A/N: It's been years (and years), but this story has always been on the back of my mind. I'm a completionist - I can't help it. I had another ten chapters blocked, a storyline all planned, and I just couldn't let it go. Even when I hadn't written anything in those years (and years).
I've finally found a reason to keep writing, but I think the Sanctuary chapter of my life is closed - although still very dear to my heart :)
So this is me letting go the best way I can - by completing the last of it. This epilogue was (most) of the first two chapters of the second half of the work that I wrote back when the second half was still actively under construction. The remaining eight chapters were these three goofballs learning how to relationship. I think that this gives them the happy ending that they deserve, though.
If anyone ever reads the end of this, I'm sorry that it took so long, but I promise it (and you!) were never forgotten. I hope you all get the happy endings that you deserve as well.
It was hard to believe, Will found himself thinking as he triumphantly squashed his suitcase closed, that he had lived in this room for three months. A bit sad, he propped himself against the bed and looked around for the last time. It wasn't a spectacular room, if he were to be honest. The blinds didn't quite shut tight, the water pressure was only slightly above 'trickle,' and the desk chair had a tendency to squeak. Still, it was the longest he'd been in one spot for quite some time. Besides, the blinds had aided the sun in dragging him out of bed those first few days of being alone with his heartbreak. The shower, if weak, was hot enough to melt the fisherman's knot that his back became when he threw himself into work in an attempt to ignore the ache in his heart out of existence. As for that squeaky chair...
Will smiled and leveraged himself off of the bed to settle into the chair in question. It was from here that he had called Magnus every one of her-nights and traded witty emails with Declan and discovered just how terrible he was with technology as he struggled with Skype. He smoothed his hands over the pilled surface of the desk, remembering. This was where the three of them eased their way further down the river from their tight bonds of friendship into uncharted waters leading to - where? And now another day would bring him back to them in person. He was elated. And terrified.
What-ifs, the insidious and unreasonable things, had plagued him all the day long. He was over Abby, that much was certain, though it had never really been about Abby at all, he had come to realize. It was harder to accept his fear of being always alone, of losing again, and the threat of the curse his nightmares insisted waited on those he loved. But there was no curse, whatever his heart ached with, his parents, Meg, Clara, even Abby's near-brush were not his fault. He refused to let the ghosts of imagined future threats rob him of the present.
They might all be injured in their line of work at any point or fall out of a relationship beset by so many external forces. Will's plane could go down in turbulence tomorrow or they might all meet and discover that all attraction had faded in the intervening months. Although he had a difficult time imagining the last.
Maybe, just maybe, though, in some chance occlusion of the fates, they might love for so long as they were given. He hated not knowing the odds, but this once Will was willing to place the long bet.
Grabbing his case and jacket, he headed for the door, sparing the room a last smile. Who know about the future, but for now he had a present waiting.
"How was the trip?"
"Long. Really long. I have no idea what time it is here."
"Best figure that out before tomorrow."
"Which might be today here. I hate time zones. How's life in the Other Down Under?"
"Much the same as when you left not all that long ago."
"Weird. I feel like I've aged years. And don't recommend tea. I know you were about to. I can sense it."
"Or maybe you've finally developed some good taste."
"I doubt it. I wonder if there's coffee somewhere."
"I'll forgive you that and assume it's the jet lag speaking."
Att: WeeklyReportJUN16 (pdf file)
At some point in the mission brief would it have been so hard to point out that the seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere? All I have are t-shirts. I can tough it out in Sydney, but I had to travel into the parks overnight and parts of me turned blue. I'm not likely to inspire confidence after I lose a limb to frostbite. And don't say that I ought to have remembered. I can't even keep the time zones straight.
Your copy of the report is attached, btw. If anyone (and you know the three-lidded tightwad I mean) raises a fuss over the hotel costs, let them know that any place cheaper and I wouldn't have to wait for the hypothermia to carry me off.
How did your chat with our fearless leader go, anyway? She said nothing about it to me very loudly. If you two are plotting my demise, I think it's only fair to give me a decent warning.
Subject: Re: Conditions
Fair has nothing to do with it. For that little stunt, I hope you freeze.
Your report went over well. Budgeting costs caused a slight hiccup, but we got through. When will you be able to join via telecon so they can grill you directly?
"Come on, it's been a month and still no details. Haven't you forgiven me yet? I know you two are talking, so it can't have gone that badly."
"It's more fun watching you suffer."
"What? Do you want me to lie to you?"
"Cruel, the both of you. Heartless."
"Does that mean I can expect my packet of sweaters back?"
"Let's not be too hasty, now."
Subject: Re: Re: Conditions
I should be set to telecon in for the next meeting. Assuming all this stuff works. If not, I'm totally blaming Henry.
Since you won't tell me how you and Yoda are doing, I get to make up whatever I want. So, you're dating! Because I'm a wonderful, helpful bloke, here's some helpful hints:
Avoid museums. They make her feel old, no matter how she goes on about historical significances. That's a bad move with any woman, even if they aren't over three hundred.
The exception is natural history museums. Drag her there, bring a thermos of tea, and eventually she'll break down and start criticizing the 'rampant inaccuracies.' Feel free to snicker. It will only egg her on.
Subject: Re: Video Meeting
Att: JUN25MeetingNotes (Word document)
Was the part of the meeting where you almost electrocuted yourself supposed to make up for your email? Because it worked. A bit. I've attached the notes from after the screen went black so that you can catch up. Assuming you're not in hospital. Declan
P.S. We can't get to any museums, Will. Unless there's one hidden underground I don't know about. Although from what I hear, you'd be the last person to ask about directions down there. Declan
"Any time you're ready to stop laughing."
"Seriously, Magnus. You call yourself a doctor? Have some compassion."
"I'm going to tell Declan that you've given up tea."
"He wouldn't believe you. Ah. Thank you, Will. I needed that."
"Well, so long as my pain brings you happiness."
"How ever did you manage to short out the system, anyway?"
"It could have been."
"It's not that complicated, Will. It's basically Skype. What happened?"
"I think the line's breaking up. The room's going through a tunnel."
Will was pretty sure that there was supposed to be more talking. In fact, he was positive on that score. Granted, he considered as he shifted in the warm cocoon created by the two bodies flanking his own, it was hard to complain about these sorts of results. He just wanted it on record that this wasn't exactly part of the plan. At least, his plan. He suspected Helen of masterminding this plot. Turning over the possibility in his head, he scrutinized the bits of her that he could see. As this was mainly a mass of curls from where she was tucked under his chin and the slope of her body underneath the blankets, it didn't yield much information.
Of course, Declan could have been in on it as well. That seemed increasingly likely the longer he followed every inch of the man's arm where it looped over his waist to rest against Helen's side, easily swaying with her slow breaths. He should probably give up and join them in sleep, too. He had for a short while after their exuberant, private welcome-home party, but the lack of talking had left him a little too keyed up for any more sleep. Unlike his blissfully unconscious bedmates. He blamed this on their being people of action. Not that they weren't brilliant, but when push came to shove, their philosophy tended to be one of take action now and deal with the consequences when they fell out. It was pretty much the antitheses of his own carefully thought through - and often overthought - approach.
None of which was helping him sleep. He huffed a breath and tucked Helen's body closer to his own as he pushed back into Declan.
Okay. Consider this, Will, he advised his consciousness. You've been basically doing nothing except talking over the past two months. That had to have driven them crazy. So now, you've simply got a major distraction out of the way and can concentrate on details tomorrow. No reason to think that this will just fall apart. No worries about this being meaningless.
He was tired and this was not helping.
"Will?" The question almost launched him off the bed in surprise, only the weight of Declan's arm keeping him in place.
"Wha?" Trying to get his heart back under control, he looked down at a pair of mildly peeved blue eyes. "Helen?" He was still working on the feeling of her given name on his lips instead of her surname. "Are you, um, hi," he stuttered incoherently.
"Are you trying to suffocate me in my sleep?" she inquired with a twitch of an eyebrow.
"What?" he repeated, stupidly. Glancing down, he realized that he was squeezing her to him like a child with a rag doll. He let go abruptly. "Sorry."
After a deep breath, she shifted up the bed until their heads were level on the pillow.
"Any reason you're not asleep?" It was asked mildly, but still put him on guard.
"Time difference," he lied simply. "You should go back to sleep. I'll adjust eventually."
"Time difference," she repeated flatly, hands sliding up his abdomen to rest against his chest.
"Yeah," he squirmed a little, moving his arm away from her side to prevent further rib crushing and managed to elbow Declan in the process. This was not his night.
"Oof," Declan groaned, bolting upright and shedding Will off of his arm onto Helen. He barely caught himself before he squashed her for the second time inside of ten minutes. "What's wrong?" The tone was bleary and panicked.
"Nofink," Will mumbled into equal parts Helen's collarbone and curls. With a tired effort he pushed himself up into a sitting position. "I'm sorry. It was my fault. You should go back to sleep."
"At least you just caught a glancing blow," Helen levered herself up to join them. "I was woken by asphyxiation."
"I said I was sorry," he muttered.
"Why are we awake?" Declan asked plaintively.
"Will can't sleep," Helen gathered her hair back away from her face as she answered breezily.
"Why?" Declan scrubbed a hand over his face, blinking strongly when his eyes reemerged.
"Not sure. He won't tell me," Helen hid a yawn in her hand.
"Hey. Will is right here," he waved his hands around. "It's just jet lag. Go back to sleep."
"Well, what do you think it is?" His eyes hadn't even left Helen.
"I would imagine it's about us," Helen replied nonchalantly, "unless something happened on the mission that he doesn't want to tell us about."
Will laid back down on his stomach and buried his head in a pillow. It wasn't like he was contributing much anyway. The bed rocked as they propped themselves up on either side of him. He groaned.
"Maybe he tried Vegemite," Declan offered, "and liked it."
"Took a week off to go surfing." That was Helen.
"Blew something up. Although that's more your style."
"It was once. Would you let it go already?"
Will smirked into the pillow.
"Are you forgetting the hut in northern Ireland? And I heard rumors of a cave exploration with that vampire."
"And a helicopter. In the Gulf," he couldn't help but chime in. Really, Helen did seem to think that explosions were some kind of cure-all.
"If you're both quite done?" A finger hooked its way around Will's ribs, tickling them evilly. He rolled over and ran into Declan, who let out his second 'oof' of the evening. Will muffled further giggles in Declan's chest. There was a breath of recovery after the outbreak of silliness. Somehow it was easier for Will to speak into it.
"Aren't you afraid?" He held his breath after the question hit open air. Maybe he should have just stuck with the laughter. Declan's hands tugged Will away from his chest. He reluctantly went with the motion.
"Bloody terrified, mate," the short statement shocked Will into looking up at him directly. Declan stared back soberly. A slender hand wrapped around his upper arm.
"I second that," Helen said quietly, extending the length of Will's stunned silence. "Look, Will," she said, after it became clear that he wasn't going to be speaking for a little while. "While I, we," she corrected herself, obviously including Declan, "may have had casual relationships in the past, we know that you don't. I promise, you aren't casual to us."
Will hadn't realized how much that worried him until he felt the weight leaving his chest.
"While I agree with that," Declan added, "haven't you ever had a one-night stand or something? Just curious," he added quickly, apparently under duress of Helen's gaze.
"No," she replied censoriously, just as Will found himself blurting out, "Yes."
"What?" there was no mistaking the shock in her voice. There was an undeniable satisfaction out of surprising her for once. Apparently her multitude of spies had left something out. "When?"
Of course now he had to talk about it, which wasn't really where he wanted this to go.
"Just in college," he mumbled, "it wasn't a big thing."
"Guy or girl?" Declan quizzed. Despite himself, Will grinned. Declan was the biggest gossip he knew. He was beginning to wonder if it was something about big, burly guys. The Big Guy had been the same way.
"Girl," he admitted. Maybe that would satisfy him. Yeah, right.
"What happened?" Helen was being surprisingly quiet. Then again, she'd probably seen Declan in action before.
Will sighed. "We went out a few times, she wanted to, well, we slept together, and that was it."
"That's some terrible story-telling," Declan sounded put-out.
"There really wasn't much to tell," Will protested. "Aren't we getting off track?" Although he couldn't quite remember what track they had even been on, so the point was moot.
"The year after my last relationship ended I dated a different gal or bloke just about every week," Declan offered. "Just long enough to have a few good dates, but before it got serious or even on the outskirts of it, I was out of there."
"Why?" Will probed softly, not sure if he should question it.
"I didn't want to put anyone in Becca's position, I suppose," he answered slowly. "By the end, she said that she just felt like something on my to-do list. I still loved her, but not enough to leave the Sanctuary. Really the only way that it would have worked."
"I remember her," Helen spoke up for the first time in a while. "She was a sweet girl. Not Sanctuary material. But a good person."
"Yeah," Declan half-laughed. "She really didn't get the Sanctuary. Felt like I had to choose and then I didn't want to have to again."
"Hence the year," Will finished.
"Yeah." It fell silent again.
"It's easier," Helen sighed, as though a statement was being forced out of her at gunpoint. "A brief enjoyment and then back to real life. No compromising."
"And with your real life," Will trailed off.
"Yes, it would require quite a bit of compromising," Helen finished. "After, well, after John and then James, I just couldn't. I was tired," in that moment she sounded it. All two hundred-odd years of tired.
Will sighed. Well, now it would just be churlish to keep bottled up. When did they become so emotive?
"It was a bet," he told Declan's chest, very quietly.
"What was?" the owner of said chest asked, slightly confused.
"Sleeping with me," he admitted. "They bet that the freak," he stopped at the almost-forgotten bitterness in his tone. He cleared his throat and tried again, calmly, "They bet that I wouldn't sleep with her, actually that she couldn't get me to sleep with her. So she threw herself at my head after I held out for a week and then told me afterwards that it was over. And why."
"At least she told me," he offered, really tired of listening to the generated wind outside. "I knew what was going on when all the whispering started."
"That's despicable," Declan stated flatly. Will blinked at his chest. That was blunt. Helen's hand on his shoulder pulled until he rolled over onto his back in resignation.
"Becoming involved with my House Head above ground and my second, not to mention liaison, is not something I take lightly," she informed him. He blinked again. Blunt was catching.
"We just aren't talkers," Declan contributed.
Will smiled. "I think I know that by now," he said. "It's just, how is this going to work? She's down here and can't go up. You're up there and can't come down too often. I'm everywhere. What are we going to see each other once a month or something? If we're lucky?"
Helen took a deep breath and he watched her glance over at Declan. Was she… nervous? "Compromise," she uttered the word as though it might blow up in her face.
"Okay," he prompted when nothing more seemed forthcoming. "What kind?"
"If we were all based out of here, it would work, better at least," she began. "I'm going to relinquish more of my tasks to the Heads of the departments."
"Which you should have done ages ago," Will added, sotto voce, weathering her glare.
"That will give me time for a 'social life.'" Will could hear the air quotes and tried not to smirk. "Declan gets your job," she said snottily. Clearly, he hadn't tried hard enough.
"Wait, what?" He liked his job, mostly.
She relented. "He'll be the liaison with the surface Houses in London and New York. Politics," she wrinkled her nose.
"Ah, okay," he hadn't liked the political side of things much, true. And Declan had more favors and friends in that realm. "So, what, I should get some hobbies or something?"
"You'll still be liaising with those outside of the remaining surface Sanctuary network. Much like you did in Sydney. Down here you'll have more time for your patients and work as a second," she paused expectantly.
Will took a few minutes and ran it through his head. He actually liked it. Granted he would miss Anya and the work he had put into the surface Sanctuaries, but not having to cope with SCIU in an official capacity would definitely be worth the trade-off. He and Declan would still be traveling, but splitting it between two positions would be a lot less. Plus, he might actually learn his way around the labyrinth without needing a GPS unit. A thought occurred to him.
"Do you want to give up London, though?" he looked up at Declan.
"TJ has a good handle on things," Declan shrugged. "Besides I view it less as giving up London and more as gaining New York," he grinned. "They'll still be seeing enough of me to be sick of it."
"You already worked this out, the two of you," it wasn't really a question. He could tell.
"Yes," Helen admitted.
"Without me," Will wasn't even sure how he felt about that.
"You were still trying to cope with Abby," Declan rumbled. "We weren't sure if you would be up for anything, but we drafted a back-up plan just in case."
"We didn't want to push," Helen added softly. "We wanted you to be sure."
"And you're sure? Both of you?" Will threaded his fingers through two readily available hands.
"Yes," the answer came almost in concert.
"Well, then," Will yawned, "we should get some sleep."
Slightly stunned silence. Will settled his back against Declan's chest once more and gave Helen an encouraging tug towards himself.
"That's it?" Declan questioned.
"You know it's not going to be easy, right?"
Unexpectedly, Declan snorted, "I'm pretty sure he's met you, yeah." Will felt a hand snaking past him shortly before Declan jumped. "Ow, cut it out."
"Children," Will admonished, trying to keep his lips from twitching.
"Who are you calling 'children,' brat?"
"Just don't involve the innocent bystander," Will gave up on coaxing Helen and wrapped the blankets closer to his neck.
"Innocent?" Helen could inject quite a bit of incredulity into one word.
"Trying to sleep here."
"You're the one that elbowed me in the ribs."
"I apologized already."
"You're quite recovered from your jet lag?" Helen's tone stressed the last two syllables as though they were in a foreign language.
"Yep," he agreed blithely as she snuggled close.
"Just like that," Declan's comment was almost lost as he settled into the bed.
"I'm not worried," Will closed his eyes as a wave of tiredness crashed over him at last. "We do the impossible every day."