Days Spent in the Sun
Mina stood in the dark alcove, watching Alexander's form outlined in the light glinting from the watery docks beyond. He stood still, just out of reach of the sun. His shoulders rose and fell with deep breaths, hands braced on either side of the peeling doorframe.
She waited for what seemed like an eternity though it was only a few seconds.
His heart pounded in his still aching chest. Though he had walked in the light of the day on a few occasions within the last several months, the experience continued to be exhilarating. And terrifying. He had to remind himself that it was safe, that the sun would not set him aflame.
He stepped forward slowly, into the beckoning light. It caressed his exposed flesh, kissing him with warm lips, and thawing the thick marrow in his bones.
He raised his face, closing his eyes, and basked in the rays of the welcoming sun.
Mina moved forward to the doorway to watch him, entranced, as he ventured further and stood in obvious wonder and glorious delight in the light of day.
The water of the channel lapped quietly, its gentle undulations throwing sparkles of diamonds into Mina's still misting eyes.
Her vision blurred and she caught her breath in horror as she watched Alexander burst into sudden flames without warning. He burned and threw off black smoke like dry leaves devoid of life-giving moisture.
She blinked rapidly, her heart seizing within her chest, and then her sight cleared.
Alexander still stood with his back to her in the open space near the abandoned dock. His head tilted up, hands slightly upraised to the gift of the sunlight.
He turned then and saw her gazing at him. He raised his hand out to her, an invitation for her to join him in the sun. Light and life glittering in his blue green eyes, a smile upon his lips. She moved forward and placed her hand in his. He drew her to him and embraced her.
It was the first time he had touched her in the sunlight.
He was warmer than she ever remembered him. His lips, his hands, were more warmly human on her skin than ever before.
Renfield appeared unnoticed in the doorway. He watched them for a brief moment. Then his gaze travelled from the two happy lovers to the fiery orb of the sun and back again.
He wanted to believe in the possibility of miracles. For Alexander Grayson. For Miss Mina Murray. For himself.
But how long would this particular miracle last?
He kissed her deeply, savoring the sweet taste of her, the soft feel of her, the clean scent of her, the muted sounds catching in her delicate throat.
Then he drew back and looked upon her. Her beauty, so bathed in sunlight. He gently held her face with both hands. She smiled, pouring even more sunlight into his soul.
"I feel . . ." he began, his words trailing off.
Mina hung on the words of his that floated upward into the air above.
He made a soft sound in his throat that made her tingle.
"I feel . . ."
He gazed so closely at her she could almost see the thoughts forming behind his eyes.
"What?" she questioned, quirking an eyebrow at him.
His hands brushed through her flowing hair.
"I feel . . . hungry."
Her dream started to flit through her mind but it reversed and retreated into the deep, dark recesses at the tender look on his open face.
"Yes. Hungry," he continued decisively. Then he cocked his head at her. "What do you like most to eat?"
"You have taken food and drink," she said, not comprehending. "I have seen you."
"Yes, I have. But I could not truly enjoy it because it could not quench my hunger. Now, Mina, what do you like most to eat?"
She squinted her eyes playfully in concentration.
"Hmmm, let's see. Where to start? Mmm . . . I know. Dessert."
On the second day, they walked all over London.
They moved amicably together, arm in arm, among their fellow human pedestrians. A vast blue sky dotted with fluffy, white clouds hung above them.
They weren't journeying to any particular destination. Alexander just wanted to walk in the sun. Mina was more than willing to accommodate him though she had no idea where they were going.
And as they walked, they talked. About anything. About everything.
Mina found she had never been so happy.
Some people nodded and spoke to them.
"Lovely morning, sir."
"That it is, sir. That it is."
Some people took no notice of them, too involved in their own affairs. Which was quite alright.
Some people frowned at them, some openly glared.
One older gentlewoman actually spoke, her round frame threatening to burst through her fine clothes.
"So, Mr. Grayson, I see that you've recovered from the Resonator explosion. How very fortunate for you, sir."
Alexander blinked in surprise. Then recovered quickly enough to speak. His tone was calm and even.
"I assure you, madam, I never meant for . . ."
The large woman huffed, the feather in her hat bobbing dangerously.
"Oh, I have no doubt you never meant for it to happen. I mean, who would?"
Alexander opened his mouth to speak again. Mina intervened before he could.
"How dare you? You have no idea, no right . . ."
The woman continued on, unabated, like a steaming locomotive on route toward its awaiting terminus.
"What I am saying is, now that is it has happened, what are you going to do about it?"
The lady's thin husband arrived at her elbow, having been delayed for some unexplainable reason.
"Come along now, Mother. The grandchildren are waiting."
And he rushed her away, leaving Alexander and Mina afloat in their stormy wake.
Mina turned to Alexander. He appeared slightly flattened.
"Alexander, are you alright?"
He nodded, offered her his arm, and they continued to walk along. She watched him surreptitiously. After a while, he spoke.
"She wasn't wrong, though, Mina."
Alexander slowed to a stop and turned to her.
"I should do something in recompense for those who lost loved ones."
Mina tilted her head curiously.
"What do you have in mind?"
A heated debate held forth in a secret room. A few men. Rich men. Men of a very clandestine social order.
"Our suspicions cannot rest solely on Alexander Grayson! It is highly unlikely the man is Dracula! He walks in broad daylight! Through the very streets of London! It is preposterous!"
"Yes, but Browning suspected him. Before his mysterious disappearance. As did Lady Jayne Weatherby after a while. And she was one of the most skilled huntsmen ever to pursue vampires."
"Yes, no doubt, but she was flawed in her perceptions. Understandably of course. Her being a woman and all."
"But she was found at the site of the Resonator explosion, a gash in her neck, and drained almost completely of blood. Something, someone bested her. Not an easy feat."
"And what of the legendary seer? The Italian? What was his name?"
"Who? Loiza Scaverra? Yes, it appears that making contact and looking upon the face of the most feared vampire in all of ancient lore has done the poor fellow in. Babbling nonsense of earth-bound angels and true redemption. He has fled back to his homeland to seek asylum in a monastery under a vow of silence."
"Well, that seems rather unlegendary of him, doesn't it?"
"Yes, quite right. And we paid his roundtrip steamship ticket to boot."
"Ah, let the blasted boat sink for all I care . . ."
"Gentleman, gentleman, may we get back to the matter at hand?"
"Oh, Grayson again? Come now, must we revisit this same argument?"
"You know, perhaps we could call upon our new member, young Mr. Harker. He seems to have a knack for getting himself right in the thick of things, doesn't he?"
"Hmm . . . Harker . . . yes . . . interesting . . ."
With the assistance of Mina and Renfield, Alexander obtained a list of known victims of the Resonator explosion. Many of them were not extremely well off and had lost a family member who provided for the well-being of their families. Alexander spent an entire day of his precious sunlight from morning until dusk privately visiting as many as he could, bearing gifts of needed supplies and sustenance. He asked their forgiveness for the senseless tragedy and most of the families responded tearfully, graciously.
Mina and Renfield looked on with a sense of wonder at the sincere humanity being displayed by the man who had been, and would once more be, the vampire Dracula.
"Walking! In broad daylight! As though he were not what he is! As though he were . . . human!"
The older voice raged in a fit. The younger voice responded somewhat wearily, having trod this road quite frequently, quite recently.
"Maybe he is now. There has been evidence he is still abstaining from drinking blood."
A disgusted huff.
"Vampires don't turn human, Mr. Harker. They are vampires. They are eternally damned."
A pause. Then a crash, as if something were thrown and broken against a wall.
"Giving out food to poor little orphaned families! Parading about, pretending to be some upright philanthropist! He isn't even attacking the Order anymore!"
"Isn't this what you tried to help him achieve? Invulnerability to sunlight?"
"Yes, but only so that he could destroy the Order! And not for days upon end! Only long enough to give him a sense of hope!"
Another crash. The younger voice spoke again.
"Maybe he has stopped. Maybe he is choosing peace over vengeance."
Sarcasm dripped from the first voice in response to this new idea.
"Oh, yes, how very noble. So you now wish to join them in sun, Mr. Harker? Flit about like inane fools, while the Order destroys more and more lives and is never made to answer for their crimes?! Perhaps just to be close to her like a desperate little serving boy for when he runs off to drain the blood of the innocents?!"
"No, of course not, Mr. van Helsing. What I want is . . . another drink."
More dry, snide derision.
"Yes, brilliant plan of action, Mr. Harker. Drink yourself into a blind stupor so that you cannot see what is sneaking up behind you to drain you dry in the dead hours before dawn."
Mutterings, barely audible, from the younger voice.
"Perhaps they shall be more merciful than you and drain me without holding forth a lecture first."
"What was that, Mr. Harker? I have difficulty hearing you. I thought I might have heard something. Was it perhaps the sound of a grown man staking a tiny child to ashes?"
The tightly wound voice bit out the words.
"No, Mr. van Helsing. It most decidedly was not."
"Would you like to drive?"
The sudden question caught her off guard and Mina looked at Alexander in surprise. She was sitting next to him, having asked, quite out of hand, if they could take a ride in his motor car. It was such an interesting, modern invention and the sunny afternoon seemed quite pleasantly accommodating for an adventure.
He smiled at her evident excitement. Her light blue dress accentuated her lovely features as did her hair, partially held back and tousled by the whispering breeze.
"Yes. Shall I teach you?"
She looked at him sitting next to her in his fine suit. Casual, yet elegant and stylish. His translucent eyes glinted with mischief and gaiety. It only took a moment for her to make up her mind.
He put his right arm around her shoulders lightly.
"Good." He pointed. "That lever is the brake. Release it."
She did so and the motor car began moving forward, its engine puttering beneath them. Her heart leapt at the feel of the machine moving to her whim. A bright smile spread across her face and lit the day for him all the more. She laughed happily.
He continued his instruction.
"Now, this lever turns the car either to the left or the right."
She grasped the handle and turned it experimentally. The motor car shifted to the right. She turned it the opposite direction and they turned toward the left. Then she straightened it back out and they ambled straight forward once again.
Mina Murray, with Alexander Grayson at her side, drove across the bridge away from Carfax. Trepidation and excitement mixed together within her as she kept her eyes trained on the road ahead. Once across, she could not resist looking triumphantly at the man next to her.
"I did it! That was incredible!" she exclaimed.
He smiled back at her beaming face and then glanced at the road. His expression changed from happiness to alarm.
"Mina! Look out for the cat!"
"Yes, Renfield, I understand what you are saying."
"Then will you assist me in this matter? He won't listen to me, miss. Perhaps he will listen to you."
"I have tried to discuss it with him, but he doesn't seem concerned, Renfield."
"Miss Murray, what if it happens suddenly? What if he starts to burn in public? Not only may he not survive, but if he does, his secret will be out. And then where will we be?"
"Yes, I know, Renfield, but short of tying him up in a cage, I don't see how we can stop him."
"Pardon my directness, miss, but a cage is still preferable to immolation."
"Well, it is, miss."
"Yes. I know."
"Ah, Miss Johnson."
The young maid turned to the master of the house as he approached her.
A pleasant expression sat on his handsome face and she smiled hesitantly. Mr. Grayson did not usually smile at anyone.
"It is a beautiful day," he stated.
She nodded uncertainly.
He waved a hand toward the shuttered windows.
"Please have all the windows of Carfax opened. We need to let some light into this darkness."
She tried not to look surprised. Mr. Grayson never opened the windows.
He nodded, started to turn away, then looked back to her once more.
"And have everyone take the rest of the afternoon off."
She forgot her manners and stared openly at him.
He smiled kindly at her surprise.
"They should return by dusk to close the windows and resume their duties."
She managed to regain her composure enough to respond.
"Um, yes, sir. Thank you, sir."
And off he went. She watched him, baffled. She could have sworn there was a definite spring in his step.
As the days passed on, Renfield had become obsessed with baggage.
He became very efficient at secreting large, heavy blankets in carriages and Grayson's motor car and bringing them along casually stowed away in bags whenever he managed to accompany Mr. Grayson on outings.
He wanted to relax and enjoy the exuberant man's new found freedom.
But R.M. Renfield, Esquire, was a pragmatist. He knew that Grayson was walking in the sunlight on borrowed time. Even if the man himself refused to face it. And that, eventually, that sun that he loved so much would betray him.
If it was at all within his power, Renfield swore he would save Grayson from this burning demise.
He even began composing cover-up stories to spread if witnesses saw a seemingly ordinary man suddenly begin to burn in the middle of London.
Renfield wanted to believe in the power of miracles.
But he wanted to keep Alexander Grayson alive more.
And in yet another fairy tale turn of events, London was experiencing several consecutive warm, sunny, rainless days. It was as if Nature itself was showing its approval and support for all their efforts and expressing it though copious amounts of warmth and sunshine.
Mina suggested a midday picnic in the park. It all seemed rather deliciously ordinary and familiar. And Alexander Grayson, a man of the sun, agreed gladly.
They sat and watched well-to-do children and their caretakers flying kites, rolling hoops, and playing with barking dogs. They chatted and ate a light lunch, enjoying each other's company.
"You were waiting for me. Weren't you?" she asked suddenly. "That day you suggested the dance."
Alexander looked up. She sat with her feet tucked up under her, as lovely as a goddess. He relinquished his innocent façade to her knowing smile and spoke truthfully.
"Why?" she questioned, not unkindly.
"I only had four hours. I knew where you'd be and I wanted to see you."
"Because I knew you'd be even more beautiful in the daylight. I wanted to see if your smile outshined the sun. It does."
She kissed him then, heedless of the social stigmas. He kissed her back, heedless of everything but her. And the sun.
Mina began gathering their picnic items together. Alexander put his back comfortably against the study trunk of the shade tree under which they had been reclining, looking out across the green expanse.
When Mina had their items ready for departure, she turned back to Alexander.
Through the leafy green branches, the light played shadows on his peaceful face.
He was asleep in the sun.
Every morning, he watched the sun rise.
He watched the dark sky slowly lighten and begin to exude the soft, lovely colors of awakening dawn. He stood patiently, reverently. And watched the world become refreshed and renewed.
And when the sun's first rays finally touched him, he felt reborn all over again and so very alive.
And he did not burn.
And he did not crave blood.
Mina Murray was giggling. Alexander Grayson stood before her, his face an expression of bafflement.
"What? What is it?" he asked.
She reached out and stroked his face with gentle hands. His body responded to her caressing touch, to the light in her eyes, to the sound of her lilting voice.
Though he was only dimly aware of it given he was still trying to work out the mystery of her current delight.
She recovered somewhat and kissed him soundly. He returned her ardor, relishing her touch, as even as she still trembled with laughter. As she broke their contact, she spoke, her merriment singing through her voice.
"My dear Mr. Grayson, I believe you have some color in your face!"
He looked into a nearby mirror. It was true.
Dracula had a sun tan.
Mina was not finished with her jollity yet however.
"You know, I am most curious to discover, sir, where the exact delineations of your condition are."
He smiled at her suggestive remark.
"You may conduct an examination, if it pleases you, my lady."
She smiled slyly.
"Oh, it most certainly does, Mr. Grayson."