Title: Every Problem Has Its Gift (2/7)
Characters: Galvin, Luke, Ruby, Mina (with minor appearances from some other canon people)
Pairings: Galvin/Mina, Luke/Ruby
Summary: Galvin’s life is full of problems, not least of which are trying at last to build a proper relationship with his godson whilst dealing with Mina’s disappearance...
Beta read by fififolle (who I seriously owe by now for doing all the beta work!)
The drive back from Mina’s house hadn’t proven to be any more cheerful than the one there. Luke and Ruby sat in stony silence, glancing at each other in unspoken dares to see who would have the guts to say something first.
Galvin tried to ignore them, keeping his eyes fixed on the road and his mind unemotionally on the problem at hand. Now was not a time to worry and panic. He had to keep it together and come up with a plan. Him keeping a level head might be their only chance of getting Mina back. If the worst had happened the demon smiter in him knew it also might be the only chance of keeping others safe.
Eventually it seemed that Luke won or lost, whichever way you wanted to look at it, because he was the one who broke the silence and put into words what he and Ruby were clearly both wondering.
“So what has happened to Mina?” he asked with a surprising amount of empathy for a teenage boy. He seemed to have got the impression that Galvin didn’t want to talk about it, but at the same time they obviously felt they had a right to know.
Galvin wasn’t so convinced that they did, but he supposed a twenty year habit of keeping secrets between just himself and Mina was never going to be easy to break.
“Your guess is as good as mine.”
Luke seemed unimpressed by such an evasive response and immediately gave up his sensitivity for a blunter tactic.
“Has she really become a vampire?”
“Yeah,” Ruby chipped in from the back seat, “has she gone evil on us because if she has...”
“She’s not ‘gone evil’,” Galvin corrected in irritation, annoyed at being forced into giving an explanation as much as by Ruby words. “She’s probably just finding it hard to get her vampire side back under control.”
He almost laughed at how ridiculously simple he made that sound.
“But she managed it before, after Quincey...”
“From what I can tell, there’s no record and no incident of Mina ever having taken blood,” Galvin interrupted brusquely. He might as well be straight with them now. If they were going to help, then they deserved all the facts. “Until the other night, that is. And that makes things different.”
Luke nodded in some kind of understanding. He probably couldn’t quite fathom what that may mean, but he seemed to appreciate the seriousness of it all the same.
“So what do we do now?”
“We help her.”
The response was automatic and left no room for negotiation, but Luke still gave him a wary look.
“You think we can afford to lose her skills?” Rupert argued in response to the silent question.
Luke’s expression didn’t waiver.
“You expect me to believe that’s the only reason you want to help her?” he challenged in return.
There was a pause as Galvin considered what he was prepared to admit.
“She saved my life and yours,” he finally conceded, knowing it wasn’t quite the confession Luke was hinting at but that it was true all the same. “I think we owe her a chance at least.”
To his credit, Luke nodded, accepting that. It still didn’t seem to quash his doubts though.
“And if she can’t be helped?”
It was the question Galvin was unwilling to face, even though the cold part of him knew he had to plan for it. He’d already come to one conclusion though; that he couldn’t be trusted to deal with it by himself. He knew it was a weakness that he couldn’t afford, that he was supposed to be stronger and more pragmatic about these things like he had preached to Luke. But he’d made that promise to Mina twenty years ago and, if he found himself faced with the reality of it now, he doubted he’d have it in him anymore. There was no point in putting their lives in danger by pretending that he did. They shouldn’t rely on him. Time to pass the mantel on to the new generation.
“Then you’re going to have a real test on your hands,” he said grimly.
Luke frowned at him again but obviously didn’t quite find the guts to ask what that meant.
The abandoned tube tunnels running underneath London were one small, disgusting step up from the sewers but at least they were safe. And mainly dry. Mina had spent most of the past few days burning in apparent fever or trembling in cold and she didn’t think adding getting wet to the equation would be any help.
She had no clear idea how she’d ended up here. She’d remembered once travelling along these lines with Jonathan soon after they’d first opened, him commenting that it was somehow amusing to have such new technology hidden so far below civilisation. She also remembered sheltering in them - long since disused by the railways - a few times during the air raids, when she and the Van Helsing of the time had been fighting a war of their own and hadn’t made it back to the Stacks before the sirens had started. They’d heard the rumbling of the bombs above, concrete dust floating down on them, but they’d been safe down there.
Clearly a small part of her mind had equated the place with isolation and security and she was grateful that it had somehow brought her here. At least she kept others safe, even if it did her no good at all.
Her every breath shook as though it was an effort but she still stumbled unthinkingly onwards, her mind having apparently decided that she should keep walking. As though she could exhaust the blood lust out of her if she kept going long enough. She had no idea exactly where she was, although she wouldn’t be surprised if she was walking in aimless circles. Each cold, dark, concrete tunnel looked the same even to her currently exceptional vision.
A realisation had dawned on her a while back – when, she wasn’t sure, time seeming to have faded to nothing in her world now – and the longer this went on, the more it made sense. She was being consumed, the demanding voice of the half-life eating her from the inside out. She no idea what would happen in the end, if it would take her or kill her. She was beginning not to care as long as it stopped soon.
But that was the heart of her battle, wasn’t it? Find peace and surrender? Or fight on and live in torture?
She tried to cling to herself, to who she was, for as long as possible, trying to remember those she kept safe by staying hidden. Strangers no longer seemed to matter, but her friends...Luke and Ruby. Rupert... She pictured them in her mind, seeing, smelling and feeling them. Forcing herself to remember that she had no desire to end their lives and so she must stay hidden.
She would not become a monster.
But she knew with terrifying certainty that she couldn’t hold on forever.
The blood lust demanded without relent to be satiated, like some sort of junkie craving a hit. Even the rats drove her mad, the sound of their flowing blood pounding in her ears whenever they came too close. Sensibly and thankfully they fled from her, otherwise goodness knows what she might have stooped to.
Unimaginable pain wrenched through her again, one of the attacks that were getting only more frequent. She doubled over, hands pushing against the stone cold wall for support, her throat too raw from screaming to cry out this time.
A vision flickered agonisingly through her mind the moment she came in contact with the concrete, broken bits of images playing out for her like a ruined film.
Luke and Galvin walked with guns drawn, cautious and tense.
She grabbed Luke by the lapels of his jacket and threw him hard away, taking no care of where he landed or of the injuries she might cause him.
Her teeth pressed at Galvin’s neck, the pulse point pounding fast and his breath warm against her.
And then there was blood on her fingers...
She ripped her hand away from the wall to stop it, this time finding enough left in her to scream in half-mad denial.
She wouldn’t let it happen. She couldn’t.
She had to die, but how? Was it even possible?
She was no ordinary vampire.
She sunk to the floor, trying to gather herself together again, closing her eyes and praying for strength.
A hand rested lightly on her shoulder, a honeyed voice pouring into her ear.
“Dear oh dear mother,” he whispered softly, in a mockery of sympathy. “After all your fine words you’re no better than the rest of us. Worse, in fact. At least we don’t make friends before ripping their throats out.”
“I won’t,” she said quietly in return, with all the defiance she could muster.
“Give it time,” he said and she could hear his smile. “Then you’ll wish you hadn’t killed me. It will be ever such a long eternity on your own.”
She turned and there was nothing there, the weight on the shoulder and the warmth at her back gone in an instant. It was just her mind, playing games with her.
And it was winning.
Luke dogged his heels as Galvin walked through the Stacks, and the American had to bite his tongue to avoid telling him to go away in the rudest possible manner. At least Ruby was sitting patiently at the desk, likely having decided she’d been on the receiving end of Galvin’s ill temper enough for one day.
“I promised her, a long time ago, that if anything ever happened I’d deal with it,” Galvin confessed, burying his irritation as he strode between the shelves, looking for what he required. Of all the times to really need Mina’s ability to find anything here...
“Kill her, you mean?” Luke asked without sugar coating the matter. He seemed to have learnt fast that the world of demon smiting was no real place for subtlety when things got serious.
“Yeah,” Galvin confirmed. “But we’re not gonna.”
Luke frowned at him. Not really in disbelief but more concern. And rightly so, Galvin supposed. He hadn’t exactly been forthcoming in telling the kid that there might be another way.
“Wait a minute,” Luke pointed out, holding his hands up to signal that this needed to be a whole lot clearer and fast. “You said to me before that if she was to ever become a threat we were supposed to grade her and smite her. Now, I’m not exactly overjoyed at the idea of killing Mina, but if she’s dangerous...”
Galvin almost smiled to hear that. The kid really was learning after all. But Galvin’s face remained impassive as he finally found the large old doctor’s bag he’d been searching for. He hauled it off the shelf and placed it on the floor, crouching down to open it.
“This is different,” he explained. “She’s not just given up controlling herself on purpose. She’s in trouble and we’ve gotta try and help her.”
He supposed that was one way of justifying it at least. That and the fact that this had happened because of them, because she’d saved their lives. That deserved a chance, he reasoned.
A distracted frown spread across his features as he inspected the case’s contents, bringing up empty bottle after empty bottle. That wasn’t what he’d hoped for.
“You saw what she did to Thrip though,” Luke pointed out, either not seeing that Galvin was preoccupied or ignoring the fact. “If she turned that on us...”
Galvin snapped, irritated by the extra problem unfolding in front of him and tired of dodging the issue of blame, which he’d been trying to ignore for all their sakes. It was a bad time to bring it up but it seemed to come out regardless.
“Yeah, well if you hadn’t been holding a gun to my head then this wouldn’t have happened in the first place!” he retorted, angrily. “So you can damn well come and help put it right, okay!”
Luke looked immediately offended.
“I’m not worried about me,” he bit back, apparently willing to accept that he was at least partly to blame for this, but really not appreciating the suggestion that he was scared for his own sake. “I’m worried that we won’t be able to stop her.”
Galvin reined his temper. He was torn for a moment between the truth and giving the kid some false hope. The latter just wasn’t his style though. He was more into grim reality.
“Honestly?” he said, hating to have to throw this at him, but knowing it wouldn’t be fair any other way. “If she’s really turned, I don’t think we have a hope in hell.”
Luke was silent for a moment, taking that in. Perhaps musing on the fact that he really could die because of what Galvin was asking him to do.
“You’re a real comfort, you know that?” he eventually said. He almost pulled off the lightness he clearly meant to have.
Galvin pressed a hand to his godson’s shoulder as he stood up. A moment of solidarity.
“I’ve gotta go get some supplies. Try not to do anything stupid while I’m gone.”
Ruby played nervously with the rings on her fingers, biting at her lip as she watched Luke pummel the punch bag.
Galvin kept saying that they were going to go and help Mina, but Ruby wasn’t convinced that it was that simple. In fact, she suspected that this had the potential to be the most dangerous thing they’d faced yet. And there was Luke, beating the hell out of the bag in front of him.
Preparing for battle.
One that, in her opinion at least, he couldn’t win. Mina had destroyed Thrip without even breaking a sweat. What chance did Luke have if it came to it?
He glanced up at her, damp hair falling in his eyes, but she could still see his frown and at once she tried to stop fidgeting, knowing that she was giving herself away. She knew he wouldn’t want to hear what she had to say and so it was just better if he didn’t ask in the first place.
Her resolve didn’t last long however. She wandered around aimlessly, the sound of his every blow against the bag seeming to reverberate in her head. Telling her that she’d never forgive herself if he went into this fight, something bad happened and she hadn’t said anything to stop him.
“Luke?” she began utterly innocently, skirting around the edge of where he was practising, being sure not to get in his way.
He was tense and it showed even in that short word.
“Look, I know you’re trying to patch things up with Galvin,” she said gently, careful not to push too hard. “And doing what he wants might seem like a good idea right now, but have you really thought about this?”
“What do you mean?”
Again, he sounded tense but she carried on regardless.
“I’m just saying that vampire Mina is pretty scary and maybe Galvin’s not thinking straight. Put the two together and...”
“And?” he pressed, as though he was baiting her into saying it.
She sighed, deciding she might as well go all in now.
“You shouldn’t be risking your life because Galvin can’t keep himself emotionally detached,” she stated bluntly. “You’ve seen how reckless he can be. All that stuff with Tibbs...”
Much to her surprise, Luke didn’t get angry or defensive like she’d expected, but instead nodded in understanding.
“Yeah, I get what you’re saying. But I’ve got to start trusting him at some point, haven’t I?”
“I know,” she sympathised. “I’m just not sure now’s the right time. I mean, when it comes down to it, who do you think he cares for more? You or Mina?”
From his silence, Luke either had no answer for that or couldn’t bring himself to admit it.