In fact I think this is only the fourth piece of fic for this show and the first of this pairing. I hope to start a trend :)
Title: Everything and Nothing
Characters: Rupert, Mina, tiny amounts of Jay, Jenny and Luke.
Spoilers: If you haven’t read these character’s bios then this will definitely include spoilers. Read at your own risk!
Summary: He's known her such a long time...
Thanks to fififolle for the beta!
The graveyard is cold despite the sunshine and Rupert is glad of his coat and gloves as they walk in silence, only talking to confirm to Luke why they’re here.
He glances at Mina next to him, wondering if she feels the cold too. It’s one of the many things he means to ask her, a kind of morbid curiosity making him think it, but he’s never quite had the balls to. He knows it’d be somewhere between rude and downright cruel to bring it up. She doesn’t want reminding and, frankly, neither does he.
There’s a constant sign of their differences whether he wants it or not though. He sees it in the mirror with every growing line and shadow, him getting older whilst she stays perfect and untouched. He can understand with the passing years how that might hurt her. Why she always keeps that tiny distance that she’s never been willing to break, even with him, the one that knows her best.
She’ll lose them all in the end and she’ll need enough detachment to carry on.
Her skin is nearly white, cherry lips making the contrast all the greater. He’s not entirely sure how she applies make up so perfectly. Maybe she pays someone to do it for her. Or maybe her sixth sense is just that damn good now.
She’s been a study in pale perfection ever since he met her and sometimes he’s grateful that she can’t see him. To see what he’s become in comparison. To watch him get old.
“What do you think of her?” Jay asked as he placed the blessed sword back in his case. Despite Galvin’s initial scepticism it’d worked pretty well on the nasty type eight.
Rupert followed his glance across to where Mina was shelving books, running a gloved finger down the spine almost as if she could sense which it was. Maybe she could. Didn’t they say blind people got more perspective with their other senses?
Jay didn’t quite trust her that much was clear, although Rupert had no idea what bothered his friend so much. Okay, so Jay was a Van Helsing and it was kind of his job to be suspicious of damn near everything, but Mina seemed perfectly fine to him. A bit cold maybe but she was a glorified librarian. She was probably just uptight about them touching her stuff.
Still, at least she brightened up the place a bit. That had to be something.
He smiled slightly.
“She’s a beautiful girl.”
Jay snorted a derisive laugh.
“Sorry, Galvin, but I think she’s looking for something classier than a boorish yank.”
True, she did seem a bit prissy. A least that’s how she spoke. She must have been educated somewhere damn good. And expensive.
“Just making an observation,” Rupert defended with a widening smile. “I’m an old married man now, remember?”
Jay snorted again. It wasn’t any more pleasant the second time round.
“You’ll never be an old married man. You’re not the type. Now, me on the other hand...”
The further they go into the graveyard, the more uneven the ground becomes and Rupert feels the almost imperceptible tightening of Mina’s fingers against his biceps. In all the time he’s known her, he’s never seen her stumble or run into anything but there’s no harm in being careful, he figures.
Or maybe she just likes the momentary excuse to feel that bit of human contact she usually keeps herself distant from.
And he’d be lying to deny that he likes the fact she leans on him. That she needs him just a little bit.
He’s pretty certain that she can cope without his escort, but he always offers it and she never pushes him away.
A little support for them both in a cold world.
“Jay’s gonna meet us down there,” he said hurriedly, picking up his pulse gun and slipping it inside his coat. “Let’s hope we get the son of a bitch this time. Damn werewolves. You don’t catch ‘em one month gotta wait until the next and I’m not a patient guy.”
“Yes, I had noticed,” she said dryly.
He decided to ignore that.
He hurried towards the door, looking back almost in irritation at the fact she wasn’t keeping up with him before he realised what a damn idiot mistake he’d made. The cane swept out in front of her, checking the ground ahead as she walked at a steady but not quick pace. His gut twisted in embarrassment, even though no one was around to see such a tactless amount of stupidity.
“Here,” he said as she reached his side. He took her hand, placing it through the crook of his arm, hoping she hadn’t somehow sensed his mistake.
He’d never done this before, mostly because she never seemed to need the help. Usually she coped just fine with her stick and he figured it’d be kind of awkward and patronising to suggest that she didn’t. But now they had to hurry and the entrance out of The Stacks wasn’t easy.
It was a pretty old fashioned gesture, he guessed, having a girl on his arm, and not really him at all, but it actually felt kind of nice.
She tensed for a moment, as if not sure what to make of it or him, and he’d wondered if he had offended her. Then her expression softened, her fingers shifting, seeming to find a more secure place to rest. She smiled in his direction, a teasing mixture of amusement and kindness alighting her porcelain features.
“And I thought Americans were supposed to be graceless and have no manners.”
They pass the statues that stand guard over the tombs and mausoleums. They remind him of Mina. An icon of a world gone by. An archive of the past. A testament to something lost.
Unlike them however she shows no sign of wear. Whilst ivy strangles the statues and the world erodes their carved faces, it doesn’t seem to have touched her. At least not on the surface.
He knows that she’s worn inside though, her scars running deeper than skin.
“Who’s that?” he asked, glancing over her shoulders at the photograph. He realised, of course, that she couldn’t see it, but he was just as certain that she knew exactly what she was holding in her hands. She knew everything in the stacks and he didn’t see why the contents of this old wooden box should be any different.
She ran her fingers over the flat surface of the photo as if reading it and a sudden weight hung in the air.
He hadn’t meant to butt in. He was just making conversation because they were here, alone, and he generally didn’t like prolonged silence. He guessed it could be considered sticking his nose in though, and he went to tell her that it didn’t matter, that she didn’t have to answer that, but she spoke before he could.
“My husband,” she admitted without a trace of secrecy, as though she had decided she had nothing to hide from the American.
He frowned. “You’re married?”
Again, she hid nothing. A simple statement of fact without pretence.
Rupert didn’t know how old she was, never having had a reason to ask, but she looked younger than him. Too young to be widowed at least.
“Sorry,” he said, both for what she’d told him and for asking in the first place. She probably didn’t want to talk about it. He couldn’t imagine what it must be like to lose someone you loved like that.
Silence echoed through the room once more.
“Is it from one of those old time photo things?” he asked, sitting opposite her, looking at the sepia photo and the guy in it wearing old, Victorian clothes. He supposed he should find something else to say but it somehow seemed worse to just pretend he’d never brought it up. Besides, she might have good memories of the photo.
She stood, smiling almost fondly at him, like someone would to a child who’d said something unwittingly stupid. She placed the photo back in the box.
It took him months to finally get the guts to ask her what that meant. When he did, she explained everything with just as much blunt honesty. He wondered why she’d never told him before.
Because he’d never asked, was her reply.
To his own surprise, he didn’t care what she was. She was still ‘Mina’ to him.
She’s so damn perceptive and he’s not entirely sure how she does it. It’s as though she can understand every flinch of muscle and translate every hitch in his breath. Like she knows him inside and out, better than anyone ever could. It unnerved him at first but he’s gotten used to it over time. Gotten used to her, he supposes.
Her expression wrinkles into the smallest frown as he tenses beside her, memories assaulting him in the silence.
“Is something wrong?”
“No. It’s nothing.”
And she says no more.
He watched from a distance as Jay was buried. Jenny had looked for him at first, expecting him to show up, but then she’d been too preoccupied, trying to simultaneously mourn her husband and keep quiet a restless infant who had no clue what was going on. She had bigger things to worry about and so did he. She didn’t need him screwing up her life again just yet.
No, that could wait until the kid was older.
“Well, I’ve already been to too many funerals. What’s your excuse?”
He looked across at Mina, having heard her soft footfalls as she approached. He knew from experience that it was her, the light tapping of her stick on the ground almost as familiar to him now as his own breathing.
“I can’t afford to hang around,” he reasoned, sounding hard even to him. But he supposed that was just a lesson he’d finally learnt – you had to be hard inside to carry on. You had the job and you had life and never should the two meet. He kind of understood now why Mina could seem so damn cold at times. After all these years, she had to be in order to keep herself from going under.
“It’s just easier if I’m not there at all,” he added, lying to himself that he was doing Jenny a kindness by abandoning her at the last minute. “It wouldn’t look right to go and then rush off somewhere at the first opportunity.”
“A job?” Mina asked, reading him so easily as always.
“Type four in Prague.”
“Would you care for some assistance?”
“Not this time, Mina.”
He hated to say it but he needed the space. Needed some time with his own head to relax and sort things out. He almost laughed at the fact that his idea of relaxation was chasing half-lives across Europe. Maybe the job had finally turned him crazy after all.
“Very well,” she said softly, showing neither understanding nor disappointment. Nothing, in fact. As always. “Do be careful though. As I said, I’ve already been to too many funerals.”
He wondered what she really felt about losing Jay. Was she sad to lose a talented colleague? Or upset at the death of a friend? She hid everything so well, it was hard to tell.
Rupert felt her squeeze his hand lightly, almost a farewell and on some weird flash of impulse he grabbed it, kissing the back of her fingers. A moment of acknowledged fellowship.
It was just them now.
She smiled a little.
“Perhaps I’ll make a gentleman of you yet.”
She can be so icy at times to a point where he wonders just how human she is. Perhaps that’s what immortality does to you. The outside stays whole whilst the inside slowly dies. Just how many people could you care about before you had nothing left to give?
But then he remembers that in some ways she’s never stopped being a young woman. That he’s seen she has a heart just as much as anyone else, even if she guards it more firmly than most.
When he met her at the concert, bringing Luke to her months after his last visit, she showed such warm surprise at his arrival. He heard the unmistakable breathless delight in her voice and suddenly she was just a girl who wanted him in her life.
He’d kind of forgotten until then how much he wanted to be there too.
Her smile twitched when he’d kissed the back of her hand and it’d thrown him for a moment, both of them momentarily pressed into a life they didn’t want.
The one where she’s a pretty young concert pianist and he’s just someone who cares for her.
He’d quickly turned back to business as he always did though, losing her again to a world of half-lives and dead friends. The way it had to be.
He loves to watch her play, the delicately assured glide of her fingers over the keys, the way she seems to free herself in the music as if finding an escape.
He’s been to her concerts many times, sometimes meeting her afterwards and sometimes without stopping to say ‘hello’.
His visits are mostly too short, inevitably involve business and he always leaves without saying goodbye.
That’s just his way.
Has been ever since it happened.
He looked down at the glass of bourbon he held, realising that he couldn’t remember the last time he didn’t have a drink in his hand. Wondering if his fingers would be permanently circle-shaped soon, being fit only to grip onto a glass for dear life as though it was the only thing grounding him.
It very nearly was.
Mina glided through the stacks with assured steps, tidying, sorting and never once seeming hesitant or uncertain about where she was. This was her domain and she was queen here no matter what her disadvantages.
She kept the silence she’d fallen into ever since it’d happened. She’d offered words of consolation for his loss only once and had then kept her thoughts to herself, apparently deciding to offer no more than she was asked for. She probably knew from experience that she could have nothing adequate to say.
Occasionally she would move past him and a hand would glide across his shoulder, his only reminder that he was not alone.
“How do you carry on, Mina?” he eventually asked, some days after the funeral although how many he wasn’t sure. There was no day and night in the stacks. “How did you do it?”
She paused, her face turning in his direction.
“You wouldn’t like my way,” she said, shaking her head.
His tone was weary and desperate. Quite frankly he was willing to give anything a shot than continue to feel like this.
“Don’t love,” she said softly after a moment. “Not anyone, ever again.”
For the first time since he’d met her, he kind of saw the woman she’d been. The one who had loved and lost and couldn’t bear to go through it a second time.
Finally, he understood her.
That’s why he doesn’t stick around, he realises as they walk on, the feeling of her hand on his arm like something part way between danger and safety.
It’s easier than it sounds. Or at least you can pretend it is. Keep your distance, keep those barriers up and you can get through it.
He’s not sure what he feels for her. Not sure he even wants to. It’s simpler this way. Work together. Save lives. Kill freaks. Keep each other safe. Nothing more.
She lost her husband. He lost his wife. It’s a shared bond that neither of them wanted but it is undeniably there.
It’s nothing, he tells himself.
But at the same time it’s all he’s got and so he rests a hand over her fingers and she grips his arm a little tighter in return.
But, of course, neither of them says a word.