Title: Haven In A Heartless World
Characters: Rupert, Mina
Pairing: Rupert/Mina, mentions of Luke/Ruby
Spoilers: 1x03, some hints for 1x04
Summary: She knew one day he would break her heart by the simple act of mortality...
Beta read by fififolle with her usual excellent speed :D
“You found somewhere to put her?” Mina asked as she heard the footsteps coming down the stairs into The Stacks.
She knew without doubt that it was Rupert. She knew the rhythm of his footfalls better than anyone’s. She even knew his smell, although she’d never told him that, realising it would sound decidedly creepy. Even so, his scent was as distinct to her as the sight of him might be to another; the hint of the sweet American whiskey he drank and the faint aroma of phosphorus from the pulse gun, both mingling with the scent that was simply ‘him’. Now it was tainted by something much less pleasant, so much so that he barely smelt like himself at all. The sensation it left her with was distinctly unsettling.
“Yeah,” he replied, sounding weary. Almost weary enough for her to leave it be, but her head still throbbed and it didn’t improve her compassion any. His pigheadedness had nearly got him killed twice in the last twenty-four hours and she would not let that lie, no matter how much he wanted her to.
“And I assume you were careful?” she asked tautly, almost suggesting that, in light of recent events, she didn’t trust him. She knew he wouldn’t like the idea. “You weren’t seen? No cameras around?”
“It’ll be fine Mina,” he said with a sigh. A slight plea for her to just let it go.
But he hadn’t listened to her before so he could damn well do so now.
“It had better be,” she warned sharply. “The last thing we need is you on a wanted list for dumping a dead girl’s body.”
“I didn’t ‘dump’ her,” he protested, sounding offended by the term.
Mina supposed it was an unnecessarily callous way of putting it. Yes, Grace had knocked her unconscious and helped Tibbs to nearly blow her to pieces, but the girl had hardly been of sound mind. Goodness knows how long she’d been with him or what he’d done to her. She certainly deserved more pity than anger.
That was easy though when Mina had another target to direct her annoyance towards.
“And she’ll be found soon?” she pressed, ignoring his objection because she wanted him to feel bad. She wanted him to remember that feeling next time Tibbs reappeared, hoping that it would encourage him to think before he acted.
“Junkies use the place a lot,” he reasoned. “They’ll find her by morning.”
“You’re hoping the police will think she’s been mixed up in drugs?” Mina questioned, reading him so easily.
“Wouldn’t be the first time someone’s gone missing and turned up dead because they got in with the wrong crowd in this city.”
“I’m sure that will be a great comfort to her family,” she replied, words dripping with irritated sarcasm.
“Better than them knowing the truth.”
She couldn’t argue with that. The lesser of two evils indeed.
“Where are Luke and Ruby?” she asked after a slight pause, deciding there was no more to be had from discussing Grace’s unfortunate demise. What was done was done. There were always casualties in their line of work.
“They went home.”
She could hear him walk over to the side table and then a clink of glass and the sound of an opening bottle. He usually worked up to the whiskey via coffee that was strong enough to strip paint. Tonight clearly required a quicker solution.
“Shouldn’t you have gone with them?” she asked, knowing it was cruel to press his guilt like an open wound but unable to stop herself. “You did almost get him drowned, after all. It seems like simple courtesy to check he makes it home all right.”
Rupert didn’t rise to her bait, calmly side stepping it.
“Ruby’s with him and I didn’t think she’d appreciate me stepping on her chance to play nursemaid.”
He sounded vaguely amused by that and it unreasonably riled her.
“Well, at least he has someone who cares for his wellbeing.”
Rupert obviously couldn’t let that one go.
“That’s not fair Mina,” he snapped back, suddenly angry.
No, it wasn’t. But her head was still spinning in a way that made her speak before she thought. Visions were uncomfortable at the best of times but having a multitude of them whilst likely concussed had left her with a very unpleasant feeling indeed, one that was making her irritable and her reactions far harsher than they otherwise would’ve been. Rupert cared. He just knew the importance of the job too and sometimes those two things weren’t always compatible.
It was true that his rash actions had nearly cost all their lives, but she knew him well enough to realise that he’d be feeling plenty guilty about that without her help.
“Yes. I know,” she said with an apologetic shake of her head, instantly regretting the action as it induced a sense of nausea. “I’m sorry. I think I should take Luke’s example and go home. We’re all worn out.”
Yes, she should go before she said anything she’d later regret. Such as ‘do you have any idea how I would’ve felt if you’d died?’
Now was not the time for such sentimentality.
There never was a time for it as far as she was concerned.
She stood gingerly but even so it was too quick. Her head seem to rush and her sense of balance deserted her, causing her to lurch unceremoniously forward. She gripped at the edge of the desk to steady herself but was grateful for the pair of strong hands suddenly at her shoulders, anchoring her better than anything else could. One of her own hands slid up to his, holding tightly on to him as she took a few deep breaths and waited for the world to right itself once more.
“I’m fine,” she insisted with what she hoped was a reassuring smile as the moment passed, speaking before he could stay a word. “It’s only a bump to the head and concussion is hardly fatal, especially not for me.”
“Maybe not,” he reasoned tightly, although it was difficult for her to understand who he was cross with, “but I can’t imagine falling down and breaking your neck is going to do you much good. Sit down and let me take a look.”
He gave her little choice as he pushed her shoulders insistently, forcing her back into the chair.
His fingers were gentle in her hair as he parted it, inspecting the injury. He was usually such a blunt force and it always surprised her how soft he could be when he wanted to. She found the sensation of his trailing fingers almost soothing before they found a sore spot and she hissed in discomfort.
“Sorry,” he muttered, pushing her hair aside as carefully as he could, tilting her head presumably towards the light to get a better look. “You’ve got quite a bump there.”
“Hardly surprising considering she clattered me with a marble book-end.”
“And a little cut. Hold still.”
She soon smelt the strong, medicated tang of antiseptic and a moment later winced as a cold press against her head left the wound stinging in protest.
“There really is no need for this,” she muttered. “It will heal perfectly well on its own.”
“No harm in being thorough,” he mumbled back, apparently concentrating.
Despite the discomfort, she indulged him, knowing why he wanted to do it. This was better in his mind than any worded apology ever could be. Words were cheap but actions showed you really meant it. And he did mean it, she was sure of that. So, for his sake, she closed her eyes and refrained from protesting further, trying to concentrate on the reassuring feel of his warm breath against her face rather than the stinging wound on her head.
Again, it was oddly relaxing. So much so that she almost regretted it when it was over.
“There you go,” he said quietly, pulling away. There was an unmistakable tension in his voice and she knew where it came from but said nothing. They’d managed for years to keep silent on the matter and a simple bump on the head wasn’t about to undo that now.
“Let me get you home,” he said after taking a moment to tidy away the first aid kit.
She nodded but remained silent. Even when he helped her to her feet and guided her back up to the streets, an arm about her waist to hold her steady, she didn’t say anything. She pressed her cheek a little against the rough wool of his coat as they walked, taking some comfort from the warmth of him beside her. She wondered why, after so long, the idea that she’d nearly died could still unsettle her so. It wasn’t as if she delighted in the idea of yet again living beyond those she cared about.
She wondered too why she kept caring about the others even though she’d learnt long ago it was easier not to.
At his car, he ensured she was seated safely inside before he slipped in to the driver’s side. She was sure he didn’t look after the vehicle as well as he could, the seats uncomfortable and the ride not exactly being smooth. Although, she supposed, the front of her own car probably needed some work after ramming through that fence. Which was another thing she should be cross at him about but her anger seemed to have faded.
“Poor Luke,” she muttered thoughtfully after they’d be driving a while, finally breaking the silence.
“Poor Luke?” Rupert scoffed. “He wasn’t the only one who nearly drowned, you know.”
“We neither of us took into account how much we’re asking him to give up for this,” she explained, recalling her conversation with him from the day before. It’d been hard to tell whether he’d truly been naive enough to believe that the comforts of a more normal life could still be in his future, or if he simply hadn’t given it a second thought. She and Rupert, they knew full well the dangers of the hunt but Luke wasn’t yet so convinced. The young did have a tendency to believe themselves invincible.
Perhaps, like his father, he would try and have it all. She hoped he didn’t meet the same fate.
Nor someone he loved the same fate as Maggie Galvin.
“It’s his duty and he knows that,” Rupert replied tightly, as though he’d taken her comment as a personal slight. Like she was blaming him. She really wasn’t. He’d had no choice but to reveal Luke’s destiny to the boy, knowing he would have been left in danger otherwise. But the issue of his future was one they were all going to have to face someday. He would meet someone and he’d argue with them and fight for it, wanting to hold on to that sliver of humanity and have it all. And Rupert would probably remember his own pain and try to warn him off, while she’d counter that with cool logic, reminding Luke of the inherent dangers in his life.
‘Families aren’t exactly compatible with our lifestyle’.
“Things are so much simpler when you’re young,” she reasoned, almost as a warning. “Give him ten years and then see how he feels about it.”
“Hey, if he’s still single in ten years I’ll be signing him up for every internet dating service I can find.”
She raised an eyebrow in his direction, surprised that he’d feel that way. “I didn’t know you cared so much about his social life.”
“I don’t. But I’m not going to see the end of the Van Helsing line on my watch.”
“Oh so you’re breeding him like a prized horse,” she said with an amused smile.
“I wouldn’t put it quite like that,” he said dryly.
“Perhaps you should try and push him in the direction of Ruby,” she suggested, with a flippancy that was only half honest. ”At least she knows the dangers. And she’s clearly keen.”
“Can you imagine me playing match maker?”
He sounded distinctly unimpressed at the idea. She almost felt like laughing.
“Yes. It’s very amusing.”
“Shut up, Mina.”
Her smile widened but she said no more.
He let them both into her home once he’d parked the car. The impressive town house had been brought outright with a mixture of money from her concerts and that which she’d accrued over the years. She didn’t know where Rupert was currently living. A bed and breakfast she assumed. He hadn’t had a proper home in years, always being on the move so much as to make it impractical. He’d often stayed with her on his previous visits to London, but hadn’t asked this time. She didn’t offer either, suspecting that he realised he would be staying a while and was wary of it becoming a permanent arrangement.
It would be a little too close to domesticity for comfort.
Normally he would leave her be in her own home, knowing she didn’t need his supporting arm in a place she knew so well. But, she supposed, a mixture of guilt and genuine concern made him keep a hold on her until she was safely seated in one of the kitchen chairs.
She missed his warmth when he moved away, before scolding herself for such sentimentality and blaming his near dying and her throbbing head for such a lack of sense.
“You want anything?” he asked, busying himself in her cupboards.
“Yes, for you to have a shower.”
“You’ve been swimming in a sewer, Rupert. You’re hardly fragrant. And I don’t particularly want you sitting on my furniture in those clothes.”
She half expected him to say he’d go then, but he gave a slightly drained sigh before he spoke.
“Okay, I get the point.”
“You know where the towels are.”
“And your stupid girlie products,” he added with a distinctly unimpressed tone. “I’m gonna end up smelling like a boutique.”
“Trust me, it’ll be an improvement.”
She waited until she could hear running water before she got up, grateful to find that whilst her head still hurt, her balance had very much returned. Her second bedroom contained a wardrobe with a few spare clothes he’d left with her and she pulled out a t-shirt and a pair of trousers, laughing at herself as she wondered if they’d match. Like he’d care.
She slipped inside the bathroom and, considering the lack of protest and the sound of running water pattering against skin, she assumed that he was safely behind the curtain and didn’t see her.
He rejoined her in the lounge ten minutes later, her sitting on the large sofa and listening to the local news. No indication yet that they had found Grace’s body, although the police were unlikely to release a report on it so soon anyway.
“You been sneaking around whilst I’m in the shower?” he asked, sounding faintly amused if the tiniest bit uncomfortable with the notion. So much so, that she wasn’t even sure why he’d brought it up in the first place. “That’s not very ladylike, is it?”
“Are you concerned about me peeking?” she teased.
She thought she heard him laugh just a little at that.
“Any news?” he asked and she assumed he was referring to the television. It seemed he could read her just as well as she could him. But with an association of over twenty years now she couldn’t really be surprised like that.
“Yeah, well, like I said, they’ll find her by morning.”
There was silence for a moment, hovering somewhere between expectant and awkward. She knew if nothing was forthcoming soon he’d say his goodbyes and she didn’t want that. It forced her to find her courage just before he spoke.
“Must you leave?” she asked, the phrasing ludicrously formal.
It was almost a ‘will you stay?’ but not quite. Nothing quite so needy.
“I don’t have to, no,” he said, and she secretly thought he was grateful for the offer. “Besides, you get more TV channels than I do.”
She smiled. He was the only reason she even still had a television. She’d been interested in them at first but, for someone who couldn’t see, the radio gave just as much and she found the device unnecessary. Still, he seemed to like it, spending nights here when he couldn’t sleep watching whatever he could find of vague interest, and so she’d kept it for his sake. One of several small allowances she made around her home for him.
He had nowhere else.
The sofa dipped as he sat down beside her, tipping her towards him, closer than two people who were supposedly just colleagues ever would dare.
“Remote?” he asked.
She reached behind him to hunt it out on top of the sofa where she’d got in the habit of leaving it. Her hand brushed passed the back of his head, feeling that his hair was still damp. There was an odd intimacy in knowing that sort of thing and a flutter of surprise went through her.
She could feel him looking at her, his breath on her face telling her how close he was.
“You okay?” he asked softly, perhaps mistaking her moment for a spell of dizziness.
“My head still hurts,” she reasoned, deciding she preferred his ignorance.
“Yeah, sorry about that.”
“We all make mistakes. Yours was more understandable than most.”
“And it made me weak,” he said tersely, knowing his own flaws. “And it put all of you in danger and I should have thought more about that.” He sighed, leaning back more heavily into the sofa. “Maybe you’re right about Luke. Maybe he shouldn’t expect anything.”
“Other Van Helsing’s before him found a way,” she pointed out, surprised to find herself the sudden voice of hope when normally she was the blunt reality. “He may prove to be another of those resourceful exceptions.”
He didn’t sound convinced. Whatever Luke’s future, heartbreak was bound to be in it. But wasn’t that the same for everyone? It didn’t stop them trying.
She handed Rupert the remote, listening to broken snippets of programs as he flicked through the channels until he settled on something he liked. After a few moments she gathered it was a Western. Typical American.
That was much better, she realised as she shifted herself and leant a little more heavily against him. She could smell him now, the clean aroma of his skin unhidden by anything else. A solid comfort she knew she’d come to rely upon too much for her own good.
She was a hypocrite, she realised, her words to Luke a hollow sounding impression of what she’d like to believe. Of what should be.
She didn’t only have her music.
She sighed heavily.
“You okay?” Rupert asked again.
“Yes,” she lied.
He made no attempt to move when her head dropped to his shoulder nor did he ask her what was wrong. She couldn’t fathom if that was because he thought he already knew or if he was too afraid to ask.
They’re not supposed to have family, that was what she’d said.
But she did.
And she knew someday, no matter how much she tried to protect herself, it would break her heart all over again.