Jonathan stumbles into the house, late, well past midnight. Again.
Mina sighs as she sets down her book on her lap. Bothered by visions of some macabre future she’s powerless to stop, and unable to stand being up in her lonely bedchambers a moment longer, she tried to distract herself by reading in the downstairs drawing room. Something light and cheery to take her mind far, far away from here and the consequences of her bad decisions that she continues to make.
For a moment, the two of them stare at each other.
In his early 40s, Jonathan’s dark hair is streaked with silver again, and the vivid night of his near-black eyes has long faded to a dull void. Mina can smell the whisky from here. Heightened senses and the like, as much of a testament to what she has done as her eternally youthful appearance. She still looks for all the world like a young woman in her early twenties, back when she was too young to resist the charms of a centuries-old vampire but too old to not know better.
Tonight is another bad decision in the making.
“Hi,” Jonathan slurs, swaying unsteadily on his feet. Mina simply nods in acknowledgment.
He might just go on to bed. For once.
Many years ago, when they were just children, they shared their entire world with each other. Now they slept in separate bedchambers. Mina has the sudden, wild thought that she can’t bear enduring another morning waking up alone. Specifically, waking up without Jonathan lying next to her. Despite his extremely disheveled appearance, unshaven jawline, and lines on his face resulting from age and trauma, Mina thinks her husband is as handsome as he’s ever been. Or maybe that’s just the loneliness talking.
She knows how this is going to go.
It will not be the first time.
“I’m grateful to see you are home and not in some cell,” she says cooly, forcing her wits about her. “Public intoxication is even worse when you are a lawyer.”
“Heh.” Jonathan just gives her a slight, lopsided smirk and shrugs with little care. Suddenly, he looks boyish.
This longing she has for her own husband is now tainted, because it is the same longing that jeopardized her marriage in the first place. She can’t let it happen again. Every time it does…
She stands up and straightens her skirts, book now closed in one hand, determined to go back to bed maintaining her dignity. “Good night, Mr. Harker.”
Jonathan suddenly sways too much to one side and topples over. With an unnatural quickness, Mina is across the room and grabs him before he can hit the floor.
Here she has been hoping to avoid all contact with him. She sighs with resignation. Well, it can’t be helped now. She's starting to think he does this on purpose.
“C-come now,” she says, feeling her cheeks heat with an embarrassing warmth. “It won’t do to have you crack your skull open.”
“Aw, you do care,” Jonathan says with a drunk giggle that borders on near hysteria.
“Our son will be upset if you were injured,” Mina retorts.
Jonathan has a habit of writing lengthy letters to Quincey as if trying to be a devoted parent from across the English Channel while the boy is away at school. Quincey has complained on several occasions that while he appreciates his father’s well-meaning concerns, it’s embarrassing to read for a lad who is about to turn twenty and is grown enough to be out on his own in the world.
“And you won’t be?” Jonathan presses, teasing. He pushes a little against her, and the heat of his body makes Mina shiver.
“Of course!” Her voice squeaks, irritation flaring to quickly replace the growing alarm that this situation is starting to spiral out of control again. “Come on then, let’s get you to bed.”
Jonathan groans as Mina, shockingly easily, hauls him toward the stairs. “I don’t wanna,” he whines with flimsy resistance.
“Stop being a baby.”
Though Mina possesses a strength that cannot be explained for a woman her size, it does not negate the awkwardness of hauling a man almost a full foot taller than her up the grand staircase. So when he stumbles the moment they reach the first immediate landing, he takes her down with him.
Mina’s breath bursts out of her lungs when she hits the carpet. It takes her a moment to recover. When she does, Jonathan’s face is buried in between her breasts.
“Ah… um… uhhhhhhhhhh!!!!”
Sounds stumble out of Mina’s throat as she struggles beneath him. His grip around her only tightens. “J-J-Jonathan, pl-please!” she cries. He can’t pass out here! If the servants find them like this in the morning, it will be too mortifying to endure. To their credit, the couple tries to keep appearances in front of others, determined to maintain their dignity at the very least. It is the obvious lack of affection where there once was so much that tells a different story.
“Nooooo,” Jonathan drawls in protest, and nuzzles her chest more. “Soooo… sooooft. Hee. And big."
Mina’s face heats with embarrassment, and she squeezes her thighs together. Not now. Not again. Then a squeak rips out of her when Jonathan’s hand starts drifting up her stocking to disappear beneath her petticoat.
“But I wanna touch you!”
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, it's like dealing with a needy toddler.
For a moment, she lays there trying desperately to brush his hands, which are seemingly everywhere all of a sudden, off her body. Her breath quickens and her heart pounds with desperate longing, but she can’t give in again. She can’t!
It’s not fair that the only time her husband touches her is when he is ten sheets to the wind. It’s not fair that it takes an entire bottle of whisky for him to behave like they are a normal, happily married couple, annoying as it may be.
For God’s sake, when did her life become so messed up?
Mina finally gets the upper hand again and pushes him off. Breathing hard from exertion and something else entirely, she pulls him back to his feet.
Jonathan makes incoherent sounds in Mina’s ear as she drags him to his bedchambers. Bloody drunk. God Almighty, how did the bloke even manage to make it home at all? His clothes, wrinkled as they are, are free of stains and scruff, meaning that by the sheer grace of Providence he did not fall over on his way here. Good. If the police were to catch him for public intoxication again, not even his solid reputation as one of London’s most trusted solicitors would save him. The punishment would not be as merciful as spending a single night in a cell like last time.
His room is as empty and lonely as her own. The bed, much too large for one person, is still neatly made, as pretty as a picture and none of the warmth. Mina lets Jonathan fall to the mattress with a soft thump, then swings his impossibly long legs onto the bed. Jonathan rolls onto his back with a deep-throated groan that makes her face flare.
She’s tempted to just leave him like this. She should leave him like this.
But his shoes are muddied and his jacket can’t be all that comfortable. Mina sighs with a huff. She can’t very well leave him like this after all, can she?
Just remove the shoes and the coat. Then I will leave.
It’s not going to end like that, and she knows this all too well. So does he.
Quickly but diligently, Mina removes his shoes, letting them drop forgotten on the floor. That’s easy enough. But the only way to remove his coat is by leaning over him.
Stay asleep, she begs. Please stay asleep.
He never does.
His breath is warm and his lips are close and she can almost taste the whisky that lingers on his tongue without touching him at all.
“All he does is drink, you know.”
Mina blinked at the pub owner, Mark, as he washed a glass. She was here to fetch Jonathan from another night of heavy drinking. He got into a fight again, and she needed to take him home before the police showed up. This would have been the second time in three weeks.
Apparently, some sod had made a comment very unbecoming for a gentleman about Mina's appearance, and Jonathan had immediately made the man eat his own teeth. Mina refused to be pleased about this. Refused.
Mark cleared his throat, the awkward air thick. “It’s no secret we provide, ah, other services, madam. Mostly for the returning soldiers, you understand. But Mr. Harker never orders more than a Scotch on the rocks. Not gunna complain, though. He pays handsomely regardless.”
“What my husband does on his own time is his business,” Mina replied curtly. Christ, did everyone in this damn backwards English town know about her failing marriage? Then again, who wouldn’t? Jonathan and Mina were famous here for being overly affectionate with each other since they were schoolkids. Now the only time they were ever seen in public together was when Mina was literally dragging his drunk ass home.
Were Mark’s words supposed to make her feel better? She wasn’t a child or that foolish young woman anymore. As if her marriage problems had anything to do with where her lush husband stuck his cock.
Mina shakes her head. Her thoughts are straying into ridiculous territory.
No, I am also not pleased that he’s being faithful when he has no reason to be! she scolds herself. Let him share a bed with half of Exeter for all I care!
Because maybe if his desires are occupied elsewhere… this wouldn’t happen. Again.
She tears his coat off a little more harshly than intended in her hurry to get out of there. If she gets away, if they both wake up alone in the morning, the cycle might be broken and they won’t have to repeat this same song and dance over and over and…
Jonathan stirs. His face is deliciously flushed as his long lashes flutter. Mina's breath catches.
Most of the time, their frequent fights are due to Jonathan’s insecurities over Mina’s eternal youth. In spite of herself, she brushes the silver-streaked strands of dark hair from his face.
Fool. You, too, are as lovely as you have ever been. Perhaps even more so. Age has its own beauty, something only the experience of life can provide.
Suddenly, his hand grasps hers. His eyes finally open, just enough to gaze at her with a dark longing that’s as deep as her own. “Wilhelmina,” he whispers in that way, when he is speaking with all of his heart.
Stop it. Don’t. We can’t keep doing this!
The words just won’t leave Mina’s mouth.
She has one last chance to make it to the door. She actually even turns from him, wrenching her hand from his.
Then arms wrap tight around her waist and a weight presses against her back. Mina freezes in place even as the heat of his skin warms her right through her clothes. “Mina, Mina,” Jonathan breathes against her shoulder.
For a moment, she remains perfectly still and he just holds her like that, one arm around her chest, the other around her waist, pinning her in place, their racing hearts in sync.
I need to get out of here! The desperate thought screams and yet doesn’t make much of an impact. Why should she run back to that house that is cold and dark and lonely, when Jonathan is right here and so warm and so eager to have her?
Jonathan falls back on the bed and takes her with him, and she is falling back to those blissful years of their youth and early marriage. Somehow, she has twisted in a way that she is sprawled on top of him with his hands on her back. His fingers stroke up and down her spine, teasing the laces of her cincher and making her shiver with anticipation. She gasps lightly as the bristles of his face tickle her when he nuzzles the crook of her neck.
“Stay with me, Wilhelmina,” Jonathan pleads and kisses her pulse.
“Mmmnnn,” is her only response, words that usually come to her easily now betraying her with their silence. Ahhh, his kisses feel so good on her heated skin. Her nerves immediately spring to life with delight and there’s a familiar stirring between her legs.
My God, I am insatiable.
How selfish can she be, really?
She never leaves. Never. Because she is actually the worst, isn't she?
And now here they are, back at it again just as she knew they would be. The first steps of their too familiar dance start anew. Lips find each other, and articles of clothing fall to the floor one by one. It’s almost amusing that, no matter how drunk Jonathan gets, he knows exactly what he’s doing to her with sober clarity. He touches her and tastes her in ways that no one else ever could. Not even him.
His hands and his tongue make her forget, drawing out sighs and moans from her mouth as she clings to him like she’s drowning. His lips find the soft, too sensitive skin of her inner thighs, and his name falls from her lips like prayer as she shakes with pure bliss.
Like always, they will make love and it will be great, actually. Mina will sleep in her husband’s arms, deep and at peace for the first time in weeks if not months. She will awaken the following morning to the pleasant ache of that night’s activities… just before reality comes crashing back. Jonathan will wake up, viciously hungover, and stare at her like he doesn’t remember who she is or what they did. Then, wordlessly, he’ll get up, pull on his trousers, and leave her in the empty room still wrapped in his bedsheets like a brothel girl.
It’s the same.
Mina doesn’t think about the morning, however. If such mornings are the prices for these moments with the man she still so dearly loves with all her being, then she will gladly pay. Tears spring to her eyes as Jonathan moves deliciously within her, their hands clasped against the sheets like they will never be apart again. “I love you,” she whispers just before his lips entrap hers, and they both climax as one with tender sighs.
The morning comes too soon, seeping like a thief sneaking into the house through the curtains. Why does Jonathan’s bed have to face east, anyway? Mina's eyes squeeze tighter. Please, just a few more minutes. Let me stay a few more minutes.
It’s starting to hurt too much.
Jonathan’s arms are wrapped snug around her, and Mina can feel his gentle heartbeat against her cheek. Her entire body hums with that delicious deep ache of carnal satisfaction. Her legs still feel like jelly and it might be a while before she can figure out how to walk again. Soft bruises bloom on her otherwise flawless skin where his mouth has been.
Too cruel. This is much too cruel. Why can’t he seek out his desires with the ladies of the night which would at least give her peace? How much more will she be punished like this?
If she’s the first to leave this time, it won’t hurt as much. Let him wake up alone and cold for once.
Her resolve returning, Mina slowly starts to move from the bed. But the moment her head lifts from his chest, Jonathan’s arms tighten around her, trapping her.
“Stay with me.”
She blinks. This is different. No, it can’t be different this time. She doesn’t deserve different.
“You… you never want me to stay,” she says softly, almost too softly for her own sensitive ears to hear. There is a long pause, and just when she thinks Jonathan has fallen back asleep and she’s in the clear —
“I’m sorry. I needed more time.”
“To make sense of it all.”
Mina wiggles until she can properly see Jonathan’s face, in case he was drunk babbling in his sleep. But he is awake, actually. He stares sleepily at her, and gives her another one of his lopsided boyish grins that she fell in love with immediately when she was young.
She blushes from her head all the way down to her toes, feeling exactly as she did when Jonathan smiled at her like that when they were both only fifteen and knew nothing of adult complications.
“H-hi,” she whispers back feeling so, so shy all of a sudden.
This is a dream, it has to be. Why now? Why this change?
“Quincey is coming home this morning,” Mina said, more to herself than anything.
Of course. Their little show isn't just for the servants. It keeps their son from distressing so much over it. Now that he's older, Quincey has been a bit bolder expressing his concerns about his parents' relationship or lack thereof.
“He is yours, you know.” Mina’s voice is even softer than before. She doesn't know why she says this but, for some reason, it feels needed to be said.
At this point, it’s obvious. Quincey was born a year to the day his namesake, Quincey Morris, sacrificed himself to kill the evil Count. The months add up. The wailing newborn had the same dark hair and dark eyes of his father. And now, fast approaching twenty, Quincey is the spitting image of Jonathan at that age on an almost uncanny level. Mina used to joke to her friends that if not for the obvious, she would’ve wondered if Quincey was even hers, as he inherited none of her physical features but instead her personality and mannerisms.
No doubt it’s for Quincey’s sake that they are still married. Jonathan may have mixed feelings for Mina now, but he has always loved Quincey with the luminous ferocity of a midsummer sun. But Quincey hasn’t lived at home for almost a year now, and Mina has been waiting for Jonathan to present to her divorce papers ever since.
“I’ve never doubted that much, Mina,” Jonathan continues. “And even if… it wouldn’t have mattered. He is my son, regardless.”
This is starting to piss her off. She quickly sits up, nearly braining herself against Jonathan’s chin in the process but too frustrated to care. “Then why — !?” If not for believing his son to be from the seed of another man, then why was Jonathan continuing this game? Is he truly far more capable of such cruelty than she thought? Why won't he either forgive her or let her go?
“I had forgiven you long ago.” Jonathan doesn’t look at her when he speaks, and instead he stares up at the ceiling, his eyes far away. “But by that time I had hurt you so much. I felt unworthy of you. So I kept my distance in hopes that maybe… you would finally have enough of me.”
Mina sits there, absolutely stunned.
“I was angry, certainly.” He pauses to take in a deep breath. “And… and maybe I even hated you a little bit. But I never stopped loving you, either. And I'm not angry, not anymore. I'm just... lost. And I don't know what to do.”
His eyes turn to her then. They aren’t dull pools of the void from drink and depression, but as vivid as midnight. “But I would never ruin you, Mina. I would never force you out of our home. If you must leave, it shall be by your will alone. If you want this to end, then just tell me and I shall end it all here and now. It all wasn’t just for Quincey’s sake.”
Mina doesn’t know how to react.
Quincey was thirteen years old when Jonathan found out about what truly happened that night between Mina and the Count and the few secret encounters after. Though she wanted to be faithful, something about the devilishly handsome vampire was much too tempting to refuse. It's not an excuse, of course, but it's the truth.
That was their first enormous fight in the entirety of their relationship, the first of many to follow: Jonathan demanding to know how she could betray him like that, Mina hotly reminding him that he had been put in that very same situation in Transylvania with the vampire women, Jonathan yelling that he never hid that from her for thirteen damn years and also fuck her for weaponizing his trauma against him.
It was never that she cheated on him.
It was that she hid it for so long.
That is the decision Mina regrets the most, the true misjudgment that destroyed this relationship that once prided itself on open and honest communication always. How tortured Jonathan was when the other men wouldn’t allow him to share his thoughts with Mina on their hunt for the Count. Jonathan, who once believed fully that spouses should never keep secrets from each other, discovered the hard way the secrets his own wife kept from him. The betrayal that truly wounds him has nothing to do with her body.
“…I felt that from that instant, a door had shut between us.”
Mina cried when she read that in his diary, the account of that day she made her distraught husband swear not to reveal their plans to her so the Count would not find them. One small line made her sob wretchedly for hours, her hands on her growing belly. She was five months pregnant.
That door has remained closed ever since. Locked shut for twenty years. After thirteen of which, the truth finally came out as it always does one way or another.
Seven long, wasted years.
Seven years of a malicious game where they would not stop hurting each other in the sweetest, cruelest way. As if the Count has truly cursed them, after all. This is his revenge. Not death, but happiness denied. The eternal misery of a failed marriage and yet lingering feelings that refuse to drift away.
“I’m sorry,” Jonathan says again, the gravel in his voice heavy with regret. “I’ll go.”
Even though it’s his bedchamber, he is the one who always leaves. Now they are back to their usual. The same night. The same morning. Never-ending purgatory.
They both silently agree in that way they used to that this is a mistake.
Mina grabs Jonathan’s arm. She doesn't know why. It's different today, it has to be. Jonathan stares at her in surprise… and something else in his eyes. Hope? It can’t be. She doesn’t dare entertain that idea.
She swallows hard and finally speaks.
She has no right make such a request. No right at all.
Jonathan obediently stays where he is, feet dangling over the edge of the bed still. Mina slides over to him, letting the sheets she has been clutching fall from her bare chest. Without a moment’s hesitation, she kisses her husband deeply. If he pushes her away this time, it will be for the last. She will pack her things immediately and leave on the mid-afternoon train to… well, she’ll figure that out later. And Quincey... she will figure that out, too.
Jonathan sits still but only for a heartbeat.
His hands reach out to her, not to push her away, but to cup her face and pull her ever closer to him. The kiss that pours from him is one of hunger and desire and love that takes her breath away. His tongue pushes back any protest.
Their first kiss in the light of morning in seven painful years.
Mina bursts into tears of... sadness, happiness, too much emotion to say for sure. Jonathan smiles and delicately kisses each drop. He lays back against the pillows and she follows, their hands caressing and rediscovering each other anew.
As they lay there moments later, entangled once more, Mina’s sensitive ears pick up movement from the ground floor. The servants have arrived and have already busied themselves with the morning routine. Soon, Abigail, Mina’s personal maid, will go to her bedchamber to wake her for breakfast.
Mina’s face flares. What to do when Abigail finds an empty bed with the sheets untouched! Abigail knows nothing of the personal issues of her employers other than their marriage is obviously strained in some way, but she has never approved of this game her mistress constantly plays with her husband. Spouses stringing each other along like this is not healthy for anyone, she often scolds, and it's only because of her seniority after serving this house for twenty years that she is able to get away with a statement much too bold for her place.
“Quincey… will be arriving on the 9:20 train,” Mina says even though she makes no effort to move. “He will want us to greet him at the station.”
“Yes.” Jonathan also makes no effort to move.
“What do we do now?”
“I don’t know.”
Mina blinks and searches Jonathan’s face.
“I would rather not discuss it at the moment,” he adds, his hand gripping hers. “It’s… it’s too much. So, for now, let’s just stay like this. Please.”
Mina nods and lays her head back on his chest.
A sliver of light as bright as that morning sun shines through the crack in that door between them.
Little by little, it opens.