Title: Fading Practice
Author: Cj
Feedback address: ceej4@yahoo.com
Date in Calendar: 24 December 2010
Fandom: Sanctuary
Pairing: Helen Magnus/OC
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 1,517
Summary: A friend from Helen's past reemerges.
Advertisement: Part of the FSAC:DW10

Author's Disclaimer: Sanctuary belongs to Amanda Tapping, Damian Kindler, and the SyFy Channel.

Author's Notes: The book Samantha is reading is an essay entitled "Experience" by Arthur Benson. I suggest it.

This is a sequel to Fall to Pieces, which followed Undone in the Flesh. You will need to read those to fully understand this story.

This story picks up five years after the flashback in Fall to Pieces.


***1978***

Helen held the clipboard in her hands tightly as she stood over the young woman lying asleep on the hospital bed. It had been four hours since she had attempted to wake Samantha, and she had spent that time trying not to worry. She was being unsuccessful, she knew, because she had not managed to leave the room but once. Her thoughts were firmly on Samantha.

They had not spoken in five years until Sam had gone missing. Those silent years haunted Helen in ways she could not fully understand. Sighing, she turned her back to the cause of her confusion. In an effort to focus on other matters, Helen began evaluating a report from one of her teams but quickly switched to Sam's latest brain scan.

"I was a child."

Helen looked up from the computer screen she was reading to meet the eyes of her patient. Several responses flashed in her mind before she settled on the truth, her emotions making her one-word answer more animated than she intended.

"Yes."

Samantha struggled to sit up, and Helen rushed to her bedside to help.

"You really should not move so much so soon," Helen said. "Your body has been through a great deal. You need rest."

"It's been a long time since I've needed anything."

"Maybe," Helen said, but with a tilt of her head, she added, "Now you need rest."

Samantha caught Helen's wrist before the older woman could move away from the bed.

"I also need you to talk to me."

Helen glanced at Samantha's hand resting against her skin before flickering her gaze to pristine white sheets.

"Later."

"No. Now."

Her instinct was to argue. Instead, she allowed her relief to rule her judgment. She chuckled and said, "Still defiant."

"Still in love with you."

Helen sighed, her smile disappearing before it fully formed. "Samantha."

"I'm no longer a child, Elle. I'm a grown woman with advanced degrees and a checkered past. I know how I feel about you."

"Your age and your education do not make a difference."

"The difference is I do not expect you to love me in return."

Finally meeting Sam's eyes, Helen was quiet for a long moment, and the younger woman allowed the contemplation.

"What do you want from me, Samantha?"

Sam grinned. "Nothing you'll be willing to give, at least not yet."

"Samantha." The harshness of her tone was softened by the sweetness of her smile, and Sam smirked teasingly. "I'm glad to see you're feeling better," Helen said as she sat on the edge of Sam's bed, tangling their hands together in a loose embrace.

"I am. You saved me. Again."

"You take too many risks."

"Me? Hello, kettle," Sam said with a laugh. It faded as she added, "I knew you were watching."

"It took weeks to find you, and then you suddenly just appeared. Where did you go? Tell me what happened."

Sam shook her head. "I don't really know. I remember leaving class after taking my final. I had not slept in weeks. I couldn't tell you the last time I ate. I was thinking about returning to the Sanctuary, but then a list of all the things I needed to do began playing in my head."

"You weren't taking care of yourself and overloaded your system. Even you need to eat and rest, Samantha."

"No, there was more to it than that. There was someone in my head. Something there."

"And the three weeks you were missing?"

"I wasn't whole, but I also wasn't alone. I knew you were looking for me. I could feel your worry, but I couldn't come to you. It was like I was being held back."

"By what?"

Once again, Sam shook her head. "I don't know."

Helen narrowed her eyes at Sam's answer. "Do not lie to me."

"I'm not. I really don't know what it was."

"You know more than you're telling me."

Taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly, Sam said, "I don't think I'm alone."

Helen's eyebrows knitted together. "Another being like yourself?"

Sam nodded. "Yes. More than one."

"How is that possible? We've had no indication of others."

"I was coming apart, Elle." Sam touched Helen's chest, just above her heart. "Do you remember when I gave you a piece of me? That piece connects us, allows us to communicate. It ties us together. I feel the loss of that piece; it pulls at me. Whoever took me, stole another piece. Who else could do that other than someone like me?"

Helen shook her head. "We don't know enough, Samantha."

"I do."

"You don't. You've been in a coma for two days. You were so weak when you materialized, I don't know how you survived. I almost lost you. If you knew your limits, you would not have pushed yourself beyond them."

"Yes, because you never push yourself beyond your limits. You forget I know you."

"And, I should have expected an argument as soon as you woke."

Helen stood, and this time Samantha let her go.

"I'm strong because of you!" Samantha said to Helen' retreating form.

***

A few hours later, Helen returned to the medical ward to find Samantha sitting up in bed reading.

"'Experience'. The Big Guy brought it to me. He said I would need something to keep me in place until you came to your senses."

"He is not on your side, Samantha. You cannot flash your smile at him, or at me for that matter, and expect either of us to give in to your every whim."

"Has always worked before," Samantha said, her attention still on her book. "'It is the experience that we need, though we do not know it.' Truth in literature strikes again."

"Arthur Benson was a lunatic."

Samantha shrugged. "The best ones usually are."

"What is your plan?"

"I don't have a plan."

"Samantha."

At Helen's irate tone, Sam sighed and finally put her book down. "I follow that piece of myself that was taken from me, and then I take it back."

"That's not a plan, Samantha."

"I told you I didn't have a plan," Sam said, adding lightly, "Just a course of action."

"An action that will most likely get you killed."

"I don't think so. If they had been powerful enough to kill me, they would have done it while they had me the first time. Something stopped them, and it wasn't a sudden bout of kindness."

Helen shook her head. "Stay at the Sanctuary. Let us help you. We'll figure it out together."

"I can't."

"You won't."

Sam stood from the bed and approached Helen slowly. "I can't. They cannot know about you or the Big Guy or anyone else who means anything at all to me." She reached for Helen's hand. "I can protect myself. I'm not so sure I can protect you."

"I no more need your protection than you claim not to need mine."

Sam laughed and tugged on Helen's fingers. "I know you are uncomfortable with my feelings for you, and I know your anger infuriates you because you do not want to give me the wrong impression."

"Samantha."

"It's okay. I won't be gone long, and when I return,"

Helen pulled Samantha to her, cutting off whatever the younger woman had to say by kissing her so roughly Samantha could barely breathe. When they parted, Helen had tears in her eyes.

"Do. Not. Go."

Samantha could feel her own tears welling in her eyes. "I'll be back soon."

***

Sam found Helen on the roof. Standing on the edge overlooking the city, she resembled a stone angel. Silent. Still. Beautiful.

"I have to go."

"You don't," Helen said as she stepped from her perch and faced Sam. "Stay. I'll find a way to protect you. You can work within the Sanctuary."

"Helen, I've already told you I don't need protecting. I can't explain it, but they let me go because I was stronger than them. I know I'm safe."

"But, you don't know that!" Helen turned from Samantha in an effort to calm herself.

"Helen."

"Please don't."

Samantha sighed but silently made her way to stand behind the older woman, close without touching. "Goodbye, Elle," she whispered.

Helen did not move. Finally, Samantha reached to pull Helen to her, bringing their bodies together, but when Helen didn't relax into her, she pressed a kiss to Helen's temple, lingering for a long moment before disappearing, melting into nothing, leaving no trace of her existence.

She had no idea Helen's reluctance had little to do with anger but, instead, with an ever-growing greed to draw Samantha into her with her every breath.