Wan and Needful (The Needful Things Remix)
Author: Sakura (thelasteuropean)
Summary: In London, Mina spends the last of her excuses.
Fandom: LXG (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Movie)
Pairing: Mina Harker/Tom Sawyer, Mina Harker/Jonathan Harker
Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to someone else. Hurrah for public domain. Oh, except Skinner. He belongs to someone. Not Alan Moore, of course, but someone. He's hardly there, though, so let's not bother about him.
Notes: Written for the 2007 Remix challenge on Live Journal. The original story is Wan and Needful by Cherry Ice, which you can read here: It's a wonderful story.
There are quite a few references to Dracula by Bram Stoker in this. It's one of my favourite books and I couldn't resist. As always, I am in debt to hotelmontana for her beta and squeeful enthusiasm for this particular fandom. This would have been rife with typos and nonsense without her keen eye.
In London, Mina spends the last of her excuses. On a night much like the many she has known in the city, the air filthy with factory grime and stinking of poverty and waste, she gives up her final bastion as though it is legal tender. London, city of her youth, where she taught sweet school children and fell in love. City nearest and dearest to her beating heart, it ends in London.
But it begins in Bucharest. The night is clear, a basin of liquid black, with the twinkle of the stars adding their input to the full moon's brilliant light.
There ought to be more panic, here in the streets; there ought to be screaming and running and shoving. But Romanians are not easily terrorized. They hide in their homes with their superstitions and their prayers, signing the cross over themselves and over their children.
She understands them still, even after all of this time, all of these years of avoiding this particular part of the world. She remembers them, feels them deep within her chest, some moving with her, some against. They press upon her, pouring into every orifice until there is no room for anything else. They fill so much space that she cannot feel anything, not even the League.
Can't feel Skinner's glee as he moves, naked invisible, through the battle, or the animal fury of Hyde as he tosses off the seven--no, eight--soldiers who try to contain him. Cannot feel Nemo's unbreakable calm, nor the hot sun that burns beneath when he grips the hilt of his sword and drives home the blade. She cannot feel Tom, the fear and excitement that ripple off of him, soothing her like waves upon the shore.
Something pushes against her, an attempt to knock her over, but her balance is greater than average, and she steps into it neatly before whirling, sharp nails outstretched to land a scratching blow.
Her hand swipes at air. There is nothing there, and she feels nothing, save for the Romanians' heavy prayers. And then there is not even that. There is only emptiness and quiet, and then, before her, eyes that shine red in the light of the moon.
It is a wolf, silver-gray and sleek. She feels the force of it, pulling at her as it approaches; and her hand, still outstretched, reaches involuntarily down for the animal. The wolf nuzzles her, puts its head in her palm. Its eyes are dark and luminescent, still tinged red in the light.
"Go," she whispers, but the wolf stands and does not move. She thinks that it is one of the pack from the Carpathians, but that cannot be. Science and reason do not allow. They simply do not. There is the territorial nature of wolves, and then their average lifespan is not so long as could make this wolf one she has seen before.
Science is a comfort, but denial clogs thickly like plague in her throat. The wolf presses nearer.
There is a loud crack and the spell is broken. The wolf flees, silent and fleet, and Mina feels the tug of its evanescing figure. And then, as quickly as it disappeared, the world rushes back in again. She turns, garments and hair whirling wildly around her; their untidy movement chafes.
There is a man behind her, swaying, and Tom standing near, his gun still smoking in his hands. He says nothing, simply looks at her with eyes wide and guileless, and then is off, moving again. She can feel his earnestness through the heavy press of the people's prayer--it leaves a beckoning trail behind him--but there is easier prey here before her.
Blood blooms across the dirty gray of the man's shirt. He is not a soldier, and not a peasant. He is filthy, but his smell is familiar and so good. Mina takes him in her arms and tastes. His blood is flavored with fear and something else, something old, something rich. Vlach, comes the answer, from somewhere in the deepest recesses of Mina's mind. She sinks to the ground, embracing the man, holding him like a child. She rips at his throat and drinks until he is exsanguinated.
He's dressed like a gypsy, this husk. Vlach, not Szgany, comes the answer again. His clothing is rough and simple, but the weapon he still clutches is a work of art. They are a superstitious folk, as ever they were--the silver handle is in the shape of a cross. It is not so much a knife as a spike, sharp tipped with a shaft tapering to greater thickness toward the handle. Without thinking, she takes it, pries it from his squashy, shriveled hand, and secrets it away into her coat.
And now on to London and back to headquarters. They leave Bucharest with their job done, but the city is in shambles, the League disheartened. They are a government beast, now more than ever, needful of new orders.
Mina keeps to her room, restless and grasping, avoiding mealtimes with the rest. Though she rarely eats with them--their food does not agree with her--she has, in the past, made effort to be present. After Bucharest, she stays away, an excuse at the ready if questioned. The cook has procured some measure of Romanian garlic, which he uses enthusiastically. While it is true that Mina hides away from it, cooking up experiment after experiment to mask the odor of that plant which she cannot abide, it is not the true reason for her solitude.
But her excuse goes unused for, although the League wonders at her absence, they do not inquire. They worry, but they do not know what Romania has done to her. Henry becomes even more achingly polite and Skinner pops in at all hours. Tom skulks outside of her closed door, frustrating her with his presence until her pacing becomes erratic. Even Nemo--Nemo, who worships death, would worship her, too, if she would let him--usually so intuitive, does not deduce the problem.
The League eats garlic and Mina hungers.
The moment they dock, she leaves the Nautilus and the League far behind.
Mina hires a cab; rough and jolting after Nautilus' smooth passage, it takes her to the outskirts of the city. Her destination is an austere building, large and important-looking, well-kept and expensive.
Inside, the nurses recognize her figure--coat from chin to toe, and black veil pulled snugly--and cast disapproving glances. She can smell it on them, even over the stink of age and illness and death.
It has been some time since she was last a visitor there.
Mina follows behind the nurse and wonders what she would say if Mina told her the truth of it all. Mina could tell the woman all about death. Which patients would feel its icy hand and when.
This one two months from now. That one tomorrow. And you, my dear, have years left. Years, that is, unless I tore open your pretty neck and ate from that throbbing, beckoning vein.
There is a touch of a smile about her when the nurse inquires, before taking her leave, if there's anything more Mina will need.
When she enters the room--bright white, with far too much sun for Mina's taste--there is a glimmer of recognition from the man in the chair; and he reaches for her with a shaking hand.
"You look well, Jonathan," Mina says, and for a moment there is hope that he will respond.
It quickly passes, though. Jonathan is simply blank, again. A living man-doll.
Mina does not stay with him long. He has time, still. More than he needs. Mina will come back in half a year, and he'll still be just where she has left him. This is not goodbye for them, not yet. There will be time, later.
But when Mina bends to kiss him on his still-handsome cheek, Jonathan shudders away from her, a high keening sound erupting from him.
As she leaves, Mina knows that this time will be the last.
From the sanitarium, she goes directly to the office of her solicitors. They are a bland, tired old lot. No out-of-town work, no mysterious Counts for them. She solidifies the instructions for Jonathan's care and makes sure his expenses are paid for the foreseeable future.
When that is done, Mina's business in London is concluded. Concluded forever.
She does not go to the League headquarters, nor to the Nautilus. She walks the streets late into the night, knowing full well that the League will wonder about her. Mina does not care.
Eventually, ripe opportunity presents itself. In a darkened, seedy alley, a man pulls her against him, clumsily searching for any valuables she might have.
When Mina rips into throat his blood is sweetened with alcohol.
He is drunk. Inept. The robbery half-hearted. He may be a criminal, but he is not a predator. Desperate, but not malicious. Had he not come upon her, he would have gone home, slumbered the alcohol from his system, and woke to factory life, afresh. He is not a threat. He is not evil. He is a casualty of circumstance, of industry and technology, of progress.
She is not the victim.
His blood bitters on her tongue. Mina has hunted, drawn quail from the bush.
This was her final excuse, and it is gone.
The League leaves London not long after, making speed for Japan. Mina spends the last few days in the city confined to her rooms, waiting to hear of the murder. There is nothing, though. No word. It is as though the man were invisible, like Skinner.
She does not emerge until they are leaving port. On the deck of the Nautilus, it seems darker than down below, and more quiet. The moon is new, and the stars' subdued light are not enough to brighten even the gleam of the mighty boat, much less cut through the swath of unnatural darkness at the stern. Mina watches the city disappear into the horizon, swathed in her own blackness. She stands upright, back straight, never swaying or needing to hold the rail. The only wind is from the steady progression of the Nautilus, and even that doesn't seem to touch her. There is not a flutter of the lace at her throat, nor a loose tendril of hair across her brow.
This is how Tom finds her. He comes to stand beside her, legs spread wide, leaning languidly on elbows at the rail. "We're about to dive. Better come below."
"Nemo sent you for me?"
Tom laughs, but it is without real mirth. "No. He said you'd find your own way."
Mina does not speak. Tom's care presses her rudely; it makes her want to scream. But if she screams, there is the danger she won't be able to shut her mouth again until her teeth sink into flesh.
He is quiet for a time, following her example, perhaps. Though perhaps not, as he eventually continues without segue. "I got a letter from my fiancée. While we were in London. Becky. That's her name. Except she's not my fiancée, anymore. She went and married someone else." Tom does not look at Mina. He looks down at his hands hanging loosely over the side. "She needed something I couldn't give her. She needed too much."
"That is the nature of man. You are all needful, grasping creatures. It is human to need."
"And you're not human?"
"Not anymore," she says, and does not flinch.
"You're going to leave, aren't you?" It's not really a question.
Tom bites his tongue, hard. Mina can smell the blood. "We need you. The League needs you."
"You will find another monster to take my place easily enough."
"You're not a monster."
"And what do you know of monsters?"
"How can you ask me that, after everything I've seen? Everything we've seen together."
"With the League."
"Yeah," Tom amends. "With the League."
"My will to survive grows greater than my want to do good," Mina says. She hardly breathes, and stops to wonder if there will come a time when she will not need to breathe at all. "I was a religious woman, once. Devout in my faith. It has been a long time since I last felt the light of His grace, but I am not tormented as I once was. I am unclean in His eyes, and I do not care."
"Let me help you." Tom is wan in the starlight, and he looks at her with needful, wanting eyes.
Mina does not understand why that should pain her, when little else seems to. It is a slow burn over her heart, to which she presses her hand. Tom straightens at her motion, moves into her with comforting arms, as though she is a woman as he is a man. She lets it happen, lets him pull her close; and when he kisses her, she lets herself believe that this will work as it should.
But when their tongues touch, there is blood still on his, young and fresh. It takes every last bit of strength for Mina to resist suckling at him like an infant at the teat. She moves her hand from her heart and places it over his, pushing him away from her, keeping him at bay.
"I knew another man like you, once," she says, holding him away from her. "An American. A gunfighter. He was brave and loyal, and he gave his life for mine. You see what good that's wrought."
"If he saved your life, then, yeah, I see the good." Tom grasps the hand at his chest. He is filled with wide-eyed sincerity, still needing to replace what he has lost.
Mina takes her hand from his, touches it to his face. He does not shudder away from its cold. "Don't make his mistake. You'll get nothing in return from me, Tom. Nothing but death."
She leaves him there while she still can and goes below, down into the depths of the Nautilus. She does not remind Tom of the dive. It is he who needs to find his own way. Her way has been set since the day Jonathan Harker left London on business most grim. For Mina, there is no turning back. There never has been.
The gypsy's stake is tucked beneath her coat, over her heart. Mina is needful of its presence, hard and hot against her cold breast.