Mina stood facing Jonathan, holding his hands and watching the lightly falling snow stick in his hair.
She wanted to remember this.
Maybe the last time she would ever see her husband.
Worse, maybe the last time she would ever see her husband through her own eyes, the eyes of one who loved him.
She wanted to reach out and brush his wind-blown hair out of his eyes, but she didn’t want to let go of his hands.
They were warm in her grasp, warm and sturdy and gripping hers a little too tightly, which she appreciated.
They felt real. Real and alive.
But, however much she wanted to stay in this moment for the rest of time, she and the Professor had a train to catch.
And she had things she needed to say.
“Darling,” she said. “I need you to promise me something.”
“What?” Jonathan asked, voice unsteady.
“I know I’ve already asked you for... for so much, and I’m truly grateful for all you’ve done. And I know you and the others will do everything you can. But... if you can’t save me...”
“Promise me you won’t follow me.”
“Let our friends take care of you. Don’t try to go it alone.”
“When you’re ready, find someone else you can love, you have too much love to go to waste—”
Snow swirled between them, briefly obscuring Mina’s view of Jonathan’s stricken face.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, “but you need to be prepared for the possibility.”
“I’m aware it could happen.” Jonathan sounded crushed. “But I’ll think about it if it does. Not before.”
Mina sighed. “I don’t suppose there’s any point in arguing.”
Jonathan shook his head. “I’ll see you on the other side of all this, you know that, don’t you? We will kill him. You’ll be all right.”
“You can’t know that.” Mina shivered as a blast of cold wind hit her.
Jonathan pulled Mina closer, wrapping his arms around her shoulders and rubbing them in an attempt to warm her up. “Don’t lose hope.”
Mina was quiet, soaking in the warmth and the last moment before she had to admit the truth.
“What if I already have?” she asked in a soft voice.
Jonathan gave her one more squeeze, then stepped back to half an arms’ length and looked her in the eye. “Then take some of mine.”
With that, he pulled her into a kiss.
Mina tried to memorize the feel of it, the warmth, the pressure, the knowledge that after everything Jonathan still wanted to kiss her.
After they broke apart, Jonathan studied Mina’s face.
He took a deep breath. “Close your eyes.”
Mina did. “Why?”
“I want you to picture something, all right? This is all over. We’ve won, and we’re back home in Exeter. Just the two of us. We’re sitting by the fire, and it’s warm, and safe, and no one is going to interrupt. We’re reading together, and you’re waiting for me to turn the page, because you read faster than anyone has a right to. What are we reading?”
“I… I don’t want to think of it.”
Mina was almost afraid to reply, but she did. She owed Jonathan the truth. “I’m afraid he might see.”
Jonathan took one hand off her arm and lightly touched her face. “He’ll soon be dead—truly dead, I mean. It doesn’t matter what he sees.”
Mina took a breath. “Jane Eyre. She’s gotten me through a lot, maybe she can get me through this.”
“When we get home, we can have your copy rebound, if you like. No more pieces falling out.”
Mina smiled faintly. The fact that Jonathan knew she’d want to keep her old copy, the one she’d had since she was a girl, rather than just buying a new one…
She winced. Jonathan loved her, loved her more than life itself, unfortunately.
If this went wrong, she could kill him.
Or worse, pull him away from God for eternity.
“Mina. Look at me. Look at me.” Jonathan’s voice was fierce, and Mina looked up, barely daring to meet his eyes, imagining how he must see her own eyes, red from more than simply the tears on her face, glittering harshly in the dim light that shone through the clouds…
“Mina dear, all that is waiting for you on the other side of this. But the only way out is through.” He sighed. “What would Jane do? If she found herself in this situation?”
Quite possibly run away, thought Mina. She’d considered it herself, in the beginning, to minimize the danger to Jonathan and her friends should the change go too far. But she’d discarded the idea once she’d realized that she could be of use by staying, and that the others were likely to go after her in any case. So that answer wasn’t helpful.
She knew what Jane wouldn’t do, though.
“She wouldn’t give up,” Mina said slowly, then took a deep breath that was almost a sob. “And neither will I.”
“There you go,” said Jonathan. “Whenever you need it, just imagine that room by the fire, and remember that soon that will be real, and all this will be only a memory.” He pulled her into another hug.
Mina felt a desperate kind of ache in her chest, a wish for more time, for this moment never to end.
But she had a train to catch.
She checked her watch behind Jonathan’s head.
Well, that’s that.
“Darling,” she forced out, “I need to go now.” She squeezed him tighter, for what she fervently prayed—no, hoped, for her prayers would mean nothing until and unless she became a child of God again—wouldn’t be the last time.
She felt Jonathan squeeze back, then slowly pull away, still clinging to her arms.
Come on, Mina. You can do this. You must.
“You have to let go,” Mina choked out.
There were tears on Jonathan’s face, but he nodded and released his grip.
Knowing that if she hesitated she might lose her courage, Mina whispered “I love you,” turned, and walked away, without looking back.
Jonathan’s reply was lost to the wind, but that didn’t matter.