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Above them, the pines are rattling. Their dripping boughs are coated in ice from the storm, and they crack and clatter against each other like bones in a pile. The wind is coming harder, the snow heavier. Distantly, Trevor can see a line of lights appearing, the same ones he followed not so long ago- on and out, and further and in, eternally into the darkness stretching behind them, beyond the cliff where his life changed fundamentally before he’d even known it had happened.

He spends a moment staring beyond Baba Yaga into the gray dark of the morning storm, watching the path laid out in solitude and nothing but a steady, endless walk forward.

“Sypha told me,” Trevor says, shifting his weight, and he fights against every self-preservation instinct he has so that he can step, step, step forward until he’s standing at the foot of the cliff, at Baba Yaga’s side. “She told me how Esthe and Alya came to be firebirds.”

He snorts, feeling the lash of ice and cold creeping in a line across his neck. Soon the snow will melt against the heat of his skin and slide down through his clothes, burning a slice of cold down into his core that chants his mortality in every single prickle and sting of a nerve. But right now, right here, standing at Baba Yaga’s side, just for now he’s still hot from his efforts to arrive.

“And what did she tell you?” Baba Yaga asks, groaning, shifting, and the ice layering her ever-more-thickly groans too. It moans like the ice on a long-frozen lake, echoes in snaps and pops as she shifts, and under the surface fish dart, swim, sleep in mud. She’s a small woman, as enormous as a mountain, skinny and narrow with a chubby form and generously round limbs, and behind her and in her the voices of a thousand supplicants passed live. They’ve been there long before he staggered up to face her, and he knows there will always be more.

Trevor flashes, for an instant again, to those dark lake weed plants with their beautiful luminance stretching into the dark. He dwells on the shift in perspective he’d had on them, on their stretch forward instead of their spread down, and he wonders if, for Baba Yaga, those voices behind her could have been ahead of her instead as well, if she had changed herself in some fashion a long time ago like he had, but in an opposite direction: back instead of forward.

“She traded something to you,” Trevor answers, biting his lip. “The song she sung us, when we were children. She told me that you found it valuable enough. You’d have them as firebirds too.”

“Yes,” Baba Yaga agrees. “No wonder you don’t want a trade. This knowledge, for you, has already been paid for. What, you didn’t trust your little Speaker woman?”

“I trust her with my life,” Trevor says, and means it. He turns to look at Baba Yaga, doesn’t let it bother him that he isn’t looking up or down or anywhere, really, and yet he sees her regardless, living in a thousand shapes and just one in front of him. The snow obscures her, even as close as they are, close enough that he could reach out and cradle her elbow if he wanted, as if she were a fragile old woman on a hard mountain road and he a diligent grandson. “But I know how monsters are. I want to know exactly what your bargain with my mother was.”

Baba Yaga reaches up and peels away layers of ice like fabric, like leather, extricating from the increasing drooping whiteness of her body a single clouded eyeball, silver with darting black spots. Just like Trevor remembers it. He steels himself and looks at it, ignoring the violent wrench and twist of his mind, the slice of wrongness that goes through his guts.

She tips the eye this way and that, up and over him and then down low, her arm drooping snakelike as it presses into the snow. Finally, with an irritated grumble, she flicks her hand and the eye comes to a rolling laze in the center of her palm, bracketed in every direction by thumbs, some black, some red and raw with cold, some white and pale and bone-like. Trevor stares at her, hard, unyielding, and he feels some of that fire in his bones slip out to steady him when it feels like he’s going to have to look away.

“I told her this, and nothing more: no women of your family will ever sing this song again.”

 

 

 

If he’s honest with himself, of course, he expected something like that.

Sypha told him the other morning, wringing her hands, still nervous, what she had learned: his mother had treated with Baba Yaga to save Esthe and Alya in whatever way could be managed. If anybody else at all, anybody ever, had told him that, he would have punched them square in the face. His mother, stern and Christian and devout, always praying, always at the feet of the Church, always lain prostrate before an alter that nobody else in the family felt any fondness for?

His mother!?

 

 

 

Trevor comes back to himself with a start, realizing that he’s struck out, that he’s called out in fury and his whip has exploded in flame, and Baba Yaga has skirted back and is laughing, laughing, cursing him and praising him in equal measure as she pats out flames eating up her skirts.

“You used her,” Trevor spits, and if he spits a little lick of fire into the storm nobody but Baba Yaga is here to witness it. “You used her to do what every other damned monster in the world hadn’t, yet. Congratulations, you old bitch. You laid waste to a field of ewes and let the young ram out the back of the yard.”

Baba Yaga chews on a thumb, one of millions, but it’s one he’s charred with the fire of his whip. He can feel her pressing back as she shifts further still away from him, can see her reaching behind her with her nose undulating and soft and flicking through the air. The movements are like the hands of women as they touch the warp of a loom, judging pressure, tension. Assessing perfection.

“Boys,” she creaks, clatters out like the pines above them, roaring and moaning and shrieking in the strength of the storm, “are so impulsive. Don’t you want to know what your mother wanted from me, you creature, you buck, you ram?”

“What the fuck did I tell you,” Trevor yells, fire burning up through him again, lighting him up from his bones out until his cloak is steaming and shedding snow like a living animal’s flank. “No trades! No deals!”

“One,” Baba Yaga coaxes, rolling her palm to tip her eye to the very edge of one finger that she holds up elegantly. The motion is so evocative of what Trevor remembers of Ioana’s movements that it only makes him see red. Redder. “Just one- if I give you the answers you need, I want a chance to have a… a, a do-over,” she says. “Just an ask, boy. Just a question. Answer however you like.”

Trevor hisses at her and the sound comes out sibilant and rasping, not a sound he should be able to make in a human skin. He doesn’t care- his bones are burning up, and his whip, coiled in his hand, roils with flames licking out like fire on a pool of oil.

“My old enemy,” Baba Yaga coos despite herself, her expression crumpling into longing and love and covetous envy. “Listen to Baba Yaga’s words, old love. That’s all I want.”

Trevor swallows, hard, closes his eyes. He tightens his grip on the whip and then loosens it.

“Fine,” he seethes. “Fine. One question from me, one from you, and I’ll answer how I will.”

“Oh,” Baba Yaga sighs, naked longing coming across somehow even under increasing layers of ice and snow and sleet and rock and rain and wind. “Your mother begged of me, with the power of witches in her blood,” Trevor jerks and snarls, and the little touches of snow and ice against his bared teeth do nothing to calm his raging heart, “with the power of infinite women behind her versed in powers of healing and divination and love crafts and weather arts, your mother begged of me to mind her children where she could not.”

“My mother wasn’t a witch,” Trevor says, and he’s shaking with so much anger that he feels like his body is going to fly to pieces and reform into something else entirely. “How fucking dare-“

“Ioana was a powerful daughter of this land, and I admit, I had always had a particular weakness for her,” Baba Yaga tuts, fingers folding for a second over each other, flower-like, her eye rocking slowly in her hand, “and with that she persuaded me to aid her here under an empty moon with her promise of the song she and all other witchdaughters had sung. She was pious in the land of men, but this is no man’s land.” Baba Yaga’s eye in her palm, miraculously free of snow or ice, darkens to a velvet black, flecked with stars of red. “Of course- this land we stand on now is no land at all. It’s a place of the great internal world, and a woman has that land mastered as a birthright.”

Trevor gives a cry of rage so loud and incoherent that it makes the trees shiver, and just for a moment the storm stills. He staggers through the snow towards her, hissing again, fire licking out from his bones so strongly that he feels like he’s going to burn up with anger, going to eat himself up into something else entirely.

“She begged me, at the threshold of her husband’s power where it falls to her own finally, and I responded. I will always respond!” Baba Yaga thumps her chest with a fist bristling so heavily with fingers that it looks like a centipede, snarling back at Trevor, and her teeth are a serpent’s, a wolf’s, a black rotten pile of bones fetid and slick. But the passion drains from her, and suddenly her mouth is a gummy little hole in the shriveled clench of an old woman’s face. “I didn’t know that her line would end,” Baba Yaga murmurs softly, and puts out another hand and gestures to the forest around them. “This world is eating us all, monsters and women alike, and soon greater changes are to come. I didn’t seduce her to her end. She had begged me to watch her children where she could not. How could I end her?” But something cruel, something prideful, creeps over Baba Yaga’s face as she crouches and lifts more snow from her body, flinging it back over her like a sumptuous white fur stole. “She did that herself, of course.”

Trevor tries, and fails, to stifle the rattle of rage that’s nested across his shoulders, is slowly dissolving down his spine, and loses himself a little more.

 

 

 

Of course, she’s not wrong. Everything then had been so tense and drawn, filled with meaning like a pustule ready to snap, and even the faintest provocation could have sent blood and mess everywhere over them all. Whispers of a wild pair of firebirds in the woods where a loved daughter had died with her Speaker friend, murmurs of the great witch-goddess Baba Yaga creeping in the woods soon after, there to stay-- no, none of that would have helped.

 

 

 

“You fell down on the job pretty hard,” Trevor spits, gesturing in the direction of the burned mansion. “And then this,“ he flicks a hand to the row of lights, to the storm, to himself again, “what the hell was this, then? Watching me? Sniffing down my neck, more like.”

Baba Yaga, for a moment, falters, and the snow coating her starts to drip down around her as if it’s a coating of thick cream melting in the sun. The image is hideous- somehow, yet more hideous than her normal self. Dollops of ice plop down in the thick drifts being laid down around them. Finally, she shakes her head, the movement like that of an oxen laden down in its yoke.

“Our agreement was only for my eyes to fall on her children where her own could not.” Her fingers curl up around that one exposed eye, forming a cage, and her nose, jerking and wriggling like always, crawls up to cradle and play with the now-contained eye. “And in my actions, I can only be what I am, boy: I am a monster, and you should not forget it.”

“Explain exactly how ‘watch over my children’ translates to ‘try to murder my only surviving child’, can you? Even for a promise made by you, that’s a real stretch,” Trevor snaps back, burning with indignation for- for what? His mother? Himself? Sypha and Alucard, dragged into what had apparently been a long-festering family matter?

“I can only be as I am,” Baba Yaga whispers, and this time the wind pulls her words to him gently, ushering them forward as if on a raft of down feathers, “I can only give you what I have, no matter how the giving comes out and no matter how it is received. To love as a monster is no different than loving as a man,” she says slowly, “in that we are as filled with failings and evils as you are, you chit, you blood-sodden boy: to the brim.

For a moment, drooped low from his questions, Trevor gets the impression that she is laden with regret, with sorrow. Tied to events past, walking through memories and living in a land with the ghosts of the dead streaking across the sky in flames of ancient glory- there’s no way forward for her, he realizes distantly, and never will be. Perhaps it’s even of her own volition, her own deliberate choice that that’s so. There is simply no forward for the monster known as Baba Yaga, only back. She is vengeance and cold and sorrow and wounded malice, and none of that is anything but a balm for hurts already accrued.

Baba Yaga straightens from her slump, fingers spasming out like a frightened spider to reveal her eye again, rolling slickly in the wet palm of her hand. Her nose retreats back under the sloppy snowmelt, slithering backwards like an angry snake. “Baba Yaga can only tend to her birds as she will, beautiful boy. Your mother asked, and you received. All children are born anointed in their mother’s blood, after all! Is it so hard to believe?! Is this trade so new?! Chht.” Scornful now, she rears up. The slush on her body hardens as she does, spiraling down and out to form a bristling mantle of jagged ice all along her, hiding what little visible parts she had save her exposed arm and eye.

He could insist. He could insist that she should have done better. He could insist that she hadn’t honored her bargain to Ioana, but for all that would gain him- it would be nothing, really. Everything was done already. Everybody was gone and dead, and he had been hurt and mended and hurt again, on and on and on.

Fuck it- he’s angry about it all, about every aspect of this clusterfuck of a family legacy, and no amount of scorn or sorrow will soothe that pain. Unceasing failures, he thinks, spitting at himself, raging at his mother and his father before him. The Belmont line is good at one thing above all else, he realizes, and feels his heart clench with impotent regret.

The Belmont line is best at falling from grace above all others.

 

 

 

Rumors travelled slowly, sometimes taking years to get to the capital, take root, and grow to fruiting. But his mother and sisters had been burned where his father had been killed, and if Trevor had always wondered about that, he’d kept it to himself. He’d had enough woe on his plate since that time. He didn’t need another portion.

 

 

 

“My question, hateful one, my boon now!” Baba Yaga laughs, her hands flying wide and breaking the ice open again, her one exposed eye leaking what looked like a single exaggerated teardrop. It hangs down, gathering from her fingers and her hand, the storm freezing it and forming it in the shape of a parody of grief. Her previously somber mood has dissipated as quickly as the storm above has moved from ice pellets to snow to back again, and Trevor isn’t nearly fool enough to assume there’s no connection.

“Fuck you,” Trevor says, but it comes out garbled against the crushing burn of his fury and his hurt and his disappointment, it comes out dashed against the brutality of the storm around him, but, but, he had promised her, hadn’t he?

 

 

 

Anyway, the fact of the matter is, he can’t really consider it her fault. If she was a witch, if she wasn’t, he had no way of knowing. Baba Yaga didn’t lie, certainly, but she also didn’t speak the truth in a way Trevor could always agree with.

His mother’s devotion to her spirituality had been genuine, he knows, and her love of the Church had been true too. (They’d spent enough time on their knees for Trevor to know that for certain.) But Trevor has been busy forming some kind of relationship with two people, one a vampire, and it certainly hasn’t shaken his devotion to monster-hunting. So, perhaps his mother did have this hidden side, a dark internal world he’d never known about. But it didn’t change the other things he knew about her, he supposes, just like his love for Alucard, for Sypha, hasn’t change him in any way, only amended him. It was the same for his mother, although perhaps those amendments had come in ways he might, admittedly, not quite have been ready for.

Really, there’s no way he could blame her for something that had been a long time coming. The Belmonts hadn’t been a well-regarded family for generations, the people gradually losing fear and awe as the monsters gathered themselves into their shadowy cloisters, and his father, with his impious ways, had never worked to make anything but the worst impression on the Church. It strikes Trevor as uniquely unfair to blame his mother for laying down the single straw that breaks the horse’s back when his father had busied himself laying bales and bales on for years.

 

 

 

Bitterness seizes him. Who were the people of this land to judge her, Ioana, his mother? Hadn’t she tried her best? And if her best hadn’t been enough, where she had suffered in flames with his sisters, Trevor himself had failed to give his best and still been forgiven by people with hope in their hearts and purpose in their eyes. What, precisely, had he done to deserve that forgiveness that his mother, pious and disciplined and desperate in grief, hadn’t? Had her failure been such a trespass, over even his own in magnitude?

 

 

 

“Come to me,” Baba Yaga says, her words soaring to him on the wind, brushing against his rattling frame, stoking the fire seething and coiling and dripping through him more sharply than any cold could, “and I will set this world to rights, my divine love, and you will never have to lay eyes on this ugly place again. Come away from this dim place, my sweet, and burn brightly for me, and sing with your sisters, and dry the tears of young women and rest on the arms of young men, and always go to the skies again in the red of dawn,”

He knows she would go on like that if he lets her. On and on and on, a beg more than an ask. His whole body is rattling with fury and pain and regret, and he wishes with the taste of ashes in his mouth, as he watches her settle more and more into ice and wind and snow, as she dissolves from human form and takes a shape like the wind around him, and the pines cry and squeal and crack above him,

He wishes that he could just fly away from everything ugly in this hateful world.

“I know,” Baba Yaga soothes, and the sound is gentle and soft, musical, as she starts to hum the song his mother gave up to her so that she could ensure at least one small hope of safety for children she already knew she had failed.

Bitterness and anger and fury and weariness bite through him. The cold, the wind, the heat, the ice, the snow, the wet- it all mixes and churns inside him, the sensation forming such a maelstrom that it leaves him feeling void inside. It leaves him standing empty before that dark rim again, the endless spread of lakeweed and the lights of all the future lives he knows he’ll touch and influence and send growing to their own futures.

He wants, so badly, to lift his arms and burn away this leaden body and become that light-riddled firebird again. The memory in him of that time is smeary, cast too bright for him to remember well, but that in itself is enough for Trevor to know that it was empty of this slurry of emotions that’s filling him up from the inside, spilling up his throat and choking him out and coming down again in a panicked, conflicted sobbing that is ugly, ugly, ugly.

He’s bent over himself, shuddering in the storm, struggling. He can’t make a move forward and he can’t make a move back, because the precipice in either direction is too far up to be safe. But he has to, he tells himself. At a certain point, nobody else can come to his aid. At a certain point, he has all the training he needs to vanquish this monster. At a certain point, he should be able to handle this.

Over it all and under everything, his mother’s song.

Trevor flings out a hand, desperate to keep himself from falling to the ground, failing though he’s not supposed to, can’t be allowed to, and his hand slides fever-hot through the snow until it hits

 

Something.

 

 

He looks at the snow, at the lump next to another he’s thought little of. Baba Yaga, blowing and cold and wild at his side, continues singing and each note pierces through his skull and drives in another tormented thought like a nail into a board- they killed herthey killed them all—how dare they ask this of me now—they killed all that I loved—how dare they seek my protection when they caused all this suffering—they caused this all themselves

Trevor’s hand closes on stone.

 

 

 

How was it that he was forgiven for his failings, while the rest of his family had paid the ultimate price for sins not entirely their own? How was it that he had found some measure of peace and safety and warmth, when the country around him was still crumbling down, besieged on all sides? How was it that he could possibly, possibly justify fleeing into a fairy tale when he had been given that gift of another chance that had been denied to others?

How could he possibly turn his back on his countrymen because of their failures when Sypha and Alucard hadn’t turned their backs on him despite his own failures?

 

 

 

Trevor pushes himself to his feet, gritting his teeth, his hand closed tightly on that little rounded mound of stone curved so nicely to fit in the palm of his hand.

“Baba Yaga,” he forces out, and the words are eaten up by the power of the storm around him, by the power of Baba Yaga herself, goddess and force of nature and woman and moon and death and more.

“Yes,” she says, in a voice like the voice of God himself, booming and powerful and assured, roiling with might.

“Baba Yaga,” Trevor says again, feeling the icy stick of his fingers as they freeze against that dead rock under his hand.

“Yes,” she says again, less mighty this time, more impatient, and it sounds like an owl’s hunting call, like the rattle of shutters at night, like the slam of the wind against a tenuously-built shelter the first winter a young man knows he can’t go home,

“Baba Yaga,” Trevor whispers, feeling the heat of tears slipping out even though he can’t see, really, can’t feel much of anything because the buffeting of the storm has so worn his senses thin that they’ve given out.

“Yes,” she says, and it sounds like the past.

“Get the fuck off my land. I’m Trevor Belmont, and I’m a child no more.”

 

 

 

If he had the energy, it would be easy to admire the way this all happens:

Baba Yaga’s storm-self starts drifting away against the wind, slow at first. A tail develops from the core of her whirling self, looking like nothing so much as a little bit of wool drawn out to spin from. And, keeping true to that idea, the tail draws out and out and out, until suddenly the whole whirling mass of her is gone wild and compressed and filtered down, pulled away over a vast distance as she goes thinner and thinner and thinner, and over it all she’s screaming.

He doesn’t know if it’s a scream of pain or anger, or perhaps both. All he knows, as he holds himself up on a stone rooted to the earth, is that he’s tired of listening to women scream for either reason.

 

 

 

When the sound stops, he’s still left with a storm. The snow is still coming, and the wind burns his exposed skin as he pulls his hand back from the hand-hold he’s grabbed on to desperately.

Trevor breathes in deep, huffs out a hot breath, and then he does it again. Over and over, he takes in cold lungfuls of air until he’s sure of himself again. Slowly, slowly, he opens his eyes and looks forward, out over that great abyss that is the river. This time of year it spits up mist, and he remembers, distantly, through a haze of distanced pain, one of his sisters telling him that the surrounding river was why they always had so much snow in the winter.

He hadn’t cared, if he was honest. He’d just wanted to go outside and play in the stuff.

Taking a few more breaths, he finally is able to control his body again, and the first thing he does is refocus his eyes away from that endless drop ahead of him. The pines are still clattering above, and in the violence of whatever had just happened between Baba Yaga and himself, a few branches had broken off near the top. He can see them dangling threateningly and mentally maps a safe path as he tucks his frozen hands in his armpits, hissing at the pain that heat brings.

“How stupid would that be,” he half-laughs to himself, abruptly coughing as snow spits into his mouth, hitting the back of his throat with force, “if I was killed by a falling branch after all this.”

He turns to go, starts trudging back along his own ghostly trail. The storm is so heavy that his footsteps are almost completely filled in. If he hadn’t grown up in these lands, he would have been worried, but. He’s known these forests since he was old enough to run through them, in snow and sun both. This is his birthright, and he knows it too well to even entertain the worry of getting lost.

Curiosity seizes Trevor. He turns back before he can convince himself otherwise, pulling his frozen hands out from where feeling is starting to creep back in.

It takes only a little effort to uncover the graves.

He’d known what they were the second he’d seen them, little soft undulations that Baba Yaga and he had gravitated to. The location only made sense, really- this place was where her involvement with him had started, and it was where it had to end.

But the graves don’t make sense.

Esthe’s body had never been found. Alya’s hadn’t either, but that had been Speaker business, and Trevor had been too young and too caught up in his own pain, physically (beaten black-and-blue and filled with fresh injuries from his stand against his father) and emotionally (Esthe, Esthe, Esthe) to understand what that meant for anybody.

Esthe had been ‘buried’ in the family crypt, overseen by Father Vasile who his mother had probably later confessed her sin of treating with Baba Yaga to.

But here was a second grave for her, carved roughly but with evident care- and then, after some scrabbling, he uncovers the other lump- one for Alya too. No names, no dates. Just two stones, side-by-side like a husband and wife laid to rest.

Trevor leans back on his heels, tucking his hands back into his armpits, and stares at the graves. Who put these here?

They’d have to be absurdly strong, to carry the stones, and be known to the family in order to avoid attention. They’d have to have had a good damned reason to put all the effort in, and probably wealthy enough to afford the rock- it’s nice marble, had been supple under Trevor’s hand when he reached out to it.

After a moment of thought, Trevor shakes his head and sighs, raising a puff of steam that’s gone almost before he can see it.

If his mother was the one to invite Baba Yaga onto their land, explaining how she knew what it felt like for a monster to cross the barrier in her memory-lands, then it was obvious, wasn’t it, who had put these here?

Dark internal worlds, Trevor thinks to himself, turning again to walk forward back to Alucard and Sypha. He’s shaking his head as he goes. Dark internal worlds and hidden sides, and constant, cascading failures of the past.

He passes the tree that his father had laid into, years ago. It’s still scarred from his anger. Trevor puts a single hand on it as he goes by, fingers brushing the healed jagged edges. He supposes that he might be Andrei’s height now. Maybe a little shorter, but close enough.

Maybe things could have been different if-

Trevor shakes his head, shedding snow, reminding himself that there’s no point in thinking about anything but what’s ahead of him: a future, and endless people to light up the dark with.

He starts walking.

 

 

 

 

Alucard is standing in the middle of the path in front of the village, just as the bend turns into the village center. He’s standing such that Trevor almost smacks into him as he turns tightly around the corner, and he has to reach out and sort of flail to stay on his feet.

“Woah,” Trevor says, staggering, freezing, and then, again, “woah,” because Alucard has soundlessly struck, quick as a snake, to wrap himself around Trevor, sodden cloak and all. He’s draped over Trevor like he wants to shield him from something, his shoulders shaking as that endless hair of his spills like a cup full of molten gold all over Trevor’s cloak.

Alucard’s hands press at Trevor’s face, at his jaw, tipping him against Alucard’s mouth as he presses it against Trevor over and over and over again, whispering, “Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back,” until Trevor finally breaks free by grabbing his wrists and forcing those fine-boned hands down and away.

He’s under no illusions about his own strength- Alucard lets him do it.

“Thanks,” he says, shivering, and then in a deliberate gesture to ease the wildness of Alucard’s expression, to calm the quick way his eyes move over Trevor’s body, he tucks himself under Alucard’s height and cuddles in a little. It’s a move he’s seen Sypha use- hell, it’s a move she’s used on him. To his own relief, Alucard is apparently even more susceptible to it than Trevor is, because he lifts his coat around Trevor and wraps his body over him, even as they start to walk to the broken-down inn they’re squatting in. “I’m back.”

“I’m glad,” Alucard says, his hands clenching possessively on Trevor’s side, on his shoulder. “We were- ….” He goes silent as they finally get inside, though the interior of the inn is scarcely more than a wind break. “I was terrified,” Alucard admits, leaning back against the door. The wind batters against the building, hitting it like a body. “I didn’t know if you would- could- come back to us.”

“I promised you,” Trevor reminds him, though he’s under no illusions about his own strength there, either. He’s a man, and a man’s promises live only as long as he himself does.

Alucard stands next to him, looking over him silently. Trevor can’t tell if it’s just that he’s really that cold or if Alucard is somehow all riled up from him just appearing, but he’s putting off enough heat that this time when Trevor snuggles in there’s no guile in his actions, just greed.

Alucard licks his lips once, opening his arms again to allow Trevor in closer, and then reaches down to pull his chin up with a hand. His eyes rove over Trevor’s face with intensity.

“You’re unharmed?”

“I’m fine,” Trevor protests, trying to squirm out of Alucard’s hold, but this time he doesn’t let go.

“Sypha is coming back,” Alucard tells him, eyes locked on Trevor’s. The intensity of his stare feels more intimate, even, than the way he’s being held. It feels like they’re doing something much more intense than just staring at each other, and it makes Trevor feel sort of edgy and excited and uncertain. “She began to pace to and from the river after you left. I decided to wait for you there where you found me.”

“She shouldn’t be out in this weather,” Trevor says, distracted by still staring at Alucard, and then he closes his eyes when he feels Alucard’s hand clench in his hair and pull his head back. The touch of his lips against Trevor’s is oddly thrilling for how chaste it is- perhaps it’s that Alucard’s hold on his hair is so tight that he can’t really move away, can only hold still obediently and take what he’s given.

“Neither should you,” comes Alucard’s tart retort before he deepens the kiss in slow measures, licking into Trevor’s mouth, radiating heat like a fallen star as he does, and Trevor is cold and tired and worn emotionally thin, but this feels so simple and good that it’s all he can do to keep from collapsing in his hold and letting Alucard do with him what he will.

“Upstairs,” Trevor whispers when Alucard next pulls back to take a breath. “Wait- let’s find Sypha.”

“Yes,” Alucard agrees, tightening his hold on Trevor, allowing him to soak in more of that morning-star heat he’s bleeding out, “soon.”

He holds Trevor like that for a while more, carefully kissing him in such a slow, melting fashion that Trevor feels like he’s going to explode or melt or fall asleep. He draws his teeth very carefully along Trevor’s bottom lip, the danger of the act making him moan and give a sinuous squirm, and still Alucard holds on tightly, tightly, so that Trevor can’t move, so that he’s held there still and warm.

The inn door slams open.

“I’m back,” Trevor tells Sypha, who is out of breath, panting and wild-eyed and trembling, “It’s done.”

Giving a wordless cry, she launches herself at them both. She lands on them heavily and they all go over sideways, slumping on the slippery wood underfoot. So much for natural Belmont, or for that matter, vampire, grace.

“Ow,” Trevor grumbles, but then he can’t say anything again, because she’s kissing him with force, so much so that their teeth clack against each other and he tastes blood from it.

By the time she’s drawn herself back she’s weeping ferociously, her face turning red and ugly with it. Trevor, caught still in Alucard’s arms and against his body, pinned under Sypha’s weight, realizes with a funny sort of twinge that it doesn’t change how badly he wants her clawing desperately up against him in the least.

“I knew you would come back.” She tells this breathtakingly transparent lie in great, gulping sobs, spreading her arms and letting Trevor come to her like a bird landing. He murmurs something wordless, something soft, and shifts to pull her up to her feet again. “I knew you would!” Then she locks her arms around him again and clenches her fists in his cold, wet cloak, dragging him closer to her heedless of his sogginess, heedless of the stink of fear and stress and guilt soaking through his clothes, and explodes into deeper, belly-deep sobs that feel like they're going to rip free of her body and live on without her.

“Sypha, shhh, shhh,” Trevor soothes, rocking her in his arms, looking up to Alucard for guidance. Alucard smooths Trevor’s bangs back from his forehead and kisses him there, does the same to Sypha, then strides forward to shut the door against the storm where it had been left hanging open.

 

 

 

When Sypha has calmed some (when they've all calmed some, sitting seriously and silently on the floor huddled together like lost chicks), Alucard suggests, “Let’s go upstairs to wait out the storm."

As if agreeing with him, the inn creaks ominously against another hard strike of wind.

“I’m cold,” Sypha sniffles from Trevor’s arms. Her face is still hot and pink and puffy, but her eyes are bright and her mouth is quirked up in a growing smile. If Trevor is being wholly honest with himself, it's the cutest he's ever seen her.

“Me too,” Trevor moans. “There’s nothing to do until the storm stops, anyway. I’m going back to sleep.”

Alucard tries to rolls his eyes at them, but even to Trevor’s cynical gaze he looks overly fond and frankly borderline indulgent. There's a smile playing around his mouth, too, but since it's Alucard, it's really more in the eyes than in his face. His hair is still tangled- they need to get that combed out before it starts to mat. Trevor is looking forward to it- he's missed having somebody's mop to look after.

“I’ll tend the fire if Sypha starts it,” Alucard huffs, his breath raising steam.

“I’m going to hog the bed,” Trevor announces proudly, sweeping up the stairs after Alucard, Sypha trailing him with one of his hands clutched in both of hers. She’s still wet around the eyes, shedding a few tears, but she doesn’t seem interested in talking about it any further and so Trevor lets it go.

“When don’t you?” Alucard grumbles.

“When you two are sharing it with me,” Trevor says in what he hopes is a sly tone.

“Oooh, sneaky.” It’s Sypha’s turn to roll her eyes. Her hands don’t leave his as she gives it a little squeeze. Alucard, forging their way up the dark stairs and through the dim hallway, opens the door for them and motions to their little closet of a room, damp and dark but good enough, good enough.

Still bickering happily, they all step forward together.