Vlad lurked in the shadows of Carfax Abbey. He had assumed a shape somewhere between a bat and a man. It was not a form he chose willingly; recent events had left him... Unstable.
She'd left him. Again. He had waited hundreds of years to find her again and she had chosen him instead. A weak, snivelling child. Jonathan Harker did not deserve a woman like Mina.
'Do you?' His conscious – the one constant companion in his very long existence – mocked him.
Vlad snarled incomprehensibly but his conscious paid him no mind. It never did.
'What would your dear, sweet Mina think of you if she knew that you had murdered her best friend in a fit of temper?' his conscious demanded. 'Do you think that she would find you worthy if she knew of that?'
As much as he would like to deny it, Vlad knew the truth of it. He had lashed out in a jealous rage after reading Mina's letter and Lucy had borne the brunt of his fury. It was just as well her menfolk had disposed of the vampire she had become, Vlad thought. It saved him the trouble of doing it later. Mina was a pure, innocent soul. Her friend, however, had not been. She'd had a wicked heart. He thought of the three "brides" he had left behind. No, he did not wish to bear the responsibility for another of their ilk.
The only bride he desired now belonged to another.
Vlad was lost in the turmoil of his own thoughts. If he had not been so preoccupied, he may have noticed the gang of men who entered his sanctuary, shouting and bearing torches as they tore into the boxes housing the precious soil of his homeland. As it was, he only became aware of their presence when her scent wafted up to him.
Her scent clung to the men – one in particular. Jonathan Harker. Vlad felt the dark beast of jealousy rise, hungry and murderous in his chest, clamouring for Harker's blood. It took every ounce of willpower Vlad possessed to remain where he was when every fibre of his being demanded that he swoop down upon the unsuspecting man and bury his fangs in the bastard's throat. Digging his clawed toes deeper into the wooden beam that supported his weight, Vlad shrunk deeper into the shadows as he surveyed the scene.
Harker was wide eyed and nervous. His gaze shifted constantly, restlessly, and he jumped every time an axe swung down to crack open a box. Vlad sneered. The man was pitiful. The other three he knew only from Lucy's descriptions of them. Seward, the doctor in charge of the sanatorium nearby... Holmwood, the wealthy lord she had been promised to wed... Morris, the brash Texan with the big knife...
And, of course, Van Helsing. The old man grinned as he barked orders; he was the only one who appeared to be enjoying himself. Vlad had felt a moment's shock when he first laid eyes on Van Helsing but now he felt only loathing - for as sure as Mina was the reincarnation of his beloved Elizabeta, that man was the image of the slain priest who, with his dying breath, cursed Vlad to suffer eternally for his sins. He wanted to kill the old man even more than he wanted to kill Harker. But he was in no position to take on five men at once, even if one was past the prime of his life. Many nights had passed since he last fed and the loss of Lucy and his powers were weak. No, he could not face them as he was now. He must first feed.
He could hear the cries from the nearby sanatorium. One voice rose above the others, a shrill voice screaming about blood and eternal life. Ah, Vlad thought, it was time to pay Mr. Renfield a visit...
Gathering the last of his strength, Vlad spread himself out, scattering his essence into fine droplets of water. An unnatural mist, he rolled toward the asylum, following the sound of Renfield's voice. He felt the man's guilt, even before touching his mind – but when he did force his way into Renfield's thoughts, what he saw threatened to send him into another mindless rage.
'Renfield...' He spoke directly into the man's mind. 'You have betrayed me.'
Vlad saw it as clearly as if he had been standing there: Renfield calling out to Mina... Begging her to flee... Putting his filthy lips on her perfect flesh...
It was too much to bear. Vlad wrapped himself around Renfield without changing form. He curled around the man's legs and torso, lifting him off his feet, and hurled him at the rusty metal bars that prevented his escape. Once, twice, three times he repeated the gesture until Renfield lay in a bloody heap at his feet. Only then did Vlad pull himself back together into something resembling a man. He fell on Renfield's corpse, latched onto his throat and sucked him dry.
Slowly rational thought returned. With it came awareness. Vlad gradually became aware of the sounds and smells of the sanatorium that surrounded him: hoarse, wordless cries of pain, the smell of rotten food, inmates rattling the bars of their cells, human waste, human despair and... and...
Vlad lifted his head and sniffed the air. Under the oppressive stench of the sanatorium, her smell was unmistakable. He would know her scent anywhere; it was a mixture of old books and ink, with a hint of sweet summer flowers – the smell of a school mistress in the bloom of her life. And it was close.
Mina was here, in the sanatorium.
'Of course she is,' he conscious mocked. 'How else would she have been speaking to Renfield? You could ask him why – Oh, wait, you can't because you killed him.'
Vlad refused to feel guilt over the death of Renfield. He had planned on killing the man from the first moment he stepped foot in hist castle. Renfield's death was inevitable and the blood was much needed. However it would have been useful to quiz the man before killing him. He shrugged off the thought. It was obvious why Mina was here: the men who failed Lucy would not want to fail Mina as well. They would keep her close, protect her with all their might...
Vlad nearly laughed out loud at the futility of their efforts. While they were next door, tossing holy water on piles of dirt and chanting in Latin, he was here with Mina. So much, they say, for best laid plans.
He allowed himself to spread out once more, shifting easily this time into mist, and slipped through the bars of Renfield's cell. He doubted anyone would find the body until morning. There were but two guards visible and they both appeared more concerned with the bottle of whiskey they shared than the welfare of their patients. He doubted anyone would care when they did find the body, even after the effects of the whiskey had worn off.
Since the guards were so conveniently preoccupied, Vlad helped himself to one or two of the least disgusting of the sanatorium's inhabitants before stealing into Dr. Seward's office. He was aware of Mina's presence every second he was in the building; she was like a bright beacon, shining on the edges of his vision. There wasn't a place on the world Mina could travel that Vlad would not be able to find her.
He found her now in the doctor's bed, wearing nothing but her thin shift. Swallowing down the jealousy that rose at the sight of his Mina in another man's bed, Vlad pulled himself together, taking the form he knew Mina found most pleasing. Catching sight of himself in a small, dirty mirror that stood on a cluttered dresser, he could not help but smile. Pleasing, yes, but his nude form might be more of a shock than Mina needed upon waking. He helped himself to a pair of the doctor's trousers and a loose shirt, not bothering to button it in his eagerness.
When he could stand the distance between them no longer, he slipped silently under the covers. Mina's hair was loose and splayed across the pillow in a tumble of dark waves. Her lips parted in a sigh as he rose above her.
"Yes," she said without opening her eyes. "I knew you would come for me. I've been waiting for you..."
A shiver of anticipation ran through Vlad at her words. So... She had tried her virginal young man and he had not measured up? Good. He wondered if she had been thinking of him when she lay in bed with Harker on their wedding night...
"My princess," his words were both an exaltation and a plea.
She opened her warm brown eyes and fixed him with a look that stole his breath away. "My prince."
Many times during his endless existence, Vlad had thought his heart a cold, dead thing. But to see the look of love on Mina's face and to hear the word "my" on her lips when she spoke of him, his heart felt full to bursting.
"My love," he whispered. Then he claimed her lips.
Mina breathed a sigh of pleasure into his mouth and Vlad drank it in, drank her in. He took all her warmth, all her love - everything she had to offer - and fed it back to her, fused with all the passion he didn't know he could still possess.
Mina smiled when he broke the kiss, reaching up to touch his cheek. He leaned into it, savouring the feel of her flesh against his.
"I should not have left you," Mina told him, her eyes filling with tears. "This is what I wanted. Us. I know that now."
At that moment it was not just Mina speaking, it was his lost love, Elizabeta, too speaking through aeons. Vlad stared at her in speechless wonder. Words could not cross time and space to heal past wounds and yet... He felt the balm of her words spreading through him, filling the cracks in his heart, soothing the pain that went soul deep.
"I want to be with you," she said. "Always."
His conscious, which had been blissfully silent until that moment, screamed in protest.
"You cannot know what you are asking for," he said sadly. What he would give to be able to give Mina the happily-ever-after that she deserved...
"Yes." There was a certainty in her voice that Vlad was not expecting. She fixed him with a knowing stare. "I do know."
'Of course she knows,' his conscious taunted him. 'How could she not know?'
But if Mina knew what she was asking, if she knew what he was, how could she still be looking at him with love in her eyes? No. She must still be in blissful ignorance. It broke his heart that he must shatter her illusions. She would hate him, no doubt, but it was better that she know the truth about him.
He would tell her, he promised himself. But first, a kiss to see him through the next few hundred years – because once she learned the truth, she would run screaming and he would lose her. Again. He would be alone. Again.
Vlad lowered his head for one last, desperate kiss.
Mina clung to him when he tried to pull away. "I feared I'd never feel your touch again," she said. "I feared you were dead."
He heard her breath catch and cursed himself for what he was about to do. With a sigh of resignation, he leaned back, pulling Mina up with him until they sat facing each other on the bed.
It was time for the truth.
He took her hand and placed it on the bare flesh of his chest, right over his heart. "There is no life in this body," he told her.
Vlad watched helplessly as confusion turned to realization. He saw the exact moment that the look of love in her eyes was replaced with one of horror. Finally, Mina saw him for the monster he was.
Mina recoiled, moving as from from Vlad as she could get. "What are you?"
The question wounded him to the quick.
'What right have you to be hurt? You are a monster. It's time she sees the real you, not the pretty face you put on to woo her.'
At that moment, he would have given anything to carve out the part of his brain where his conscious dwelled.
Vlad could not stand to see the revulsion in Mina's eyes when she learned the truth. He turned away. His shoulders slumped, he hung his head in shame.
"I am... Everlasting. Lifeless. Soulless, hated and feared..."
He faltered when he heard her breath catch.
"I am... Death. To all the world."
Vlad raised a hand to silence her.
"Hear me," he pleaded, choking out the words. He knew that if she stopped him now, he would never find the strength to say it again.
His conscious mocking him all the while, Vlad told Mina exactly what he was. "I am the monster that breathing men would kill. I. Am. Dracula."
The moment of silence that followed his revelation felt like the longest moment of his existence. Then Mina found her voice.
"You!" she said, her voice full of accusation. "You killed Lucy! You... You bastard!"
Vlad could feel the waves of anger rolling off her. Yet there was pain too. He saw the tears that flooded her eyes and hated himself for every single one that rolled free.
Mina buried her face in her hands and sobbed. He did not know what to do, what to say to take away the pain.
'The pain that you caused?'
The fact that he had been the cause of her pain made it that much harder to witness. Vlad could not sit by and do nothing; he reached out a hand, lightly touching her shoulder.
Her head snapped up. "You!"
She attacked him with all the ferocity she could muster, screaming in rage. Her fists pounded his chest as she cried out in pain and frustration. Mina's attack was no more than the brush of a butterfly's wings against an elephant's flank yet every strike that landed would leave an invisible bruise that Vlad knew would never heal.
He caught her wrists in his hands only when he became worried that she might hurt herself. She surprised him by collapsing against him, by burying her face in the fabric of his borrowed shirt and crying. When her sobs eventually died down, Mina raised her head to look at him. Her lips trembled as she said, "I love you. God help me but I do."
Vlad was staggered. He had anticipated her anger, her pain... He could never have imagined that she would also give him her love. Knowing what he was, could she really still love him?
Even his conscious was stunned into silence.
"I want to be what you are, see what you see, love what you love."
It took a moment for the meaning of her words to sink in. Now he was certain Mina understood exactly what she was asking for – he just did not know if he could give it to her.
"No," he said, shaking his head. "Mina, my love... To walk in my world, you must die to yours."
"You are my world."
Vlad had not had the need to draw breath in centuries yet he suddenly found that there was not enough air in the room. He drew in a deep, shaky breath, and tried to force his brain to work. Why was he fighting her again? Didn't he want what she wanted?
His arms reached out of their own accord, sliding around Mina's waist and drawing her close. He brushed a strand of hair away from her face, noticing as he did that his fingers trembled. Vlad the Impaler, Count Dracula, the monster that haunted children's nightmares and brought grown soldiers to their knees was trembling. Because of Mina.
He knew at that moment that he would do anything for her.
"Then I give you life eternal," he told her. "Love everlasting, power of the storm and beasts of the earth."
Vlad slid one hand up her back. He caressed the tender skin at the nape of her neck.
"Walk with me to be my loving wife? Forever?"
Mina nodded, her eyes shining. "Yes."
Urging her head to the side, Vlad trailed kisses down Mina's neck. The intense pleasure pain along his gums told him that his fangs were sliding free. Tightening his hold, he took a fold of flesh into his mouth and bit deeply. Mina fought for only a moment. The pain from his bite faded as she gave herself freely to him.
It was impossible for him not to take pleasure in the way Mina's chest heaved against his, the way her fingers tangled in his long hair, the way she moaned softly as she writhed against him... Her every movement was a sweet torture. There was only so much he could stand... Vlad lifted her easily and shifted so that she straddled him, her sex nestled against his growing desire. He moaned low in his throat.
It was hard to pull himself away from the sweet elixir that was Mina's blood. Eventually he managed, supporting her weight with one hand as he drew one sharp nail across his chest.
"Drink, Mina," he urged. "Drink and join me in eternal life."
Mina did not hesitate. She lowered her head, pressing her lips against his chest. When her tongue darted out to lick away a trail of blood, Vlad thought he would explode.
The pleasure of holding the woman he loved, of making her his bride for all eternity, was overwhelming. Vlad could not remember the last time he had felt so... Happy.
His conscious was trying to spoil the moment. It screamed at him that what he was doing was wrong, that he was bringing both death and damnation upon Mina. It told him that it was not too late; she had not taken enough of his blood to turn her... If they stopped now, she could go back to her boring, safe little life... Her boring, safe little human man. If they stopped now...
He tried. He really did.
"No." Vlad gently but firmly pushed Mina back. "I cannot do this, not to you..."
"Please," Mina said. She tried to lean forward again but Vlad held her firmly by the shoulders.
Her eyes were bright and her cheeks were flushed. "Make me what you are."
Vlad shook his head but the gesture was meant more for himself than to Mina. His conscious was quickly losing the battle for her salvation.
"You will be cursed as I am," he warned her, "To walk in the shadow of death for all eternity..."
His voice was thick with emotion but his denial lacked conviction. He was trying to convince not just Mina but himself as well – and he was failing on both counts.
"Please." He begged her to save them both, knowing he was too weak to refuse her. "I love you too much to condemn you."
She fixed him with a steady eye. "Take me away from all this death."
Vlad's hands dropped, useless, to his sides. Mina leaned forward and latched on to his chest once more, nuzzling him like a hungry kitten. He groaned aloud as her hot little tongue slid across his cold skin. When her mouth travelled lower, closing around one hard nipple, he lost control.
With a sound more animal than human, Vlad pulled Mina's head up and captured her mouth in a rough kiss. Their blood mingled as their lips met and their tongues danced. It was heady, it was intoxicating – but it wasn't enough. He didn't deserve it, he knew, but Vlad wanted more than just her blood, more than just her love – he wanted all of her. Without releasing his hold on her, he freed himself from the doctor's ill-fitting trousers.
Mina gasped when she felt the hard length of his arousal pressing against her through the thin fabric of her shift. She opened her eyes and she found Vlad staring at her, asking her a silent question with his eyes. She answered in kind, rising up just far enough to lift her shift. Without breaking eye contact, she slid down, claiming him with her body, one agonizing inch at a time.
Vlad had to grind his teeth together, his hands clenched into fists, to keep from rushing her, to let her go at her own speed. It was the hardest thing he had ever done but when he was finally settled deep within her, he knew it had been worth the wait. Time faded into nothingness. It did not exist. Nothing existed but the two of them.
Mina began to move and he gripped her waist as tightly as he dared, urging her on. He had not felt anything like it in hundreds of lifetimes. She welcomed him into her hot center and he was a young man again, bedding his bride for the first time. Their pace increased, their mingled blood rushing through their veins in a frantic tempo as they raced together toward completion.
Later that night, Vlad watched Mina sleep, mesmerized by the steady rise and fall of her chest. He knew that he must go - soon the men would be back and he did not want to be found here, like this, with Mina – but he fought it as long as he could. Leaving her now, now that they were one, would be like severing one of his own limbs. He sighed. It must be done.
He could not rest safely without his native soil and the smoke that rose in the distance told him that the human men had been successful in destroying his sanctuary. The overzealous Dr. Van Helsing had undoubtedly consecrated every centimeter of Carfax Abbey. If he was to protect Mina, he must travel back to his homeland – and soon. Reluctantly, he eased himself from the bed. He bent to place a tender kiss against her brow.
"Goodbye, my sweet," he whispered. Then, with one last look at her sleeping form, Vlad shifted into fog and disappeared through the open window.