I cannot dream. But I can sleep.
Tess is not a morning person in this form — even when it’s not the literal morning. Rejoining her as she is waking up in the mid-afternoon, I discover her thoughts are consumed by the desire to return to sleep; in this moment, she wants almost nothing more than to simply let go of consciousness.
Prompted by that, I decide… this “morning”… is a good morning for me to “sleep.”
Although I’m still here, inside Tess’s body and mind, I do not participate. I am simply… “along for the ride.” To not think, after so many hours of consuming information… It is a relief I’ve found to be similar to resting after a large meal.
Tess stretches. There’s a familiar emptiness in the pit of her stomach; one that has nothing to do with hunger. Rather, it is because it is yet another day, and she must spend it, yet again, doing things she dislikes. All in order to get an outcome she desires later on.
She wishes, again, that she could return to sleep.
She never slept as an Illuniran. They did not require it. But it is one of the many “alien aspects” that she has taken a liking to. She finds it comforting — well worth the exchange of waking up afterwards.
And indeed, as she slides her legs out from under the warm covers, she wakes up fully and all thoughts of sleep vanish, her resentment toward waking fading with each step.
The building is completely silent, as Tess is the only one required to be awake at this hour. Not stopping to eat, she summons the wolf pup to her side so it can accompany her to work. She “found” a job running a little pub — to help establish a relationship with the locals.
It is an easy job for her, and tonight goes no different: Tess serves food and drink to a few late-night customers, easily avoids a brawl breaking out by singing one of her songs, and she cleans the place before her shift ends.
And lastly, she makes a couple sandwiches before leaving — to start the day’s real work…
Which means it’s time for me to “wake up.”
The sun is setting behind her as Tess knocks on the door of Lucy’s house. A familiar face answers, Van Helsing’s eye peeking through the crack in the door. When he sees Tess, he disappears inside for a moment, then opens the door just long enough to allow her in. Without a word, Tess walks past the vampire hunter and the sleeping Dr. John “Jack” Seward, entering one of the bedrooms along the hallway.
“I brought sandwiches!” Tess says cheerfully.
< As much as the white garlic flowers hanging from the walls and windowsill make me nauseous… I must admit they’re pretty. >
< The moonlight coming through the window is quite beautiful, too. Especially the way it gleams off of the silver cross on the door- >
-Tess snorts a little. Just like she does every time she sees that thing.
< I just can’t believe they actually think those work! >
She locks the door behind her (can’t have any interruptions) and sets the basket down on the dresser. Mina, Lucy’s close friend, gets up from the chair next to Lucy’s bed, walking over to her.
Lucy stirs in her sleep; humming quietly, she sits up in bed and brushes her hair out of her eyes.
“You brought our favorites again, didn’t you?” Lucy whispers.
Tess hands Mina the two wrapped packages, and Mina takes them back over to Lucy, handing her one. They each carefully unwrap the paper, trying not to get crumbs on anything. Their first bites are accompanied by sounds of approval.
Tess glances at the chair. Normally, she’d have needed to wake them both.
“So Helsing is having you stay up to watch her too, now?” Tess addresses Mina.
Mina swallows, then admits, “He’s getting frustrated. He’s still convinced that it’s a vampire causing Lucy’s health to worsen, but…” She gets a strange look on her face, part guilt and part… resignation, maybe? “Well, of course nothing is working to stop it, so he’s resorted to… this.”
“Mm,” Tess nods, “I’m sure the men aren’t much better?”
Lucy grimaces. She lowers her sandwich.
< I think that’s a “no.” >
“I wish I could tell them. But Dr. Helsing — Every word he speaks to them, they take as gospel.” Tears form in her eyes. “I just-”
Mina sets her sandwich on the bed, leans over and hugs her.
< Well, this is uncomfortable. >
Tess fiddles with the handle of a drawer on the dresser behind her.
“I am sorry it’s taking so long to prepare-“
“-No. No, it’s fine,” says Lucy, pulling away from Mina’s arms. “I’m grateful for what you’re doing for me. Every night you come here, you risk getting caught.”
“Yes, well,” Tess turns and adjusts the basket, “It’s much easier, now, with Mina’s help. And, frustrations aside…” she smiles, “Jack only meant to help you by calling Helsing here. I don’t hold that man’s actions against any of you.
“I mean, really,” Tess chuckles, turning back with a mischievous look on her face, “how could you possibly have known Jack’s old work buddy moonlighted as a vampire hunter?”
“Still, you’re my friend just as much as Jack is. And Mina. And… And all of you…”
< Oh no. She has that look she wears when she’s about to go into an “I’m-sorry/Thank-you”-cycle! >
< Nooo! I hate it when she does that! All that repetition! Please cut her off! >
Lucy switches her gaze between Tess and Mina, “You’re all doing so much for me. I just wish-”
“-Alright, that’s enough. Eat up,” Tess teases, “Or will I be going hungry tonight?”
Quickly (< And yet, still somehow ladylike. I wish I knew how she does that! >), Lucy finishes her sandwich, then holds out her right arm.
< No matter how many times I do this, it still makes me feel a little… Well, not annoyed, just… awkward. >
Avoiding eye contact, Tess walks over to her. Without hesitation, she takes her arm and bites.
But, like always, that feeling of awkwardness disappears when Tess tastes her blood: This body’s primal instincts kick in, and, instead, she’s struggling to hold herself back from drinking too much.
< It’s always so disappointing to not get my fill. >
I play Xihrae’s voice inside her head: < “Only just enough.” >
< I know, I know… >
< Just enough to continue turning Lucy into a vampire. >
< Just enough to keep Abraham Van Helsing frustrated. >
< Just enough to keep Helsing hunting US- >
< -so that we, in turn, can hunt HIM. >
Finished, Tess licks the remaining blood from her lips. Lucy pulls the sleeve of her nightgown down, hiding the many pairs of pinpricks in her skin. How Hellsing manages to keep track at this point is a mystery.
“Will it be much longer? Before she turns,” Mina asks.
Tess walks back to the dresser, lifting the basket before answering, “Probably one more month. We should have the house ready, and Lucy’s ‘death’ should be believable by then. Well. To everyone other than…”
Tess doesn’t look behind her, but she can feel worry coming from Mina’s aura and Lucy’s increased sadness. She puts a smile in her voice, “But, like you said. They’ve gone to this much trouble to help you. I’m certain, when the time comes, that they’ll be nothing short of ecstatic-!”
Lucy’s desperate voice interrupts her, “-And how long before then? Before… before I can tell them?”
Tess hovers in front of the door.
She turns, wearing a closed-eyed smile — and a mischievous smirk.
“Not long. It’s just a matter of waiting for the right moment!”