Nikola glances around the room in mild annoyance. He isn’t quite sure why he’s here when he could be doing something worth his time. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Helen is sitting next to him with their hands intertwined. It’s the only possible explanation. He surely isn’t interested in the movie playing in the background nor is he interested in the board game that the children are playing.
He soon grows bored of staring into his wine glass and turns his attention to something far more interesting—Helen. She’s wearing a red blouse which causes Nikola to smirk. He’s always thought the color looked good on her, ever since their first meeting. He moves his eyes up and stares at her blue eyes. He’s always found them captivating, especially now as they shine with delight from whatever conversation she’s having with children. He’s mildly aware of one of the children letting out a string of curse words but is too focused on tha laugh it elicits from Helen to care.
“Helen,” He whispers.
She instantly turns to him, her face still glowing from her previous joy. When she looks at him, another emotion washes over her face and settles in her eyes. He’s seen it so many times that he recognizes it instantly. His heart constricts in his chest. For years he had hoped she would look at him like that, and in these past couple of months, she has. He can never contain himself when she looks at him with a look of pure love, so he leans over and kisses her.
He hears her heartbeat speed up and he smiles when he hears her content sigh against his lips. The kiss is cut off as he hears groans from the children. Young Heinrich begins to gag and Nikola and Helen both decide it’s enough. They pull apart and no matter how many times they kiss Nikola knows he’ll always enjoy the taste of her lips lingering on his.
“Dude, can you not make out with my mother figure in front of me?” The young Hap asks and continues to gag.
This causes the other two children to begin laughing which causes Helen to laugh which brings a smile to Nikola’s face.
As the children continue the board game, Nikola decides to ask the question he’s had since he’s arrived.
“Why am I here?” He asks.
Apparently, his question is too sudden because the children stop and look at him as well. They look a bit nervous and instantly look to Heinrich, obviously wanting him to explain. He looks at Helen but she just shakes her head. With a sigh, he turns to look at Nikola.
“Well, it’s family night. It happens on the third Friday of every month. It started with the Doc, Ashley, Big Guy, and I. Eventually Will joined us and then Kate and now you,” He explains.
Nikola turns to look at Helen with mild confusion. He can understand why they would all do this, he just can’t understand why they would include him . It doesn’t make sense. As far as he knows, the children hate him. That’s completely fine, of course, since they annoy him as well.
“You’re a full-time resident here now, Nikola, and I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but you have been nicer to them,” Helen explains further. “You’re part of the family now, whether you like it or not.”
Nikola frowns and tries to convince himself that he’s not touched by the sentiment. He distracts himself by trying to recall if he had, in fact, been nicer to the children. He soon realizes that, in his bliss of finally being with Helen romantically, he had been a bit nicer. He tries to find one of his usual arrogant remarks, a defense mechanism, but finds nothing. Instead, he tries to swallow his emotions and ignore the dull stinging in his eyes.
“Well,” He begins. “Carry on.”
The children grin and continue their game. He decides to take a closer look at said game and feels his heart constrict slightly more when he realizes what it is. They’re playing parcheesi, and soon Nikola feels himself being dragged off into a memory.
August 5th, 1891
Nikola stared at the room with annoyance. It’s late at night and they were supposed to be working on the source blood. Instead, everyone had decided to take a night off and celebrate. The annoyance was soon dissolved when he heard the laughter of Helen. He couldn’t help but stare at her moment of happiness.
“You’ve got it bad, mate,” A voice from behind him said.
He turned to see Nigel Griffin. Other than Helen, Nigel was probably Nikola’s closest friend. Sure, he got along well with James and he and John weren’t enemies, but things were easier with Nigel. Things were easier with James as well before John came into the picture.
“We’re about to play a game that’s popular in America,” Nigel said to change the subject.
Nikola thought about it for a moment. He didn’t enjoy board games that much, but with this group of people it might be tolerable. The moment Helen turned and beckoned him and Nigel over is when he decided he’d play. He’d never been able to refuse her.
“We’re going to play parcheesi, but it’s only made for 4. Someone will have to make a team of 2,” James said.
There was a moment of silence. Nikola’s eyes darted between the other four people in the room. Finally, Nigel interjected and broke the slightly uncomfortable silence
“How about Nikola and Helen?” He suggested.
Nikola turned to look at him with shock. Nigel just grinned back. Nikola looked away and directed his attention to the others. James and Helen seemed to be considering it while John looked slightly upset, though not angry so Nikola counted that as a win.
“Won’t that be unfair? Putting two geniuses together?” John asked.
While the irrational side of Nikola instantly assumed John was just trying to stop him and Helen from partnering up for other reasons, his more logical side realized that John brought up a legitimate concern. In his peripheral vision, he saw Helen shrug. He also saw the slight blush on her cheeks from the indirect praise, but he chose to ignore it.
“Double the stakes. If any of you three win, you get 2 bottles of wine. If Helen and I win, we only get 1 bottle to share,” Nikola offered.
It was then that Nikola realized he didn’t actually know if they were playing to win anything. From the looks he saw on the others’ faces, he had gotten it wrong. Then, they started to laugh. It wasn’t a mean laugh, not like their peers at Oxford, but a friendly laugh. Even John’s laugh held no malice. Nikola forced himself to remember that, of course none of their laughs would hold malice, they cared for one another too much. Sometimes it was just easy to forget and easy to get lost in self-doubt.
“It always comes down to you and wine, doesn’t it?” Nigel asked. Traces of laughter were still noticeable in his voice.
“I think we can handle the challenge, don’t you boys?” James spoke up.
John and Nigel nodded, obviously ready to take on the challenge, and Nikola turned to see Helen’s reaction. She turned as well and smiled at him which instantly caused a million feelings to be unleashed inside of him.
“Let us begin,” She said with a smile still on her face.
“We should participate in the next game,” Nikola says to Helen.
She gives him a questioning look and he just shrugs. He surveys the board to try and gauge how much longer the match will last. Heinrich has 3 of his pieces home already and the fourth is getting closer. Kate has two pieces in home, but her other pieces are back at the start and are being blocked by one of William’s pieces, who also has 2 pieces home. He decides it probably won’t be too much longer.
“We could team up again,” Nikola continues. “Like the first time we played the game.”
Helen smiles at the suggestion and nods. She turns to tell the children they’d be joining, and Nikola looks around for something to distract him until the game ends. Remembering that night left him with a bittersweet feeling that he desperately wants to get rid of. They’d been so happy then, before the source blood. As hard as it is to believe, he and Johnny boy even got along relatively well. At least, in comparison to now.
His eyes land on the movie playing. He quickly realises the movie is about the Titanic and he grimaces. The Titanic had certainly been an experience.
April 11th, 1912
Nikola stared at the open sea from the deck of the Titanic. He had been visiting Helen, James, and Nigel when she told them she knew the captain of the ship and managed to get them tickets. Nigel and James were a bit hesitant to go on the trip, it wasn’t like they had business in America, but Helen eventually managed to convince them. She’d always been able to do that.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?”
Nikola smiled at the familiar voice. He turned and saw Helen, who looked as stunning as ever. She walked over to him and joined him at the railing. They stood in a comfortable silence for a while, content to just look out into the never ending waters.
“I’m glad you convinced us to take the voyage,” Nikola admitted.
“You would’ve come anyway. You’d much rather get back to America in luxury then not,” Helen said confidently.
Nikola shrugged because she was right. He was happy, though. He was happy she was on this ship and happy she had convinced the others to come. Most importantly, he was happy that the trip was making her happy. He knew that, even now, sometimes John’s betrayal was still fresh in her mind. Even though it’d been almost 15 years, he knew she still thought about it sometimes.
Nikola looked up the moment Helen greeted their friend. Said friend grinned at them and walked over. Suddenly, Helen looked as if she remembered something, which was probably what happened.
“My apologies. I’m afraid I must depart to talk to the Captain. I will meet up again with you soon,” She said before she walked away.
Nikola and Nigel watched her go before turning to one another. Nigel looked at him with a familiar smile and Nikola already knew he wasn’t going to like what Nigel had to say.
“This is your chance,” He said.
A beat of silence occurred between them before Nigel continued.
“To begin courting Helen, I mean,” He explained.
Nikola frowned and shook his head. While he was thankful that his friend had good intentions in mind, he didn’t think now was the right time to attempt to court Helen.
“Why not?” Nigel asked in response to his frown.
“The betrayal of John is still too fresh. I don’t think a relationship is what she needs right now,” Nikola said with a sigh.
Nigel gave him a look that made Nikola know he was going to object. He sighed and braced himself for whatever Nigel had to say.
“It’s been 15 years,”
“14 years, 3 months, 14 days,” Nikola corrected. Nigel shrugged in response.
“It’s been almost 15 years,” Nigel began again. “When will it be the right time?”
This time Nikola shrugged in response. Nigel put a hand on his shoulder and Nikola knew he wasn’t going to like what came out of Nigel’s mouth next.
“I think you’re afraid she’ll reject you and you’re using John as an excuse.”
Nikola opened his mouth to deny the statement, but Nigel began walking off before he had the chance. He heard Nigel say something about meeting up with James and then he was out of sight. Nikola growled and turned back to the ocean, trying desperately to ignore Nigel’s words.
Nikola turns to the clock, it’s only been 3 minutes, and then turns to the children. They seem to be arguing and Kate in particular seems to be fuming. She’s screaming about how she’s going to kill William if he doesn’t move his piece but he’s just laughing.
Nikola’s seen a lot of death. Of course, there was his faked death, but that’s not quite the same. The deaths of Nigel and James still sting, though.
Luckily, before he slips into another memory, Helen places her hand on his cheek. He looks over at her and she looks at him with understanding eyes.
“You know,” He begins and gestures to the TV. “On the Titanic, Nigel desperately tried to set us up.”
Helen raises an eyebrow at that. It’s clearly new information to her and he can’t help but smile.
“Before Nigel died,” Helen starts softly. He notices that she blinks away tears and he can feel his own throat constrict as he thinks about it.
“Before Nigel died,” Helen tries again, though her voice is still tight with emotion. “He told me I shouldn’t be hung up on John. Told me I deserved more. He told me to seek you out. I think he always saw that we’d be happy together.”
Nikola smiles softly and leans over to kiss her again. She wraps her arms around him and smiles against his lips. The kiss isn’t passionate, but sweet. It’s comforting. It’s—
They pull apart and look over at the children, who have now finished their game. He just smiles and walks over to the table they’re at. He sits down and Helen sits next to him.
“Shall we?” He asks.
The others nod and they soon begin to arrange the board to start a new game. Nikola smiles at this family he’s abruptly become a part of. It’s different from the five, they were all the same age and from the same time era, but he can already feel bonds beginning to grow. He’ll admit, only to himself and maybe Helen, that the children have been growing on him. He makes a silent vow then and there to not let this new family fall apart like his last one did. There will be no betrayals and, he looks over at Kate and Henry as they share a look and quickly look away, he can play matchmaker just like Nigel did. He’ll just do better at it because he’s better at everything.
“What are you planning?” Helen asks him quietly.
“Nothing,” He answers.
She looks at him suspiciously but shrugs and rolls first.
Oh yeah, Nikola thinks. This is going to be fun.