Chapter 1: The First Call
Mina heard the slam of the front door and echoed it with the shutting of her novel. Her father was home, come to relieve her of her horrifically boring day. Granted, most of the day was gone by now. Outside the window, she saw the orange rim of the setting sun behind the navy topped trees. It seemed this twilight hour was the only time she got to see her father. He finished teaching at the university at four, returned to her at five, only to leave once more at eight to visit a long term patient of his. The three hours she spent with him were always brief, but they were her favorite of the day.
"Father!" Mina rushed toward him, meeting him in their green walled foyer. His wrinkled face lit to see her as they met in an embrace. The hard covers of his textbooks pushed into her back as they hugged. Mina pulled away, smiling at him broadly. "How were your classes today?" Her father sighed, setting his books onto the shelf next to them.
"Spring time always make them less inclined to work," he said of his students. Her father, Dr. Van Helsing, taught Medical Sciences at the University. A strong believer that women were just as capable as men, he taught Mina all he taught his students and more. The University only permitted boys to actually go to classes.
They moved to his library, a small room stuffed to the ceiling with books, oddities, and a peculiar smell of dust. He sat in his chair, a fading blue thing of cloth, and Mina sat on her usual wooden seat.
"We'll barely cover two chapters of the book before break at the rate we're going." He sighed.
Mina laughed, "And how are John and Arthur?" Old school mates of Mina and her dearest friend Lucy, John and Arthur were going on to be scholars of their own. A fact of which Mina was bitterly jealous.
Her father edged forward, "They're probably the worst of it." He smiled, leaning back with a tired sigh. Mina couldn't see how he was able to keep so busy and not collapse from the stress of it. Though classes were only three days a week, he spent the rest of the time grading papers or visiting patients. One, in particular, he visited every night without any fail. A Count Dracula who lived three miles away at Carfax manor. A distance her father insisted was easily walkable and refused to take the carriage.
"Are you feeling all right, father?" Mina asked. He always looked tired after teaching, but seemed particularly fatigued at the moment. He probably caught something from walking in the rain a few nights back. Stupid, stubborn man...
He sat up, "I'm right as rain, dear."
Mina studied him, "Perhaps The Count could do without you for a night-"
"No, no." Van Helsing dismissed it immediately, standing up as if in protest. "I'm just a bit tired is all."
Mina pursed her lips, "I'm sure he could do without you for one night."
Her father sighed, "He's one of my…special patients, Mina."
Her eyes widened at the words. Her father hadn't taken a special patient since Mina was no more than a child. Van Helsing was…more forward thinking in his practice. Though sceptics called his work occult, Mina new it to be no more than a study of the supernatural. She'd spent her whole life knowing this science to be true, and was shocked when her father had explained that not many men shared this ideal. It quickly became a secret between her and her father, this study of the unexplained. In fact, half of his dilapidated library was devoted to books on the topic, many of which Mina had helped him to write.
She crossed her hands, "What is his species?" An excited light came to her father's eyes. It was rare for him to get a special patient. Supernatural species were few and far between in the civilized world, and few knew to seek him out. Van Helsing kept this part of his doctorial practice very quiet.
"A Nosferatu," he breathed in anticipation. "A very old, very powerful vampire. 418 years old to be exact about it."
Mina nodded, "Is he…civilized?"
The light in Van Helsing's eyes grew, "Yes, very. In fact, he moved here to be closer to people. He spent many years alone, but wants to come back into public. Understandable, it's very common with his kind. They cannot stay in one place for too long for fear of being recognized for what they are."
"How does he feed?" Mina remembered from her father's teaching that there were many ways a vampire could feed. Killing was an obvious choice and the one used most commonly. The next was the taking of a familiar, a sort of human companion who serves as the blood for the vampire. That one in particular always made Mina feel very uncomfortable. She was not immediately disgusted by the idea but something about it made her feel very odd. Another was stored blood, such as from a blood bank. The final was animals, which was only resulted to if no other options were available or practical.
Her father turned away, "Blood bags, from the hospital-"
"Father!" Mina gasped.
"I only take twice a week. It's unnoticeable!"
"It's unethical!" Mina pressed. Her father had stood once more, grasping a book shelf as he did. He isn't well at all. As if to prove her thought, he coughed heartily into his elbow. Mina reached his shoulder.
"Father, you shouldn't go out tonight. It's going to rain."
"I have to," he said hoarsely. "I'm bringing him the blood tonight."
Mina groaned, "Fine, but I am coming with you."
"No," he dismissed her, fighting to stand on his own. He'd grown a shade paler, and was baring all the signs of a cold. Mina crossed her arms, raising a brow in defiance. "The Count is a fine man, Mina, but unaccustomed to others…"
"I'm sure he's seen a woman before," Mina pressed. A smirk grew upon her elfish face. "And I am not afraid."
"It's not you I-"
There was a knock upon the library door. Her father beckoned them in. It was their housekeeper, announcing dinner. She was dismissed, and Van Helsing seemed to think Mina had nothing more to say. He was wrong.
"I want to go with you father. I sit aimlessly in this house most days, and I've read nearly every book in this library." Her father didn't respond. "I am coming with you. I'll learn your trade. Maybe I can't be a doctor, but this is something I can do. I'll be a-"
"Yes, yes, all right," he gruffed, and Mina giggled with joy. In a rush of emotion, she swooped down and kissed her father on the cheek. He couldn't hide the smallest of smiles growing under his facial hair. Mina knew he couldn't say no to her for long.
"So I want to hear everything about this Count Dracula," Mina said as they walked to dinner. "Oh, and we're taking the carriage tonight. You'll probably faint if you try to walk and I am not carrying you."
"You're a rather difficult girl, do you know that?"
Mina smirked, "I wonder who I got that from?"
Chapter 2: Apprentice
Mina joins her father to visit his patient: The very old, very powerful, Count Dracula
It was the sort of place you'd expect a man named Count Dracula to live. Carfax was an old, greyish stone castle that looked like it couldn't fall if you ran into it with a barge. It was overtly large and garish, which was probably why it was in the middle of nowhere. The expansive lands kept it far away from any public areas. Mina doubted many people would venture out here of their own accord. It was a domineering place, like something out of a Penny Dreadful. I would expect a vampire to live here, she mused to herself.
Van Helsing's coughing brought Mina's eyes away from the carriage window and to her father. He dismissed his daughter's concerned look, and simply coughed into his faded white handkerchief. Mina made a mental note to call a doctor for her father. He always hated having other physicians looking at him, and insisted he could take care of himself. 'Well, he'll have to listen to me now.'
As the carriage clipped its way further to the looming castle, Mina thought of what her father had told her about the Count. He'd left his native Transylvania about a century ago and had been wandering before moving into Carfax last winter. He's 418, but with the appearance of a man in his thirties. During Van Helsing's visits, he would bring The Count blood on Tuesdays and Fridays, and would help with whatever else he needed. Van Helsing usually would give him lessons on modern culture, or modern topics, and The Count would help Van Helsing fill in the gaps of his knowledge on vampires. Mina's father didn't seem too keen on the idea of Mina giving lessons, but Mina insisted that she was just as qualified. Her father then started coughing again and Mina saw the argument as finished.
They made it to the entrance, where Mina grabbed her father's bag before he could protest and helped him from the carriage. The castle seemed even more domineering from so close. Yet something about it was intriguing, as if pulling her into some mystical dream. She ignored that fancy thought as it played through her mind. Perhaps she'd been reading too much of the romantics.
Her father went inside without so much as a knock, and Mina followed him. She'd been expecting some large, empty ugly place when she stepped inside but found herself much in the contrary. Carfax was breathtaking. It was not that dark place of nightmares it seemed from the outside. It was light, and grand, with far more white and gold than black and grey. Large windows adorned the walls, letting in the bright starlight. Statues, paintings, and all sort of art was put up in every corner. Mina stopped gapping once her father erupted into even more heavy coughing and trotted into another room to sit down. This library is breathtaking, she thought, looking at the grand room of books. Nothing like her small library at home, this one was nearly the size of her whole house with light brown colors and millions of books.
She heard the click of boots. Turning, she saw a very tall man who seemed more alien than human. He was tall enough to not seem small in the grand room. His hair was dark as ink at the bottom of the well. His face was pale, and gaunt enough to leave grey shadows in his sharp cheeks. Mina could tell just by looking that this must be The Count she and her father had talked about all evening.
Mustering up all courage and confidence, Mina walked towards him and stuck out her right hand.
"Wilhelmina Van Helsing," she imitated the voice she'd heard her father use many times while meeting new patients. The Count stared at her, an amused grin growing in the corner of his mouth. She could tell what he was thinking: women don't shake hands. Women aren't meant to be so forward. But Mina was not to back down. I will be treated as a professional.
Whatever qualms he may possess, The Count extended his hand and grasped Mina's small one in his own. His hand was not nearly as cold as she had anticpated.
"Count Dracula," he said with a hint of an Eastern accent.
"Yes, I know," Mina said, causing him to laugh ever so slightly. Mina felt a flush rise in her cheeks, and bit her tongue to keep her temper down. She dropped his hand, swallowing that tickling nervousness growing in the back of her throat. "My father is very ill-"
Mina ignored him, "So I will be taking his place tonight." The Count stayed silent with only that annoying smirk slapped upon his inhumanly pale face. Mina tried to calm the water boiling in the pit of her stomach. "I assure you, sir, I am very qualified to help you." She heard her father sigh at her outburst. I don't care, I will not be patronized by this man.
"I am sure you are, Miss Van Helsing," he said very kindly, almost making Mina regret her temper. Almost. "Might I offer you some tea, Doctor?"
Mina looked back at her father, who nodded his request. He reached his hand into the bag, and pulled out the wine bottle full of the blood they'd come to deliver. Van Helsing held it out to Mina, who grasped it her hand. In her mind, the bottle felt oddly warm to her, and her stomach churned at the thought of its contents. It's better that the alternative, she thought as she brought the wine bottle to The Count. An image of someone biting into her throat played into her mind, a vision she instantly dismissed.
"Thank you, Miss Van Helsing," he said as she handed him the bottle. "Might I offer you anything?" Mina instantly declined, so quickly in fact that she felt a bit rude. He showed no outward signs of offense, so Mina chose not to think much on it. He left the room, gone to fetch tea.
Mina sat next to her father, "He's not going to drink that now, is he?"
Her father shrugged, "Perhaps not with you here and your obvious distaste of him."
He laughed, "You're quite all right, dear. His lifestyle is rather off-putting to most." Mina smiled, unable to form the words for an argument. It wasn't that she was off-put by him or his life. Vampires had always been fascinating to her as creatures. Perhaps meeting one was what was odd. He looked very…human. A tall, handsome man with dark hair and sharp features. His eyes were red-tinted, and had a look of constant vigilance, which she could understand for someone like him. He would be human to anyone who did not know.
No, she was not disgusted by his life…Perhaps she was disgusted by how much it intrigued her. 'Nonsense,' she shook the thought from her mind,
Just then The Count appeared once more with a small silver tray of tea. Mina noted he'd laid out two teacups.
"In case you change your mind," he half whispered to her as he set the tray on the small coffee table. Mina could feel herself blushing for an entirely different reason now. The Count sat in the wooden arm chair opposite them, his long pale hands arched like spiders upon the ornate arms.
"Any more odd symptoms today, Count?" Mina's father asked in a raspy voice. He leaned forward, gingerly lifting the silver tea pot and pouring out the copper colored liquid. He made Mina one, no cream, two sugars, just as always.
"Not today, no, Doctor." He said, his eyes flickering to Mina for just a moment. 'He does look like a spider,' Mina thought looking to his hands again.
She spoke up, "What sort of odd symptoms?" Her father sighed. "Father, if I am to follow after you I need to know these things."
"Are you your father's apprentice then, Miss Van Helsing?" The Count as though she were some disillusioned child claiming they wanted to pilot a ship to the moon. I suppose everyone is but an amusing child to him, a part of her thought. So what? Her temper shouted back. That's no excuse to be rude.
Mina straightened, "Yes, I am, my lord."
"One doesn't hear much of female apprentices. Or female physicians for that matter."
"Just because one doesn't hear of them does not mean they don't happen," Mina answered curtly. The Count seemed very entertained by this outburst, but in an entirely different way. The angry breathing next to her reminded her that her father wasn't entirely happy with her display, and Mina knew he was partially right. It was no way to talk to a patient. Or to a Count for that matter.
"My Lord," Mina half bent her head, but would not break from his eyes. She looked away to sip her tea. It was much better that she was expecting.
He smirked, "To answer your question, Miss Van Helsing, I'd been feeling a bit on edge lately. It went away today, however."
"Wonderful, my lord," Van Helsing answered before his daughter could make another scene. "Have you any other complaints you need addressed?"
"None, Doctor," The Count said kindly. Though he could be condescending, Mina could see that his respect for her father was real. 'So he does have some redeeming qualities,' a dry part of her thought. And he kept glancing at her. Or perhaps she was glancing at him. Maybe it was mutual. Before any more thoughts on the matter, Van Helsing erupted into another stream of violent coughing, so much so that his hand shook his tea all over in a scatter shower of copper.
"Father," Mina chided, grabbing napkins from the tea tray. Yet The Count was by their side too fast for comfort and helped with the cleanup. Mina took the tea cup and set it onto the saucer. "We need to go home, father. You aren't well at all." She continued before he could utter words. Mina looked to The Count. "I will be filling in for my father for the time being-"
"Mina!" Van Helsing croaked.
The Count handed him his handkerchief, "I am all right if Miss Van Helsing wishes to continue for you, Doctor. You do need to rest." Mina was surprised at his consent, but took it as a good sign. It would give Mina something to do with her days. It would give her the purpose she'd been looking for. I wasn't expecting my purpose to be Doctor for the Supernatural, but so be it.
Her father looked to both of them, and Mina could see the slow crawling of acceptance come over his face.
"Fine. Damn, fine." The swear was but loud enough for Mina to hear. "But the visits will be in the daytime. And only until I am well again. And Swales will accompany you."
"Of course, father," Mina said, helping him to stand up. she could not help but shake from her little triumph. A job. A job! Her's a her's alone. Sure the carriage man would come, but it mattered not, forr Swales slept through everything regardless. She looked to The Count, "If that's fine with you, my lord?"
"Perfectly, Miss Van Helsing."
"Good," she said with a poke of her chin. "Now, we will be off. I will see you tomorrow, Count Dracula." Mina stuck out her hand once more. It was silly, but it made her feel so important to shake hands with someone. It made her feel strong.
The Count shook it, just the slightest of smirks upon his face. He helped Mina and her father to their carriage, making sure Van Helsing was in before helping her.
"Tomorrow then, Miss Van Helsing," he said as he helped her into the carriage.
"Tomorrow, my lord," she replied as they shut the door.
Mina could not keep a smile from forming on her lips as they took the bumpy road back to their home. I did it! I met with a patient and was as professional as father ever was. I'm nearly going to be a doctor! Her father snored as he fell asleep on the bench in front of her. But The Count…he was quite odd, but I suppose you expect that of someone of 400 years. He seemed to think me very comical. I'll show him. I'll be a good doctor. A grand doctor. He won't smile at me like a diverting little child… I'm going to be amazing, Mina decided. She was very set in her decision.
Chapter 3: Of Tea and Tests
"Sorry to surprise, Mina, darling, but I've just been dying to see you," Lucy Westenra floated into Mina's home like some great, pink butterfly. Her dress truly was an alarming shade of pink, but it somehow did not clash with her bright auburn hair. She always had the latest fashions from her frequent trips into London, and Mina was certain she was seeing one now. But Mina didn't really have the time to admire the dress. She was to see The Count in but two hours and thought she may die of nerves.
"Wonderful to see you, Lucy," Mina embraced her friend as she led her into the house. "How was London?"
"Amazing," Lucy sighed, walking into Mina's meek sitting room. It had been her mother's parlor, but Mina found little use for it herself. She did not sew much, nor found any joy in knitting. No, Mina spent far more time off in her father's library than the sitting room. It was mostly for Lucy's visits.
Lucy Westenra had become Mina's school friend almost instantly. Lucy was just as strong-willed as Mina, and they fought over what game to play during their free time nearly every day. Neither would yield and so none of the children ever got to do anything. At some point, they set aside their animosity and became friends instead. But while Mina went back to a small country house at the end of the day, Lucy went to a grand manor home on the other side of town.
"It's just so lively, Mina," Lucy said with a dreamy look. "It feels like a place where something unbelievable may happen to you. You must come with me next time."
"I'd love to," Mina replied with a smile, taking the seat across from her friend. "I'll call us some tea, Lucy, but I'm afraid we must be brief today."
Lucy shrugged suggestively, "Got a suitor on the way, Mina?"
"I'm not very desirable to suitors, Lucy," Mina glanced around her small parlor. It was nice, yes, but nothing grand. The yellow flower wallpaper was fading, the gold border turning to brown. The white fireplace was crumbling from being sedentary for so long. No, she hadn't the wealth to truly tempt a man, nor had she ever tried to. She supposed she'd get married at some point, but it had never been a pressing matter. Her father was too busy to think of such things and she hadn't a mother to fuss over her.
No, marriage was not something Mina thought of much. Perhaps she'd meet a handsome stranger and fall passionately in love, but she would not be troubled if that didn't come to her. She could be content marrying for comfort, she supposed. Oh, this gives me a headache.
Lucy spoke quickly, "You're very beautiful, Mina, you'd be surprised how easily men are swayed by a pretty face."
"Ah, but it's my wits that may turn them away," she joked as she stood to call for tea.
Lucy spoke, "I think a man would be horribly stupid himself to not want an intelligent wife. What sort of man wants to spend his life with a pretty woman with the wits of a wooden board? It requires lots of wit to be a wife and run an estate. Any man who thinks otherwise is daft and deserves to pay for women to give them their time!"
"Right-o, Lucy!" Mina said with a belly laugh. "Did you participate in some rallies while you were in London?"
Lucy blushed, "No, but I spent quite a bit of time with irksome men. Now, go get us some tea and you can tell me who's so important that they get to steal you away from me."
"What is he sick with?" Lucy asked after Mina finished her story. Lucy sipped her tea, her brown eyes bulging to hear more. Honestly, Mina hadn't thought her story to be all that entertaining. Lucy had gasped at Mina's outbursts and laughed at her temper, but it was not much of a shocking story.
"Just routine things," Mina said dismissively. She wasn't about to let go of his secret. Confidentiality was a doctor's practice. "It's mostly for him to become acclimated to life in London."
Lucy frowned, "Poo. I was hoping it was something dreadful."
Mina raised a brow, "Whatever for?" Her friend leaned forward, the taffeta of the pink dress crinkling.
"Mother is practically knocking down his door trying to get him to court me," she said dramatically. "I haven't even met the man, but mother heard 'Count' and that was all she needed to know."
Lady Westenra was a cunning woman. She had a point face like a bird, but one could tell that she used to be a great beauty. Now, she was obsessed with marrying off her daughter. She'd married off Lucy's two elder sisters, and was running herself ragged trying to save Lucy before she became an 'old maid'. Eighteen hardly seemed the age of spinsters and cats, but to Lady Westenra her daughter's time was running out. She went so far as to fuss over Mina, and drove Van Helsing up the wall constantly with her naggings. Her heart was in the right place, but she was a regular Mrs. Bennet of Austenian literature.
"He seems an agreeable man of what I know of him," Mina sipped her tea. The immortality and blood drinking may prove to form a riff in the marriage, however, she thought. "He's reclusive, but he's still adjusting to life here."
"He should throw a ball," Lucy said dreamily. "I went to so many splendid ones in London."
"Perhaps I'll suggest it," Mina answered, laughing to herself at the thought of The Count at a ball. She could see him towering over everyone, a quizzical look upon his pale face. That would be entertaining indeed. "I'll be sure to mention your undying love of him as well."
"Don't you dare, Mina Van Helsing," Lucy said. "I won't have you telling tales."
Mina smiled, taking the final sip of her tea. She'd need to leave soon if she wanted to reach Carfax on time. First, she'd check on father who'd taken a day of rest in his room. It took him an inordinate amount of time to agree to a doctor's visit, and even more time to get him to take the prescribed rest. I'm sure I'll be fine, he'd protested as he proceeded to nearly cough up his lungs.
Lucy and Mina finished their chat, and Mina ushered her friend to the door. Lucy left with promises of lunch dates and shopping trips, and Mina smiled with her mind elsewhere. She went to check her bag, making sure all things were in order for her visit. She would be taking a sample of his blood for her father to run tests on, and teaching him a quick lesson on whatever he required. It shouldn't take more than an hour, but Mina was still running on nerves as she prepared to leave her home. A quick goodbye to her sleeping father and she was off, ready for her first day alone.
"I know what I'm doing," Mina said as she prepped the large syringe for the blood draw.
"I didn't say anything, Miss Van Helsing," The Count said, extending his long pale arm. Yes, he hadn't said anything, but Mina could feel his red eyes boring into her as she prepped for the needle insertion. But she did know what to do. This would be her first time actually doing it… but she knew how. She'd studied this before. Her father had her practice on a bag full of water. For a man who knew his daughter could never by a physician, he certainly educated her as one.
Mina wiped the syringe with disinfectant.
"Just a bit worried. That syringe looks bigger than you," The Count said plainly. Mina raised a brow at him. "A joke, Miss Van Helsing." She rolled her eyes. "Obviously, not a very good one."
"Obviously," Mina said, flashing him the smallest of smiles. "Your arm, sir." It's 'my lord', she corrected herself, but The Count did not seem to care. What is he even a Count of? Do they just hand you a title if you're rich enough? Mina thought on it. Every lord or lady she knew seemed to simply be ungodly wealthy. Yes, they probably just gave you it if you had enough money.
The Count extended his pale arm, his white shirt rolled up to expose a vein. They seemed to buldge out more than most human's. Well, it will make inserting the needle easier I suppose. Mina prepped his forearm.
"And how is your father, Miss Van Helsing?"
"He's resting," Mina said, prepping the needle near his skin. She took a deep breath, steadied her hand and inserted the needle seamlessly. "Though getting him to do that was a war itself. Father isn't one to sit idly." 'My lord', you are supposed to say 'my lord' she chastised herself once more. She pulled, and the crimson blood began to fill the vile. His blood, just as normal as anyone else's, quickly filled up and Mina withdrew the needle. The oddest thing was that the wound healed immediately.
"A perk," he said, rolling his sleeve back down. "Vampirism has a few of them." Mina released the vile, capping it and placing it into her bag.
"I didn't know that," Mina admitted, cleaning the syringe and packing it away. "I fear there's quite a bit I don't."
Mina wasn't sure why she admitted that. That certainly was not something a doctor should not admit. But it was true. She remembered the basics of vampirism, but it got mixed up with all the other things she'd studied. She hadn't studied supernatural in years. Honestly, she didn't remember all that much.
"Well then, Miss Van Helsing," The Count sat in the chair opposite her. "What would you like to know?"
She laughed lightly, "I believe I'm the one who's supposed to be teaching you, Count."
He smiled, "Tomorrow you can teach me. But now, you can ask me whatever you want."
"Whatever I want?" Mina asked. He nodded slowly. She thought for a moment before asking. "So, what are the other advantages of being a vampire, Count?"
He folded his hands into a triangle, "I'm faster than humans. Stronger than most as well. Immortality, I suppose would be a perk to some. Glamour…"
"Glamour?" Mina said with a light laugh. It was an odd word to describe a creature of the night. She'd heard it associated with witches, but never vampires.
"It can be quite useful," The Count said slyly. "Sort of a seduction. It clouds the human. Makes everything seem wonderful."
"Sounds rather immoral," Mina noted curtly.
He shrugged, "There are worse things, Miss Van Helsing."
"Like what, my lord?"
You're prying, said a voice in Mina's head. She knew it was true. It was a terrible fault of hers. Her father had called her his little philosopher: always asking questions. It was cute when Mina was younger, but now it was rude. Unladylike as her etiquette coaches would say. Mina never did well with manner lessons. Perhaps she shouldn't be prying…
The Count spoke, "Immortality is a double edged sword, Miss Van Helsing. I live a life of solitude, slave to a hunger. Not exactly an ideal existence."
"It must help that you're wealthy." Mina regretted the quip, but to her surprise The Count began to laugh. He had a very nice laugh. Honestly, it was the liveliest thing about him. He was kind and civil, yes, but not really alive. Mina hadn't missed that he'd said 'existence' earlier. Perhaps that's all he was now. She wondered if he'd ever done more than existed. Now that would be far too personal a thing to ask.
"Yes, I suppose it does," He smiled, and Mina caught a glimpse of his fangs. Odd, they hadn't been there before. They must come and go, or maybe she simply didn't notice. But her thoughts were interrupted. "What are you thinking of, Miss Van Helsing?"
"Nothing, I…" Mina pursed her lips in thought. "Well, I was wondering if there were parts of your life not led in solitude, as you so put it." To this he paused, and Mina wondered if she'd pried too far. Of course he'd had people in his life. Probably dear people. Family members, lovers, wives, children… He could have hundreds of loved ones all gone from his life. And you're making him talk on them you tactless girl.
"I had a wife when I was changed. Viktoriya was her name." His eyes seemed to glaze off in some memory. "Never children. A few familiars, but never any true ties to them. A girl named Marigold aimed to marry me a few decades ago…" The Count sighed, "All things must end as they say." He met her eyes. Their crimson shade seemed somehow right for him. Earlier, they had scared her, but now they seemed handsome almost. But some air of sadness had filled the room, weighing Mina down so much she felt her shoulders beginning to hunch.
"Well," Mina attempted to clear out the melancholy. "If you're interested, my best friend Lucy's mother would be very willing to marry her daughter off to you."
The Count raised a brow, "Is she the Lady Westenra that I've been receiving letters from for weeks."
"A very persistent woman," Mina said with a hint of a smile. She was even returned one from him. "Though honestly, Lucy suggested you have a ball sometime, and I think that would be a good idea. Put your knowledge of modern British culture to the test."
"Not sure if I'd pass it," he lilted.
Mina crinkled her nose, "Well, I'll help you and then you can have a ball when you're ready." Her eyes lit with an idea, "We shall have a tradeoff. I'll teach you culture, and you can teach me about vampires."
The Count's face warmed, "A good proposition, Miss Van Helsing." She extended her hand, an action her again seemed to think quite amusing. That smug smirk on his face, he shook her hand, holding it just a moment longer than she think he meant to.
"Now," he continued, "if there's going to be a ball, we have the issue to deal with of my truly abismal dancing."
Journal of Jonathan Harker
I have been noticing some strange occurrences in the last weeks, and felt it my duty as a student of science to observe and note these happenings. Though they seem fantastical in nature, I known some explanation is due and hope my colleagues may provide some insight.
I will start with what I saw on the third of October. I was walking back late from the library one night and spotted a large hound running across the lawn. It was large and black, but more dog-like than wolf. Then, before my eyes, it appeared to vanish in midstep. Highly peculiar, I wrote it off as a side effect of my tired mind. Yet this incident has repeated itself multiple times. I have seen this dog in several locations. I know black hounds to be ill-omen, but I do not put stock in such things. I wonder perhaps if it was the result of some experiment. I have asked around, but no one seems to know anything.
Next is a man by the named of R. M. Renfield. A previous classmate of mine, he has been exhibiting some peculiar behaviours. He's been looking quite frazzled, and muttering to himself. I have noticed him looking at occult books in the library recently. Those are not true anomalies, but I have noticed something quite pressing. I have seen him sleuthing around campus as though hunting for some wild beast. Every time I see him though, he quickly darts away and makes no word of later.
Thirdly is this man the Van Helsings have been nursing. I know him to be a Count from the East, but he appears to be quite reclusive. Miss Van Helsing tells me nothing of him on grounds of confidentiality, but odd things have been happening since they began visiting him. The aforementioned anomalies began when he appeared, but more pressing is the illness of Dr. Van Helsing. Could this Count be infecting our city with some Eastern disease we have no cure for?
I am not sure, but these matters have been concerning me greatly. I will write again with more findings soon.
Chapter 4: No Talks of Love
Several weeks into her new job as a physician to Count Dracula, Mina finds their daily meeting interrupted by Lucy Westenra and her flamboyant mother.
"One, two, three, one, two, three, one…" Mina was doing little more than pushing The Count about his ballroom like some sort of trolley. For a man with such a limber appearance, he was quite the terrible dancer. They'd been at this for a weeks now, and he still couldn't waltz. And there were still so many dances to learn if he expected to host a ball in the near future. He also needed to learn how to take the lead in a waltz. Mina certainly wouldn't be there every dance to push him about…
"You're 418 years old and you can't waltz," Mina groaned jokingly.
He frowned, "This is much harder than you think it is, Miss Van Helsing. And you know what they say about old dogs and new tricks."
"I think an old dog would pick this up faster than you." She stopped their turning. "Come on, I believe you deserve a break." Mina had been coming instead of her father for over a month now. Dr. Van Helsing had recovered enough to teach his classes, but the long days wore him out and required constant rest in the evenings. Honestly, Mina was happy to keep her visits with The Count. It gave her a purpose and she'd grown to greatly enjoy his company. He was very pleasant, and seemed unbothered by Mina's jests. The Count seemed to find Mina now amusing, but not in a cynical sort of way. He seemed to enjoy her as she was. Mina knew few people who felt about her that way. It was a rather nice thing. He didn't even seem to care that she'd done away with formalities. Saying 'my lord' felt rather degrading to her.
"What is the time?" Mina asked, walking out from the ballroom. The room itself was larger than Mina's home three times. The sweeping ceiling seemed to reach up into the sky and pull down the stars into the chandelier. A grand stair way that led to room's Mina had never been descended into the back of the floor. Wall carvings and art plastered on the wall made her wonder how the never appeared dusty. Mina rarely saw any of the servants of Carfax, though she doubted he needed many. Such a very large home for just one man.
"It's almost six o'clock," he answered, pouring her some water from his pitcher.
Mina's eyes widened, "Goodness!" Her mind whirled as though they were still dancing. "I'll be late for dinner if I don't leave soon." As though on cue, a loud clap of thunder followed by a bolt of lightning reminded Mina of the impending storm. She would have to leave soon, lest she be caught up in the storm herself.
"You are very welcome to stay here for dinner, Miss Van Helsing," The Count offered immediately. He moved forward, handing the glass of water to her which she drank greedily.
"You're very kind," Mina replied. "But I mustn't worry father by not coming home. He would be so concerned."
"Of course," he said, an embarrassed little smile on his face. Honestly, Mina very often forgot that he was a vampire. She forgot that he wasn't as human as her, or that he'd lived much longer than she ever would. He was so human. He was just as human to her as her father, Lucy, or any man she'd ever known. Truthfully, she liked him a lot more than any man she'd ever known. He didn't treat her like some girl to be courted. He treated her like an equal. It was very refreshing to not be seen as some object to soon possess.
"Maybe sometime this week I'll have father come with me and we can have dinner," Mina suggested. She paused, "Sorry, for inviting myself over. That was rude. And you probably wouldn't want dinner anyway…"
"I would be thrilled to host dinner for you and your father, Miss Van Helsing," He answered. "And I am capable of eating. I won't be feasting on raw meat at the dinner table…"
"Oh, never mind. We'll scratch the whole thing then." Mina countered, a small grin on her face. The thunder roared once more. "I shall be going. We'll plan for dinner later. Maybe I'll even invite Lucy, your destined bride-to-be."
The Count rolled his eyes, "You do love jests, Miss Van Hesling."
Luckily, Mina managed to return before the storm advanced too far. Yet she was not greeted by a frantic father when she came home. Instead, she found him sitting in his library, with another man sitting opposite. Whatever they were discussing, her father appeared very fervent about it, gesturing as he did when he became excited. After a moment, Mina recognized the back of the man as that of Jonathan Harker.
"Mina, darling," her father finally noticed her, a smile growing on his face. "Good to see you, my dear!" He stood, though shaky in his step. "I thought perhaps the weather would keep you."
"The Count offered I stay, but I couldn't worry you," Mina said, kissing him on the cheek. She turned to Jonathan, who had stood at her entrance. "Good to see you, John." Mina could see him stiffen at her casual tone. Surely, he thought he should be 'Mr. Harker'. No such luck, since I've practically known you since infancy.
They had, truly. Their mothers had been dear friends all their life. Mina's mother became pregnant with her shortly after Jonathan's mother became pregnant with him. They'd been thrown together since childhood, and nearly everyone expected a marriage out of it. No such luck. Jonathan was a fine gentleman. He was the pillar of a traditional, educated man. And that was the problem. Jonathan was far too old fashioned. He took himself and his manners as seriously as the scripture, something he surely read every day. Jonathan thought Mina the perfect woman. Well, he thought the idea of Mina quite perfect. The submissive, domestic housewife there with a kiss and a clean household.
Jonathan still lived under the impression that Mina was that picture of perfection. He paid little mind to the fact that Mina was stubborn, educated, and not at interested in a marriage to him. But John liked his Mina better and stuck to that one, to the discomfort of everyone.
"Lovely as always, Mina," Jonathan reached for her hand. "It's always a pleasure to see you." In a moment that seemed to move as a glacial pace, John pulled his hand to her lips and kissed the glove there.
"Yes, well," Mina reclaimed her hand. "If you two will excuse me, I need to journal my visit…"
"Mina has been visiting a patient on my behalf this last month," her father explained to the confused looking John. Or maybe his face just sits like that…
John blinked, "You're visiting patients, Mina?"
"Just the one," Mina said with a smile. God, why did he have to look at her like that? "Until father is well again." Jonathan laughed and Mina resisted the very strong urge to punch him in his face. See how much a lady he thinks me after that…
"The famed Count Dracula, I presume," John said with a smirk. "I say professor, you let your daughter enter a man's house unaccompanied?"
"I trust Mina to handle herself professionally," her father said with a kind smile. "And Old Swales goes with her when she leaves."
Mina hadn't the heart to confess to her father that Old Swales fell asleep at his post everytime and had never stepped foot into Carfax Abbey.
John continued, "Well, I don't think women should ever be unaccompanied by a father or a husband."
"Then what are all the widows and orphans to do with their time?" Mina replied cheekily. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I really must journal…"
"Dinner is ready, sir," their butler announced from the doorway.
"I suppose it must wait, Mina," her father said, clapping his hands together. "Now, John, would you like to stay for dinner?"
Please, God, no, Mina thought desperately.
"I would love to professor," John said, glancing to Mina.
I will slit my throat with a butter knife.
"Mina, how does that sound?" Her father, clueless to Mina's dislike asked. Good God, he's trying to marry me off, isn't he? And to Jonathan? It's like he doesn't know me at all.
"That would be lovely," Mina said with a smile. Just about as lovely as gouging my eyes out with a fork.
It was going to be a long night.
Vladimir Alexander Dracula was sitting in his study, drinking from the last bit of the bottle Mina had brought him a few days before. The blood from the school was never as good as fresh blood, but it saved his the questionable morals of murder, so he was quite fine with it. It was Tuesday, so Mina should be bringing a new one and he needed to finish his bottle so she could refill it.
He appreciated the risk the Van Helsings took for him. It was rare to find anyone who would help him, and he was lucky to have found Abraham. He was even luckier that it had led him to Mina. It was nice to have a friend again.
Well, perhaps friend was not the best word. Maybe acquaintance was more proper. Nonetheless, he greatly enjoyed her company. She was so lively, but intelligent enough to have a decent conversation with. Mina was kind too, and never treated him like some monster. And it didn't hurt that she was so beautiful, and lilthe. He could be his arms around her so easily when they danced and often trailed his thoughts to other things.
"Stop it," he hissed to himself as he made his eyes focus on the book he was reading. You've involved yourself with humans before. It does not work. Mina is a friend to you. Nothing more. Never more. After a few more months in England, he would leave, for it was difficult for him to stay in one place for too long. But Mina would be here soon, and he needed to get his mind under control before she appeared. Even the thought of seeing her gave him some warm feeling he hadn't felt for years. Stop it.
Her knock on the door brought him out from his head and onto his feet as he went to welcome her in. Yet her usual smile was replaced by a look of panic, and he did not recognize the carriage stopped in front of his house. Or the large blonde woman bounding toward him.
"Brace yourself," Mina whispered quickly, as she bounded past him into his house. His body tightened, as though this woman aimed to attack him. Which of course she did not, judging by her large purple dress and the smile on her flushing face. Perhaps she meant to embrace him. The thought of that made him only tenser.
"Count Dracula, finally!" The woman said extended her stubby arm. "Lady Westenra. I've been trying to reach you for ages."
Oh, good God.
"Yes," he properly kissed her gloved hand. "Lady Westenra, to what do I owe the honor?"
"I was at the Westenra's today for luncheon," Mina piped up from behind him. He could hear the discomfort in her voice. "Lady Westenra insisted on driving me here today."
Lady Westenra giggled, "I couldn't let the poor dear walk, you see." Of course you couldn't. "Would you like to meet my daughter, Lucy? She's come with us as well. LUCY!" Alexander sighed from the shrill cry. She smiled, "I'll go fetch her, my lord." And with the ruffle of taffeta, she turned and went for her carriage again.
Alexander turned to Mina, "You traitor." Mina, who was obviously expecting this reaction, was quick to the defense.
"I couldn't help it, she cornered me," Mina hissed back. "And Lucy really isn't that bad, honestly. She'd make you a wonderful bride." An obvious jest.
He shook his head, "You have betrayed me, Miss Van Helsing." Though the smile growing on his lips betrayed him.
Mina pursed her lips, "Oh stop it, you dramatic thing, it's only tea."
"I'm giving them tea?" He asked, turning to her with wide eyes.
Mina forced a smile, "Did I tell you how handsome you look today?"
"False flattery will not save you now, Miss Van Hesling," He replied as Lucy and her mother came up the walkway. Lucy, who looked just as uncomfortable as Mina, was being dragged by her mother up the stairs and to the doorway. Other than a few facial features, Lucy hardly looked like her mother at all. The most startling difference was the hair, which was a flaming red to the mother's fading blonde.
"Isn't she lovely, Count?" Lady Westenra pushed her daughter forward. Lucy gave eyes as though to apologize for her mother's nonsense.
"Good to meet you, Miss Westenra," The Count said, kissing her hand. "Now, would you ladies be kind enough to join me for tea?"
"Well, even my mother will have a rough time marrying me off to that man," Lucy said as she sipped her tea. About a half hour had passed, and The Count had excused himself to get more tea from the kitchen. Mina knew the real excuse was to get away from Lady Westenra, who had not stopped talking since stepping in the doorway. Mina couldn't help but giggle at his quiet discomfort. She could read his face like a book.
But his plan was foiled with Lady Westenra had insisted on going with him to make the tea. He most certainly hates me now, Mina had thought when he'd given her a sideways glance on the way to the kitchen. The recent memory made her grin.
"She seems quite intent on it," Mina said. "I think you'll be married within the month."
"Well, he certainly won't agree to it," Lucy said with a lilt in her voice.
Mina shrugged, "He could warm up to it-"
"Mina, are you hearing anything I'm saying?" Lucy said in exasperation. Mina's confused glance was enough for Lucy to sigh aloud. "Mina, darling, he'll never marry me."
"Because he's obviously in love with you, stupid!" Lucy threw her free hand into the air. Mina spit up the little bit of tea that had gotten past her lips. Of course, that was the exact moment that the man in question and Lucy's mother reentered the room. Mina had spilt tea all down the front of her light blue frock.
"Damn," Mina swore, setting down her cup.
"Language, please!" Lady Westenra cried shrilly, though Mina paid little mind. She couldn't think about anything. She stood and brushed off her gown, though large tan stains made themselves known anyway.
The Count set down the tea tray, "I will fetch you some towels, Miss Van Helsing."
"No," Mina said shakenly. "No, I…I will get them." Oh my God, she thought as her legs moved without her thinking. Lucy is insane, of course. Obviously just being ridiculous. The Count is not in love with me, that's stupid. We're not supposed to be in love. I am his doctor! I am…400 hundred years younger than him! Lucy is crazy. It's ridiculous.
Though when Mina got to the kitchen, she quickly realized she had no idea where the towels were at all.
"Here you are," The Count had followed. Mina's thoughts had been so deafening that she hadn't even noticed. He held out a white towel to her. Mina felt her cheeks grow red.
"Thank you," she said, dabbing herself with the towel.
"Are you all right, Miss Van Helsing?"
"I am fine," she replied quickly. "Lucy just told me something…quite shocking." Mina looked at the Count. He certainly didn't look in love with her. Couldn't you tell by the way someone looked at you? There should be hearts in his eyes or something. Yes, he certainly didn't love her, for this was not a look of love. Not a look of distate, she supposed but... Oh, what did love even look like? It was then she noticed she'd been staring at him for far too long.
The Count broke the silence, "I will never forgive you for making me invite them into my house."
Mina grinned, "Hey, Lucy isn't terrible…"
"I wouldn't know, she hasn't had a chance to talk," The Count bantered.
Mina toyed with the towel, "So, will you be marrying into the Westenras anytime soon?"
"If I ever did marry again, I don't think Lucy would be the one, though I'm sure she is a fine girl," The Count said kindly. "Now, let's go rejoin our guests, Miss Van Hesling, lest Lady Westenra thinks we're conspiring against her."
Mina smiled at the jest, as he turned and left her alone. Whatever panic she had felt earlier was replaced by a nice, warm feeling that seemed to stem from her chest and flow all the way to her head and to her toes. Mina had nothing to worry about. Nothing had changed between the two of them. Everything was as it was. He was her friend. Her very dear, and kind friend. No talks of love…
She left the kitchen, rejoining them as Lady Westerna poured herself another cup of tea with obviously no intention of leaving.
"Mina, I heard you had that Harker boy over for dinner last night," Lucy's mother dunked a pastry into her tea. "He's quite the match."
"Jonathan is a good man, though I don't intend to marry him," Mina said, taking her seat next to Lucy.
Lady Westenra tutted, "You'd best be quick Mina, you time is running short."
"I probably won't even fuss with marriage until I'm at least 418," Mina replied with the slightest of glances to The Count. He pursed his lips, trying to hide a small smile.
Lucy's mother sighed, "You're a strange girl, Mina Van Helsing."
Mina looked to the stains on her dress, you don't know the half of it.
Chapter 5: Glamour
Mina recieves dreadful news from her father and tries not to let her feelings affect her position.
The sun through her window made ripples of gold on her yellow quilt as Mina awoke much later than she meant to. Usually an early riser, Mina was not used to being in bed when the sun was pouring in. It was like waking up to an intruder, a face unfamiliar to her room. A quick curse at her lateness slipped into her mind, but she spent little time in being upset over wasted daylight. She had needed the sleep. Mina had been busier than an army nurse over the past few weeks and had slept little more than a few hours every night. Yes, she had needed the sleep, but it didn't make her chores go away.
Her father had grown weaker, Mina could not deny that. The doctors didn't seem too concerned, but Mina could tell something was off with him. By the time he returned from work, he was not at all fit to do the house chores, so Mina found herself with double the work. Not that she would complain. In fact, she had been the one complaining about having nothing to do, so perhaps this was some sort of poetic justice.
It wasn't as though they were completely without help. Though not a wealthy family, the Van Helsings were able to keep a butler, a maid, a driver, and a chef. With Mina helping as much as possible, the house ran smoothly. Plus, her visits with The Count seemed to get longer by the day, and then it was dinner and off to bed. Mina hadn't much time to visit with her father, let alone anyone else.
But a reprieve was on the horizon. The Westenras were taking a trip to London for the season in just a few weeks and were taking Mina along as their guest. An elaborate plan to find Mina and Lucy husbands to be sure, but Mina was certain she wouldn't mind it so much with the idea of the city planted in her mind. And Lady Westenra was convinced Mina was promised to John, so perhaps she wouldn't bother with her as much.
In fact, even Mina's father seemed convinced Mina was promised to John. He was coming to dinner rather frequently, and Mina was not sure if she could sit through another one without committing seppuku at the dinner table. Mina thought her father knew her well enough to see her obvious distaste of Jonathan, but he seemed highly oblivious to the fact.
Thoughts of marriage trailed their way to The Count, who Mina should be visiting very soon. I should get out of bed, but the reality of her warm sheets was far more comforting than the coolness of her bedroom. It had been a few days since tea with the Westenras, but Mina could not forget Lucy's comment. A nonsense, to be sure, but it still made Mina wonder…
All right, that's enough, said Mina as she forced herself out of bed. She knew she'd regret any thoughts of The Count she might have while in the comfort of her quilt. The icy air of her bedroom would be a nice blast of the reality. The Count was her patient and friend. He was also 418 years old and a vampire. A creature of the night who had killed and terrorized people at points in his life. He most certainly feels nothing romantic towards you so you shall feel nothing towards him. Easy.
It only feelings could be opened and closed like the covers of a book…
Journal of Jonathan Harker
I am aware that my writings up to this point have been scattered and confused at the very least. I regret this, and they only seem all the more fuzzy as I look back at them. The incidents I had reported seemed random and trivial to my peers, but I truly know there are others who may believe my findings.
Why have I so recently come to this revelation? It is because I now have evidence that I am not the only one who has noticed the strange phenomenon that have been surrounding our city for several months. I have found journal pages of another student who has written and observed phenomenon similar to the ones I have witnessed. I do not know who wrote these entries, but I found them crinkled and abandoned in the pages of a library book entitled Unlocking the Occult.
I feel I must explain why I was reading such a novel. A true Christian man myself, I have little interest in the occult and their practices. However, I was interested to see if the things I have witnessed could be written off as practices of the occult followers. It was then that fate led me to the journal pages of my unidentified college. Enclosed here are what I found. The entries are short and appear to be written over the course of many days. The right side of the page is torn, with the ends of several entries lost.
'Dog spotted outside window of the literature classroom. I know it to be one of…'
'In the middle of the night, dogs howl from all over the city. An unusual thing, to be sure, but I've seen this all before.'
'Wherever he is, he is awful quiet. No random attacks, as it was in the times before. I suspect coconspirators. If I could find where he dwells, I could…'
There is little more than that written, but it spawned a thousand thoughts in my head. Obviously, this man believes there is a person behind all the strange happenings. It is queer to think so, but the writer claims that this has happened before. I am not sure what to think of this, and have consulted Professor Van Helsing, a known scholar of the occult. He is helpful, but I know him to be man a science. He does not put believe into any of the occult creatures.
Perhaps I will find this writer and he will help me understand what is happening here. I am not sure what is happening here, but I know it is not safe. We must think of the women and children of the city.
Mina was not expecting her father to be at the breakfast table when she descended from her bedroom. For a moment she panicked, believing she had slept much longer than she had originally thought. But the clock on the wall showed it was only a little bit past eleven, so her father most certainly should be at school teaching his lecture.
"Hello, dear," her father tried to smile but erupted into coughs. Everything seemed to make him erupt into coughs recently. Mina was quick to his side, but he got a glass of water before she could get one for him. "I didn't feel fit to go in and teach today."
"That's quite all right, father," Mina said, taking the seat across from him. "You should be resting, father. Has the doctor said anything new?"
He shook his head, coughing into his napkin. It was a violent, fluttery noise that Mina had long since recovered from being repulsed by. He looked into his napkin and pulled a slight face, but tucked it away before Mina could get a look. Whatever it was, he certainly had seen it before.
"Father, I know you're not telling me things," Mina asserted. "I know this isn't just a cold."
"I knew you'd find me out," his voice was hardly more than a whisper.
"You should know better than to think you can hide things from me," Mina said, reaching out for his hand. He squeezed it in that way parent's do before they have to tell you something awful. Mina had last felt that squeeze eleven years ago when her Aunt Helen had to tell her that Mina's parents had been injured in their carriage. She felt it again when her father took her hand a few days after to say her mother's body had not been found.
The squeeze filled Mina with dread for what she had already known: father was very sick. Father was very sick. Mina's eyes filled with tears to spite her.
"Oh, dear, it's not as bad as all that," he said to the tears in her eyes. He pulled a fresh handkerchief from his pocket and gave it to her. "I'm not to drop dead this very instant."
"But you are not to get well this very instant either," Mina said quietly.
Van Helsing sighed, "No one is entirely sure on what it is. It is not contagious, but it is growing very fast." Her father gestured to his lungs. "We have plenty of time to get affairs in order…"
"Oh, don't talk like it's a business transaction!" Mina groaned, her head nearly falling to the table. "You're my father! I don't…" She choked on her words. "What am I to do without you?" Van Helsing pulled away, unclasping her cold hands. The look on his face made it very clear that he'd thought about this.
"Jonathan Harker is a very good man-"
"No," Mina said so gutterally even she was surprised that fire did not spew from her mouth. "Father, no."
"I figured you'd say that," Van Helsing interrupted. "It was just an option. One that would keep you here." He took a deep breath. "Your Aunt Helen has offered to take you in as well."
Mina felt this strange locking in her chest like her corset had been pulled too tight. It wasn't that she didn't wish to live with Aunt Helen, but nearly the thought that her father had planned everything so thoroughly. Had he told John on his illness? Had he told everyone but her? Her father had made so many plans for her and hadn't even consulted her on them. Now she was to lose her father and her whole life and be traded around like a piece of furniture.
"I know this is a lot to take in so early in the morning…"
"And who will take care of The Count?" Mina thought the very words as she said them.
Her father chuckled, "I'm sure he can manage without you, Mina."
"I am his doctor!"
"Mina, you're a means to keep him from killing people. You bring him blood."
"I take samples!" Mina protested. "I help him learn culture, I journal, and help to grow out knowledge-"
"Mina, I haven't run tests on those samples in weeks. The Count will very well be fine without your doctoring."
Mina wanted to cry but fought the feeling with all her might. She would not make herself so weak as to cry now. Make herself the swooning, daft, ingenue that this story wanted her to be. She was a doctor, wasn't she? A kind of, at least. She felt her ignorance like a knife to her chest. "A means to keep him from killing people." Of course. It was not an inncorect assumption. But was she not... Mina felt the idiot. Dancing with him and teaching him culture. Stupid things. A little pet. Just some sort of distraction. Nothing important at all. Stupid, stupid...
Her father said tiredly. "Whenever I pass, this house goes to your cousin, Jack. I wish that wasn't the way of the law, but it is, dear. So you must move to Aunt Helen's in the south, or you must marry-"
"I won't marry," Mina protested. Why protest it anyway? Mina would have to be married. How could she be so foolish as to fancy herself a doctor?
Her father sighed, "Then, whenever I pass, you'll have to bid adieu to Count Dracula."
The Count hadn't any idea who had put Mina into such a terrible state of being, but he quickly decided he would kill whomever had caused her pain. He realized very soon that that was an inappropriate thought to have, but it had entered his mind regardless. He hadn't ever seen Mina in such a state. She arrived later than her usual time, and hardly said a word before darting to his library and prepping her syringe. Her fingers slipped numerous times as she tried with shaking hands to prepare the needle. Her light brows were pushed together, and appeared to be stuck that way. The usual light he felt around her presence was dimmed by some great darkness. Yes, something or someone had upset her and he had a mind to find out who.
"Are you well, Miss Van Helsing?" He asked from his usual arm chair. Mina did not even bother to look up, her light eyes intent on the silver metal of the syringe that looked so much larger than she.
"I am fine," Mina's voice was choppy and coarse. He did not pretend to know her terribly well, but something awful must have upset her for her to be this way. Mina was always one to find light and joy in things. Always smiling in such a beautiful way...
It's probably her father's illness, you blasted idiot.
"How is your father, Miss Van Helsing?"
Mina tossed down the syringe with a loud clank. The noise rung into the silence, echoing like the chime of a warning bell. That was a rude question, he realized. He always forgot what was and what was not considered rude with the British people. A quiet and reserved people with rules for nearly everything. It had been too pressing to ask about her father, he realized. He had been stupid to pretend he and Mina close enough to talk about such things. But he could not deny the strange pull he felt towards her. It does not mean she feels anything towards you, he told himself. Do not presume to know her.
"Why, did he tell you his plans for me too?" Mina's voice sounded from the back of her throat. "Did he tell everyone about his plans for me, but me?"
"Miss Van Helsing, what are you…" He wanted to move towards her. He wanted to place a hand upon her shoulder. Some sort of physical connection with her. Alexander hadn't the faintest idea what she was talking about, but as she placed her head into her hands, he knew he wanted to embrace and comfort her. Which, of course, was all types of a terrible idea. It asking a question had been to personal, setting a hand upon her would be strikingly intimate.
After a moment of listening to her muffled sobs, feeling like an idiot for not going to her, Mina raised her head, her cheeks shining with the sheen of tears.
"Father has been much more ill than he told me. They aren't sure what he has, but it is fatal," Mina's voice cracked at the word. Go to her, you stupid man.
I cannot do that. It would be improper. And what if I moved to close to her and my instincts aroused…I cannot…
Yet what sort of man could resist a woman in tears?
Before he could move, Mina stood abruptly, straightening her skirts with a loud sigh.
"My house goes to my cousin Jack whenever father passes, so father had been scheming to marry me to Jonathan Harker," Mina shook her head. Something inside of him flamed at the notion of her marriage. "Which, obviously, I will not do, so I have to go live with my Aunt Helen in the south. And leave behind…everything…and everyone…" Mina sniffed as if to cry again, but shook her head to spite it. The Count, who'd risen when she had, made a few steps closer to her.
"I don't know when this will be," she continued in an almost scholarly like manner. "Whenever it is, I'm sure you can find a real doctor to take care of you. Or have none at all. My father made it very clear to me that I serve very little a purpose to you."
"Miss Van Helsing, that is not true!" He said, finally succeeding in his interruption. He stood, feeling all too close to her. "You have no idea how important you are to me."
It was again too pressing of a thing to say. If Mina were in her right mind, she would have berated his words. But Mina was not in her right mind.
"I'm just a pet, aren't I?" Mina said bleakly. "I've been wondering that ever since Lucy said…never mind what Lucy said. But I'm not a real doctor, am I? You don't really need someone to teach you culture and bring you bottles of blood. You don't need that. I'm just the strange little human who comes to amuse you every day."
"Miss Van Helsing, you know I do not-"
The tears were now coming down her face, but Mina hardly seemed to notice them at all now. He wanted to hold her. He needed to hold her, but to do so would not help now. It would only make her feel patronized. Had he truly been so condescending over these last weeks? He did not believe he had been. He knew this tirade to be an outpouring of built of things he hadn't been a part of, but he felt responsible nonetheless. He could not refute her. He did not need a doctor. Yes, he had people help him as the Van Helsings had in years before, but he did not need them. Yet, he did not like the man he was when he did not have people about him. The vampire took over. The man would be gone. So yes, the vampire did not need Mina, but the man did. If she left… If he had not contact with anyone… Alexander shuddered to think of the creature he'd inevitably resort to.
In these last few weeks, he himself had noticed the bottles of blood loosing their attraction. His thoughts and feelings had become entirely focused on another means of recieving blood.
Mina softened, "I know… I… I'm so sorry." She dried her eyes once more. "It's not your fault, I shouldn't blame you. I'm just tired of being treated like a child." Mina scoffed, "That must sound ridiculous to you."
"Not at all, Miss Van Helsing," he said trying to make his voice as warm as possible.
She patted her skirts, "I am so very sorry." Mina spoke as though she had commited a crime. Her face, whiter than usual, looked at him with large eyes. "That was terribly rude of me. I am so very sorry." She breathed, "I guess I'll take the sample anyway. Even if father doesn't do anything with them. Posterity...or...whatever..."
Mina resigned herself to sitting back down to the table. Her brow was pushed forward making a crinkle in her forehead. She hunted for the syringe, finding it on the floor. Like some sort of automaton, Mina moved in very precise movements. She turned and grabbed her bottle of iodine. She cleaned the needle methodically. It was an oddly disturbing thing to watch. He'd never seen her so empty. So devoid of life. Was she really so embarressed for crying in front of me? Mina need not be frightened of him. Mina need not feel uncomfortable. Were they not friends? Very good friends...
On an impulse, he reached for her hand, stopping the rapid movement. He knew he should not be touching her hands like this.
Her focus kept forward, but he saw her shoulders relax. Breathe, Mina, he tried to will her as though they were connected. As though they were familiars... Alexander shook away the thought.
"You should rest, Miss Van Helsing," he said quietly. As though controlled by another, his hand moved to rest on the back of her neck by her shoulder blade. You should not be touching her like this, reprimanded a voice in his head. It was hardly more than a whisper. He marveled at the smallness of her. She was so little. Not just in that she was thin, in that her bones felt like those of a bird. They were lithe and breakable. He could break them so easily. If he pressed into her neck to hard. If he were to sink his fangs into it… He almost pulled away then, but she ever so slightly rested her head against his arm. Don't be afraid of me.
"I can prepare a carriage to take you home," his voice lulled, and he felt his consciousness whisking away. His thumb rubbed where the hairs at the back of her neck pulled up into the bun. They were so soft and small like the rest of her. Smooth golden curls that would cascade so lovely. "Or I can have a room here readied for you." A forward thing to say. A thing he should not be saying.
Then it happened. Glamour was a very curious power. Over time, he had learned to control it consciously. It was easy to inflict upon a victim. He could turn it on as easily as lighting a candle. But sometimes it happened of its own accord, as it had when he had been a changeling. It was a simple reaction to feelings of attraction. He had not caused this influx of glamour, Mina had. This wanting of seduction that took a hold of him so suddenly. It was a power to glamour someone, but a craving as well. An implanting of his own feelings into a victim's mind... Into Mina's mind...
For now, for now he wanted her. Wanted her so desperately he feared he may soon act upon it. Wanted her large blue eyes to gaze up at him as he kissed her and held her. Wanted to tear her from her things and take her to his bed and do things that she'd certainly never done before. Logical and intelligent as Mina was, there were things she did not know that he would teach her. Upon his bed he'd have her and press her body into his own. She'd not look so afraid of him but wonderous and loving as she held him in her arms. Arms that would wrap around him and fingers that would dig into his back as he entered her. Her neck so near to his lips, he'd set his fangs into her as they made love and make them one in a way only his kind was capable of. For he wanted Mina. He wanted her more than anything in the entire world and he intended to have her.
The world flooded with light as Alexander was pulled back into the world of reality. Mina gasped, pulling away from his hand. Nothing had happened. They were sitting as they had been, his hand floating in the space where her neck had been. He dropped it, a great feeling of shame overtaking him. That had been extremely out of line. He should've known to control himself, not inflict glamour upon this young girl like some terrible lecher. He was human, was he not? Not just some creature of death and seduction. Using that sort of glamour on her was wrong. She saw that. At least I did not make her act it out, he shuddered to think of it. Easily, he could've done that to her.
But she was Mina. Good, smart, full of light Mina. She was not someone he should use his power on, ever. He wasn't going to lie to himself and say he was not attracted to her. He was. Very much so. But he was not attracted to her merely physically. It was her soul that he craved, her very being. And if by any stretch of the imagination they were to become intimate, he'd want it to be of her own accord. He'd never dream of forcing her. Then why did you let the glamour take control? Why did you show her that? You are the vampire king. If want her, you can take her. Just as you used to do. Be what you are made to be.
You know she wants it as well. Glamour is far more potent when the victim craves it as well.
"You're right," Mina said quietly. His head turned towards her. Her face was so very flushed. "About my resting, I mean. I…I should go home."
"I'll prepare a carriage straight away, Miss Van Helsing," Alexander turned and walked with great pace towards the door.
He breathed fresh air. He tried to clear his mind. But all he kept thinking of was that ghastly vision, and how much he wished it would come to pass. And how much that wishing disgusted him.
That little voice inside of his head. That little voice urging him.
You are the vampire king. If you want her, take her.
Chapter 6: London
Jonathan researches the mysterious things happening in Whitby while Mina accompanies Lucy to London for the beginning of the season.
The university library was a dark and quiet place in the late hours of the evening. It was Jonathan's favorite time to go there. There wasn't the usual bustle of students anxiously searching for their texts. There was not crowd of boys who had little intention of studying at all. Jonathan hated the hoi polio who would come in during class hours. They did not understand that the library was a sacred place. It was not a place to meet with one's mate and chat. It was a place of research and learning. It was a place where the stories and texts of great men could be read and used for generations.
Night was the time to be in the library, especially with the text he aimed to read. It's not that he was ashamed of his research, he just knew his colleagues would not understand him. They had not seen what he had seen. Except for the one. The writings that seemingly had been left for him had been haunting him for weeks. No more word of the fellow had shown, but Jonathan had an eerie feeling he had not seen the last of him.
The top floor of the library was empty when Jonathan arrived, as it always was when he came to research. The familiar smell of preserved old paper wafted through the air as he returned to his usual corner of the library. It was the section of occult books and findings. A small portion of the library it was, and tucked out of sight for anyone who was not exclusively looking for it. Jonathan put its existence down to the insistence of Professor Van Helsing. He was quite the expert in the field. The old man viewed the occult as something to be studied and learned from, but never something to put stock into. Jonathan had felt quite the same up until recently.
The black hound still went without logical explanation. It seemed to follow him everywhere, always looming behind at a distance. Odd weather patterns had begun as well, something many people had noticed too, but just put down to the fickle London weather. There was also the fact that the blood for the university hospital always came in a bit under quota. Along with that was the sudden and acute sickness of Professor Van Helsing. And the fact that all of this began when the Van Helsings started to associate with this elusive Count Dracula.
Jonathan had been researching the man. There was surprising little to learn about him. He appeared to just be a reclusive nobleman from Eastern Europe. There was nothing written of a wife of children, or any sort of family for that matter. That's not immediately suspicious. Many nobility do not disclose any facts of personal life for reasons of reputation. But it felt too odd to him. He did not like that Mina spent so much time with him.
Without any thought of it, Jonathan began taking books from the shelves, hoping maybe this time he'd find information of true value.
That was when someone grabbed his shoulder.
"Maybe if I don't move my mother won't see me," Lucy said after melting onto her bed of white linen. Everything in this house appeared to be white. Well, at least the little of it Mina had seen while they walked in. She's been so distracted by the grandness of London that she'd hardly noticed when they finally reached the Westenra's home. Now, Mina had gone into London before with them, but only recently had the Westenras purchased their right outside the city. It was beautiful, the little she saw, and she could not wait to explore it and the rest of the city. Lucy insisted on going to their rooms first before exploring the home. Following them immediately into the room was a line of maids, who set down Lucy and Mina's luggage and quickly excused themselves from the room. Lucy had packed three bags to Mina's one, which did not surprise her at all. Lucy couldn't travel without bringing a wide assortment of clothing. All Mina had brought was clothes, some books, and a silver stake her father had insisted she bring with her. Mina joked that she was not intending to go vampire hunting on this trip to which he had but smiled wryly.
Her father was not getting any better. Mina had told him that she need not go to London with the Westenras. Mina so feared... Mina so feared her father would pass while she was gone. Nonsense, I'll be fine, my dear. You go with Lucy and have a grand time. And don't let Lady Westenra have you married.
"I don't think that will work, Lucy." Mina joked with a smile. She sat on the bed, realizing just how weary she had grown from travel. 'Weary from travel' was always a strange phrase to her. It wasn't as though they had walked themselves to the shore. They had sat in a carriage. Perhaps it was all the bouncing and jumbling about that tired her. She would be happy to sleep soon. The bed itself proved very comfortable as Mina reclined next to her friend. Mina has shared many a bed with Lucy over the years on various trips and sleepovers. It would be no different now, especially with the marvelous size of this one. God, they could fit four of them in it and still have room.
Lucy rolled to her side, "I know she's tired as well, so I doubt she'll make us go anywhere." Lucy sat up, unlacing her fine white boots. "Which is wonderful, because I don't think I could stand having to small talk at some horrid dinner party." One boot was strew across the room, then the other, then Lucy fell back again with a loud sigh.
"I don't think I can move from this bed," Mina yawned, folding her hands on her stomach. "It's far too comfortable."
"Don't fall asleep yet!" Lucy nudged her. "I need to talk. I've been dying to talk to you all day, but couldn't say anything with mother in the carriage with us!"
Mina rolled towards her, "What did you want to talk about?"
Lucy grinned devilishly, "How's that Count of yours?"
Mina could feel the blood rush to her cheeks so quickly it was a miracle she did not go lightheaded.
Lucy took that as a good sign, "Oh, that well is he?"
"No, you've never had a suitor at all and you are going to tell me about him, Miss Wilhelmina Van Helsing."
She tossed, "He's not my suitor-"
"Tell me, did he take you in his arms?" Lucy stood up with the gestures of a great opera star. "Was it great and romantic like in those books you read? Did he grab you and say-" Lucy yanked her friend up from the bed in a dramatic interpretation of her fancy. Mina tried to groan but couldn't restrain a small laugh, " 'My Mina. You are so...ravishing.' "
"That is a truly abismal Romanina accent you are feigning."
Lucy put her hand over her friend's mouth. She contiued, "Too over come with emotion, you did not speak as he held you. 'My Mina,' he said, 'I love you. You're so intelligent and beautiful, even if you dress in colours far too pale for your skin and never do anything nice with your hair.'" Mina groaned. " 'I love you. Will you marry me and live in my spooky manor home and read me Shakespeare every night?' " Lucy let go, falsely swooning back onto the bed again. " 'Oh, yes.' You said. 'Yes, please. I will live in your vaguely creepy manor home and read you Shakespeare. And when we feel really saucy, maybe we'll read Shelley!'"
Lucy may be eighteen, but she acted far more like she were ten.
Mina sighed, "You are insane. I'll tell him to lock you up in Carfax Aslyum. He's the proprietor. He can certainly do that."
But Lucy was having too much fun in her jest now to stop it. One of Mina's friends flaws were her jests. Always going on to long and saying far too much. Poking far too much. Mina's stomach was turning even though she did not want it too. The Count was something Mina had trained herself to not think of for the past week. Mina had not even seen him since the day that… God, she couldn't even think about that strange vision. It made her feel queasy. Well, it made her feel excited as well, but that only lent to thoughts she did not want to think of so she found herself queasy all over again. For it was highly out of line for him to show her whatever that was. She hardly knew him. He hardly knew her. For him to think of her in such a way was very unprofessional and very invasive and it was uncalled for that he have such strong feelings about her when he hardly knew her at all. Was it simply because she was human? Was it simply because she was a woman? Mina could not imagine any reason why he would think about her in such a way. She was always very professional. She was his doctor.
You were never a doctor, remember, thought a little bitter voice in her brain. Just a little amusement. A means to keep him from killing people.
And besides...besides, no one thought of Mina that way. No wife looked at Mina and felt threatened. She was not arousing. She was not sensual. Mina was tall and thin and far too pale. Pretty, yes, but not arousing. She was not a thing of lust nor wanting. To see herself thought of in such a way was a foreign to her as the strange feelings it had sparked in her stomach. Feelings and ideas that perhaps what she felt when she danced with him was not mere exhilaration, but something more. That feeling she felt when she got him to smile was not just pride, but a sin even worse.
"Mina, darling, what's the matter?"
Mina realized her thoughts had been playing out upon her face the entire time. Small tears had formed at the lining of her eyes without even her knowledge of it.
Lucy sat, taking her friend's hand. "I was just teasing, darling, I'm so sorry. I did not meant to upset you."
"I'm not upset," Mina responded on instinct, though even she knew she could not sell the lie. She sat up, her hand rubbing away the cool water from her face. "He is fine, I assume. I haven't visited him in a week. I…" Mina looked to Lucy, wondering if she was even listening. Lucy looked on, eyes intent upon her friend. "I worry about what you said those weeks ago. I…I don't want him to fall in love with me, Lucy. I wanted to be a doctor." She sighed, "I know that sounds ridiculous." Mina breathed, the breath feeling like a brick being lifted from her ribs. "I wanted him to think I was smart. A person. Not...not a thing to be had."
Lucy sat on this, her eyes searching for words inside her head. Mina could not blame her for any confusion. In truth, Mina was even sure how eloquent her words had been. They probably had made no sense at all, but she had felt the need to say them.
"Mina," Lucy began, "when I said he was in love with you all those weeks ago, I didn't mean to upset you. But I think you must note that I said he was in love with you, not that he wanted to court you." Her pink lips spread into a sweet smile and she reached from Mina's hand. "I could just see in the way he looked at you that he thought you were simply the most amazing thing in the world. It wasn't like how John looks at you—well, how John looks at every woman, like he's eyeing the best fruit at the market. The Count looked at you with…admiration, dear. That's all I meant by that."
Lucy pursed her lips in a smirk, "Of course it takes me to point this out to you, dear Mina, for you are completely blind when it comes to the male species."
"I am not!" Mina instantly said in her defense as Lucy erupted into giggles. "I am perfectly capable of-"
"Drawing their blood and removing their oragans," Lucy jeered with a brush of her friend's shoudler. "Now then, there's nothing to be sour over, dear. For if I had a man look at me half as dearly as The Count looks at you, my mother would have me married to him in a fortnight."
Mina smiled, the comforting words wrapping about her like a quilt. Though the quilt was awful tight, and still felt ready to suffocate her at any moment. Lucy had helped, and Mina knew she had meant what she said. But somehow the comfort only lent itself to more thoughts. More questions. More feelings she didn't even know she had. But then what was that vision. If he looked on me with such admiration, what was that vision he showed me? What was that wanting and touching and needing and pressing?
She could feel the blood rushing to her face again. Mina probably knew more about sex than most unmarried women thanks to her father's extensive library but the thought of actually doing it herself… That was a subject too taboo for even her. She knew about it in theory, but the people doing the act in her theoretically scenario certainly never included her. Mina thought about that strange vision again. It seemed that all she thought about now was that strange vision. She'd dreamt about it too, waking up with the most wonderfully terrible feelings in her chest. It was so strange to think upon erotic things.
The Count had thought about me that way. It made Mina's stomach turn, but not necessarily in a bad way. Oh grow up, Mina, I'm sure other people aren't this uncomfortable about sex. Stop acting like a child.
But he wants me. I've never been wanted in such a way. Or if I have, I've certainly never thought about it.
You're going to give yourself an aneurism with all this internal arguing.
"Let's go find some dinner, shall we?" Mina said abruptly. "I've got to get out of this room."
Mina had stayed up a bit later than her friend. Mina had brought along a book titled Horrors of the Nosferatu to read at night. It was rather a small book for being nonfictional, but it was compelling nonetheless. She figured it would be best to read it while Lucy slept. Less questions that way. Mina had hardly read two pages of the book that night. Her book about vampires only made her think more of Count Dracula. Mina had brought the book for the express purpose of it turning her off from the Count. It recounted, in grisly detail. the terrors that vampires were capable of. It talked of bloody murders and massacres in full color, but all Mina kept thinking of was how kind the Count was to her. All she was thinking of was that damned vision she'd seen.
Giving up on her reading, Mina gave herself over to her heavy eyelids and lay down next to Lucy. Mina blew out her candle, leaving the bright moonlight to light the room. Their room in the back of the house had doors out to a small thicket of woods that would soon be taken down for more housing. The animal's sounds and wind of the trees soothed her off to sleep. The white walls seemed to glow in the shimmer of it. Mina would've marveled at its beauty longer had she not been so tired. She had not realized just how tired she was. It seemed only moments after her eyes shut that she drifted away...
It seemed only seconds that she was awoken again by a violent burst of cool air. She pulled at the quilt, trying to fight the chill but it pervade with the force of a strong wind. Perhaps it is a strong wind... Mina pulled herself from her tired stupid and sat up. Immediately, she saw their French doors open, the white curtains billowing wildly. What on earth... She cursed, opening her slowly closing eyes. Then she looked to the bed. Lucy was gone. Mina needed no more help waking up after that realization.
"What the hell is she doing?" Mina gasped, standing quickly, tucking her arms for the cold. She grabbed her robe, thought it was a thin cotton thing at most. It didn't matter now. She had to find Lucy.
Mina grabbed the stake her father had left her too.
Maybe it was just her reading, but she had the oddest feeling that she may need it.
Chapter 7: "He is Calling!"
Jonathan has a run in with Renfield. Mina chases Lucy into the forest after she begins to sleep walk, and has a run in with a familiar face.
The man was scraggly, unshaven, and taller than Jonathan by at least two heads. He smelt like he had spent several nights outdoors, and Jonathan had a mind to believe it. His mind processed and analyzed very quickly, wondering if he was capable of subduing a man of such height. Yet as he tensed himself for danger, he saw a familiar face underneath the choppy facial scruff.
"Renfield!" Jonathan announced, hardly recognizing his fellow student at all. Renfield smiled slightly, no more than a slight curve of the lip. Jonathan suddenly wondered if Renfield would talk at all, or if something was off about the man. Indeed, something was not right with the man, but whether or not he could speak, John could not say.
"So it is you," Renfield's voice seemed half filled with air. He placed a calloused hand on John's shoulder, certainly ruining his very good suit, and smiled widely. "I thought it would be you."
John felt his hard set lip quiver the slightest bit. "What are you talking about?"
Renfield nodded to the books Jonathan was standing in front of, and John racked his brain for some sort of explanation. Not that he was entirely ashamed of what he was studying. He could very easily blame it on Dr. Van Helsing. Yes, just looking up things for his class. But it was not his reputation he was worried about with Renfield. Renfield was just a little bit…off. He was always brilliant, but always so odd. The teachers treated him as though he were the second coming of Christ himself. He had been the golden boy of the school, but seemingly disappeared this last year. He took fewer classes, and hardly showed up to the ones he had. He went from dressing pristinely to appearing anything but. There was also his odd quirk of stalking about the campus at night.
"Oh, that," John could hear his voice raised several notes in pitch. He dropped it an octave. "Just a hobby of mine." Too low, you idiot.
Renfield raised his brow, "You study the Occult for fun?"
"What? No!" Jonathan felt the heat rising to his cheeks like steam from an oven. He did not like that no one else was in the library now. He did not like how he was alone with this madman on the second floor. He did not like his back against the bookshelf, with absolutely nothing to defend himself with save the volumes on the wall. "I find interest in it, but I don't put stock in it. A hobby, is all."
"A hobby?" Renfield played with the words coolly. He took a step back, "So it was you who stole my notes, wasn't it?"
"Those were yours?" Jonathan blurted out before he even realized what he admitted to.
Renfield smirked, "They were indeed." He paced back a bit, moving to a round reading table. A dying gas lamp upon the surface cast shadows on Renfield's unevenly shaved face. "See, I've found a hobby for the Occult to. But I've learned on my own that it is definitely something to put stock into."
Jonathan thought of his options. The obvious one was to grab his leather bag and run to the stairs. He was certain he could accomplish it. The bag was not very heavy and the run was not far. He would be off before Renfield noticed what he was doing. He supposed he could yell as well. People are always less inclined to run after you if you yell while doing it. Attacking Renfield was an option, but Jonathan saw no reason for physical violence. Besides, John was small and fast, but he was certain Renfield would overpower him in a fight.
John could stay. He could ask Renfield the question he'd obviously been wanting to be asked and listen to his answer. He could have all his questions answered, and talk to someone who probably would believe his findings. There was the one drawback that Renfield was quite possibly insane. Any explanation he offered could be nothing more than the poppycock of a madman. His theories and ideas could just be a strand of syphilis.
I am a pursuer of knowledge, John told himself. This man might be mad, but he may just be the only person who could help me. Besides, I can always run if things go awry.
John decided to speak. "What have you seen?" Renfield smiled like a child handed a candy.
"There's been a strangeness around here, Mr. Harker. I know you've seen it too. You've seen things that don't make sense. Things that you think no one else would believe." Renfield sighed sentimentally as he pulled out a chair and sat upon it backwards. He truly is mad. "It's exactly how I felt until I met someone who showed me what was happening. My sister and I, we lived in a land terrorized by monsters until we were rescued. I know all the signs and manifestations of a vampire presence-"
"Vampire presence?" John stammered. Of course, he had thought of it before, but he had dismissed it instantly. Vampires did not exist.
Renfield nodded, "We've a vampire in our midst, Mr. Harker. A strong, ancient one at that. Perhaps the oldest one himself. We have seen very few of his kind before."
"Er…" John could not even manage a sentence. This was surely nonsense. The ramblings of a lunatic. Perhaps Renfield was drunk. He looked like the type to drink. Maybe he'd sipped upon the green fairy and was having some wild hallucinations.
And yet… He had said 'we'. That implies there are others out there. Others who think as he does.
"Who is this vampire?" John asked quietly.
Renfield grinned, "Why, Count Dracula, of course!"
Lucy had not gone very far, thankfully, but the fact that she was outside at all was still alarming. Mina had shared a bed with Lucy many a time, so Mina knew her friend was not one to sleep walk. Certainly not one to sleep dance either, which appeared to be what Lucy was doing now. It was rather eerily, watching her waltz to some unheard music in the chilly night air. Chilly was to put it mildly. Her light nightgown and gossamer robe did little to keep Mina warm. She could not imagine Lucy to be any warmer, but her friend seemed completely unbothered by it now. She seemed completely unbothered by anything.
"Lucy, darling, you must come back inside!" Mina said when she reached her stumbling friend.
Lucy looked at her, her green eyes glossed over with the tired fixation of sleep. It sent a crawling down Mina's spine to look at her. Something was amiss. Something had possessed Lucy, surely. Mina didn't really believe in demons, but this did not look earthly at all. Mina clung tightly to her friend arms, trying to guide her away from the thicket of trees she was walking towards.
"He's calling, Mina," Lucy said in a whisper of her voice. Mina had never felt so frightened in her life. She would not let it strangle her.
"Who's calling, Lucy?" Mina asked, dragging her back a few paces.
"Him," Lucy's voice was filled with longing as she stared at the trees. It was more than a thicket, truly. It was a small forest, impossible to see inside in the darkness of night. Him…what on Earth could that mean? As Mina stared longer at the trees, she began to feel some strange pull inside herself. Perhaps they should go towards the trees. They looked so lovely in the moonlight-
Snap out of it, Van Helsing!
"He is calling! Can you not hear him, Mina? He's so...wonderful..."
"Well, whoever he is, I'm sure he can wait till morning!" Mina pulled Lucy back, and the red headed girl began to thrash violently. Mina feared for a moment that Lucy was having some sort of fit, but she stopped it once she'd loosed herself from Mina's grip. Lucy took off like a banshee from Hell, leaving Mina little choice but to sprint after her. Thoughts of childhood racing games came into her mind. They'd have daily speed competitions in Lucy's home when they were young, until they broke an old family vase and were forbidden to race inside anymore. But Mina remembered something about those races: she was always the fastest.
Mina grabbed Lucy forcefully, "Time for bed, Lucy!"
"No!" Lucy screamed, thrashing again. But Mina would not let go this time. "No, Mina, please! I must go! You must go! He is Calling! He is Calling!
Lucy kept yelling protestations as Mina forced all her might into her arms. The fit subsided the farther they moved from the trees, and some Lucy did not protest at all, but hung tiredly from Mina's arms. They slid back in through the open door to their bedroom, and Mina placed the now asleep Lucy back into her spot on the bed. The sudden burst of energy had left Mina more spent than she had thought, and she found herself collapsing for a moment as well.
But sleep would not be an option, of that Mina was sure. Her mind was too full and frightened to be put to rest so easily. Him… Only one 'him' was coming into Mina's mind, but she was not sure what he would have wanted with Lucy. Perhaps he did not come for Lucy, perhaps he had come for you. The thought sent a spike of ice into Mina's chest, which she was not sure was good or not. He'd come for me. Why did he come for me?
Mina sat up, her eyes turning to the door again. It was certainly foolish to go back out. It was extremely foolish when she wasn't even sure if her theory was correct. It could be any number of things out in that forest. There was no guarantee it was her Count. Mina felt the cold silver stake in her pocket. I'll go out and see. It will take but a moment. I have my stake if it isn't him. Besides, I'm his doctor. I should go check up on him.
So with her had upon her weapon, Mina set back out into the cold night.
Jonathan sat as Renfield explained everything. Well, as Renfield explained things as he knew them. It appeared Renfield was a part of some group that made it their mission to find dark, supernatural creatures and vanquish them. Renfield would not disclose the numbers of the group, or even names of other members. Something about a sworn fraternity. John could not think of any fraternal oaths that mentioned vampire hunting, but he supposed that was neither here nor there.
This group had been tracking Count Dracula for quite some time. He was certainly evil, from what Renfield had spoke of him. During his years, The Count had slaughtered hundreds and been responsible for countless disappearances. He'd led a reign of terror in Transylvania that had lasted nearly three hundred years. He'd sired vampires, some of which the hunters had already eradicated. Many of these fledglings had seemed accidental, but there were a large number of powerful ones he seemed to have trained himself. And they were now flocking to Count Dracula for some reason.
"But Dr. Van Helsing…" John interrupted Renfield's story of vanquishing of one Dracula's children. "He's been helping The Count."
Renfield sighed, "Van Helsing is an old fool who believes even dark creatures can be brought to the light. Believe me, The Count is not the first one he's tried to 'convert'."
"B-but…" Jonathan stammered nervously. "Mina, his daughter, is…is she in danger?"
"I was getting to her," Renfield muttered, "before you interrupted, but we'll skip to her now." He folded his hands on the table, the tips of his fingers made a mountain peak, "The leader of our group had a keen interest in keeping Miss Van Helsing safe. In keeping Miss Van Helsing far, far away from Count Dracula."
John blinked, "Why? Woes he know her?"
"Yes, she knows her quite well."
"Count Dracula!" Mina breathed a quiet shriek when she saw him. Her free hand covered her heaving breast, as she smiled a grin of relief. So it was him out here as she had thought. Not some other creature of the night come to terrorize them. Her hand slacked on the silver stake as she eased it into the pocket of her robe.
The Count did not look well at all. He was gaunt in the face which had an eerie shade of grey about it. His eyes were the most vibrant part of him, a flaming red to the usual deep Crimson. He seemed a man ragged by the wild and hunger. Of course she'd noticed the decline in his health the last time she'd seen him. He was not drinking the blood she brought, nor the blood that was being delivered, she gathered.
"You shouldn't be gallivanting about the woods at this hour, Miss Van Helsing," he said with great concern on his brow. Mina was happy to see emotion. It made him human once more. Except for his face. The strange face of a vampiric hunter. In this moonlight, he looked most inhuman.
"I thought it would be you out here," Mina explained, tightening her robe. It had grown colder in the stillness. She couldn't help but notice his eyes trail to her waist for but a moment. She felt the need to cover herself and the want to expose herself all at the same time.
"And if it was not?" Mina pulled the stake from her pocket and he grinned wearily. "I should've known your father wouldn't have left you unprepared."
Mina stacked the stake away. "So it was you then, using compulsion upon Lucy?" The Count sighed, shutting his heavy eyelids and slacking down a bit. Mina thought she could knock him over with a single touch he seemed so very weary. "Why? Why are you here?"
"You said your doctoring did nothing," He said in a voice hardly more than a whisper. "You were wrong. I...I had forgotten what it was like to hunt. I had forgotten what it was like to disconnect from my human self. To kill another person..." He looked at her, "It had been so easy before. Now...the thought repulses me. But the hunger stays, Miss Van Helsing. And animals can hardly fill it."
Mina took a deep breath, and for the first time noticed she was scared in his presence. That time with the vision had been shocking, but not fearful. This was...frightening. Weeks and months she had spent with The Count at Carfax, but this man was different. He was not the human man she had been friends with, this was a new creature. An animalistic, intense, and powerful creature she knew could overpower her easily despite his weary apperance. Mina had been foolish to think she could take down a vampire with just a silver stake. He was so much larger than she was. He was a mountain to her lowly tree. He could crush her with a single avalanche and all she could do was bend and break.
Yet she would not run. For a moment, she wondered if he was using glamour on her right now. Though frightened, Mina felt drawn to him in some way she couldn't explain. But it wasn't glamour. She had seen glamour. She had felt it herself before. Glamour was an external force, and Mina knew this longing was coming from no one but her. It was alluring to see The Count in this state. Nor formalities or manners. It was...intriguing.
"So," Mina's voice shook, "you did not mean to use glamour on Lucy? Why are you here? Why did you come to London? To hunt? To feed? There should be plenty of bottles of blood for you at your home."
She was rambling now. A nervous habit. A comfort, really. Something to make this seem normal and not so...bizarre. So very different. It had been so easy to speak with him before but now words felt like saw dust in her mouth. Why was he looking at her so? Why was he not feeding himself? The gaze made her think of that vision. It did not repulse her so much anymore.
"I was not looking for Lucy," The Count said, his red eyes locked intensely with her own. Mina's legs felt bound to the ground, unable to move even if she wanted. Which she did not. He moved closer, slowly like a wolf and she a deer. No, not a deer, something much smaller. A rabbit, perhaps. He moved so gradually that she had not even noticed how close he had come to her. And he was so tall. And so very strong. It made her heart rate double.
"Why...why..." Mina found the words stopping at her lips. They'd grown numb. But she must speak. "Why were you looking for me? Alexander. Why did you follow me here?" She spoke his first name for formalities felt ridiculous now. Mina remembered the vision. How he wanted her. How Lucy had said that he was in love with her. How he wanted her. Wanted her. Mina had never felt wanted before. Not in this way.
He was quite close now. Close as if to dance with her. Mina thought of their dances around the ballroom at Carfax. Had she felt anything then? Did she know then how she felt about him? Honestly, it had crept upon her so slowly than Mina did not notice it until this moment, but she knew it had been there a very long time. The vision in the glamour had once frightened her for a reason she had not known. It was a reason she could not explain by logic or science. It had frightened her because she enjoyed it. It had frightened her because she wanted it to come true.
Mina was in love with Count Dracula, and loving him terrified her. Right now...right now she wanted him terribly. So, so terribly.
She was shaking. Not for fear of him or the cold of the wind. She was shaking for the closeness of him. Mina was shaking for the flutter of her heart inside her chest. The Count placed his hand of her waist and Mina could hear the sound of her shuttering breath. This nightgown was too sheer. What was she thinking wearing such a thing outside? She could feel the heat from his palms pressed against her skin. It was almost like she was naked. She wished she were naked.
Mina had never been kissed before. Mina had never stood this close to a man before. Mina knew it was very bad to be out alone at this hour with a man in the middle of the forest, but she did not care. Mina did not care at all.
In one quick movement, he pulled her forward so that their bodies were touching each other. Normal Mina would be aghast at the impropriety of this. Normal Count Dracula wouldn't have dared to touch her in such a way. But they were not normal. Neither of them were normal now. The Count placed his other hand to the side of her face, stroking her pale cheek slowly.
"My Mina..." His voice was barely more than a low whisper as he craned his head to her. His? Yes. It did not seem so repulsive now.
Then his lips pressed against her own and Mina felt like exploding. A flame that had been dully burning inside of her erupted and consumed her whole. She'd never kissed anyone before, but her brief moment of panic faded when she put her arms around him and bridged the space between them. They kissed and kissed until Mina thought she might die from it. How she wanted him. It heaved in her chest like some great boulder. Alexander pulled away, his viciously red eyes barring into her own. Somewhere in her brain she knew what he was planning to do and she knew she would not stop him. For a thing that had repulsed her for years, Mina now wanted it more than anything she could name. He pushed her plait back behind her, freeing her neck for what she knew he was aiming to do. But as he moved his fangs toward her neck, he stopped abruptly, and the strange music that Mina had been hearing in her ears broke. The fire died and the explosion dissipated.
He moved back from her, and she could see him changed. He was normal again, and his eyes were filled with horror.
"I...I am so sorry, Miss Van Helsing. I should not have done that. I'm so, so terribly sorry."
Mina couldn't speak. She felt the urge to move to him. She wanted to console him and tell him she didn't mind it at all. But suddenly a deep shame gripped her, keeping her from going towards him. Perhaps they should not have done that. You almost let him drink your blood! The shame yelled into her ear. Mina could feel her face filling with fire.
"You should go. Now. Get out of here. Go back to your house, Miss Van Helsing," he shoed her, his hand concealing his fangs as though trying to muzzle himself. There were tears in his red eyes. "Good God, go, Mina. I can't... I can't..." He ran his hand through his hair, revealing his still protruding fangs. "Go. Carry your stake. Go and don't stop! Don't stop for anything!"
Mina lay on her bed, starring up at the white ceiling above her. Lucy slept soundly, unaware that Mina had left the bed at all. Certainly unaware that she had left the bed as well. She'd probably tell Mina all about the strange dream she had in the morning. Mina would laugh and tell her how peculiar it was. Lucy having dreams about seductive vampires. What a silly fancy.
But now, Mina wanted to cry. She wasn't entirely sure why she wanted this, but she did. So she let the tears fall from her eyes as she lay back to back with Lucy. Shame overtook Mina, and she wasn't even sure why. She had enjoyed the kiss, she could not pretend she did not. In fact, all she was thinking of was how she wanted to kiss him again. And he was going to drink her blood...she was going to let him. Perhaps that's where the shame was rooted.
You were tired, Mina, she told herself consolingly. Mina was very good at consoling herself. Losing her mother so young, Mina had to learn to be a mother to herself. You are not the first girl to be take in the heat of the moment by a handsome man.
I almost let him drink my blood. No, I wanted him to drink my blood. Mina felt more tears welling her eyes. Why am I so stupid? Why was he so… so…
Had he kissed her because he loved her or had it just been in pursuit of the blood he wanted? Did he want the blood because of hunger or did he want the blood because it was hers? This is such a stupid situation to be in... Mina cursed herself.
Mina shut her eyes, but the thoughts kept going. She would not be able to sleep, of that she was very, very sure.
Chapter 8: The Test
Jonathan unravels mysteries and Mina attends a party
Journal of Jonathan Harker
I feel I have not written in here in ages, though my last entry is dated just shy of a month ago. I look back on my previous entries now and feel I have been living in a blur of naivety. And yet that John had seemed so sure and secure in himself. That John knew exactly who he was and what he wanted. The John I am now is far less so. I have learned things over the past few days that I have believed my entire life to be no more than superstitions. I know beyond a doubt now that they are true.
In lieu of this entry becoming overtly sentimental and perfidiously existential, I shall simply tell the facts as I know them now. Take warning that these facts may seem fictions to you. I do not expect you to readily believe the things I am stating, but I feel I must write them down, at least for posterity's sake. Maybe the student who reads this one day will find me completely mad. I could not blame him, for I am certain I would think the same. Nonetheless, it is a scholar's duty to deepen the pool of knowledge so that is what I shall do today.
The Protectors: Of the few facts I have been allowed to learn from R. M. Renfield, I have learned the name of this fraternal organization he partakes in is The Protectors. It was established eleven years ago by a woman (name yet to be given) to stop the rise and spread of supernatural forces in the modern world. I have been given very minimal information on the group itself. From little things Renfield has said, I gather it to be a group of about 10-20 men (and women) who follow this elusive leader in all her tasks.
The Supernatural: These are creatures similar to human in many ways, but evolved differently from us at some period. No one is certain how they inherited these special genes, but it is this code that gives them a higher domain than mortal men. The Protectors have come across werewolves, fairies, boggarts, and most commonly vampires in their time. There are many methods of dealing with these creatures. The Protectors do not vanquish all supernatural they come across, Renfield says. Only the problematic ones.
Vampires: Or Nosferatu, Renfield told me. The most ancient and frequently recorded of supernatural creatures. All are dangerous and should be destroyed upon meeting. They crave blood and have an insatiable need to create more of their kind. They are immortal creatures, only to be killed by a silver stake or fire. There is much more too them, but I said I would keep this concise.
Count Dracula: A very powerful, ancient creature. The first of the vampires as we know them to be a now. Truly a terror, this monster of man and Mina spent so much time with him. I could not think of Mina being near this creature.
Through all this, I cannot help but worry for Mina. Surely, Dr. Van Helsing is mad to trust his daughter alone with such a man. Could the Van Helsings be in league with him? No, that is nonsense. Dr. Van Helsing in fanciful, but he would not condone murder. And he loves Mina far too much to bring her into such a scheme.
Then why leave her alone with that monster when he knows full well what type of creature he is? I cannot bear to think of Mina alone with that monster. They were alone so frequently. Was there anything more to their relationship than professionalism? They could not be lovers. I know Mina to be smart and rational. Though, it is known women are easily seduced… Could she be giving her own blood to him? I am sick at the thought.
I apologize reader, for that tangent. I will scratch that out. Never mind this apology.
In conclusion, these lessons I have been having with Renfield have been extremely eye opening. I hope this has enlightened you as well. I think perhaps I am being recruited into this group of protectors. If that is the case, I am unsure how much I can write of my findings once I become a member.
I will try to record whatever I can.
The dress was Lucy's and was quite large around the chest area, actually. Lucy was quite a bit more buxom than her friend, but after some finely placed cloths they got the dress to a point where it at least looked even. Mina didn't understand why her own gown was deemed "not good enough" for the ball. "It's just a bit too juvenile for you, darling," Mrs. Westerna had claimed when she saw the light blue gown Mina had intended to wear. Mina hardly believed it looked too juvenile. She'd purchased it last year and had but worn it once before.
When Mrs. Westerna presented to dress she aimed for Mina to wear, Mina suddenly understood the woman's game. The passionately red dress was very attention grabbing, and was certain to get many suitors' eyes onto Mina. This woman surely sees it as her duty to marry me off to the highest bidder at the next possible chance. Mina, in no mood to argue, agreed to the flamboyant thing and let them dress her up like a doll. Mina had little focus to argue these outrageous cosmetic changes. It was not as though she were aiming to find a husband while at this party. The only man she could think of was The Count, and whatever that bizarre encounter they had was. Mina was through being angry about it. She was not sure why her first instinct had been to be angry about it, but she had made her peace. He had been ravaged and starved. She had been tired and lonely. Nothing happened. The kiss barely lasted a moment. She'd almost let him drink her blood. Almost, but it had not happened. There was nothing to be ashamed of in that.
But she could not shake one thought: she had wanted him to do it. All her life, she'd been disgusted by humans who let vampires feed from them, and now she wanted to be one. Even now as she…
"Obviously, mother wants you married before me," Lucy teased as she entered the bedroom and gazed upon her friend. "No one will be looking at me at all."
"They're going to think they have to pay for the pleasure of my company," Mina droned, looking upon herself in the bedroom's long mirror. The hoop of her dress was so large that it did not all fit in the frame. The dress seemed in equal shades deep red and black, and somehow managed to make her appear even paler than before. It fell from her shoulders, revealing a prominent collar bone that was merely the work of a tightly pulled corset. Her breasts seemed visible, which was an odd thing for her. She wondered just how much cloth they'd put in there to achieve that. Long black gloves (also Lucy's) extended past her elbows. Mina' face was dashed with some sort of makeup and her hair pinned back high. It took her a moment, but Mina could recognize herself amidst the glamour. Though dressing so fine was not something she was used to, Mina could see why people did it.
It made her feel very visible. She wasn't sure how comfortable she was with that just yet.
Though her fears subsided a bit as she entered the ballroom. It was so crowded with people that Mina soon found herself mixing into the crowd easily. No one would stare at her. She was simply part of one large being now, made out of a hundred beautifully dressed people. Certainly, Mina could not be singled out here. She didn't really want to be. Perhaps courtship should be on the forefront of her mind. After all, with her father's condition, Mina's living quarters were soon to be gone. She'd be shipped off to some aunt she hardly knew if she did not marry.
Mina couldn't think of marriage. Every time she thought of marriage she thought of The Count and their night in the forest and she'd confuse herself all over again. She had thought she loved him at that moment. Mina was not so certain now as she stood among the people of the ball. Surely, she could just be with one of these men. Normal, perfectly good husbands. But it stung at her chest to think it.
"Pardon me!" Mina exclaimed as she bumped into a body. Whomever it was, he was not moving with the flow of the room, and seemed focused out on some far off thing. Curious… she thought as she turned away.
"Mina!" The person suddenly yelled, eliciting a small jump from Mina.
Mina blinked, "John?" It was a sight not seen by Mina before: Jonathan Harker looking less than put together. In honesty, he looked awful. Dark rings circled under eyes as though he had not slept in days. His cravat was untied, and his coat lying upon him incorrectly. Something awful must have happened for John to look such a way.
Father, Mina felt a cold panic grab her tightly around her chest. It squeezed and contorted her until she could barely breathe. Hush, Mina, it may not be that. But Mina couldn't think of another reason why John would be here. Certainly, he did not know the people hosting this ball. Also, John would never show up to such a party in his current manor.
Mina hardly noticed when he took her by the hand and led her threw the thick red curtains that blocked off a hallway. God, he's taking me out the party so I don't make a scene. It's father, I knew it. It's father. Down the hall they went, in its suffocating walls of dark wood. Paintings of the manor's family loomed down on her, as though shaming her. You shouldn't have left your father, they said to her. You should've stayed at home with him. John stopped walking, and Mina could already feel herself being to cry.
Then he tore off her glove.
"What on earth are you-" Mina started to exclaim as John yanked her arm to his face and began desperately examining it. She tried to pull away, but John held to her with the look of insanity upon his frantic face. Finding nothing, he reached for the other glove and pulled it off painfully. In the midst of this, Mina found her thoughts racing faster than John could move. She did not know if this was some desperate sort of seduction, or if John had taken some sort of drug before coming here. No matter his reason, Mina was not about to let him handle her in such a way.
She kneed him between his legs. Hard. John collapsed, howling like a wounded dog.
Mina hissed, "Well, it serves you right!" She bent down and picked up the black gloves. "What in hell is the matter with you, John?!"
"I…" He gasped, "I…I…had to…check…"
"Check?" She scoffed, pulling the gloves back on. One had torn a bit around the seam, which Lucy would not be too happy about. "Check what? What are you talking about?"
Some school friend of John's must have slipped him some absinthe. They must've tricked him into drinking the hallucinogenic liquid. Something must've addled his brain. He was babbling to himself in some words Mina could not understand. At that moment, she wasn't sure if it was wiser to return to the party or to call for help. Surely, you can not leave him here. Not in his…state.
John's cough was as dry and empty as an old parlor room. Debilitated by her kick and whatever else, he moved slowly to a seated position, staring up at her with pathetic eyes. A pang of compassion grasped her chest for reasons she did not know. Perhaps it was some human instinct to care for a forlorn things. Mina ignored it.
"I had to make sure," Jonathan said as though that were some sort of explanation. Like a drunkard, John rose on his wobbling legs. "They said I must be sure that…" His eyes widened. "Your neck!" John lunged for her throat with outstretched arms. Readied for an attack this time, Mina was quick to avoid him and slap him hard across the face. I'm glad my father made self-defense a priority lesson.
Arms, neck, what on earth could he be searching for? Who were they and… Wait, arms and neck. No, wrists and neck. Main arteries of the body and a very common place for… Oh. Mina felt the realization surge throw her like water. Vampire bites, he's checking me for vampire bites. Why doesn't he just tear open my legs and check there too if he's so damned curious?
"Why are you checking me for vampire bites, John?" Mina asked coldly.
Jonathan looked sick, "They told me to be sure he wouldn't come after you."
He swallowed, "I'm sorry, Mina."
A hand from behind wrapped itself around her face so quickly that there was no way to have been prepared. A cloth pressed over her mouth and seemed to choke her. She felt herself immediately lock up in fear, as she took in one desperate gasp of breath. Fight back! Fight back! Mina kicked futilely against her captor, but she could feel the strength leaving her body as though being sucked out by a sponge. Something on the cloth was making her lose consciousness. They've drugged me…they've drugged me… Mina desperately clung to cognizance as she felt her vision blacken. Her last desperate jerks ended as her eyes focused upon Jonathan. His stupid look of concern was the last thing she saw before everything faded away.
Chapter 9: A Game of Chess
Wilhelmina has a run in with The Protectors
Mina repeated that to herself as she felt her eyes opening ever so slowly to wherever she was. It appeared to be a library or sorts. Well, it was rather small. Maybe a parlor room. She had absolutely no idea what had happened, but she knew now she was sitting in a chair with her arms and feet tied to it. She decided not to marvel on how very detective novel this was and instead decided think of a way out. There were windows she could see, though covered by thick curtains. There was a door, but she knew whoever had taken her was very surely outside. Well, I'd have to get out of these ties first. Mina's eyes darted to find any way out. The chair was not stuck to the floor, so she could possibly maneuver to get something…
The door opened, and a rather squirrelly looking man came bounding in. Her body began to tense up in fear, but Mina repeated her mantra and tried to stay focused. Being scared won't help anything. Stay calm. I'm sure all will be explained. John is involved with whatever this is. John wouldn't hurt you. Mina told herself that, but was not entirely certain. John might hurt her if he thought her involved with a vampire. Yes, John would certainly hurt her for that.
How John knew about vampires though, she had no idea.
"Sorry we had to do this, Miss Van Helsing," the squirrelly man spoke, untying the ropes at her feet. "You were a bit feisty when we tried to bring you in here." At the nape of his neck his hair was tied with a red ribbon. A tail for the squirrell she thought, if solely to amuse herself.
"I wonder why?" Mina said tartly as he undid the ropes at her hands. "Where am I? What's going on?"
"Oh, you're still at your party, Miss Van Hesling," The man cut the final rope. Mina thought very seriously about making a break for the window. Or perhaps screaming very loudly. But whoever they were, they did not seem intent to hurt her. John knew them. He was in league with them somehow. "We've just taken you off to this library. I assure you, we mean you no harm at all."
Mina rubbed her wrists, "That's a relief." She said with half sarcasm. "Do I get any explanation as to why I was displaced from the party?" The man looked down at her, the darkness of the room casting a strange look about him. He seemed eight feet tall where he stood. There was some vague familiarity about him that Mina could not place. His hair was thin and brown and almost looked to be coming out in places. Which was odd, seeing as he could not be too much older than she was. He had that same tiredness that John had had, and the same desperate look lying behind his eyes.
A knock upon the wooden door, and the tall man backed up. The light bursting in from the outside felt like fire to her dark adjusted eyes. As the silhouette of the man became colored, Mina saw it was John again, the same look of worry painted onto his brow. He instantly knelt in front of her.
He took her hand, "Mina, I am so sorry about what happened. I just had to check before I brought you here that he hadn't taken you."
Mina blinked, "What are you even talking about?" She stood, taking a step around to get away from the still kneeling Jonathan. "One of you tell me what's happening right now or I am leaving!"
"Begging you pardon, Miss Van Helsing," the tall man spoke, "but we do have others stationed right outside the door." He'd smiled smugly, as though he'd outwitted her somehow. Ah, I can see you're John's friend. You have that whole 'woman are inferior complex' as well. Perhaps the "Misogynists United" have kidnapped me…
Mina placed her hands on her hips. "Well, then tell me what's going on so I don't make a mockery of them by getting past their defenses."
The tall man seemed at least amused by her comment, which was probably all she would get out of him. He looked to John, and wordlessly John stood to join them. Whomever this man was, he was some sort of higher rank in their group. Mina noted that John kept watching him nervously, as though waiting for instruction of some kind. Perhaps John would've been a good solider with the focus he had.
"We know you work for Count Dracula," Said the leader. He clipped his heels together like some sort of German aristocrat. The man's eyes looked over her as though she needed to explain herself. Suddenly, she did not like the fact that she was wearing a dress. Well, she did not like the fact she was wearing such an ostentatious one.
She pressed on. "I'm his doctor. I'm not committing any crime I know, sir."
He began to pace, "John here checked you for that before he brought you to see us." He smiled at Mina's look. "Yes, we know what he is and yes, we know you and your father have been helping him."
The man was expecting her to falter, that Mina could tell. Her father had taught her many things, and reading the looks upon people's faces was one of them. This was some sort of power play she'd gotten involved in and now was not the time to show weakness. Perhaps that was an initiation into this fraternity: showing strength in a stressful situation. Though Mina was not sure she meant to join, she certainly was not going to be patronized.
"Again, we are not committing any crimes, sir. And as you so wisely checked, I've not commited any sanguinary crime either." Mina held his eye contact thoroughly. "So what is it that is so important that you stole me from my friend, drugged me, and tied me to a chair to tell?"
He laughed, "She's exactly how you painted her, John." And then he finally moved towards her, and Mina felt herself clench in fear of what he would do. He extended his arm, "I am Ronald Murray Renfield, second of The Protectors." Mina took his hand, shaking it wearingly. "There's a lot in that sentence to be explained, I know. But first, I shall answer your questions." Ronald Murray Renfield swaggered about the room like a king in a throne room. "We took you from Miss Westenra, and the party, because we figured it would cause the least suspicion if we took you from a large place. It's been mere minutes since John here coerced you. Miss Westenra will think you've gone off somewhere in the ballroom." He walked to a small table, and Mina saw the white cloth that had been held over her mouth sitting there. "Ether. John said you probably wouldn't come willingly. And the chair I already explained."
"What's a Protector?" Mina asked.
Renfield shook his head, "Time for you to answer some of my questions now, Miss Van Helsing." Mina took a moment to look at John, who still looked like the picture of a kicked dog. Whomever this Renfield was, there was something happening with him and John. Something Mina did not like at all. "How close do you consider yourself to be with this Count Dracula?"
"I am his doctor," Mina repeated easily. "I'm already told you that, Mr. Renfield."
"Besides a professional relationship, I mean."
"I am his doctor," Mina said for the third time. "There is nothing more to it."
The lie was easy on her tongue. Perhaps it wasn't a lie at all. A moment of weakness in a forest did not constitute any sort of romantic feelings. A strange vision in her head did not equate intimacy. Yes, it had sparked some notes inside of her she hadn't heard before, but they could be muted as easily as any other instrument. Besides, she certainly was not going to tell this man anything about her personally. Other than his name, Mina knew nothing of him at all. And she had this distrust of him rooted somewhere inside of her. She listened to it.
Renfield kept staring at her, as though expecting her to say more. Another trick her father had taught her: hold your tongue. Things could slip out that are best kept in.
"The Protectors are a group of men and women who swear a sacred vow to defend mortals from the forces of the supernatural," Renfield replied after he complied with her answer. "How much do you know of Count Dracula?" Obviously, this was how this night was going to proceed. A boring, tedious two sided interrogation. A game of chess. She knew what they were planning. It was some sort of scheme in their quest for purification or whatever this group was wanting. Groups like these have existed for centuries, Mina had read about them. Anything different from them was wrong. Anything they couldn't understand was the antichrist. And now they were going to squeeze Mina for information and then use her as and in to The Count. God, she was in a bad detective novel.
Perhaps she should lie. She could probably make up some fantastical stories about The Count. He flies around his home while she's there. He turns into a giant bat and stalks mankind…
"Probably as much as you," Mina responded calmly. "He's talked to me very little about his past. My visits are short and concise. I keep documents journals of what happens, don't I, John?"
His eyes grew large, "Yes." John looked at Renfield for guidance. "She does, Renfield." God, men are thickly sculled. Mina thought as the two of them weighed this comment. She should have just said radical lies. They would have believe them.
"Is that all you called me here for, sir? Information?" Mina asked in a voice of put on sincerity. She knew what he was implying. It was what everyone seemed to be implying: that something was happening with her and The Count. Which was nonsense. What happened in the forest was nothing. And to think otherwise was nonsense.
But Mina would not get her answer. Outside, the howling of a wolf set a visibly panicked look upon Jonathan's face. He looked to Renfield, a conversation Mina couldn't partake in passing between them. What on earth is the matter now? She thought as both men jumped at the sound of the next howling. Was there some wolf epidemic happening that she was not aware of? Was it some sort of signal that The Protectors had?
Renfield moved first, "John, follow me." He said as both gentlemen started for the door. Do they intend to leave me here? As though hearing the though, Renfield spoke. "We will return soon, Miss Van Helsing." And without so much as another word, both men were off with a loud slam of the door.
"So I can leave too, then?" Mina said to naught but the books upon the shelves.
Perhaps she could just burst out as well. From her brief glimpse, there didn't appear to be any 'others' outside. Yes, she had a right mind to walk out that door herself and be rid of this ridiculousness. But something spoke against it. Whomever these Protectors were, they were probably worth understanding. Learning about the paranormal from their prospective could be fascinating, though very misguided she was sure.
And there was something very odd about them. Something Mina wanted to get to the bottom of.
The howling, it continued as Mina waited alone in the small parlor. It seemed closer now, as though right by the window. Suddenly, a thought occurred to her from her late night reading. Vampires, especially old ones. Have been known to be shape shifters. Many of them can change into animals such as cats or wolves…
Mina felt a blast of air. A window had been opened. She already knew who it was before she turned around. And she knew the true reason The Protectors had brought her here, and felt bloody stupid for not realizing.
A little bit offended too: it was a little bit of a shot to the heart to be used as something as pathetic as bait.
"Renfield, where are we going?" Jonathan asked for the second time. The night air was cool, with the occasional warm wind gushing past. The ground was soaked from an earlier rain shower, and his shoes seemed to stick to the mud. Nice shoes, mind you, that his father had paid good money for. But The Protectors did not seem to care about such things, Renfield most of all.
He was such an odd man. Jonathan felt a reservation in even calling him such. Renfield was…a creature himself. Not a vampire or anything like that, but a being in of his own. His scraggly brown hair was back in a ribbon at the base of his neck, and the red ribbon served as John's guide through the dark night sky. This was absolutely ludicrous, thinking they could chase down a vampire. Especially a very old, very powerful one. Honestly, Dracula could wipe out all of The Protectors and not break a sweat. Jonathan had pointed that out to Renfield once and Renfield had slapped him. And there was the whole business of their leader… Jonathan still could not believe that bit. Highly unethical if you ask him, but Renfield just described her as dedicated to their cause.
Honestly, Renfield made him angrier than any other creature on this earth. He was too bizarre, and far too comfortable with how bizarre he was. He was skinner than a pole and his clothes hung from him like the flaps of a tent. And he stood too close whenever he spoke. The creature had no regard for physical space. And he gave John this odd feeling in his stomach when he stood too close. Perhaps it was from the smell of him.
"I've told you five times to call me Ronald, John," Renfield said over his shoulder. "And to answer your question, we're not going anywhere."
Jonathan stopped. "Pardon?" Renfield turned around, that stupid, insane grin on his upon his pale face. Pieces of his brown hair fell into his face adding only to his look of insanity.
"We're not going anywhere, John!" Renfield kept smiling as he placed his hands upon Jonathan's shoulders. God, I wish he would not stand so close to me. It is uncivil for people to stand this close to one another. "We're sending him to her."
Jonathan blinked, "We're sending Dracula to Mina?" He scoffed, "Whose bloody idea is that? What is this meant to achieve? You think you can trap him?"
"You ask a lot of questions, John," Renfield—finally—removed his hands and walked a few paces. He made no signal for John to follow, but he knew by now that he should. Renfield continued. "We wouldn't have taken her so publicly. We knew he was following her, so she was our bait. Though, personally, I do believe her innocent of any crimes of morality, I think out Count is still very interested in her. He will not be happy at all that she was taken."
"And what is this meant to prove?" Jonathan asked. "Certainly, you do not mean to capture him."
Renfield shrugged. "We'd be idiots to think we could." He stopped, turning to John with that odd, cat-like smirk upon his face. John felt that weird feeling again. Like a mix of intrigue and revulsion… "But it might show how much truth Miss Van Helsing is telling." Jonathan inclined his head, wanting to know more. Renfield took one hand to Jonathan's cheek. He could instantly feel himself flushing. God, you are not a woman, Harker. "We'll see if she goes with him or not."
And with a quick smack upon the same cheek, Renfield was off.
Absolutely mental, John thought. They're all absolutely mental.
"Hush!" Mina turned to The Count. He looked even worse than a few nights ago. "Get Out! You need to leave!"
"Have they hurt you?" He asked desperately, grasping the sides of her arms tensely. She was reminded of John's little study of her earlier. She was reminded of the night The Count has kissed her. She pushed herself from his arms.
"No one's hurt me. You must leave!" Mina kept her voice to a hushed tone, hoping if people were outside that they could not hear them. She'd been used as bait. Like some stupid little damsel... Mina pushed him towards the window, "You have to leave right now!"
The Count kept his arms upon her, looking at her as though she were mad. There was something behind his eyes though. That hunger in them that had been there a few nights ago. They were standing close now, and Mina could see her chest heaving with the pounding of her heart. She wished she were not wearing this horrifc dress. She wished she were wrapped up in brown paper or something not horribly red and sensual.
"It's a trap," Mina whispered, ushering him again to the window. "It's a trap set for you. There's this group, The Protectors, that wants to rid the world of the supernatural or some other bloody nonsense and they want to kill you so you have to leave now." Some light lit in him that Mina recognized. It was the light of a man who wanted to prove himself. He wanted to fight. God, she could smack him, and all other men come to it.
She narrowed her brow, "You can deal with them later. Now, you need to leave. I'm certain they will not hurt me, but they may if you stay."
Footsteps down the hallway. John and Renfield to be sure. And if they saw The Count in here with her, they would not believe her ever again. She would not get to know what they were up to, or who their leader was.
Mina grabbed his face. "Get out now, and meet me tonight in the forest." They were near the door now. "And ignore this next thing I say."
The door opened.
"Get out! Leave me alone, you monster!" Mina did her best interpretation of a gothic heroine as Count Dracula seemed to disappear before her. At least he'd listened to her. He could be so stubborn at times. Mina mustered up as many fake tears as she could and turned back to a very dumbfounded looking Renfield and John. "You were right," she sniffled. "He came after me. I got him to leave but…" Mina rubbed her eye. "Now if you please, I want to be returned to my friend and to the party. I'd feel much safer in a crowd."
"Of course, Miss Van Helsing," Renfield said with the airs of a gentleman. No men could deny a woman in tears. A woman's most powerful weapon, Lady Westerna had told her and Lucy one time when she'd had a bit too much wine. Well that, she'd added, and one other thing, Lady Westenra had giggled. "Would you like me to escort you?"
"No thank you," Mina said, walking to the door briskly. "I'd feel safer away from you."
John found himself alone with Renfield again, a place he seemed to frequent of late. Mina was not lying, Jonathan thought with relish. He knew she could not be involved with such a man as The Count, she cried at the very sight of him! Mina was very smart and very moral, that he knew. Yes, Mina, wonderful Mina could never be with someone like that Count Dracula. And once she met the leader, Mina would be in The Protectors. Mina and he could be together. Mina and he could be...
Renfield cleared his throat after a moment of terse silence.
"Mina's talents are wasted on doctoring," Renfield said. He leaned into John. Too close. Again. "She's quite the fine actress."
Chapter 10: Confrontation
After the ball, Mina meets Dracula in the forest
Looking back, Mina remembered little from the rest of the party. She danced with two or three gentlemen whose faces were indiscriminate in her memory. They had talked a little, but it was nothing more than idle chatter. Lucy had been occupied herself, and didn't seem to have noticed Mina's absence at all. Which was good, because her absence would be hard to explain. But the night was soon over and Mina found herself back on the carriage to their London home. Just a few more days and Mina would be back to her real home. Her father's wellbeing was something that occupied her mind constantly. Not always at the foreground of thought, but always there somewhere, like an itch that simply would not subside. She couldn't enjoy London with this itch in her brain. She could not walk around museums and parks without thinking of her father and wondering how he was fairing.
I will be home soon, Mina told herself as she watched the lights of the village fade slowly behind them. Everything will go back to how it was. I will visit The Count and… ugh, The Count. Mina dropped her head against the cool wood of the carriage side. In love with him…was she in love with him? It certainly had seemed so that night in the forest. But it had been so dark in there Mina had had problems telling what was right from what was wrong. Feelings were not something so easily synthesized in a logical mind.
Count Dracula is 418 years old. Vampires acquire powers as they age. From my reading, his powers could include any level of shapeshifting, extreme strength, extreme speed, flying, hypnosis, mind control, glamour, and possibly more. Which is horrifying and unnatural. He feeds on blood. The only ways to do so directly from a human are either to murder, change, or make a familiar. If he fed from me…Mina felt a strange shudder at the thought…it is a lasting contract until either I am dead or made to be like him.
I do not want to be a vampire.
That's it then, Mina decided. She could not be with The Count. She did not want to be a vampire, and that would have to be the end result. Even if he didn't feed from her and they were just in love that would have to end as well. Why would Mina willingly put herself in a relationship that would end? It was a ridiculous thing to do. Besides, it was an impossible fancy and she was being stupid about it. She knew that. This would pass, surely. Mina had been by herself her whole life, she would not weep for a relationship she had not had in the first place. Missing something that had not happed was impossible.
Also, there's The Protectors to consider. They seemed absolutely mad, but Mina felt there was something to investigate there.
But there were other things to think of too. Other things Mina could not think about so logically. Like how her heart seemed fit to burst that night in the forest. Like how when he'd kissed her Mina swore she'd never been so happy in her life. Like how even seeing him tonight was like water at the end of a desert. Even now as she thought of him her cheeks turned red. He was so kind to her. Mina had never known a friend to be so kind to her. For someone meant to be a creature of evil, he was so good to her. You are being stupid, she told herself instantly. Just girlish fancies and feelings. You're better than this.
There was that other part of it too. That part inside of Mina she'd been told to keep under lock and key her whole life. Of course she'd read about how sex worked. The textbooks informed her that it was for reproductive purposes only. But how could something intended to be so amazing and euphoric be sinful? Not that Mina had any true experience with the subject. Just her own reading and discovery, but never anything more. She'd certainly never met anyone to bring out those feelings inside of her. The Count had seemed to rip open the lock and let the wild thought run free. Mina could feel her heart sweltering just to think of it. It was wrong to think of it, but she could not stop.
He is kind and good to me.
He is one of my dearest friends.
He respects me.
I want him so badly I can barely breathe.
Mina growled at her own indecision and banged her head against the carriage side. If this is what being in love is then it's the absolute worst.
His exhale of relief at her presence was definitely audible. Well, not at her presence, per-say, but at what she was wearing this time. Alexander had been in no fit mental state the last night, and was in even worse now. Seeing her in a sheer nightgown was not going to help his more carnal desires. Earlier in this night, her gown and been strung so tightly that he saw the blue veins upon her pale neck. How he wished to... Stop it. But Mina wore a deep red cloak about her tonight, so he needn't worry himself. Though, God, it didn't matter what she wore or how she looked, he was certain this wanting was not going to fade. It had not faded since she'd first turned up at his door all those months ago. Feelings he had not felt for centuries mixed in with his most familiar ones. God, he wanted her. He wanted her soul and her body and her mind and her blood... Stop it!
"Are you all right, Miss Van Helsing?" He asked when she approached and removed her hood. Her hair was out of its elaborate up-do from earlier and fell to her side in an even plait.
She nodded, "I'm quite all right." Mina said in her matter of fact tone. "You look awful."
He could help but snort. "I've looked much worse, Miss Van Helsing." Mina wrinkled her brow at this. Those bright blue eyes of hers seemed fit to burn a hole through him.
"Why don't you feed?" Mina asked him sternly. "I'm sorry I have not been able to bring you blood, but it's no reason to starve yourself."
Oh, Mina if you only knew, he thought. He would not tell her. It would do nothing but frighten and repulse her. I have tried to feed, he wanted to say. He'd said as much before. I can't feed, he wanted to say. I've tried to. I fed from a woman I found alone and dying, and spit up the blood but an hour later. The sink turned pick from the stain of it. I tried to feed from an animal, and more of the same took place. I want no one but you Mina, and it is starving me to death.
He hadn't the faintest why this obsession had so taken hold of him. Why suddenly he found himself physically incapable of feeding from another. Why Mina was suddenly so intoxicating that it was going to drive him mad. Not just the blood...not just the blood at all but her soul. Her fire and her smile and the way she laughed when they danced around the room. The way her brow furrowed when she prepared her syringe and the way her hair looked by the fire. He had not felt so since Viktoryia. No feeling as potent had taken him since then and he wanted Mina so horribly.
There had been plently of women he had desired. Women he had taken and fed upon and made love to, but Mina was different. He would not just will her to want him, he needed her to want him back. He needed her to smile at him again and not look so frightened by him. He needed her to... He needed her...
"I'm fine, Miss Van Helsing."
"You're lying," Mina pointed out easily. "But I won't make you tell me if you do not wish to."
The deep red of her cape made her blue eyes seem daggers pointed straight towards him. For some reason, he thought she could read his mind. Perhaps Mina would probe him and know his secret. She could know about how he hungered for her blood. But he could not tell her aloud. Mina was a lady. No, Mina was a…force of nature. To tell her how he felt for her would be offensive. She would think it unprofessional, and it certainly was. He would keep his yearning to himself. Though he was not sure how long he'd be able to starve. For he and Mina were alone now. There was no one around them, and she had come to him. Those few nights ago they had been in exactly these same spots. Mina's eyes did not look cold but bright and innocent as he moved nearer. As he'd kissed her and nearly taken her blood. She was going to let him. She was going to submit. Maybe now... Maybe now as they were alone he could do it. Mina would let him, despite her icy glare, Mina would let him. STOP IT.
There was suddenly a thickness to the air. The night they last spent in the forest hung about them like a damp cloud. For that reason he could not tell her how he felt. Alexander turned over that previous night in his head under his brain had turned to nothing. He should not have done any of that. He should not have followed her here to London in the first place, though he'd done it away. He could not stand the thought of not seeing her. He couldn't stand the thought of her alone in the city. He couldn't stand the idea of some other man trying to hurt her, or dance with her, or kiss her, or touch her.
Those men tonight. Mina insisted they had not harmed her. If they had... he felt bloodlust filling him up.
"I'm sorry," though the cause for her regret was not clear. "For dismissing you so quickly at the party tonight." Some part of him felt relieved that that's what she was referencing, "I should've known it was a trap for you. It was you they wanted, not me."
"Who are they?" Alexander asked, happy to feel the tense air dissipating for a moment. Mina seemed content on ignoring the elephant in the room. Alexander would happily join her.
"A group called The Protectors, as I said." Mina moved closer in a casual manner. Simply a friendly manner. In the manner she'd always done before he'd been stupid and let his emotions control him. "John is a new member of theirs. One of his collages, a Ronald Renfield, is a member as well. They talked about some others, but gave no names. They're some radical group set on eradicating Supernatural forces."
He nodded, "I could figure as much. I've run across several groups like theirs over the years. Different names, but all the same in truth. Most are well intended and do succeed and eradicating some of the more troublesome supernatural beings, but many believe anything beyond the mortal realm to be immoral." Alexander met her eyes as she seemed to hang upon his words. She was staring at him too intently, like some cat before it leaps into an attack.
"They think you are immoral." Mina said, her words as icy as her eyes.
He held, "I've lived seven lifetimes, Miss Van Helsing, and none of them have been particularly saint worthy."
Mina studied this, her chin moving up ever so slightly as it did when she calculated a thought. He had not meant to scare her with this comment, and feared that would be the case. It was nice to know that Mina was one not easily frightened. A logical person too, she could see the truth in his statement. And true it had been. Alexander had committed no truly terrible crimes in half a century, but the sins of his past remained. He'd done things in the passion of anger he regretted. He'd done things he did not regret as well. Alexander was no saint, he'd been a demon, but he liked most of all to consider himself a man. He doubted Mina would make the same assessment.
"That's all I know of them," Mina said after her long pause. Alexander could feel the thickness filling the air once more. "I should return to the house. I wouldn't want Lucy to wake and worry for me." Without another thought, Mina put her hood back up. "Goodnight, Count Dracula."
She turned and the red cloak swooshed behind her as she walked. Mina was leaving. Just like that, Mina was returning without so much as another word. They'd barely spoken for two minutes and now she was leaving. Mina was upset, he could see that now. Mina was upset about what he'd done and he was stupid to not have realized that. He was even more stupid to not be going after her. She had not gone ten steps before he reached for her arm, stopping her in her retreat.
"I'm going to bed now, Alexander." Mina spat his name at him. "I suggest you do that same. I would not want you to do something you'd regret."
"I do not regret it." He said in her ear.
She paused before speaking. "Perhaps you should."
With a violent jerk, Mina broke from his gasp and disappeared in a flash of red.
Chapter 11: Blood of My Blood
Mina forms a new bond with Count Dracula.
Journal of Wilhelmina Van Helsing
I do not make a habit of journaling for personal reasons but find an exception in this moment. The simple reason is that I have no one to confide in. I haven’t anyone to tell my secrets and stories too. I could talk to Lucy, but would not be able to confide fully because I hardly think she’d believe me. I could talk to The Count, but most of my problems are things I do not wish to discuss with him. So I have elected to write out my thoughts here in an attempt to purge them from my mind. I don’t know why I’m writing this introduction at all, actually. No one but me shall read these words. I will tear them out as soon as I’m finished for fear someone will read them, probably. No one should ever read this.
I sit now in this carriage with Lucy asleep next to me and Lady Westenra asleep across from us. She snores like a thunder storm and somehow Lucy sleeps through it. I cannot sleep. I have not been able to sleep for several days and feel I might go mad from it. Lucy wonders why I am acting so queerly, and I tell her it is because of father’s illness. Which it should be, I know. I had no cause to worry about myself when father was so very ill, yet I found my mind fevered with the thought of Count Dracula. Try as I might to rid him from my mind, he always found his way back. I am angry with this hold he has over me that I keep insisting he does not have.
It was easy to forget he was ancient. He seemed so young in demeanor. You could tell something was different about him though, or perhaps I just sense it because I knew. A vampire. He is a vampire. I know he’s done terrible things. He’s said as much to me before. I have read about the horrible things he’d done, but cannot escape the fact that he is kind to me. He is kind. He had never done anything to make me fearful until late. Even so, I don’t know if fearful was the right word. This man had awoken things in me that I did not know I had living in my chest. They had burst forth so violently and unexpectedly when he showed me that bizarre vision.
Sometimes I think about how much I desire him and feel my chest grow tight and my cheeks burn red.
I know what he wants of me. A familiar relationship. A human who willingly gives blood to a vampire. It forms a bond, a strong bond. It is not just ‘familiar’ as it says in the title. These two are connected. Lovers, even. A stronger bond, a Quintel Bond, is formed when the human takes the blood of a vampire as well. They share thoughts, they share souls, they share a body. It is truly a celestial thing to behold.
Did I trust him with my soul?
Oh God, do I trust him with my soul?
The starvation gripped him tighter with every clench of a muscle. He had forgotten what it was to be so famished. This was a feeling he’d known rarely, but known it he had. When it took one as it took him then, it never left one alone. There was never a moment of escape from it. The searing fire in this throat burned all the way down to his stomach with an emptiness that food could not ratify. Alexander had tried to fill it with food when he was first made, but found his hunger insatiable. Only blood could fill it and he needed blood now. Try as he might to drink it, his body would reject it. It seemed every fiber of him called out for Mina though he knew not why.
He had never felt anything like this before.
How could this little creature have such dominion over him? Why did this girl obsess him as she did? Why could he not so stand to be apart from Mina that he’d followed her to London?
I am a desperate creature, Alexander thought as he saw his gaunt reflection in the mirror. He looked the monster now. Far more corpse than man at this point and little he could do about it. Just take her. Take her and stop torturing yourself. He would not do that to her. He had done that to others in his lifetime, but was certain he could not do it now. Not to Mina. Certainly not his wonderful Mina. Not yours, he told himself. Mina is not yours.
She could be. Mina could be his. Mina was not content with the life given to her. Mina would not marry some terrible man and have his awful children. Mina wished to be a doctor, she wished to be important. He could make her immortal. Yes, they could be one. They would be familiars, lovers, then one forever. He’d give her his dark kiss and she’d be his forever...
You must stop such thoughts.
Then there was a knock at the door. He was stupid to think it was her, yet that was what his mind immediately leap to. Mina would not come to see him. Alexander had been far too forward in going after her. He had been far too forward in kissing her as he had. God, he felt sick to his stomach at the memory of it. If there was anything in him to purge, he felt it would come up at the thought of how he’d treated Mina. Mina is a lady, and a fine woman. I should not have thrown myself upon her so. I should not have kissed her like that. She certainly hates me now. She has every right to hate me now.
She liked it, said the other voice in his head. The voice that let him slaughter and live as an animal. Mina liked it just as much as you did. She did not fight it. She came to your arms willingly. Try as she does to hide it, Mina desires you just as desperately as you desire her.
“Shut up,” he murmured to himself as he opened the door. “Miss Van Helsing.”
Everything thing inside of him went wild at the sight of her. There was the animal instinct to jump upon her and feed which of course he dismissed. But not only her blood made him insane, her presence drove him just as mad. Her light blonde hair up in that far too tight knot that she always insisted on keeping it in. Her beautiful slender figure in that light blue frock. No nightgowns or bright red dresses, yet she looked just as intoxicating as she always did.
“Alexander,” Mina whispered so lowly he felt almost as though he had imagined it. “You’re much worse than I thought.” She clenched her medical bag to her chest, but her usual look of professionalism was now one of shock. Yes, no doubt looked quite shocking.
Mina stepped forward and buzzed past him. He could tell from her direction she was headed to the study, which only made sense. Get a grip, he told himself forcefully as he followed her. God, what was it about her doing this to him? He loved her, he wanted her, he needed her. Alexander followed as she went to the study, no doubt going to pull out her syringe and vials. Perhaps another bottle of blood. He had plenty. He could not drink them.
He wanted her. Did she want him?
Why would she come her if she did not want you? Hissed that other voice again.
When he reached the study he found Mina had not opened her bag as she usually did. She had not pulled out a wine bottle full of blood or the syringe that always seemed too large for her small hands. Instead, Mina sat on the couch with her hands on her lap. Her small face was focused and her brow furrowed. He could tell that her breathing had slowed, as her lips pursed to focus upon nothing else but the rise and fall of her breath. A studied look, like she were ready to take an examination.
“Miss Van Helsing?”
“You’re starving, aren’t you?” Mina said suddenly, her blue eyes darting to his own. He did not answer. “Aren’t you?”
Mina labored her breathing again. “I thought as much,” she responded quietly. “All right,” she said (he was not sure if to him or herself). “All right,” Mina focused, her hands arching on her knees like spiders.
Alexander watched as her right hand crossed to her left, undoing the buttons at the wrist. He blinked, watching the peculiar sight and wondering what on earth she was planning to do when it suddenly struck him. Mina rolled up the sleeve of the gown and he knew fully what she was intending.
“Miss Van Helsing, stop.” Alexander insisted, though his mind screamed for her to keep going. He was nearer to her now, her eyes doe-like as she gazed at him. Gazed at his gaunt and grey face like perhaps he did not look so horrifying. His hand wrapped around her wrist: a wrist so small he thought he might snap it if he pressed too strongly. Why did she trust him? Mina knew what this meant. Mina knew what would happen if he fed from her.
Why did she trust him?
“I am your doctor,” Mina said matter-of-factly. “I will not let you starve.”
“Miss Van Helsing, please. You needn’t-“
“You said,” Mina interrupted, “you said that you couldn’t feed. That there’s something with my blood that…that you cannot drink anyone else’s.” She shook her head. “So I read. I read everything I could find on this. I know it will create a bond. I know you’ll be able to hear my thoughts or…or control me. I know it will hurt. I know all I can know about it, Alexander. I will not let you starve yourself on my behalf.”
Alexander didn’t speak for a while. He knew Mina well enough to know he would not win any sort of argument. What was he meant to do then? Should he simply give in and avoid all misgivings? Mina is only doing this for you. You cannot let her do this. Whatever she read, she certainly does not know all she thinks she does. Mina has no idea the repercussions of this act. Mina has no idea how much I want her. Mina has no idea how much I need her. I need her. I need her. I need her.
He looked at Mina again. He had never seen her look so serious about anything. And he was starving. Alexander was truly, horrifically starving and the solution was sitting right in front of him in a lovely blue dress. He thought of that night in the forest. It had been so peculiar to see her in a nightdress with her hair down in a braid. So odd to see her so intimately… Stop it now.
“I can’t let you do this.” Everything in him screamed not to say thus. His hand released her wrist, moving instead to stroke her face. She did not recoil at this, nor did she seemed alarmed when he sat very near to her on the sofa. His hand set upon her cheek now, his thumb brushing the strong bone there. He should not be touching her like this but he did not care.
“I cannot let you do this, Miss Van Helsing.”
“Stop being a martyr,” Mina tried to sound coarse but her eyes were wide and soft. “I’m not going to watch you starve any longer.”
Could he do this? He wanted to do this. He’d wanted this for such a very long time. And now as she gazed at him so very near to him, he wanted it even more than he had before. He wanted to press his lips against hers once again and sink his teeth into her neck. Alexander wanted Mina to forget everything else and be his.
Now, as she looked at him, he knew she needed an answer. He knew she would not let him brood nor self-inflict torture any longer. Mina was not a person to be easily persuaded out of something she’d set her mind to. Mina certainly had set her mind to this. A long stretch from the girl who used to be disgusted by his very being.
"I would never hurt you, Mina.” He used her first name and it felt wonderful upon his tongue. “If we do this, I would never use it to hurt you. You must know that.”
Her hand rested on top of his, “I know.” After a long moment, he removed his hand from her cheek.
“It won't hurt you," Alexander finally spoke. She looked at him quizzically. "The feeding. It won't hurt you."
"I read about it," Mina told him firmly. "I know it will. You needn't lie to me."
He shook his head, "I'm not lying." He watched as Mina wrung her fingers about her wrist. It had been so very small in his grasp not moments ago. Her bones seemed as fragile as that of a bird.
"It hurts for some people, you are correct," Alexander clarified. "But it will not hurt you."
"Why?" Mina's breath has resumed the heaviness of fear. Please do not be afraid of me, he wanted to say. Though he could not blame her. He certainly looked very hellish now with his protruding fangs completing the look.
He explained, "It is rather an intimate thing to feed from a person. And like other...intimacies it can be painful if a partner is not willing."
"Oh,” Mina flushed slightly and something in the space between his ribs set on fire. She met his gaze again. “All right then. All right.”
Alexander held her small wrist, hoping dearly to not break her. Mina was strong, he knew, but one wrong move and he could harm her. Humans were fragile as a rule. Especially compared to him. And he was so famished. Alexander had not been so famished in a long time. He would take special care not to harm her. He'd keep his wits about him as he fed and not take too much. He hoped. You will not harm her.
"Are you certain?" He asked one last time.
Mina nodded, "Yes."
Without another hesitation, he pressed his fangs into her pale skin and immediately felt his thirst quaked. Yes, this was so much better than what he'd had recently. The blood he'd gotten sick upon was nothing like hers. Mina's blood was pure and perfect. A virgin’s blood, he noted, and felt strangely satisfied at that. As his hunger madness subsided, he took care to see how she was fairing. Mina's eyes were shut and she was breathing heavily, but her sounds were not of pain. He'd never seen Mina like this. He'd glimpsed this side of her the night in the forest, but never again did he witness this. Mina was no longer so confined and restrained. She looked just as animal as him. It was strangely pleasurable to know that he was the one to have this power over her. Mina was not one to relinquish power often.
"Alexander," Mina said as lightly as a breeze. See, it doesn't hurt you, he thought cheekily. Her other hand grasped lightly at his shoulder. Her breaths seemed to heave in time with her pounding heart.
It was unbelievable how well he felt. He had not felt so in months. No longer some brooding, desperate creature. He felt like himself again. He seemed a man once more. And Mina, Mina was a woman. For just this brief moment, Mina was his. Wholly his if only just for a minute. He did not mean to possess her. That was not the intention. But it was good to know he was particular to Mina. He was special. Mina wanted him.
He felt the pounding inside that told him he needed to stop. Alexander pulled back, the wound on her wrist instantly closing. Two red marks shown, though they would not be set in for long. The wound would heal, leaving not but a thin white mark, visible only if one knew what they were looking for. His fingers trailed along it, feeling strangely smug to see his mark upon her.
“Are you all right, Mina?” He stroked her soft hair once again.
She nodded, her eyes out of focus. “Yes. I’ll be fine.”
“You need to rest,” he instructed. Alexander played with the idea of giving her his blood, but thought it unwise. A Quintel Bond was far more potent than a familiar bond and Mina had only just agreed to the later. She needed to rest now. Mina needed to rest and not worry anymore.
She shook her head, “Father will wonder where I am.”
Father. He wished she had not said the word. Alexander had not considered Van Helsing in all of this. Alexander had not considered how the old man would react to such a thing. Certainly not well, for he’d trusted Count Dracula with his daughter and now that trust would be betrayed.
“I’m not going to tell him,” Mina said in her dreamy tone. “But he’ll wonder where I am if I am not home for dinner.”
“I’ll have you home for dinner,” he said. Feeling the urge to, Alexander kissed the top of her head. "Rest now, and I’ll have you home in time for dinner.”
Mina did not expect to swoon, but now realized she was ridiculous to not think of that. Losing a great deal of blood had the tendency to do that to people and she should've thought of the possibility. Well, there were quite a few things she should've considered more. Like the fact that it would not hurt. Like the fact that it made that part of her that wanted Alexander take over her entire being. God, he gave her such feelings that… Well, she did not have the words to properly describe them. Perhaps they were not feelings that could be written in words. Maybe that’s why they were so odd to her. Maybe that’s why they were so frightening. Mina could understand things that were written down. She could grasp things that had been thoroughly researched. But feelings…feelings were a beast she had not yet tamed.
Mina was somewhere between consciousness and sleep when she felt someone shake her shoulder.
She opened her eyes, the light coming from outside seeming alarmingly bright. Her arms felt like feathery limbs attached to her as blood slowly began to coarse through them.
“I’m to send you home for dinner, Miss Van Helsing.” Alexander spoke in his usual formal way. How strange she had been Mina but a few hours ago and found herself being Miss Van Helsing once again. Still feeling rather oddly, Mina sat up slowly and eventually stood. Her head tilted a bit, but his arm was quick to steady her.
Then he placed something in her hand. “You should eat this.” It was chocolate, she noted, and it almost made her laugh. He drinks my blood and gives me chocolate for it. Her eyes traveled now to this face. His face that no longer seemed so gaunt and decaying but lively and bright. She wanted to place her hand upon his cheek but thought better of it.
“Thank you,” Mina noted the candy. “I will.”
“Will you come back tomorrow, Miss Van Helsing?”
She smiled coyly, “Of course. I am your doctor.”
Mina raised the chocolate to her lips and took a bite of it. It was outrageously good, though it might just be her lack of iron. His eyes kept upon her like he wished to say something else. She almost wished he would though she did not know what she desired him to say. It felt so strange to just leave after what had happened.
Mina had not expected it to feel so…so intimate. Mina had not expected such pleasure in the bite. When she’d read that vampire often took familiars as lovers, she’d thought it a bit queer but figured it was because of trust or something. She had not considered that the bite itself felt like it made them lovers. Such a very intimate thing it had been and Mina did not consider that it would be so. She did not consider that it would make those feelings in her chest all the more perplexing. Even now as she stood in the study she was not sure if she wanted to run away or to press her lips against his.
That night in the forest, that strange vision she’d seen…did he love her? Did he love her now as they stared at each other like scared children? In front of herself she clasped the chocolate, feeling her fingers brushing the mark upon her. She wished she had not called out his name like she did. What if he did not want her? What if he had gotten her blood and now he did not want her?
“Goodbye then.” Mina spoke though her voice came out as a whisper. With a quick and awkward nod, she turned and made for the door. Why did it feel like she was about to cry? There was certainly nothing to cry over. She’d neither been jilted nor cursed. This had been her idea, all of it, so there was nothing to feel cheated over. There was no reason to feel so-
“Mina.” Alexander was behind her in a moment. She wasn’t sure why she did it, but Mina turned around to him and placed her lips squarely upon his own. Her arms intertwined behind his head and his arms engulfed her waist. That terrible twisted feeling she’d had was gone in a moment. It did not feel so tangled up in her mind anymore as their lips melted into each other like they had once before. She dropped the chocolate to the floor in her passion and did not care at all about it. She felt entirely well now.
She broke, wanting to say something but forgetting what it was. As they stood there breathing and staring Mina could not help but laugh a bit.
He smiled, “Tomorrow, then?”
Mina bubbled, “Tomorrow.”
When she left, the smile did not fade from her lips. It did not fade even as she went to sleep.
Chapter 12: A Quintel Bond
Mina's father finds out her secret. Later, Mina and The Count increase their bond.
If you read this on FF, I am deviating a bit from my original story here. Hope you are enjoying!
The Westenras were coming to dinner, a fact Mina had completely forgotten until her father reminded her when she returned home. The thought of seeing Lucy only increased her good mood, something her father seemed to have picked up upon. Of course Mina would tell her father nothing of what happened. Father would not understand it. She felt slightly shameful at the thought but bright again when she remembered Alexander's kiss upon her lips.
They had an hour before dinner and Mina spent the time with her father in his study. He was feeling well again, another thing to add to her bright mood. He worked on grading essays and Mina feigned journaling. She could not focus long enough to journal, and certainly did not wish to write down what had transpired.
She let her mind drift as she stared at her writing, thinking of all the wonderful feelings inside of her. Reality quickly came back in when her father started coughing a fit. Mina had grown used to this. To his side she rushed handing him a handkerchief and filling a glass of water. There was blood in the white cloth, Mina saw it like a dark spot upon a canvas. So he was not getting better. Don't be foolish, Mina. You know he will not get any better.
"Father," Mina sighed, reaching to brush the fallen hair from his forehead. His head hung so pathetically from the neck, making Mina's chest seize up in pity. It is truly a terrible thing to watch a parent be sick. Not a repulsive thing or disgusting thing but a terrible thing. It makes you grow up most faster than you are meant to.
His eyes flicked up as she stroked back the hair from his forehead. Mina paid no mind to this, nor did she remember the mark upon her wrist. Not until her father gasped.
"Mina!" He said with his voice full of worry. She hadn't any idea what had shocked him so until she saw that the sleeve of her gown had risen up. She took her hand back, hoping her cheeks were not flushing.
She began, "Father, it’s not-"
His voice was coarse in that way only father's voices could be.
"Mina, has he hurt you?"
"No!" Mina responded immediately. It only gained her and even more perturbed look from her father. She grunted, "No, no he's not hurt me."
In some simple part of her brain she prayed that would be the end of the talk. Her father would just blindly accept her answer and say nothing more on the subject. Unfortunately, Mina's life was not a penny romance novel and her father was certainly not on the blindly agree upon anything. Certainly not something like this.
His voice was quiet, "Mina, those marks on your wrist-"
"I assure you, I know how they got there."
Van Helsing turned red, "Mina!"
“You stole blood from the hospital for him!” Mina countered, though it was a stupid attack.
“That is not the same!”
She strode away from his desk. "He's done nothing to me that I did not expressly agree to, father. Does that satisfy you?"
"No, it does not satisfy me!" Her father continued. If he kept up like this, he would break into another fit of coughs. A terrible part of her hoped he would so she wouldn't be chided like a child. Even when she was a child she was never so chided by her father.
Her father kept speaking, "Mina, I would have never allowed you to visit him in my stead if I thought he'd take advantage of you."
"He has not taken advantage of me!" Mina spoke fervently. Mina never yelled, not ever. Not at her most angry, so now her father stared at her like she was entirely mad. "I understand full well what I did, papa. He did not influence me nor compel me to do it. Now, please, can we stop talking about it?"
"I do not like knowing that my daughter is being used by a vampire!"
"What does it matter who or what I am being used by? You'd have me used by a husband!" The words had cut him deeper than she meant them to. Watch your tongue, she scolded herself. Tears had formed in her eyes. Not sad or pathetic ones but ones of anger. Though if they were towards her papa or herself she did not know.
Mina continued slowly, "He wasn't feeding. He couldn't drink anything. I don't know why my blood is peculiar but... But I couldn't just let him starve, though he seemed very keen to do so. He was not lying. I can tell when he is lying." She looked at her father. "So I gave him my blood. I'm sorry if that disgusts you. But he does not hurt me. He does not take advantage of me. He's been nothing but kind and respectful of me. Now can we stop discussing it?"
Mina watched her father, hoping for some sign to come from him. Perhaps a nod or a sigh and then they could just stop talking about it. Mina so desperately wished they would stop talking about it.
"When did this happen?"
He made a noise like distain and it struck her life a knife in her chest. She should not blame him. If she were in his place, no doubt she'd be disdainful too. Mina thought of how Count Dracula had kissed her earlier. Certainly it was not all a lie.
Mina spoke. "I know you must think me very daft."
"I do not think you are daft, Mina." Her father spoke calmly. "I just want you to be safe. I want you to be safe when..." He bit the words though Mina knew what they were. 'When I am gone'. For certain he was to be gone very soon. Mina wished desperately her father would stop staring at her how he was. Like she wasn’t even Mina but some other, terrible person.
Mina continued, “I know what I’ve done. I know about the ties and the bonds and the going mad or whatever.” Her father’s eyes still locked upon her like a palace guard. “I’m his doctor and I could not let him starve. There was no wrong doing on his part, papa. He had always been civil, kind, and respectful towards me.” Mina finally looked back and saw something else in his eyes. Something she could not name. “This is my concern, papa. You mustn’t worry.”
He didn’t say anything to her. Mina had thought as much. Something in her was disappointed at the thought. She’d always…well, she’d always thought her father more modern than most men. That perhaps she could chat with him about more modern things and he wouldn’t look so horrified. Certainly, Mina had always been a son to her father. He’d never treated her like some weak, little thing. He’d never acted like she was daft or that anything she did horrified him.
This seemed to horrify him. Mina knew she shouldn’t be that upset. Even the most modern of fathers would not accept what she had done. There was every cause for her father to be disgusted and disappointed… Mina thought of Alexander’s lips upon hers. How could something that felt so wonderful be bad?
“Oh Mina,” Her father sighed. “I’ll always worry for you.” Like she were a child again, he brushed the hair around her face.
She clutched his hand. Mina thought she might say something to him. She thought too he might speak but neither said anything. It felt like nothing was to be said. He didn’t hate her. Her father did not hate her as they sat now together in his study. It was a wonderful silence. A peaceful, nice silence Mina did not wish to escape from.
Though escape came when the Westenras appeared. Lord and Lady with their daughter, whom Mina was delighted to see. Lucy seemed to notice nothing different about Mina, which was a relief. In novels, the friend always know when something romantic has happened. They always knew and made the friend confess, but Lucy saw nothing amiss. Good, for Mina did not wish to talk about it again.
But Lady Westenra was always good for bringing up the things no one wished to talk about.
“When will Count Dracula be having a ball, Mina?” Lady Westenra asked in her bawdy voice. Mina felt everyone’s eyes turn to her so very suddenly.
Mina breathed, “I don’t know, Lady Westenra. He hasn’t spoken about it.”
She clicked her tongue, “Well, you must convince him, Mina!” The men at the table gave each other wayward glances. This was gossip to be had after dinner, not at the dinner table.
“We took tea there about a month ago, George, and I think he took a shining to our Lucy!” She obviously beamed at pride at this accomplishment. Mina, feeling rather wicked, glanced to her own wrist and felt strangely smug.
George, uninterested, grunted and ate more of his food.
Lucy sighed, “Please, Mama, the man barely spoke five words to me the entire time.” Lucy had this air about her when she spoke that made it seem as though every word she said were extremely important. Something she had developed in her class, no doubt. Mina was far too blunt to have that air about her, but did so admire it in her friend.
Then Lucy spoke again, “Besides, Mama, I don’t think it is I whom the Count is taken with.”
Mina rammed her foot into Lucy’s own under the table. She wanted a grimace but received only a devilish smile from her red haired friend.
Lady Westenra could not read nuances. “Who the devil else would he be taken with?”
Lucy sipped her wine, “I’ve no idea.”
“…though I do think Mama will go completely mad if you don’t convince him to host a ball very soon, Mina.”
Mina was hardly listening. Her father had started coughing again, for Mina could see him across the sitting room. When the Westenras came for dinner, it was always like Lucy and Mina were children again. They’d sit on their own whilst the grownups talked and no one interfered with the others. Though now Mina wished to run across to the other room and help her father. She heard his cough and wanted to run to his side like a nurse to an alarm. But her father was stubborn, just as stubborn as she, and brushed away George Westenra’s helping hand and insisted upon getting the water himself. Stupid, stubborn man…
“Mina!” Lucy nudged her friend’s arm so strongly that Mina nearly spilt her tea. Of course Lucy had not noticed Mina’s father coughing. It struck against Mina’s ears like the grating of metal.
Mina blinked, “Sorry.”
Her friend laughed, “You’re very distracted tonight.”
“Just tired,” Mina said. It was not wholly a lie. The quick pace of the travel and the loss of blood were enough to make her feel quite woozy. “I’ll try to get him to host a ball, Lucy. I think he would. He’s just not very…social.”
“Hm.” Lucy took another sip of her tea. After that first day in London Lucy had not asked about The Count. Well, not asked about him in the way she wanted too. Now, it seemed, Mina was bursting at the seams to talk and Lucy was the quiet one. Should Mina tell her? Not about the blood, of course, but the kiss. A strange kiss. Mina wasn’t even sure if it meant anything but…
Lucy began, “Did you resume your visits today?”
“I did.” Mina had to bite her tongue to not say more. Lucy kept peering at her with those starling green eyes and Mina felt something seize up inside of her chest.
Her friend sighed, “Oh my God, Mina, just tell me already.” Mina gazed back. “I can tell you’re just bursting with something.”
Mina considered playing coy how Lucy had at dinner. Saying “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Or giggling and looking away. But Mina was not raised such as Lucy. She was not raised to be coy and bat her eyes. Mina was not raised to be indirect and sweet. In fact, Mina was far too direct for her own good. She thought of earlier with Alexander. She thought of earlier with her father.
Mina burst, “Count Dracula kissed me.”
“Or I kissed him,” Mina felt a smile growing on her lips. “I don’t really remember.”
Lucy made a strange muffled laugh like a school girl with a secret. The two friends leaned in, giggling as they did when they were children. Mina forgot about the grownups in the next room or her coughing father or the marks upon her wrist. She thought only of her friend and their secret and feeling so very young again.
Mina smiled, “Shh!” For she was certain the grownups were going to look. Mina had told her father about the bite, but not about this. She was horrified enough to tell him about the blood. Telling him about this was not something she wished to do.
“Wilhelmina, you wanton hussy.” Lucy teased. “Tell me everything.”
“There’s nothing to tell,” Mina insisted. “We kissed. Nothing more.”
They talked a little more about it before the Westenras left. Lucy prattled on about romance and The Count and all sort of nonsense while Mina just nodded and smiled. Though telling her secret had been fun, it set a peculiar sort of melancholy in her chest. This wasn’t just some courtship. Loving him was not falling in love and getting married and living happily ever after. Alexander would live on past ever after while Mina would…
Change? Did she want to become like him? A soul to live forever in the same body. Mina did have strong feelings for him of that she was sure. She thought he had as well, but how could anyone ever be sure of these things?
Mina could not forget about that strange night at the ball. That group, The Protectors, had wanted her to join. They certainly won’t now, she thought with a glance to the mark upon her wrist. Alexander’s mark. Oh God those feelings he’d given her were more powerful than anything she’d ever felt. Mina had wanted to kiss him then. No, no she did not want to kiss him, she’d wanted to consume him. Mina had wanted to draw him into her until they were one and never be broken apart. She’d wanted those strange things in the vision and those strange feeling it had given her. Mina wanted him, all of him, in those ways she was fearful of. Mina wanted-
“Are you going to bed, Mina?”
She looked up to see her father standing in the study’s doorway. The Westenras had gone. Mina had hugged Lucy goodbye while her friend gave her a knowing smile.
Mina nodded, “Yes.” She stood, grabbing her journal from the small table beside her chair. She snuffed out the light and neared her father who smiled in a small kind of way and led the way up the stairs. Even the stairs made his coughing start up again.
“Should I fetch you some water?”
He shook his head, “There’s some by my bedside.”
“Good.” Mina hesitated, not wanting yet to trot off to bed. Something inside of her seized up and she put her arms around her father. Not too tightly, she did not wish him to cough again. He made a noise of slight surprise but soon put his arms around his daughter as she buried her face into his coat. He smelt like dust and old books. He smelt like
their library downstairs.
He chuckled, “What is this?”
“I’m sorry.” Mina wasn’t, but felt like she should be. Because she should be. Rationally, she should be. A sensible girl like her did not give her blood to a vampire. He could’ve very well been lying. Yes, men lied all the time to get women into their beds…or to get them to do what they wished. Mina perhaps was just like one of those girls falling into the schemes of a devious Count who meant only to steal her virtue and ruin her reputation.
Though Mina could not feel sorry for it. Alexander was starving so she fed him her blood. It did not seem vile or odious or manipulating. Mina did not feel like he’d do such a thing to her. Which was completely illogical, she knew. Mina had built a mind upon logic so she knew how illogical it was. Vampires, by nature, were not kind or gentle creatures. They were not meant to be friends…or lovers… Mina shook the latter from her mind. He always seemed so like a man with her. Not a monster at all.
Her father sighed, “It’s all right, Mina.”
She knew it wasn’t, so she squeezed him a bit tighter. It made him chuckle once again and he seemed just like her papa. Her papa who would sit with her by the fire and tell her fairy tales of fantastical creatures. He’d do silly voice for the vampires and witches and make them all seem so wonderful. Her papa who’d sit with her in a gentle silence while he graded papers and she read a book. After her mother died, everyone said she was her papa’s girl for she did everything with him. Mina would sit in in his university classes until she reached the age where that was not endearing anymore. She’d been so cross about it that he began to teach her in his own time.
Her wonderful father. Mina wished whatever bacteria had landed in his lungs would just go away. Her logical mind knew that an impossibility, but it did not stop her from wishing for it with every fiber of her being. It did not stop her from making small barters when she said her sparse prayers. Sparse prayers to a god she hardly ever spoke to who did not seem to listen. Nothing was to make her father well again.
And when he died she’d have nothing. A selfish thing to think of, but a thing she did consider. The house was Jack’s. Everything in it would be given to her cousin and his wife Elizabeth that she had not even met. Mina would be taken off to the South. She supposed she could find a nursing job there. It would not be too awful.
She wouldn’t have father though. She wouldn’t have Lucy either.
She wouldn’t have Alexander.
Have him? You don’t have him. You have a mark on your wrist and two kisses but that means nothing. You have nothing.
“What’s wrong, Mina Mine?” He used the pet name he’d called her when she was very little. Mina Mine who ran about the garden and infuriated her mother with how muddy she got. Hearing it again felt like being stabbed through the heart.
She sighed, “I just want you to be well. And not to hate me.”
“I don’t hate you, Mina,” her father said assuredly. “I’m not exactly thrilled with him-“
Mina laughed in her tears, “Father-“
“But I do not hate you.” She pulled back, the tears smudging up around her eyes. Mina did not often cry in front of her father. It seems silly to cry in front of someone who is ill. It seemed silly to cry when they were the one suffering, not you. With a swift hand, Mina brushed back her tears.
He smiled melancholically, “Now off to bed, Mina. For I have to give examinations in the morning and I cannot be sleeping through them all. The students would like me far too much.”
Going back to Carfax after what had happened was exciting and also painfully uncomfortable. For this very strange part of her wanted to run into his arms and kiss him the moment he opened the door which she knew was very improper. This part of her though did not care at all and she felt the need to kiss him so keenly when she saw his face that she nearly did.
“Hello!” She said cheerily, stepping into the large manor. It felt a rather stupid greeting though it had always been her greeting. God, why did she feel so very peculiar? Her face felt hot and she was sure she was flushing all the way down to her neck. Mina elected to not look him in the eyes for perhaps then he would not hear how her heart was pounding.
Could he sense her heart pounding? Mina had never considered such a thing before. Mina knew vampires could taste and smell differences in blood, but would he know that her heart felt fit to burst in being here. She brushed past him and went off for the study. Maybe if she behaved like everything were absolutely normal it would feel so.
When she reached her usual spot in the study, something in her seized to when she stared at the couch. The couch where yesterday he’d sat so very near to her and put his fangs into her wrist and…
She turned around, “I don’t really know why I brought this.” Mina acknowledged her medicine bag. “Father’s been doing nothing with the samples and it’s stupid for me to make any more if he is not using them.” To this Alexander said nothing, he just looked at her with that annoying smirk he’d had upon her first visit here. It made her feel only more flustered to have him stare at her like that, so she set down her bag and began to rummage through it for absolutely no reason.
“Though I suppose we could still make some anyways. I suppose I could run tests upon them if father told me what I was mean to be looking for. To be completely frank, I don’t even know why he wanted samples in the first place-“
She looked up to her name and suddenly his lips were upon hers. A sweet, soft kiss that lasted but a moment before he pulled away. Short as it was, it had stopped her rushing heart.
He smiled, “Would you like some tea?”
“I did some research last night in father’s library.” Mina said in the midst of their conversation. Everything had stopped feeling so uncomfortable and strange, so Mina talked to him as they often did in her visits. It felt normal and Mina adored it.
She continued, “After those Protector people tried to use me as bait that night, I’d been highly interested in them.” He looked at her intently. “I found nothing of them specifically, but many groups similar. All have names that seem to promote peace, but they often leave a trail of blood behind them. Not just supernatural do they kill, but people too whom they deem ‘corrupted by the devil.’” Mina met his eyes and quickly averted them. “So I suppose I must do my best to avoid them.”
That earned a small smirk from him, but Mina was not coy enough to giggle and bite her lip. Instead she sipped her tea too quickly and burned the roof of her mouth.
“Groups like theirs have always been in operation.” His voice was low and warm like the fire in the hearth behind them. “A group like theirs killed my Viktoryia.”
“I’m so sorry.” Mina spoke, feeling like she’d pried somehow. It felt strange to look at him now, like some layer of skin had come off from him. Mina was unsure whether he wanted her to see him or not so she stared back at her tea. “That’s awful.”
He sighed, “I sensed she was in danger, but when I came back she was dead and they were gone.”
“What did you do?” Mina wanted to scream at herself the moment she asked it. It was then she realized how very little about him she knew. It seemed she’d bared her own soul slowly over their friendship but of his she had seem very little.
“I killed them.” His voice was an empty and as vast as a cathedral.
Mina glanced up, “Did you feel any better?”
A dry chuckle. “I didn’t feel any worse.” Something shifted. “I went mad after that. I went completely mad for a very long time.” Alexander settled back in his chair and whatever layer had been torn away seemed to come back up again. “I’m far better now. I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
“You don’t frighten me.” Mina spoke so assuredly that it seemed to amuse him. “What?”
Mina raised at brow at that, but didn’t dwell too much. As she moved to set down her tea and saucer, she saw again the raised mark upon her skin. The two light marks that her father had been keen enough to notice. Of course he’d been looking for them. No doubt he looked for them every time he saw her. Her father was a trusting man, but her father was still a father.
The Count spoke, “Mina?” She looked up and noticed his expression changed. “Is something wrong?”
Mina considered lying. Though before she could fully weigh her options, she found herself blurting out:
He gave the look she was expecting, “He knows?”
Mina spoke rapidly, “He saw the marks when I was getting his handkerchief for him. I explained it and I don’t think he’s that cross about it now.”
“He just knows about the bite, not anything else. It’s all right.”
He did not seem convinced by this. Mina did not expect him to be.
Alexander said, “Mina, perhaps I should talk to him-“
Her eyes widened, “We are not discussing this with my father!”
“Your father should know that my intentions-“
“Are entirely honorable?” Mina huffed a laugh. “You drank my blood; this is not a usual courtship!”
Perhaps she should not have used that word for he gave her the strangest look when she did. God, Mina was lost with men, Lucy was right. There was supposed to be some decorum to this. Yes, there were very strict rules about courtship and flirtation that did not involve blurting such things out to your partner. Mina was meant to bat her eyes and be coy and say nothing while Alexander made the decision. He was meant to decide the courtship, not she!
This wasn’t even courtship…she had not meant… They’d kissed. They’d kissed and he’d taken her blood. They were dear friends and companions but this could not be courtship. Courtship ended in a marriage and a life: two things Mina would not have with Alexander.
Mina exhaled, “I do not mean-“
“Well, if we are courting, then we should host a ball to announce it?”
She smiled at his jest, “I’m not sure what would shock Lady Westenra more: the fact that you’re finally hosting a ball, or the fact that you’re not courting her daughter.”
For the rest of the afternoon they talked as they always had. Mina even tried to teach him to dance again though he showed absolutely no improvement. It was silly to be dancing about with him and laughing like everything was normal, but Mina did not care. In Carfax, she felt happy. Really, truly happy and she did not care if it was little bit silly to feel that way. One could not spend every waking hour brooding for they were sure to go mad from such Byronic nonsense.
When they finished dancing, they sat near each other and Mina greatly wondered if he’d take her blood again. When she brought the blood from the hospital, she’d only bring it twice a week. But that was a bottle full. No doubt he drank a bit every day. Would he need her blood every day now? Something deep in her chest seemed warm at the thought of it. How could something so bizarre feel so very pleasurable?
“Yes?” She felt she spoke too suddenly as she turned to him. They were very close. Too close for people who were just friends.
“Would you like to complete the bond?”
Mina mind rushed with many illicit thoughts at his words before she understood what he meant. A Quintel Bond. Named for Roger Quintel, a man who’d had such a relationship with a vampire and wrote down his findings. The human gives their blood to a vampire who in turns gives their blood to the human. It creates a bond stronger than a familiar one. The minds were melded into one. One could hear the other’s thoughts, feel the other’s feelings, and even control the other’s actions.
It was often used by vampires to control their familiars for their powers were greater in the bond. The human had some power, but the vampires was only amplified. Say, if Alexander wished to compel Mina to do something she could not just fight it off. She would be his. Fully and completely subject to his control should he wish to exercise it.
He grasped her hands, “I’d never use it to harm you, Mina. I do not wish to control you.”
“Then why do it?” Mina’s eyes met his.
“I can offer greater protection to you.” He said like it was a business deal. “I could sense where you are, if you are in danger. If those Protector people were ever to harm you I could help you.”
Mina sensed there was more.
He smiled slightly, “And my own second reason.”
“What is that?”
He was gazing at her so intensely that Mina could not meet his eyes anymore. There was a heat upon her face and in her chest, so much so that it felt almost like she could not breathe. Then his hand, so softly, moved and brushed down her flaming cheek. Mina did not understand why one person could have such a very sudden and very powerful dominion over her. She’d always prided herself on how independent she was from others. Her feelings had never so been reliant upon others. Why now could he just gaze at her and she feel so very taken over.
“The second reason is my own,” Alexander spoke lowly. Whatever spell he’d cast hung in the air as he moved back away from her. “If you do not wish to, we do not have to. I will not harm you, Mina.”
A smile played on her lips, “I know.”
He was very skilled in whatever seduction this was. Mina knew that. She knew his kind, what he’d done… She knew about his ways and that she should not fall prey to them but honestly she was no longer caring. Something about him felt so warm and kind near her that she could not think he was bad. Which he was, she knew. God, it seemed her logic and feeling were both at battle and neither one submitting.
She looked at him, “All right.” He just kept up his strange gaze. “We can create the bond.”
“It’s going to hurt,” Alexander spoke in a way that did not portray pain. His fingers did not hurt as they trailed down her neck. “When you first take the blood, it will hurt you and then everything will be fine.”
Mina nodded as he leaned nearer to her. She thought he was going to drink from her neck and Mina did not even mind it. Then she felt him grasp her arm again and bring the same wrist to his lips. Mina felt that tear into her skin and the wonderful pleasure that came after it. Oh, how could she think this bad? How could this be anything other than the best thing in the world? Mina sighed as such wonderful pleasures overtook her that she could not even keep her eyes open.
Then he pulled away and she felt the wound close itself in a moment. Before Mina had time to think it over, Alexander bit into his own wrist and placed it against her lips. He put it to her lips before she had a chance to think, and she knew she must swallow the vile substance or else choke upon it. Why did I agree to this? She thought through the delirium of the bite. As soon as a small bit of the metallic liquid passed her lips, he pulled his arm away.
That was when her brain was set on fire.
Not literally, of course, but it may as well have been. Something overtook. A foreign being invaded her body as her brain cried out in rebellion. Mina started screaming, or perhaps it was just the noise inside her brain. She clutched her ears desperately but the screaming remained. The pain was insurmountable. Whatever poison he'd put into her had overtaken her wholly. The virus spread to every corner of her body and it would not be denied. He did not say it would kill me. But it was killing her, of that she was sure. The blood was killing her, possessing her, making her its own, and Mina powerless to it.
Then, just as abruptly as it started, the fire was gone. Mina was herself once more. Well, not quite herself. Something else was inside of her. A presence she could sense as though someone were peering over her shoulder. The blood had put something inside of her.
Mina, are you all right?
Her eyes widened at this intruder to her mind. Alexander. Alexander’s very voice inside of her mind. You knew this, Mina told herself to calm down. You knew that this would happen. You agreed to this. Hearing someone else inside her mind was so bizarre. Feeling someone else inside her mind was completely peculiar. His hands rested on the sides of her face.
Don’t be frightened.
“I’m not,” Mina spoke it though it was a lie. Why had she done this? Why had she surrendered such power to him? It was completely illogical for her to do such a thing. Mina knew of these bonds. Alexander had full dominion over her now. He could make her do anything should he wish it. Why did she trust him so? Oh God, she should not have. This was wrong. Mina should not have. Why did she…should not have…
A servant stepped in, “Sir, there’s a young woman here to see you.”
Alexander stood, “A young woman?”
“A Miss Westenra, sir.”
“Lucy?” Mina breathed, standing far too quickly. Everything rushed to her head before she was steadied by Alexander’s hand.
He spoke, “Send her in, Miss Mason.”
“Very Good, sir.”
The next moments Mina did not remember very clearly. She remembered making a slight joke about Lucy visiting. She remembered feeling very strangely standing by Alexander’s side. This new bond made her want to be so near to him for some reason. Mina did not get much time to dwell upon that.
In the doorway, she saw a woman's silhouette. A mass of large curls. A horribly worried expression.
Then Mina knew why Lucy had come.
Mina's body turned to ice at the thought of it. That sinking feeling she'd had when she first saw John at the ball shot through her once more. Then, she had been wrong, but Mina knew she was not so now. She could tell from the look on Lucy's face. Mina felt her whole body losing feeling. Her whole vision swirled away.
"Lucy, what is it?" Mina burst from The Count's protective grasp and stumbled towards her friend. Lucy caught her hands just in time, saving Mina from a sure fall. Mina could not feel her legs. She would not be able to stand for much longer. "Is it father?" Lucy bit her lip. "Lucy!"
It made no sense. People did not die so suddenly. People did not die in the middle of the day.
Father was fine. He was fine last night and fine this morning. Father was fine.
Lucy blubbered, "John and Arthur came to my house. You weren’t home, and they were looking for you. They thought you might be at my house. I assumed you were here." Lucy's hands were shaking. Or Mina's were shaking so terribly on her that it felt like Lucy's. Lucy had begun to cry. Mina had too.
Her friend exhaled. "Your father became very sick at school and he is…Oh darling Mina, he is-"
"No," Mina said in a voice that didn't even sound like her own. "No, no, no. He can't…" The words. Mina was speaking words but they seemed to be in another language. Her eyes swirled out again, darkness approaching on all sides. She could stand no longer. She could be awake no longer. This was some horrible dream. Everything had been so perfect and all had been so well there was no way he could be dead. No way.
She felt Alexander’s hand on her back as Mina fell into her friend, clutching her far too tightly but not caring.
Father was gone.
Father was gone, and Mina had never felt so ill before.
Chapter 13: The Angel and the Demon
Wilhelmina weighs her options in light of her father's death
Dear Cousin Mina,
I am very sorry to hear of Uncle Abraham's passing. He was a good man and always kind to me and my mother. Please know that we offer you our prayers and condolences at this time. Losings one’s parent is a terrible thing, and I am so sorry that you have lost both of yours. I know God will be with you at this most difficult time.
I know I am written in the will as the successor to your father's estate. Please know that I am very grateful for this, and will not be quick to forget that it is your home as well. My wife Elizabeth and I will be moving in shortly for I have already accepted a position as a doctor at Carfax Asylum. Please know you have our hospitality until you can make other living arrangements. My mother Helen has offered you a room in her estate in the South should you wish to live with her.
Again, please accept my sympathy for your loss, and know that you are most welcome to stay at your home until you can find suitable living arrangements.
Dr. Jack Seward
Dear Miss Van Helsing,
I regret that we have not met each other before these very terrible circumstances. Jack talks so wonderfully of your father and how he inspired him to become a doctor himself. My dear husband is well meaning, but I feel his letter comes off a bit cross.
I do despise the workings of the world in which you cannot keep your own home. I know you do not dream of sharing it with us, but please know that you may stay as long as you wish it. The home is the place you grew up and I am so sorry that we will be encroaching upon it.
I look very forward to meeting you, Miss Van Helsing, and hope we will soon be fast friends.
Elizabeth R. Seward
My brother's passing comes to me with a heavy heart. I knew him to be sickly, but did not know how severe it was until he wrote me a few months ago asking if I would take you in. Please know that you are most welcome to live with me. I know my home is quite different from Whitby, but it is a beautiful place with good kind people and I do believe you could find yourself most content here. Your father writes that you studied medicine with him. I thought you may like to know that our midwife is looking for an assistant I have already talked to her about you.
I know it will be difficult to leave your home, but know that you have one here with me should you want it. With Jack leaving and my husband no longer with us, I have a very large home and no one to fill it with. Again, I am so sorry for your loss and hope you will consider my offer.
Sent with love,
“Are you to get a letter from every member of the Seward family?” Lucy said as she sipped her tea. In light of Dr. Van Helsing’s passing, Lucy had decided to move herself into Mina’s home for the week. I’m not letting the poor girl live alone! Lucy had said when her mother raised a brow at the idea. Mina had insisted it not needed but found herself ardently grateful for her friend’s company. The house seemed so much larger now with her father not in it.
“Why are you reading my mail?” Mina snatched back the pile of letters that she herself had not looked a yet. Lucy leaned back against the setee, blowing on her scalding drink.
“You’ve been getting so much. I’m just trying to help you.”
Lucy had been helping, far more than she knew. Lucy and her family took it upon themselves to arrange the wake and the funeral, something of which Mina was wonderfully grateful. The funeral preparations had already been paid for when the Westenras went to arrange them. The man at the parlor had said that someone had come and paid for all of it. A man who wished to remain anonymous.
Lady Westenra had marveled at the fact while Mina felt her face turn bright red. She wanted to cry again at that moment and excused herself away to the powder room. In truth, Mina had felt rather forgotten by her Count. Which she knew she should not feel. Her house was busy all the time so she hadn’t time to go to Carfax. No doubt he did not wish to travel out in the sun to see her. It had been several days since their strange bond was formed that Mina received the news of his donation.
Thank you, Mina had thought into the silence of her mind. No one had answered.
On the day of the funeral, Alexander had been there. She’d spotted his tall figure amdist the crowd. How desperately she wanted to speak with him but found herself flooded with too many mourners to speak.
It is astounding how popular one becomes at funerals. Everyone wishes to speak to you and offer you words of advice. Women who’d been cross to Mina for her entire life now called her ‘dear’ and wished to let her know that they would have her for tea any time. Families she did not know spoke to her for long moments about stories of her father she had never even heard before. Stories that didn’t even sound like her father.
Mina did not wish to be there. For the entire funeral, she wished nothing more than to just be alone. Alone in her quiet bedroom with no one there. She wanted not false women and no story telling families. Mina wanted quiet, peace, and a moment to grieve. She felt she’d hardly grieved at all.
After the service, Mina led the crowd out from the church. A line of people walked up with more stories and false words that by the end of it Mina just wished to sob and cover herself over with blankets. She did not wish to talk with people of them make her dinner. Mina wished only to lock herself away in her home for the few remaining days that it was hers. Then to Aunt Helen’s, she supposed, for where else was there for her? A twenty year old, homeless woman.
I shall get a job. I shall work in a hospital and get enough money for my home. I could live in London if I wanted. Yes, a hospital there could hire me and then I’d-
Mina wanted her fire back. If she had her fire than she could form her idea and not let it slip away. For now, she did not want to form ideas. Mina wanted nothing but solitude.
Then Alexander appeared and she was so relieved she felt she might cry again. Which was a completely stupid reaction to have. Exhaustion was the cause, perhaps. Grief. Grief did odd things to emotions. For now, Mina wished nothing more than to step into his arms and have them wrap about her. Which was a foolish, childish little notion to be having.
He bowed his head, “Miss Van Helsing.” I’ve missed you. I want to see you.
She nodded, “Count Dracula.” Tomorrow. Come to my window at night. Lucy is staying with me so you mustn’t use the front door.
Her Count nodded, “My deepest condolences.” Tomorrow, then.
It was the morrow as Lucy was still sorting through letters and making little comments as she sipped on her tea. Mina’s mind could hardly commit to anything for she was not sure why she had told him to come in through the blasted window. Or why the bond had suddenly sprung back to life when they were near each other. Or why she had suddenly sprung back to life when he came near to her again.
All for naught it was, for Mina knew what she had to tell him. This had to end. Their courtship, flirtation, relationship, or whatever on earth it was had to end. It had been selfish for Mina to let him make such ties to her when she had to leave. Mina had set her mind upon The South, for it would be better to leave Whitby. Leave Whitby and start anew. She could be a midwife. Mina thought she’d be a rather good midwife.
Oh God, to leave Whitby. It stabbed her in the chest though she did not wish it to. Mina had wished she did not see Alexander at all. She had done a wonderful job of distracting her feelings towards him away for the past week. Mina had had no time to brood over her Alexander and that was good, for it had helped in her decision. But now she was not confident in it. No, not confident at all.
How she wanted to be near to him.
She blinked, “Sorry, what did you say?” Lucy gave that look of understanding. She thought Mina was dwelling in on herself again. Perhaps she was.
“I suggested we take a walk today. The sun is out finally, thank the Lord.”
Mina smiled, “That sounds lovely.”
She hoped desperately it would distract her mind.
Jonathan saw that beast of a man at the funeral.
The Count, looking the picture of a Byronic hero, stood in the back of the church looking so dark and handsome. Many of the girls had turned to gape at him then looked away thinking better of themselves. This was a funeral, not a time to look for prospective husbands. Thought The Count was so terribly elusive that he supposed he could not smite their curiosity. Jonathan found himself staring a bit too.
In his mind, Jonathan had picture Count Dracula as some beast of thing with a terrible face and burning eyes. Or perhaps very old and grey and in no danger of having seductive powers. John had glanced him for but a moment at that stupid night at the ball that Renfield had still not fully explained. Now John stared at the vampire and cursed him for being so handsome. Jonathan did not like that Mina spent so much time with a man that handsome.
The fact that he stood in a church was odd. The Protectors had dispelled the myth about vampires not being able to enter holy ground. It was uncomfortable for them, but not impossible. If Count Dracula had risked pain to be here for Mina, then there much be some sort of attachment. They were not familiars, at least they weren’t that night at the ball. Mina had cursed him and sent him away. Though of course she could’ve been lying.
Jonathan had been tasked with assessing Mina’s relation to The Count. He was not sure why this task was his, but The Leader was keenly interested in it. Which made sense, John supposed, but he still did not know why it was his job. He was meant to alert the minute he thought they were familiars. Then the first plan would be set into place.
The plan was a ghastly thing and seemed desperate to him. Why bring such harm to Mina just to show her The Count’s true nature? There had to be another way. There had to be another solution. Renfield insisted that that The Leader was wise and the plan would work. Jonathan was not so sure.
He felt so sick thinking of it all that he left church without even speaking to Mina.
When he was leaving, he saw her speaking with the beast and felt like he’d been stabbed in the chest.
Alexander waited outside the window as Mina had asked. He called out to her through the bond, but was unsure if she heard him. Her mind was so distracted of late that she never heard him. Which he understood, of course, but he felt her loss like someone had cut off his right arm.
He was not waiting very long when she opened the window. Her blonde hair in a braid and a long white night dress and robe upon her. She nodded for him to enter but he could not move.
“I have to invite you, don’t I?” Mina asked softly. He nodded. “Count Dracula, please come in.”
Something in her voice was colder than the air outside. Was it not she who had asked him to come see her? He did not know what he’d done to make her upset.
"Why did you need to see me?” Her cold voice asked.
Mina tugged her robe across her body like she was afraid he was gazing at her improperly. He did not think he was, but she stared at him now like he was some sort of villain. A villain, though he did not know why he was one.
He moved in and she stepped away.
Mina spoke, "Lucy is down the hall so we must be very quiet." The she turned away, walking like she meant to get away from him. Alexander could not think of why she suddenly hated him so. Something reminded him of his life before. His life before where many a woman like she let him in through their bedroom window at night. Some through compulsion and some through curiosity, but they always allowed him. How easily they'd fall into his arms and give him their body and their blood... Not that he wanted Mina to do that, but he had not anticipated such an icy welcome.
She locked the door, "What is it?"
"Mina," he spoke her name like it was a question. She seemed pressed into the door as he walked near to her and such a look of fear that he stopped.
Mina swallowed, "I'm sorry we didn’t talk at the funeral. I haven't been feeling like myself at all lately." She slacked, the air around her feeling heavier but less malicious. So she was not angry, just anxious. Which he understood more than she thought he did. Whilst her eyes were downcast he moved near again, wanting to touch her so much that he brushed her face lightly with his fingers.
Her sparkling eyes raised, "Do you need blood?"
"No," he answered immediately. That look of distaste came back onto her. His hands held her face, the small gaunt thing. Tears were in her eyes as she stared up at him.
"No, Mina, I wanted to see you."
She pulled away, "Well, you've seen me."
Brushing past, this woman in her white night gown moved towards the window once again. He wished this bond has not lost its power and he could hear her thoughts for he had no idea what he's done to make her so very angry. Alexander turned back, resting his arms upon her arms. She did not try to run once again. For a moment the idea of compelling her to speak came into his mind, one he immediately dismissed. If Mina despised him now, she'd despise him more after.
"Mina, I am so sorry." She let out a small sound at this. "I am so sorry for your father. I'm sorry I have not come to see you, I thought you did not wish to see me." Slowly this hands moved so they wrapped around her waist. Her skin felt so warm beneath the nightdress. It smelt so light as he rested his face near her hair. He wanted her to lean back against him and relax with him as she had before. He wanted whatever this anger was to go away. He wanted to hold her, to comfort her, perhaps as he should have earlier. He'd wanted to come to see her, he had, but her house had always been so full of people that he assumed he would not be welcome.
Like she could still hear his thoughts, Mina lay back against him, her temple laying into his cheek. She placed her arms over his, making the warmth all the more great.
"I haven't had two moments to myself since father passed." Her voice was low and softly intimate. "And I know I shall have endless ones to myself very soon."
He leaned his face against her, "Mina..."
Then like his voice had disturbed her, Mina broke away from his arms once again. Though instead of retreating, she turned to face him.
"I'm going to leave, Alexander."
The words struck him like a blow.
"I have to leave Whitby. Cousins Jack is taking the house. He's already taken a job at the asylum." Quickly, she brushed the remaining tear from her eyes. "I should not have agreed to the bond. I knew I would have to leave. That was selfish of me to let you do that knowing I would have to go."
He moved to speak but she put up her hand.
"You should go," Mina decided. "Thank you for coming but you should just leave. It would be better."
He could see her trying not to look at him for tears were still forming in her eyes now. Alexander did not know how he'd harmed her, but now wanting nothing more than to comfort her. Mina, his Mina, crying and looking so awfully broken.
He'd seen her at the funeral since then and she was barely able to speak five words. He had to keep his distance there. There, they could not be seen as anything more than acquaintances. Count Dracula was a patient of Mina's father. That was his only descriptor. If he'd talked to her too much, rumors would spread faster than wildfire, and he knew she did not wish that. Especially now, as she was being watched by those Protectors. In public, Alexander had to be nothing to Mina.
Often he'd come to her house and watch through the front window. He should've come up and said something but Mina had visitors at all hours now. He'd needed to be alone with her. He was alone with her now.
Alexander craved being near to her. He'd wanted to be next to her, holding her hand and cradling her as she wept. Though, he knew, she so hated crying. Mina had been strong for him so often, he'd wanted the chance to do the same. Mina had stood in the church on her own, with no one to offer comfort but herself. It was then when he felt he finally understood her. Mina had said before that she had to be her own parent. Of course he'd noticed Mina's strength all on his own, but sometimes it seemed almost too much. As though she were afraid to not be so.
Then, at the funeral, he finally understood. Mina was quite accustomed to being the only one able to comfort herself. He could tell in the way she held her hands and her head during the mass. This was not something new to Mina. Mina was quite used to being alone. It broke his heart to see it. Did Mina not know that she did not have to bear all the weight on her own?
"Mina, I'm not going to leave you." He spoke, placing his hand upon her cheek.
Her nose turned, "I have to go; I've no one else now. You can...you can just find someone else to be your familiar. It doesn’t matter."
"No," he moved nearer as she stared at him quizzically. "No, no Mina. I do not want just your blood I want you."
He pressed his lips against her forehead. She was so warm. So warm and so very alive beneath his fingers. His Mina. His Mina whom he had not seen in such a long while. He missed her presence and her laugh and her keen voice. He missed seeing her in his home and dancing with her. He felt that beast rile up inside of him when he thought of her blood.
Her blood. Her sweet, intoxicating blood that tasted like none he'd ever had. Mina's blood was so peculiar, he'd noticed it the first moment she entered his home. Delicious, pure, and increasingly seductive. God, he needed her to be his. His and only his. It was sinful and disgusting for a demon like him to want an angel like her, but he wanted her so badly that it consumed him entirely.
He moved his lips to hers wanting to completely inhale her. The monster inside of him enflamed as his arms wrapped tightly around her. Like that first desperate kiss in the forest he wanted her so villainously now. He did not want her to leave and he'd find a way to keep her. Mina, his Mina. His love, for he loved her. Sinfully he loved this beautiful, young, bright, perfect thing that he should not. He should send her away and let her leave to the South. If there was any good in him, he would let her go.
Alexander was far too much a demon to be moral.
Mina broke, "Alexander..." He tried to touch her lips again but her hand pressed again his chest. "I cannot. It's...selfish. I'll be gone soon and-"
"Be selfish." He said, finally kissing her again. Her protestations fell away as she wrapped her arms behind his neck. His senses were flooded with her. The very air around them smelt like her: her scent, her blood. Her pounding heart filled the air with the thick scent of it.
They were upon the bed. Alexander did not aim to frighten her, so they sat side by side as he drew her near to him. Though soon it was Mina to lay back and pull him down atop her. It made him smile smugly as she grasped him near.
Something in him pulled away, that beast rearing in his chest. Her neck, white and long, stood out against her darkly colored quilt. Her bright blue eyes gazed up at him as he drew a finger down her lily skin. Try as he might to deny it, Alexander was thirsting. He had not had her since that horrible day nearly a week ago.
No doubt his face had changed now. No doubt his eyes were bright red and his face inhumanly gaunt. He felt his fangs pressing out against his lip.
"It's all right," said the angel who lay beneath him. Her beautiful hand reached up for him, bringing him to the side of her warm and soft neck. "You can."
The beast seized up inside and without another moment Alexander drove his fangs into the skin of her neck. Mina gasped then lost herself to sighing as the euphoria took a hold of her. Mina, his Mina. She breathed slowly as he drank from her now. His hand ran down her side, finding her leg and pulling her knee up and near to him. He wanted her so desperately he could hardly breathe.
Alexander broke away, letting go of her and biting into his own wrist. Mina drank his blood for just a moment before he took it away. She gazed up at him, perplexed by those feelings inside of her as she always was. In an attempt the help her understand them, Alexander drove his lips against her own again.
Mina pulled away, "I love you."
He smiled, "Do you?"
"If I am to go away, I thought you should know that." Mina ran her hand down the front of him, her lithe fingers fiddling with the buttons of his shirt.
"I love you," he spoke and she looked up at him. "My Mina." Alexander engulfed the angel in another embrace. Mina was not to fly away if he could do anything about it. Which he would, he was certain. Mina was his and Mina would stay. No one was going to take her from him. Not now that she loved him and wanted him too. He was not going to let this angel fly from his grasp.
Loved him. She loved him. How could one such as her love one such as him? The whole thing felt increasingly bizarre but he hardly cared. This perfect little thing loved him and he loved her.
He wanted her. Alexander did not wish to frighten her but he wanted her so desperately as she kissed him in her white nightdress. A flimsy little thing really. He could feel the skeleton of her small body beneath it. He wanted to wrap himself in it and cover her with himself. Though he did not wish to frighten, Alexander wished desperately to hold her. To have Mina in the way that lovers do. It would not be frightening if she let him have her. Mina was well learned, but Alexander could teach her things she could not imagine. Pleasures she’d never known before. Mina. My Mina.
She pulled him back upon her pillows. There weren't many of them so they sunk back into the headboard. Mina seemed not to mind it as he moved his kisses down from her lips to her neck. She held him there a slight laugh coming from her lips. He moved a finger to her neck of her nightdress, touching the small buttons there. He looked up for allowance, and Mina nodded quickly. He undid them, seeing her white and pure skin beneath the outer layer.
Her breaths were strange as he pulled the garment further open. Her breasts were small and lay nearly flat against her ribs. Her collar bone was sharp and thin, sunken in in the middle near her throat. He placed a kiss there and she breathed once again. Alexander ran his fingers upon her goose flesh ridden skin and over one of her small pink nipples. Mina was breathing heavily as he moved his kisses to her breast now. She held him there, her light fingers in his hair as he kissed her other breast. Up he trailed the kisses until he reached her lips again.
Mina breathed, "Alexander?"
"Yes, my darling?" She smiled at the endearment.
"I do love you. I love you so much I think I'll stop breathing, but I think it best if we do not..."
He kissed her, "We shan't do anything you don't wish." That seemed to calm her frantic heart beating. "Would you like me to go?"
"No!" She answered quick enough to make him laugh. Mina flushed, "Stay, for just a bit longer. This is the happiest I've felt in days and I wish it to last."
More than happy to comply, Alexander resumed his kisses upon her lips and moved his hand back to her soft flesh. His thumb traced over her breast as they kept embracing and he lost all track of his thoughts and of time. He could be quite content with this: his hands upon her smooth flesh and his lips upon her soft mouth. Her hands held against the back of him, one grasped tightly in his hair. Alexander was far too blissful with his angel to let her go. She would not leave, he decided. There would be a way to keep her with him that would not frighten.
He considered offering his hand in marriage to her, but thought that ridiculous. Why? She loves you. She wants you.
I could not marry her. Not with how I am. For she’d either grow older or become like me.
Alexander was not sure whether he could subject her to such a thing.
If he did marry her, where would she live until the wedding? With the terrible cousins?
He elected not to think about it and think only about kissing and touching this angel in his arms.
There was a knock upon the door and the beast inside of him seized up for war. A low noise nearly like a growl escaped his lips as he turned his gaze to the door. Mina's soft hand upon his chest brought back his sanity.
Lucy, Mina thought to him as she redid her buttons. Go now, if you wish, my love. She kissed his cheek, Or stay if you’d rather. But don't be seen. Lucy would be far too impressed with me if she knew I had a man in my room.
She stood and walked to the door, undoing the lock and Alexander slid into the shadows.
"Mina, I thought I heard you up." The girl with the red curls stepped into the bedroom. The moonlight sat upon her hair making it look as though it were on fire.
Mina spoke, "I'm just restless, Lucy. You needn't worry."
"I know," Lucy sighed, stepping in like she meant to stay for a long while. Something dark and cold seized up in Alexander's heart for he wished for nothing more than this girl to leave. As he gazed now at his Mina, he thought of how she'd let his hands upon her and his blood inside of her. He wanted her now back in his arms until the sun came up and he must flee. But Miss Westenra had a look like she meant to stay for a long while despite the deepening disdain in Alexander's chest.
"I'm fine, Lucy. Honestly." Mina placed a kind hand upon her friend's shoulder.
Lucy sighed simply, "I just worry for you, Mina. I know you're to be shipped off soon and-"
"And I'll work and make enough money to come back to Whitby and buy a home." Mina answered with a sure and warm smile. "I'm a grown woman, after all. I won't be shut away like an orphan in a gothic novel."
"Good," Lucy replied with a content smile. "For I shall miss you very much." A smirkish smile. "And your Count shall miss you very much."
He knew Mina was flushing though he could not see her face.
"I have not seen him stalking about. Have you talked to him?"
"A bit at the funeral service," Mina answered easily. "I haven't had much time to talk with anyone."
"Of course," Lucy's voice was serious. "Are you all right?”
His angel nodded, “A bit restless, but I’m fine.”
“Good.” Lucy shifted towards the door and her felt strangely giddy at her leaving. “I should let you rest then, Mina. If you can't sleep, you can come to my room and we can play cards until morning."
Mina laughed, "Thank you, Lucy. Good night." The two friends embraced before the red haired one left. Mina had shut the door, slid the lock back over, and waited at least a minute before speaking again.
"I know you're there, Alexander." She watched him step out from his spot among the shadows. "The bond goes both ways, remember."
"Of course," he walked nearer, taking her hand and kissing it.
She half smiled, "Lucy is right. I should rest."
"Yes," he brushed back a called hair. On her neck he saw his mark bright and clear against her skin. In a swift movement, Mina leaned in and pressed her lips on to his.
He thought of something. “Come see me tomorrow.”
Mina grinned, “Tomorrow?”
“I have some news for you.”
A laugh, “Can you not tell me now?”
“No, for I want you to come see me tomorrow so I shall leave you in suspense.” She looked to laugh again and he set a kiss upon her lips. Her fallen hairs he brushed back once again.
"Good night, Alexander."
"Good night, my Mina."
Chapter 14: A Deed
Your author has been bad and neglecting this story. Full disclosure, the full on is on FF, I've just been forgetting to update here for a long time. I will slowly, but surely, be adding the chapters here as well. Note this version is slightly different that my one on FF, but mostly the same. Enjoy!
Dear Miss Van Helsing,
I apologize for not writing earlier. I apologize too for not coming to see you. I have been very busy with the group you know I am involved with and could hardly spare a moment. Still, I know it is no excuse. I knew your father for my whole life. I should have come to see you. I fear I have been a terrible friend to you and not just of late.
In other news, the group I mentioned earlier still expresses a keen interest in you. You would be such a value to us Mina with your vast knowledge. Please, say you will consider.
Miss Van Helsing,
Know All Men by These Presents That: COUNT VLADIMIR ALEXANDER DRACULA of SIGHISOARA, TRANSYLVANIA bequeaths unto WHILHELMINA VAN HELSING of WHITBY, ENGLAND the following described real housing and premises, situate in WHITBY, ENGLAND
Henceforth, CARFAX COTTAGE will be the rightful home and property of WHILHELMINA VAN HELSING of WHITBY, ENGLAND
C. V. A. D.
Mina had been lying in the study reading when Lucy stormed in like a great clap of thunder. With a burst of her own lightening, Lucy tossed a letter on top of Mina’s book. Which was quite read, seeing as Mina hated to be interrupted from her reading. Especially when the reading weather was so perfect with the storm outside.
“The bastard gave you a house!”
“What?” Mina pulled up the letter. It appeared a document of some sort, not any correspondence. Freshly printed, with the blank spaces written in a familiar elegant hand. As she read across it, Mina found her friend to not be lying. Mina’s feet swung to the ground as her heart leapt up into her chest. It appeared this was the news Alexander had wanted to tell her. She’d decided not to visit in light of the storm, but it appeared things had changed now.
Lucy chucked in a strangely hysterical manner.
“Obviously, the man is not a fan of your leaving Whitby!” Lucy fell eagerly onto the spot next to Mina. Her hand’s grasped at the paper. “A house? You must be one bloody good kisser, Wilhelmina Van Helsing.”
Mina felt herself flushing at the memory of last night. Oh, she did not know why she’d let him touch her as he did but she did not care. It had been bliss like she had never know. It consumed her whole and clouded her senses, but Mina found she did not mind the blur. She did not mind it for she trusted him to guide her through it.
“I can’t believe he’d…” Mina’s words trailed as she touched the document again.
Lucy clicked her tongue, “I thought the chap was just going to propose to you, but it seems he’s a fan of far grander gestures.”
“You think this a grander gesture?” Mina spoke in a voice hardly like her own. She felt her fingers run over his signature. Count Vladimir Alexander Dracula. He never used his first name; he told Mina he did not like it.
Lucy scoffed, “He’s given you a house, Mina. It’s a grand gesture.”
“I must see him,” Mina stood, grasping the deed in her hands. This seemed to amuse Lucy once again. It amused her more when thunder rumbled so loudly that it shook the house. “Perhaps tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” Lucy trotted off to the window. “You must go now!”
“It’s storming!” Mina laughed, joining her friend by the old curtains. Rain loud a footsteps crashed against the old window. “And we haven’t a carriage driver since Swales left us.”
Lucy’s eyes glowed, “You’ll walk.” Glowed with an evil light, Mina decided. “It shall be just like Pride and Prejudice! You’ll walk to him in the rain and then you’ll simply have to stay the night.”
“I simply don’t like your train of thought.” Mina turned and walked away only to hide the flushing of her cheeks. Her mind immediately went to the last night. Last night with Alexander in her bed. It had been so unlike her to allow any of that. Then again…maybe it wasn’t. It had not felt so out of character. No, it had felt wonderfully natural for him to be in her bed. His hands had felt completely comfortable upon her skin. It felt a lot less awkward than any of their previous meetings had been.
Her friend snatched the contract.
Lucy continued, “You can use your feminine wiles to thank him.” Lucy walked with a hip heavy sway across the sitting room.
Mina rolled her eyes, “I’m fairly certain I haven’t got any.” Mina flushed in spite of herself. Alexander in her bed. Alexander’s hands so intoxicating upon her skin. His lips warm and soft upon her breasts. How when he was near Mina did not feel in the least bit frightened though she did not usually like people being so near to her. How she wished it could be that night again. That night over and over again.
Mina took the paper, “But I am going to see him. He cannot just get me a house and expect me to be all right with it.”
“Why not be all right with it?” Lucy countered. “A house, Mina! You needn’t leave at all.”
“He could’ve proposed.”
“You’re far too smart for just a proposal.”
Mina was not entirely sure what Lucy meant.
"What is this?" Mina said in lieu of a greeting. She was absolutely soaking from the autumn rain and he wondered how she had even made it here in the first place. Her dress looked twenty pounds heavy from water alone, and her wet blonde hair cascaded down her back, pouring water from its tips. Her pale face seemed red, but from exhaustion or anger he wasn't sure. He was leaning towards the later.
She brushed past him, storming into his foyer with her fingers clenched around the envelope. He couldn't fathom why she would be upset. Wasn't it a good thing, him giving her the cottage? She would not have to leave now. She could stay here as she had wanted to do. Or maybe he'd assumed incorrectly. Maybe she did not want to stay at all. God, he hoped that would not be the case. Not after the previous night. The previous night where he had been glutenous and idiotic but, damnit, he'd do it again. Her skin had been so soft against him, her breath so warm. He wanted to touch her again. Kiss her again.
"You've given me a cottage?" Mina faced him, her features sharper than usual. Has she been eating? Her faced seemed more gaunt than usual and her skin far too pale. He thought of how he'd been, not two weeks ago and could sympathize with how she felt now. It was awful to see someone you love falling apart. She spoke again, "Why would you give me a cottage?"
"Miss Van Helsing, I..." Alexander found himself moving closer, not able to help being drawn towards her. Her pull upon him had only grown since the last night. Did she not feel it too? Did she not want him as he wanted her? Wanted her near to him and in his arms. And perhaps he'd visit her and night in her cottage. A small little space for just the two of them. They could embrace in that small little cottage and no one would come upon them. No one would see or hear them there. There would be no one to stop them as they kissed and embraced and made love in that small little place. Or she could live here in Carfax with him, though he doubted she would allow it. He doubted she would allow him to visit her at nights either, but after the previous...
"You do not have to accept it," Alexander said instead of something more eloquent. The sound of crinkling paper and heavy breaths were the only noise in the silence. "It's simply an old cottage that sits on this land. No one owned it. I had some of my staff work to make it livable. It is a rather nice home, but you don't have to accept it."
She did not speak words, but he could see them floating across her face. Alexander, you idiot. Why has he done this? He should've known it would've done nothing but scare her. Mina was young. She did not come to decisions as quickly as he did. He loved Mina, he'd known that for a long time. Mina, well, Mina still was unsure. She had every right to be.
"I'm sorry," she said eventually. "It's very kind of you. I just thought...I don't know why, but I thought it was because of..." Mina touched the small white mark on her neck. His eyes widened when she realized what she meant. "Like some kind of payment."
"No," he said, reaching out to her hand pressed against her neck. "No, not at all, Miss Van Helsing. God, I didn't even think of that I just..." His hand trailed up to the softness of her cheek. "I don't want you to leave. I'd want that regardless of..." Alexander touched the small razed bumps on her neck. They were indistinguishable to anyone else, but she and him knew what they were. He felt the pulling deep inside of him as her pulse came down through his fingers.
Alexander dropped his hand.
"You're freezing, surely," Alexander said. "Come into the library. I have a small fire. I'll get you a blanket as well." He was originally going to suggest her getting a change of clothes, but felt that may be too uncomfortable for her. He could never get a read on Mina. Alexander knew how he felt, but how did she? She was a closed book to him in every way. Too stubborn to say how she felt, even to him. Even after...
Mina walked slowly into the library, her wet clothes weighing her down surely. The crackling of the fire led her in, and she grabbed a small stool and sat right in front of it. Possibly too close, but he did not say anything. Mina's blue eyes turned red in their reflection as her eyes focused on the dancing flames. Gingerly, he laid the blanket over her small shoulders and went to sit in the chair behind her. Perhaps she did not want to talk at all. Maybe she wanted company. Mina had been surrounded by people of late, but it was the lonely type of crowd. The constant greetings and small talk that were meaningless and trivial. It was often more lonely to be in a crowd than to be alone in one's own quarters.
"Would you like some tea, Miss Van Helsing?" The formality kept passing through his lips. He knew there was little reason for it now, but calling her Mina still felt odd.
"Mina," she corrected as though she's heard his thoughts. "And do you have anything stronger than tea?"
He laughed aloud. "I'll see what I can find, Mina."
It was uncomfortable.
Mina didn't realize just how uncomfortable being here would be. She'd needed to see him, but now wondered if staying put would have been better. Cousin Jack had not yet moved in. The home was still hers for a little while. She had packed up all her father's books immediately though. She would not allow Jack to get his hands on those. It was all Mina had of her father now. Plus, it included some of her own writing. If anyone found those, it could be more than catastrophic. Mina had written so much on Alexander. Medically and personally… And after last night everything felt...
God, would he not kiss her again? Kiss her how he had kissed her last night? That was the happiest she had felt in absolute ages. How could she ask him to do that again? Could you just ask someone to do that to you? Mina felt absolutely mortified at the thought and turned her eyes to the paper.
A house. Alexander had gotten her a house. Not just purchased, he'd had it made up especially for her. Like she were some sort of doll meant to live in it. You know he did not mean it like that, Mina, she told herself. And she knew he did not. It was kindness. A way to keep her here without having to be married. She'd have her own space too. Mina could do as she pleased and worked as she pleased. She could possibly even take on patients. But how to explain how she got a house in the first place? She could say the truth, but say it was given as a payment for her doctoral services. Yes, that could be easily believable, she supposed.
But what of it? She would still be an unmarried woman living alone. People would talk, and people could said the most awful, untrue things.
Mina pulled at the blanket on her shoulder. It smelt of Carfax. The smell of musk and dusty air. It smelt of old stories and memories that Mina could never know. It smelt like him. God, Mina was so unaccustomed to feeling as she did now. Mina had never believed she'd feel this way. Poets write of that incomplete feeling of love. Like something is missing and the only person who can fill it is your desired. She'd thought that absolute nonsense. Mina was perfectly complete by herself. Relying on someone else to fill it was pointless. People fade easily, as she had learned from her father's passing. But that seemed to make Mina only want Alexander more. He was her best friend, she realized, save for Lucy. Mina missed him constantly, and craved his presence like some sort of drug. But drugs were harmful, she knew. She was better off sober.
Oh, no she was not. Mina would go absolutely mad without him. Perhaps she was already mad now. In just mere months, Mina had already abandoned what she thought were controlled morals. She had sworn to keep her distance from vampires. Mina had thought she would never be involved with one. Certainly, certainly, never become one's familiar. But she had done it. Mina had done it all and only wanted more. She knew what more meant. In the books she found, she read that many familiar relationships were of a physical nature. Mina found that idea did not horrify her so much anymore.
"Will this work?" She was so wrapped in her own thoughts that she had not even heard Alexander's return. Was her face red? It felt like it was. Surely, he knows what I'm thinking, but Mina wrote that off as ridiculous.
He held out a full glass of red wine to her, and she hesitated for a moment. "It's wine, I promise."
Mina smiled, "Thank you." She took the glass into her hand and drank a small sip. It was strong. Good, said the tired voice in her brain. Mina had had a ridiculously long two weeks. Funerals were exhausting, especially when you have hardly three seconds to breathe before you had to get planning. She'd been constantly fawned over, constantly worried about, constantly sent letters and flowers and condolences. So often that it seemed empty. All of it...so empty.
"Why did you walk here in the rain, Mina?"
Mina shrugged, "Half the staff left when father..." Mina took another sip of wine. "So we haven't a carriage driver. It was walk or take the horse, and I was never much of a rider." The wine glass clinked as she sat in on the coffee table behind her.
"You're frozen, Mina," Alexander said with concern. Mina didn't even notice how much she was shivering. Now she looked at herself as saw her moving as though she were in an earthquake. She pulled the blanket closer around her, but new it would not help much. Her clothes were saturated, and they would not dry soon.
"Well, I don't suppose you have any spare dresses lying about, Alexander."
"It's an old house," Alexander responded. "I'll see if I can find something."
"Thank you," Mina said without turning from the fire. The flames danced in front of her like enticing sirens. It was good to be mindless for a while. Honestly, Mina had not had any silence since her father passed. Her brain had been filled with the screaming of thoughts and plans until everything was noise. Nothing had ever been quiet. Mina couldn't even remember the funeral in detail. She'd talked to so many people. Had Alexander been there? Yes, he had. He sat far away across the church. She remembered wanting to laugh. I guess they can step on hallowed ground, she'd thought. How she wanted to laugh.
But he could not be near her. Mina understood why, but she so desperately had wanted him near her. She felt more complete when he was near her. Mina hated to admit that she needed another to be whole. It wasn't until him that that was the case. She felt his distance as keenly a bruise. She had so desperately wanted him by her side. Mina had been left alone in her pew. Mina had been left in her most familiar position. Alone. Mina was very used to being alone. It had never bothered her before. Mina enjoyed her own company. But moments could not pass without her thinking of Alexander. How dare he possess her mind so?
Though it was warm, Mina bored of staring at the fire and stood to look around the library. She'd honestly never perused it before and wondered just what type of books he kept. The titles ranged from fiction to non, from sciences to the arts. It seemed all studies were in his library. Well, he certainly has time to learn all he wants, Mina thought as she ran her finger down a row of book spines. She stopped at one that caught her eye: a large leather bound book with Vampire in the title. It was especially odd because it was one she'd never seen before. Mina's father had curated so many books on the supernatural that she could hardly believe there was any he had not owned. For a moment, she thought perhaps Alexander had penned it himself, but she found it to be some sort of diary or notepad. The person's handwriting was rather scratchy, but it appeared to be scattered notes and drawings of vampires. She flipped to the front and saw the numbers 1571 in the top corner. She looked back to the bookshelf, seeing a few similar looking books next to the empty spot. Carefully, Mina pulled them out and looked for dates. Only one of the books was Alexander's handwriting. The rest were similar to the first. They each appeared to have several authors, with notes and articles stuck into the pages.
It wasn't until Mina read the words in the scribblings that she truly felt the cold of her wet clothing. It wasn't until the horrors processed that Mina felt faint at all.
Seven mutilated bodies found near Castle Dracula. The men were found torn apart, their throat ripped open. Blood everywhere…
Impaled family outside Castle Dracula. The Count in question is gone.
Women disappearing in the night…wake calling for "him"
They weren't all distressing notes or article clippings. There were actual entries with facts and research on vampires. That section seemed to be done by one person alone, but Mina could not find the author's name. It was not surprising. Few people would want to be associated with Occult practices. Ignoring the wrenching in her stomach from the articles, Mina found the word familiar and read what was written there. Perhaps this author would have something new to say.
Vampire chooses only one human to feed from. Usually said human has some sort of blood that caters to the vampire. Most certainly the pair are lovers or will become so. I have not come across any pairs who are not romantically involved… the rest had been smudged out. Mina turned to the one Alexander had written. This appeared to be more of a diary, and something Mina should certainly not be reading. A quick glance over her shoulder to prove he was not there served security enough. Mina pushed the other books back into their place before flipping through the diary. It was from long ago. Mina could tell by the yellowing of the pages and weakness of the paper. His hand writing was messy and hard to read, but she looked anyway for perhaps maybe some explanation about the seven dead men…or the impaling…
I have left Transylvania. I need to be around people, however horrific I find the lot of them. Without them, I am the monster they hunt. Without them, my killing becomes senseless. I kill from boredom. I kill for Viktoriya, though she lived centuries ago. I was most human when I had her. Humans are the only thing that can save me, for I have done so much wrong. So much…
"Unlocking all my secrets, Mina?"
Mina jumped back so suddenly that the book dropped to the floor, its spine breaking down the middle. Cursing under her breath, Mina leaned to pick the small thing, quickly putting it back into its spot. As though that may solve something.
"It's quite all right, Mina. I know you are curious."
Turning, she saw him sat down a bundle of clothes that he had been holding. It appeared to be a gown far too nice for leisure, but she doubted he had a wide array of dresses in the first place.
"I'm sorry, that was rude of me," Mina said. "I know I should not pry but…"
He held up his hand, "Do not worry." Alexander sat on his chair, lying back like some great large cat. He picked up his wine glass and begin to swirl it slightly. Mina kept thinking of the words from the journal. Murders. So many murders. You knew he'd killed people, Mina. You knew that. Perhaps seeing it written out was different. It made those killed seem less like stories and more like real people. "I told you before my record was not spotless." He took a drink. "Not in the least."
"I feel I know nothing about you," Mina said earnestly, as she sat in the chair opposite him. Some wall had appeared between them that she had not noticed before. Massacred, Mina had seen that word quite a bit in the journals. Alexander had massacred. "You told me before I could ask you anything about being a vampire. What of your past, Alexander? Why have you not told me anything of that?"
His eyes pierced hers like daggers. "I have lived a rather bleak life, Mina. It does not make for pretty stories."
"My mother died when I was eleven," Mina responded bluntly. Alexander cocked his head, but did not interrupt. "A carriage accident. I never got to see her body and I can't remember anything of the funeral." Mina looked at the red of the wine, her own face shown back in the berry tint. "My parent's fought all the time. She didn't like his supernatural studies, you see. She thought all things not mortal were evil and he was a devil to study them. They tried to fight quietly, but I always heard them.
"Then she died and I had only father. After school, he'd teach me on his own. Medicine, science, and supernatural. I couldn't go to college. Women aren't allowed to know too much, but my father did not care. I'm little prospect for a wife, you see. I have no land or money. My father gave me skill to be useful in a world that tells women that they are not.
"Now father is gone and I feel as though I have been shot in the chest and am bleeding out slowly. There is a lingering darkness I cannot escape no matter how I try. I don't even think I've properly cried yet, I've been so fawned over. 'What will Mina do? The poor little orphan.' I feel I shall be damned to live some empty life doing meaningless work with Lady Westenra constantly over my shoulder wondering why no one will marry me. All the while that empty darkness will follow me and consume me whole."
Mina finished her glass of wine. "No one's life is a pretty story, Alexander. And I'd like some more wine."
This part of her was new.
Alexander was always amazed at the many sides and layer of one person. It seemed every person contained some infinity inside of them. No person, no matter how one may dislike them, was flat. Every one of them was infinite. They had infinite thoughts and capabilities. One person could be capable of the deaths of millions, but also unlocking scientific discoveries. Each person was a multifaceted gem, sparkling in a new way each time you turned it.
Mina was not exactly sparkling now. This was a different part of her. A darker part he had not been privy too before. It was disconcerting, but oddly satisfying to see. Of course he worried for her, but it seemed she trusted him. Mina would not say such things to someone she did not trust. Alexander had not been trusted by anyone for quite a long time.
Consultation was not what Mina was seeking. Mina was seeking answers, or maybe just a simple distraction. Perhaps company was what she craved. Not a loud, crowded company, but a small, intimate one. To not be alone by herself with her thoughts. Alexander himself had spent quite a lot of time there. He knew it was not always a pleasant holiday. So he filled up her wineglass again and stoked the fire.
"Ask me whatever you wish, Mina."
"You killed seven men," Mina shot instantly "Why?"
"Because they killed her," Alexander responded dryly. "Viktoriya, I mean. A group of men, very much like these Protectors, killed my Viktoriya one night while I was out." He shook his head slowly. "I'd gone for a drink. She and I had argued and... When I returned, I found her sitting in a chair with a knife through her throat. The blood was everywhere."
Mina said nothing, but he watched her hands quiver as the wine in her glass bounced.
"The disgusting part was I wanted it. Her blood, I mean." He guzzled the rest of his wine. "I took her body and buried it. I didn't clean anything up. I took what I thought I'd need and left. I lived alone in the forests of Transylvania, hunting for whoever did this. I found them and then-" He met Mina's eyes. "I killed many that night, Mina. And I relished it. I'd planed for it."
Mina sniffed, "Did you feel any better afterwards?"
"Yes," Alexander set down his empty wine glass. Alcohol had little effect on him, but his brain still felt fuzzy for some reason. Perhaps it was the haze of the fire, or the fire in Mina's blue eyes. "And no. The incident gave me a new craving for killing. I made quite the habit of that for a while, but still felt that emptiness you described." Mina blinked, her gaze never leaving his. Go on, she seemed to say. He did. "I sired many vampires as…a way to fill the emptiness I suppose. They disgusted me with their habits, but I realized there habits were my own. So I civilized myself and left that part behind."
"The vampires you sired," Mina jumped in, "are they alive?"
He shrugged, "I suppose so. But because of my actions, vampires became a plague. They were everywhere and saw me as their leader. I had to hide. I pretended to be human. A woman named Marigold formed an attachment to me, but sent me off the moment she found out what I was. Everyone knew about vampires, and everyone knew about me. I had to get away from Transylvania for good." He took a deep breath. "That was a few decades ago. If my fledglings are alive, I imagine they've taken over my castle. I hardly stayed there anyway. Not without… Anyway, that is my story. The short version, anyway."
"Do you have any more questions, Mina?"
"Millions," she responded with a small smile. "But for now, I think I need to go change out of this dress and into the one that is not currently 90 percent water." Mina stood, and Alexander did as well, feeling some odd sort of sway in him. What on earth was wrong? It could not be the alcohol. He ignored it as Mina went to pick up the pile of clothes.
"There's plenty of guest rooms for you to use, Mina." Alexander gestured to the stairway. "You're welcome to stay here for the night. I don't want you walking back to your home in this storm."
Mina nodded, "I'm not in the mood to argue, so I suppose I'll have to take your offer." She started for the stairs, moving like she was floating. "But I do not wish to sleep yet. I still have half a glass of wine and several questions." A pause. "Unless you're trying to send me off to bed to stop my interviewing."
"I wouldn't dream of it, darling."
Darling. The word hung in the air like some great insect. He had not even meant for the endearment to come out, yet it did and now lay before them bare. His eyes went straight to her, seeing if she'd make any sort of reaction. Mina behaved as though she had not heard him at all and turned to the stairs. Alexander returned to his chair as she walked away, mentally berating his slip of the tongue. You needn't feel so ashamed. Mina is your familiar now, you have every right to endear her. He wished to kiss her. He wished to take her to his bed and to have her. No one need know, they were very much alone. Very much alone and she was gazing at him so sweetly. He thought of her soft breasts beneath the dress and how he wanted to place his lips upon them...
Not feeling inclined to brood anymore, Alexander refilled his wine glass and poured it back into his mouth.
Lucy would have sold her soul for a dress like this, of that Mina was certain. Mina's father would've probably died on the spot to see Mina in a dress like this, but that didn't really matter now. As for Mina…Mina wondered why Alexander owned such a dress anyway. It was not made to be worn with a bustle, and hung on her skin like negligee. It was ivory colored, but whether that was intentional or from aging, Mina could not tell. The sleeves and bodice were covered in lace, and hung from her chest in a way Mina was very unaccustomed to. Her neck was not usually so…exposed. I suppose that matters little now, a snarky little thought commented. But it was still a little to revealing for her comfort, so she found an afghan from the bed and wrapped it around herself. Not the most fashionable of outfits, but better than being so bare. Especially in front of him… The thought of it sent the most peculiar sensation stinging down her spine. She knew how his eyes would lay upon her. She knew.
Darling, he'd called her darling as she left. It was not a most uncommon thing. Many gentlemen would use names like that to refer to women. It was not always of a romantic sort, just a kindness. Nothing to worry about at all.
Perhaps it was the wine, but Mina felt two steps away from herself. Or perhaps it was the exhaustion. Maybe some potent combination of the two.
"I'd hardly call this a dress," Mina said when she reentered the fire lit library. "I have to wear this to be even halfway decent." She gestured out with the blanket as though it were some extension of her own hand. Alexander smiled smally, reclined back on his small settee. In a small act of courage (albeit, alcohol induced) Mina took the spot next to him, so close she could feel his own warmth over the fire.
Alexander looked into his glass. "I found it stuffed into one of the wardrobes. Many people have lived here over the years. I did not receive much say in the dress fashions of these people." Mina laughed, reaching for her newly refiled wine glass but deciding against it and leaving sitting where it was. Something was awash on his face that Mina did not like. Something dark and sad that she had not ever seen. You made him talk about his dead wife, Mina. It is not surprising that he is not chipper.
"I'm sorry I made you talk about Viktoriya," Mina said in a low voice. Was he crying a bit? Mina could not tell in such a low light. But he did set his wine glass down, leaning silently back onto the settee. Mina felt some pull to be nearer to him. She wanted to take him into her arms and hold him there tightly. Instead, she simply moved nearer, so close that they're thighs were touching one another. Alexander's arm came around and rested upon her shoulder. Her head fell into his chest, as though it was meant to be there all along. Maybe it was.
"I haven't talked about Viktoriya in years," Alexander intoned. "Most days it does not hurt me at all. But sometimes…"
"Shh," Mina said, feeling her own eyes filling with tears.
And so they sat, both very keenly feeling the presence of people who would never be present again. The fire crackled and eventually died, but neither one of them cared to move. Neither one of them cared to speak. But they were there for each other, to keep out the darkness as best as they could. To keep one another from falling apart.
Alexander did not sleep. Vampires did not need sleep, not in the traditional sense. He rested, however, which was something he did not do very often. And resting with a woman in his arms was something he had not done in many, many years. Certainly not with a woman as dear to him as his Mina. His darling, sweet Mina. Thinking of Viktoriya had upset him, but not just for the memory of her. It reminded him that Mina too would die. And that Mina was certainly in danger now with these so called "Protectors" near her. I will not let anything harm her, he swore. I was reckless with Viktoriya, I shall not be so with Mina. She would take the cottage, hopefully, and he could be near to her. Mina would not be one to move into Carfax, that he knew. She had far too high morals for anything like that. Which was all right. He liked that about Mina.
But like Viktoriya, Mina too was mortal. Mina was breakable, and he must keep her from being broken. To lose Mina would be unthinkable.
He'd told her that staying around humans was what kept him sane. In a sense, that was true, but it was only a half truth. Alexander needed Mina to stay human. He was always better off when he had someone to love. The most human he had ever been was time spent with Viktoriya, or even his brief time with Marigold. Time alone or time with his own kind made him a monster. It made him a murderer and a torturer. Mina…Mina would keep him human.
"Mina," he nudged her slightly. "We should get you to a bed so you can sleep."
She clung to his shirt, "I want to stay with you."
"You can, Mina," he said though he was not sure why. "We just need to get you to a bed." Begrudgingly, Mina stood, clutching her blanket tightly. She looked at him with the squinted eyes of sleep as he led her upstairs to the first guest room they walked by. He opened the door and escorted her in, yet she hesitated before lying down.
"Are you going to stay with me?"
"Of course, darling," Alexander said as she pulled the sheets down and set herself under them. Mina shed the afghan, and he understood what she had meant about the dress. It was not something to be worn in public, to say the least. Ignoring his feelings brought on by the thing, Alexander lay next to her, setting his arm around her as she instantly fell to sleep. I shall leave soon, he decided. She will not even remember me being here, and I don't wish to frighten her-
Mina rolled over, setting her head against his chest once more. "I am going to take the cottage, you know."
He smiled slightly, "You are?"
"I was going to anyway. I just wanted to see you."
"You don't have to have a reason to come here, Mina. You are welcome anytime."
Mina breathed. "You called me darling today. Was that on purpose?"
"Yes, darling. Now you need to go to sleep."
Without another word, Mina's breathing slowed and the look of sleep overtook. Perhaps even he would rest now. He felt very confident that Mina would not be afraid of him when she woke up in the morning.