Spoilers: up to end of Season 2.
A/N: Betaread by the brilliant fififolle.
“I'll Be Yours” by Placebo – Helen/Nick
Isn't it the beat of the heart that keeps you going? In the heat, blasted from all sides, being worn down in every way possible but no hardship can reach what matters.
He says she hasn't a heart anymore, hasn't a care but her own – not true. One of the few truths she carried with her is that she is Helen Cutter, his wife; time doesn't change that and, for her at least, it only strengthened the feeling. She thinks, as she walks away from him, that he has to see that eventually, now he knows she's alive - what stands between them is merely a sense of confusion, pride hurt by this paradigm shift in his world view. He thinks she's changed, naturally he's right if only by chance but have they changed in their cores for it to be so crazy an idea for him to take her back? The world changes too, the world spins but it doesn't tend to end just because and she won't accept they're done and dusted, because, after all, she is not.
“Play the Game” by Queen - Abby/Connor
Connor wakes in the night, sweat on his brow and then he remembers. A dream. A dream of another dream he wants to wake up from.
He walks to the kitchen, takes a swig from the juice carton in the fridge and tries not to look at the bloke sleeping on the sofa. At least Brian is on the sofa... and not in Abby's bed, his brain finishes for him. Brian. Brian who's helpful about the house even when he's a guest, Brian who has all the best little cooking tips even though he's hardly a chef. Brian who likes lizards, who knows about modern day lizards. Bloody perfect Brian. And Connor has to take a deep breath and count to at least five in order to quash the surge of jealous frustration that makes him want to accidentally throw the carton in Brian's face. He'd probably miss though, knowing his luck.
Of course it isn't all about luck. Can he be jealous of a decent bloke chasing after Abby? The guy might not be doing that, but he'd be crazy not to, wouldn't he? Except Connor can't judge that, not really, not when the whole reason he's getting nowhere was because he wouldn't take that first step and admit the truth to what he'd somehow managed to confess. Nah, he's a pure spectator, watching from the stands, relegated to dreaming only, if only he could get some sleep.
“These Boots Are Made for Walking” by Chiwetel Ejiofor – Jenny & Nick
He doesn't know how she does it. It seems a physical impossibility for her to still be standing, halfway up a boggy hillside in stilettos. Jenny chooses that moment to look down the slope at him, catching him stopping for a breather, hand supporting him against the stone wall.
“Are you coming or do I need to order a Special Forces heli-lift for us to get there in good time?”
“Jus getting my breath back...,” he says exasperated by her gungho attitude. He's not sure if it true enthusiasm or simply her wanting each encounter to be over with 'ASAP,' as she was always writing on her memos.
A tsk tsk sound was uttered from her lips and she smiled tightly before a sudden enlightenment appeared on her features.
“Nick. Stop. Looking. At. My. Boots. Anyone would think you have some sort of strange fetish.”
Now that was surely a statement designed to embarrass him, yet he'd heard far worse accusations in his time and purely for a laugh he couldn't resist answering that one. “Who says I don't?”
Jenny stumbled a little at his jest, a quick blush creeping up her face before she snapped her head back to straight ahead of her and took off at a fast pace. She'd say it was the crisp cold air putting colour in her cheeks no doubt but he knew better. It almost made climbing the bloody mountain worth it.
“On Being Blue” by Art of Noise – Nick/Helen
It rains at the funeral and he doesn't bother with an umbrella. The dyes run from the cheap new tie onto that blank white shirt. It's an awful tie. All ties are awful to him, but this one he hates especially. Someone had pushed it into his hand, someone else had done it up and all day people had whispered to him, kind condolences and suggestions they planted, pushing him in the directions he was expected to go.
Helen was gone. Missing. He'd stood looking down on empty coffin and as he'd dropped that clump of earth on top of it he'd wished the weight would snap the brittle wooden thing. It was meaningless to him, yet he knew what it meant to everyone else. It represented giving up, it meant they expected him to move on. They all said sorry, they all wished it were different but to them they saw the beginning of the end of his sadness as much as the start. To him it wasn't either, there was a grave but no answer as to why.
He'd never liked unanswered questions, not when there was little hope of a reply, an explanation – a challenge was one thing but this he was realistic about, what hope was there he'd ever know? Helen had loved teasing him, always one keen on keeping a sense of mystery so he supposes this is at least fitting for her, a legacy she could be proud of, even if it breaks him. That was one reason he'd wanted the marriage to fail, for it to trail off, without fear it would come to something like this. He'd never expected death would undo him instead of her alone.
“Sorry” by Bic Runga - Abby/Connor
He takes it back. He walks out. He leaves the wrong girl crying. He never knows for sure, but he should have, should have turned back and taken her in his arms and thanked God she was alive, that he was alive.
But no, he'd left with the wrong girl, betrayed them all because he was scared of getting hurt and just wanted to be loved. He didn't get any of that in the end. They all got hurt, they all got pain.
It's five years later. They could have died another dozen times each year, hell, each month practically. But it's a sunny day with clear blue skies, no hint of danger, when he finally says sorry as they sit in loungers on the balcony.
Abby just says I know and he wonders if she knows what it is he's apologising for. How many things could there be? Probably too many to count by her score. It's almost like he's failed her each and every day he hasn't said what he meant to and he can't stand to fail another time. Connor doesn't want to be sorry anymore.
“I love you.”
That's how it ends, silence descends. It doesn't matter if she says it back, not anymore. Yes, no, whatever – there will be an answer and it will have to be okay. It's like a retraction of a retraction, to match the confession long past, and it feels good to get it off his chest this time.
“I love you too, you prat,” she says, like he's stupid for having any kind of doubt whatsoever about that.
“Cheers,” he says, chinking his glass against hers.
“Oh no, don't think you get away with a half-hearted toast, you'll have to do better than that. I have been waiting YEARS.”
“Here Comes The Rain Again” by Eurythmics – Nick/Claudia/Jenny angst (not OT3)
Jenny dresses like a shark, predatory, taking advantage of what nature benefited her with. It's strangely amusing that Helen would think this a curious improvement.
Her face is made up bright and precise, like it's all professional war paint and the hair, so dark, missing the soft fair waves he'd become fond of. You'd think perhaps it would be easy to distance himself, but it's only trivial things that have changed. A name, clothes, periphery to the person.
She still has the same smile when it comes down to it, a sparkle in her eyes as she glances across at him, and his stomach lurches, all the emotion stirred up because if he forgets about the details she still makes him feel the same, longing to close the distance. But he stops himself from acting, and later wonders if it isn't just loneliness that makes him feel that way instead of something inexplicable and unnerving. It's daft to be so scared of that considering all the aspects of his day to day existence that defy explanation, but there it is, it doesn't take much to have him grasping for straws to try and find a woman who doesn't exist in someone else entirely. The answer he guesses is to keep repeating these new facts until he believes them as much as they do, as much as he should unless he wants to go mad.
“Hell No (Feat. Sondre Lerche)” by Regina Spektor - Stephen angst, Stephen/Helen
Stephen knows he broke the rules, but Helen was worth it right then.
It's over eight years later that he realises it's no longer true.
He'd had his excuses then, but they feel weak on his tongue as he tries to voice them again and Nick isn't listening anyway, hasn't wanted to the last ten times either. Abby brushes past him too, giving him the cold shoulder in support of Nick.
He remembers Helen's voice purring in his ear, “No one gets harmed,” but looking at the results with the truth exposed it's more a case of who didn't. Helen's the only one to whom the rules don't seem to apply. He can't decide if she's lucky to be out of it all, incapable of caring about the pain it caused after a decade, but then he remembers why it was she bothered. She likes to pretend she's pulling the strings, mastermind of the game but she's not free of consequences of her other actions. It wasn't just what they did that brought this on them, it was what they didn't do, time after time, a secret kept and a love she never gave up. A love who wasn't him despite what she had said – the rules seem to be Helen hurts and so everyone else must hurt too.
“Bring Me The Disco King (Loner Mix)” by David Bowie – Helen, Helen/Nick
There was one day Helen had not expected. She had thought it would be a day of triumph, plans paying off, Nick accepting the new order she'd outlined. Everything ought to fall in place. It all falls to pieces.
Leek lied. Leek rebelled, should have seen that one coming, and suddenly it's not about her anymore, there's no enticing Nick back – he, they, everyone is on alert against the threat and any help she gives is not enough. She's as much the enemy as she as ever was, because she brought this about, and he blames her, one more thing to blame her for.
She'd still hoped he would be able to forgive her, she'd smiled to herself at the thought he'd said he loved her, only to be stabbed in the back by his admission, and there's yet another lie for the day. So she follows suit, trying to dig herself out of this, digging Stephen's grave instead.
It's never over, she never quite believes Nick is beyond her reach – he's her husband – but after that day she knows everything has changed in a way that cuts her off from him. All she has left is what she can change, and the hope she can still change it enough to get what she wants however she can. If it's fun to experiment that's just a nice bonus, a perk that fills in for everything else that's ended up missing.