Matter of the Heart
An epilogue to the season 1 episode "Matter of Life & Death". John & Helena have a lot to discuss...
Scene 1 - Mezzanine Floor. Helena is watching Terra Nova recede into the distance and John is standing waiting...
He was sure she knew he was standing there : stuck dumb ! On glancing up and seeing her standing all alone his heart had lurched in his chest and it had been gut instinct that had propelled his feet up here. There had been no conscious thought, just an instinct to comfort her by his presence. Now he was actually here he felt like an intruder : imposing on her final farewell to her (late?) husband. Hell, he still couldn't get his head around whether Lee Russell was actually deceased or not. Either way, his consciousness was trapped - forever alone - on that receding anti-matter world.
She still had not turned to look at him or acknowledge his presence in any way, but he could hardly just leave. Say something, anything ! he mentally admonished himself. Clearing his throat he blurts out "Helena... ? Are you alright?" Could he have thought of anything more inane he inwardly cursed himself!
Finally she turns and looks straight through him, as if she is in a trance. "No. But I will be. I just need time John."
If that isn't his cue to leave he doesn't know what would be. But, somehow, he just can't leave it at that. They need to talk and the longer this limbo is allowed to linger the harder it will be. For both of them.
"I understand Helena. But..." he forces himself to continue. "There are aspects of recent events we need to discuss. From a professional point of view, whilst those events are still fresh in our minds. Could you meet me in my office at 21: 00. We will not be disturbed." He waits, with baited breath, conflicted as to whether he wants her to turn him down flat or agree to talk. Either way, it's going to be a long and painful night ahead.
Helena forces herself to tear her eyes from the viewport. Terra Nova (what an ironic choice of name under the circumstances!) is little more than a salmon coloured point of light in the far distance. Within the next minute or two it will become invisible to the naked eye : she should be grateful for small mercies she tells herself. Using every last visage of inner strength she puts on her 'professional demeanour'. Forcing herself to look him in the eye with what she hopes is a collegial smile she responds "Of course, Commander. I will have my report on the survey mission ready by then. Excuse me, I must get back to Medical Centre."
John can do nothing more than step aside and let her go. As he watches Helena's back disappear down the corridor he finds himself wandering across to the spot she was occupying just a few moments ago. Terra Nova is no longer in sight. He can't help wishing that it - and it's sole occupant - would fade as rapidly from memory : were that life was ever so simple!
Scene 2 - Commander's Private Office. Command Centre 20:49 hours.
John is sitting behind his desk with the kettle and coffee urn set up and waiting. He's been shuffling reports and signing off maintenance requisitions for the last hour. Most of them Paul Morrow's area of responsibility but he can't concentrate on anything important. He's about to have possibly the most crucial conversation - at least to him personally - of his life to date and he has no idea where to begin.
The whole debacle from start to finish was down to one simple and highly unpalatable fact. He acted completely recklessly because he couldn't bring himself to be objective. If that man had been anyone else but Helena's husband he would never have pushed ahead against Victor's shrewd and very accurate assessment of the danger. His instant antipathy towards the man, due almost entirely to his terror of losing Helena, had been the driving force in his utter rejection of what Lee was telling them during his interrogation.
Oh, he had been justified in that, after the incident in Medical Centre and Helena's "fainting fit". The man/alien was posing a real threat to his people. At least to one of them : a very significant one to him. That was the whole problem. After six months out here he could no longer fool himself. Lee Russell had been the final catalyst that had brought his feelings into focus and out into the open. He had fallen in love with Helena Russell. He had known for a while now (sub consciously at least) that it was more than a physical attraction but he had not acted on it. In fact, he had done his utmost to ensure that she remained unaware of his feelings. Though he was sure that he had blown his cover completely over the last four days.
Looking down at his desk he picked up the first of the thermal images Victor had shown him only yesterday morning. The medical records that should have been taken straight to the Chief Medical Officer for her professional analysis. Except that her colleagues : Bob Matthias, Victor Bergman and the Base Commander no less had decided they "might upset her" so better to keep her in the dark. Immediately after that highly inappropriate decision he had confronted Lee Russell and frog marched him away telling his CMO to "keep away" from her patient. She had - quite reasonably - asked him why and he had refused to answer her.
Then, as Captain Carter was about to lift off with an Eagle containing five of Alpha's most senior staff, Professor Bergman informs him that the corpse of Russell had vanished into thin air and that they were about to head for a planet composed of highly unstable anti-matter. And what dies the most highly qualified nuclear physicist on Moonbase Alpha decide to do? Turn a blind eye and carry on with his lethal mission.
Helena had sent her report through just over an hour ago so he had read what had transpired after the rocks fell on him. They had all been killed! Everyone! All those on Alpha and everyone on the survey mission barring Helena. If it had not been for Lee Russell then...
And now he has to admit to his folly and tell her the whole truth. No doubt, what little affection she had already developed towards him would be shattered once she knew just how self-centred a man he truly was! He glanced at the clock. 20:58 hours. He felt sick and in need of something far stronger than coffee. Before he had a chance to action that thought his commlock chirped and Helena's face appeared on the screen.
He stood up "Come."
As soon as she was through the door he ordered the computer to engage the privacy lock and divert all incoming calls to Paul Morrow until further notice.
Helena raised her right eyebrow a little at that but said nothing as she waited for him to make the next move. She had some idea about why he had asked her here this evening and she was dreading the next hour or so. The last thing she felt like talking about was Lee and she just hoped that Commander Koenig was going to keep things strictly professional.
She knew that they needed to discuss Alan, Paul and Sandra's mission reports. She suspected that she may be the only one who remembered the destruction of Terra Nova and their moon after Lee reset the timeline, but she had to be sure. If the others did recall their deaths then they would be traumatised and in need of counselling. The fact that John himself had accepted her statement straight after those events - that they could not stay on the planet then quietly ordered Victor to cancel Operation Exodus - led her to believe that Lee had somehow allowed John to remember what had transpired too. If so, this evening was going to be even more painful than she had anticipated.
John gestured towards the sofa "Coffee or tea?"
"Coffee, white with one sugar please."
He merely nodded and busied himself with the preparations as she tried to make herself comfortable. Then she noticed the body imaging thermal plates stacked on the table in front of her. Whilst John's back was to her she picked them up and studied the time and date information in the top right hand corner of each plate. Understanding dawned within seconds. So, this was why John had demanded she stay away from Lee yesterday morning. And then the full ramifications hit her he had deliberately withheld vital clinical data from his CMO because...because it was not Commander Koenig calling the shots for the last three days but...John. The man who was very obviously in love with her!
Before she had a chance to process her thoughts, the Commander returned with their coffees. Placing hers next to the stack of plates she had just returned to the coffee table, John knew he had to break the silence first. "Helena...Dr. Russell, I'm sorry. Those..." he indicated towards the incriminating evidence arrayed between them "should have been given to you as soon as Dr. Matthias had completed the scans." Forcing himself to glance up at her and being met with a steady stare he continued "We...I ...the timing...under the circumstances...but it was still wrong of me."
"Yes, John. It was."
He did not miss the emphasis on his given name. So she understood. He was about to start the conversation he had been dreading when she spoke again, and surprised him.
"I am disappointed that you thought me incapable of separating my personal and professional feelings for my patient : but I do understand. You projected your own internal struggle onto me. Wait, I've not finished. I know you are also chastising yourself for undertaking the scouting mission to Terra Nova, aren't you?" She raised her hand to stop him from replying. "Well don't. We were right to try. May I ask you a question?"
He was feeling thrown now. He had expected her to be hurt, angry and insulted by his professional slight to her but now she was approving of that catastrophic mission?! Confused, he nodded his assent for her to continue.
"Suppose the survey Eagle had returned without incident and without Lee. Based on the data that David Kano and Sandra Benes were feeding you, what would you have done differently?"
John thought about it. "Nothing. I would have gone ahead as planned. There were no indications from Terra Nova itself of anti-matter particle emissions. The only indications we had pre-lift off were the events surrounding Lee Russell."
Helena inclined her head and regarded him thoughtfully. "So it came down to a matter of trust. Did you, as Commander of Alpha, with responsibility for over three hundred crew believe - what this entity that I believed to be my late husband Lee - was telling you? You did not. Based on his behaviour up until that point, electrocuting several of us including his supposed beloved wife, it was reasonable to doubt his intentions. All our computers and scientific analyses of the data coming through supported the view that Terra Nova was compatible with human life. There is no way you could have predicted the outcome."
She was magnanimously giving him an out, but it wasn't that simple. "However, I did have lots of corroborating evidence. Those thermal plates, the fact that none of the medical monitors were registering normal life signs for Mr. Russell. Victor's analysis of those skin tissues before Lee Russell's autopsy... whether I liked it or not, I had more than enough to go on to err on the side of caution. Can I ask you something?"
Helena inwardly braced herself.
"Had you seen those plates at the same time as Victor and I...would you have agreed to come on the mission with me?"
"You are asking me whether I would still have believed that he was...human? That he really was Lee? Probably not. But, with hindsight, I know that he was my husband. Lee saved us all John. Why would a malevolent alien entity not have left me to perish along with the rest of you? He knew that I could not stay with him, either way. Yet he chose to save us all : even after the reception we gave him on Alpha."
"I know Helena. I know. Believe me...I've thought about little else these last few hours." Standing to re-fill the coffee urn he walked over to the counter. "When we returned, Kano was trying so hard to lift my spirits. He even succeeded for a moment or two. Then I glanced up at Victor and saw you standing alone on the mezzanine...I don't know what I was thinking. Instinct made me walk up those stairs to...I suppose to try and comfort you but when I arrived I felt like an intruder. I was lost for words so I blurted out something inane because.."
Helena finished the sentence for him "because you finally acknowledged to yourself that you are in love with me and it felt like the worst possible timing imaginable. Am I right?"
She saw John's back tense and he froze mid task. She knew that it was now or never. Walking up behind him she put her hand on his left shoulder and could just make out the shimmer of tears on his cheek. "Oh John! Why do you think I refused to look at you up there? Because I was heart broken at Lee's departure? At losing him once again, and in such a tragic manner?"
She came to stand in front of him. "I was sad that it ended as it did. Our hopes of a new life on Terra Nova as much as finding and losing Lee again. John. I said my goodbyes to Lee over five years ago. I was devastated at the time but I have made peace with my fate long ago. Then I came to Alpha, Breakaway happened and I got to know you... John, have you read my mission report?"
He just nodded once before averting his eyes.
"Then you know that Lee told me to see what I wanted to see. It's hard to explain but I felt an electrical surge flow through me as he held me and I could sense his thoughts. I could have wished to be anywhere at any time and he would have created that reality for me. I was free to choose to be back on Earth, before the Astro 7 mission, with Lee again...but I did not. All I could think about in that moment was you. You and I alive on a Terra Nova teeming with life. Just for one perfect moment, that all our dreams came true. I chose you and Lee made it so. Willingly. In that moment he knew how I feel for you and he embraced it. We have his blessing John."
He had had so many agonising thoughts running through his head : all resulting in Helena and himself agreeing that the only way ahead was to keep everything above board and strictly professional from now on. Having to use Victor as a go-between when the situation became too awkward for either of them. Hell, he had even been trying to prepare himself for Helena announcing that the events of the last few days had re-kindled all her old feelings for Lee and that she would need to mourn his loss all over again.
The one thing he had not in a million years envisaged was that she would tell him that she reciprocated all his feelings and that her late (?) husband knew this and approved!
"John! Look at me, please!"
She had to make him understand. "Don't you see? It's already too late to turn the clock back. We both love each other. It has been developing for quite some time and there was nothing that either if us could have done to stop it. What has happened over the last few days was inevitable sooner or later. Some event would have forced our feelings to the surface. Whether we choose to act on them or not, they exist. And they will affect our decision making. It's inevitable. We need to face our feelings, not run from them."
He nods at her, lost for words then takes her pro-offered hand as she guides them back to the sofa. "Do you remember the last words you uttered on the planet before.."
John would never forget them "I told you that we almost made it. You and I."
She smiled softly at him "There was just one thing you got wrong, there is no "almost' about it." and with that she leant in for their first, long overdue, kiss.
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