It's fine, but it still hurts
rating: +38+x

Doctor Michael Viktor Magnus flashed his ID to the guard at the gate, who let him through with a quiet nod. His name was on the list of visitors for the day. You had to call ahead to a place like this.

The grass was always so impeccably kept. It almost didn’t look real, but I guess that’s what you paid for right? Here and there he could spot flowers in various states of decay. His footsteps were measured, his feet feeling like lead. May fourth. It was a shitty day.

Dr. Magnus finally reached the familiar spot; crossing from the path to the too-perfect grass that surrounded each neatly placed headstone. He came to the place where his heart had died so many years ago, and dropped to the ground, sitting cross legged in front of the gravestone of his wife.

Dr. Helen Magnus, devoted scientist, loving wife, killer butt. God, how he hated the inscription. She had picked it, so it wasn’t even a question if it would go up on the headstone or not, but still. Sitting there gave him so many complex emotions. Finally he cleared his throat.

“Happy Star Wars day, love. May the Fourth be with you. I’m sorry that I didn’t come earlier in the day.” He lay the simple wreath with the toy lightsaber in the middle at her headstone. His eyes were as dead and heavy as granite as he looked at nothing in particular. “I’m so sorry. I just…I’m so sorry, Helen.”

The crackle of electricity surrounded the pair as the dimensional transfer subsided, leaving the pair of scientists crouching on what used to be the floor of their lab. “Did….did we make it?” Helen Magnus’ voice was trepidatious.

“Holy shit I think we did. You did it, Sugar! Holy shit, we made it!” Michael Magnus stood up, holding his wife’s hand, looking around. The first thing he did was look up at the sun, which was still mercifully in one piece. “I think we’re even in the right place.” He looked around, taking in the smooth walls and shelves lined with various bits and janitorial bobs. It had taken them months to find a spot suitable to end their transfer, and this closet was the only constant between their dimension and this one.

“I wasn’t sure if I could stabilize the transference properly.” She pulled a small device out of the pocket of her lab coat, and tried to turn it on. It buzzed for a moment, then sparked and died. “Okay, so the chronograph is fried. When do you think this is?”
Michael shook his head, and grasped the doorknob, opening it to a plain grey hallway. Above the door was a sign reading “Soap from Corpses Products.” “I have no idea, but that’s a really lame cover name, if this is what I think it—”

A quiet click of a hammer being pulled back on a handgun interrupted his thought. “And who the fuck are you?” Dr. Kensington asked quietly, flanked by two security guards.

Helen peaked out from behind her husband, and smiled as winningly as possible, “Would you believe interdimensional metaphysicians?”

Michael Magnus planted his hands behind him and reclined slightly on the grass, looking up at the sky. “I know things were desperate in our dimension, but we probably could have survived a bit longer. I don’t know if we had waited any longer that we would have been better off. I keep replaying it over and over in my head.” He stared into the blue sky a while longer, still admiring the unbroken sun as he had most days. He sat up and reached under his lab coat to the shoulder holster which held the oversized revolver that his wife had given him. Engraved on the barrel were the words, For when even my bark is too quiet.

He called the gun “Helen” now. He’d also fired it more times than he ever thought would happen in one life. The Foundation had found a way to exploit his wife’s achievements in the end, and put him to the slaughter to power it. One final twist of the knife of a disgraced administrator. They needed him to die to keep their pet monsters protected.

Unfortunately for them, he was always an adaptable man. He’d quickly taken to the dangerous situations they’d thrust him in. He’d become a pretty decent shot with the revolver that bore his wife’s name, and a steady attendance of lessons in Giancarlo DeLuca’s self defense courses let him hold his own up close. They wanted someone to lay down and die, but dying hurt too much to get used to.

He lowered the heavy revolver down to the undisturbed ground of his wife’s grave. “I miss you so much. I don’t even.. .I feel like I can’t be myself without you. All the jokes, the humor…the sense of fun and adventure. It’s all gone, it died with you.” He pressed the lever which slid the cylinder out sideways. Only four chambers were currently loaded, he hadn’t reloaded since the last couple of shots he fired. Sloppy, Break would have his head for that.

“Stupid…” he muttered to himself, as he let the shells fall out of the chambers, spinning the cylinder slowly with his thumb. It wasn’t good for the gun, but oh well. He reached into his other pocket, and pulled out a small cleaning kit, beginning the yearly ritual of cleaning Helen with Helen.

“You’d be proud of me, sugar. I finally ‘grew up’ I guess, and moved up in The Foundation. I know that was never important to you, but… after you died, it became important to me. I couldn’t stand the thought of ever not being able to protect someone I loved again…”

An explosion rocked Site-29, a moment before the emergency alarms started blaring. Dr. Magnus stood up from his temporary desk and readjusted his glasses. He reached down to his office phone, and pressed the hotkey on it for the security office. A moment passed before a voice clicked on the other end of the line, “Security, how can I help you, deputy director?”

“What’s the situation,” Dr. Magnus said, his voice calm and composed. The other members of his staff in the room looked nervous, speaking to each other in low voices.

“We’ve got intruders at the loading docks, heading down the freight elevator to sub-level six. At least six assailants, multiple security personnel are already injured,” the voice on the other end of the line explained, muffled sounds of orders being barked in the background came through the line.

“Understood, I’m on sub-level six. Please send security forces to my location for crisis-coordination. You have my authorization to call in MTF Omega-88 to this location,” Magnus said, kicking open the footlocker under the desk and retrieving his ballistic vest. Ever since joining the Alchemy Department, he’d had to requisition far more of these than he was comfortable with.

He drew Helen from his shoulder rig, and checked the chambers. All six were loaded. He tugged the last few straps of the vest tight. “Stay here, I’ll be back with security forces when we have the situation under control.” He said, reassuring the assembled research staff in the small laboratory. He thumbed back the hammer on Helen and strode out into the hallway, activating the tracker beacon on his phone for the security forces to find him.

Dr. Magnus replaced the missing cartridges of the well-worn revolver, sliding two replacement rounds into the empty slots. He snapped the frame of the revolver closed and replaced it in the holster under his left arm, with the smooth precision of repetition.

“I don’t know what to do anymore, Helen. I’m not sure which one of our experiments left me like this, but… I’m not getting older. I might be doomed to do this forever, and I don’t know how I can do that. I thought this would be fun, doing research and growing old together. Retiring and seeing the world when it wasn’t doomed like ours was. And now…what?”

Magnus’ hand reached out, and touched the headstone. The granite was cool and dry to his touch, steady like Helen had always been. His head hung, and tears welled up unbidden, but not unwelcome.

“How do I do this without you? How do I get up, fighting every day to try and make this world a better place without you in it? Why should I even try?”

The quiet clack of sensible heels gave way to soft footsteps behind him, as Dr. Rights knelt down beside him. “I would imagine, because she would want you to, Michael.” One of her strong hands gripped his shoulder, and the other placed a small wreath with a tiny bottle of Patrón worked into the middle next to his. “Star Wars day was only ever second to Cinco de Mayo for Helen.”

Magnus looked up, his glasses having slid most of the way down his nose. His face was a mess of tears and he looked like hell. “Agatha…what are you doing here?”

She smiled that caring smile at him, and gave him a quick squeeze, “Well, dummy, it’s not hard to track down the deputy director of a department, now is it? And if I remember correctly, May fourth was never a good day for you.”

Dr. Magnus took a deep breath and wiped the tears from his eyes, adjusting his glasses. “I’m surprised you remember at all.”

Dr. Rights smiled at no one in particular, and smoothed out her skirt, in a familiar gesture. “It took quite a bit of work to undo that particular bit of amnestic fuckery. I wasn’t going to let them erase one of my friends though.”

Dr. Magnus laughed quietly under his breath, shaking his head at the sheer lunacy of their lives. “Well. I guess I’m glad that you did. Being here alone is hard enough.”

Dr. Rights nodded, “So, what have you two been talking about?”

Dr. Magnus paused for a few moments, before quietly saying, “How I don’t know how I’m going to keep doing this job forever.” Dr. Rights elbowed Dr. Magnus in the side. “Ow, what the hell was that for?!”

Dr. Rights turned and glared at him slightly, “You know, you’re the second immortal today who’s complained to me about not getting older. Some of us have to keep moisturizing to stay young, assbutt.”

Dr. Magnus shook his head staring into the middle distance between the headstone and Dr. Rights, “I’m sorry you didn’t get more time to spend with her. I know you two were becoming friends rather quickly.”

Dr. Rights gently slugged Dr. Magnus in the shoulder. “Are you fucking with me, Michael? Forget me. I’m sorry you lost your wife.” There was a long silence. “Would you tell me a bit about her? Things that…I wouldn’t know?”

Dr. Magnus smiled and closed his eyes, taking his glasses off, losing himself in memory for a moment. “She loved eggs, cooked just barely through the whites. She was one of the funniest, most sincere and upbeat people I have ever met. She never missed an opportunity to tell me how much she loved me, to compliment me for whatever she observed about me. When she got brain freeze, I nearly died laughing, she made the strangest face…”

Dr. Rights smiled, “It sounds like you really, truly loved her, Michael.”

Dr. Magnus nodded, “I do, Agatha. With everything that I am.”

Dr. Rights slowly drew herself to her feet, and dusted off her skirt, holding out a hand to Dr. Magnus. “I was serious before, I don’t think she’d want you sitting here, crying over her grave. I think she’d want you to get up, take a deep breath, and move on to whatever challenges were next.”

Dr. Magnus took her hand, and slowly got to his feet. “I appreciate the sentiment, Agatha, I truly do. But my heart is in that grave with her.”

Dr. Rights nodded, and smiled slightly, “Of course, Michael. I hate to do this, but…I’m not just here to support you. I am, but… there’s a situation in Kiev. Your Director asked me to find you.”

Dr. Magnus took one more longing look at his wife’s grave, leaning down to rest his hand on it for a moment, before letting out a deep sigh. “Right, of course. What’s the situation, Dr. Rights?”

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