Title: Story of a Plague
Series: Helena and Shelby
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 1783
Summary: When her partner is struck down by the most recent disaster, Helena knows she has to fix things on her own.
Notes: This is the story of what actually happened on the day alluded to in Something Bad and Washable.

Somewhere along the way, Helena picked up on the idea that to place your hand on the back of someone else’s neck was a sign of possession – of protectiveness, perhaps. She had read this, internalized it, and begun to act on it until it was as much a part of her joint identity with Shelby as locked bathrooms and loaded guns and the apples Shelby gave her when they played that game together. (The one where Helena says something clever like a mantra and Shelby rewards her if she hasn’t said it before – that game that’s stupid and kind of confusing and not even really a game so much as just something they do and why the hell did they even start that? But it’s not like they could stop now.) With Shelby’s forehead against Helena’s temple and Helena’s hand against Shelby’s nape – two points on contact, significant because they made one a piece – they could have their most private conversations. Their empty dorm room was foreign soil when there was space between them; pressed thusly, a fairground became a confessional. A crowded room could be as intimate as a shared pillow and the ambulance packed with EMTs might as well have not existed when Helena leaned over Shelby, hand cradling her neck, faces placed just so.

“I’m going after them,” Helena said.

“Not without me.” Shelby’s breath was a wind of illness between them.

“Even without you,” Helena said, and the EMTs pulled her away.

Shelby’s eyes were on her and it went against all her instincts to turn away at this time of need, but something within her said that the fight would be lost within that gaze, so instead she looked outwards, past dingy metal and cracked plastic, through scratched safety glass, and into the bright afternoon sky.

Helena’s hand was on Shelby’s nape, again, at the hospital. Upon arrival, they had been separated. There had been crowds and shouts and needles and machines that beeped and Helena had been shooed away by those that crowded and shouted, brandished needles and prodded machines but then they had all moved away and laid their tools to rest and Helena had reappeared, tired and angry and just as usual, as easily as if she’d never been gone. Her hand slid down, curling around the back of Shelby’s neck, and squeezed. Shelby took hold of her free hand and smiled, just a little, an apology. Too weak to sit upright, too sick to let Helena that close, a joining of hands would do for their second point of contact.

“I’m going,” Helena said.

Shelby shook her head. “Not without me. You can’t go anywhere without me.”

“I can.” She pressed her thumb into the hollow behind Shelby’s earlobe and rubbed. The touch went through Shelby, straight to her trembling heart. She shuddered and sighed, so soft and slight that no one could have marked it but Helena. Helena smiled. “I am.”

“No,” Shelby said, recovering herself. “You can’t do this alone. It would be – ” Unnatural? Unimaginable? Disastrous? Wrong? What would it be, to have Helena without Shelby? She frowned, deeply. “You can’t go.”

Helena’s smile, weighted with sadness, widened. “Not thinking there’s a whole lot you can do to stop me, dollface.” She rubbed that spot behind her ear, again, and Shelby shivered.

“Stop that,” she hissed. And when Helena just laughed: “You don’t even know where you’re going.”

Helena moved her hand from Shelby's neck to her shoulder and leaned down to kiss on her forehead.

“Nope,” she said. “But I can find out.”

She patted her shoulder. “See you in a bit, Koko. Rest. I’ll just be out saving your life. Again.”

“You asshole.”

“I love you, too.”

Standing outside, Helena leaned into the building and stared at the sky, breathing too hard to be anything but a woman running for her life. “Goddamnit,” she said and turned around to hit the wall. When that didn’t hurt bad enough, she kicked it until her bones felt as though they might buckle.

It was about then that a voice stopped her.

“De Soto?” It was the boy who’d started all this, coming to get them when his girlfriend got the plague. Served them right, really, because, as Shelby had pointed out, who has sex in a Chemistry lab, surrounded by unmarked canisters? That's just asking for an untimely death.

“Yeah, what?”

“Have you found a cure, yet?”

As if they were actually going to be the ones to make the cure. They. She. Was. Wasn’t. She shook her head. No, the best she could hope for was a clean sample of whatever it was that has caused the illness so the doctors could figure out how to stop it. Or maybe that whoever made it had an antidote lying around. Though it didn’t seem likely she’d get that lucky, given how the day had gone so far.

“Sorry,” she said and looked into the stone wall like maybe it could tell her something she didn’t already know. “Kikorov’s caught it. She’s in there, now.”

“Oh.” He shifted a little on his toes and looked at her. “Are you feeling all right?”

There was something off in his tone of voice, in the exact slant of his inflections. She turned and looked back at him, harder. He flinched. It was then she knew.

“Oh, you conniving bastard,” Helena said, and grabbed his throat hard enough to bruise. She wanted it to bruise. Wanted him to bruise. “That kid’s not even your girlfriend, is she? Just some girl you managed to pull at a party or something. That poor child, you – hey, get over here.”

She locked the bathroom door behind them. When it opened, again, only she emerged.

Somewhere between kicking down the door to the shitty apartment where the villains of the week had set up shop and the moment when all but one of them had fled or been incapacitated, Helena realized that she wished Shelby were there. She had her boot on the leader’s neck, and a knife in her hand, and she could kill him, now. It would be so easy to kill him. She saw a flunky passed out against the wall, a trickle of blood passing by his ear. She could kill him, too. It would be harder to cover up, harder to explain, harder to get out of than just roughing them up and saving the day, but she could do it. They had killed people before.

They. She. Had. Hadn't.


It was tempting – it was so tempting to just destroy these assholes, who’d left her best friend and half a dozen others languishing under the weight of a disease that nature had no part in creating. And she might have if it weren’t for that plural. They had killed people. She had never done shit. There was a subtle difference between Helena doing things and HelenaandShelby doing things. A difference in strength and a difference in wit. A difference in heart and courage and in restraint. It was a difference in what was justice and what was convenient. It was the difference between what a generally good but frequently chaotic person – Helena – wanted to do to appease her own feelings and what a generally good and mostly sensible person – the person that was Helena but was also Shelby, that was more than one person but less than two – must do to bring justice to the world.

It wasn't much of a difference, really, but Helena could feel every inch of it.

Helena missed Shelby, who could have helped her kill them.

She missed HelenaandShelby who wouldn't have wanted to kill them at all.

She missed herself, and knowing who that was.

And then she missed Shelby even more because she was just the person to help her figure it out.

Helena, who was HelenaandShelby, or at least tried to be, cleared her throat. She knelt down slowly, keeping her boot firmly on his neck so he was looking her in the knee, and pressed the flat of the blade gently to his prominent cheekbone point to his eye. She smiled.

“I believe you were saying something about a cure?”

Shelby was on a respirator when Helena wandered back into the hospital room, that evening. She was also glaring. Helena took that as a good sign, and kissed her sweetly on the cheek, just to see her scowl. Then she kicked back in the hospital chair like it was her most comfortable beanbag and propped her booted feet on the edge of the bed. She stopped the beginnings of a punch with a raised finger, and pulled out one of the nails sunk into the front of the boots to show off the blood one of the local bioterrorists had left on it. Shelby was not impressed, and it did Helena’s heart good to see it.

She put the nail away when she heard the squeak of shoes that announced an in-coming nurse and pushed back from the bed, still smirking.

“You know you’re proud of me,” she said as the respirator was removed.

Shelby flipped her off with the hand not occupied in rubbing her throat.

The nurse moved away and left the room and Helena moved closer. She moved once again to touch the back of Shelby’s neck, so it was enclosed between both their hands, and placed her mouth against her ear. “You know you’re proud of me,” she murmured, again.

Shelby did hit her, this time. Helena took it as her due, and reached out to hug her. Shelby accepted it as a given.

“The girl died,” she said. Her voice caught and scratched like desperation was ripping it’s way up through her esophagus on cat’s claws. They chose to blame the respirator. Helena nodded.

“I know,” she said.

Shelby would never know exactly who was involved. Helena didn’t have the heart to tell her that they had been had so thoroughly, that an innocent had died due to their inability to see through so thin a deception. That an innocent had died because an idiot with a chemistry set had wanted them dead. No one at the school would ever see the boy that lied again and no one but his mother would know him when he arrived home. She had messed him up pretty bad. He would live out his life a broken man. That, at least, she gave to Shelby and the dead girl both.

“You can’t do these things without me,” Shelby said.

Helena nodded, again, and held her tight.

“Yeah,” she said. “I know.”


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