The Long Game

Pieces of Him

He trod absently down cobblestone walkways, dimly aware of passing buildings, people, things. His body seemed disconnected from his mind. His tormented mind that darkly mulled over when it had first begun.

When had the pieces of him first started falling away?

He had always known Mina could do better than him. He, a poor, lowly journalist for the Inquisitor. Living in a one-room flat. A hovel, really. Always forced to rely on women to care for him and take expenses for him. As though he were not capable enough to make his own way through society. Which he clearly was not. And Mina's airy acceptance of that was almost more that he could bear. The shame of it.

She had always had such high aspirations. A medical career. As a doctor, no less. What an unusual ambition for a woman. He had heard tell of such things, but never really thought it would come to complete fruition. He clearly didn't understand everything of which she spoke and was quite certain she was more intelligent than he, but he did manage a certain amount of charm to keep her engaged of him.

He had always known he was a bit on the tedious side. Lucy frequently had taken great pains to make it very clear with her slightly contemptuous demeanor. Until of course she had changed her tune.

But Mina. Her determined fire, her radiant beauty, her open spirit. Szabo had encouraged him to court her, propose to her. Had jested that they would be old before they married. But it had stung nevertheless. He was not good enough for her. He knew that. Had always known it.

But still, he loved her so. Though sometimes she vexed him. Her abject unlady-like regard to the various cuts she accidently inflicted on her person and the sutures with which she had sewn herself up had been a bother, an embarrassment. And her open, nay, gleeful talk about such matters was so unbecoming and inappropriate of a proper lady. He had tried to brush them aside for her sake. She, having grown up without a mother to teach her how to behave as a proper lady should.

Her open affections had always caused quite the stir. Hot blooded. Inappropriate. He had never really minded when it had been toward him. She created feelings that he struggled to maintain in a gentlemanly manner.

Lucy's outlandish behaviors vexed him less so because he did not expect anything from her. She was Mina's friend and a separate entity altogether that he could simply humor. But Mina was something else entirely. Mina, whom he loved.

There had been a clear attraction between Grayson and Mina since the first moment they had met. That much had been obvious. He had felt a certain sense of pride that she was so desired by all but belonged only to him. Many men were attracted to her and for good reason.

Grayson was simply behaving as a vulgar American by not hiding it as well as others. He knew of course he could never be as flashy or striking as Alexander Grayson. But there had been a certain amount of comfort in knowing that he and his countrymen were not as brash or unrefined as the earthy American.

And that's when it had all started. Right then. From the moment Alexander Grayson had come into their lives. Or more honestly they had walked right into his at the gala, he and Mina had begun to be pulled apart.

During the interview, he had decided Grayson was an egomaniacal, delusional visionary. Ranting about the people as a species and a higher evolution. Babbling nonsense about combining the old and the new worlds.

It seemed now that the man had been spewing nothing more than verbal misdirections and intentional poppycock. And he, he had fallen for the ruse like a gullible fool.

Grayson, always closed away from the sun. It had not been suspicious to him then, only eccentric. And of course being a journalist, he knew those with money had the proclivity, nay even the God-given right, to be eccentric. Otherwise, people might not realize just how rich they really were.

He smiled a sick smile at the thoughts. So much, he had missed so much. All because he had been blind and desperate for an upward heave into success and a higher standing social position.

After his boss had so casually cast his achievement of interviewing such an interesting businessman aside, he had felt put upon once more.

To be so little. To always be so little.

It had made it easy to be swept away, seduced by Grayson and his job offer. Vice President in Charge of Public Affairs. An attaché, as it were, to the upcoming, lavish American Alexander Grayson. It had sounded oh so important. So mature, so noble.

Perhaps that was why he had readily jumped at Grayson's job offer. At a chance to be bigger, more prominent, more valuable.

And then to be offered a grand house, bought and paid for, and handed to him on a silver platter.

It had seemed like such a golden opportunity. A way to impress Mina, to win her admirations. To make himself a more suitable prospective husband for her.

He had tried to work it all out in his feverish mind, think logically, and reason through the pros and cons.

His instincts had warned him that it was too good to be true. He had even gone to Mina, spoken to her of it. She had brushed his concerns aside. Faithful in her absolute belief in him and delighted in his opportunity. So encouraging. So proud. She never gave a moment's doubt for his success. It had felt so good to be finally recognized and respected.

And so he must succeed. At all costs. So that she may be proud of him.

Or had she also been taken in by Grayson's flash and fame? Been blinded by his brash American ways?

Had he ever, truly, considered declining the offer, saying no to such an opportunity?

No, not really.

He had bought in to it all and sat right down at the feast table of the devil.

All it had cost him, in the end, was his soul.

Proudly accompanying the man Renfield on business calls. Seeing the mannerly mercilessness of his influence based on Grayson's authority had been gruesome to say the least. And completely exhilarating. The heady rush of power thrilled him. Never before had he witnessed or been on the same side as one with such absolute control.

Inebriated on sudden success and the welcoming prospects of the future, he had allowed himself to be swept up and caught away on a tide of pomp and self-importance. Just for once. It was time he had what he wanted. Finally.

His careless friends challenging him. And he had opened his mouth and voiced what he had always kept inside. The desire that he could care for her so that she may dedicate herself to more womanly pursuits.

A proper English wife, he had proudly declared in front of everyone. In front of her, quite by accident.

He had never meant to hurt her. Such a rubbish situation.

Grayson had involved himself again to bring him and Mina closer together, much to his chagrin. He had taken it at face value initially. Believing the man was acting as a mentor. Grayson had even garnered a sense of camaraderie, plucked at his apathy for the deathly dull wedding arrangements.

But that too had been a ruse. A ruse that had worked seamlessly.

He had thrown forward one last effort to capture her completely after their sudden consummation. To run away together. To elope. And she had denied it for the sake of propriety. He had tried not to take it as a slight. But it had been one, nevertheless.

The night of the engagement party, it had become so clear to him and everyone else in the room that there was something special between Mina and Grayson. The way they had touched. The way they looked at each other. She had never looked at him that way. Not once.

And when he could take no more, he had interrupted the dance to take his part. And Mina, his beauty, his love, his fiancé, his bride to be. She had swept herself away and he had been left standing, the fool, exposed before all.

The deterioration had continued in earnest. Upon interrogation, Grayson had not only admitted but even proven how he, Jonathan, was trapped in the web of deception and lies of General Shaw. And nothing would lend an ounce of credit toward the guilt of Grayson. It would all come down mercilessly onto him.

Things had begun moving so quickly. He had been isolated. He could see that now. Execution of it had been so perfect that he had only noticed it when the hangman's noose had started to strangle the life from him. And there had been no way out.

When the Resonator was declared unsafe to public he had been angry, but a little locked away part of him had smiled viciously at the affront to Grayson.

Grayson, who had seemed odder and odder as of late.

After being doggedly courted by the Order of the Dragon, he had gone to seek counsel from his old friend, Szabo. Confessed the sham that was Shaw's undoing and his rising suspicions that Grayson might be plotting against him. And his dear friend had presented him with a gun for protection. It was the last time he remembered seeing him alive.

He had even confided to Mina of Grayson's devious nature and actions. The rift between them had torn wider still in that encounter. Her first response had been to ask him why he continued to work for Grayson. As if this were all his blame. Of course, he could not tell her. He had implored her to withdraw from Grayson for her own sake.

Which of course he had come to find out later she had not done.

Mina, always with an excuse to step into Grayson's orbit, as if pulled by his gravity. She with her stubborness listened to no one's reason save her own. He had even raised his voice in a way most unbecoming of a gentleman because he knew, he knew that she was lying to him. And because he was too. To himself. To her. And the guilt was eating him alive. The entrapment of his situation was becoming unbearable.

When the Order of the Dragon came calling, all he could think of was that he had been played by Grayson. Grayson, who must pay. If he was now to be played by the Order of the Dragon, at least he could get his revenge whilst doing so.

And then of course with that terrible siren Lucy. Lucy, touching him, gazing at him, confessing feelings of love, and requesting forbidden kisses. So often was he ignored by Mina that though he did not feel for Lucy, it was an attraction to have someone feel for him and take time for him. Mina's studies and ambitious drive had always overpowered everything else in her life, including him. He had been jealous of it. Felt below her in some way.

It turned out he had been played at every, single turn. He had never once been in control, though he had been led to believe he was. He even suspected Lucy's actions may have been a consequence of Grayson's manipulations.

In the hospital, he had been there at Mina's side, waiting, wishing her well, loving her as best as he could. And even then the beast Grayson had once more taken control of the situation. Made her focus on him. As if she belonged to him all along. And so he had broken a little more.

Upon realizing his folly with Davenport, he had confronted him. How the man had spewed nonsense and sincere truthfulness of the situation! He had gotten so twisted up that he had pulled the trigger and murdered him. Only to find the lies were true. Mina had betrayed him with Grayson.

Something had turned over in him then after that. He had forfeited his soul and there was no turning back now. Broken, angry, and in pain, he had gone to what he thought was the only safe haven left for him. Lucy. She felt so good and he had felt so truly lost and wicked. He had given in to it all that night. And it had felt so good.

In the light of the next morning, he had fled his sin, forming an ice-cold barrier around his heart to walk away from his unpardonable mistake.

And then his once dear Mina had come to him, asking why, why, why. Calling him a pig. He had tried to maintain, but he had been breaking apart. More pieces of him falling away until he could barely form a coherent thought. And finally he had told her why. Spoken to her harshly. He had even attempted to lay his hands on her. As much as his perishing soul had been tearing to shreds and dying, he had still pained to see their end so clearly.

He thought she had gone and it was finally over. But she had appeared again, as though to tear out his dying heart once more. Giving back the cross which had belonged to his mother. His dear mother, who would have felt such shame in what her son had become if she could only see.

He tried to reach out again to her. Cajole her, make her see the poison that Grayson was. Not for his own sake but for hers. And she could not see because of her misguided love for the monster. Her beautiful eyes had spoken the truth though her luscious lips betrayed her not.

He had gone to Grayson, played the fool, even confessed to the murder of Davenport. And the monster, had attempted to calm him, bolster him, encourage him. For the sake of the machine, he was sure it had been. But the experience had been humiliating, saddening, degrading. He had almost wished to take the oncoming sabotage back.

And he felt sicker than ever.

Mina choosing to attend the demonstration and him grimly glad. She would witness Grayson's failure and he wanted her to hurt. Though it could never match the pain in his dying soul, he wanted her to hurt. But it had all gone wrong once more. The failure he intended all to witness had been eclipsed by a disaster that had almost killed them both.

He had dragged her screaming from that devil Grayson to save her life and shielded her from the blast with his own body. After the explosion, she had still blamed him. Called him a murderer. Laid all the deaths of the innocents at his dusty feet. And she had been right. He was. Even his friend Szabo. He had killed them all.

He felt he was all out of tears, out of shame, out of grief. Out of feeling, out of emotion, out of regret.

Out of humanity.

All the little pieces of him were gone now. Broken into a million shards upon the rock that was Alexander Grayson.


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