"ANNE: No beast so fierce it knows no touch of pity.
RICHARD: But I know none, and therefore am no beast." – Richard III
"I hate you."
Her voice was perfectly calm, not the breathless, incensed tone one might be given to imagine from the content of her speech. It was as though she was merely making a statement of fact, informing him of something of which he should be aware.
He seemed to take it that way as well. "I know."
Those, of course, are fairly unpromising beginnings of a conversation, and it seemed briefly as if they would sit in silence forever after the saying of them - she with her eyes downward, fixed determinedly on her hands folded in her lap, he with his chair a few feet away, watching her. but then he stood, and walked towards her, reaching out to touch her cheek, and her flinch was more eloquent than the most passionate soliliquy.
"You will have to become accustomed to this, you realize," he said, his tone, again, as though he was commenting on the weather.
"I know." She didn't look up.
"In that case, playing the suffering martyr will do you little good. You will gain nothing from your facade of passivity, and maintaining it will doubtless cost you a great deal."
That made her look up, and brought a bitterness to her voice that sounded far more genuine than her earlier calm. "I thought you valued obedience."
"Ah, but only genuine obedience, my dear. This pretty little game of playing the eternally chaste saint does not serve the same purpose in the least."
Her hands curled, seemingly involuntarily, her nails digging into her palms, but her expression did not change. "What do you want from me, then?"
Quiet, quiet, "Oh, many things." His long fingers twisted in her hair, pulling her face up so that she was looking at her. There was a hint of a grimace in the set of her mouth, at the little pain of his ungentle grip, He held her like that for the space of many heartbeats until the taut cord of tension between them had to snap, and she twisted away from him in a moment of agility, pushing the chair in which she had been sitting clattering onto the floor in her rush. When the flurry of movements was over, they were halfway across the room from one another.
There was a hint of amusement, like a flame behind his green eyes. "We have a bargain, do we not?"
She exhaled, slowly. "The bargain says that I shall not attempt to escape or to harm you, and that I shall not do or wear anything that would ward you away. It says nothing about fighting you."
He considered for a moment. "You are correct. That it does not." A pause. "But surely you cannot think to win. Why make me hurt you?"
She smiled, in a brief flash of untainted bitterness. "Pride, I suppose." A pause, again. "Surely you understand that."
He was all seriousness. "Of course I do. That doesn't mean I shall indulge it."
With the fleeting steps that one does not even notice without the startling incongruity of such a mental connection, she found in his memories the appropriately painful images. "Hypocrite."
The corners of his lips curled in a smile that showed his sharp teeth. "I knew that I would win. You shall not."
That was a corruption of history but, of course, he knew that, and so she didn't comment. "You don't want me to be falsely passive, and yet you think my fighting you is ridiculous. Despite your earlier clarification, I still am not sure what you want."
"I never said that I didn't want you to fight me. Don't forget, I like hurting you."
She shivered, suddenly, as though a cold wind had just passed her. Her hands clenched in her skirts. "I can't believe that I agreed to this bargain of yours."
"I can. You're painfully self-sacrificing - it's quite obvious. And if you're so afraid that I will kill your husband and friends in the first place, then you must know that, even if you had not agreed, I would like have had you here in this room in a few weeks, willing or not."
"Does this count as willing?"
There was something odd in his expression. "Legally, a man cannot rape his wife - consent has already been given in advance through the wedding ceremony. It's a foolish law, but our situation here is a good deal more specific. You knew what you were doing."
She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. "Yes, I did."
He used that moment to take a careful step forwards, his gaze never wavering. Her eyes flashed open and she took a step back, glancing about as though for an exit. He was standing in front of the door.
In a brief moment of inspiration, she drew upon his own tactile memories of the room, and dashed to the desk, pulling open one drawer. He could have moved fast enough to stop her, but he didn't. He was intrigued, curious to see how she would go about this.
She grabbed a knife from the drawer, a long bladed one. She held it clumsily, as though it was for cutting bread. He wanted to laugh, but the conviction in the set of her jaw persuaded him not to.
He took a few steps forward, and she did the same, brandishing the knife ineptly. Suddenly, quelling her instincts, which screamed in her to run, she advanced towards him. He let her push him to the floor with nary a struggle.
The peculiar variety of anger in her veins, the one that made her wish actually to hurt him, to cause him physical pain even without the hope of accomplishing anything by it...that was from him. She knew that, though she chose not to think about it, for the thought would have driven her to a swift and sudden despair.
He looked up at her, with the knife and said, mildly, "You aren't to attempt to harm me."
She reminded herself to breathe. "I can't harm you with this. Any wounds I make would heal up in an hour or less."
He watched her, careful. "Then why don't you?" He began to unbutton his shirt to the sternum. When he spoke, his voice had a lilting cadence. "Use that pretty knife you've found and spill my blood until I'm weak with it, draw red lines in my flesh like the vengeful beast you are and drink the blood in triumph, staining red-brown over your mouth -"
She fell to the floor, away from him, curling into herself protectively, the image of blood welling from a wound in his chest and the imagined-remembered taste of it having the expected effect. Her skirts fell around her like a heavy sea about her legs, her dark hair like a veil. The knife clattered to the floor a few feet away. She wasn't sobbing, wasn't actually crying, but he could hear her heavy breathing, see her arms wrapped around her middle as though she was going to retch. He moved slowly, rebuttoning his shirt, going to pick up the knife. By the time he went to her side, he had allowed her several moments of weakness.
He reached in around the curtains of her hair to lay the knife flat against her throat. The cold metal against her skin was a disconcertingly vivid sensation, as was, for him, the movement of her throat as she swallowed. All was still for a moment, and then she lifted her head, shaking her hair back away from her face, and looking up at him the way he had forced her to do when she was sitting. He saw that, even though she was indeed not crying, there were tears glittering in the corners of her eyes.
"Yes. I'm entirely pathetic." She spat the words out, more in self chastisement than actual anger.
He could have told her that it was simple, understandable, predictable fear and weakness, and not pathetic in the least, but he was silent. Instead, he tilted the knife and made a tiny cut over one of the rounded edges of her collarbone which encircled the hollow of her throat. A red drop of blood welled up. He lowered his mouth to the spot and drank for a fraction of an instant. She closed her eyes.
He let his teeth scrape against her throat, only slightly, only barely breaking the skin. He thought that he could kill her like that, drinking her blood drop by drop, hours and hours of the painful intimacy of it. But, caught up in all of it, he lifted his lips to hers, forgetting the fragile balance of her reactions, and she twisted away in panic, hardly flinching as the knife he held slashed a shallow cut across her chest as she turned. "I'm sorry," she muttered, hardly audible, as she leaned over the stone floor and did retch, though there seemed to be nothing in her stomach for her body to reject. He let her breathe for a moment, standing bent over at the waist, her arms wrapped around her middle, looking thin and fragile and easily broken.
He was foolish, and looked away from her for a moment, and in that brief breath-span she was running, out the door, down the corridor, bare feet quiet on stone.
He dropped the knife and followed, not actually running, not using immortal, inhuman speed, for he knew the hallways of the castle as though they were imprinted in his mind, and she was tired, and weak, and afraid. And yes, he found her soon, when she tripped on her skirts and fell, skinning her knees like a child.
She let him help her up, for he extended his hands to her, and she trusted that gesture, even though she didn't trust him. The heady foolishness of her flight was fading away, and her pride with it, leaving only the dull bruise-ache of fear, which she knew with the steadiness of her heartbeat would soon flare into something brighter and more difficult to ignore, but for the moment she went with him, wordless.
He took her to the bedroom, three doors to the right. She almost laughed when she saw it, his memories falling into place in her mind, given a tangible setting.
But he lifted a hand to her cheek again, and again she flinched, sharp, bright, and uncontrollable impulse in her. He looked at her steadily in response, and she said, half in apology, "I'm afraid."
"You should be," he told her, and that silenced her. Hands on her shoulders, he pushed her against the wall, teeth sharp against her lips, a hand pushing up her skirts to above her hips while, with the other, he touched her, his long-fingered hands cold and dextrous, and she couldn't help arching against his touch, green-blue pleasure warring with storm-grey fear in her mind until the impulses one, and she began fighting him suddenly, with all her meager strength, with her short nails, her thin wrists.
"Don't touch me!" she cried, more the words more fitting a trigger, a new-formed impulse in her mind, than a deliberately chosen admonition, "don't touch me, don't touch me," she repeated, the words becoming a litany as he stepped aside and she moved away from the vulnerability of being against the wall, beginning to sob, wrapping her arms in front of her face half protectively. It took some moments till she even seemed able to breathe, and he let her have them. Then she straightened, not looking at him. "It's your fault, of course," she said softly, breathless from the sudden violence of the crying.
He waited for her to continue.
"When Jonathan kisses - when Jonathan kissed me I'd flinch. Even with him, I can't -" she stopped abruptly, and he moved back towards her, hands on her shoulders again, but this time quieting her. "Mina," he murmured, and she looked up at him, her tears smeared into her skin like face paint.
He searched through her mind then, finding the broken tendrils of thought, the places where associations had become twisted. He didn't seek to fix them - that was not his skill, and, besides, it was his own work, and he would not wish to undo it. But it confirmed that he had made this damage himself, with his cruel words and cold hands and the forcing of his blood into her mouth.
For her part, she endured the mental intrusion without a shudder, for it was routine after the weeks of mental connection, and the familiarity of it had turned into relief after the uncertain danger of physical contact.
He had learned what he needed to know, and spoke, soft, "You will be afraid for a long time yet, perhaps forever. I could not stop that if I wished to. You can, and will learn to control your impulses, despite your fear, but that will take time. For now, I shall do nothing to your mind itself, but I can physically stop you from fighting me, and I intend to do so." A pause. "Perhaps, if you know throughout that there is good reason to be afraid, the fear will become a natural component, and not such an all-encompassing obstacle."
He was already planning, in vague patterns. Ropes, chains in the dresser, more knives - such a complete alchemy of pain and pleasure was to his own taste and if it, in that complex, layered, imperfect way, could control her wild panic -
She nodded, eyes closed. "I understand." And she did. She wasn't certain of the success of his half-formed tactics, but she could see in his memories Adriana's porcelain fragility, Ileana's catlike distrust, and she knew that he managed to make each of them content, whether it was through strategies that would leave them dependent on him, associations twisted beyond what had been done to Mina's. And if he left her like that as well...the bargain was sealed. She wouldn't hide crucifixes in the soles of her shoes or flee into the Carpathian snow. She would stay there - she had known that, she had already accepted that, it was a truth that she would allow to lay in the marrow of her bones for a few centuries.
He held her hands behind her back as her kissed her, and though the strength of his hands around her own was all too familiar, she kissed him back, because the fear would spill out into screams if she did not, and this way it came out only the blood that his fangs drew from her lips, her tongue, sharp, stinging pain.
He tied her wrists to the bed with rope that chafed them, and didn't bother with gratifying his own physical needs yet, just bringing her pain and pleasure in such a combination that she almost could not tell them apart, red and blue-back on the insides of her eyelids. She wept and struggled as much as her fears compelled her to, and his eyes only grew a deeper red.
He held her wrist when he brought her through the castle, and though it was threatening, it was also reassuring, and she did not trust him but she managed.
And she let her mind fall into a pattern, intensity wearing away at panic until, after weeks, she could curl into his touch while reading Shakespeare plays, and the fear stayed a steady pattern of tides beneath her consciousness.
And so she began to -