Author's Note: Sorry…! I am so sorry. It's been so long and everyone's been great and said such kind things in their reviews. I finally started working on this tonight and I'm very pleased to bring you Chapter Seven. This chapter is working its way up to a several scenes that I've been plotting for months that will come in the next few chapters. I hope you enjoy! Thanks for all your patience and lovely reviews.
What H.G. Did: Chapter Seven
Myka's parents surprisingly don't ask many questions when Pete and Myka enter their shop late in the evening after a full day of driving. Mrs. Bering simply opens her arms to her daughter and holds her for a long moment, hands gripping the sharp shoulder blades that spike through the back of her daughter's soft grey sweater. Pete watches as Myka meets her father's eyes over her mother's shoulder and he braces himself on her behalf for the onslaught of remarks that Mr. Bering usually makes regarding his daughter's weight. But they don't come. Instead, the sheen in Mr. Bering's eyes makes Pete look away uncomfortably. Myka pulls away from her mother and hesitates, but when her father opens his own arms to her, she rushes into them. Moving away from the family's reunion, Pete shuffles some of Myka's bags further into the shop, depositing them at the base of the stairs that lead to the family's apartment. Suddenly, this is all too real for him.
It doesn't take long to get Myka settled, though it is accomplished with a sort of genial chaos that Pete usually associates with the Warehouse B&B – or perhaps simply with family. Myka's mother flutters in and out of the room, simultaneously helping her daughter unpack and offering around plates of cookies and hot cider – all of which Pete unabashedly accepts. Myka and her father are talking a mile-a-minute about some new seventeenth century volumes that have just come into the shop. Myka gestures eagerly with her hands as she speaks, the items of clothing unfolding and rumpling as she excitedly motions with them, only to be gently taken and folded by her mother without Myka even noticing they've left her hands. The interaction is an amusing reversal of his interactions with her the night before, and Pete grins as he bites into a warm and gooey ginger cookie.
All too soon, Pete finds himself back on the curb outside the shop, stomping his feet against the pavement to ward off the deep chill of the oncoming night. Snow is blowing around them, catching in Myka's curls and in her fuzzy hat as she squints at him in the light of the street lamp.
They look at each other and the awkwardness of saying goodbye makes them both laugh nervously.
"Be good now, Myka. Try not to find any possessed books in the shop this time and no reading with a flashlight under the covers when it's after lights out."
Myka laughs again, gently punching his arm before retracting her hands into the crooks of her elbows as the chilly wind picks up.
"I'll try –" then seriously – "take care of them Pete. They need you. More than you know."
He flushes at that and stares at the toes of his heavy boots, but her hands reappear on his shoulders, pulling him into a hug. She rests her chin on his shoulder and squeezes him slightly. The noise of the city dims around them in the falling snow and she pulls away, her hands quickly retreating into her coat pockets to escape the cold.
He turns to go but her voice pulls him back.
"Pete – wait!"
He stills and turns to find her biting her lip, fumbling to pull something out of the back pocket of her jeans. It comes clear and glitters in her hand under the streetlamps.
It's H.G. locket. Pete swallows.
She holds it out to him, her hand steady, her eyes determined.
"Could you put this back – back where – where it belongs. In the Warehouse."
Her eyes glimmer then — sadness, and loss, and acceptance, and strength dueling for control on her features.
He reaches out and takes it from her, his fingers twisting in metal warmed by Myka's pocket. And while he should feel glad – should feel overwhelming relief that Myka's letting go of the only physical remain left to her of H.G. – he is unprepared for the waves of grief that slams into his chest. He can't look at her – no, not when she's come here to heal. He can't draw her back into darkness simply because he wants to turn the world around, turn time, and space, and hearts so that H.G. will choose Myka. So that H.G. will always choose Myka.
But he can't.
He gently winds the golden chain around the pale-pink ceramic flowers of the locket and carefully tucks what feels like all of Myka's secret dreams into his own pocket. Then he turns and slides into the truck, his eyes meeting Myka's one last time in the right-hand mirror.
Myka watches the taillight's of Pete's car disappear into the glint of the city streets, tears freezing on her cheeks.
Pete expects the winter to drag on with Myka's absence, but the truth is that time could not be flying faster. There seems to be a surge of minor artifact incidents, or perhaps it's the fact that the Warehouse is down an agent, but Pete finds himself on a break neck circuit: from Univille to New Orleans; to California; to Arkansas; back to Univille, then on to Barcelona; Manila and South Carolina, before January even hits.
He is able to take a few days off, forgoing the usual Warehouse Christmas Dinner to spend the holidays with Myka's family. The four of them eat Christmas dinner by candlelight at a small table situated between towering piles of books. Myka grins as she doles out presents the next day, and the very thoughtful sleek new Tesla holder she gives him doesn't make him half as happy as it does to see color back in her cheeks and a sparkle back in her eyes.
All too soon, he's back chasing down artifacts in what seem to be only the coldest climates: Chicago, Finland, Winnipeg. He keeps in touch with Myka over the phone when he can, even though he finds he usually falls asleep when she recaps the multitude of books she has been voraciously reading. He rarely discusses his work with the Warehouse with her. And H.G. is never mentioned.
Spring doesn't so much bloom in Univille but slosh in soggily, wringing out its coat on the B&B and the surrounding town. Pete mucks through the mud from the Warehouse out to his truck and curses when a sudden downpour sends water streaming into the driver's seat as he opens the door to the vehicle. When he takes his seat behind the wheel, water seeps up through his jeans. Through his continued cursing he almost miss the sound of his phone ringing.
He flips it open and curses some more.
"Well, hello to you too."
Myka's voice cuts clearly through the phone and he rolls his eyes.
"Man, I got rain in my butt."
There is silence and then, "I'm not even going to ask about that one, Pete."
He maneuvers the truck into drive and pulls away from the Warehouse, gripping the phone between his ear and shoulder as he drives.
"I hate the spring. All this rain."
"You said that about winter, Pete – all that snow."
"Yeah, well, maybe I should just move somewhere warm – tropical maybe."
"All that sunburn."
"You're a pest, Myka, you know that."
"And you're a grump, Pete – seriously, so grumpy this winter."
Pete tries not to whine petulantly but decides against it.
"Too much traveling. Too much cold and wet and now I'm hungry - I'm driving home for lunch."
"And you miss me."
Pete pauses just to test her.
"Yeah, okay, you're right. I miss you. Even through you're a pest."
He can almost hear her sticking her tongue out at him. It feels good to have these easy moments of banter between them. It makes him feel like she's not so far away. And she's right. He's been a total and utter grump all winter. Claudia likes to tease that it's because he misses Myka – and she's right he does – but he knows she's where she needs to be for now. His mood is darker than it should be, he's testy and he finds himself thinking of Kelly more than he has in a long time. Brooding over her, stewing over how things ended between him. He wants to see her again. He wants to drink again. There is a dark cloud that has settled into his chest and he can't seem to shake it. He vaguely recalls Myka telling him about some sort of creature from a book she loves – Demeanors? Demoters? Ah, that's right – Dementors. He'd seen the movie once. They suck the happiness right out of you.
Tamping all this down he turns out onto the main road and his attention back to Myka. The rain stops as abruptly as it had begun but he has to squint through the intense pea-soup fog that rises up like a blanket over the world around him.
"Anything cool happening in the shop?"
"Anything cool happening in the Warehouse?" She counters.
"How's your mom? Can I say hi?" Pete's become very fond of Myka's mother, particularly her cooking, and while Myka knows that his conversations with her mother are truly about checking up on her, she really doesn't mind.
"Nope, not right now." Myka pauses and Pete frowns.
"Everything all right?"
"Yes – she's just – she's out right now." Her lie is as unconvincing to herself as it is to Pete and she laughs. "No – she's here, it's just – I wanted to talk to you."
Pete watches as the fog buffets the hood of the car and flips on the defroster to counter the condensation that is building on the windshield.
"Myka – you'd…you'd tell me if something were wrong. You would – right?"
"Yes. Pete, I'm fine. In fact, that's what I wanted to talk to you about. I—"
He can hear her intake of breath and he has to calm his racing heart.
"I think I'm going to come back – soon. I'm ready. I know I'm ready."
His face bursts into a wide grin and he struggles to turn the car into the long B&B driveway and hang onto the phone at the same time.
"Myka – that's wonderful! When? How long?"
"I'm not sure – a Regent came by last week and we spoke –"
"—You didn't tell me that." He frowns as he bumps his way down the unpaved drive.
"I know. I wasn't sure if they'd give me clearance – I didn't want to get either of our hopes up."
"But you're good. You're oaky."
"I'm better than okay, Pete. I'm ready to come home."
Her voice forms warmly around the word home just as the B&B swims into sight through the mist. His heart squeezes with joy and he pulls to a stop to grip the phone in both hands.
"And?! When will you come back?"
Myka sighs on the other end of the phone and then laughs. "We'll see – soon, I hope. Maybe the end of April?"
"But that's so far way," he whines, shutting off the ignition and pulling the keys out. He plays with the cold metal and watches the dark shapes of newly green trees through the grey.
"I'll be there soon, Pete. I promise."
"And we'll go back to how we were?"
"We'll go back to better than we were."
Pete can hear the sincerity in her words and he can't keep the smile from stretching his face. They have fought many ghosts, both on and off the job. Sometimes both. But with heartbreak behind her, Pete is going to make sure that when Myka comes home, she comes home to a family that is enough to keep her happy. To keep her smiling.
"I'll come get you when you're ready."
"Pete, you don't have to."
"No, I will."
He can hear her smile through the phone and he laughs a little.
He flips his phone shut and sighs.
Today the world just got better.
It isn't until he's slid from the truck and locked the door that he realizes that there's another car coming up the drive. He hears the vehicle before he can spot it in the fog, but it's not until it slides to a halt and the driver cuts the ignition he can make out the vehicle's form from the swirling haze.
The driver steps out of the car – silhouetted in the mist – tall, and thin, and dark haired. Pete starts forward before he can stop himself –
Before his eyes can even process the face that has emerged from the fog, the accent stops him in his tracks.
He looks into the eyes of H.G. Wells and feels his stomach plummet through his toes.
Author's Note: Well...there she is! And I am so excited for H.G.'s side of the story. Coming up we'll find out more about where H.G.'s been (Hint: Angstown, USA).
Reviews are welcome!