Characters: Rupert, Mina
Summary: Mina needs to unburden her past. Rupert is hiding secrets of his own.
'Fastidious' wasn't exactly a word Rupert Galvin would use to describe himself. Nor one that anyone else would use to describe him for that matter. Even so, he spent a good few minutes thoroughly checking that his hands were clean before he got out of his car.
After all, you didn't visit a grieving woman with the ashes of the deceased still under your fingernails.
He found Mina in her piano room, having let himself into her home. He knew from experience that she'd be there. It was the place she always retreated to when she was troubled, having long used music as her haven from the world. He supposed it was a bit healthier than drink.
"Mina?" he asked, with no little apprehension. He hated that he felt the need to keep the pulse gun near at hand, but the cold hunter in him said it was only common sense. It wasn't wise to trust her completely right now. He knew Mina could control herself but with her current emotional state...
But what would he do if she did turn on him? Shoot her? He doubted that even in the heat of the moment he could make that decision.
She looked up at him. Properly at him, focussed and seeing, which he found distinctly unnerving. She obviously still wasn't herself yet and his gut twisted in an odd type of fear, more afraid for her than he was for himself.
At the warehouse he'd given her as long as he'd dared to hold her son and say goodbye, then he'd knelt by her side and suggested in a firm whisper that she go home. She didn't want to leave of course, but he'd convinced her, reminding her of what she was and the potential danger she posed. She was better off safely away from people, just in case.
He supposed that'd been cruel and kind of selfish. Deep down he knew that even as a vampire Mina was relatively safe – as far as he was aware, she'd never hurt anyone and had spent years controlling the urges by will power alone before her blood treatment had become possible. Still, he was a demon smiter and she posed a risk, however small, and it had to be dealt with. That was his job and he had to strip emotion out of it.
He'd driven her home, leaving Luke behind, keen to hunt down Anika. She'd heal from the stake to the chest eventually but she wasn't going to be up to fighting any time soon and it was, as Luke had suggested himself, wise to go after her whilst she was vulnerable. Rupert assumed that Ruby had gone with the kid, knowing she wouldn't let him go into danger alone, and he supposed he should have joined them too but he'd wanted to stay with Mina – to guard or comfort her he wasn't sure.
Arriving at her door however she'd told him to go, wishing to be alone for a while. He'd hesitated, causing her to ask with the slightest pained smile if perhaps he was concerned she might go on a vicious rampage without him there to keep watch. Feeling bad at the accusation, he'd nodded and left, only pausing to hear her final instruction.
Burn the body. She wanted no chance of Quincy coming back this time.
He'd done exactly as she'd asked. Luke and Ruby had had no luck with Anika and so they'd helped him haul the body into his car and off to The Stacks. Ruby had been a little disgusted at what they were going to use the large furnace that sat in a dark corner for, saying it was creepy - but how else did she think they disposed of the half life bodies they sometimes left behind?
He'd set it going and then had stayed until there was nothing left, just as Mina had wanted.
He should have gone home then, but he found himself almost automatically at her doorstep instead, even if he wasn't sure that he'd be welcome. Truth was though, it was more home to him than that depressing little bedsit could ever be.
"You can still see," he pointed out needlessly, still keeping his distance, a little bit of caution in his manner.
She nodded, no attempt at denying it. "Yes, but it's beginning to fade. Don't worry, I'll be relatively normal again by morning."
"I wasn't worried," he defended in an instant, hating the idea that she might get that impression.
She brushed his concern away with a further question though.
"Is it done?"
No need to ask what she was talking about.
She nodded, silent in acceptance of the fact and asking no more on it. He didn't have the courage to interrupt the thoughtful look on her face, not knowing what the man who had encouraged her kill her son really could say. Nor whether anything he had to offer would be welcome. Instead, he remained silent until she spoke up once more.
"Will you take me somewhere? There's something I want to see before I don't have the opportunity to."
He nodded. Guilt wouldn't let him refuse.
The large graveyard was on the outskirts of south London and seemed to go on for as far as the eye could see. Rupert had been here once before, with Jay to pay his respects to his friend's grandfather. Edward Van Helsing wasn't the only former smiter buried here though as Rupert had later found out.
Jonathan Harker's grave was indistinct amongst the others, a simple headstone with short words about the wife and son he'd left behind, situated amidst a row of others that were almost identical. Rupert didn't know why but a part of him had expected something grander, more important for a man who had been the founder of something as impressive as The Stacks. Still, Mina had always said he was an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances and so a simple memorial was kind of fitting.
Rupert stood a respectful distance away and waited, watching as she stood looking at the headstone for a long time in silence. She needed time to think, he realised that much from experience, remembering how he'd felt the few times he'd visited Maggie's grave. Some might have called them both strong for staying away and not dwelling on the past. He knew they were just afraid to look back.
Eventually Mina whispered something. It seemed to be a plea for forgiveness but he didn't mention it when she returned to his side. He didn't have the right.
He took her arm to lead her back to the car as he normally would, before remembering that it wasn't necessary right now. He went to withdraw it again and apologise but her hand gripped his forearm tight, holding him in place.
She didn't look at him.
"You're cold," he said, hating the silence. He suspected the chill was a sign that the vampire blood was properly leaving her now, her flesh showing hints of goose bumps that it hadn't when they'd first arrived. In a way he was relieved. He wanted his old Mina back again. "We should get back to the car."
"Actually," she said softly, "I'd like to stay if you don't mind. My vision is dimming quite quickly and I don't want the last thing I see to be the inside of your car. I always suspected it was a bit of a heap."
He smiled a little at that, "My car is a palace."
She gave him a droll look.
"Just, the cleaner hasn't been in for a while," he conceded.
There was a bench seated under a nearby tree, and she led him for once as they walked over. A plaque was screwed into the wood, obviously dedicating it to someone's relative, but the metal was worn and the name impossible to read.
He shrugged his coat off, draping it round her shoulders before he sat. It was ridiculously large on her, drowning her slender frame and it made it ever so hard to remember that he was sitting with someone who had such potentially deadly power. She seemed just like a girl to him. She always had done.
"You know," she said with a slight smile, watching as daylight snuck over the horizon. "I haven't seen a sunrise in over ninety years. Pity this one isn't more impressive."
"Not really something south London's famous for," he reasoned, the irony not lost on him that as it got light her world was getting darker. He wished he could offer her more, something to remember, but he knew her well enough to realise that she had no sense of idealism. Only a realistic view of what the world truly was. It was rather fitting that the sunrise she saw was nothing special.
"We were never entirely sure I'd be able to have children," she said, without warning or preamble.
The bluntness of it almost wounded him. He didn't want to hear her talk about this and be reminded of the part he'd played in her son's death. But she clearly needed to say it and so he'd had to bite his tongue and let her speak.
"There was a concern that my physiology might have been damaged by what had happened," she continued, looking out across the graveyard as though she could see her past playing before her eyes. "When I became pregnant we were so happy for a moment and then I spent most of the next seven months completely terrified."
She seemed to be vaguely amused at her own foolishness and he let her carry on without comment.
"I kept panicking that the child would be adversely affected by my blood," she said with a shake of her head before a fondness crept across her features. "But Quincy turned out to be just a normal little boy."
To be honest Rupert found that hard to imagine. But, he reasoned, he'd only ever known the guy as a particularly sadistic vampire. His mother had seen him as a child, as human, and Rupert should've taken greater heed of that before asking her to help kill him. Truth was, he'd hoped if he didn't make a big deal of it, then it wouldn't be a big deal. That Mina would be able to see the bigger picture and leave her emotions behind. Not because he thought she was really capable of being so callous, but because he desperately didn't want to cause her any pain. It would've been so much easier if she hadn't cared. But she carried too much guilt for that.
"It was me who turned him into a monster," she said tightly, confirming what he thought and obviously hating herself for it.
"You were trying to save him," he consoled. He wasn't about to pretend it was anything but a horrible mistake on her part but it had been an understandable one.
"I condemned him with my own selfishness," she said bluntly, giving herself no excuse.
She continued speaking before he could come to her defence again.
"He used to be so accepting of what I was," she added, her sadness tainted by a bitter tint, "just like his father. They both said that I was different from the half lives. Better than them. But as Jonathan got older and started to become unwell, Quincy would ask me questions; why I couldn't give him my blood, just to make him well again. He didn't truly seem to accept that it wasn't what Jonathan wanted."
"Kids aren't supposed to understand their parents," Rupert pointed out, uncomfortable enough that he'd tried to lighten the mood a little. She shouldn't be doing this to herself. Not now.
She didn't seem to agree though and carried on regardless.
"After he died, Quincy would look at me as if he resented me. He never said anything, he respected his father too much for that, but...," she shook her head, biting her lip for a moment as she struggled to put an impossible situation into words. "When war broke out he grew positively angry at me. He joined up with idealism like so many others and once he saw what war was really like... It was as if he blamed me for living whilst so many others died. He said that I had a blessing and I was too selfish to pass it on to others."
Rupert knew the last thing she probably wanted to hear right now was criticism of her son, but he couldn't hold his tongue at that one.
"Yeah right," he scoffed, showing how ridiculous he thought that was, "because having a bunch of vampire soldiers wandering around Europe would have worked so well."
Even now, she still made her excuses for her son though.
"He only had me as an example. He couldn't see the danger. I tried to explain to him that my circumstances were very different but..."
"Kids don't listen," Rupert surmised.
"Quite," she softly agreed. "He stopped talking to me after a while. He said that I couldn't possibly understand what he or his fellow soldiers were going through. I didn't even know he'd gone back to the trenches until I received a telegram saying he was hospitalised and not expected to survive."
Rupert had always thought he'd understood why she'd done it, but he was starting to get the impression that it was deeper than simply not wanting to see her son die.
"I couldn't let him go whilst he still hated me," she confessed, confirming his suspicions. "I wanted a chance to repair what we'd once had. I tried to save him, and I only condemned him and lost him completely."
She took a steadying breath, the closest to crying she'd come all evening, but her resolve held.
"I made the worst monster from the kindest soul," she said with a disgusted shake of her head. "Anika was not far wrong about me being a terrible mother. I should have thought of him and let him go."
"You were never a terrible mother, Mina," Rupert reassured her without hesitation. "You loved your son."
She gave him a slight smile, deflecting the conversation from her for a moment.
"I think you'd be a dreadful and wonderful father in equal measure. I pity any poor teenage girl of yours – you'd terrify any boy she brought home."
"Yeah," he said with a slight laugh, knowing that was probably a fair assessment, "let's just be grateful that that's never gonna happen now, huh?"
"Don't be so sure," she said, looking at him with unwavering attention. "You're not quite decrepit yet."
He felt a jolt of something pass through him and for the tiniest moment he envisioned a future with two little kids, both with dark hair and alabaster skin like their mother. Then he dismissed it as utter madness, blaming the fact that he'd had no sleep and had been knocked unconscious one too many times recently. It was a beautiful fantasy but nothing more.
Mina's gaze had wandered across the graves again, taking one last look at her husband's final resting place.
"He would have been ashamed of us," she said candidly. "Of what I did, of what Quincy became. I'm glad he never lived to see it."
"You show me someone who's got nothing to be ashamed of and I'll show you a saint. And have you seen many of those around of late?"
"Well there you go."
She did have a habit of portraying Jonathan as one though, he thought to himself. And how could he ever live up to what her husband was to her?
She spoke no more, instead shuffling closer and resting her head on his shoulder for comfort, seeming less tense than she had. She clearly didn't need him to talk anymore, apparently having unburdened herself enough. She'd never been looking for absolution, he realised. She'd just wanted to confess. And he wanted to tell her that it hadn't been necessary but who was he to judge what she felt guilty for?
So instead he just put an arm around her shoulders and let her know she wasn't alone.
The sun crept over the horizon, chasing the low lying mist away. Glancing down he gradually realised that her eyes were unfocused, just as he would normally expect.
"You can't see anymore."
It was a statement, not a question yet she answered all the same.
"Then we should go. You can't drive now and I'm running on adrenaline and caffeine."
"It wouldn't have helped you much if I could see, I don't know how to drive," she admitted as she stood up and took his arm, the pair of them heading to the car.
"I suppose not," he mused, appreciating again how different the world was from when she had been young. "They weren't exactly all the rage in your day. I'm sure you steer a mean horse and cart though."
She dug her nails into his arm a little. "Don't joke about a lady's age," she warned.
He chuckled lightly. It was such a rare sound from him and she seemed to be the only one with the power to elicit it.
At the car, he opened the door and helped her inside. She grabbed his arm for a moment, stopping him from moving away.
"You can stay at mine," she instructed. "I don't see the point in you driving further than necessary."
He wondered how much that was for his safety and how much it had to do with her desire to not be alone. But that was fine, because he had no intention of leaving her.
Not giving himself time to think, he leant forward and pressed a lingering kiss to her forehead, hiding behind the ambiguity in the gesture. On the surface it was one dear friend reassuring another but deep down it said something more.
'I love you, but I don't have the courage to say it'.
From the way she closed her eyes and savoured the moment he wondered if she actually understood that loud and clear.