Title: Every Problem Has Its Gift (7/8)
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
Galvin really wanted to tell Mina that it was okay, that they all understood what had happened and she had nothing to feel bad about. But she remained resolutely silent throughout the drive back to her house, a stony expression on her face which did not invite conversation.
Part of him was grateful for her silence, apprehensive about what she might say. Another part would have been happy for her to say anything though, from shouting at him for letting things go so far, to teasing him on the state of his car. He understood that she probably need a little time to get herself together again and that was okay, but it didn’t mean it wasn’t driving him crazy.
He just wanted things to get back to normal. Well, their version of normal anyway. And that couldn’t happen whilst she was still dwelling on what might have been. Which in his opinion was pointless, but telling her to just suck it up and get over it would be majorly insensitive, even for him, and so he decided it was best if he just said nothing at all.
He also increasingly got the impression that she was pissed at him and he figured that he knew why. They’d have to talk about it at some point, but it certainly wasn’t a conversation that he was looking forward to having. Perhaps her saying nothing right now wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
Inside her home, he helped her to the lounge, deciding that she shouldn’t yet tackle limping up the stairs to her bedroom. Little steps were good. She seemed tired but that was understandable – she’d been shot twice and drugged to hell, not to mention what she’d been through in the days before they’d caught up with her. He had no possible way of knowing what it must be like for a vampire to suppress their natural instinct to hunt but he should imagine it wasn’t a nice experience. She’d been through a lot and that was bound to take its toll.
On familiar territory, she let go of him, walking to the sofa herself even though it was clear that she really could do with the help. He tried to tell himself that she wasn’t pushing him away, just proving that she was back in control. Which was good and he should let her get on with it.
Once she was safely seated, he took her jacket from her and headed to the hallway, turning up the heating as he passed the dial on the wall. Mina’s skin was always cool it seemed, even in the height of summer. That’s because vampires were cold, she’d once joked, a consequence of being dead. But she wasn’t dead, he’d reminded her. She hadn’t died and come back like other vampires had. She was different. True, she’d confessed. She’d actually always had cool hands, right from childhood. Even to this day she said she remembered the complaints of the children she once had in her charge as a school mistress. They’d shriek about her cold fingers as she’d straightened their bonnets or helped them into their coats.
Several lifetimes ago now.
It was so easy to forget how old Mina was. She was a Victorian for Christ’s sake, had been born before even his own grandfather. It’d been a completely different world, but she’d adapted so well to all the changes around her that she didn’t seem out of place at all. Almost like she was timeless.
In fact, she coped so well with everything normally that it was hard to see her apparently struggling with something for once, seeming like she didn’t know what to say or perhaps even feel. Despite the awkward conversations that would no doubt arise, he was starting to become desperate for her to say something, her continued silence quickly going from unnerving to downright worrying. This was doing her no good. Dwelling wasn’t helping anyone, least of all her.
It wasn’t exactly reassuring that she looked so unnaturally fragile either, no trace left of her normal crimson lipstick or black eyeliner. Her skin looked gaunt and almost translucent without them to draw the eye. Her hands looked bony rather than slender too and her small frame appeared almost smothered against the large sofa when he walked back into the room. He didn’t like it at all; Mina had always been anything but vulnerable.
It was odd then that, when she turned her head in his direction, he felt a flicker of anger rise up instead of concern. Because, for just a moment, there had been something unpleasant in her face before she’d quickly tried to smother it. To him it looked like accusation, as though she was silently blaming him for the way things had gone. And in some ways she was probably right to do so, but it wasn’t as black and white as apparently she believed it should be and it pissed him off that she was acting like she had some kind of moral high ground here. He knew he should try and be mature about it, reasoning that she’d gone through something traumatic and wasn’t thinking with a clear head. A feeling of indignation demanded that he stayed and defended himself though.
She turned her head away from him once more, a signal that all was not well between them. Maybe she wanted him to leave. Maybe she was secretly looking for a fight, wanting to take her understandable anger and frustrations out on someone.
Either way, Rupert Galvin wasn’t the sort to back down even when he probably should.
He crossed to the sideboard and defiantly poured himself a drink before sitting in the other chair, watching her, waiting. His intent was clear; he was going nowhere until she got whatever it was off her chest, daring her to just say it. He wouldn’t leave such a mood hanging, he’d rather just argue stuff out and clear the air.
She knew of course that he was still there and they remained in a long game of silence, the tension in the room seeming to rise and coil around the atmosphere as though something was preparing to explode.
This was stupid, he told himself repeatedly. They should both be relieved, not angry at each other. But maybe it was just easier to get mad.
She finally snapped.
“Why exactly did you take such a ridiculous risk?” she blurted out tightly and without warning. Her tone held a hint of control though, like she was trying to keep this a reasoned discussion, not an argument.
“It’s like you said,” he replied, unrepentant, “I’m a coward.”
“No, you’re a fool,” she bit back, losing her cool just a little at his response. “You knew the damage I could have done. Whatever happened to your rule about not negotiating with half-lives? Grade them and smite them, that’s what you are supposed to do, Rupert. That’s your job.”
“I’m not supposed to do anything,” he growled back. “I wasn’t supposed to ever get involved in this mess in the first place, it just happened, didn’t it?”
“Yes, it did, and you know full well by now that you kill the freaks when you find them, you don’t bloody well disarm yourself and hope for the best!”
“You’re not a freak, Mina,” he snapped angrily, not liking the implication that that was how he should think of her. He could make up his own damn mind on that, thank you very much.
She ignored him, continuing with her growing tirade, her voice ever tighter.
“We had an agreement that you would never let that happen, that you would stop me if I lost control.”
“I did stop you.”
“By taking unnecessary risks and nearly getting yourself, Luke and Ruby nearly killed in the process! If I can’t trust you of all people Rupert, then what am I supposed to do?”
But that was the one thing he didn’t want to be trusted with any more, didn’t she understand that? If the tables were turned, he doubted that she’d feel any happier about the task so why should he pretend he was okay with it? It was damn unfair of her to ask it of him.
He threw back the remainder of his drink, deciding that it did neither of them any good to be having this argument now. She seemed okay. She certainly had her fighting spirit back at least. He should come back in the morning when she’d sorted her head out a bit better and he’d actually got some proper sleep for the first time in days. Then they could hopefully have a conversation without shouting at one another.
“Trust someone else,” he said firmly. “Ask Luke to be your fail safe. I’m done with it, Mina. I’m sorry. Get some rest.”
He walked out before she could say anything more, knowing he was letting her down and being selfish, but not really caring. By his age, he thought he’d earned some concessions in life and this was one of them. Everyone had their limits. His ended at killing the woman he-
To his surprise, her voice called out his name as he strode down her front steps. He really hadn’t expected her to come after him, thinking that she’d still be too angry. He could have easily have left, of course, she was limping and in no fit state to catch him if he was determined to go. But, as always, he felt duty bound to listen to what she had to say. He didn’t always pay attention to it, but he never refused to hear her out all the same.
He turned back and waited until she came to stand in front of him, her anger apparently having faded because she didn’t start shouting at him again. In fact, she remained completely silent, a curious look on her face. As though now she was here, she wasn’t quite sure what to say or why she’d even followed him out. Again, he was unnerved by the fact that he couldn’t read her.
“Look –“ he began, meaning to explain to her in kinder terms that he was the wrong man for the job. That he couldn’t promise to take her out if things went bad and that it was dangerous to pretend otherwise. He understood why she wanted that security, but he’d grown too attached to her now to be trusted with the job.
He was cut off though. Whatever was in her head, it seemed that she had decided actions really did speak louder than words.
Her fingers gripped at his shirt, pulling him closer until her lips pressed once and soft against his, incredible co-ordination for someone who couldn’t see. She lingered longer than friendship and when she pulled back he was sure that he had the most dumbstruck ever expression on his face, his turn to be speechless.
He didn’t really understand why she’d done it, now of all times. There’d been the odd instant in the past, but they’d always been in dire circumstances where they could blame the heat of the moment and forget about it afterwards. This wouldn’t be so easy to dismiss.
Perhaps events of last few days had made her recognise the precarious nature of their lives, deciding that they may not have time to waste. Maybe she was just scared and lonely, reaching out to anyone for comfort after all that had happened.
Or maybe she’d just wanted to kiss him.
Whatever her reason, he took a long moment to decide what he really thought about it, whilst she remained silent in apprehension, giving him his time to think.
When the only thing he could think was ‘why the hell aren’t I kissing her back?’, he decided to do just that.
She let out a beautiful little gasp of surprise as his lips met hers firmly, kissing her in heady relief. He’d so nearly never got the opportunity to do this again, and even if it didn’t go beyond this moment, he wasn’t going to waste it now. His hands cupped her face, mouth pressing closer to deepen the kiss, lips moving almost desperately against hers.
‘Never’, he silently pleaded, ‘scare me like that again’.
When he finally pulled back even she was breathless, and it made him smile to see that her cheeks had regained a little of their normal colour.
He hadn’t lost his touch then.
“Stay with me,” she asked softly, her fingers trailing lightly over his chest, playing with the buttons on his shirt.
He frowned, wondering what she was asking for and thinking that it was perhaps a massive step too far too soon.
She seemed to sense what he was silently questioning and she smiled coyly.
“I didn’t mean that. I just meant...stay...”
He was glad that he did.
He lay on top of her bed covers next to her for the rest of the night as she tried to get some sleep on his insistence. She was fitful, waking up on several occasions, trembling and afraid, a gasp or a cry of panic on her lips as her heart absolutely hammered in her chest. The first two times she’d refused to talk about what had scared her, apologising for waking him and telling him to go back to sleep.
The third time she’d broken, sobbing and telling him how much it had hurt and how afraid she’d been. Saying how terrible she felt about what she’d done to them all, especially poor Ruby.
He’d rubbed a hand up and down her back, resting her head against his shoulder and feeling tears seeping through his shirt. Soothing her but knowing it was probably best just to let her cry it out. She had to remember, he’d reasoned, not what had happened in the end but that she’d fought it. Held it back against the odds for days in order to keep others safe. That was the important thing.
That and the fact that they were all still alive.
She’d nodded in agreement, tears subsiding as she pulled herself back together once more, apparently feeling better for the confession.
She’d begun the night lying an inch from him but by dawn she was curled up close at his side, one hand pressed flat against his chest, head tucked under his chin. Despite the circumstances that had brought them here, he’d not felt more content with life in twenty years.
Since Maggie had died.
The last few days were the longest he’d ever spent without thinking about her, his mind so focussed on getting Mina back that there hadn’t been room for anything else. Now a familiar guilt crept up on him once more, tightening a knot in his stomach. Maggie had met Mina just once; she’d come to their home in an agitated state of worry, Jay having gone on a hunt alone and not come back. Maggie had taken an instant dislike to her but he supposed that was to be expected. No woman would feel particularly warm towards a beautiful stranger who turned up in the middle of the night, saying she that had to talk to the woman’s husband about a private matter. Even now, he could see the scowl of suspicion on Maggie’s face as he’d asked her to give them a minute, his wife watching as he’d led Mina into their living room before closing the door. Mina had apologised profusely, hoping she hadn’t caused a problem, but reiterating that she really was concerned and needed his help. He’d told her not to worry, that Maggie would understand. He always got the impression that she never quite had though. It wasn’t that she hadn’t trusted him as such, but she’d never liked the secrets he’d obviously kept, wondering what was really going on in his life and what this other woman meant to him. She’d certainly given him the cold shoulder for several days after Mina’s visit.
Sometimes he wondered if it was still the memory of that look on her face that made him feel so bad about caring for Mina. As if Maggie was still up there, watching him somehow, and he didn’t want to fuel the suspicions she’d had back then in case she thought she’d been right all along. She hadn’t, of course. He’d always thought Mina was beautiful, but she’d only been his friend at that point, nothing more. He’d loved his wife and had had eyes for no one else.
He took a long look at the woman sleeping next to him.
He’d spent years lying to himself and to her too. Hiding it all away and pretending that she wasn’t pretty much the most important thing in his life. The strong man would keep going still, knowing it would be for the best in the long run. They’d both loved and lost and neither of them wanted to go through it again.
But if this incident had taught him anything, it was that he wasn’t as strong as he liked to think.
Mina stirred against his chest, her fingers gripping a little tighter at his shirt. He ran a soothing hand lightly across her cheek, letting it continue downwards, trailing strands of long dark hair through his fingers before it finally came to rest on her hip, waiting for her to settle once more. It felt good to be with her like this, a long forgotten warmth making him properly relax for once.
And because of that, he finally let his guilt go. Apologising to Maggie, but confessing that he couldn’t feel bad about it any more.
Life went on. And he’d been ignoring it for far too long.