The Long Game

Relinquishing Control

Mina watched him, unnoticed, from the shadows. She observed that his hair was not slicked back as had been his usual as of late. Now its dark strands were more naturally kept, much as they had been the first time she had laid eyes upon him. A definite improvement, she surmised with a small smile. She continued watching him as he sat and stared at the newspaper that lay upon his desk. Without looking at this particular one, she already knew what the bold words read. "Dozens Dead, Hundreds Injured After Electricity Demonstration".

He slammed his fist upon it, handsome visage twisted in a rictus of rising anger. Though she had not read beyond the headline, she could only imagine the atrocities laid at the feet of the man in the chair by uninformed writers of the Inquisitor. She emerged from the shadows then and he removed his hand from the flat surface. Leaning back in his chair, he casually rested his hand over his mouth. She noticed he used this mannerism when attempting to mask his emotions. But she was not so easily fooled.

Calmly and without speaking, she gathered the newspaper pages, crumpled them, and promptly threw them into the nearby crackling fireplace.

"There. An improvement already," she said lightly.

Alexander had risen from his seat and was now anxiously walking the room. As the newspaper caught fire and burned, she sat herself, ankles crossed, upon the desk. How very unlady-like, she thought fleetingly with an inner streak of smirking defiance. And watched him walk.

"How do you mean?" Alexander grumbled, pacing the room.

He was completely failing to hide his anger from her as a proper gentleman should. She was overjoyed by the honesty of this new development. Hmm, more unladylike behavior from her. How very extraordinary.

She tilted her head slightly. "There are no more in this house, are there?"

He shook his head, still not looking at her.

"Good," she stated definitively. "So, as I said. An improvement."

He continued pacing. Finally, he looked at her. Not directly at her face just yet. But rather toward her general person.

"Yes, but there are more out there!"

He gestured at the outside world, pacing still. She watched him calmly, unjudgmental of his ire. Arranging her thoughts in proper order, she spoke.

"Yes. That is true. That being said, the explosion was not your fault. It was sabotaged by . . . outside forces. You tried to stop it. And you will find a way to address this horrible tragedy in due time," she answered with quiet assurance.

He continued to pace without looking at her.

"But they are not here," she stated plainly, emphatically.

She alit from the desk to the floor and placed herself directly into his current path. If his anger ruled him, he was more likely to make poor choices. Poor choices of which neither of them could afford the consequences.

"I, however, am," she said as he stopped, standing before her.

She stepped easily into his arms. He let her, instinctively enfolding her in his grateful embrace. He did not kiss her, not yet. But simply stood with her, hands clasped loosely about her narrow waist. His head was turned slightly to the side, staring blindly past the floor. Placing her hands on either side of his face, she gently brought his countenance back square with hers. He gazed upon her as she began brushing her fingers over his skin. Lightly caressing his forehead, his cheekbones.

As her gentle hands glided over his skin, his stern expression began to soften.

"Renfield's condition is improving," she said conversationally.

"Mmm . . ."

He slowly relinquished control to her, closing his eyes as she brushed her fingertips delicately across his dark brows, his silky eyelids. Running her fingers through wisps of his dark hair.

She continued her tender caresses, quietly delighting in his facial muscles relaxing at her soothing touch.

This man, this so-called monster, had been alone for so very long without companionship. Allies, yes. Renfield, his loyalty was absolute. Of that, she had no doubt. van Helsing, apparently useful for a time, yes, but always mindful of his own ends as well. Others she did not yet know. But deep companionship, someone to give him true, peaceful comfort. Of that, he had been without for so very long.

Alone in the dark.

"And night is coming," she continued softly.

"Mmm . . ." he murmured again.

His attentive ears open to her words, his blue-green eyes still closed at her touch. She ran her fingers along the paths of his carefully groomed mustache and goatee. Lightly over his lips. He remained still within her calming embrace.

"And you know what that means . . ." Her voice trailed off.

Opening his eyes suddenly, he looked at her with a confused, alarmed expression. She couldn't possibly mean . . . his hunger. . .

She leaned in closer, a gentle smile in her bright eyes and curving on her mouth before finishing her thought.

"Stars."


They stood in the inner garden near the white fountain. That open place to which he had once run, giddy as a freshly released schoolboy, to bask in the bright light of the warming sun. His first sun in over four hundred years. Now, that sun was gone. And darkness prevailed. Usually that darkness filled him with forlorn resentment.

But now. Here. Mina standing before him, back to him. His arms wrapped around her slender frame. Her arms atop his in mutual embrace. Her head cradled comfortably in the crook of his neck. She had positioned them in this familiar manner. Made her physical being deliberately vulnerable to him and his whims. And yet, somehow, she was still the one in complete control of this situation.

The forlorn resentment. For this moment of time, it was gone. And he simply basked in the light of her.

Together they gazed up at the night sky. There was no moon, no clouds. Which made the stars twinkling above them shine all the brighter with their simple, white, unburning light. Those stars held no warmth and were distant in the dark sky. But Mina's light shined brighter, enhancing them, making the them more beautiful. He had never stopped to consider the stars before. He had only looked down upon those whom he hunted. Never up at the beauty of the forbidden heavens.

She had made him see that.

"If there is a God up there, surely even He is entranced by the magic of this night," he murmured absently, nuzzling her skin as a man. Only as a man.

She pressed back against him, smiling, and replied softly.

"If there is a God up there, it was not Him who cursed you, Alexander. It was man and man alone. And if man can curse you, then maybe the curse can be undone."

He drew her tighter. Inhaled deeply, breathing in her sweet, clean scent. Gentle breezes whispered her soft, dark hair across his cheek, tickling his skin. He was still in awe that she was here. That she chose to be here.

"Mina, what I am . . ."

She turned her head and looked him directly in the eyes. And cupped the side of his face with her hand.

". . . is a man," she finished for him. "A man with a monstrous parasite inside him. You, Alexander, are not the creature itself. Not unless you choose to be."

He tried again.

"But my . . . hunger. . ."

"Is not of your doing. There is hope for that too, Alexander. You must remember that. There is always hope."

She turned herself within his embrace to face him. He felt wonderment at her presence. At her words. At her soft, inviting lips as she kissed him. And he kissed her back. And as the kiss and their embrace deepened, he forgot about the beauty of the stars and allowed himself to become lost in the beauty of her.

Eventually, she led him back inside Carfax. To his bedchamber. They stayed there alone for some time. And in the end, with shared love and passion, it was she who took him. To his surprise and both of their pleasure.

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