A TPDoEQ extra scene by Lady Norbert
Corresponds to chapter one of Volume III, "The Wintering"
A/N: This drabble was requested by Faust, in her review on the "Elizabeth's Shield" drabble. Because it occurs, chronologically, before any of the other drabbles I've already written, I thought I'd go ahead and write it before posting any of those. This is the story of what happened on the night when Henry and Mina got engaged, on the Acropolis hill in Athens. So if you like it, some credit must go to Faust for asking me to tell it! Thanks, as always, to everyone who reads and reviews.
Henry knew it was pointless to ask Mina if she needed a hand over the broken stones which littered the Acropolis hill. She had a finely tuned grace and sense of balance that made her seem almost weightless -- and if she had started to stumble, she could simply transform into a cluster of bats and fly to their destination. Still, he offered periodically to guide her over the rocky terrain, and now and then she allowed him to assist her.
It had been, at first, like loving an ice sculpture, or a diamond. That was the best way he could describe it to himself -- he'd sympathized with Pygmalion, in the old Greek myth, who had fallen in love with a clay statue. He'd almost instantly developed a consuming passion for something impossibly beautiful, but so cold and hard that he despaired of ever being loved in return. For once, he and Edward had been almost completely in agreement on a subject; they had differed over how they wanted to handle the matter. Henry was all for allowing the lady her privacy, her space, her distance. Edward had been...well...of a different mind.
Then Venice had happened, and the bombs on the Nautilus. Edward had suddenly emerged as a heroic figure, who saved an entire submarine full of men (and one woman) from drowning. Henry had asserted his own slight form of heroism, working with Mina to care for those who had been injured in the blasts; perhaps it was then that she'd started to look at him differently. He really didn't know. In Mongolia, he -- not Edward, but shivering, scrawny Henry -- had saved Nemo from being crushed by falling ice. Their adventures had taken them to Germany, to return the kidnapped scientists to their rightful places; to Kenya, to say farewell to one Quatermain; and then to London, to acquaint themselves with another. By the time they had reached Paris, Henry thought he might actually be on equal footing with Tom Sawyer in Mina's eyes.
And then her laboratory had exploded.
He hadn't really thought at the time about anything except that Mina was hurt. He'd run into the room, ignored the mess and the splashed chemicals, and gathered her light form into his arms. She was so slight, so delicately and perfectly formed, no one would guess what she harbored within herself. He'd hurried with her to the infirmary, allowed himself no rest until she had wakened on her own, and marveled at the gratitude and -- yes, it was there -- affection in her brilliant eyes. From that day, she'd slowly started to turn in his favour, away from the recklessly courageous young American.
In Egypt they'd grown closer. She'd grown a bit closer even to Edward, who had comforted her on one occasion when she had actually shaken with fear. Their brushes with the vampire Kiya had brought up painful memories, and she shared them with him. Her terror of Dracula; the despair of realizing what she herself had become; the trauma of losing her husband so many years before. And there was Quincey, her beloved son, with whom she'd had no contact since Jonathan's death; Quincey, himself fully grown, perhaps with a family she had never seen. Quincey, who did not know what his mother was, and believed her dead in a fire that had left no body for him to claim. Slowly, very slowly, she had shared her pain with Henry, as though extracting poison from a wound drop by drop. Perhaps she believed he would back away from her if she gave him too much. She did not know, then, and perhaps even now still did not know, that he would not have backed away for the world. If anything, he only loved her more.
It was a long, strange road they had walked. And with every step he took closer to the Acropolis, Henry thought of another moment from the journey.
He remembered, as the last rays of sunset lit up her hair, the first time Mina had said she loved him. It had been the last sultry Egyptian night they had spent on the Nile, as they sailed back to Alexandria and the waiting Nautilus. The vampire's bite victims were almost fully recovered, and were sleeping; Henry had felt confident that he could leave them long enough to join her on the deck of their vessel, watching the water shine in the dim light of the quarter moon. There had been a slight wind, and the humidity had put a sheen on Henry's skin, but Mina was ever unfazed by weather. He'd stood beside her, stealing glances out of the corner of his eye as often as he dared; she scarcely seemed to move. Her hands were on the railing, and he placed his own hand deliberately beside hers, just a fraction of space separating skin from skin.
"This is a beautiful country," she had commented. "In some ways it is more beautiful at night."
"There is great beauty in darkness," he had answered, wondering if she knew what he really meant.
She smiled. "There can be," she agreed. "Even in us." She hesitated. "I...never used to believe that. That there could be anything good in this." She gestured in a way that indicated she meant her vampire nature. "Not until I knew you."
Shyly, he had lifted his hand from the rail and moved it so it covered her own. Edward, in his mind, was muttering something he couldn't understand, for which he was frankly grateful. "We have both stood in darkness," he said quietly. "We know it intimately. And if there was ever anything good about it, it would be you. I...love you, Mina. I always have." He hadn't quite dared to breathe, not knowing how she would react.
For the first time since he had come to stand beside her, she looked at him. The tiniest smile played at the corners of her mouth, and he very much wanted to see it blossom into fullness across her lips. And then she had said it...the words he'd not heard since Edward had murdered his first love.
"I love you too, Henry."
They reached the Acropolis, finally. Henry seated himself beside her on a boulder, and smiled. "The moon should start rising before much longer," he remarked casually. "And it's nearly full. This should be quite extraordinary; shame the others didn't want to come."
He didn't mean that in the slightest. He was glad the others had elected not to come, was grateful for it. He'd had the little box in his breast pocket since he purchased its contents in the Alexandrian marketplace, hoping that the right moment would happen and he could give it to her. But the right moment had never seemed to come to pass. Now, though, as they waited for the moon to climb into the sky and light up the ruins, he hoped he would find the words. Find the courage.
Garnets, the gem of faith, and diamonds, symbolic of eternity. He'd chosen the ring to show her that he wanted to love her forever -- which he would, whether she would have him or not. The box rested gently above his pounding heart; it took all his resolve not to start fussing with his pocket watch. Instead he smiled at Mina, who returned the smile and leaned against him ever so slightly. They sat in silence, watching the silvery moonrise.
It inched its way across the inky Athenian sky, illuminating the white columns and broken pieces of monument which surrounded them. For a while, neither of them spoke; Henry wondered if Mina was as entranced by the scene as he was. He looked at her, at her pale face mirroring the moon, and wondered why the rest of the men in the world weren't in love with her. Edward, in his mind, was unusually silent -- which was comforting. It meant that Edward, in his own peculiar way, approved of what Henry was about to do.
"It's so beautiful," she breathed.
"Yes, it is." His eyes never left her face. She turned, and smiled at him. He fumbled at his pocket, and sort of slid off the boulder to the ground.
"What are you doing?" she asked, looking slightly amused.
"I...I...well." He managed to work the box free of his clothing. "I wanted to...to give you..." Using the boulder to support himself, as he was now shaking, he knelt in front of her and, somehow, got the ring out of its trappings. "Will you..."
He hadn't even needed to finish the sentence. She gazed at him, her eyes full of moonlight, and accepted him without his really having asked her. Mina was the tying up of all Henry Jekyll's loose ends.
In later years, he would always remember one thing: the Acropolis, in Athens, Greece, is the most beautiful place on earth when the moon rises.