The Long Game

The Unexpected

Mina walked by herself in the green park where Alexander had once suggested to her that the patients of Bethlehem Royal Hospital dance to brighten their dreary existences. She was grateful to be alone with her thoughts in a space to herself. It helped her find her center, her balance, her calm.

"Hello, Mina."

She stopped walking in mid-stride. Turning to the voice, heart suddenly pounding, knowing exactly what face what face would greet her. And she was right.

"Jonathan, what in the world are you doing here?"

He stood near a tree, appearing to skulk under its forgiving green shade. His visage looked horrible. His skin was sallow and pale. Deep circles shadowed his once bright green eyes that now appeared sickly and haunted. His trim brown hair wanted a cleansing. His wrinkled clothes desired of a good wash.

"I needed to see you, to talk to you."

She pushed away her shock at his awfully changed physical appearance. She tried to look at him clearly, but could see only vague remnants of the man she had once known.

"My father died, Jonathan. He loved you like a son. You weren't there at his wake or his funeral. Did you care nothing for him?"

His breath reeked of alcohol as he drew closer to her. She stood her ground and resisted the urge to step back from him. He spoke, his pain at her words evident in his voice.

"Of course, Mina. I, I . . . He was a good man . . ."

She placed her hands on her hips, exasperated at his fumblings.

"Then why didn't you pay your respects, Jonathan? Have you really changed that much?"

He seemed to mentally stumble, hold back the words he intended to speak in lieu of more veiled discourse.

"Mina . . . I couldn't. My life has been very . . ."

She felt deeply unwilling to be drawn into his web of woe and self-pity any longer. He wasn't the only one suffering misdeeds. And his, no doubt, were of his own foolish making.

She held up a hand to stop him.

"Jonathan, this isn't about you. It's about my father."

Jonathan Harker tried to struggle through the mire of his confusion and drifting thoughts. The lack of blood pumping through his body, his very soul crying out for salvation, made it difficult to form clear thoughts and take direct actions.

But he must press onward. Must do what he came here to do. Must make her see her danger. Must save her. Even if he himself was beyond saving.

"No, it's not, Mina. It's about you."

He seemed a shadow of his former self. He seemed to have shrunk, lessened somewhat in his stature, in his poise, in his humanity. And Mina was suddenly afraid.

"Jonathan," she questioned, fear taking root in her mind. "What's happened to you?"

He shook his head, seeming to draw himself together with enormous effort.

"Never mind me, Mina," he stammered. "I'm here for you."

He led her to sit upon a stone bench in the sun, as if the effort of standing was proving too much for his weary constitution. Which led her to worry still more. How was it that he had grown so weak and feeble?

Mina's face crinkled as she reflexively reached out her hand to sooth his lines and worries. Then drew back as Jonathan dodged away from her gentle touch. As if she would burn him with her care.

"Jonathan, please. What are you saying?"

He looked around as if trying to spot any approaching danger. His growing paranoia was so palatable that Mina found herself fearful that someone, something was coming for them at that very moment. She repressed a shudder.

Then Jonathan spoke rapidly, forcefully. As if he was running short on time. As if there were only seconds left for him.

"Mina, you need to disassociate yourself from Alexander Grayson."

Mina sighed and began to rise from her perch. Jonathan, his thin hands betraying a subtle tremble, reached out for her but then paused with uncertainty.

Mina spoke calmly, quietly, as if to a stubborn child.

"Jonathan, please. I know you are lonely and sad but this is my life, my decision . . ."

Jonathan reached out for her again and she sat once more, trying to make sense of all that was weighing upon him in his deteriorating condition.

"Mina, wait. This is not about happiness or love. I fear for your safety."

Mina watching him closely. He seemed dreadfully unable to give voice to his true thoughts. And her fear grew.

"Jonathan, Alexander would never hurt me. I know you . . ."

Begging with his sick eyes, with his inconstant mouth, he interrupted her again.

"Mina, I know you think you're safe with him but . . ."

Against her will, Mina felt her repressed anxiety rising by the moment. Jonathan seemed dangerously close to coming unhinged. As though he might break loose, grow feral, and tear her to pieces in his desperation to keep her safe.

"Jonathan, please, you need to leave . . . we have nothing to talk about . . ."

The day was bright and plentied with people. Jonathan was entirely human. And yet, Mina felt more vulnerable, more in danger here than she ever had been with Alexander.

Jonathan's voice was strained and rough as he continued to plead with her.

"Mina, it's not safe for you to be with him. He has many enemies. Some who are willing to use you to get to him."

Her mind clamped down on his statement immediately.

"What do you know of his enemies, Jonathan? What can you tell me?"

Jonathan stammered and stuttered without making any sensible statements.

"Jonathan, Jonathan, what is it? Jonathan, please tell me! Please help me."

Jonathan stood and began to turn away.

"I can't, Mina. I must go . . . no, do not follow me. Just . . . please . . . for your own safety . . . please stay away from Grayson."

He walked away with his shoulders hunched against some crushingly heavy, unseen force. Mina's searching blue eyes followed his departure with disquiet gnawing at her heart. She remained sitting upon the bench in the warm afternoon sun, chilled completely to the bone.

Alone and afraid.


"Are you ready, Mr. Harker?"

"Yes, sir. But . . . Mina . . ."

"What about her?"

"If she is with him . . ."

"Which she most definitely will be."

"Can't we . . ."

"No, Mr. Harker. She must be taken as well."

". . . but she is an innocent, van Helsing!"

"I am afraid she is not, Mr. Harker. Her innocence was made null when she associated herself with him."

"But . . ."

"Mr. Harker, we have come too far to stop now. And if you are not with me, you are against me."

"Yes."

"And there are consequences for that. Deadly consequences."

"I know."

And so he went along with the dastardly plan. Because there was a chance that if he was there, perhaps he could still save her.


"Alexander, are you ready?"

He lay bound once more upon the machine that seared his nerve endings with harsh electrical surges to grant him the gift of sunlight. Solar serum at ready residing within the ten torturously long needles waiting to pierce his chest, to fill his veins with the searing fire of liquid humanity.

The blinding pain, the excruciating white lightening, the brutal stabbing of his flesh, the molten liquid melting through every last vein and capillary.

It never relented, never lessened. Just as sheer in its agony every single time as it had been the first time.

He nodded to her, shoring up his defenses with the beauty of her, his life, his Mina.

"Yes."

But what came after all the agony and pain. That was the stuff of dreams, of light, of heaven.

"Mr. Renfield?"

Potential brain damage.

Loss of sight, loss of speech, loss of memory. Loss of self. The man to whom he remained loyal, reduced to a drooling, empty shell of a being. Yet still craving of blood. Feral. Bestial. His so desired humanity destroyed forever.

R.M. Renfield, Esquire, standing at the ready, swallowed thickly.

The precious humanity, the warming sun, the blessed absence of bloodlust. But at what possible cost?

"Yes, Miss Murray."

Mina took a deep, steadying breath as she once more fixed her eyes on the focus of all this effort, all this pain. Alexander Grayson. The first vampire. Who wanted so badly to simply be human. With her.

A month of weekly electrocutions, followed by hefty doses of solar serum. And every time, every time, though Mina preferred straight science to mystic religion, she found herself praying. Praying that he would remain as he was.

Human. Intact. Alexander.

"Now."

Once more, Renfield activated the power surge. Once more, Alexander swept into violent throes upon the vast quantities of electricity raging through his body. And once more, Mina Murray prayed. As did the man Renfield.

A damp cloth clamped over her mouth and nose. She involuntarily gasped with shock and then, the fumes filling her lungs and rushing on tainted blood through her body, Mina Murray knew no more.


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