Vestiges of Humanity
During the course of Alexander's daylight freedom, Mina kept copious, detailed, scientific notes. Of his physical condition, mental disposition, sleeping habits, eating habits, waking activities. She recorded everything she could think to record whether it seemed important or not. Because she knew one day no detail would seem too minor.
These notes, she believed, would aid them in their quest for Alexander's permanently restored humanity.
The records served another purpose as well.
She wanted to preserve these most important moments for posterity. His posterity. One day when he needed a remembrance, she could bring them to his attention. She could read them aloud and remind him of his hope, of his victory over darkness. And it might even help him push through that darkness and into the light once more.
Alexander Grayson's time in the sun lasted five glorious days.
When his solar serum started to fail him, it began in small bits and pieces.
He tried to ignore that the sunlight stung his eyes, made his skin hurt.
He tried to ignore that the food and drink he consumed lost its flavor and its ability to satisfy.
He tried to ignore the weakness that seemed to seep into his tissues, slowly sneaking in on little cat feet.
Nature itself seemed to grant him a gentle reprieve as his struggle worsened. Heavy, rain-filled clouds arrived to shield him from his growing aversion to the unfaithful sun. He battled resolutely against that monstrous force that came creeping back, whispering its murmurings from the deep recesses within him. And she, the daylight nature that he loved so, saw, and wept her mournful tears down upon the city of London.
As if attempting to cleanse him of that evil, lecherous thing that sought to consume him once more in darkness.
And so, under the weeping, grey, daylight skies, they walked together, sheltering from the chilling raindrop tears under a large black umbrella. They chatted about this and that, astutely avoiding talk of that hungry creature which drew ever nearer to the man who so desperately, so stubbornly fled away from its oncoming approach.
At times, they held comfortable moments of quiet between them as they journeyed. Like white, unblemished matrimonial cloth binding them together even as it stretched out over the growing expanse between them.
"It was you who sent me the roses after my examination, wasn't it?" Mina asked suddenly.
He glanced sidelong at her. She was becoming quite proficient at presenting sudden questions and information out of turn.
"Yes. Me," he admitted.
She drew closer to him as they meandered along, the water droplets tapping erratic rhythms on the rain umbrella above them.
"When it comes to dreams, one may falter, but the only way to fail is to abandon them," she quoted back to him.
Alexander smiled. He remembered it quite well. All those many months ago.
"I don't suppose you were there in the black carriage across the street as I found them and read the card, were you?" she questioned lightly.
He looked somewhat abashed but managed to partially contain his surprise.
"Yes, my most observant lady. Actually, I was. I wanted to see your face when you read the card."
Even to him, he sounded like a love-struck schoolboy. Mina however, blushed happily.
"And did you?"
He looked at her, then down away to the glittering cobblestones.
"No," he answered quietly. "Dawn was close and Renfield . . ."
She followed his wandering gaze even as she spoke for him.
"Kept you from burning yourself in the sun for me?"
He nodded and spoke with his usual light aplomb.
"Yes. It seems he has a most frustrating habit of playing nursemaid to me on more than one occasion."
The rain dripped steadily from the umbrella, lending them their own private world while they could still take pleasure in it.
"A good man," Mina observed.
"Yes. A very good man indeed," Alexander admitted.
They walked on quietly for a few minutes, listening to the muted sounds of the world around them.
"I'll tell you a secret, if you would like to hear."
Mina's interest perked up its ears like an alert feline on the smell of a delicious morsel.
"Oh, yes. Please do tell," she requested affectionately.
He hesitated, his memories rising behind his blue-green eyes.
"I was there. That evening. In the shadows. I watched your examination."
She stopped walking, stunned.
"The entire thing?" she pressed.
He smiled his affirmation and she blinked in surprise.
"Alexander, that examination lasted for hours. And it began during the daytime!"
He nodded again.
"Yes. It was very important for you. I wanted to watch you excel to the chagrin of those pompous old men who doubted you. And you did. You were precise, professional. You were perfect."
Mina's smile brought sunshine into his rainy afternoon.
"Oh, Alexander," she sighed. "Thank you. You have always shown faith in me and encouraged me. Even when it gained you nothing."
He shook his head, bathing in her radiant light.
"It gained me the vision of your beautiful smile, the knowledge of your happiness."
She reached and kissed him under the shelter of the dripping rain.
"Although, I must admit," she teased him lightly. "You seem to have been somewhat of a stalker at times."
He nodded, unable to argue the fact. If she only knew that extent of that truth, she might not take it so blithely.
"At times," he conceded.
They walked on under the raindrop tears while Alexander's humanity slowly slipped away from them into the swirling mist at their feet.
The last thing to go was his resistance to consuming blood.
And when he finally needed it, he needed it. Badly.
The need, the hunger, the monster had took immediate control and viciously overwhelmed him.
It happened unexpectedly. On the eighth day.
Suddenly, he was violently shaking in the fire lit parlor of Carfax Manor. And clearly no longer himself. He was in the throes of his renewed hunger. And it was a terrible thing.
"Alexander . . ." Mina began, moving toward him.
He retreated the same number of steps that she advanced, his hand up, almost defensively covering his suddenly exposed vampire fangs.
"Stay away," he muttered darkly.
Mina continued toward him.
"Alexander, let me help . . ."
He retreated further, his face turned away, one hand out to stop her advance.
"STAY AWAY FROM ME!"
His roar sounded more afraid than angry. She stopped, her heart pounding in fear.
Renfield stood nearby, calculating how quickly he could move to protect Mina against the blood-thirsty creature Dracula.
But instead of attacking Mina, the last vestiges of Vlad Tepis, Alexander Grayson, took control of his physical form and ran.
Out into the night.
The cleansing water was clear and lukewarm. Unlike many women of her privileged station, Mina did not choose to bathe in milk water. It seemed rather selfish and wasteful to her to use it to temporarily soften her skin when it could instead be given to small children to drink.
She sat quietly alone in the large, claw-footed bath. Her head resting on her hands atop her raised knees. Her dark, wet hair forming a protective curtain around her sorrowful face. She tried to withhold the complete ferocity of her sobs, tried to contain her roiling emotions. For she feared if she let them out entirely, they would consume her whole.
A quiet knock sounded on the door.
The muffled voice called hesitantly to her from the other side of the door. Alexander. And carried hatefully within him, the monstrous parasite, Dracula. Returned at last to claim him. And steal from him his recovered humanity, his precious sunlight.
Mina brushed away her tears.
"Enter," she spoke, trying to deny the quaver in her voice.
Slowly he opened the door. She made no effort to hide her body from his eyes. But she did try to hide her tears.
He had purposefully chosen this moment to speak to her of his thoughts. Here, exposed and unarmored, she could neither avoid nor flee from his words. She could not brush them away or distract him from his planned intent.
So he thought.
His face was solemn and closed. He looked directly into her eyes, seeming to deny himself the pleasuring sight of her body.
After a moment spent gathering his chosen words like heavy stones, he spoke softly.
"Mina, I have been so very selfish for involving you in this madness. I should have left you alone to live your life without my interference. I apologize."
Though he spoke sincerely and without a shred of martyrdom, Mina felt her anger rise up within her. She lashed out at him in frustration.
"Well, it's a good bit too late for apologies now, isn't it? You drew me to you. Made me care. All because you have such goodness and love inside yourself despite what you may believe!"
He didn't know whether he should leave or stay. Smile or cry. Send her away or propose betrothment.
Instead, he forced himself to continued on. His own words sliced like straight razors upon his wilting heart and soul.
"In light of all that has come to pass, I thought perhaps . . ." he paused, then forced the last dreadful words from his increasingly ash-dry mouth.
". . . the time may have come for you to go away from me."
Mina sat still as a Greek statue for a moment as if she had not heard him.
Then a bright fire blazed her dark eyes, fiercer than he had ever seen. She sat up, the water sloshing around her exposed body.
"Don't you dare say that to me! Vlad Tepis, Alexander Grayson, whatever you wish to be called! You will not send me away like a discarded mistress just because you are afraid! I shall decide when I shall go!"
Her voice dropped to little more than a whisper, though the fire in her eyes still gleamed.
"And I say . . . not today."
He stood still before her, verbally skinned for his altruistic efforts. And his heart, his yearning heart, his terrified heart, called desperately out of his eyes. He did not wish to hurt her anymore. He did not wish for her to be damned. For him.
And then he heard her speak words he did not expect.
"Now take off your clothing and get into this bath."
Alexander's surprise and confusion registered clearly on his face. Mina did not smile, she did not laugh. She expected him to do exactly as she demanded.
And so he did.
When he was seated opposite from her, she moved toward him without speaking. She lay against him in the warm water and he, in absolute disbelief, wrapped her arms around her, absently caressing the wet skin of her back. They lay in the water for some time, still and breathing together.
Lady Jayne Weatherby slid through his mind. The night he had reclined in her bath. On that night he had finally gained the one thing she had gifted no other man. Her trust. He had manipulated and schemed and deceived to obtain his coveted prize. And then he had ruthlessly used it against her for his own ambitions.
This was not like that.
And yet, he worried the same fate would befall Mina if she continued to stay in his association. But for all his intelligence, all of his strategizing, he could not turn away from the one thing for which he yearned the most.
Mina's love and acceptance.
And so, just for another endless moment of time, he held her in his arms.
When Mina had cooled her flaming ire to flickering embers, she spoke.
"I am not prepared to abandon you to your cursed fate just because I mourn and shed tears for your hard-won humanity. We started this new work together and we will continue this together as far as we can go."
He could not speak, too overwhelmed for words. He should force her to leave his presence, by word or deed. By all rights, he should drive her away for her own safety, for her own humanity.
Rising from her repose, she repositioned herself astride him and placed his hands on her hips and her hands on his face. Then she spoke softly.
"We belong to each other and I am not ready to give up on you."
She smiled and kissed him then and they spoke no more.