymade father for her child and shelter her from any more scandal. He was sweet and solicitous and treat her as if she were porcelain, somehow better than other women. But she didn't need to be placed on a pedestal or told that she looked like an angel. It would have been so much easier if it had been Nikola who had come to her rescue. He would have expected her seduction as his due, turned her over the nearest piece of furniture and thrown her skirts over her head. James was gentle, a gentleman. It had taken her three sleepless nights before he had agreed to lie with her in bed and even then she was under the covers and he was fully dressed on top. He had kissed her but chastely on the forehead, almost daringly on the cheek. She wanted to feel the rasp of his beard on her skin and not just on her lips. Her nipples ached for his touch and lower, lower the ache and heat was a constant distraction.
She raised herself a little, laid her hand on his cheek and looked down at him, studying his lean, angular face closely, his gentle eyes and the beard that framed his sensitive mouth. He tolerated her scrutiny with his usual infinite patience a puzzled smile quirking his lips. Earlier she wondered what his reaction would be if she asked him to take her hard and fast, up against the wall or tied to the bed frame, blurring the lines between pleasure and pain. Would he blush, would he even be able to look her in the eye any more? A pity now that the nausea had passed, her libido had reasserted itself with a vengeance. John Druitt had schooled her well in the ways of pleasure and a part of her was anxious, fevered even to see if it was as she secretly feared and that John had spoiled her in more ways than one for any other man.
Thankfully, those fears were not realised. She had all but seduced the man but James managed at last in his own sweet way to bring her to orgasm and was endearingly pleased with himself for doing so. Helen knew she could never let him know that the only way she had come was by remembering the feel of the rough Whitechapel wall against her cheek and breasts as John took her from behind.
She trusted him implicitly, trusted him to do the right thing, whether that was to propose marriage to her to preserve her good name and prevent her child being born a bastard or hold her through the sleepless nights when the night terrors beckoned. She doubted she would ever sleep the night through again. And it was a bleak thought indeed that for her 'ever' could be a very long time.
That damnable foolhardy experiment. The source blood had changed her, changed them all. Tesla's was the most obvious change, the source blood had reinvigorated the dormant vampire ancestry that ran through his blood and bones. Nigel had developed the ability to become invisible, to reflect his surroundings on his skin. John had developed the ability to move instantaneously in space and perhaps in time. Whether he had also become a brutal killer because of it or whether that was due to some inherent darkness brought into the light by the serum much as Tesla's vampire characteristics had been she did not know. And James's native intelligence and observational skills had been enhanced a thousandfold. Though she could still wind him round her little finger, it seemed.
She could outlive everyone else, outlive the child she carried in her womb. The thought tormented her. What was the point of loving if you had to go through the pain of losing them over and over again? Of all the gifts she could have received from the source blood, why this?
His finger tracing the line of her cheek brings her back to herself. "Why so pensive?" he asked. "Did did you like "
"I had a wonderful time with you, James," she smiled down at him, glad to see him relax a little. "You are a good man, a better friend than I deserve. And I know that whatever happens you will be there for me and for my daughter."
He smiled, reassured. "We should make preparations to head back to London. There are things that need to be settled John's estate for one. He named me executor of his will. I'll send a telegram to your father in the morning "
"That sounds like an excellent plan, James. But I'm not coming with you, not yet. I need more time to consider my future." Helen said.
He really was a very clever man. "I see. I know it would be useless to try and change your mind, Helen. You know, if there is anything you need, you have only to send word " She pressed her lips to his again, caressing the soft bristles of his beard.
"I know. Thank you James. For everything."
The distant sounds of the early morning street came to her as she stood at the window, a shawl wrapped around her. The subtle crunch of foot steps on the cat-ice that had formed on the puddles over night, the sound of cart wheels on the cobbles as the stall holders began to set up in the market square. As she watches a carriage draws up outside the hotel and a tall, elegant man in a black silk top hat and heavy overcoat comes down the steps, bag in hand. He looks up even though he can't possibly see her, smiles and waves. Her beautiful, obedient James. She blows him a kiss she knows he cannot see but will feel and sends him only good thoughts for a safe journey home. Minutes later, he gets in the carriage and with a jingle of harness and a harsh clop of hooves on the cobbles it moves away.
She is alone again. But she has stopped running.
Agnete raps politely on the door before opening it. "Miss Magnus, your bath is drawn ready."
"Thank you, Agnete." Helen turns from the mirror where she is combing out her long hair dressed only in her petticoats, the shawl loose around her shoulders.
"Will you need my help with your hair. It is very abundant," the young woman said. "I am not a proper ladies maid, but I have assisted before."
The water is still steaming when Helen lowers herself gingerly into the tub with a sigh of sheer pleasure. The girl has scented it with some sort of oil. Helen can detect sandalwood and something else she is not familiar with. She lets the young woman pour jugs of water over her head to wet her hair then rub in the soap, careful not to make too many tangles in the curls. Carefully she rinses out the soap, shielding Helen's eyes with her hand so no soap irritates them. Then before Helen can say anything she picks up the wash cloth and begins to run it over Helen's arms and back. Her touch is soothing, almost mesmerising. The cloth moves slickly over her breasts and belly, her thighs, calves and feet, washing away the sweat and grime, washing away James's touch.
Helen is almost asleep in the tub when she feels soft lips touch hers. She opens her eyes to see Agnete's dark amber eyes only inches away. "You are very beautiful Miss Magnus."
"Call me Helen," she whispered. "And you are very beautiful as well, Agnete."
The girl is skilled in ways still new to Helen. The revelation that there is more to learn in the world shakes her, to be truly on foreign soil, long may it continue. She had allowed herself to become jaded, stale.
"You have bad dreams," Agnete whispered. "I have heard you cry out in the night. My mother says you are haunted, perhaps by the man you were to marry. The one who died."
"I suppose I am afraid to sleep," Helen admitted. "John the future without him still troubles me."
"Would you like me to tell you a story? Perhaps it would distract you from your bad memories."
Helen managed a smile. It had been a long time since she had been told a bedtime story. She closed her eyes at a fleeting memory of a tall fair haired woman, pale with ice blue eyes sitting beside her bed, a book of old folk tales open in her lap, a soft voice she could not quite recall. "If you think it would help."
Cool fingers stroked her brow, teasing away the incipient headache. Helen stiffens, then forces herself to relax as fingers are replaced with lips, cool and soft, leaving it seemed a trail across her skin, the sensation persisting long after the butterfly touch. The lips move down her cheek, along the line of her throat, down her sternum. The heat between her legs rising in counterpoint to the cool precision of her lover's touch.
"I thought you were telling me a story."
Agnete smiled. "So I was. Once upon a time," she began. Her hand cupped Helen's breast, the pad of her thumb caressing the turgid nipple, "when the world was young there were many creatures that walked the land. Alongside the sons of Eve and the daughters of Lilith were those that were born under the light of the full moon. It was said that those born in that magical light were special in one way or another, endowed with great beauty or great talent, shapeshifters or magi, weatherwitches or dowsers, bards and storytellers. But most special and magical of all were those born in that light with a caul over their face. For they were the were-folk able to take on the form of beasts at will but forced to change into their animal selves when the light of the full moon fell across the land again. If they carried a piece of the caul with them in a pouch over their heart then no man could harm them and no witch could enchant them against their will." The girl smiled. "Or so the story goes."
The girl mouthed her breasts, the flat of her tongue washing over her sensitive nipples before the tip teased. She planted wet open kisses over Helen's ribcage, tickling as well as titillating. Helen was unable to hold back a gasp as hot breath seared the sensitive skin around her navel. Helen's hands curled into fists, gripping the sheet beneath her as soft kisses followed the curve of her belly (and it was not her imagining that that curve had become more pronounced in the last few days) and follow the V of light hair to the juncture of her thighs. She writhed as those soft lips and clever tongue had their way with her, lapping her closer and closer to the sweet oblivion she sought. Somewhere where John could not find her. Better than any drug the touch of a willing and generous lover. Seconds, minutes, hours passed she could not tell. She was willingly, joyfully lost.
The world slowed to its normal rhythm, fingers tangled in her hair, teasing out the golden ringlets so different from her lover's dark locks. Dark amber eyes gazed at her, Agnete's olive skin dark against her own pallor.
Already the last of the daylight is fading, the frostbright moon is rising, full bellied but not yet complete. Helen's eye is caught by the small leather sack suspended by a cord around Agnete's slender throat that nestles between her breasts over her heart and she realises just how special this new friend of hers is.
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