Title: Patchwork Land
Feedback address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date in Calendar: 9 December 2011
Pairing: Helen Magnus/Amelia Earhart
Word Count: 3,741
Summary: Helen has a rather unexpected visitor.
Spoilers: Sanctuary 4x01 “Tempus”
Advertisement: Part of the FSAC:DD11
Disclaimer: Sanctuary and its characters belong to Damian Kindler, Martin Wood, Amanda Tapping and the Syfy Channel.
Beta: Loads of thanks to ahkna for the beta!
Helen sniffs, suddenly smelling the unmistakably burnt scent of ozone. There’s a violent crack of thunder despite the perfectly sunny day, and, after a thud and the distinctive sound of someone stumbling and falling to the ground, a significant amount of cursing.
“You stupid sonofabitch! You metallic piece of junk, what in the name of heaven and earth is wrong with you?”
Intrigued, Helen puts her novel and cup of tea aside and stands to peer out the window. A woman, clad in a knee-length duster and khaki pants tucked into brown leather boots, is yelling and gesturing wildly at a machine of some sort that appears to have landed some place it should not have landed. Namely, the grass outside Helen’s mountain cabin. The woman kicks the machine and promptly hops away on one foot; she’s now condemning the density of the machine and yelling that if her foot is broken then they’ll really have a problem.
Helen frowns, raising her eyebrows when the cursing becomes a bit more colorful than what she’s recently accustomed to hearing from women. She purses her lips and decides to brave the unexpected company and see if there’s anything she can do for the young woman.
“Oh,” she says, smiling when the woman turns around, “Amelia.” Exactly how Amelia has come to be on the grass outside Helen’s cabin is something she’s willing to overlook for the moment.
Amelia blinks at the brunette woman standing in front of her. “Helen?” She glares upward at the goggles perched on top of her head and yanks them off, tossing them aside; the strap is too tight and she’s beginning to get a headache. “What are you doing here?” Suddenly no longer caring that she’s nowhere near where she’d planned, Amelia crosses the grass to meet Helen halfway for a hug. She catches sight of the grease on her palms and stops short, rubbing her hands on her pants to wipe off as much grease as possible so as to not stain Helen’s shirt.
Helen hugs her friend tightly, splaying her hands across Amelia’s back as she rests her chin on Amelia’s shoulder. She’s missed her dearly. “I could ask you the same thing.”
They’re both supposed to be in Long Beach: Helen working with the local oceanic abnormal population, and Amelia feistily demanding that someone give her her damn pilot’s license already.
Amelia pulls back and opens her mouth to argue that she asked first but the machine sparks. With a quiet whoosh, a panel bursts into flame. She closes her eyes for a moment and takes a deep, annoyed breath before calmly reaching inside the machine to retrieve a small fire extinguisher. Once the fire’s out – and she’ll have to re-upholster the seats, again – she tosses the canister back into the cockpit and decides to deal with one crisis at a time. “What’s today’s date?”
“October 17th.” Helen pauses. “1921.”
With a low growl, Amelia looks over her shoulder at the time machine behind her. “We will talk about this later,” she threatens it. She had been aiming for Brazil in 1919 and, from the looks of her surroundings, even the continent is incorrect. The navigational system has been screwy for days and she should have known better than to try a forty-year jump combined with a hemisphere switch. She exhales slowly, puffing out her cheeks, and decides that it doesn’t matter who asked first; she’s going to be here for a while. “I’m a time traveler,” she says, answering Helen’s earlier question.
Helen looks skeptically at the machine, now belching smoke from an orifice she largely suspects isn’t supposed to be belching smoke.
“Usually my machine works better than this,” Amelia defends the creaking, smoking hunk of metal. There are times when it gives her no end of grief, and it has caused more trouble than she thinks it’s worth sometimes, but she is rather fond of it. “What about you?”
Helen shrugs. “I’m from the future,” she says. “Would you like a cup of tea?”
What Amelia really wants is a cup of coffee, or maybe a bottle of gin, but she nods and bypasses the fact that Helen didn’t actually answer her question. “Yes, please.”
Amelia stands awkwardly in Helen’s immaculate kitchen and tries not to touch anything while Helen fills a kettle and sets it on the stove. She’s in desperate need of a bath, especially after this last trip in which the machine decided to revolt against her every command; she fears that her mere presence inside the house is going to cause grease spots and soot stains. “If you’re from the future,” she says, stepping up to the sink once Helen vacates the spot, “why are you stuck back here?” Amelia thinks that 1921 on a mountainside is dreadfully boring, albeit pretty and peaceful. She smiles her thanks when Helen turns the tap for her, and she begins to wash her hands as soon as water begins to trickle out from the faucet.
“That’s a bit of a long story,” Helen says, setting a collection of scones on a plate while the teakettle heats up.
Amelia pauses, her hands covered in soap suds, and looks over her shoulder at the other woman. “My time machine crash landed in your front yard.”
With a smile, Helen nods, conceding the point. “The short version is that I walked through a temporal rift to stop a man from dramatically altering the past. Unfortunately, the rift closed behind me and I had no way of re-creating it, so I’m quietly living until the time when I originally went through the rift.”
Amelia turns off the faucet. If it weren’t for her own adventures, she’d tell Helen to get her head examined. “That’s the short version?” She dries her hands on the red checked towel hanging on the bar.
“Indeed,” Helen smiles. “Why are you here?”
“Well,” Amelia says, blowing at an errant chunk of hair that’s fallen in her face, “while trying to fly around the world, my plane hit some sort of electrical turbulence over the Pacific Ocean. I ended up crashing in HG Wells’ country estate in 1901. In exchange for installing a spatial navigation system in his time machine, he built me another one so I could get back to 1937. The machine’s been on the fritz for weeks and apparently decided to finally give up right now.” She glares out the window at the machine in question; it’s no longer sparking and most of the smoke seems to have dissipated. “That’s the short version.”
“HG’s time machine worked?”
Amelia gestures first to herself and then to the machine outside.
Helen nods and, with a smile, brings the teapot and mugs to the small table by the windows. “If you have a time machine, why aren’t you home?”
Amelia sits at the table across from Helen and gratefully accepts the cup of tea. She supposes she can acquire alcohol later in the evening. Despite having grown up without it, she’s rather developed a taste for the stuff in her travels. She takes a sip; it’s good tea. “I don’t know,” she admits. “I’m having trouble getting to 1937.”
She picks up a scone and breaks it in half over a plate, trying to keep crumbs to a minimum. “It’s like something doesn’t want me to get back. The machine goes crazy whenever I try to set it to 1937. The closest I can get is 1929.” She’d considered landing on Howland Island in 1929 and simply waiting eight years; she could easily claim that her plane crashed into the ocean once a rescue flight noticed her. But there are too many logistical problems, not the least of which is that someone would attempt to search for her plane and find none, not even a broken wing.
Helen watches Amelia poke at a berry escaped from her scone. She hadn’t heard a single hint of anger in Amelia’s voice, only genuine confusion at her inability to get home. Helen smiles: that’s the Amelia she remembers, never upset, just determined to solve the problem (with the occasional burst of swearing when it became too much).
“What year are you from?” Amelia asks once she’s finished the scone. She needs to pull out a significant amount of advanced technology to run diagnostics on the time machine’s systems and would rather not share them with Helen if the woman’s unfamiliar with computers, though the ease with which Helen mentioned temporal rift gives Amelia hope. Temporal theory isn’t something she spends much time thinking about, but she is aware that interfering with the timeline – even accidentally – can have drastic consequences.
“Oh, thank God.” At Helen’s puzzled expression, Amelia continues, “I’ve made upgrades to the machine since I’ve had it. Most its systems are now silicon circuitry hybridized with the original analog steam-powered components. It’s been an endeavor to keep that hidden.” While she’s had difficulty landing in 1937, she’s had no such troubles arriving quite a bit in the future. She’s taken advantage of the technology.
“I can imagine,” Helen says. The vacation had been upon James’ insistence, the remote location had been hers. In the few days she’d worked with James in London, she’d revealed too much too easily; isolation was the only answer. She misses her iPhone and wishes there’d been a way to at least retrieve the pictures and store them elsewhere before she’d thrown it into the fire, but there hadn’t been and she’s beginning to wonder if she can even still remember what Will and Henry look like. What Ashley looks like. She takes a sip of tea to cover the subtle shake in her breath.
Amelia picks up on Helen’s emotion anyway. “Just how long have you been up here alone?”
“Twenty years. I have visitors, though they usually write first,” she smirks, “but I’m mostly alone.”
“How have you not gone crazy?” Amelia finds herself on the edge of losing her mind if she doesn’t have some sort of human contact every few weeks. More often than not she returns to Jules Verne’s estate in Bordeaux; she’d accidentally landed on his front porch once while still working out the bugs in a newly-installed system and he’d accepted her into his home like a long-lost daughter.
Helen smiles tightly. There are times when she’s not entirely sure that she hasn’t. “My life before this was…hectic,” she says; it was hectic when she and Amelia met for the first time and has only gotten more so. “I rarely had a vacation. A friend refers to this as ‘making up for lost time.’”
They drink the rest of their tea in silence and Amelia finishes off two scones; she really wants three, but supposes that she ought to attempt to maintain at least a modicum of decency about herself. Every so often, she’ll catch a glimpse of Helen looking at her almost wistfully. Amelia smiles at her. They’d amicably ended their relationship two years before Amelia disappeared – Helen had had to return to Europe to assist in the evacuation of abnormals from an increasingly turbulent Spain – but she knows that her disappearance had to hit Helen hard.
“I’m trying to come back,” Amelia says, desperate to return to her life.
Helen reaches out and touches Amelia’s hand. “Let’s see if we can fix your machine.”
Amelia frowns and taps at the keyboard. It dings as she enters the diagnostic commands. With as much of a cough as a machine can muster, the computer begins to display the results.
“I must say,” Helen starts, “this isn’t exactly technology I’m familiar with.” She recognizes all the components – computers, keyboards, switches, circuits, gears, and wires – but not how they’re all linked together.
Amelia’s frown briefly disappears. “It’s a mess,” she admits. She’s covered all the inner workings with metal plating, but most of her modifications have been made on the run. Three rolls of duct tape have made a permanent home in the storage compartment underneath the pilot’s seat. “And that,” she gestures to a panel on the left side that controls the cloaking mechanism, “is from several years after you, so pretend you didn’t see it.”
Amelia grins. “This,” she points to a clear vial of green, bubbling liquid, “is what creates the temporal vortex. It’s picky about what technology it chooses to recognize so I’ve had to install secondary and tertiary backup systems in case it’s having a bad day.”
Helen nods and continues her examination of the machine. The outside is certainly nothing spectacular, mostly dented sheet metal riveted together with a small door even Henry would have to duck to walk through. But the inside is simply gorgeous. Despite Amelia’s internal upgrades, the external controls appear to be the original components with few exceptions. None of the levers, buttons or dials are labeled, but they all gleam golden and brass with the patina that can only come with constant use.
Two red velour seats sit side-by-side in the middle, separated by a control console with buttons that flash red; Amelia reaches over Helen to flip a switch and the buttons darken. Helen studies the navigational display, perplexed by the blinking symbols and numbers. She’s about to ask Amelia how she ever learned to decipher the combinations when she spies a piece of paper taped next to it, filled with Amelia’s distinctive tiny printing explaining what each symbol and number is intended to mean. There’s also a pen drawing of Amelia and an older man who, upon further scrutiny, Helen recognizes as Jules Verne.
“Is this Nikola’s work?” she asks, discovering a newer panel hiding an intricate collection of electrical wires that appear to bypass the machine’s original power source without eliminating access to it entirely.
Narrowing her eyes, Amelia looks up from the panel she’s been working on. She receives a shock and curses, sucking on her fingertip only to make a face, as her finger tastes of oil. “Yes.” She’s been able to figure out how to program and install (and occasionally engineer) most of the additional systems herself, but the power system had refused to cooperate when she’d tried to upgrade the couplings. Convincing Nikola to assist her, and then subsequently keep quiet about her visit and the technology he’d seen, had been an endeavor she’s not eager to repeat.
Helen nods, understanding Amelia’s tone. Nikola’s one of her oldest and closest friends and she finds him difficult to work with under the best circumstances. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
Amelia consults the laptop screen. “The temporal drift calculator is out of alignment. It should be within point-zero-four arcseconds; it’s currently one-point-two.” She digs through her bag and withdraws a tiny screwdriver and hands it to Helen. “It’s hidden under the red panel over there,” she points. “Thank you.” She smiles widely before returning her attentions to the rotational compensator, hoping that it isn’t burnt out beyond hope.
Pretending to examine the screwdriver – it’s smaller than any Helen’s ever seen and out of a metal she can’t easily identify – she watches Amelia work for a few moments. Jaw set and eyes intensely focused on the wires and bolts in front of her, Amelia studies the charred module before choosing a path of repair. Helen smiles to herself and turns her attentions to the red panel; it unscrews easily to reveal a complex bundle of wires and tiny gear system. She swallows. It’s been a while since she’s had to do anything with mechanics or engineering, usually deferring to Henry or, lately, Nikola. She catches Amelia smirking at her. Helen returns the smirk and begins to work.
“Okay,” Amelia says, allowing herself to fall back onto the grass. She stares up at the dusky sky, shoulders aching from hunching over the machine all afternoon and fingers numb thanks to a tight grip on picky tools. “I quit.”
Helen nods and lies next to Amelia. They’ve both been working on the failing power supply for the past two hours to absolutely no avail.
“How’s your arm?” Amelia asks, after a few minutes of silence.
Wiggling her fingers, Helen shrugs as best she can. “No permanent damage.” She’d received a rather nasty shock while adjusting the atmospheric compensator; it had thrown her three feet backward and electrified the machine until Amelia had been able to neutralize the charge.
“Thanks for your help.” Amelia yawns. She’s never had a consistent sleep schedule, but time travel has made it far worse. She thinks she’s been awake for thirty hours, though that’s been across fifteen years.
“You’re welcome.” Helen had quite enjoyed herself; the company was very much needed, and doing something other than drinking tea, reading, and painting had done wonders to exercise her mind.
“Do you have a room I can store this in? I’d rather not leave it outside overnight.” Theft is of no concern to her given their remote location, but ever since she ended up in 1392 instead of 1874 thanks to a family of chipmunks that had taken up residence inside the navigational wires when she’d left the machine outside for too long, she’s hesitant to store it anywhere near nature.
The two women struggle with the bulky machine, pushing and pulling until it’s safely inside Helen’s living room. Amelia’s rather amazed that it made it through the door, but the time machine continues to surprise her with its strange properties.
Helen brushes the back of her hand across her cheek, leaving a streak of soot and grease. “What?” She says when Amelia stifles a laugh.
“You have…” Amelia gestures at her cheek.
Helen rubs at the indicated spot, making it worse.
Amelia’s giggles get the better of her and she steps forward. She reaches out and brushes her thumb against Helen’s cheek, swiping away the offending dirt. “There you go.”
Helen stills. It’s been a while since anyone’s touched her, even longer since she’s felt the touch of someone who isn’t James. She turns into Amelia’s hand and closes her eyes.
Amelia opens her palm and cups Helen’s cheek. She gently strokes her thumb over the other woman’s soft skin. Helen’s lips part slightly and Amelia wonders just how long it’s been since she’s had company. She tilts her head and, after a moment of hesitation, presses her lips against Helen’s.
Helen’s eyes flutter open in surprise and then close again as she curls her hand around the nape of Amelia’s neck and pulls her closer. Amelia’s hands tangle in Helen’s hair and Helen melts against her as she opens her mouth and deepens the kiss.
“Please tell me,” Amelia gasps, breaking away when Helen’s fingers slide up underneath her shirt and brush across sensitive skin, “that you have a bedroom in here.”
Chuckling, Helen leans in for another kiss before dropping her hand down to clasp Amelia’s. With a smile, she leads Amelia to her bedroom in the back. The sun finally dips behind the mountains, turning everything into indeterminate greys and purples and half-shadows, but Helen doesn’t bother with candles. She tugs Amelia’s shirt up and over her head, casting it aside before doing the same with her own shirt. Helen bites her lip as Amelia bends over to unlace her knee-high boots, laughing when Amelia hops on one foot as she loses her balance.
“Shush,” Amelia mockingly scolds once her boots are finally off her feet. She makes quick work of her belt and pants, stepping out of them and toward Helen. With deft fingers, she slowly unbuttons Helen’s skirt and lets it fall to the floor. She settles her hands on Helen’s hips, thumbs caressing soft skin as Helen kisses her again.
Helen walks them toward the bed, tumbling backward and bringing Amelia with her.
Amelia rests her cheek on Helen’s stomach and traces aimless patterns across her thigh. The sun’s long disappeared and they’ve given in to the darkness and lit a candle. “I could bring you home,” she offers quietly, “once it’s fixed.” 1937 seems to be the only problematic year for the machine.
Helen smiles and runs her fingers through the tangles of Amelia’s short hair. The offer is tempting. She isn’t particularly looking forward to the next ninety years, alone, without friends, and unable to interfere in her own life (she’s even thought about what she might say: you will see your father again; John will continue to break your heart if you let him in; Nikola and LSD do not mix well; keep Ashley in your sight; Adam isn’t dead).
Accepting Amelia’s offer is a daydream she allows herself to indulge in for a few minutes. She could be home in less than a week, walking through the doors of the Sanctuary to find a surprised and confused Will asking too many questions for her to answer all at once, and Henry tearing his hear out over the latest technological crisis, and Kate, scrappy as always, ready to head guns first into a military camp.
With a sigh, she looks out at the full moon beginning to rise. “I have to stay,” she whispers. The sole curator of the timeline, she needs to read the world’s newspapers and listen to the radio and, in time, watch the nightly news and scan the internet for any indication that history is not occurring as it should. She has no way to repair anything if it turns out that she or Adam altered the proper course of history, but she feels obligated to remain and watch over the world as it unfolds.
“Really?” Amelia lifts her head and looks at Helen. She seems so lonely here in this mountain cabin that Amelia can’t imagine Helen wants to spend another ninety years on the outskirts of humanity. “Are you sure?”
Helen nods and tugs at Amelia’s shoulder, just enough to encourage the younger woman to glide up for a kiss. “I’m sure.” It comes out a whisper; she doesn’t trust her voice not to shake.
“Alright,” Amelia says. She slides one leg over Helen’s waist and settles against her; she rotates her hips and is rewarded with a slight gasp. “But I’ll check in on you. I promise.”
With a soft smile, Helen reaches up to trace Amelia’s features, angles cast into shadow by the dancing candle flame. “Thank you,” she whispers, finding the future suddenly so much more bearable.