st_aurafina: Helen Magnus from Sanctuary - a shot of her face (Sanctuary: Helen Magnus)
[personal profile] st_aurafina
Title: East Wind
Fandom: Sanctuary/Mary Poppins crossover
Words: 950
Rating: PG
Characters: Helen Magnus, Gregory Magnus, Mary Poppins
Summary: Miss Helen Magnus needs a nanny, and the wind is in the East.
Notes: Written for [livejournal.com profile] penknife, for fandom_stocking 2010. Thank you to [personal profile] lilacsigil for the beta.



When Helen was five, Nanny died in her sleep. It was very sad, but, as her father explained, Nanny had also been his Nanny which meant that she was very old. Helen knew that: Nanny could not walk very fast or come down to play on the rug in front of the fire, on account of her knees. Helen didn't mind, because Nanny knew all kinds of stories about giants and fairies and heroes, and she would tell them to Helen at night before bed.

There was a funeral, of course. Helen wore a black velvet Tam o'Shanter, and Nanny's daughter – also very old, Helen noted – gave her the ladybird cloisonné pin which Nanny had let Helen wear whenever she was particularly good.

After the funeral, Helen formulated a theory: that Nanny had been born old, and had passed the trait along to her daughter. Old age was an inherited trait, like black spots on moths and the pattern of a turtle's shell. She went immediately down to the laboratory to report to her father.

"Hm," said Doctor Magnus, ushering her away from the cadaver on the table. "We shall have to see about finding a new nanny."

Helen's eyes narrowed. One did not need to form a hypothesis to see that this did not bode well.

Miss Fortinbras came highly recommended, with excellent references and qualifications. On meeting her in person, Doctor Magnus was sure that she would be a suitable influence on his daughter.

She was gone in a week, taking instead employment with a family travelling to Malaya. "I have decided to take a more restful position," she said in the hallway, and gathered her trunk to leave.

Helen watched her from between the banister railings with satisfaction.

"Please do not deliberately frighten people," said her father. "Is this some kind of protest? Would you rather go away to school?"

"I am sorry, Father. Miss Fortinbras suffered from a deficit of imagination." Helen tilted her head thoughtfully. "I think her condition was more severe than she realised."

"Well, then. We shall find a nanny who had no such deficit." Doctor Magnus pressed a kiss to the top of her head.

For a little while, it seemed that Miss Tanaka would make a perfectly good nanny for Helen. Helen, certainly, became very fond of her. Akiko had a whole set of stories that Helen had never heard – she particularly liked the tale of the Nightingale Floor – and Japanese was a very interesting language.

Nobody was surprised that Doctor Magnus had hired a foreign Nanny; nobody was surprised at half the things Doctor Magnus did. Among the staff, though, it was held that Miss Helen – a lovely child, all agreed – was certain to grow up a savage and a hooligan.

"It's all them carryings on downstairs," said Mrs Proudy, the cook. "That, and Mrs Magnus being taken so young. Poor little mite, Helen is. No mother, and her father's mad, for all he dotes on the child."

"They shouldn't talk about my father like that," said Helen, from the flat panels of glass that looked down onto the kitchens.

"Shhh," said Akiko, and showed her how to spread her toes wide so as not to crack the glass when she walked across it.

Doctor Magnus was forced to let Miss Tanaka go when he discovered her teaching Helen the correct way use a spear; brandishing a broom handle with a kitchen knife firmly lashed to the wood.

"I liked her!" Helen was outraged: she had kept up her part of the bargain.

Doctor Magnus shook his head. "I am sorry, Helen. I cannot keep a nanny whose name is on a Royal Warrant. It's for the best if she goes now. Quietly."

The new nanny arrived unexpectedly, on a morning with a brisk east wind, before Doctor Magnus had a chance to advertise. Nonetheless, despite her lack of references, Gregory hired her at once. Mary Poppins had a forthright nature that he thought would benefit his daughter's development, and he liked her bright boot-button black eyes.

Irritable from the east wind howling at the windowpanes, Helen was less enthusiastic. She lurked, scowling, in the gap between her bed and the window and refused to come when her father called. There was a large black beetle in the dust under her bed, and she could not identify the species. She tucked it into her pocket. It was dead, after all, and would not mind.

"It's considered very rude to hide, when there are introductions to be made." Miss Poppins stood by the door, hands folded neatly over her white linen apron. Beside her on the floor sat a carpet bag with bamboo handles. Helen remembered Akiko, and how to sharpen a bamboo stake.

"My last nanny taught me to make a spear, for when the enemy comes." Helen stood obstinately at the end of the bed, determined that she would not like this nanny half as much.

"Stuff and nonsense, wasting time whittling while the enemy is at the gates." said Mary Poppins. She reached down into her carpet bag and drew out a long brush with a fierce cap of bristles at the end. She looked at it fondly. "A dear friend leant me this, so I'll always be prepared."

"What kind of friend?" Helen said with a gasp. The brush was very long, much too long to have fitted in the bag.

"Nobody you'll ever meet, if you dawdle while tea is going cold on the table." Miss Poppins held out her hand. "Spit-spot."

Helen hurried down the hall to the nursery. There were interesting things to learn from this new nanny, and besides, her stomach was rumbling.

Date: 2011-01-09 04:02 am (UTC)
sam_gardener: The catbus from My Neighbor Totoro. (Default)
From: [personal profile] sam_gardener
YES! I have thought for awhile there must be some connection between Helen Magnus and Mary Poppins. And I loved Akiko - maybe she and Helen will meet again? Fun story! I really enjoyed it, thank you.

Date: 2011-01-17 11:34 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] missycd
Very nice, and Helen will learn with Miss Poppins alsorts of things :D

Date: 2011-06-17 09:36 pm (UTC)
finisterre: (nature: uncuddly bear)
From: [personal profile] finisterre
This is one of the most charming things I've read in ages. I love the lightness of touch and the way the narration is so reminiscent of fairytales.

And I love Nanny Akiko and her sharpened spears and Helen and her dead beetle. Fabulous.

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