Close to the Vest
He jerked out of his floating meditative repose with the monstrous hunger gnashing at his core. She lay beside him, soft and still and sleeping soundly. He watched her chest rise and fall with peaceful, even breaths for a few moments. And as he gazed upon her, he realized he was unconsciously looking for her exposed veins.
He fled out into the night away from her to hunt.
Mina woke alone in the darkness and took a moment to find her bearings. She felt the empty bed beside her and wondered where he was. Then she realized that she already knew. And with a shudder of revulsion, she drew the bed coverings tight around her.
She had known of course that she could not save him, her soul-bound lover, from his demonic hunger simply by hopeful wishing and displays of loving acceptance. Those things helped the man she loved but not the hungry, vicious creature within him.
She was a torn woman.
Part of her wanted to run away. From him. From the Resonator. Even from her father, for she knew he would disheartened by her choices if he only knew the truth as she did.
Another part of her whispered the same she had whispered to Alexander only hours before. That there was still hope. She had the vial of his blood and a scientific mind. The solar serum had been made before. Surely it could be made again. If only she knew where to begin.
It would come. The answers would come. She believed that. She had to believe that.
She resolutely gathered herself together with an effort of will and rose from the rumpled bedsheets.
Mina found her patient Renfield awake and propped against several pillows. His face was still sallow and drawn, but his alert consciousness strengthened the suspicion that this large man would not be so easily dispatched. Not so easily slain. Like a dark, powerful dragon of old.
"You're improving," she said happily, smiling at him. "I'm so glad!"
He nodded slightly.
"Yes, Miss Murray. It seems you saved my life. Thank you."
"Of course," she said warmly, approaching his bedside.
"It is regretful that you must see me in such an undignified state."
She huffed at him in gentle derision.
"Oh, don't be ridiculous. You're the most dignified patient I have ever seen. I doubt it is possible for you to be anything other."
He smiled at her gratefully then grimaced as she examined his bandaged wounds. When she was done, his strength seemed to be fading so she helped him settle into a more comfortable position.
"You're beginning to heal nicely," she assured him.
He gestured toward her.
"Yes. Under your care, miss."
She bit her lip, considering the implications of her next words.
Though he needed rest, she could not help herself. He needed to know. And she trusted him.
She kindly dismissed the waiting maid and closed the door firmly behind her.
"Alexander told me."
She approached his bedside and sat on the edge of it.
"And showed me. With his thumb."
Renfield's dark, intelligent eyes searched hers intently.
"Yes," he responded, after a moment. "Quite the show, I imagine."
Renfield's expression was unreadable.
"You have seen it, I presume?"
"Yes," he replied after another pause. "Upon our first meeting, he saved my life with it. And here more recently as well."
She was quiet, as was her patient. Finally, she spoke.
"He does not wish to be this."
Renfield just managed to shake his head, his strength now spiraling downward quickly.
"No, miss. They made him so. Against his will."
Mina leaned close to him to speak her secret aloud for the first time.
"I know. And I think I can help him."
Renfield's eyes locked onto hers.
"That would be . . . very good, miss," he murmured. "And how do you propose to do this?"
She quietly told him about the secret vial, the cheek cell slide, and her rat experiment. She told him of her discussion with Professor van Helsing and how he had tried to convince her of an untruth. She told him how she had eventually stolen the vial away just before her attack and then gone to retrieve the previous day. She told him of her hope of creating a new, more effective solar serum for Alexander.
She concluded regretfully with, "But as of yet, I have no idea where to begin."
He did not move throughout her tale. Nor did he interrupt her tale or express disbelief at her actions. When she had concluded her story, she felt a bit anxious as to his response.
Finally, he smiled.
"Miss Murray, it seems you are a quite tenacious and resourceful woman."
She raised an eyebrow to him and returned his smile.
"Why, thank you, Mr. Renfield. I'll take that as a compliment coming from you."
He nodded, his eyes intense.
"It most certainly is."
She thought their conversation had come an end and she started to rise from her perch. Renfield stopped her with a gentle restraining hand upon hers.
"It seems I myself have been a bit resourceful as well," he admitted.
She felt a flutter of excitement in her heart at his words. She waited with baited breath. He spoke again.
"I never fully trusted van Helsing even though he was already with Mr. Grayson when I came into their association. He seemed too, inconstant."
Mina leaned a little closer. "Yes?" she whispered.
"I have routinely snuck into his quarters unawares and copied his ongoing medical notes on Mr. Grayson with the most careful precision and accuracy."
Mina's eyes widened.
"Does Alexander know?" she asked.
Renfield shook his head slightly.
"No, I thought it best to play it close to the vest while their collaboration stood. I understand very little of the texts, but I suspected they might prove vital. My top priority has been to look after for the welfare of Mr. Grayson and thus I've kept a close eye on van Helsing during their partnership."
"Although," here he paused in his musings to lightly touch his bandages. "it would seem I was not quite watchful enough."
Mina tilted her head fondly at the man. She liked him so. Renfield continued.
"Now that is dissolved, however . . . and you are here . . ."
His voice faded for a moment as his strength waned. Mina gave him cool water to drink and he did so gratefully.
"Perhaps these notes and your vial may prove a starting point for your work," he concluded.
"Oh, Renfield! You are a wonder!"
Mina was so excited that she quite forgot herself and hugged him. Though he was caught by surprise, he patted her arm graciously while repressing a groan from his wounds.
"Oh," Mina drew back, still smiling. "I'm sorry. That was inappropriate of me, wasn't it?"
She chuckled sheepishly and then, looking into his face closely, sobered.
"Oh, Renfield. I've hurt you. I apologize."
He made a dismissive expression though dots of perspiration stood out on his forehead. Taking a cloth, she blotted his skin gently.
"I'm simply grateful that Mr. Grayson has found you who truly cares for him."
"And you, of course. You have looked out for him all these years as well."
He raised an eyebrow.
"Yes, miss. And let me not be too forward in saying, he does not make it easy."
She laughed while holding Renfield's hand appreciatively.
"No," she agreed. "I expect not."