Actions

Work Header

Exile

Work Text:

Mina didn’t know how long she’d been running.

Dracula’s voice in her head was so loud.

Ignoring the call to stop running, to come back, was taking all the willpower she had.

But she couldn’t stay.

It had been a miserable week. The other girls had been kind to her at first, but they were nothing like her. They were content with their lot, with living—no, with existing on a razor’s edge, alternately antagonizing and mollifying the one who dominated their existence.

And as for him… well, the less said about that, the better.

Mina knew what a real family was supposed to be. She couldn’t settle for this.

So she ran.

As she did, she found herself looking around, as if searching for something.

She wasn’t entirely sure what until she found it.

The camp.

The men were asleep within a circle of holy fire. Mina stayed well back, feeling a burning on her skin.

“Hello,” she called out, unsure of what else to say.

Instantly, Van Helsing was up and rousing the others, never taking his eyes off her. There was a profound sadness in them.

I’m right here, Mina wanted to say. But she knew that some part of her truly was gone. She could feel its absence.

The woman these men had cared for was dead.

Mina could only hope they’d agree to work with what remained.

“I’m not here to hurt you,” she called. “I’m here to make a deal.”

Van Helsing looked at her suspiciously. “What?”

“I want Dracula gone as much as you do. I want him out of my head. I’m keeping him at bay for the moment, but… it’s difficult.” She kept her eyes firmly fixed on Van Helsing. Don’t look at Jonathan, don’t… “I know the castle now. And I know his habits. So, if you all swear you won’t harm me—by my standards, not yours—I’ll help you kill him. And the others.”

She didn’t want to add that last bit. The other girls hadn’t asked for what happened to them any more than she had. But she knew it was necessary if she wanted the men to work with her, and that was necessary if she wanted Dracula gone.

“We don’t—” Mr. Morris started to say.

“He’s on alert now,” Mina said. “Unless we work together, we don’t have a chance.”

“She’s right.”

Jonathan’s voice piped up, and Mina’s eyes flicked over to him by instinct.

She instantly regretted it.

His face was lined with such deep misery it seemed to pour out of him. At the same time, he was looking at her like she was an oasis in the middle of a desert.

“Friend Jonathan—”

Jonathan cut Van Helsing off. “I realize my thinking may not be the clearest at the moment, but we haven’t been able to get any closer to our goal in the past week than we did back in England. Even if she’s only acting in her own interests”—Jonathan swallowed—“Mina has as much reason as any of us to want him removed from the world.”

There was a long silence.

Then, slowly, Van Helsing nodded.

“Make the promise,” Mina said.

“We won’t do anything to you that you would consider harm,” said Van Helsing. “Unless it become necessary to defeat Dracula or the others… or to protect ourselves.”

“I can accept that,” said Mina. “You all swear?”

They all swore to it, Mr. Morris looking like he’d smelled something rotten.

(She’d have to watch him. She knew well what the woman she was coming to think of as before-Mina had made him promise, and she knew him well enough to know that he might—probably would—consider that promise binding over a promise made to a vampire.)

(She knew this fragile truce would only last until Dracula was dead. After that, they’d be trying to kill her. But then she’d be free—free to disappear. And she could. She was smarter than any of them, why, why had she never noticed that…)

(But, however fragile, a truce was in place.)

“All right,” said Mina. “I can’t keep him out of my head forever, so we’d better plan quickly.”

Jonathan watched Mina (was this Mina?) talk, a pain beyond any he had ever felt filling his chest.

To hear Dr. Van Helsing tell it, Mina was gone, and this was simply a creature in her shape.

But, the longer Jonathan listened, the more sure he was that at least some of Mina was standing in front of him, kept back by the holy fire.

True, her face had changed. Her expressions, her eyes, her tone were all different. But her speech patterns were absolutely Mina. As was the content of what she was saying.

His love had always been as strong-willed and clever as anything. To fight the influence of the vampire who had transformed her long enough to tell them all this, and to have learned so much so quickly—that was Mina through and through.

Now Jonathan just needed to decide what to do with that information.

When she finished telling the men everything she could of the castle and Dracula’s habits, as well as those of the wolves and neighboring peasantry, Mina turned and ran back the way she had come, slowly letting the walls she had put up slip.

It wasn’t hard. She was too exhausted to hold them up any longer.

Mina, come home. Now.

Mina sent a brief flicker of acknowledgement through the bond and kept running. She could do little else.

And, in truth? Even had the magic not been pulling on her, she would have gone back.

She was hungry.

She hadn’t eaten in… too long. The last time the other girls had fed, she’d been kept out as punishment for some transgression or other. Probably failing to fall in line quickly enough.

She didn’t care to think too much about what before-Mina would have said, but it was true: she wanted blood, and she wanted it badly.

And she wasn’t permitted to hunt on her own. None of the girls were. They could let Dracula bring them food, or hunt as a group sometimes, but not individually, or without permission.

Mina didn’t want to know what the punishment for breaking that rule would be.

When she arrived, she was about to start climbing the wall when the voice in her mind interrupted.

No. Come in by moonlight.

I don’t know how.

You have to learn sometime. And, to make it quite clear, you’re never getting away from here. I don’t care what you told those men. They cannot harm me.

Mina winced. She’d just been thinking that she might as well learn vampire skills from those who knew them while she had the opportunity.

Fortunately, the unwilling conversation didn’t go on much longer, because Iulia appeared from the moonlight next to her.

“He’s right,” she said. “You have to learn sometime. Here, I’ll teach you.” Iulia gave Mina a mildly sympathetic look. “We all tried to run away at first. You get used to it. Truly. Life here isn’t so bad, after a while. But you have to stop fighting us. We’re all you have now.”

Mina nodded, trying not to think about the fact that, if all went according to her plans, Iulia and her sisters would soon be destroyed.

“Anyway. Close your eyes, and try to feel the moonlight.”

“How do I…”

“It’s a… tingling feeling. On your skin. It should feel like when we’ve taken you places. Now, think about where you want to go—tonight, that’s the main storage room.”

Mina thought about the storage room—what they called the place where they kept living humans to feed on repeatedly.

“Now, go there.”

“How?”

“It’s like moving your arm. You just have to do it.”

Mina shut her eyes, envisioned the storage room, and tried to will herself there.

The world lurched.

Mina’s stomach churned.

She opened her eyes to find herself in the same spot, with Iulia glaring at her.

“Maybe you’re just not strong enough,” Iulia said, grabbing her arm. “Let’s fix that.”

Next thing Mina knew, she was in the storage room, with the other vampires staring at her, Iulia holding her arm, and a child sitting in the middle of the room.

The child looked sleepy and disoriented, which was at least better than being distressed.

You were a schoolmistress once.

Before-Mina was a schoolmistress once. Be quiet.

Mina could see the pulse in the child’s neck, pierced already with multiple tiny puncture wounds, and hear the sluggish heartbeat.

The hunger tearing at her insides spiked to a truly intolerable level.

Just then, Elena stepped back. “Why don’t you go first, Mina.”

Mina hated it, but she looked at Dracula.

“I’ve already had my turn,” he said. “Go on.”

“I’ll let you practice your charming, too,” said Elena, and Mina felt the power in the room fluctuate.

The child opened her eyes, looked around frantically and said something in a language Mina didn’t understand, which she was somewhat grateful for.

Mina stepped forward and looked intently into the child’s eyes, trying to project calm.

The child in front of her, perhaps picking up on Mina’s distinct lack of calm, wasn’t calming.

Forget charming.

“Hello,” said Mina softly. “What’s your name?”

The child blinked and frowned.

Mina pointed at herself. “Mina.” She pointed at the child and tilted her head.

“Mara,” the child replied, looking down.

Mina smiled, careful to keep her mouth closed.

She didn’t get any further before Iulia slapped her across the face. “It’s food, not a friend.”

Mina nodded. It was probably for the best that she'd been interrupted—while establishing rapport with Mara might calm her temporarily, it wouldn’t help anyone when the feeding process had to commence, and Mina wasn’t sure how much longer she could ignore the scent of human and the sound of rushing blood in the room. Not as hungry as she was.

“Would you like to try again, or should I?” asked Clara.

Mina winced. She didn’t exactly like doing this. She remembered too well what it was like to be on the other side. But it was probably going to be a useful skill at some point. When she got away.

She was getting away. No matter how much annoying, smug superiority leaked into her mind whenever she thought about it.

Mina looked into Mara’s eyes.

Like moving your arm. Just do it.

She felt more than saw Mara growing sleepy and placid again.

Quickly, she looked around for permission, waiting was agony but she knew the punishment if she fed without permission would be worse—

Nods all around.

Mina moved forward and placed her fangs on Mara’s throat.

“Miss Murray?”

“Yes, Adeline?”

“I made you a card.”

“Oh, how kind of you! Do you want me to read it?”

“Yes, please!”

“‘Dear Miss Murray, You are a wonderful teacher and I’m very glad to be in your class this year. You are so kind and you’ve helped me learn a lot. I hope God is with you your whole life. Sincerely, Adeline.’ Why, thank you, Adeline! This is so sweet! I’ll treasure it forever.”

As she sank her fangs in, Mina took a deep, unnecessary breath through her nose to clear the memory. She didn’t need it, couldn’t afford it right now.

She was just trying to survive.

I hope God is with you your whole life.

Jonathan stood in front of a place he’d very much hoped never to see again and looked around at his companions. “From what Mina told us, there’s only one way in without permission—the same way I got out. Who’s coming with me?”

“I’ll go,” said Mr. Morris immediately.

Dr. Van Helsing frowned. “Are you certain—”

“I’m the only one who’s done this before,” said Jonathan. “I know the best route up. I have to go.”

Dr. Van Helsing didn’t look satisfied, but he nodded. “I suppose you are right.”

“They’ll be asleep,” said Mr. Morris. “And the climb will be dangerous. So it’s probably best if as few of us as possible—”

“Yes, but keep in mind you must find and true-kill Dracula himself first,” said Dr. Van Helsing. “Otherwise he may alert the others to the danger through the mental influence he seem to have over those he transforms.”

Jonathan nodded, and saw Mr. Morris do the same.

The climb up was as long and as nervewracking as Jonathan had remembered. This time, though, he had a purpose beyond his own survival, and that somehow made it far more tolerable.

Jonathan was in no doubt whatsoever about Dracula’s fate. Whatever Mina—human Mina, before their miserable failure—had said, he wanted that vile creature gone from the face of the Earth, and he was certainly not motivated by any sense of pity or charity. Not after what that monster had done to his darling.

But Mina…

I’ll leave it in God’s hands.

If Mr. Morris found Mina first, Jonathan knew, he would lay her to rest, as he had previously promised. That was what the human Mina would have wanted.

But the human Mina was no longer the Mina who existed. Jonathan didn’t know what had become of Mina’s soul, or even if her soul was truly gone or simply changed. And he’d promised to be with her for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.

Wasn’t this a kind of sickness?

He knew he was making excuses. But Jonathan also knew that, no matter what he’d said, he couldn’t kill Mina. If she was asking him to, in that moment, maybe. But if she had specifically asked him, in her current state, to spare whatever remained of her life? If he had promised not to harm her, in any way she would consider harm—which meant he couldn’t fall back on the idea of giving her rest?

No. He simply couldn’t.

Mina had told them where Dracula and the other monsters slept, but not where she herself did—understandably, in Jonathan’s opinion.

So if he found Mina first… he would see if he could wake her, and go from there.

When they finally reached the window and climbed in, Jonathan led the way to the place where Mina had said Dracula was to be found.

Sure enough.

They worked quickly to open the lid, and with no further discussion, Jonathan’s knife flashed across the monster’s throat as Mr. Morris’s knife plunged into his chest.

The monster dissolved into dust.

Jonathan felt a kind of odd anticlimax. It had been so quick, the actual doing of the thing.

And yet… he had just ended, if not a life, a sentient being’s existence.

And he was going to do it at least three more times.

Without saying a word, he nodded at Mr. Morris, who nodded back.

They moved on.

Mina groggily blinked awake as she felt hands shaking her.

“Mina, Mina,” a familiar voice was saying. “I know it’s difficult, but you need to wake up now.”

She looked up. Jonathan.

“Good. You’re finally awake.”

Then, she became aware of the vast emptiness in her mind.

“He’s gone?” she asked quietly.

“I cut his throat and watched him turn to dust.”

Mina smiled, then swallowed. “And the others?”

“The same.”

Mina wasn’t as bothered by that as she’d expected to be—she’d found that emotions were very different, as a vampire—but she did feel a faint regret.

Then, something else occurred to her.

She’d fed last night. She probably still had blood on her face.

Lamely, she tried to wipe it away. Jonathan didn’t need to see that.

He caught her hand. “It’s all right. I know.”

Mina looked away.

“Love, Mr. Morris is here as well. If you want us to send you on to Heaven we can do that, but if you don’t, you need to find somewhere to hide.”

Mina nodded. Her limbs felt heavy, and she was groggy, but she could do that.

“I’ll be back for you.” Jonathan started to leave.

“No, here is the… first place they’ll look for us. Meet me… train station… tomorrow night.”

Jonathan sat back on his heels and rested his hands on his legs. “All right. I’ll cover for you. But you need to hurry.”

With that, he stood and left.

Jonathan stood at the train station and looked into Mina’s eyes, glowing reddish in the moonlight.

“You came,” she said. “I wasn’t sure you would.”

Jonathan swallowed.

The Mina he knew would never have allowed him to throw away his humanity and hope of Heaven to follow her.

Then, if someone had asked him, before all this, if he’d ever slit someone’s throat, he’d have been shocked and replied, ‘never.’

This war had changed them all. It was just a little more obvious in Mina’s case.

“I did,” he said. “What do I need to do?”

“First I need to know,” she said. “You can’t go back from this. And you will kill. I think we can mostly survive without killing, but… the first time you won’t be able to help it, and you will slip up. So… are you sure?”

“God help me,” whispered Jonathan, “I know. And maybe this is the worst decision I could make. But… I can’t let you spend forever alone. And I know you can hide forever, or close to it.” He took a breath to steady himself. “Do you want me to come with you?”

“Very much.”

“Then yes.”