"Jonathan . . ."
There it came again. That voice, that sultry, inviting voice. That voice that whispered from the depths of Hell.
There was no warmth in his single, spoken word. Only animosity, dread, and . . . something else.
Once upon a time, that voice had crept into his thoughts, sometimes goading him, later frequently titillating him. Now he hated it.
"Why do you keep coming back?"
She giggled, a ghastly sound like a siren in the mist.
"Because I like it."
He cut his eyes into the darkness but could not yet see her form.
The games, always with the games. Never a straightforward answer. Only games, draining games.
"The way I make you feel."
He took a deep breath, trying to quell his rising fear. This time. This time would be different. This time he would make her go away from him.
"And what way might that be?"
Sweet syrup of silky poisoned words dripped from her inviting mouth.
"Sick. Repulsive. Disgusting. Damned."
Her words made thick knots twist themselves in his sour guts. She continued to speak from the shadows.
"And your desire of it, your pleasure is corrupted into wickedness. And that makes you all the more delicious."
She was approaching slowly now out of the murky shadows. Her. Lucy. And the poor, trembling soul before her could not fathom a way to stop her oncoming advance and soul debasing words.
She continued talking, hypnotizing him with her green eyes, her floating movements, her silken tones.
"You want it. The pleasure it gives you. And the pain is something you feel you deserve . . . because of what you did to her."
The horrible truth in her words suffocated his constricted lungs, blackened the functionality of his flailing mind.
And on she spoke, as though breaking his resistance further down with her words of smooth, battering steel.
"And when I drink of your blood, destroying your innocence and purity as you once did me . . ."
She paused with a wicked, knowing smile. His aforementioned blood turned evermore sluggish in his veins even as he felt other parts of him tighten with anticipation.
"I gain your memories and feelings. Of her. Of what it was like to kiss her, to touch her, to feel her naked flesh pressed to yours."
She stood now in front of him and his entire being both withdrew and reached out shamefully toward her.
"You leave her out of this, you wretched . . ."
She continued speaking, ignoring his weak protests.
"You see, she never accepted and loved me the way I desired and the way she did you. She turned me away."
Lucy swallowed hard and pushed down her feelings of sorrow and regret. Now was not the time for those emotions. Now was the time for vengeance and retribution. She spoke once more to her helpless victim.
"And that is why I took you from her. So that she could feel such pain as I have."
She sat down next to Jonathan Harker, running her fingers through his dark hair, enjoying watching him fight for the salvation of his better self. And lose.
Because if he couldn't find the strength within him to rid himself of her and stop what she was about to do to him, he deserved it.
She whispered close in his ear, watching him strain away.
"I never thought you actually would take my virtue. That was your sin. I seemed to have misjudged you. And that was my sin."
Jonathan managed to murmur a weak retort that sounded more like a whimper than its intended growl.
"I thought I was taking comfort in a friend."
Lucy slit her eyes at him, unconvinced of his declaration. He had departed from her with such coldness and suddenness that she had surely been no friend, only a convenient opening. But she would not let him see the pain he had caused her. The time for that was now over.
"Well then," she said lightly, cruelly. "You were wrong then, weren't you? My desperate little pawn."
And the creature who had once been Lucia Marie Westerna made the poor trembling soul Jonathan Harker pay for his misdeeds. Again.
Her melodic voice made him smile even before he looked upon her beautiful face.
She smiled sweetly and his heart swelled all the more.
She had gone out by herself, alone, into the world. An important custom she consistently observed to maintain her independence and individuality. He worried for her safety upon each departure though he refrained from making mention. And every time she returned to him, he felt a renewed sense of wonder and gratitude.
"Why do you keep coming back?" he asked, not unkindly.
Mina tilted her head to him as if the answer were perfectly clear.
"You know why, Alexander. We belong to each other."
Her sincere words made his heart swell in his chest. Her continuing faith, hope, and acceptance were more than he ever could have hoped for, ever could have imagined.
"Yes," he replied without flourish or pretext. "As long as you shall have me."
Ethereal Mina. Graceful and self-possessed, without a trace of self-importance. Her ocean blue eyes gazing out from her oval face with its frame of wavy dark hair. Once again clothed in white and blue. As if she knew how much he loved her perfect form in that color.
"You know, I had a remembrance today. Of the day you allowed me to accompany you on a private testing of the Resonator."
Yes, he remembered.
Her joyful, gasping laugh at the bulb lighting in her hand, as if reflecting the bright aura glowing within her. The tank suddenly firing deadly steel bolts. Holding her safe in his arms, shielding her body with his own. The way time seemed to stop as he cradled her protectively to himself. For a brief moment, giving himself completely over to his love for her.
Yes, he remembered.
"I remember the way you tried to hide your smile from me," Mina teased gently.
She sat down on the divan comfortably close to him. Running her fingers lightly through his hair in the way that made his eyes slip closed in obvious delight. The crackling fire quietly accompanying their companionship.
"The way you held me safe when the machine malfunctioned. I have never felt more secure, more at ease. I think I suspected something between us then. If I had taken the time to explore it, I might have known then that we were meant for each other."
As she whispered her words fondly, he opened his eyes and looked deep into her radiant blue ones as he spoke.
"I never wanted to let you go. I wanted that moment to last forever. I thought it was all I would ever have to hold you in my arms."
She kissed him sweetly and they lingered together in a moment of time without conflict, pain, or anathemas.
"Mina, I am so grateful you are here with me," he murmured, completely unashamed of his expressed vulnerability.
She stroked his face as he once more twirled the dark locks of her soft hair between his fingers.
"But I cannot help to wonder . . ."
She looked expectantly into his clear blue-green eyes and he forced himself to finish his thought.
". . . how long this peace can last."
She did not speak immediately, simply laid her head down upon his shoulder and gazed into the fire, quiet and serene. Her gentle touch, her calm presence worked to sooth his worrisome musings. Without a word, she was guiding him back toward his tentative hope, his desired dreams, his enduring love. After a time, she did speak.
"As long as it can."
He absently played with one of her delicate hands. Strong, feminine, and just like the rest of her, perfectly formed and perfectly fitted to him. He intertwined their fingers together, letting his thoughts run free and unreserved.
"You are my light, my hope, my faith. I do not deserve you or anything you grace me with, Mina. But I am so very grateful for it."
She squeezed his fingers with her own.
"Do not fool yourself into thinking that you are the only one benefiting from this association, Alexander. I am so very blessed as well."
He kissed the crown of her head, a smile playing at his lips.
"Really? How so?"
She laughed quietly.
"You are surely not so daft that you do not know. You have always encouraged me, believed in me more than any other person I have ever met. You do not stand on pretention or propriety when it comes to me. You are sincere. Even when you have chosen to hide things from me, you were sincere in your own way. You do not attempt to trap me in the constraints of my gender or this society. I am free to be exactly who I wish to be. More so than I have ever been in my entire life. You love me but you do not demand anything in return for that love. Which of course makes me love you all the more."
Her impassioned speech left mists clouding both their eyes though they did not make mention.
"I love you, Mina."
"And I love you, Alexander."
They remained in their tranquil repast, alone together. While in the darkness beyond their sight, Alexander's enemies closed in around them. Licking their lips, readying themselves to pounce and rip from them everything they held dear.