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the people and places we are meant for

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It's been a fortnight since Jonathan and Mina fought, and he has yet to send a single word of apology.

Mina, of course, has chosen to remedy this by losing herself in her work. She wakes early, arrives at the university before dawn and dives into textbooks and anatomical study. She dissects endless bodies, labels slides and sketches bodies sliced-open for hours, comes home with sore shoulders and stinking like a mortuary.

Lucy, of course, is Lucy. If there is something worth knowing that's happening in London, she knows it.

She knows that Jonathan has gone to work for Mr Greyson, and rather than take the time to mend a perfectly good relationship with a woman well worth having, has spent the past several days romancing every eligible businessman in the city on Mr. Greyson's behalf.

She tells Mina this, over a glass of wine at the Savoy while Mina rests her hand on Lucy's lap. Lucy can feel it, white-hot on her thigh, even through Mina's glove and all of her own skirts.

Mina laughs, bright and clear. When she does, the corners of her eyes crinkle with delight, and Lucy finds herself leaning in towards the sight of it.

When Mina's laugh is spent she sighs, looks down at her knees. Lucy can't stand to see her looking quite that sad. "He is a fool," she says, leaning into Mina's shoulder and bumping it with her own.

To Lucy's surprise, Mina's smile returns. "He is a fool," she says. For the first time, it sounds as if she means it.

 

*

 

Mother's trip to Paris stretches from a week to weeks to much longer, and Lucy takes to staying over with Mina.

Of course, she spends days at her own home - Mother would have a fit if Lucy wasn't there to keep the household in working order. But at night, after Mina returns from the university, Lucy is there. Smiling and ready with a table reserved somewhere wonderful for dinner, the maid prepared with a clean dress for Mina.

Mina dresses, and Lucy watches, while Mina tells her the most amazing stories.

Lucy knows how to embroider, and play the piano, and three ways to command a room with a dropped hankerchief and a stare. But none of it feels like anything at all compared to what Mina can do. Mina knows how to use a microscope, and she can sketch the muscles of the back - apparently there are dozens - from memory. She talks about divining secrets of the way the heart pumps by listening to a person's chest; teaching medical techniques to grown men - and making them listen to her.

"Oh, Mina," Lucy says one night, after Mina's finished dressing and the maid's gone away. She reaches out to clasp Mina's waist, palms loose and flat against her back. She can feel the boning of Mina's corset through her dress. "You're so brave. Do you know that?"

Mina ducks her head and reddens, smiling. "I can be, because I have you," she says.

Then she moves close with a rustle of skirts and hugs Lucy, quick and fierce. Lucy sighs and breathes deeply, suddenly more grateful than she can bear. Mina - sweet, generous Mina - is warm, and the back of her neck smells of violets.

MIna pulls away, as quickly as she came. It's all Lucy can do not to sigh out her disappointment. "Come on," Mina says. She raises her chin, and makes a voice that's trying to sound like Lucy at her haughtiest. "Our table is waiting, is it not?"

Lucy follows, laughing.

 

*

 

At nights, they fall into Mina's bed together. If it's late, they help each other with their underthings rather than wake the servants. Their hands are much less practiced, but they laugh and fumble their way through all the same. Lucy learns the way to turn her wrist so that the stays of Mina's corset loosen easily, and she learns to ignore the way that her heart hammers at the softness of Mina's drawers against her fingertips. She tries not to notice the way Mina's corset leaves marks against her back, angry red that she wants to smooth out with her palms (and again, if she's being honest with herself, with her mouth.) She learns how to keep herself from staring when Mina steps out of her drawers, naked and pink and giggling, and pass over her nightgown as if the sight of her is nothing important.

Lucy learns not to show the way her breath catches when she gimpses Mina's body in the night, white skin and white cotton shimmery by moonlight. She learns not to think about the shape of her, the swell of her breasts under her nightdress and the dark softness at the apex of her thighs that she isn't supposed to be hungry for.

The change is slow, almost gradual. But eventually, it seems as though it is always too late to bother waking the servants to help them undress. The two of them, together, becomes a candlelight ritual that they begin and finish automatically, almost like a dance.

With time, Mina stops giggling at her own nakedness, and so Lucy does, too.

Once or twice, Lucy swears she catches Mina staring as she lifts her own nightdress above her head. When she's dressed for bed, gown in place, Mina swallows hard and Lucy tells herself, firmly, that there is absolutely no reason for either of them to feel flustered.

They turn off the lights for the evening, and Mina's head finds a place on Lucy's shoulder, just like always. And just like always, Lucy breathes in the smell of her, mouth pressed against the softness of her hair.

 

*

 

The night they come together, Jonathan has been gone for over a month. Mina is settled in as Dr. Van Helsing's research assistant, aglow with the excitement of being the first woman physician to help teach his class and succeeding marvelously, as Lucy knew she would.

She has no need of a friend to help her through her grief at night.

Yet every time Lucy offers to spend the night in her own bed, away from Mina, Mina presses her lips together and shakes her head. "Maybe tomorrow night," she always says.

Lucy always stays.

 

That night, they have dinner out, a quiet table for two at a restaurant that Lucy's sure will be incredibly fashionable in a month's time. There is no fuss, no wine - they are not celebrating anything, tonight. They simply are.

They eat well, and arrive at Mina's apartments well after dark. There's a chill to the air, and so Mina clutches Lucy's arm and keeps her close. "For warmth," she says, laughing, and Lucy leans in so that Mina can hold her tighter.

They walk upstairs and change into dressing gowns - Lucy gives running commentary on everyone they saw at dinner that night. She may have taken a brief leave from attending flashier parties, but that certainly doesn't mean she's stopped paying attention to what people are up to.

Lucy sinks onto the bed, her dressing gown sliding off one shoulder in a decidedly unladlylike fashion. She's in the middle of describing the truly horrible hat Mrs. Weatherby wore to Mr. Grayson's most recent ball, as Mina crosses the room to fetch her latest readings from Dr. Van Helsing.

Mina sits, not at her desk but on the bed, beside Lucy. She sets her papers on the nightstand. "Lucy, be quiet a moment," she says.

Lucy falls silent and watches as Mina frowns, looking at Lucy like she's a puzzle. Then she leans in, and Lucy is being kissed, soft and sweet, on the mouth.

Lucy waits for a moment, watching - waiting for Mina to laugh, to apologize, to insist that she meant to press a kiss to Lucy's cheek. Instead Mina watches her back, breathless, pink-cheeked, and Lucy's heart soars.

"Oh," she sighs, as she closes the distance between their mouths once more.

Mina sighs back, into Lucy's mouth, everything Lucy has ever wanted. Lucy's heart swells, and she feels warm all over as she presses her hands to the boning of Mina's corset. She's not nearly patient enough to undress Mina completely, but she leans foward until Mina loses balance and falls back against the bed, pulling Lucy with her.

Lucy bucks against her, leading with her hips as a man would. Her thigh makes contact with Mina's quim through her drawers and Mina gasps, clutches at Lucy's back in delighted surprise.

A proper lady is not supposed to understand these kinds of things, but Lucy does.

She presses her leg up, feels velvet heat and wetness and it's so beautiful that she can hardly stand it. Mina bites down against Lucy's throat, whispers, "Lucy, yes."

Her voice is rough, brimming with lust, and Lucy can hardly believe that this is Mina, her Mina, coming undone before her in the way she'd only ever dreamed.

They spend themselves against each other and fall asleep in a tangle, hands clasped. In the morning, when things are bright, there will be questions to contend with. For now, Mina is warm against Lucy's breast and Lucy is, for once, completely content.

 

*

 

Jonathan has been gone for over a month, and from what Lucy can tell, Mina scarcely misses him. She has Lucy, and she has her work, and Jonathan and Mr Grayson may go marry each other, for all Mina cares.

As far as Lucy is concerned, this is Mr. Harker's considerable loss.

It means she gets to have Mina all to herself.