They took a train into Romania. Mina wondered whether the Count decided on that mode of transportation only for the irony of it, knowing that she would remember those days on the Orient Express years ago (the hypnotism sessions, the unprompted things Mina would say sometimes, softly, as though to herself, causing Jonathan to look at her with worry, but not to ask, never to ask). This time was different, of course. Their train tickets had assumed names on them, and the passports which the Count showed at the ticket booth were counterfeit. Mina wondered what their fellow passengers thought the relationship between all of them was, as they waited on the platform, Jonathan carrying Mina's bags despite her objections, the Count watching the human beings around him with detached interest.
They were also traveling first class, for, as the Count told her, the large, latched train compartments would ensure more privacy, as would the increased deference of the staff to their wishes. With a hand on Mina's shoulder blades, the Count explained politely to an attendant that she was gravely ill, very weak, and would need not to be disturbed, particularly during daylight hours. She held back the bile-filled words she longed to throw out, denouncing his lies and begging to be helped to escape. When they were left alone, she asked him why it was she that he chose for the object of that lie. He explained, with perfect calm, that it would soon be true, as both he and Jonathan would need to feed from her if they were not to arouse suspicion on the train, and, if they were to drink only enough to leave her alive, they would have to feed from her every night. At that news, she curled up against the curtained window (elbows drawn in, knees bent – she must have looked childish, but she didn't much care) and tried not to look at either of them.
It was quickly decided that, during the day, as the Count and Jonathan slept (for, in neither day or night would they leave their ordinary compartment for the far more comfortable sleeping car) Mina would be tied up. "It won't hurt much," Jonathan told her, the look in his eyes begging her not to blame him, "it's just to make sure that you don't do something foolish."
But the feel of the ropes, which the Count tied securely around her wrists and ankles and knotted to the metal bars beneath the seats, made her want to cry. She kept gazing at the close drapes of the window until the Count and Jonathan went to sleep, still as true death. After a time she herself fell asleep, though it was an uneasy, uncomfortable rest.
When she awoke, it was night, and the Count and Jonathan were both already awake. Her limbs ached from sleeping tied up, and, when the Count untied her, the relief of movement almost overcame the fear of his touch.
It was that night when she first had to endure the necessity of being bitten by the both of them. She could have fought, she supposed, but since she had no hope of succeeding, she merely sat as still as she could, hands folded in her lap and tightening together instinctively at the pain. The Count fed from her neck, Jonathan from her wrist. The Count was methodically brutal, holding her hair tight to keep her head in place, while Jonathan was as gentle as it was possible to be, his bite as careful and precise as a needle puncture from a doctor. But the pain was the same either way, and she cried through it all, the steadily increasing weakness terrible, humiliating. When it was over, dizziness took her when she tried to sit up. Jonathan held her, arms around her frail shoulders, gentle, trying to be comforting. The Count felt the pulse at her neck, causing her to tense. "I'll find something for her to eat," he said, and left.
With them alone, the silence was deafening, and, as though to fill it Jonathan murmured things into her ear, "I love you," he told her over and over. She didn't disbelieve him, but she wasn't sure that it helped. She didn't speak to him, didn't ask him why he had done what he had. There would be no point in it. She would have no way of knowing how much of his answers were lies, how much were self deception, and how much were truth.
The Count returned, bringing a bowl of soup, nearly clear broth, and bread, as well as a pitcher of water. Jonathan frowned. "Shouldn't she have something with more nutrients? To build up her strength?" It was a genuine question, not a challenge.
The Count shook his head. "She wouldn't be able to keep it down."
Mina, who had grown used to the patterns of nausea that came along with such things since the night the Count forced her to drink his blood, thought that he was likely right, but, since her opinion had not been asked, she did not give it.
Jonathan helped her to sit, and she ate slowly, fighting the dizziness behind her eyes. The weakness of the blood loss weighed heavy in her bones with a terrible familiarity, and she could not imagine enduring such sensations every night throughout the journey. The pain itself was easily endurable, but the weakness that came with it was more difficult, making her own body feel out of her control. She thought, briefly, that it would be easier to endure this in front of only the Count than it was to do so in front of Jonathan. Perhaps that was because she had always wanted to be strong for Jonathan, and the Count, of all the world, knew best how weak she could be.
The bread was easier to eat than the soup, for all that the warmth of the latter was comforting. In any case, she put them both aside soon enough, for they tasted unreal somehow, and the effort of eating was not worth whatever strength she was gaining. By that point, Jonathan had returned to sitting at the Count's side, and she was left alone on her side of the compartment. The Count and Jonathan were both reading, different books, with a companionable silence.
Noticing her stillness, the Count glanced up. "Did you bring books with you?" he asks, and the concern almost made her smile.
"I didn't pack," she said, thinking he must surely remember this.
"I packed for her," Jonathan interjected, "I took whatever books were in the room."
"I couldn't read now in any case," she said, quiet, "I'm too dizzy."
There was a pause, and then she felt the Count opening their old mental connection, like tearing open an old wound. She was frightened, but he was just giving her the words of his book, which was written in Russian, smoothly translating for her as he read. She relaxed, minimally.
The next day, she was woken close to sunset by the sound of Jonathan murmuring. She opened her eyes and saw the clammy look on his face that she remembered from his nightmares years ago. He was shaking, muttering things that she could not quite hear. The desire to go to him, to wake him from it was almost palpable, but the Count had tied her up again for the daylight hours, and there was nothing she could do. She was, in fact, relieved when the Count woke a few moments later, understanding the situation in a few seconds and catching Jonathan's shoulders, muttering in his ear until he woke.
Which he did quickly, frantic, looking at the Count for something that Mina could not guess. "It's too close," he said, just barely loud enough for Mina to understand the words, "the door is locked, it's too close."
The Count held Jonathan's head steady between his hands with a familiar ease. "Jonathan, you're all right. Calm, now. You're all right."
Pleading, "It's too close. I can't breathe."
Firm, "You don't need to breathe." The Count paused, searching Jonathan's eyes for something. "The door isn't locked, you know that? I don't need to lock your doors any longer."
Slowly, after a pause that seemed interminable, Jonathan nodded. The Count kissed his lips, briefly, and then let go of him. "Walk about the train a little," he said, "it should be dark enough by now. The space will do you good." Again, Jonathan nodded, and, taking an unnecessary breath, he left the compartment, not even glancing at Mina as he did so.
Mina was silent as the Count came to her and untied the ropes about her wrists and ankles. It was only when he had sat back down on the other side of the compartment that she said, her voice thick with a thousand emotions that she did not know how to voice, "You've been doing it to him, haven't you? These years that he's been living with you. You've been locking him in again, even when you know what did to him the first time."
The Count looked at her and spoke mildly, "Not anymore, not unless I must. Only before I could trust him, and when I needed to punish him."
Mina bit her bottom lip. "Oh, God," she muttered, an exhale.
The Count raised his eyebrows. "It did work."
The words spilled out of her, bitter and expected by the both of them. "And what will you do to me? Open a cut and press my mouth to your chest whenever I disobey you, until I'm an incoherent mess who will do anything you say? Is that the way it works?"
"If it must."
They both let that hang in the air between them for a few moments, and then she said, more quietly, "I'll never be able to forgive you for all you've done to him. What you've done to me, what you will do to me - that I don't even need to forgive. But all the times you've hurt him, before and in these past years...and that now, when he wakes up from nightmares of you, you have the audacity to try and comfort him -"
He cut her off, irritation in his voice. "Nothing is that simple, and you know it, Mina." She looked at him, direct. He continued. "Someday, you shall be coming to me for comfort, and I will give it to you, because I respect my obligations. My way of loving is brutal and merciless, but it is real, and you understand it far better than you pretend to."
In the pause that fell after that statement, Jonathan returned. He looked better than he had when he left, to Mina's relief. He smiled at the Count, and then, belatedly, at Mina. "Good evening," he said to her, "I'm sorry about that, earlier, I -"
Quietly, she said, "You don't need to apologize."
In a petty sort of way, she was insulted that he had even thought an apology would be necessary. She had to remind herself of the years that had passed between them, and the change that had, in that time, been wrought in each of them. As though to illustrate that, he gave her an awkward smile and sat down next to the Count, the two of them murmuring things to one another, half finished phrases that Mina could not hear. It had the recognizable rhythm of a lovers' conversation. Mina didn't want to know what they were saying. Towards the end, it seemed to turn to mundane things, and increased in volume. She heard something the Count said about them needing blood. She had a moment to steel herself.
And so she was expecting it when the Count looked directly at her and said, his calm making it a demonstration of their earlier conversation, a taste of the demands he would make and the punishments he would give for disobedience, "Bare your neck, Mina."
She looked straight back at him, unflinching, unmoving. He smiled. And then, in a movement so swift she did not see it, he had gone to where she sat, pulled her arms behind her back in a way that made the bones of her shoulders burn painfully, and, twisting his fingers brutally in her hair, wrenched her head to one side.
"Jonathan, drink," the Count said, still commanding. Mina, held still, tried to breathe into the pain and fear of it, listening to Jonathan's slow, soft footsteps across the carpet.
He bit her neck that night and, though he again attempted to be gentle, there was no way to even give the trappings of delicacy to the action while the Count held her still in such a manner. When Jonathan was done, the Count lowered his head to her neck, continuing to hold her still. "Flesh of my flesh," he murmured against her neck, and then, almost before she could react, he bit.
She sobbed, almost bereft of breath, as he drank for what felt like an eternity, as he finished and helped her lie down (otherwise, she would surely have fallen in an undignified heap), as he asked Jonathan - who was baffled at the intensity of her reactions, perhaps not hearing the Count's words and certainly not understanding their significance if he did - to go get her something to eat. Only when Jonathan left could she breathe deeply and try to recover some semblance of self-control.
"I won't be able to keep anything down today," she told him, referring to the food Jonathan had been sent to obtain.
He nodded. "You should wait a little while, it's true."
"You're good at it," she said.
"We knew that already."
"That's true," she said, knowing that she verged on hysteria and that the edge of it was harsh and high in her voice.
He must have heard the hysteria. "Rest now."
"I'll be all right. And I couldn't, with you watching me." For he knelt at her side, as though he would touch her hair or her shoulder like a worried husband. It twisted fear in her stomach.
"You haven't been sleeping much during the day." It wasn't precisely a reprimand.
"You keep me tied up."
"One can sleep that way."
"I'm not used to it yet, then." She paused after that, look at him. "This is a ridiculous conversation, you realize."
He smiled. "I don't think so, not particularly."
She shifted, rubbing at the drying blood on her neck. "Of course, you wouldn't." She breathed, hearing the unhealthy rattle of it in her chest. "I hate this train journey. It's like waiting in purgatory to be admitted to hell. I wish you had simply brought me immediately to your castle, rather than taking the roundabout mortal route."
His tone was solemn, and she realized how unexpectedly often it seemed that he was taking her seriously. "That would have been too simple, too…anti-climactic. You've fought me for many years, Mina, and succeeded far more than anyone else. It seemed only right that your capture be prolonged appropriately, so that I might savor the torture of your anticipation."
She shivered, and wanted to turn away from him, but something stopped her. "It's difficult for me to imagine life with you, in fact. Not single moments, those I can manage to picture perfectly well, but the entirety of it, day after day. I tried to, sometimes, after Jonathan left, when I was tired and contemplated how horrible it really would be to submit to you, but I never could quite form a complete image."
He did reach out and touch her hair, slowly, deliberately. "It is no great mystery, truly. I believe that you'll manage it far better than you imagine."
"I don't know. Perhaps I will, but –" She stopped, closing her eyes briefly and collecting her thoughts. "I'm afraid. I'm terribly afraid, and I know that you relish that fact, but for me it's a real, horrible reality, and it's as though I can barely breathe, spending all my time in your presence, and –"
Suddenly, with one of his arms lifting her half to sitting, he kissed her. His mouth tasted of her own blood, and he kissed her the way she had known he would kiss her since, years before, he had first spoken to her mentally and she had fought uselessly to keep herself from listening. She did not fight him there, in the cramped train compartment, with unhealed bite marks on her neck.
It was then that the compartment door opened and Jonathan entered, carrying a tray of toast and tea. His eyes widened and Mina felt a shiver of illogical guilt. The Count did not immediately draw his lips away from hers, but held her still for several seconds, only letting go of her with a final, almost painful press of his sharp teeth against her lips. Then, one arm still around her, he smiled at Jonathan, gesturing with one pale, articulate hand for him to come closer.
Jonathan did, laying down the tray of food on the seat beside Mina and himself kneeling next to the Count, who touched his face, his chin, his hand fitting into the line of his jaw with accustomed familiarity. Jonathan's eyes stayed grave though, and he seemed to be trying to watch both Mina and the Count at once, as if unsure which of them would be most likely to do something requiring his attention.
It was too much for Mina. She drew away from the Count as much as she could, half relishing the ache and stiffness of her bones, with the agonizing hunger-nausea of her blood loss and accidental fasting. She let her hair fall to the point of half obscuring her face, glad for an excuse not to look at either of them. "Thank you, Jonathan," she said softly, meaning for the tea and toast, though she wasn't certain her point would get across.
"You're welcome," Jonathan said in response, though his voice was so quiet she could barely hear him.
She could feel the Count's cold fingers against the bite marks on her neck. She closed her eyes, steeling herself not to flinch. "Beautiful," she heard him say, and she shivered. Her acute awareness of her own vulnerability made the sense of threat almost palpable. Jonathan would do nothing, she knew, even if she screamed –
"Your tea will get cold," Jonathan said, and she smiled, suddenly brought sentimentally nearly to the verge of tears. She nodded, and took the hand Jonathan held out to help her to sitting. The Count's palm rested on her back, accomplishing the same task.
It almost made her laugh, the fact that each of them was at that moment in some contact with each of the others. How apt, she thought, or how sublimely ridiculous.
Moving slowly and deliberately, she lifted her teacup and took a sip. She could see her hand shaking in the movement, the tea threatening to spill, but it tasted lovely. It was different when she swallowed it, the nausea then acquiring terrible potency, but it was warm, and pleasant, and she realized that this would likely be one of the last opportunities she would have to drink tea.
She put the teacup down and looked at Jonathan, at the unfamiliar, ghastly paleness of his features and the recognizable warm of his eyes.
Deliberately, softly, impulsively, she kissed him.
He did not pull away from her, not immediately, though whether that was simply out of shock she could not tell. His lips, she found, were as cold as the Count's, and it felt nothing like kissing him had when he was a mortal.
She could hear the Count laughing, quietly.
At that noise, Jonathan did pull away. There was a sadness in his face, and immediately she hated herself for her rashness. "Mina," he began, "I –"
She shook her head. She did not want to hear the things that she could imagine him saying.
"Drink your tea, Mina," the Count told her. She did so.
"Don't do that again," he added. He sounded calm and not jealous, but she nodded. She might have difficulty with the idea of unquestioningly obeying his orders, but this one, she thought, would be little trial to accomplish.
She drank her tea. She should eat too, she knew that, for hunger was making her sick as surely as blood loss and part-vampirism, but she would drink her tea first, steadily, quietly, not looking at anyone.
The Count moved silently to sit beside her, and then laid a hand upon her leg, in muted threat. She would have cringed then, drawn her limbs in close to her torso in panic, but for the reassuring delicacy of the porcelain teacup, warm in her hands. She tightened her fingers around the painted handle. The Count's fingers gathered up the fabric of her musty brown skirts, lifting them till she imagined that she could feel the chill of his skin through her worn petticoats. She closed her eyes and took a sip of her tea.
He lifted her petticoats. She could feel the trembling all the way down her arm. Her teacup shook.
He began to slip down the dark cotton of her right stocking. She felt his fingers against the inside of her thigh. Flesh against flesh.
She dropped the teacup. It fell, breaking on the thinly carpeted floor, leaving a dark stain to mar the staid design. She stood, twisting away from him. Some unconscious part of her mind made her step safely away from the tray of food. The dizziness meant that she could hardly see either of them.
"I'll scream," she told the Count, though it was something she never did, and it seemed humiliating somehow.
He stood too. As far as she could tell as the world shifted beneath her frail form (her fingers gripping the wall behind her for support), he smiled. "No, you won't," he said.
You may as well be quiet, he could have said, but she thought it anyway and probably that was enough for him.
Then he was moving more swiftly than she could have with her emptied veins, closing the latch on the door of the train compartment and pushing her up against it, one hand over her mouth. She tried to bite at him, but all she managed was to taste his skin. It seemed all too human.
In front of her, Jonathan knelt down, picking up the fallen cup and dabbing at the tea stain on the carpet with a damp handkerchief. Part of her wished that he would look up, meet her eyes, as though in a shared gaze he would decide to help her. But the thought of such an illusion being destroyed was too painful, and so she looked back up into the Count's face.
He was so close that the absence of his breath seemed viscerally noticeable. She imagined what his breath would feel like upon her neck and for a moment she was glad of the absence of that human quality. But she remembered, too, her mouth against his silent chest and shivered at the threat of his unnatural invulnerability.
He was pulling down her stockings with the hand that was not held tight over her mouth, touching her skin in almost methodical exploration of it. She tried to hold still, her body awkwardly crushed against the compartment door, but as she felt his cold fingers enter her she arched her back in pain, closing her eyes against the bright lights of dizziness and undesired sensation. Her eyes were wet, but whether out of the act of weeping or merely a physiological reaction to the sharp pain she could not tell. She almost cried out against the flexion of his palm, but the sound was familiarly muffled. She felt sick, with pain and despair and the knowledge that, only a few feet from her, Jonathan knelt attending to spilled tea as she tried to scream.
The Count stepped away, let go of her. She felt herself fall with the dizziness, collapsing into a sprawl on the floor, her stockings around her knees. The leather of the Count's shoes seemed very near her face.
"Not here," she said, knowing she was begging, "please."
Next to her, the Count knelt down. She could see Jonathan standing, wrapping the jagged pieces of the broken teacup in his handkerchief. "Comply with me," the Count said, "and I will wait."
Mina thought of being raped in that cramped train compartment, Jonathan's eyes demurely averted, and she nodded. Better to wait, till her fear of the Count perhaps could quiet from its overwhelming roar and make the necessity of that intimacy more tolerable. She thought no longer to buy herself time to escape (an image, suddenly bright in her mind – running away from that close, frightening train car with legs not weakened by blood loss), but only time so that she might acclimatize herself to the unavoidable reality of it. Better, too, to endure that in a quiet, locked room in the Count's castle, far from Jonathan's quiet obedience.
The Count helped her up, and she allowed herself to lean her weight upon him as he led her back to the seat. She sat down, curling her legs up beside her. Slowly, haltingly, she ate the toast that Jonathan had brought for her.
A few feet away, the Count kissed Jonathan, as violently as he had kissed her. As Mina heard the sounds of buttons being unfastened, and noises of passion and pain coming from Jonathan's throat, she curled up on the seat and closed her eyes.
That day, the Count brought Mina to lie beside him and Jonathan on the narrow width of their seat in the train compartment, and tied only her ankle to the metal bar beneath the seat. The three of them lay so close that their limbs were entwined, but the exhaustion in Mina's veins was strong enough that she fell asleep immediately, with her face against the fabric of the Count's shirt.
She awoke to the Count's cold hands smoothing her hair away from her neck. She knew what would happen an instant before it did, but she did not have the time or energy to tense her nerves in readiness before his fangs sank into her throat. Quietly, she breathed through the pain, keeping her eyes closed.
When the Count had finished, he lifted her wrist, handing it, she knew, to Jonathan. As he, too, drank, she felt herself fall again into unconsciousness and did not resist it.
When next she awoke, Jonathan was the only one in the train compartment, sitting across from her and reading. When he saw her eyes open, he closed his book and looked at her. It almost seemed that he expected her to say something. She did not, partly because she had nothing to say, and partly because her throat felt closed, as though the capacity for words had been taken from her.
"Are you all right?" Jonathan asked her, gentle. She said nothing. "I'm glad you're here," he continued, and his voice was so soft that she thought perhaps he understood the ludicrous nature of his words, "I've missed you."
She felt tears well in her eyes and told him with them, I've missed you too. She thought, though, that he might have forgotten how to read her glances in those past years. She certainly now could no longer read his, so changed as they were.
"I know it's all difficult now," Jonathan told her, and she thought of him quietly kneeling beside the Count in unquestioning obedience, "but it'll be better soon."
She remembered Jonathan's face white with anger after the Count had forced her to drink his blood, and she thought, What has he done to you? But she knew the answer to that, or enough of it. And soon, the Count would do the same to her, train her to obedience till perhaps she could even watch Jonathan being hurt without flinching. Maybe then, when the Count could trust them both, she would find herself capable of speaking honestly to Jonathan again. But she had to wonder if, then, anything she said would ever be honest.
"I set up a room for you," Jonathan said, "in the castle. I don't know how long you'll be able to sleep there before Vlad will want you to spend your days downstairs with the rest of us, but I think you'll like it. I brought clothes for you there, and books. The windows look out over the courtyard. I made certain that it had a fireplace – it can be very cold there, especially at night, and I thought you would want…"
She held out her hands to him, and his words trailed off. "I can't," he said quietly at her unspoken request that he come to her, "I'm sorry."
She awoke again at the Count's touch, his fingers against her lips. She was beginning to lose all sense of time or place – night and day meant nothing as she drifted in and out of consciousness, and the ever closed curtains on the window meant that it seemed as though the train was moving ceaselessly through a featureless landscape.
"Sit up," the Count told her quietly, and she did, slowly and laboriously, unused to moving with the restriction of her bound ankle. He was the only one in the train compartment. She felt a sudden shiver of fear and let it settle into her bones, telling herself that she would have to learn to live with it as a constant companion.
He sat beside her, and as she watched him, one of her legs tucked under her and the other awkwardly dangling down towards the floor, he cut a long, shallow cut across the inside of his left wrist.
At the sight of the blood she turned away, and she would have muttered No under her breath but for the fear, like mist, clogging her throat.
She expected it when he grabbed her hair with his right hand, forcing her mouth to his wrist, but she did not fight him (she had tried that once already), and she drank when he wanted her to, swallowing metallic mouthfuls of his red blood with revulsion.
When he let her go, she vomited blood onto the carpet, and he held her hair away from her face. Her stomach quickly empty, she was surprised that the shame and fear and hatred in her had not exploded in violent, racking sobs. Instead, she sat silent, looking into the Count's face. "You will grow accustomed to this," he told her, and she nodded, though the prospect was so far distant as to be unimaginable.
The Count picked up a handkerchief that Mina was sure was one of Jonathan's, and handed it to her. She silently wiped the blood from her mouth and returned it to him. He did the same for the blood on his arm, where the opened cut had already healed up, and then went to try to clean the blood and vomit from the floor. It was not a very effectual effort. Mina closed her eyes. "It's going to stain," she told him. In another mood she might have apologized.
"I know," he said, "that is why I have so few carpets in my home."
She laughed, though she was sure that he was only partly joking.
The Count untied her ankle and helped her to the train's washroom, and Mina noticed bleary-eyed train attendants (it must have been late at night) watching them in confusion as the Count held her arm to keep her from falling. In the washroom, under the bright gaslights, Mina contemplated her unfamiliar reflection in the smooth mirror, seeing with some surprise the new, anemic paleness of her skin, the interlocking bite marks almost layered on top of one another on her neck, some older and almost fading, others new, open, ragged-edged wounds.
When they returned to the compartment, Mina sat down again, exhaustion making her ungraceful, and the Count took down one of her bags from the luggage rack. "You need to change your clothes," he said. Mina did not respond.
"Where's Jonathan?" she asked.
The Count opened her bag. "He needed to be away from here for some time. He is on the train somewhere."
Mina suddenly noticed the neatly folded clothing in her bag, and was confused at it till she remembered that Jonathan had packed for her. She smiled briefly at the familiarity, the domesticity of the thought.
The Count took out several items of clothing, including a dress that was dark violet like something belonging to one of the later stages of mourning. Suddenly, she recalled buying it – it had been soon after Jonathan's disappearance, when she had told all those but the Professor, Jack, and Arthur that he had died.
The Count, she hypothesized, was not fully aware of the subtleties of British mourning.
He helped her dress, and she could not help shuddering at his unabashed gaze upon her body, but she was too tired for the intensity of the fear that would normally accompany it. Instead, she found a quiet comfort in the gentleness of his hands on the laces of her corset. The longer sleeves of the violet dress covered up the bite marks on her wrist, though the bodice still left her neck bare.
"Your hair is tangled," the Count said when he had finished with her clothing.
"There should be a brush there," she told him, though she did not much care to brush her hair at that moment.
There was, and he found it, but to her surprise, he did not hand it to her. Rather, he told her to turn away from him and sit up straight.
"What are you doing?" she asked, for though she could tell, it seemed hardly credible.
He laughed. "Do you truly think that in four hundred and fifty years I've never learned to brush a woman's hair?"
And so she sat still, her back straight despite the dizziness that was beginning to seem unending.
The Count was still brushing Mina's hair when Jonathan returned, closing the door of the compartment behind him carefully and quietly. He smiled when he saw them, and Mina thought, suddenly, that he looked happier than she had seen him of late. He sat down beside Mina and kissed her cheek. Mina waited for the Count to say something in reprimand, but he was silent.
"I spoke to the conductor," Jonathan said, "he said that it won't be long till we reach Romania."
The Count said nothing. She thought that perhaps, behind her, he nodded.
"Mina, do you want something to eat?" Jonathan asked her. She could feel hunger sharp and painful in her stomach, but she thought of the Count's blood in her mouth and her hands tightened together in her lap.
"No, thank you," she told Jonathan.
The Count finished brushing her hair and, almost gently, kissed the hard vertebra of her spine at the base of her neck. She flinched only mildly and was, slightly illogically, proud of herself. At the thought, she found herself smiling, with desperate, giddy hysteria.
Jonathan, eyes grave, smiled back at her. With a quiet, almost tentative gesture, he took one of her hands in his own. She met his gaze. "Thank you," she whispered.
From behind her the Count moved her hair to one side of her neck. Her hand tightened around Jonathan's as the Count lowered his head to her neck and bit.
By the time they arrived in Romania, several nights later, Mina had lost too much blood to stand. The Count carried her out of the train compartment, and she submitted to the necessity of it, laying her head against his shoulder. As the three of them left, a train attendant who had been helping Jonathan with the bags called out, "Take care of your wife!"
Mina, only half conscious, heard the Count, say, his voice gravely amused, "We will."