"This is a war and we must be the victors – there's too much to lose if we fail." – Dracula the Musical
When they finally had caught him, after they had chased him across the continent, they didn't kill him. They tied him up with chains and crucifixes, surrounded him with garlic and crumbs of the holy host, and left him in the ruins of an abandoned building that they had found, in a corner where the sun would not touch him. Then they tried to decide what to do with him.
"We ought to just kill him and get it over with," Quincey said, his hand nervously on the hilt of his bowie knife.
Perhaps surprisingly, it was the Professor who shook his head at that moment, though he looked hesitant. "That would be the reasonable course of action, to be certain, but it is a rare chance, to be able to have one of his kind captured and posing no threat to us, and…"
His voice trailed off, but Jack nodded and continued for him, understanding the Professor's impulse, for all that he did not share it. "We could study him. It would be an…invaluable opportunity to discover more things that could help us defeat the Undead in the future."
Jonathan, his face even more devoid of color than it was normally those days, said, his voice tight, "That's true."
All of them, however, were startled when something within Arthur seemed to snap, and he practically shouted, his voice bitter and angry, "I don't know what all you scientific minded people think – I'm not the most intelligent person here, I know that – but this man, this monster…he killed Lucy, and leaving him alive now is just giving him more of an opportunity to escape and do those sorts of things again! I don't want anyone to have to go through what she did."
There was silence for a moment as everyone considered Arthur's words. Finally, the Professor turned to the only member of the party who had not spoken. "Madam Mina?" he asked, "What do you think we should do?"
Mina said, her voice quiet but calm, "We have been merciful to him thus far. We can't go back on that now."
And, with that, it seemed to be decided.
The rest of the night was spent mainly in silence, for all six of them had much to consider. Quincey was the most practical, keeping their fire going and talking about plans for getting back to England, though it seemed obvious that all such plans would have to be delayed for the present, as it wouldn't really be possible to transport an imprisoned vampire with them. Mina tried to cook on the fire, but both because she was distracted and because she was unused to cooking under such conditions, the food turned out rather unpalatable. They all pretended to like it, but half-heartedly.
Everyone seemed to glance every few minutes towards the abandoned building where the Count was imprisoned, but all of them pretended not to be doing so. It was as though it was shameful for them to feel anything towards him, even anger.
Exhausted, they all went to sleep as the sun rose.
The next evening, as Arthur, Jonathan and Quincey discussed how soon they would need new supplies, the Professor drew Jack aside, picking up his black medical bag as he did so. "We must go now, friend John, to conduct our experiments," he said, his tone wavering between humor and solemnity – Jack could never quite tell the two apart when it came to the Professor. Jack nodded and went with him.
Admittedly, Jack had seen the Count only a handful of times before that occasion, but, seeing him bound in a corner that way, it seemed ludicrous that he had feared this man so much.
But then the Count looked up, his eyes green and not red, but still terrible and piercing, and Jack took an involuntary step back.
"Have you come then to kill me, old enemy?" the Count asked, and Jack was surprised to hear sarcasm in his voice.
"Not yet," the Professor replied, and Jack was even more surprised to hear his mentor responding almost jokingly to the Count, "just to take some of your unclean blood and to do some tests upon your person."
The Professor put down the black bag and knelt in the snow, reaching carefully to roll up the sleeve on one of the Count's arms, which were bound behind his back. With a sort of unwilling fascination, Jack watched how the skin there was as pale as the snow, how the blue veins showed through clearly even beneath the fine layer of the Count's dark hair. For a brief moment, he saw the Count like one of the abnormal bodies he had dissected while in school, evidence of some disease lurking deep in humanity.
"We will take some of the blood first," the Professor told Jack, not looking at him, "you know the instruments which we shall need for this."
Jack pulled his eyes away from the Count's inhuman flesh and opened the Professor's bag, taking out the needles and wires and trays and all the other things necessary for drawing blood. As he did so, he felt an unexpected desire to be sick – the last time he had used any of these was when they were attempting to save Lucy.
Quickly, Jack glanced up at the Count's face. The hatred there terrified him, and he looked away quickly.
Together, Jack and the Professor efficiently set up the materials, having done this together enough times to be used to it, though it was indeed quite different upon snow and rocks. It was the Professor who held the needle and, smoothly, his hand not even shaking, punctured the skin of the Count's upper arm with it.
As the blood dripped slowly into the tray (it looked like any other blood. Somehow that surprised him, as though it should have been thicker or darker somehow, visibly tainted), Jack suddenly felt triumphant about the whole affair. The fact that this man, this monster was now powerless before him, and that they took his blood as he had taken Lucy's and Mina's, without his consent…it seemed so right, so just.
And so Jack didn't protest when he saw the Count taking perhaps a little more blood than was advisable to take from any patient, and merely carefully put the blood into a few separate vials, and labeled all them for further testing.
"John, watch here," the Professor said then, and Jack looked up from that work. The Professor was pointing to the place on the Count's arm where he had made the puncture. True, it had been a small wound in the first place, as the Professor had decades of practice with such things, but, there, right before Jack's eyes, it was closing up.
The Professor was right, after all. The Count was too valuable a subject for them to kill. At least not now, while they understood so little about vampirism except for superstition and folk tale.
Without a word of explanation to Jack, the Professor then began unbuttoning the Count's shirt to his sternum, and then fumbling in his own pocket for something. The Count said nothing. "Look at this most carefully," the Professor told Jack, but it was an unnecessary instruction – Jack was watching with just as much care as he had watched the aforementioned dissections of his student years (many of those were also handled by the Professor, and he had the same look in his eyes then, and his hands were just as steady).
It was a crucifix that the Professor was taking from his pocket, and he lifted it to the Count's chest, pressing ever so slightly against the skin there. There was a sizzling sound, like that of meat being cooked, just like when the Professor had pressed the Host against Mina's forehead, but this time it did not take Jack by surprise, so he could watch odd bubbling of the flesh in that place, the way it swiftly darkened into the shape of the crucifix.
A quiet hiss of pain, apparently one that could not be completely suppressed, came from the Count's lips. Jack didn't look up at his face.
It was several evenings later when Arthur went to visit the Count. He did not hide where he was going, but neither did he tell anyone outright – he didn't know how to explain his desire to see the man who had changed Lucy beyond all recognition, but he had the feeling that the rest of them would understand it. When he left, Quincey was teaching Jonathan how to cook sausages over the campfire, Jack and the Professor were speaking quietly together about something probably beyond the comprehension of anyone without a medical degree, and Mina was sitting alone, writing in a notebook that was probably her journal. She was the only one who looked up as he left, and she said nothing. Probably, he thought, she knew exactly where he was going and what he would do there.
"Hello," Arthur said awkwardly as he entered the ruins, his eyes on the pale figure garbed in black bound in the corner.
The Count looked up at the sound of Arthur's footsteps, and only then did Arthur notice the burns, of various sizes and shapes, on practically every visible part of his body aside from his face. "Lord Godalming, isn't it?" he asked. Arthur couldn't discern any identifiable expression either on his face or in his voice. He nodded, but didn't step closer.
"You were Lucy's fiancée." It wasn't a question.
Arthur had to clear his throat several times before he could manage to speak. "Yes," he said, finally, "she chose me. Of her three suitors, that is. Me, and Jack – Dr. Seward, that's how you'd probably know him – and Quincey Morris." Arthur realized that he was rambling and stopped himself.
"You're very lucky. Lucy Westenra was a lovely young woman." There was no bitterness in the statement, and Arthur didn't hear any sorrow there either.
Arthur felt anger within him, hot and unfamiliar, but he quenched it. Somehow, even bound and injured, the Count still scared him. "Did you love her?" Some of the anger did come through his voice after all, but not much.
There was an almost unendurably long moment of silence. "Is this why you came here, then? For some sort of closure? Do you imagine that, because I am now your prisoner, I will give you answers that you want to hear?"
It was the truth, but Arthur only said, "I only want to know what really happened between you and her."
For the first time, the Count seemed amused. It seemed out of place on his features. "Then I will tell you. I might as well – I don't have anything better to do, after all." He paused, watching Arthur. "I didn't love her. I was very fond of her, but I did not love her. I saw within her the potential she would have as one of my kind, and how much happier she would have been in that world than in yours. She was beautiful enough that I thought it worth making her my Fledgling, but I did that for her sake, not my own."
Arthur felt a lump in his throat, so painful that he could hardly swallow. "I don't believe that," he whispered.
The Count laughed, though it was a mirthless sound. "Believe what you like. I am the prisoner here, Lord Godalming. But Lucy was not unhappy with her fate."
"You…you changed her," Arthur began desperately, not even sure who he was talking to any longer, "you hypnotized her, and poisoned her mind with your tainted blood and changed her so that she thought that she wanted what you offered her."
"Someone's mind is never completely changed by becoming my kind," the Count said, too calm, far too calm, "latent parts of their personality are merely given an opportunity to be expressed."
Arthur thought of Lucy when he had seen her last, blood on her red lips, her hair dark and mussed, thought of the Professor's words about how the woman he loved was completely lost now, and didn't know who was lying to him any longer.
He stood there in silence for a long time before finally leaving.
Two nights after Arthur visited the Count, Quincey went to the ruins where they held him. He took with him a block of wood and a knife.
He spent the entire time sitting in a corner of the ruins, whittling. He didn't say a word to the Count.
Jonathan told only Mina when he went to visit the Count, more than two weeks after the battle in which they had captured him. Mina had nodded, and held his hands tightly and told him to be careful. He hadn't quite understood what possibility it was that she feared, but he could imagine.
He tried not to look at the Count as he entered the ruins, even though the Professor had said so often that the Count could no longer harm them, caught as he was like a wild animal in a trap. Jonathan's memories of his many conversations with the Count six months ago were still too vivid, garishly bright in the way only nightmares can be. He remembered the intent, penetrating power of the other man's green eyes, and he did not believe that the Count was powerless.
"I was wondering when you would come here, Jonathan Harker," The Count's voice sounded just as he remembered it, and Jonathan couldn't stop himself from looking at him.
In a few moments, he would notice the half healed burns dotting the Count's body, but the first thing he saw was that his hair was now streaked heavily with white and grey – not quite to the point it had been when Jonathan had met him first, but certainly approaching that point. And he had aged in other ways as well, the pale skin of his face papery and lined about his eyes and mouth, the veins on his arms and neck thick and raised, like ropes strung about his body.
And his eyes were red.
When Jonathan had met the Count, he had thought that he looked wise and regal with age – perhaps it was a sort of aging that he had never seen before, but he respected the Count even more for that, perhaps, for being the sort of distant, lonely aristocrat that Jonathan had only read about. But, like this, bound, his limbs curled in upon himself, he was…monstrous.
"I didn't want to come here," Jonathan said, his voice soft as a whisper.
"Then why did you?"
"I suppose I…couldn't believe it quite, that you could be…subdued like this. I needed to see it for myself." He laughed, bitterly and falsely.
The Count said nothing. There was nothing he needed to say.
"Mina hardly speaks to me anymore," Jonathan said suddenly, as though compelled to, though he knew that was not the case, "she hardly speaks to anyone. She sits alone and writes in her journal." He paused, for the space of a breath, and then continued speaking. "She flinches whenever I touch her."
A corner of the Count's mouth quirked up in a half smile of amusement. "Yes, I would imagine that to be true."
There was silence between them for a long moment, but somehow it was not awkward, through Jonathan remembered the awkwardness of silences in the Count's castle, Jonathan scrambling to break the Count's unwavering gaze with pointless talk of the property he had gone there to sell.
Eventually Jonathan said, and it was hardly bitter, just thoughtful, "She'll stay like this until you're dead, won't she?"
Jonathan ran a hand through his white hair out of habit and said nothing.
"You knew this would happen, Jonathan," the Count continued, his voice calm and nearly emotionless, though Jonathan thought, for a brief moment, that he heard strain in it, like one trying to speak with a terribly parched throat, "you understood the folly of those men of science in believing themselves so easily the victors of this fight."
The Count asked then, a hint of mockery in his voice, "Do you have no declarations of hatred or contempt for me then? No impassioned speeches about your just need for revenge? After all, you haven't spoken to me since I practically destroyed your beloved Mina as you lay asleep beside her."
Jonathan looked at the ruined monstrosity before him and smiled, slightly sadly. "I have nothing more to say to you."
From behind him, as he walked away, he could hear the Count laughing.
Mina hadn't intended to go see the Count. But his voice was ever in her mind, steady as her own heartbeat: Come to me.
She did her best to avoid any activities that might bring her close to the ruins where he was being held. She stayed close to the camp, tending the fire and cooking and writing endless lines of what she feared was an incoherent mess in her journal. She kept silent, for the most part, fearing that, if she opened her mouth, the Count's words would spill out of it.
She watched as all the others went to visit the Count – Jack and the Professor going with their ominous black medical bags, returning with vials of the blood that was also her own, blood that she could smell and which made her terribly, shamefully hungry. Arthur going resolute and returning shaken, looking as though he needed comfort that Mina didn't know how to give him any longer. Jonathan going nervous and returning oddly reassured, though he lapsed into obscure silences after that point.
But, with every passing day and night, it became more and more difficult for Mina to pay any attention whatsoever to those around her. As her need for blood became greater, like a great fire threatening to consume all her being, she could feel the Count's doing the same thing, and his words to her became ever more angry, making her cringe with the strength of his fury and the combination of his bloodlust and her own.
She resisted nearly a month, her struggle silent and unacknowledged. And then, one evening in early December, as the men argued and the sun set, the Count called to her, one final, terrible time.
And she went. She justified it to herself, taking her journal and a pen with her, saying to herself that she needed to make her peace with her memories, as Jonathan had, or that she needed to attempt to find out more about him, as Jack and the Professor had. She could taste the bitterness of lies on her tongue at that, but she went nonetheless.
It was, for a brief moment, a shock to see him so old and vulnerable, but, almost immediately, she could look at no part of him but his terribly piercing red eyes. She had the sudden impulse to fall to her knees before him.
"Free me," he told her unhesitatingly. At that point, all her emotion had simultaneously reached such a pinnacle that she was capable of a sort of hysterical rational thought: how ironic that he, who had deprived her of her own free will, wanted her to free him.
"No," she whispered, her voice no louder than her breath.
He didn't speak any louder, but there was fury in each syllable. "Do as I tell you, Mina."
And then, as though in threat, she could feel what seemed to be a sort of mist invading her mind, beginning instantly to dull her consciousness, and it was surely what he had done to Lucy and it was terrible, and, oh, anything was better than to completely lose her will, to become a mindless being, and –
"I'm sorry, I will!" she practically shrieked, and she found that she had dropped her journal and pen in the snow. She could pay no heed to them, however. Tears freezing in her very eyes, she walked to the shaded corner of the ruins in which he was bound and forced herself to reach down and push aside the crumbs of the holy host surrounding him, wincing at the line of small burns they created on her palm. She was reaching behind his back to untie the crucifix cord around his wrists when suddenly –
She felt arms, warm, living, human arms around her, pulling her away, and it was Jonathan who held her captive as she relaxed against his chest, crying silently and trying not to watch the other men replace the holy host that was the Count's prison cell, trying not to listen as he whispered in her mind, inescapable and terrible, You will return to me as soon as you are able –
And she couldn't think clearly, she couldn't, all the voices, inside and outside of her mind, the darkness and the snow and all those she loved –
The day after the disaster with Mina, Jack went to the Count without the Professor, though he still brought the black bag. The sun was high in the sky and the Count, kept from the direct light by the remnants of a roof above his head, was asleep when Jack arrived. But he quickly awoke. That, Jack was glad of. He wanted him awake for this.
Jack didn't say a word to the Count, merely kneeling beside him and opening the black bag, unhesitatingly pulling out the largest of the crucifixes and pressing it suddenly against the left side of his face.
The Count didn't make a sound, but Jack could see the pain in his eyes and the twist of his lips.
On another day, that would have stopped him, but he could hear the names Lucy and Mina in his mind like a litany and he continued, pressing the crucifix against every inch of the Count's skin – his neck, his chest, his shoulders, his arms, his wrists, his hands. Again and again he burned the Count, more and more frantically, till suddenly the Count made a strangled sound of pain and rage – a humiliated, defeated sound.
Satisfied, Jack left.
Despite the Professor's insistence that they needed to wait longer in Transylvania, Arthur began quietly discussing travel plans with Quincey. Soon many of the mountain passes could be closed and Arthur would not spend all the winter in that land.
Quincey continued whittling, but this time he began making stakes.
Most of the time, Jonathan stayed in the tent with Mina, who didn't speak at all any longer. At night he had to be sure to stay awake and hold Mina tightly for, if he let her go, she was apt to walk from the tent and into the snow, her eyes so blank that he could not tell whether or not she was sleepwalking.
He spoke to her constantly, though perhaps she didn't hear him. He told her of all the books that he had read and had meant to lend to her, of moments they had spent together in their childhood, of all the reasons why he loved her. Sometimes such things calmed her and sometimes they did not. More often than not, he thought that she could not hear him.
The others gone – talking of buying train tickets, of the Orient Express and of England. Jonathan (beloved husband) gone too, though he was reluctant, holding her hand long and looking into her eyes as though he would read her heart there. Nod when he asks her if she will be all right – that she did, though Jonathan should be able to recognize lies. Perhaps he did, for he looked back at her from his horse till they are out of sight.
It was beginning to snow, soft and cold and inhuman as a quiet death. She walked through the cold – shivered without a coat, for she left it in the tent.
She went to Him, pushed away the holy host and untied His wrists and ankles, watched Him stand before her, fell to her knees before Him.
He pulled her to her feet, His hands as cold as the snow and bruising her arms, His fangs lengthening in His mouth, ripping into her throat like a wild animal murdering its prey. His hands ripping at her clothing, letting it fall from her in tatters, His nails sharp and cutting everywhere into her skin, everything cold, so cold on her.
He drank still, and held her up, nails buried in flesh, teeth buried in veins. His hair growing darker before her eyes, His strength returning.
Her humanity slips from her as her blood slips into his mouth and she succumbs to both not because she'd like to but because there is simply nothing else to do. All her being enveloped by His till she cannot tell the two apart.
Horses' hooves outside. Running footsteps on new fallen snow. Wild, frantic human hearts beating warm blood.
Her men arrived, the ones she loved, and all fought, blood and weapons and teeth and sharp fingernails. He let her fall, and, in the commotion, no one picked her up.
A piercing pain through an unbeating heart not her own, and she screamed and He was dead dead dead, dust and mist everywhere, blood soaked wood and shock –
And the snow about her was becoming red with her blood, so much blood that she could not think, her head spinning, Jonathan (beloved husband) at her side, hair white as the snow and all is cold and bright and she is dizzy –
Jonathan and Arthur together take the dust that remains of the Count to his castle and scatter them there. None of them particularly want to do anything with his remains, but that simply seems the fitting way to do things.
They all decide to take Mina's body back to England with them when they go – burying her in Transylvanian soil seems to Jonathan to be the same thing as condemning her to an eternity with the Count.
On the train back to England, Mina opens her eyes.