Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
Part 8 | Part 9
“Helena, we can’t keep doing this,” Myka muttered with a sigh.
“Doing what, darling?” was H.G.’s distracted response, as her fingers continued to keep trying to undo the buttons of Myka’s shirt, even as Myka kept swatting her hands away.
Finally, using just one hand, Myka caught both of Helena’s wrists and held them still. Reaching with her other hand, she gently tilted Helena’s chin upward until they were staring eye-to-eye.
“Using sex as a crutch, whenever you’re feeling sad or frustrated,” she replied. The inventor said nothing, so Myka continued, even though her heart felt like it was about to beat right out of her chest.
“Helena, I love you.”
Helena’s eyes widened just slightly, but she gave no other reaction to Myka’s words.
“Okay?” Myka continued, trying not to feel disheartened at the lack of response. “I really do. But this? I know you’re in pain, but this habit we have of coming together just when you want to feel something other than the hurt inside? When you want to regain some control in your life? That’s not what I want for us. We could be so much more.”
Helena grit her teeth and pulled free from Myka’s grasp. “And what would you rather have me do, darling? Be a submissive housewife who caters to your every whim?” Helena sneered.
Myka frowned, hurt. “I would never ask that of you. You should know better than to think that’s what I want.”
There was a long, uncomfortable silence between them before Myka went on softly. “I know you love me too. You don’t have to say it back; I know it’s true.” Helena remained silent, crossing her arms irritably and turning her face to the side.
Myka stepped forward into Helena’s personal space, reaching to cup Helena’s cheek in her hand.
“Helena, you’re allowed to be happy, sometimes,” Myka insisted quietly, her brow knitting in concern.
Helena instantly stiffened, pulling back with an angry snarl. “I am not!” she exclaimed. “My daughter has been ripped violently from my side, Myka, and I can hope for her return, but happy?” Helena scoffed bitterly. “The word no longer holds any meaning for me.”
Myka could feel her heart breaking for Helena, but had no idea how to help.
As if reading Myka’s mind, Helena added, “You’re a fixer. You crave order and rules, because they provide a world in which you can find sense. When there is no order, you aim to restore it. I understand, but your love is not some thread that can stitch me whole once again. Myka, you’re a good person, but I am not worth your efforts.”
Helena paused, turning to stare out the window, so her back now faced towards Myka. “But all right,” she continued after a moment, “you desire for me to stop using sex as a crutch, as you said? It is done. You will be loath to comply, I imagine, but I would rather you left me alone for the moment.”
Helena was right about one thing, at least: Myka had no absolutely no intention of complying with Helena’s wish to be left alone.
Of course, the universe had a sense of humor, and chose just that moment to send Myka hurtling forward to the 21st century.
Pete was busy trying to look busy, since Artie was likely to show up sometime soon, when he noticed the flashing alert on Claudia’s computer screen. He stood up so quickly that he knocked his chair over in the process.
“Okay,” he murmured to himself. “Okay, what do I have to do? Find Helena!”
He lunged for the far side of the table, where his Farnsworth lay, snatching it up and flipping it open to call Claudia.
The two of them – Claudia and H.G. – had been thick as thieves lately. They were up to something, always whispering together and sharing looks. There had been no full-on bad vibes, yet, but the vibe-o-meter was on high alert. Pete had considered trying to figure out what was going on, but on the off-chance that it was some weird girly thing, he decided to just let them be.
Odds were a lot better that it was something genius-y which he probably wouldn’t understand anyway. Pete was a smart guy, smarter than he usually got credit for, but he was perfectly willing to admit his inferiority when it came to Claudia Donovan and H.G. Wells. Besides, he trusted that they would come to him if they wanted him to know about whatever there was to know about.
Claudia wasn’t answering her Farnsworth.
He knew they were somewhere in the Warehouse... But really, that was less than worthless; they could be anywhere.
After another moment of indecision, Pete tucked his Farnsworth into his pocket and then took off running towards the H.G. Wells aisle. According to Claudia and H.G.’s calculations, Myka wouldn’t be sticking around for much time at all, this time. And this time might even be the last time.
As he rounded a corner, Pete came very close to crashing directly into Myka. She released a little squeal of surprise, but he reached his arms out to grab onto her shoulders, holding her at arms’ length to stop himself from colliding into her just in time, and they spun around several times before Pete managed to halt his momentum.
“Myka!” he exclaimed, as soon as he was confident that they weren’t going to topple over onto the ground. He pulled her in for a tight hug, and her bewildered expression softened as she hugged back with equal strength.
“Hey, Pete,” she muttered affectionately into his shoulder.
He wanted to just keep hugging her, but he knew there wasn’t time. He pulled away from her and got right to the point. “Okay. So, Claudia figured it out. And I’m sorry to make you do this, because I know this is really tough for you, and we didn’t want to make you choose, but there’s really no time for anything else.” Or, maybe not so much with the getting right to the point.
Myka only looked confused, and Pete honestly couldn’t blame her. “What are you talking about?” she asked.
“The artifact,” he replied, gesturing frantically. “What’s-his-name’s postcard photo thing. Do you still have it?” They were running out of time, and he was screwing this all up. Pete was normally incredibly good under pressure, but this was Myka. The next few minutes or so would possibly determine if they ever saw each other again, and he was screwing it all up.
“Uh, not with me.” Myka shook her head. “I don’t need to have it on me to get transported.”
“Okay, whatever.” Pete took a deep breath, allowing himself this one pause to gather his thoughts. He had to get this right. “You have to make it change, Myka. You have to choose. Come home to us... or don’t. I need you, Myka. But you have to need us back. The artifact shows what you’re wishing for: you wished yourself back in time, and now you need to wish yourself back to us. It’s the only way, I’m sorry.”
Myka’s expression grew increasingly stricken over the course of his little speech.
“I... I don’t want to choose,” she whispered.
“I know.” He nodded sadly. “I’m sorry. But we need you here. All of us do. Oldy-H.G. is going to go crazy and get herself bronzed, no matter what you do. You have to know that. You can’t save her, Mykes. Helena needs you here, now.”
Myka flinched, before a look of total confusion crossed her face at his last sentence. “Helena needs me... What? Why would she need me here?”
Pete practically tore his hair out in frustration. “I’m an idiot!” he exclaimed. Of course, he’d forgotten to tell Myka the biggest selling point.
“Okay, you’re not going to believe this, but...” Pete grinned. “H.G. is-”
And then Pete could only stare blankly ahead in disbelief. Because Myka was gone. Myka was gone.
“No!” he cried out in aggravation. He whirled and kicked one of the shelves, causing a few artifacts to rattle around.
The thought had occurred to him, of course, that he’d rather it not be the case that Myka only came back to them because of H.G... But he’d still gladly take it if she was the difference between getting Myka back and never seeing her again. He couldn’t believe he’d forgotten to tell her.
He couldn’t believe that might have been the last time he ever saw his partner.
Myka stood perfectly still when she first arrived back in London. She was confused. What had Pete been talking about?
It had seemed like he had some kind of news about Helena, but that simply made no sense.
Writing it off as Pete being weird, Myka thought about the rest of what he’d said as she began walking back to the Wells’ house. She had to wish her way back... or maybe never see any of them ever again.
It was an impossible choice.
She was glad not to run into anyone when she entered the house, heading straight upstairs and to her room. Myka went immediately to her dresser, where the artifact lay tucked inside one of her books. She retrieved it, before going to sit on the edge of her bed.
So that was it; she had to make the image change. Even if she wanted to, Myka really had no idea how she’d do so. It hadn’t been a conscious decision when she’d done it before.
Besides, she realized, she didn’t actually want the image to change. That had nothing to do with her torn feelings about returning to the future or staying in the past; it was simply because Myka really liked the image that was shown. She didn’t even really think of it as an artifact anymore. It was just a photograph – the only photograph – of the two of them. She treasured it, she realized, as a symbol of their time together. The happy times. So not only would Myka be consciously abandoning Helena, but she’d also lose the only real evidence that any of this had ever even happened.
Myka knew it was silly to feel so attached to a photograph, especially one that had still never been taken. But it was how she felt, and she couldn’t shake it off. The deck was already stacked against the future.
Then an idea occurred to her.
She wasn’t making any decisions one way or the other, she told herself. She was simply evening the deck.
It took her a little while to find it, but after a few minutes of rummaging through her things, she found her cell phone. It was turned off and had been stowed away at the bottom of a drawer, since it obviously was of no use here. But it still had some battery life left... And it had a camera.
Myka turned it on, then went and placed the artifact flat on her bed. As carefully as she could, she held her phone steady at a distance where the photograph fit perfectly within the frame of the camera. Then she snapped a picture.
There. Equal decks. Now she had something permanent, no matter where – or when – she ended up.
They were ready. They were really going to make it happen.
Claudia was excited and terrified in equal measure.
With H.G.’s help, they’d worked out the two final keys, which involved figuring out how to set the metronome uniquely on Steve. It seemed almost obvious, now, but the metronome needed to be set very precisely to tick at the same rate as Steve’s average heart rate. Second, they’d realized the importance of a human connection, on a neural level; brain waves served as the metronome’s power source.
So now they were ready. There was the minor issue of Steve currently being buried underground... But Claudia and H.G. were both fairly confident, that this first time, the metronome would transport Steve to itself, like they were magnets, forcibly drawn together.
“There’s still time to stop all this,” H.G. offered. “We still have no idea what the negative consequences of this artifact may be. There will be consequences, Claudia; you need to be aware of that going in. With artifacts of life and death, there always are.” Her eyes said that she already knew Claudia would refuse, but she’d apparently felt the need to make the offer anyway.
Since that first day, when H.G. was filled with so much pain at having to re-live Christina’s death in her dreams, H.G. had partially returned to her original opinion that they should “leave things well alone.” But she’d promised Claudia that she would help, and she kept that promise.
“You came back to life without any consequences!” Claudia countered.
H.G. smirked, even though her heart clearly wasn’t behind it. “Well I’ve always been quite special, darling,” she said with a wink. Claudia huffed out a short laugh, before H.G. added, “There may very well be consequences in my case as well. We simply haven’t discovered them as of yet.”
Claudia did manage to somewhat seriously consider the options.
But no, there was really only one thing she could do at this point.
“I have to do this,” she said solemnly, meeting H.G.’s steady gaze. “I have to at least try.”
H.G. nodded, and Claudia was grateful for the nonjudgmental understanding in her eyes.
“Righty ho, then,” the older woman said. She grinned, and Claudia would bet that, in spite of her strong reservations, H.G.’s growing excitement was real. They were both inventors, innovators, and even beyond the personal meaning for Claudia... If this actually worked, that meant they were about to do something extraordinary.
H.G. stood back, as Claudia took a seat and focused all her thoughts directly onto the metronome on the table before her. The little gray rod stood straight up in the air, immobile. It was Claudia’s job now to make it move.
She thought about Steve; everything about him. From when they’d first met, all the way through that last terrible moment. There was nothing in her head except for him, as she stared intently at the metronome.
The rod quivered indecisively. Then slowly, achingly, it began to sway, settling into the appropriate rhythm.
Claudia sat back, shocked. A part of her had been certain that after everything, she wouldn’t be able to make it start.
They waited, holding their breaths. Nothing happened.
Claudia began to despair, thinking it hadn’t worked after all. Then she began to panic, as she had a sudden terrible image enter her head. What if they’d been wrong and Steve had now “woken up” inside his own coffin. What if...
Claudia whirled around, having no idea where H.G. was actually telling her to look.
And then she saw it. She saw him.
He was all shimmery at first, and it reminded her of how it had been with Joshua at first.
Steve was moving his mouth, but the words sounded like they were coming at them from behind a thick wall. Claudia didn’t care. She finally emerged from her own shocked stupor and jumped up from her chair with a cry of unadulterated joy.
They had done it! Steve was alive!
Well, sort of, anyway. But he was becoming more solid, more real, by the second. Claudia practically jumped ahead the few steps it took until she was standing directly in front of him. She tentatively reached out her hand, palm facing outwards. Steve mirrored her action, and they brought their hands slowly together. Steve still wasn’t fully there, though. Their palms touched, and although Claudia did feel something, a definite presence, her hand was able to continue pressing forward until their palms actually merged together. She quickly pulled her hand back, a little weirded out by the feeling.
Still, he was definitely growing more solid and less shimmery. A sudden coughing fit made Claudia take a step back and look away, but once it passed, she turned back to him, smiling so wide her mouth actually hurt.
Claudia wanted nothing more than to reach out and hug him and never let go, but even though he was looking pretty much like himself, she held back, unsure if it was okay to touch him yet.
She looked up into his face, but where she had expected to find joy and disbelief, there was only anxiety and sadness.
“Jinksy, it’s me,” she finally said. Did he not recognize her? “You’re alive! We fixed the metronome, and everything’s going to be okay now!”
Her bright grin faltered slightly when Steve merely looked down at the floor and shook his head sadly.
“Oh Claudia,” he sighed, even as another sudden coughing fit overtook her. His voice still wasn’t fully clear, but at least now she could understand it. He managed a slight smile at her, but there was no true happiness in it. “What have you done?”
Helena had observed the proceedings silently, standing a few steps removed from the other two. She’d never actually met Agent Jinks, but he looked to be a kind sort. Claudia absolutely adored him, and as far as Helena was concerned, that was enough of a character-reference.
Her wonderment at their success quickly faded into the background as soon as she noticed the pained expression on Agent Jinks’ face. This was not the face of a man suddenly given another chance at life.
When Claudia started coughing, Helena turned to her in concern. She took a half-step forward, hand outstretched, but held back as the coughing subsided. She knew this had been a bad idea, but she’d helped Claudia go through with it anyway. She could understand how Claudia felt, of course she could... But now she only felt a heavy ball of anxiety and dread settling into her gut.
“Jinksy, it’s me,” Claudia finally exclaimed. She too must have noticed that all did not seem right. “You’re alive! We fixed the metronome, and everything’s going to be okay now!”
“Oh Claudia,” the man said sadly. The ball in Helena’s stomach grew heavier. “What have you done?”
Claudia looked simply bewildered. “What have I done?” she repeated. “I’ve saved your life, dude, so show a little gratitude!” She threw a mock punch towards his shoulder with an unsure little half-smile, clearly waiting and hoping for Agent Jinks to joke along. He didn’t.
For the third time in as many minutes, hacking coughs broke from Claudia’s throat. This time Helena did step forward, helping to hold her steady as the violent coughs shook her body. Jinks did the same, and their eyes met for the first time. The young man looked confused for a moment, probably trying to figure out who she was and what she was doing there, before his expression cleared as he placed her.
Helena shifted her attention back to Claudia, who was staring into her own hand. Helena looked over Claudia’s shoulder, distraught to see that the younger woman was apparently coughing up blood.
Agent Jinks pulled back, running a hand over his face in alarm. “You have to stop the metronome, Claud,” he urged. “You have to let me go.”
“What are you talking about?” Claudia turned quickly to confront him, her face a picture of pain and bemusement. “Are you insane? I just brought you back! I’m not giving you up again!”
Helena had a horrible feeling that she knew where this was going, just before Agent Jinks confirmed her suspicions.
He stared at Claudia for a moment, a mixture of anxiety, pain, and love on his face. “If you bring me back, then it’ll kill you,” he told them softly. “Marcus told me about his metronome, Claud. Metronomes don’t just move continuously in one direction; they go back and forth. Life comes with death. You can call someone back from the dead, but the person doing the calling has to sacrifice their own life to make it happen. It’s going to literally kill you, Claudia! Look at you – it’s already started.”
Claudia’s skin was indeed growing pale, her pallor a stark contrast to the bright red blood that began to trickle out of her nose.
Claudia carelessly wiped the blood away, only creating a bigger mess. The nose bleed wasn’t a strong one, at least not yet, but Helena hurried to pull out a handkerchief. She wiped the blood away and then pressed the cloth just below Claudia’s nose, but it was as if the girl didn’t even notice what Helena was doing. Helena had to manually move Claudia’s arm, in order to get her to hold the handkerchief in place.
All the while, Claudia and Jinks simply stared at one another.
“It’s not fair,” Claudia muttered softly, a mere shadow of her normal, larger-than-life personality.
Agent Jinks smiled sadly. “I know. Life rarely is,” he replied.
Claudia began coughing once again, but she shook her head, as if in denial of what was happening. “No, this can’t be how this ends,” she mumbled. “There’s gotta be another way. I can still save you. I have to.”
Helena closed her eyes for a moment, as Claudia’s words struck a little too deeply. She knew these words well; she’d said them herself, a long time ago. Maybe not the exact same ones, but the sentiment they expressed was identical to her own attitude towards Christina’s death.
“There is no other way,” Jinks asserted. He’d grown remarkably calm, over the previous few minutes; he had clearly accepted his fate. “Claudia, listen to me.” He reached out tentatively, growing more certain when his hand reached Claudia’s shoulder and did not go through it. “I will not let you die for me. You know I won’t. I’d just use the metronome again to bring you back, and then what? You want to get into a back-and-forth die-for-each-other battle? Because personally, I think that would bring nothing but incredible pain to us both.”
Claudia began to cry.
Jinks’ calm expression broke, and he too began to tear up, as he pulled Claudia to him in a tight embrace.
“You’re going to do amazing things,” he continued. “I’m so proud of you, Claud. And you’ve got so much ahead of you. So be amazing, okay? Do it for me.”
Helena looked down at the floor, feeling awkwardly out of place.
“You need to stop the metronome. Please, Claudia. I’m so sorry, but you need to do it now, before it finishes the transfer between us.” Agent Jinks tried to ease away from the embrace, but Claudia wouldn’t let him go.
“I can’t,” she whispered into his chest, shaking her head. Claudia was extremely pale, now; frighteningly so.
Jinks looked over the top of Claudia’s head to meet Helena’s eyes.
“H.G., right?” he asked. She nodded. “This is a little awkward, to ask someone I just met. Well, I met you when you were Emily Lake, but neither of us were our true selves at that point. Anyway, will you do this for me?”
“I am very sorry to only be meeting you under these circumstances,” she said, “but yes, I will.” Helena was acutely reminded of that moment in the forest, when they’d decided that Pete would destroy the Janus coin. It was strange, essentially being in the same situation, but from an entirely different perspective. She went to stand by the metronome.
Jinks nodded, satisfied.
“Wait, are you doing it now? Don’t do it yet!” Claudia pulled back and turned towards Helena in a panic. Blood now streamed from her nose, but she paid it no mind.
“I’m so sorry, Claudia, but I don’t think we can afford to wait much longer,” Helena replied.
Claudia launched herself back into Agent Jinks’ arms. “I’m glad we got to say a proper goodbye, even though it’s hard this way,” he murmured softly to her.
“I’ll always miss you,” she whispered. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
With a last cry, Claudia pulled herself away, only to then throw herself into Helena’s arms. “I’m sorry Steve, I can’t watch,” she muttered into Helena’s shoulder.
“You have nothing to be sorry for,” he said. “Now remember, Claud: be amazing for me. No, you know what? I know you’ll be amazing. So just be happy.” He took a deep breath, and then nodded to Helena. He was ready.
Helena could only hope that Claudia would forgive her for this.
With one arm wrapped tightly around Claudia’s back, she reached with the other to stop the metronome’s movement.Although he was clearly in pain, Jinks didn’t utter a sound. As a final act of kindness, he didn’t let any pain reach Claudia’s ears.
Click for Part 11!