Chapter 1: Dancing
“You have to let me lead.”
“I’m trying, I don’t know what I’m doing!” Helena Wells was trying. She had certainly danced before, round dances with men and women, following a simple waltz or two step. It was, she thought, an established fact of her character that she was graceful and lithe. But her favorite dances had been those times she had confounded her audience and asked women to dance, leading them as a man would, sometimes in a suit but not always. The joy of those dances was often the scandal, the murmuring around the room, or conversely the act of seduction right below public notice: oh, look, two friends dancing! There must not be sufficient men to partner. But here was Myka, in a cleared off space in a forgotten corner of the Warehouse, preternaturally calm in her work clothes, leading. And Helena was flailing.
This was all Claudia’s fault. Claudia had insisted they take a break from inventory to try steps from some historic dance manual (not historic enough, clearly!) and dark horses Steve and Myka had both turned out to have taken tango classes in college. Steve, it transpired, was also a good teacher; he was letting Claudia lead and they were slinking around the room and laughing at each other, tripping good naturedly and doing exaggerated kicks. He was even teaching Pete. That Pete might succeed at something Helena could not was too galling. Myka had waited a beat, watching the rest, and then with a challenge in her eye and a smile about her mouth, had stepped in close and asked Helena to dance.
Helena could feel Myka’s right hand pressing gently at her back, her left held Helena’s, not out loosely to the side, but close in and taut. This wasn’t a waltz. Helena stumbled again trying to remember the sequence of slow and fast steps outlined in the manual, utterly failing to capture the giddy abandon of Claudia and Pete or the sensual experience of this so called dance.
Myka was laughing. “Stop trying to do the steps, and stop trying to lead. I know what to do. Just follow where I move you.”
“But, I don’t know how to do that.” This was too embarrassing.
“I can tell.” Myka gave her an indulgent smile, which was as frustrating as anything Helena’s feet were doing.
“Don’t patronize me!"
Myka rolled her eyes. "Ok, I won’t. Let’s try this…” Moving her hand from Helena’s back gave them a bit more space. She put Helena’s left hand onto her chest, near her shoulder, and braced herself in the same way. They were squared off, shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip, but with a cushion of air between them. Helena looked down at their hands and was drawn back up to Myka’s eyes. There was nothing patronizing about them now. Helena took a deep breath.
“Ok? Bend your knees a little. Now I am going to push against you. Push back. Do you feel that?” Myka pressed in with both hands, shoulders, and knees.
Helena nodded. Of course she felt it. When did she not feel the tension of Myka next to her? She breathed in again, into that square of space between them.
“So, you’ll like this part, keep pushing. But you can feel what I want you to do, here?”
She stepped forward, her leg sliding between Helena’s, and pressed lightly down and forward with her arms. Helena stepped back without thinking. Myka smiled again, made to move forward again and stopped. At the slight pull, Helena stopped too. “Yes, just like that. Keep pressing back into me, but yield a little and move with me. Ok?”
Another nod. Yield to me? With Myka’s long leg sliding between hers, HG Wells was at a loss for words.
Myka stepped forward again, twice now, and stopped. Helena moved back as she felt Myka come into her space and the second step felt dizzying, like tentatively putting a foot into space. Instead of space, she found Myka’s arms, Myka’s steps. They were dancing, and Helena couldn’t even remember to worry about her feet.
“Look up. Trust me.”
Just as Helena was beginning to suspect there was a subtext to this tango, Myka slid her arm around the small of Helena’s back once again and pulled them closer. They took a few more steps, each time negotiating but keeping the inches of space between them. Helena had never seen Myka move with such smooth confidence; it occured to her that she had never felt Myka’s hands on her in this way.
“And when I want you to turn…” Helena could feel Myka’s upper body turn, light pressure carrying her with it. This time she was stepping outside Helena’s legs, not between them. She turned. “Yes. And on the long step, you can just slide back. There.” Myka stepped and Helena turned again, sliding backwards, and Myka was holding them together. “Again.” Helena pivoted and slid back the other way. They followed that step, and then Myka moved to the side once more. “That’s good. And if I turn you like this?” Myka turned fully now, and Helena walked around to face her again, so they were square. They took another step, and paused. “Exactly. Can you imagine the scene you would have caused in London, dancing the tango, Helena?”
Myka’s eyes were sparkling, and while meeting them Helena still couldn’t quite formulate a reply. A part of her brain distantly considered that Myka usually avoided allusion to her time lost to the bronze, and Helena usually appreciated this, but right now she was caught up imagining that scene before her, but with Myka there too Helena could only smile. And then the music was playing and they were moving and neither of them said anything for a while. Helena didn’t miss a step and Myka didn’t look away.
On a slow beat, suddenly, Myka was stepping between her legs again, but this time her knee brushed against Helena’s thigh, and Helena found herself sliding her right foot up and across Myka’s leg. She heard Myka take a steadying breath, and say, “Like that, yes.” And then she stepped forward again, shifting weight so that Helena would continue the movement into a slide back and they kept dancing. Myka’s smile grew.
When the song ended, Myka let Helena go, but neither of them stepped away. The music started again, and when Helena moved just a fraction of intent back into her arms, Myka put her hands back.
“May I?” They danced again. This song, slower than before, held a sweet pathos in the singer’s voice. Slower meant more pausing, more moments where they negotiated each step, where Myka pushed her and then pulled her back in, where Helena stepped without looking where she was going. At some point, Helena realized that Steve and Claudia were gone, but she could not have said at all when that happened. Had it been one song, or several? All she could say for certain was that Myka’s eyes were sparkling green and holding her captive, her hands were kindling and keeping Helena steady, and the air between them was crackling with tension.
Finally, the music came to an end. Helena looked around and shook herself. They hadn’t been moving quickly but she was out of breath all the same. Myka watched her with intensity. They were still standing close, perhaps too close and Helena needed to say something. She brought her hand to her mouth. “Who was that, the singer?” came out breathy, a whisper.
“Carlos Gardel.” Now Myka was looking away, to the table where a record player sat on a shelf, absently running her hand through her hair.
“Myka did you… was that… did you use an artifact on me?”
There was a beat, and then Myka looked sharply back. Helena couldn’t read the expression on her face, but her eyes flashed with something defensive and hard; she snapped her reply.
“Because that would have to be it, right? I couldn’t do this without some kind of warehouse assist?” Myka gestured at Helena, walking over to the table. “You can, but I couldn’t possibly. No, Helena. I used an artifact, in that the Gardel record plays with the intensity and length of a band. But Gardel didn’t do anything to you. That was all…”
Then Myka pursed her lips, slapped her hand on the table, and walked away. Helena blinked and tried to figure out what she’d done wrong.
Chapter 2: General Family Vibes
the rest of the motley crew decides to intervene
It was a rainy weekend with no inventory to do. Usually South Dakota rain came down like a minor apocalypse, sweeping across the prairie without warning, driving everyone under cover, and then washing everything clean. Today there was no thunderstorm, just a grey chilly drizzle that suffused the sky.
Claudia found HG on the porch wrapped in a big scarf and nursing a cup of tea, working on a paper copy of the day’s crossword. She gave a small smile. “These have changed somewhat since my day. Do you want to help me figure out the rules?”
Claudia leaned over the paper and whistled softly. “Are you sure you want to start with the Sunday crossword? That one’s always the hardest…”
HG looked up indignantly, “I know that. What would be the point of starting anywhere else?”
Claudia raised her eyebrows, but sat down, reaching for a pen. “Fair point. You know, Myka is really the best person to ask for help on these. She knows all the weird words they repeat…"
Claudia regretted saying anything immediately as she watched HG’s face fall. "I know she does. She’s not… I am not sure she would be willing to help.”
Claudia thought Myka *had* seemed tense this morning, which was not entirely unusual, but, usually it had to do with Pete. HG tended to make her happy. “Why not?"
HG shook her head.
"Ok.” Claudia shifted on the bench to better see the expressions on HG’s face. “So, going out on a limb here, is this about the dancing yesterday? About your sexy tango? What happened…?”
HG blanched, throwing her hands up. “Nothing happened. Nothing.”
Claudia raised an eyebrow. Sure, Myka was a little cautious about these things, but when had that ever related to HG? “Do you think *maybe* Myka wanted something to happen? What with all the eye contact and… I dunno… hip contact?”
HG thought about this for a while, “I’ve never seen her do that before. When we were dancing she was so… sensual. Forward. In control. I mean, I’ve seen her confident before. At work certainly, in every investigation, with the regents. And with good reason. But with me? She’s tentative about how she moves around me most of the time. Yesterday she just…”
“She was trying to seduce you, dumbass.”
“HG, surely you, a person who could charm a statue off of its pedestal if you wanted it in your bed, surely you of all people can recognize when someone is putting the moves on you.”
“Seriously, H.G. Are you playing dumb because you like it better when you are making Myka blush, rather than the other way around?” Claudia’s eyebrows were on the roof. In the clouds.
“No! I mean. No, I don’t want Myka to be uncomfortable with me.”
Squinting, as though she could find the source of HG’s stupidity, Claudia interrupted. “HG, Myka is head over heels for you.”
“100% she is. And you know how she likes to be absolutely sure about things, right? Likes to do things the right way? Likes to be the best at what she does? No one can compete with you in the flirting department, HG. So I think she picked something she was good at, something you might not expect, something that would allow her to impress you. Did it work?”
Helena laughed. “Did it work? Even had I myself been made of stone it would have worked. But she didn’t need to…”
“Right. Because what Myka also fails to see, because you are both dumbasses, is that she is hot shit and you are already totally spun on her. I don’t really understand why you haven’t talked about this, or honestly why haven’t you just kissed her.”
“I asked her whether she had used an artifact on me.”
Claudia gaped. “Why in the name of the gods did you ask her that?”
“I am used to feeling… what was the word you used? Spun? Around Myka. But she’s never had to try to do that. And no one has made me feel like she does in a long time. Feeling her try? Feeling that control… the effect was dazzling. dizzying. I was looking for an explanation.”
Claudia stood up. “I’m going to go get some tea, and I want you to think about some non-artifact induced reasons that you might be feeling *light headed* after Myka fraking Bering has just tangoed you around a dance floor, ok?”
She swung the door behind her and stalked into the kitchen muttering about dumbassery.
In the kitchen, Steve was preparing a cup of gen maicha, and clearly having the same talk with Myka.
“You know, sometimes the people who seem the most confident in the world are the ones that have trouble believing other people actually value them?”
Claudia watched Myka watch Steve pour the tea into three small mugs. “Yeah, I get that. I just kinda thought I’d been making it obvious. For a while now.”
“You have been making it obvious.” Claudia sidled over and grabbed a cup. “To everyone who isn’t a dumbass.”
“Helpful.” Steve grimaced at her before turning back to Myka.
Claudia ignored it. “Honestly, even Pete knows what’s going on, so why the two smartest people in the house seem incapable of communicating with each other baffles me. Sorry, Myka.”
Myka put her head down on the table, and Claudia patted her head kindly.
From between her arms, she asked, “So then, everyone knows about this? Everyone but Helena, apparently?”
Claudia felt some of the blood drain from her face and she took a small step back from Myka’s chair. Angry Myka didn’t come out too often, but Claudia didn’t want to be in anyone’s way when it happened. “About that…”
Steve only shrugged, “Pretty sure Artie doesn’t want to know, if that helps?”
Claudia began again, “I may have said some things to HG."
Steve blinked at her, shaking his head slightly and mouthing "why?” Claudia replied silently “someone had to!” before Myka could look up.
She didn’t look up. “What things. What things did you say?”
“I said you were both dumbasses."
“Annndddd I may have said that you were in love with her. In so many words.”
Now Myka did look up, did stare. Steve pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes.
“And what did she say to that?” The words came out quietly.
Claudia put on her best HG face and accent. “She said she would have fallen for you dancing and I quote, ‘had I been made of stone.’ Sorry that accent was terrible, but that is what she said.”
Steve nodded, “The accent was terrible.”
Myka remained silent, but one side of her mouth quirked up ever so slightly. Aha! Claudia breathed a sigh of relief. Even though Myka was being a dumbass, she had also known exactly what she was doing. Claudia grinned and continued.
“AND she said that dancing or not she was already in love with you. That you’ve never had to try for her.”
Myka ran her hands through her hair. “Then why–”
Claudia started to say something but Steve cut her off with a wave. “How about you go and ask the one person here who might be able to give you a satisfying answer?”
At that moment, Pete walked into the kitchen, angling towards some cookies.
“Hey Mykes, there’s a dangerous supervillain out on the porch who is muttering really threatening words to a newspaper and a pen? I think that if you don’t go help her out with the answer to "source material for fanfiction, 5” we might have another Yellowstone on our hands.“
"Pete, word choice!” Steve looked up at the ceiling.
“What are you looking for up there?”
“Not my circus.” Steve muttered. “Not my monkeys.”
Meanwhile, Claudia just hit Pete. It was what Myka would have done, probably, had she been less distracted. “Too soon, my man.”
Myka sighed and stood up. “Fine.”
As she left the room, Steve asked, “Why are both of you acting like the most annoying siblings on the planet? This is clearly hard for them.”
Pete and Claudia shrugged, “It’s our job, Jinxy.”
Myka stopped before the front door and took a deep breath. When she opened it, she found Helena on the bench, looking cozy in a bright scarf and tapping her pen against the paper. Helena met her eyes without surprise. “Ah.”
“Does this weather remind you of home? Of London?”
Helena sighed, watching the slight chill give form to vapor. She’d been expecting Myka, but that hadn’t been the question she anticipated. “It does. Though I suspect that this mist is a lot cleaner than the miasma of coal dust I was used to… and it’s been some time since London has been my home. Still, it’s a nice change from hot and dry. Or cold and dry."
Myka nodded and sat beside her. She noticed that Helena sounded quiet, but not sad, when she talked of home.
"The whole family has conspired to set us up, I think.”
“Is that so?” Helena turned to her with a tentative smile. “Myka, I’m sorry I said what I did yesterday. I was… out of my depth.”
“You have that effect on me. You always have.”
Myka tried not to react as she watched Helena fidget on the bench. Helena was meeting Myka’s gaze, but her whole demeanor was anxious, tentative even. It wasn’t the playful smile Helena wore for her most of the time, but a shy, rueful one. Myka had seen it on her before, but mostly as a hologram, not in the flesh. She reached for Helena’s hand, partially to reassure herself that she did have form.
“I guess I didn’t know that. I think I was trying to see if I could make you feel that way, off-kilter, since it’s how I get whenever you’re around me, and it seems so careless…”
Helena’s brow furrowed and Myka hurried to correct herself.
“Not careless, effortless. You must have that effect on everyone, the way you smile, the way you stand too close, and make me feel like the only one in the world when I’m talking to you.”
Helena turned an incredulous smile on her. “Myka, that’s not me, that’s you. You are the only one in the world when you’re talking to me.”
Myka still didn’t know what to do with what Helena was saying, so she stalled. “I guess it sounds kind of aggressive, when I say I was trying to get you off balance.”
Helena let her fingers curl gently around Myka’s. “Claudia said you were trying to seduce me.”
Myka closed her eyes. “Claudia… needs to mind her own business. But, fine. Yes, I was.” Then she opened them, letting a crooked smile spread over her face. “But Claudia also told me it worked?”
Helena blinked at her, color rising into her cheeks, and nodded, slowly. “It did.”
Myka cocked her head, tucked a stray curl behind her ear. She watched Helena track her movements and asked, “Then why aren’t we in my bedroom right now? Why haven’t you kissed me yet?”
Helena hesitated before answering, “Because I’m afraid of how much I want you, Myka.”
“Why does that scare you?” Myka had wonder in her voice, edged with an old frustration. “Don’t you see…”
“Because I don’t understand how you could want me, knowing me as you do. Because…”
Myka reached over and pulled Helena’s mouth to hers. Helena tasted like tannins, her kiss was soft, and she gasped a little at the contact before parting her lips to invite Myka closer.
Moving her tongue into Helena’s mouth was the best fucking feeling Myka had ever experienced. Well, that and the feeling of Helena’s hair sliding through her fingers, Helena’s neck cradled in the palm of her hand, Helena’s hands fisting in her shirt. Dancing with Helena had been exhilarating, but this was another world.
Helena pulled away by inches, “You have no idea how many times I imagined kissing you, Myka. From the day I met you, from the first time you touched me. But I also imagined being wrong, you saying never, the look you would give me as you pushed me away. I… I don’t like to be wrong. But to be wrong about you? I don’t know what I’d do then.”
Myka tipped their foreheads together. “It turns out you’re not wrong.”
“I have been.”
“Helena, stop. Have you seen you? You’re the most confounding puzzle of a person I’ve ever met, not to mention the most beautiful, and the strongest. I could listen to you talk all day. I could read your words for my whole life, and have. You’ve got this irritating martyr streak but I would trust you with my life. And you want me? And this is the way you kiss me? How can I not want this? In what universe could I want anything but this?”
“Myka.” Helena’s eyes fluttered closed and she grabbed at Myka’s shirt.
“Just shut up and kiss me again, HG Wells."