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Halcyon

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The house is built and mostly done by the time summer, in all its ultra-saturated glory, finally hits them.

Sypha spends her days learning about how to grow herbs and other household plants from a few of the peasants who came to the village from the mountains. She’s never had the chance to garden before, and while Trevor knows that she’ll never shake true wanderlust from her bones, she has confessed that staying rooted has its perks. She’s taken particular delight in watching the medicinal flowers and herbs rise in the fields, and has more fun than any of them expected learning how to wield a scythe and cut down some of the wild overgrowth in what used to be productive crop lands on the Belmont estate. The women admire her strong muscles, her slim waist, and her hardworking nature, and Sypha soon finds herself among not just other women but friends newfound.

She finds a slow old horse abandoned in the woods and then another with a big scar on its leg and a limp, and if Trevor can’t bring himself to look the things straight in the eye without feeling some measure of apprehension that’s between him and Chester. She loves the things, and, given the chance, they follow her like dogs, lipping at children’s fingers and peering in windows as Sypha goes about her business teaching and learning in equal measure. She finds a cat, too, or- the cat finds her. The less said about him the better- he’s a bastard and Trevor likes him for it.

Contrary to what Trevor expected, Alucard, too, grows glorious in the summer heat. He stays out of the hot noon sun, but then again, so does everybody else. His looks- aristocratic and beautiful- have earned him a pass from their scant few villagers. They dismiss his noontime wanness early on as a particular frailty stemming from his uniquely well-bred lineage. (Trevor bites his tongue when he hears gossip about that, because holy shit.) It only seems to make him more popular with the old women, who pinch his cheeks with rough, wrinkled hands and make tutting noises when they find him swooned over in the shade again. How he manages to arrange himself so artfully, Trevor doesn’t know, and frankly, he doesn’t want to.

Alucard- Adrian to the villagers- goes about touching pregnant bellies with careful hands, mixing up poultices and medicines, and working hard with the men to clean the well up enough to drink from again. He ties up little scrapes on the children and rubs oiled salves on old shoulders, and the villagers love him for his gentleness even more than they love him for his strange fairytale sleeping sickness. Trevor supposes that part of their naiveté might stem from the simple fact that Trevor and he are close; it must seem unfathomable that Alucard could be anything but what he says he is if he lives alongside the nation’s last son of the Belmont house. He hears the children whispering that he’s an exiled prince from fairyland and bites his tongue again and again. (Holy shit doesn’t begin to cover it after a certain threshold.)

Ever the pragmatist to his two companions’ starry-eyed dreams for a better world, Trevor has been building their house with the help of some of the men. Their companionship is strange after so many years of alienation from his countrymen, and he tries to take it at face value. But still, sometimes he wonders: how easily did you sleep, and you, and you, while my family burned?

Questions like that don’t do any good to a soul, though, aren’t helpful, not really, and so he eats lunch with them and sweats with them and laughs with them and slowly, slowly builds up a house with them; peace builds between them too. The men slap him on his sweaty back and admire his scars and flex their muscles all together, trying to impress the women that have come to bring them food or water or fruit from abandoned trees. Trevor finds it easier and easier with every day to forget questions he has for these men that are unanswerable. He wonders if he should find it that easy- to forget, to move on, to heal.

They raise the roof up together, straining and pulling and yelling, and Trevor finds that there’s a necessary solace in indifference.

 

 

 

It’s sunset and the other men have gone back to the village, back to homes they’ve all repaired in fits and spurts together. Trevor has found a particular satisfaction in sealing a roof right, and though the fall rains are a long way off, the proximity of the river means that his work has had a few good tests already. He can’t stand walking into the village and seeing wet heads, so sue him.

Trevor is still working, polishing and sanding the door with a little scrap of greasy coarse wool. A shadow falls on him, cast long by the liquid sun as it lingers away, tucking itself into bed under the forest.

“The door is lovely,” Alucard says, though his tone is a bit off.

“Good,” Trevor says, standing up and giving a groan as his body protests the long day. He stretches his back, rolls his shoulders, feels some sweat sliding down his spine and over the rise and fall of his abdominals. “We got it cut right and mostly smoothed down. Nice of Sypha to ride the horses off and bring back some hinges. She said she’d be back in a few days.” The day has been hot enough that they’d all ditched their shirts pretty fast. Trevor arches his back, feels a satisfying pop that he gives another, deeper moan of appreciation for, and finally turns around to face Alucard.

Alucard looks like he’s trying to physically transcend this earthly world.

“You all right there?” Trevor asks.

“Yes,” he says, still curiously dazed looking. “What would you like for dinner?” He sounds like he’s strained but trying to move past it, so Trevor gives a shrug and tucks the wool in the hole in the door where he’ll eventually put a handle.

“Whatever you want to put in me,” he says casually, and watches with some astonishment as Alucard seems to physically struggle with himself before simply rushing past Trevor into the house. “Huh,” he comments, wiping some sweat off his forehead, and follows his boyfriend inside.

 

 

 

The house is dramatically smaller than the original Belmont mansion but still grander by half than anything he’s stayed in for years. Sypha’s magic has helped a great deal with some aspects- turns out assembling a staircase is much, much easier when you have a Speaker girlfriend who is happy to magically levitate the stones where they should be. It’s rough in spots because he’s no artisan, not really- Trevor takes some pleasure in imagining future descendants bitching about the crookedness of the entrance to the kitchen- but with the help of the villagers, it’s a reasonably solid frame. It’s small for now, with a work room, a kitchen, an entrance room and a wash room, and upstairs a few bedrooms. Nobody would mistake it for a mansion, certainly.

He’s fed a what feels like hundreds of letters from the nobles in the capital into the fire, their contents dripping with gratitude soaked in unrepentant obsequity, and has kept a scant few letters from ambitious builders who sent on interesting sketches. It feels unsettling to think about really, truly rebuilding the Belmont manor right now. It’s not a matter of money or titles: before he’d even had the chance to think about anything along those lines, before they’d even readied themselves to return home, a messenger in the capital had informed him that the Belmont name had been cleared and all back taxes, seized assets, and other valuables were being returned to the family. To me, he’d bitten his tongue to keep from saying, because you killed everybody else. He’d thanked the man and taken Sypha and Alucard out to eat at the nicest inn they could find.

He’s not quite ready to actually rebuild on the charred remains of his old life. He’s getting there, though- he thumbs through the papers he’s saved every few days, lingering on that detail, this shape. Give me time, he’d asked Sypha, and now he’s got it.

Everything is so damned perfect that Trevor doesn’t know what to do with it.

 

 

 

“S’good,” Trevor says into one of the little hand-carved wooden bowls Sypha had made for them while they were on the road. “What’s in it?”

“That’s my secret,” Alucard tells him very primly, pressed next to him in the dark of the kitchen. It’s lit dimly by one candle, though Trevor has no illusions about how much Alucard can see. “I hope Sypha will be all right,” he continues, and peers through the open gap that will eventually be a window but right now is just a hole in the wall. The heat has been such that Trevor hasn’t minded a breeze or five. With two extra bodies on him at night, too, he thinks back on the cold of winter with admittedly unrealistic fondness.

“She can set people on fire with her mind,” Trevor says automatically, finishing his dinner eagerly. “And summon lightning, and blow up the earth around you. Should I go on?”

“She’ll be fine, I know,” Alucard agrees, still looking out into the forest around their skinny-limbed awkward teenager of a house, “but I worry regardless. I would worry after you, as well.”

“Should have gone with her, then,” Trevor says, licking at his spoon now. Whatever that was, it really had been good. He hopes there’s another serving in it for him.

“I wanted to, at least as a wolf. She wouldn’t have it. She took one of the ladies with her- Ana- and said it was a ladies-only trip.” He sighs and makes a big show of looking as long-suffering as possible while gazing dramatically at the setting sun. Trevor looks at him searchingly. He supposes that he should feel moved by his immortal boyfriend’s ethereal beauty or whatever, but really he’s just interested in seconds.

“They wanted to gossip about dick,” Trevor snorts, “I guarantee it.” That shakes Alucard out of his dramatic beauty pose, and he huffs and turns to look at Trevor.

“There’s no need to be obscene. I have a bath drawn for you already. Go take it.”

Trevor raises his eyebrows.

“No seconds?” The answering wrinkle of Alucard’s nose makes Trevor laugh. He grins around his spoon, pulling it out of his mouth with an audible pop. Somewhat to Trevor’s surprise, he abruptly has Alucard’s absolute attention. Excellent. Maybe there’s a dessert he’s hiding, if Trevor is lucky. He made some kind of sticky rice cake a few weeks ago that Trevor has had a few pleasant daydreams about, actually. “No nice little surprises to fill me up?”

Alucard’s gaze narrows.

“Are you doing that on purpose?”

Trevor gives him a puzzled look, and is resultantly kicked very abruptly out of the kitchen. The irony of being kicked out of a kitchen you yourself are still in the middle of making is very much not lost on Trevor, even if the reason for him being booted is.

 

 

 

By the time Trevor is clean enough that he thinks Alucard will be satisfied, the candle is out in the kitchen. There’s nobody else around except for the villagers miles away, so Trevor doesn’t bother with a towel and simply wanders out of the bathing room nude.

He stands in the entrance with his toes on the edge of a battered rug one of the old women, Daniela, had given them. It’s thick and thin all over, and he scrunches his toes on the edge where the yarn makes it thick and plump-feeling. The wool is satisfyingly rough under his feet. He stands on it in the blue moonlight, soaking in the humid heat-laden air, the coolness of the wood floor, the barest give of the rug, all for the simple pleasure of it.

He can feel the slide of water over his skin, dripping from his hair to his shoulders to his belly and down. Alucard can’t scold him about dripping on the floors, not when Trevor himself is the one finishing them, and that brings a self-satisfied, mischievous smile to his lips. His skin tingles very faintly as a soft breeze comes through the house, teasing at a hint of coolness before vanishing.

Trevor pads upstairs, looking for Alucard in the darkness. Everything is silent, which likely means he’s gone to bed.

A frown pulls at his mouth- normally Alucard is eager to sit up in the evening and trade extensive stories of travels with Sypha, lounging with her sprawled over his lap, or pore over the grimoire with him, elbow-to-elbow as they research late into the night. Is he feeling unwell? He’s been off all evening, if Trevor is honest, and it’s been quite a while since it was just the two of them with no Sypha. In fact- and here he pauses at the landing of the stairs, contemplating- they’ve never really had more than a day or two apart from her since they all united.

Or- wait- that’s not true. Trevor left them both for a while when he was a bird in Baba Yaga’s lands, didn’t he? Even if he came to visit them like that, it obviously wasn’t the same- especially since he doesn’t even remember that time, not really, outside of a faint impression like sun on the skin.

He’s trying to decide if Alucard might be hesitant about being truly alone with him when a pale shape appears in the doorway of their shared bedroom. For appearances’ sake they all have separate ones, but they mostly just function as sulking spaces when somebody is irritated at somebody else and the weather is bad outside.

“Are you coming to bed?” Alucard asks, something in his tone verging on impatient.

“Yeah,” Trevor replies easily, shifting and climbing the last few stairs. He hears Alucard make a noise- a soft inhale and then a sharp huff out- as Trevor comes up to stand right in front of him. He’s wearing a white linen shift, the nerd. He looks like a housewife with his long hair and his longer nightrobe. “What’s up? It’s pretty early for you to go to bed, isn’t it?” The moon spills in the void of an eventual window, stroking up Alucard’s heel like the desperate hand of a jilted lover.

“I don’t think so,” Alucard says, putting a hand out to touch gently at Trevor’s waist. “Or, perhaps it would be considered early to sleep.”

“Oh?” Trevor says, thinking, and then, into Alucard’s lavender-smelling hair, combed and washed this morning, as he embraces Trevor and presses the faintest drag of his fangs over the curve of his neck, “oh.

“Come help me tie up my hair,” Alucard says quietly, looping his arms around Trevor’s waist and walking them both backwards. His touch is gentle but Trevor knows from experience that if he tries to move against them they’ll be as immovable as iron bands. Not for the last time, Trevor reflects that it’s almost unpleasant how hot that gets him. It should worry him, but Alucard has never misused him, and so now he can’t bring himself to worry, not really.

Trevor puts his hands on Alucard’s back, but one hand comes away to fondly to stroke back Alucard’s hair from his face almost by instinct.

“What’s got you all riled up?” he asks. It isn’t that he minds, but really, he’s just curious.

“When I saw you this evening,” Alucard confesses in between kisses, little brushes of his tongue along Trevor’s stubble, soft nibbles that come off as puppyish in their eagerness despite the fact that Trevor knows he could rip his throat out in the blink of an eye, “your body slick with sweat, half-naked, all I could imagine was you bent over under me.”

“Oh really,” Trevor laughs, suddenly understanding Alucard’s flustered exit. They’re halfway to their pile of sheets and hay mattress- a bed is a luxury Trevor hasn’t yet begun to seek out. Alucard has grumbled a little, but Sypha and Trevor are content enough, so he’s resolutely tried his best to make it as soft as possible with what little he has to work with.

“I imagined that it was me making you sweat,” Alucard confirms, sinking down backwards onto their mattress, his hands on Trevor’s forearms, “as I worked my way into your body.”

Trevor doesn’t balk, exactly, but he does pause before being pulled down on top of Alucard. He lands in his lap, legs spread to catch his weight so that he’s straddling Alucard’s narrow hips. Usually Trevor doesn’t notice their height difference, but positioned like this it’s impossible to not notice, not when Alucard is leaning up and over him and making the kind of eye contact Trevor’s pretty sure is still a sin in some villages. That he’s naked and Alucard isn’t doesn’t help either.

“Do you know why I want a bed so badly?” he continues in a conversational tone, dragging his hand up Trevor’s still-wet back to snag at his hair and force his head back. Legs caught open around Alucard’s body, Trevor doesn’t have enough leverage to do much more than lean on the other man, especially as he’s forced even further back, far enough that if Alucard lets go of him he’ll fall over backwards.

“Fuck,” Trevor breathes, voice shaking, going ragged and rough. There’s no way Alucard hasn’t noticed that Trevor has gone from soft to half-mast inside a second, no way he hasn’t noticed that he himself is rock hard against Trevor’s ass where he’s been pulled to sit on his dick. “I thought you were just being a picky spoiled brat, like always.”

Alucard jerks Trevor’s head back just a little more, shifting so his arm is supporting Trevor’s spine. The position change serves the dual purpose of easing the strain on Trevor’s body and easing the strain on his nerves; the subtle reminder that he’s attentive to Trevor’s comfort is more soothing than any number of heartfelt proclamations of love could be.

“Watch your tongue,” Alucard reprimands him, eyes gone garnet and glowing in the moonlight, which makes Trevor’s brain short-circuit a little more, makes him go haywire inside as his instincts scream predator predator predator while his mind relaxes supine and trusting in Alucard’s hands. “No, the reason I want a bed is so that I can pin you down,” he dips his head down and gives a sharp little nip, a half-bite that makes Trevor yelp and then moan, “holding your wrists in my hands, with your face into the feather mattress,” he gives another bite, and another, shifting his hips to rub himself up against Trevor’s bare ass as he squirms desperately for more contact, and he can feel a growing spot of wetness under him from Alucard’s cock even through his nightshirt, “and fuck you so hard that the bed sings out our coupling.”

“Jesus,” Trevor says, feeling a little faint, reasonably sure that all available blood in his body has suddenly flown to his dick. “Jesus fuck.”

“You’ve heard stories about brides needing to take a day of rest after their first night in the conjugal bed?” Alucard continues, dragging his lips over the column of Trevor’s throat, using his free hand to rake his nails down over his side, the touch of his fingers lingering over the flex of muscles, the slide of Trevor’s skin over bone and flesh. Trevor’s thighs are locked around Alucard’s waist by now, and he’s working as hard as he can to get the faintest bit of a rock against Alucard’s body, trying to catch the slightest touch of friction on his cock. Alucard isn’t letting him get much more than that. He hates it. It’s amazing.

“Sure,” Trevor agrees, trying to sound even and failing badly, “but I don’t think you’re trying to put any babes in my belly.” Alucard snorts indelicately, trailing his tongue over the divot of Trevor’s breastbone.

“There’s no harm in working hard at trying,” he laughs, a smile curving on his lips that Trevor can feel even from where it’s pressed against a pec, “after all, didn’t you say you wanted plenty of children?”

“From Sypha,” Trevor laughs, and he hears Alucard laugh too in the darkness before he leans down and forward and presses his forehead against Alucard’s own. “If I have to make them myself, I’ve got some questions,” and then they’re both laughing, horny and twined together but too tickled by the idea of Trevor doing the repopulation effort of the Belmont line himself to continue for the moment.

 

 

 

In that in-between time, long before the sun is up but well after they’ve fallen asleep, Trevor pulls the blankets up further over Alucard’s sleeping form and gets out of their little nest. Without Sypha, the bed feels oddly expansive, as if Trevor could just drift off and vanish over some unseen horizon.

He stands in the morning chill and looks out over the forest just beyond the Belmont wall. Mist rises from the trees like ghostly feathers, creeping up and out in such a thick sheet that it eats up the earth and heavens behind it. All that’s left is mist and fog and wetness, stretching infinitely into an unknown void. Even the stars fall silent in the clutch of nothingness.

Trevor walks out of the room in search of clothing. Behind him, he can hear Alucard tossing in his sleep.

 

 

 

When he comes back, hours later, the dawn is just sending gentle tendrils of light into the sky, though against the hard grey of the sky they’re hard to see. It’s still foggy, but the mist is slowly dissipating. Alucard is still asleep- or, more accurately, he’s lying still where Trevor was earlier. Trevor pauses in the threshold of their bedroom, leaning a shoulder against the doorframe as he hooks his thumbs in his pants, considering.

Alucard moves slightly. Trevor sees the movement for what it is- an arm reaching out for the other presences he’s used to, coming up empty instead. Trevor starts to undo the laces of his pants, stepping into the room finally; by the time Alucard has sat up, putting a hand to his face that hides his eyes, Trevor is crouched down next to him.

“You’re all wet,” he comments, voiced fogged with sleep. His hands come out to cup Trevor’s face instead of his own; Trevor, surprised by the gesture, lets him.

“Misty out,” Trevor says, shifting to peel his wet pants off. His tunic will have to go too.

“You smell good,” Alucard breathes, voice still slow and dreamy, his consciousness still as ephemeral and fleeting as the fog itself. Trevor knows from experience that the earlier in the morning it is, the sleepier Alucard is. He hadn’t expected him to wake at all. Alucard’s fingers pet at Trevor’s jaw, at the line of his jaw and the rough scratch of his beard over it. The gentle, slow leisure of the caress makes Trevor break out into goosebumps. “Where did you go?”

“To the graves,” Trevor says quietly.

“Oh,” Alucard says just as quietly, and leans in to kiss at Trevor’s temple. Trevor closes his eyes. “Come back to bed.”

“If you’ll have me,” he half-laughs ruefully, but that’s quiet too, and not really a joke if he’s honest. He’s wet and probably a little dirty now. He could understand being turned away.

“Always,” Alucard tells him with his mouth still pressed to Trevor’s temple. He can feel the way his skin vibrates with Alucard’s voice.

“You’re good to me,” Trevor concedes, and leans back to slowly strip. He turns to look out the window at the forest as he peels off his shirt, using it to ruffle some of the wetness out of his hair. The wet has made his new linen breeches cling, so he has to swing his hips a bit and wriggle to escape them.

“Come in right away,” Alucard mumbles, flipping the blankets up. “Hurry.”

“What’s the rush?” Trevor turns back to him, rubbing his palms over his skin to chase away the remaining wetness on him.

“I told you, you smell good,” Alucard huffs, opening his mouth to give what could be called a childish yawn on somebody who didn’t possess inch-long fangs. “Come.”

“Fine,” Trevor replies, too weary from his earlier trek to really feel anything other than bemused. When he curls under their blankets, trying to tuck himself against Alucard’s body, Alucard immediately rolls on top of him. He presses his face to Trevor’s hair, then his throat, and then he dips down to inhale at his chest, at his hip, and then down lower.

“You smell like the rain and young greenery and pine,” Alucard says from under the covers, body wound up tight like a dragon coiled over his horde. He inhales before giving a heavy huff. The blankets move up and down over him.

“I’m still wet,” Trevor points out, his hands finding Alucard’s shoulders under the covers. “I thought we had a no-mud rule in the bedroom?”

Based on the fact that lips trace the line of a muscle along his hip, Trevor supposes that rule might have been suspended temporarily.

“Lie still,” Alucard tells Trevor from somewhere below and yet over him. “Let me touch you.”

“Sure,” Trevor agrees, admittedly somewhat mystified by the sudden intensity of Alucard’s interest. But he obeys, and lies still and slowly warming under the covers as Alucard goes over him from heels (bloodied just a few days ago from a few uppity weeds as he worked barefoot to clear the fields) to hamstrings (taut from his walk but loosening as he lies still, feeing a slow emanation of heat from Alucard brewing up like a heating kettle) to heart (Alucard lies his head over his breast and listens, listens).

“You okay?” he asks, when Alucard lies there with an unearthly stillness, his hair long and loose and in need of brushing. They’d been too busy last night, and then too tired, to put it up. Trevor finds the act of untangling Alucard’s and Sypha’s hair pleasurable, knows that they know he does by how often he does it for them. It’s an act tied up too tightly in the bonds had had with his sisters to be anything but an expression of love.

Alucard only shifts and wraps his arms around Trevor, closing his eyes to listen to Trevor’s heart more intensely. Trevor, losing the chill of the forest, taking on the heat of their household, lifts a hand and strokes it down Alucard’s head. Alucard sighs, curling into the touch like a young cat who hasn’t yet figured out how to keep his tail straight.

He may have his graves to visit and his ghosts to look after, but Trevor can be honest here: at least he has graves. The country has deemed the Belmonts worth mourning, and he still receives condolences from every letter that arrives in his hands. As painful as it is, and as cynically as he receives them, the fact is that there are others to stand beside him as he mourns his dead family.

Alucard has nothing.

The castle is gone, shattered into pieces and dissolved into the air in glistening shards of mirror-glass that faded into ether. His father is gone, lain still and bloodied and mad to the last breath, body dissolved into small grains of what Trevor suspects to have been mirror-glass as well. His mother is gone, burned as a witch and roasted like a forgotten goose until her bones glistened with oil and snapped under their own weight.

He hasn’t said anything about his home, his father, or his mother since they left the castle.

Trevor understands why: how can you mourn with the man and woman who helped you kill your father? It isn’t as if he can share joyful memories with them, not really. The last they’d seen of Dracula, Alucard had been holding him tenderly in his arms as his beloved father cursed them all, blood spilling out his mouth and over his chin, his body slowly melting into glistening, shimmering sand. His blood had turned to mirror-grains too, and he had dissolved from toes up, fingers down, body going slack and eyes blank but filled with endless, distant sadness.

Alucard hadn’t said a word as he watched. He had only gone silent and still as well. In that moment, Trevor had seen the resemblance between the two for the first and only time: his eyes, too, had been flooded with that same sadness; the empty, hollowed-out look of a man whose soul had gone wandering from grief. He had come back to himself in the days after, with rest and careful attention from Sypha and Trevor and the endless gratitude, once they hit civilization again, of the people. But still he’d said nothing, not of his old home and not of his parents.

And yet, even so, Trevor wishes Alucard would say something, or ask for anything, anything at all.

Alucard shifts a little closer, pulling his legs up to drape over Trevor. The pose is oddly childish, as close to fetal as a leggy, tiger-lean thing like he can manage.

Trevor tickles behind an ear with the tip of an index finger.

Maybe, Trevor muses, continuing to stroke Alucard’s head, he has been asking for something, actually. He’s been clingier than before, has wanted more attention than he had on the road, has been attentive and more eager to please than he usually is. In his own way, Trevor supposes, Alucard has been asking, voicelessly, for comfort where he knows words will fail them all. Reassurance, perhaps, that they at least would not abandon him.

“Alucard,” Trevor says, settling on that idea like a bird on a perch.

“Mm?” he asks from his position on Trevor’s chest. The rumble of his voice vibrates on Trevor’s skin and into his breastbone.

“I’m glad you came here,” he says, still petting him, fingers combing through to scratch lightly at his scalp. “Home, I mean.”

There’s a silence. Alucard inhales once, then twice before he starts to tense up from the belly out. Trevor still touches him, still working down that long sleek glint of hair that shines gold even in the dark gray of a day like this.

“I would follow you,” Alucard says, “anywhere.”

Trevor lets that sit heavily between them, considering it from several angles. Finally he says: “I’m glad you’re here.”

Alucard buries his face in Trevor’s chest, shoulders hitching up before shaking as he weeps silently, and Trevor holds him tight.

 

 

 

Despite the grim start to the morning, by the time Trevor has gone down to the village to confirm a day off and then come back, they’re both in a better mood.

“Sypha should be back at the end of the week,” Trevor grumps, but he’s kicking his boots off and leaning to the side so Alucard can give him a welcome-back kiss. His hair is up in an absurd little housebun- Trevor had braided and pinned it for him before leaving. He’s wearing an ugly old housecoat over his nightgown, has a little towel in hand to touch the pans with. It looks damned ridiculous. Trevor fights a goofy grin as he watches Alucard work at the hearth: housewife.

“So long?” Alucard asks, though for some reason he doesn’t sound terribly surprised.

“She sent word back of some kind of bazaar. I guess a bunch of the villagers headed out with Madge hitched up to the cart to see if they could get extra supplies.” He sniffs and edges around Alucard, who easily shifts to block Trevor from the hearth. He’s a man on a mission, though: he smells breakfast.

“Nails would be nice,” Alucard acknowledges. “And glass for windows, if they could swing it.”

“Keep dreaming,” Trevor snorts, coiling back to regroup. “They might find some chickens, though.”

Alucard raises an eyebrow. Trevor raises one back.

“Normal colors, I presume.”

“Damn well better be. It’d make culling them damned awkward when they stop laying otherwise.”

“Is it cannibalism, I wonder?” Alucard muses casually, turning back to stirring their breakfast and minding a pan with two eggs in it.

“If Sypha hears you on that she’s going to punch you in the nuts,” Trevor tells him seriously, before trying to feint around Alucard to get at the meal.

“I hope not,” Alucard grunts, “I need those.” He reaches out and catches Trevor around the middle, picking him up and spinning him around away from the hearth. He flashes a sharp smile at Trevor, bouncing him to set him on his hip. It doesn’t escape Trevor’s notice that he chooses an arrangement he’s seen the village lasses swept up into. They’re usually giggling and squirming, and the disapproving tuts of the old folk can be heard like distant, harrying birds.

“Christ on a stick,” Trevor breathes, bracing his hands on Alucard’s shoulders. He always forgets. He always forgets how strong Alucard is. Judging from the way Alucard looks at him fondly, with a little quirk of an arrogant smile at the corner of his mouth, he knows it. “You gonna’ squeeze my bum when you put me down and tell Old Maria it was just an accident?”

“Where’s the fun in that?” Alucard asks, looking up at him, leaning back a little to center their weight. “She’s not here to scold me.”

“Want to go back to bed after breakfast?” Trevor asks, shifting. He can’t free himself without throwing them into the hearth, and while the position he’s in isn’t the most dignified, he’s not that opposed to it.

“We should probably get some things done while Sypha’s gone,” Alucard huffs, bouncing Trevor again. Trevor gives him a scornful look, struggling to keep his balance even though he’s reasonably confident Alucard won’t let him fall.

“Really? You two didn’t get shit done when I had to go over to the next village to sort out that cow problem.” In fact, he’d come home to find that they had actually half-broken a bannister, much to Alucard’s chagrin. Sypha had offered to fully break it with Trevor to make it up to him.

“Yes,” Alucard agrees smoothly, finally letting Trevor down. He does, in fact, grope Trevor’s ass as he lets him go, making direct eye contact as he does. It’s so over-the-top assertive that Trevor is almost taken aback. “It’s a good thing you have so much more impulse control than us.”

“You’re a bastard,” Trevor growls, leaning back against the kitchen table. He rubs his jaw, trying to will himself to calm down. He’s got it bad, doesn’t he? Jumping and eager just from being picked up. What is he, a literal dog? He feels a little guilty, now that he thinks on it- Alucard was in a bad state this morning, and though he seems better now, Trevor of all people knows that what you choose to show isn’t necessarily what’s going on under the surface. He studies the forest out in the morning gloom, contemplating what he can get done in all this dark and chill. Cut some young trees, maybe? It can’t hurt to have more wood drying, after all.

“I’m not opposed, though,” Alucard says slowly, stirring still. “Don’t misunderstand. Really, there isn’t much else to do, is there? Just you.” And he lifts his head and gives Trevor a decidedly

toothy

grin.

“Oh,” Trevor comments, abandoning thoughts of industry with a paradoxical level of industriousness.

Alucard pulls him into a kiss, hands on his face to grab him in, and doesn’t complain in the least when Trevor sets his hands on the small of his back and the firm swell of his bottom. They sway together, kissing back and forth slowly, Trevor forcing himself to slow and relax to enjoy it. Like a man in starvation being sat at a feast, he’s used to lunging in to pleasure for the quick satisfaction of it, desperate to glut himself on touch, on warmth, on intimacy before it’s jerked out of his grasp once more.

He’s learning how to relax in an embrace, how to relish being held without fearing an inevitable loss. Alucard in particular seems to have taken an unusual amount of pleasure in teaching him this lesson, over and over if Trevor allows him to. Sypha enjoys an end to the chase, takes pleasure in unexpected pounces and surprise advances, but Alucard is the one who loves pinning them down to kiss and touch them for what feels like eternity; Alucard is the one who likes to edge them both up until they’re teetering on the brink, following them both slowly at his own salacious pace.

There’s a joke to be made about stamina and patience there, but hell if Trevor can be bothered to make it when Alucard is backing him up against the kitchen table, still kissing him and grinding now against Trevor’s slightly damp form.

“You smell good again,” Alucard huffs between kisses, drawing his teeth along Trevor’s bottom lip, his hands sliding down over his shoulders to clutch at his chest, then his ribs, then his thighs before starting to roam in earnest.

“You have some kind of fetish for the smell of nature?” Trevor laughs, rolling back his head to allow Alucard to kiss, then nip, at his throat. Alucard sways against Trevor, reaching down to pet between his legs, nails catching at the laces of his pants. It makes Trevor squirm against his hold, breath coming a little quicker. “I guess you’ve moved to the right place then.”

“I’m not used to you smelling so palatable,” Alucard says smugly against Trevor’s skin, and then that tide-wash of pleasure sweeps up and through him again as he leisurely presses his clothed erection against Trevor’s. Alucard is in that ugly housecoat, his hair bound up, and though it should be strange and unpalatable, it comes off as impossibly sexy. If he thinks about it, it isn’t hard to decide why: Alucard, always well-pressed and presentable, is currently too busy slaking his lusts with Trevor to care how he looks. Being desired so strongly is a heady brew indeed.

“I just washed last night,” Trevor says, not even sure himself if he’s protesting. “Didn’t I smell good then?”

“Now you smell like greenery,” Alucard tells him, bracing his hands on the table around Trevor’s hips to start rocking against him, “and water, instead of soaps and perfumes. Both are good, but one is better.”

“Hmmm,” Trevor says, eyes falling shut as he lets the slow creep of that pleasure start a procession up his spine. He pushes himself against Alucard, shifting and arching his back to get the right angle- the sweetness of that gentle pressure, for once, is more rewarding than just throwing Alucard down and grabbing for what he wants. They rut leisurely against each other, sighing their enjoyment, rhythmically accompanied by the faint creak of the kitchen table. Trevor moves his hands to wrap his arms around Alucard’s shoulders; Alucard takes this as a sign that he should bite tenderly at Trevor’s lip, mindful of his fangs.

Outside, the trees start to hiss in the wind. Distantly Trevor thinks about rain, hoping that Sypha is somewhere dry, while he curves his spine and lifts his hips and clutches a hand at the base of Alucard’s neck, pressing into the touches and kisses and fire-spark pleasure they’re kindling between them. He tucks his head down and presses his forehead against Alucard’s, moving with him, breathing with him, bracing and tightening like a bow being strung after a long period lain dormant.

Alucard keeps his hands where they are on the table, bracketing Trevor in, but he ducks his head down to catch Trevor’s mouth with his own again, kissing and biting until Trevor gets the hint and opens for him. Alucard licks in before sucking on his tongue, his eyes shut and his expression-- his expression... Trevor usually shuts his eyes when kissing too, but in this moment he can’t bring himself to. Alucard looks rapturous, a flush raised on his fair features, his eyebrows tilted up in the sort of trusting bliss Trevor imagines one usually only sees in animals or children enjoying jam. His face, normally drawn into sharp lines, is slack now as he moves with Trevor towards a common bright goal.

So Trevor watches, his own vision growing hazy, as their pace picks up and the table squeaks and Alucard and Trevor stretch and flex to rub their clothed bodies against each other like schoolboys fumbling in the woods. He swallows and feels his Adam’s apple bob, watches how Alucard’s mouth falls open as they grind faster and harder together, angling to hit just that right flash-fire spot between them both. He watches how Alucard bites his own lip, feels his hands clamp on to Trevor’s waist as he drags them both closer together and thrusts the outline of his cock, laid out in heat and pressure and firmness, against Trevor’s.

“I’m going to,” Alucard says, shivering now, color riding the high lines of his cheekbones, and still Trevor watches him seriously, deadly seriously, drinking in this hidden vision that’s been in front of him the whole time but never yet seen.

“Come on,” Trevor breathes, spreading his legs a little to let Alucard closer. He takes the opening with an aggression normally reserved for their fights, his hands sliding down to drag at Trevor’s ass, massaging and petting and finally curling his nails in. His face goes wild and he bares his teeth, fangs out and glistening in the dimness of the kitchen, and he jerks once, twice, thrice and gives a long press against Trevor. Then one last surge of tension, a growl- and he sighs, relaxation spreading through him. Through it Trevor watches Alucard’s face, unwatched himself, and he finds such a rush of tenderness coming up in himself that he completely forgets his own arousal, stunned as he is by this sudden welling of emotion.

Trevor eases them both to sit on the chair, letting Alucard settle happily on his lap. He watches the flicker and flutter of those golden lashes as he finally opens his eyes again.

Alucard tips his head onto Trevor’s shoulder, hands smoothing up and down his sides, looking lax and content and ready to go to sleep right here in the kitchen. He frowns after a moment, though, and lifts his head.

“You didn’t-?”

Trevor shrugs.

“Hold still,” Alucard says, and ever the man of action slithers down in front of Trevor. He mouths at Trevor’s erection through his pants, seemingly quite happy to get on his knees for him.

“Hmmm,” Trevor hums. He combes his fingers through a few hairs escaped from the tyranny of his pinned-up braid. Alucard’s eyes flash up to meet Trevor’s, brow tensed slightly. His hands come up to pet at Trevor’s still-clothed cock, playing with the fabric, applying pressure in leisurely tests- there? There? There, Alucard  seems to decide, working his fingers up and down, mouth curling up in a catlike smile at Trevor shifts just the slightest bit, legs spreading a bit. He leans in to nuzzle again, pressing his lips against the hard outline of Trevor. The very faintest impression of teeth can be felt, though it might just be nerves.

“Don’t bite me down there,” Trevor pleads, sounding nervous where he wanted to stay cool. He licks his lips, eyes still fixed on Alucard’s face. He isn’t worried that he’ll do it on purpose, but even Trevor has caught Alucard’s dick with his teeth now and then. He’s never gotten a blowjob from Alucard, and frankly has never gotten up the nerve to even ask for one. Alucard is a generous lover, so Trevor has presumed that the lack of reciprocity in that arena is likely for a very good reason.

“Don’t be so worried,” Alucard replies, watching him back now, expression tripping into curiosity, the sort of expression he gets when he discovers an interesting puzzle or particularly savory conundrum.

“It’s the only dick I have,” Trevor retorts, watching Alucard unlace his pants slowly, as if unwrapping a package he knows he’ll enjoy. “Sorry if I’m a little precious with it.”

Precious with it,” Alucard says, drawing out the word carefully. He usually draws Trevor out of his pants- he likes to look at him, likes to see how his cock swells and juts and twitches for him. He likes to run his fingers up his shaft and feel how he pulses, see the slow beading of precome. But today, this morning of all others, he keeps Trevor in his pants and shifts to get a hand in after him instead, face turned up to watch Trevor right back.

Trevor swallows. Alucard gives him a stroke, then another, palm rubbing at the underside of his cock, thumb tucking to drag the skin with him and get Trevor’s hips moving. He still gazes up seriously, watching Trevor, who in some sense of fair play can’t bring himself to look away or close his eyes. It feels- it’s almost too much, like this, being watched back, but there’s just enough trust between them now, just enough respect and tenderness and familiarity, that Trevor can hold his gaze and try his hardest to show Alucard what Alucard just showed him.

He clenches his jaw, unclenches it to pant, and wets his lips instead: Alucard is stroking him from root to tip, teasing at the skin of his balls when he can reach, rubbing his thumb over the head of his cock to smear precome about when he comes up again. Trevor lifts his chin, panting more heavily, and swallows hard. He feels his Adam’s apple bob hard. Still Alucard is watching him, eyes slightly narrowed but not in contempt, so Trevor looks back, feeling his own expression slide into vulnerability, apprehension, in response.

“Easy,” Alucard soothes. “Easy.” He continues working Trevor’s cock, rising up a little on his knees to get a better angle for his wrist. His brow comes down further before he finally reaches in to pull Trevor out of his pants, eyes darting away for only a moment to take the sight in with evident satisfaction before he looks Trevor in the eyes again. His eyes are gold, red spilling around the edges slowly. Trevor shudders again, wets his lips again. Sighs. The trees outside do too, rustling in a vigorous chorus that heralds an approaching downpour.

Alucard urges him closer, pulling at his pants and then his hips: “Come forward.”

Trevor is at the edge of the seat before Alucard is satisfied. He isn’t left to puzzle the position for too long: Alucard leans down, tipping his head so that he can still watch Trevor, and licks up the bottom of Trevor’s cock.

“Fuck,” Trevor says, jerking. Alucard works him with his hands while licking at his shaft, his head, teasing at his slit and then working under the angled swell of his glans, and all through it his eyes are locked on Trevor’s.

Trevor shudders helplessly under this treatment, bucks and tenses and rocks and grabs the chair under him with shaking hands. If he were to lay a hand on Alucard’s head it would block either of their views like as not, and whatever’s going on he’s not about to interrupt just to get a handhold.

“Please,” Trevor asks, thighs going tense, shaking, his cock and Alucard’s eyes on his and the wet hot press of his mouth the center of his world, the outermost limits of his existence. “Please, please, Alucard, I want you to, fuck,” and he goes on, begging when Alucard is still giving him everything he wants and more.

He feels Alucard reach back into his pants, loosening the lacings all the way, and he’s too busy feeling faint and impossibly needy to protest when Alucard’s slender fingers go under the drawn softness of his balls and press at the spot right behind.

That sends his shoulders shaking, and Trevor fights with himself to keep his eyes open, to keep looking at Alucard even as his heart jumps into his throat and his belly wrings tight and his body tries to work its way back down onto the gentle press of those fingers like it’s a physical imperative. The angle is bad for him- Alucard, as usual, holds all the cards. His thighs shake with tension; he gives a little moan of helplessness and watches more red slide into Alucard’s eyes.

“Do you like it? Is it too much? Not enough?”

He can’t speak, just shakes his head helplessly and starts to pant open-mouthed, which Alucard smiles at. He licks carefully at the tip of Trevor’s cock, smiling more when Trevor gives a shout and the chair creaks under the tension of his grip. Trevor rocks his hips into Alucard’s hand uselessly, chasing that surge of bliss again; still licking at Trevor’s head, polishing at his slit with hot quick swipes of his tongue, Alucard presses his fingers up against that delicate spot behind Trevor’s balls again and starts rubbing and then he presses up hard but just perfectly so and Trevor finally has to close his eyes, because his world has gone black with brilliant flashes of white and a thunderbolt has gone off between his ears, leaving him shaking and shouting and flying apart into a million pieces, each of them illuminated in a different chained bolt of color that sends shuddering, shaking pleasure through him.

It’s so overwhelming that he can’t recall where he is for a moment when he next opens his eyes.

He’s slumped in Alucard’s arms, lying with him on the kitchen floor. His body is so wrung out from whatever just happened that he actually feels sore. His shoulders ache and his thighs burn, and under it still there’s a steady current of low-lying pleasure, like he’s stumbled into a riverbed when all he’s used to is quick draughts from a well. He feels it like a hand over him, keeping him still and quiet and at peace.

Alucard presses his forehead against Trevor’s when he sees he’s come back from the most mind-blowing orgasm he’s ever had. They lie there together and listen: it starts to rain, slowly at first and then harder and harder until it sends splatters of wet into the house in a fine mist.

“Christ,” Trevor says, though there’s no fire in it. He shivers; this time it’s from cold.

“A profitable day already,” Alucard comments, sitting up and adjusting himself under his housecoat with a frown. He shifts and makes a disgusted face, hunching like a cat splashed with water. “I think I’ll change.”

Trevor says nothing and watches him from the floor. Alucard goes to check the pottage, takes it off the fire but leaves it cooking still, and frowns philosophically at the eggs.

“They’re all crispy at the edges and a little brown,” Alucard says, tilting the pant to show Trevor. “Do you think they’ll still be good?”

“Good enough,” Trevor shrugs. He finally sits up, running a hand through his hair. “I’ve had worse, and so have you.”

“True,” Alucard says, still holding the pan, and he locks eyes with Trevor. Trevor returns the look for just a moment before looking away, shivering in what he tells himself is the sudden wet and cold the rainstorm has brought. “Let’s eat and then read together in bed.”

“I feel like I should do something more,” Trevor comments, standing up and shifting uneasily. God gave women a real gift when he granted them their sex organs, Trevor reflects ruefully: nothing worse than cooling cum in the pants. “You know, something industrious or some crap like that.”

The world suddenly goes very, very white, and the following darkness is punctuated by such a loud crash that Trevor and Alucard both jump. Trevor leaps to the window to scan the horizon: no fires that he can see. Not yet anyway. Hopefully it’s been humid enough that even if something does get lit up by the lightning, it’ll snuff itself out.

“Fuck,” Alucard says in a rare instance of blue language, a hand brought up to cover his eyes. Trevor considers the eggs that have fallen into the kitchen hearthfire briefly before moving in to attend to his suddenly-blinded half-vampire boyfriend.

 

 

 

“You know,” Trevor tells Alucard, who is curled miserably at his side with a pillow over his head, “It’s actually my birthday this coming week.”

Alucard lifts the pillow to look at him curiously. Thunder crashes again, making Alucard huff and pull the pillow over his face again. It isn’t the noise, precisely, and it isn’t the light, specifically, but the intensity together that’s made Alucard retire and Trevor go with him. The rain is coming down in sheets, sprinkling inside the house through the empty window-holes when it can reach, but Alucard and Trevor are warm after a mediocre breakfast and a satisfying morning liason, not in that order.

Trevor had been silently, broodingly worried about Sypha until Alucard reminded him that she has that handy umbrella spell she mastered this spring. Now he just wishes she were here so he could steal all her heat and make her light the hearth in the bedroom.

“Is it,” Alucard says from under the pillow. His words, usually crisply spoken, take on a mumbling quality when emanating from underneath a contained pile of goose down.

“Yeah,” Trevor confirms, turning the pages of the grimoire, looking fondly at an illustration of a kelpie as it dives and twists in its inky water. “I was a summer baby. All my sisters were born in the winter, but not me.”

“How exceptional,” Alucard snorts. He sounds skeptical.

“Anyway, I hope Sypha will be back before then,” Trevor continues, “maybe we can eat something nice or whatever.” He looks hopefully at the pillow that hides Alucard but doesn’t say anything. Sticky rice, he thinks optimistically. “I can catch some fish at the stream and smoke them.”

“Sounds good,” Alucard says after a pause, emerging from the bedding like a snail from his shell. The rain is still coming down. He stretches and sprawls across Trevor’s legs, hair gradually coming more and more loose from its braid.

“And uh, I was thinking, too,” Trevor continues, flipping the pages randomly, looking at a rock golem, a skeleton, a demon, “that maybe we could… you know, uh, maybe we could, uh.” He goes silent and flips the pages some more: mermaid, harpy, succubus, incubus. He gives the grimoire an annoyed, tight-lipped stare.

Alucard turns his head to look at Trevor, blinking questioningly. The eye contact is an abrupt reminder of earlier, and Trevor finds himself turning pink around the edges under the stare.

“I figured maybe, if you wanted, we could…” He coughs. “You could, um,” holy shit he’s killed more monsters than he can count on all of their hands combined but this is what’s hard to get out? What the fuck is his life, really. “We could fuck,” he tries, and it sounds deeply casual like that but at least it’s out there.

“Happily,” says Alucard slowly, carefully, blinking at him as he sits up. Hm. Not the reaction he was expecting. “In… the usual fashion?”

“I was thinking maybe,” Trevor pauses.

Alucard and he look at each other in silence. Alucard won’t say it, Trevor knows. He hasn’t directly asked Trevor to think about being penetrated since that day half a year ago, has only spun his fantasies for his own amusement. He’s made no advances or overtures to move beyond what they already do.

Trevor, confused, had asked Sypha about that at one point.

‘I don’t think he wants to pressure you,’ she’d said like she was talking to an idiot, and when she said it like that it did sound kind of stupidly obvious, didn’t it? So really, there’s only one way to go about this, isn’t there?

“I want you to take me,” Trevor says very deliberately, forcing the words out, feeling awkward and vulnerable as he says it. Thinking about it is one thing. Fantasizing about it is one thing. Explicitly, directly asking for it is another. “With Sypha here,” he adds quickly. He wants her there partially because he knows she’s eager to see it happen, but also partially because he wants the comfort of having them both there for it. Having them both there for him. “With you both here. Obviously. I guess that would be sort of mandatory attendance for you, anyway. And me.”

Alucard stares at him unblinkingly.

“If you want,” Trevor says in a quiet voice.

“I do,” Alucard says, lightning flashing, and by the time Trevor can see again Alucard has flung himself up to pull Trevor down, peppering him with kisses and caresses and eager, murmured promises of pleasure.

“You’re squashing the book,” Trevor protests, moving to shove Alucard off of him.

“Fuck the book,” Alucard huffs, still clutching at Trevor.

“Gross,” Trevor comments, “I don’t even know where you’d put it.”

So that starts a fight that’s good fun.


 

Chapter Text


 

The next morning it’s all rain and dark skies again. Trevor and Alucard start down to the village as it starts to get light, walking through the mud of the road in comfortable silence. There’s nothing else to do, not since they took their day in yesterday, so they might as well see if there’s anything needed down in the village. The idea of it is made less appealing by the sweeps of heavy rain followed by dense mists that are rolling through the landscape, but they’re out and walking before the true misery of the weather makes itself known.

By the time they come to the forest outside the Belmont gates, they’re both spattered with mud from the waist down. Alucard doesn’t comment, but Trevor can feel the itch of a gaze on his backside. He’s not sure if that’s about what they talked about last night, or if Alucard is contemplating more baths, but either way he keeps his peace. Trevor decides to follow suit.

The forest is loud, but only with the sounds of life-- birds and dripping rain, the rustle of little furry animals in trees. Distantly, Trevor hears the snap and thrash of what’s probably deer further off in the forest. Mist swirls around them as they walk on, clasping at their ankles and dragging at their heels with petulantly cold fingers.

“Is the river prone to flooding?” Alucard asks, tucked up in his fancy oiled raincoat. He’s even got a silk scarf on, which is frankly a bit much. Trevor, shaggy and wet and refusing to make any wardrobe concessions for ‘a bit of weather,’ shrugs.

“Mmmh, not in memory… it has a lot of rock between it and the village.” He looks up at the sky, furrows his brow. “Worth looking at, though. If we need to we can evacuate the people up onto the hill here.”

“That’s not optimal,” Alucard fires back, sounding tired. “We’ve just barely gotten most of them on solid footing. Losing their houses would be a terrible blow.”

“You think I don’t know that?” Trevor snaps, throwing his hands out in front of him, a gesture with no target. “How many repairs have I done to those slimy little houses to get them livable again?”

“About as many checkups as I’ve done on the people because of the draft and the chill,” Alucard snipes back.

They glance at each other, irritated, and glance away again. The mud squelches slightly as they walk.

“It’s hard to manage a village,” Trevor admits, breaking the silence after a few tense minutes. “I wasn’t raised to be a proper lord, not really. The Belmont women were usually the ones who handled the more standard stuff: grain stores and seed purchase and building maintenance.”

“I can see that,” Alucard sniffs, still going in for the kill despite Trevor’s bared belly. “You have as much sense about being a lord as a cat does.”

Trevor gives him a poisonous look that Alucard ignores; he’s staring ahead in a self-satisfied manner, having said his piece. There’s another distant snap of movement, echoing oddly through the claustrophobia of the dense fog that’s rolling up. With every second, they can see less and less in front of them.

“Easy to say,” Trevor grits out, jamming his hands in his pockets. “You do better, then. The people are handling themselves just fine without me breathing down their necks.”

“I like cats,” Alucard says with a curious little smile that Trevor refuses to acknowledge is mocking, tucked as he is under his oiled hood with his hair glowing gold even in the gloom. It feels like every inch of his perfectly-put-together self is mocking Trevor right now.

“Yeah, but do the villagers?” Trevor shoots back.

“Cats kill mice,” Alucard says simply, which Trevor is very sorry to admit offers him a small drip of comfort.

They come to a clearing in the forest. Alucard steps closer to Trevor, enough so that he can put his arm out and tuck it around his damp companion’s shoulders. Trevor, still feeling a bit stung, resists. But Alucard shifts and really pulls, putting that supernatural strength behind it, and with that he’s dragged back and into his lukewarm embrace. Trevor sincerely hopes he’s getting Alucard wet. To emphasize his sulk, he refuses to move into Alucard, remains hanging awkwardly in his grip like an unwilling cat in the arms of a child.

“Don’t be so mad at me so early in the morning.” Alucard’s tone is ever-so-slightly pleading. Trevor can feel the hopeful burn of his stare. It makes him sigh, shift, and give ground himself, just a bit.

“It was hard work to marry in to the family. My mother said so, anyway, and you know she- she wasn’t prone to complaining. There wasn’t much point to training a boy about tax rates when he was gone the majority of the time,” Trevor snorts, tosses his hands out to gesture at the whip lying against his hip, “and anyway, a Belmont bride needed to be able to run the house when her husband died.”

He feels Alucard stiffen behind him, feels his grip solidify.

“I hadn’t,” Alucard says, but then stops. “You,” he tries again, but he stops himself by clutching at Trevor desperately, holding on so tightly Trevor thinks he might bruise. He buries his face in Trevor’s neck hard enough that he can feel the ungainly mash of his nose against skin. “’When’. How fantastically brutal.”

“Ow,” Trevor says mildly, reaching down to pry at Alucard’s hands with absolutely no effect. Stupid fucking emotional vampire Jesus with a grip like a fallen tree.

“I didn’t realize,” Alucard says in a quiet, low voice, still refusing to move against Trevor’s pulling fingers. Trevor’s skin vibrates with every word, with every single word Alucard says into it. “The cost of standing against the shadows is so deep for humanity.”

“It’s life,” Trevor tells him sternly. “It’s life as a Belmont. You go out rain or shine, night or day, and you put yourself between the darkness and everything else.”

“Still,” Alucard insists, his arrogant self-satisfaction gone, replaced by the hollowed-out, hallowed stare of a saint watching his people suffer, “that is a terrible burden to bear. It is…. unfair.”

“Says the son of Dracula,” Trevor comments mildly, not really meaning anything by it beyond a mutual sense of sympathy, a sort of peace offering. Alucard crumbles anyway, drawing in on himself physically, pulling away from Trevor, and only belatedly does Trevor realize the other implications of what he just said. Already used to the slight warmth Alucard’s nearness was affording him, Trevor heaves a sigh: out in the cold again.

“I didn’t realize,” Alucard says softly. “My mother had told me, of course, that human lives are filled with difficulty and suffering, but the enormous price that my father has exacted from this land reaches so far. How can I ever…” He takes a breath. Rain is dripping down the seams of his hood, collecting in a fat droplet at the apex where it dips forward. Trevor reaches up and wipes the water away before it can splash down.

Alucard gives Trevor a wry smile. “Everywhere I look, there is something else my father has done to shape this land into a harder, crueler place. Not directly, of course, but… his influence has been felt for generations. I told myself that it was only his madness that turned him into a force of evil, but if I am honest, it seems untrue. Impossible, even.”

Trevor quirks an eyebrow, not sure what to say. He doesn’t have a lot of kind words for Dracula, but he also knows, from limited experience in Alucard’s own memories, that he was a loved and respected father. Perhaps sensing that uncertainty, Alucard forges on:

“So how am I to mourn a father that is also the man who has brought such darkness into the world? Is it moral and righteous to lament the death of somebody like that?”

Trevor grabs Alucard’s shoulders and shakes him a little, shocked by his own flash of temper. He slides into incoherent rage for a moment, so instead of shouting he just shakes Alucard harder.

“Are you telling me that you’re beating yourself up about mourning your own father?”

Alucard, surprised by the outburst, goes with the shaking silently, eyes wide.

“Who the hell cares about morals and righteousness? He was your father, and he did his best by you, didn’t he?! And if you had to strike him down, isn’t that another reason to mourn his death? Who the hell is here to tell you to that you shouldn’t?!”

“Well,” Alucard says, slowly, not patronizingly like before but in a peculiar, wondering tone, “you, by telling me that your ancestral tradition is to prepare for premature death of the man of the house.”

“That’s not what I said!” Trevor rages, though it is, in a way. He lets go of Alucard to pace around in the clearing.

“Look.” He stops pacing, turning to point at Alucard. “Your father, yeah. His presence in this country brought a whole lot of monsters out of the woodwork, but he’d been minding his own damn business in the western mountains for centuries before this whole ‘death to the nation’ bullshit got started. By the church, might I add, so if anybody should be on bended fucking knee before us it’s them!”

“I doubt that will happen,” Alucard comments faintly, watching Trevor with a dreamy sort of fascination.

“Your father didn’t just exist in a void,” Trevor continues, gaining steam. “Sure, the things that crawled out from under his bed had a hell of a lot of impact on my family in particular. But don’t forget, Alucard-- slavers and would-be conquering armies come from north, from the south, from the east, but they sure as hell haven’t come from the west.”

“I wouldn’t know,” Alucard reminds Trevor. “I’m not very well-versed in a great deal of things about the human side of this country.”

“Yeah, okay, well, just take my word on it. Ask Sypha if you want. The point is, your old man wasn’t exactly sunshine and daisies all the time. But you know way, way better than I do that he wasn’t the man we met in the castle this winter.” Alucard’s expression drops again. He turns away to face the forest, pushing back his hood despite the rain. Trevor debates closing the distance, but decides he should finish his point first.

“The man you grew up with looked after you, and loved your mother, and taught you all sorts of science bullshit and other ridiculous things that make you the person you are now. I mean, really-- I saw your mum in your memories, Alucard- you sure as hell didn’t get your sense of style from her.

Excuse you,” Alucard interjects from somewhere behind his own hair, sounding wet but indignant,

“So my point is,” Trevor continues, rushing ahead, pushing on like only a Belmont can, “there’s nothing wrong with mourning the man you loved. He’s gone, there’s no denying that, and we all did it together. And sure, he wasn’t exactly a beacon of compassion for mankind. But your goddamn saint of a mother loved him enough to make you, and if that isn’t one hell of a character endorsement I don’t know what is.”

Alucard jerks to look at Trevor. and he’s definitely crying now, eyes swimming with big fat tears that are mingling with the misty rain. He’s obviously surprised. Trevor shakes his head.

“He doesn’t have to have been a perfect person for you to mourn him, Alucard.” He comes up close and pulls the hood over Alucard’s head again, reaching up to smudge some wetness away from his stupidly beautiful face. Alucard lets him do what he will, listening in rapt despair as Trevor finishes, “He just has to be somebody you loved who isn’t here anymore.”

 

 

 

“Anyway, that really is why I’m sort of a shit lord,” Trevor goes on, still somewhat eager to defend himself, or at least explain it a little more.

They had kissed and made up, Alucard murmuring an unwanted apology against Trevor’s cheek, and walked in thoughtful silence for a mile or so more. Trevor had made a mental note to talk to Sypha about this when she came back. They all had their strengths. Sypha could set things on fire with her mind (one of her best features if Trevor was being honest), but she also had compassion and wisdom in areas that were still foreign to Trevor. She might know more about what to do with Alucard’s grief, and the unique problem it posed for him, than Trevor did.

“Though given Sypha’s interest in gallivanting off to, I don’t know, kiss puppies and kill unsuspecting bandits,” Alucard chokes on a somewhat horrified laugh, because last time she ran off she did come back with blood splattered on the edge of her robes that she wouldn’t explain, and Alucard and Trevor did have some suspicions, “maybe you should just handle whatever Lord business it is I’m so balls-up at.”

“I could teach you,” Alucard says benevolently, still looking a little pale around the edges. They break out from the trees, looking into the fog and rain to see the smeary ghost of the village down below the cliff’s edge. The sludgy muck of the switchback up the mountain is off to their left. Trevor considers the idea for a moment: he’s not actually an idiot, not really, but he’s certainly got no patience for the details of things if it doesn’t involve hunting.

Speaking of hunting….. it’s been a while since they had a good go at it, hasn’t it? He may not have Sypha’s wisdom and experience, but he knows the good a hard workout of the body can do for the mind. Hell, it’s worth a try. He slides a hand over his whip, thumbing at the braided leather. Trevor catches Alucard’s eye, sees the way his pupils narrow and turn sharp, the way the corner of his mouth quirks up. Oh, yes, that’s a clear yes please if he ever saw one.

“I think ‘wife’ suits you,” Trevor says, drawing out his words in a drawl so as to pique Alucard’s temper as clearly as he can, “so you should just handle it for me, mm?” and immediately dodges the slice of Alucard’s sword. Grinning, he uncoils Vampire Killer from his waist and lashes out.

“I can’t abide that kind of laziness. You should be ashamed of yourself.” Alucard closes in on him more quickly than he usually would, emboldened by the fact that his quarry is sliding on mud. Trevor encourages that arrogance by feigning inattentiveness, missing this strike and that, hissing in false frustration, until suddenly Alucard is almost on top of him, eyes bright and teeth sharp with anticipation. Trevor abruptly snaps the whip against his side so hard that Alucard goes flying, crashing sideways through the foliage of the forest behind them. There’s an audible thump, a rustling, and then… nothing.

Trevor cocks his head, winding up the whip in his hands, and then sighs. Of course Alucard wants to lure him into the forest: his sword, while still clumsily long in close quarters, is certainly better than Vampire Killer. He swings a shortknife into his hand, tossing it briefly to accustom himself to its weight.

“Didn’t realize that you were so offended at being a bride,” Trevor yells out as he trudges into the woods. “Have you talked with Sypha about that? She might have some opinions there, you know. Might think you’re being demeaning to wives, something like that. If you beg me nicely, I’ll try to keep her from icing your toes for all eternity.”

Silence.

Trevor looks around, listening closely to the forest around him. Distantly he can hear the heckle of birds, the rustle of smaller lives lived in parallel to his own. But there’s no Alucard to be heard, and the long wait is getting to him.

“Come on, don’t be a baby,” Trevor calls out, louder now. He may be quiet in the woods, but he’s got no illusions that he’s anything but a five-drum drunken roar to Alucard’s senses. No need to worry about stealth. He looks through the trees, catching sight of a broken branch, then another: a clear trajectory of where their fallen prince has gone to. “God in Heaven, you’re such a brat sometimes,” Trevor growls under his breath, tramping after him. There’s a clear path of wolfy footprints in the soggy ground, and a little tuft of gold-shimmering fur caught on a branch ensures he won’t miss the start of it.

Abruptly, lightning strikes and thunder roars.

Cursing, Trevor barely has time to duck under poor cover before the skies open up and the rain absolutely waterfalls down. Sure, he’s already wet, but there’s a big difference between being damp and being soaked to the skin.

He tries to find the driest spot he can under the boughs, but pine trees suck, and this one in particular seems decisively unfriendly: no matter where he stands, heavy streams of cold water come arcing towards him. It’s like he’s taking the world’s worst version of a bath.

“I hope you’re happy,” Trevor says, looking up dubiously. He can feel somebody coming up behind him, that peculiar prickle of a presence that indicates a monster-- or a non-human, at least. He expects a strike of some kind, retaliation for sending Alucard flying.

What he doesn’t expect is to be grabbed by the back of his hair, faster than he can react, and shoved face-first against his enemy the cold shower tree. He’s grabbed around the waist in a tight, too-strong hold, preventing him from struggling as his arms are pinned against his side. It’s not the gentlest grab Alucard has ever used on him, to be sure, and it surprises Trevor a little.

“I didn’t hit you that hard, did I?” Trevor asks curiously into the lichen jammed against his mouth. There’s a hard body leaning against his, and hot breath in his ear, and a strange smell like ozone all around him. There’s a heavy huff, a snort if he’s being honest, and then a hard inhale.

Alarm washes down his neck like yet more rain, fear chasing after it. He tightens his grip on his short knife, starting to plan for how he can get a weak strike in to force distance.

Alucard moves a certain way, smells a certain way, acts a certain way. Feels a certain way against Trevor’s body, even when they’re sparring, fighting against each other or alongside each other. There’s a bendiness to him that is in contrast to Trevor’s own fluidity, a vibrating fiddle string to his working bow.

This body, this ozone-smell stranger, is no instrument at all.

“Can I help you?” Trevor grinds out, teeth bared, body primed for the slightest slip in the hold, the slightest mistake or give. “Not a particularly civilized way to go about things, walking up on a man and sniffing him. Don’t know where you’re from, but we don’t usually say hello like this in these parts.”

“Didn’t hit me at all,” comes a voice that he’s never heard before in his life, in an accent he doesn’t know. It makes him break out in a cold sweat anyway. He can feel the vibrations of the man’s voice up through his chest as he speaks. It feels like the afterecho of thunder riding a frame too small for it, sounds like what Trevor imagines demonic possession is like. It carries in it a particular cadence that Trevor knows and wishes he didn’t.

“Don’t worry,” Trevor says through his fear, smiling tight and feral even as his face is still pressed into a tree. His position is quickly growing painful, but he doesn’t want to waste energy by struggling. Not yet. “I’ll fix that soon enough.” Another snort, another deep inhale. Trevor tries to tell himself that it’s just like being sniffed by a wild animal.

“You-“

Lightning flashes, and there’s no pause at all before the world around him explodes into thunderous sound.

 

 

 

Trevor rolls over clumsily, dazed. He turns his face up to the murky gray of the sky, then tips his head sideways just in time to see Alucard, sword in hand as he circles Trevor with his back to him, stance wary. Alucard scans for danger, eyes darting to and fro, but finds none; he sheathes his sword somewhat unwillingly.

“What happened? Are you all right? I heard an unknown voice and saw,” Alucard frowns. “I saw a shadow on you through the fog and struck out.”

 “Something’s out here,” Trevor tells Alucard, still shocked that he’s even alive. He stares up at the other man dazedly as Alucard extends a hand to help him up. “Something like Chester.”

 

 

 

 “My good friend from before could call lightning,” Trevor shouts over the roar of the water, kicking a rock off the edge of the cliff. The new bridge Sypha and Alucard magically put together is just barely visible in the distance. “I bet you anything this one can call storms, too.”

“The two do come hand in hand in most magic systems,” Alucard agrees. He’s craning his neck to see if he can make out the water level through all the fog rising up. “I suppose we have at least eight feet of space. That should be fairly safe.”

“With the way it’s coming down,” Trevor says, “who knows. Normally I’d think it’ll be fine, but with a magical demon horse out for my blood, I sort of think all bets are off.” He can’t recall an incident of flooding personally, but magic can make all sorts of impossible things a reality-- a place peeled away from space and time, folded in on itself to make room for a castle, for instance. A flood against the high cliffs of the town, then, seems like small potatoes in context.

“You are simply too alluring for any creature of the night to resist,” Alucard sighs. He sounds existentially exhausted. “The torrent of vulgar language and reek of wet fur is clearly what monsters long for.”

“You realize you’re just indicting yourself,” Trevor says, starting toward the bridge. He hears Alucard trail after him as if pulled by a string. Trevor is amused to note that they’re walking in time, so much so that it’s hard to distinguish whose squelching footsteps are whose.

“Of course,” Alucard concedes, still distractedly staring at the river. He doesn’t even seem to notice what he’s agreed to. Given their conversation in the cliffside forest, Trevor isn’t inclined to tease him too much right now. There’s nothing wrong with cutting him some slack occasionally. Besides—if he’s honest, he’s unsettled as fuck about another unicorn showing its face. “I do wonder what these unicorns are looking for in you, though. Most go their entire lives without meeting a true one. Even I have never met one- only land fey who wear a similar shape.”

“You’ve met one,” Trevor corrects, his spine itching with bloodlust as he thinks about the satisfaction of seeing Chester the Asshole Wonder finally burn away.

“True,” Alucard agrees, pacing over the bridge after him, “that’s true. I suppose I should say, I’ve never met one aside from the one that came to find you.

That does bother Trevor.

“The bestiary didn’t have a lot to say about them, now that I think about it.” He’d frequently glossed over the page about Chester in favor of inspecting the very fancy, very detailed brag that was Baba Yaga’s entry. (Moving chickens roosted in the margins, because of fucking course they did.) It wasn’t negligence, particularly- there just wasn’t a lot to read there. Alucard had theorized that the new grimoire reflected the pooled information of both the Belmont library and Baba Yaga’s own knowledge.

The more he chews on that thought, the more ominous that empty page becomes.

“I want to get it handled before Sypha comes back,” Trevor says, walking through the rain into the woods. The storm is getting heavier again, moving towards a downpour. The weather is so foul that nobody in the village was out when they came through, though Trevor could see the low glow of hearthfire from windows. He doesn’t blame the villagers for not coming to say hello; it’s wet enough that he’s starting to regret his own stubbornness regarding attire. It takes an awful lot to make Trevor regret his life choices, but he’s getting closer with every rain droplet that finds its way into his underthings.

“To protect her?” Alucard sounds incredulous.

“Sure,” Trevor responds, “and to keep her from making fun of me forever for being unicorn bait. I wasn’t actually a virgin, just so you know.”

Alucard comes up beside Trevor; it occurs to him that Alucard has been trailing after him less because he’s thinking and more because he’s watching Trevor’s back. Alucard has grown a great deal over the time Trevor has known him, but that protectiveness hasn’t changed—probably never will. Alucard views himself, first and foremost, as a shield for humanity.

“I know,” he says in a tone that definitely implies he does not agree but is happy to keep the peace. A smile plays around his mouth. “At least, not physically.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“Well, there is a certain purity of spirit you embody,” Alucard starts loftily, voice dropping into the stained-glass tones of a sermon.

“Stop it,” Trevor growls. He regrets asking already.

“Sypha has commented on it at length before, of course,” Alucard goes on, taking the lead as they walk deeper into the forest. Trevor sneezes. He’d like to think it’s a sneeze of resentment. “The, perhaps I should say, coquettishness you sometimes bring to,”

“I am going to kill you,”

“new household events,” Alucard finishes lamely, which catches Trevor’s attention better than anything short of a drawn sword could.

They stand shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the old abandoned church. It’s been closed and empty since long before Trevor was a boy. Looking at it, it’s not hard to see why: the church in town is closer, and doesn’t need a river crossing and a forest journey to get to.

The church in town has, as of late, been changed into a school and hospital for the town. Nobody has said much about it to Trevor’s face, and he isn’t sure if it’s because of his own obviously unfriendly relationship to the church or if the people who have come to live under his family name have their own problems with the institution. Certainly nobody has said boo about the fact that Alucard is obviously closer with Trevor and Sypha both than is technically appropriate.

Content to maintain appearances and not prone to prying, Trevor himself hasn’t really asked after any of the living arrangements in town: old men Radu and Ion share the farrier’s shop, which is small to say the least. Maria and her elderly mother have made no mention of a husband to explain her six children and a seventh growing. Trevor couldn’t give five shits. No, maybe it’s more than that—he appreciates it. He wants to create what he promised Esthe he would: a place of safety and freedom from the world’s crueler rules.

With all that in mind, Trevor looks at the figure standing on the steps of the church with deeply unfriendly eyes. Alucard glances at Trevor, sees the set of his mouth, gives him a little tilt of the head. Trevor shakes his head and jerks it to the man in front of the old church.

“Can I help you, Father?” Alucard is better suited to passive redirection than Trevor. If they’re lucky, they can just send the man on his way amicably.

The man jolts and turns, a hand flying out to steady himself against the lichen-coated wooden boards holding the church door shut. A little white cat pokes its head out from a pocket in his well-made travelling cloak. Trevor eyeballs it suspiciously. It yawns at him and tucks its head back down out of the rain, an ear flicking.

“I hadn’t heard you come up,” the priest says in a soft tone. His hood is drawn low over his face, making him look, frankly, suspicious as hell. “How did you know I was-?”

“The fancy outfit is a dead giveaway,” Trevor says dryly before he can stop himself. There’s something odd about the way the man moves- a peculiar stiffness to his gait that seems at odds with the age he sounds to be.

“I suppose it is,” he laughs. “Is this Sighisoara’s church? I’m here on assignment from the capital.”

“Sure, you’re welcome to it,” Trevor says cruelly. Alucard elbows him. Hard.

“I hear a joke in your tone,” the priest says, lifting his hands to shift his hood. “Unfortunately, I have need to throw myself on your mercy.” The hood falls back to reveal a man with a gentle face and close-cropped black-red hair that sticks up in all different directions despite its shortness. There’s a little spike of snow white hair at his left temple. He’s a little older than Trevor, perhaps by a decade or so at most. Trevor supposes that he’s handsome, if your yardstick isn’t Alucard.

He also has a mess of straight scars across his face where his eyes should be, and some more scars trailing down the side of his face. They all look relatively fresh- less than a year old at least. Trevor wonders if the demons did that to him, but, moved abruptly by the priest’s vulnerability, he can’t bring himself to care.

“How the hell did you get out here like that?” he bursts out, looking this way and that. He can’t see any escorts, though he can see, very faintly, the imprint of the priest’s footprints alongside the stones of the old road.

“People can be kind, I suppose,” the priest says, drawing his hood back over his face. “I was told a messenger was sent ahead to request an escort from the lord of these lands.”

“Didn’t hear anything about that,” Trevor mutters in response to Alucard’s questioning gaze. “So what, they just sent you out here by yourself?”

“There were kind citizens willing to help,” the priest protests, raising a thin, long-fingered hand in protest. His pinky finger is missing on his right hand. “I was able to follow the path here from the main road- the cobblestones are easy enough to feel with my boots.”

“It seems needlessly arduous,” Alucard comments.

“The lord of these lands is not known to be friendly to the church,” the priest says, his tone carefully bland. “It was thought wiser to send as little representation as possible. Are you residents of the village? Can you bring me to Lord Belmont? I must greet him before I can begin work.”

Trevor, stunned, looks to Alucard for help. Alucard shrugs, just as taken off-guard.

It occurs to him that he hasn’t not been recognized in- in a long time, now. First he’d had to deal with the family name being run through the mud; now his image was everywhere on posters as the country celebrated Dracula’s defeat.

“Your work?” Alucard asks, taking the initiative to walk up to the man as he starts to feel his way down the enormous stone steps, half-buried as they are in moss.

Trevor, looking up at the church, finds that despite his feelings on the institution as a whole, it’s a nice enough building. Made of stone as it is, it seems to have withstood its years of neglect reasonably well, though all the windows are broken and the front doors are cracked in odd places.

Maybe he can fix it up a little and stuff the bastard away here, as far away from his people as possible.

“Forgive me, gentlemen! My name is Father Silviu. Yes, my work. Whatever the people here need of me, I am happy to assist.”

“Please take my arm, Father,” Alucard says instead of, ‘please leave.’ Trevor admires his restraint, but also acknowledges himself that he can’t send a blind man off packing with no way back to the capital. The church has him by the balls here, that’s for sure. He may have to take the man back himself to keep them from sending anybody else in his place.

Trevor trails behind Alucard and the priest as they walk back to town. Alucard occasionally turns to look at him over his shoulder, perhaps concerned or perhaps seeking reassurance of his own.

Trevor just jerks his chin forward, keeping his distance: keep going.

The wet and cold is seeping into his bones now, and if it weren’t for the anger washing through him, he’d probably be shivering with the chill. Hell- if it weren’t for the priest, Trevor would probably be bundled under Alucard’s cloak with him by now.

The timing is too good, Trevor decides, watching the priest with narrowed eyes. A unicorn shows up, and a blinded priest? Perhaps they’re working together, he muses darkly. For once he realizes the inconvenience of not having a functional church: without it, there’s no holy water to casually drop on the man, no threshold to force him over to reveal any hidden monstrous shape.

“What’s with the cat, anyway?” Trevor asks, still keeping his distance but pacing a little closer. He sees the priest’s shoulders stiffen like he’s expecting an attack.

“Oh,” he laughs. He does sound kind. He sounds like the kind of man who would arrange charity for somebody if their child fell ill. Trevor wonders how many ‘witches’ he burned in his former posting. “My sister was worried about my being sent so far away. We grew up in the city together. So, she gave me a kitten. She joked,” he coughs awkwardly. “Well, never mind. I haven’t come up with a name yet for her. Hopefully she will earn her keep as an excellent mouser when she is grown.”

Alucard gives the man a curious look.

“She joked….?”

Father Silviu gives a little chortle, patting Alucard’s arm. “This is just between us, boys.”

Trevor gives a grunt, decidedly unmoved. Alucard is curious enough that he nods; then, remembering himself, he confirms: “Of course.”

“Well, you must know that nuns are brides of God. My sister joked that I was going off to my marriage bed finally, and so she gave me a kitten as a betrothal gift. It’s an old family custom, you see.”

Trevor puts his head down, trying desperately not to laugh, but a faint breathy snicker escapes anyway. Hopefully it’s unheard over Alucard’s bright, amused laughter.

Still, something about that does pique Trevor’s interest.

“You’ve never been sent out to a posting before?”

“So the shy one speaks!” Trevor instantly scowls again, though the effect is lost on the priest. “No, I never have before. I was always more of a scholar. I have even written a few commentaries on theological matters that I am told were received quite well abroad.”

“And now you’re blind,” says Trevor before he can even think about what he’s saying. Alucard whips his head around to stare at Trevor aghast.

Father Silviu goes rigid.

“And now I’m blind,” he agrees peacefully. His tone is so soft and gentle that if Trevor hadn’t spat it out himself he might have doubted anything cruel had been said at all. “The world is a funny place.”

Trevor suspects that they might have different definitions of ‘funny.’

“Sorry,” he mumbles.

“It’s all right,” Father Silviu says just as gently as before. “There are wounds for which the scars are not so visible as mine, after all.”

Trevor, to his total surprise, feels tears well up in his eyes as if he’s just been dealt a brutal gut punch. He spends the rest of the journey back to the village with his eyes fixed very firmly on the ground in front of him, listening to Alucard chatter pleasantly about nothing at all. He suspects it’s more for his benefit than Father Silviu’s.

He’s grateful, even as he feels guilty about using Alucard as a shield yet again.

Chapter Text

“When’s Sypha coming back? It feels like it’s been forever.”

Alucard, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Trevor against the back wall of the new church, gives him a look.

“What, a man can’t miss his wife-to-be?”

“I don’t think Sypha would save you from Father Silviu.”

Now it’s Trevor’s turn to give Alucard a look, which he does with much lip-curling.

“That’s not what I-“

“-very kind of you,” comes Silviu’s soft, gracious voice, and the door opens and there’s Radu, gnarled and old but still strong as a bull as he leads the unwanted priest into what should, Trevor supposes, be his new home. “But I think that since the building here is serving a good use already, it does the town no good to interfere in that.” Radu meets Trevor’s eyes and nods, his shoulders dipping a little in a cursory bow.

“Lord Belmont,” Radu says in his voice like ground rocks. He’d been one of the first townsfolk Trevor had seen, back when people were filtering slowly into town from the hinterlands. Trevor appreciates his silence where others might chatter, appreciates that he’s unfailingly gentle to dogs and children and even ugly old cats who look like they’re half-zombie. He also appreciates that past an acknowledgement of title and that little shrug of a bow, Radu treats him just like any other somewhat unruly young man.

“Oh,” Silviu says, quietly, startling badly. Radu catches at his forearm to steady him as he almost falls ass-backwards. “Please forgive me, my lord, I didn’t realize you had arrived. So quickly, too. The villagers I met must truly have flown.”

Trevor blinks once, realizing abruptly that he never did introduce himself. Maria had been out by the time they came back, scanning through the heavy rain for them from her doorway. She had offered to make quick introductions to the people who lived in the immediate town center. Alucard and Trevor had slunk off to discuss what to do with this sudden reminder of the world outside the life they were trying to rebuild.

“Maria and Radu have told me something of life in the town,” Silviu continues abruptly, not giving Trevor a moment to speak. “And the young men who brought me into town were very- hhhelpful.” Trevor and Alucard exchange a look of mingled amusement and chagrin. “I am very much looking forward to my time here, my lord. I have been sent by the Church to be the priest for your town. It seems to be a peaceful and kindly place.”

Radu looks Trevor up and down, raising an eyebrow at his soaked hair and the again at the small puddle forming under his boots. Alucard gestures helplessly at his own oiled cape, draped over a pew to dry, and then at Trevor’s sopping clothes.

“Don’t get too eager,” Trevor sighs, ignoring Radu’s disapproving stare. “What were you saying when you came in? This church isn’t good enough?”

Silviu freezes for a moment at the familiarity of Trevor’s voice, his mouth quirking back in neither a grin nor a grimace. He has his hood pulled down over most his face, likely to keep his face from startling any of the townspeople on a first meeting. Still, that little pull of his lips is so expressive that Trevor finds he doesn’t need much more to tell him how the little revelation he’s just given the priest is being received.

“Not…. Exactly,” he says very, very slowly. Trevor can feel gears turning in the priest’s mind, but he’s not sure to what end. It gets Trevor’s hackles up, that’s for sure. “I… Maria and her children were very well-satisfied with the school that’s held on a weekly basis. I also heard much about the skills of the young foreign doctor who attends to the people here. That would be… Doctor Tepes?”

“I am glad, as always, to apply my knowledge to help,” Alucard comments mildly.

“Of course,” Silviu says with a wry little twist of the mouth. He recognizes Alucard’s crisp tones as well, clearly. “Gentlemen, I do apologize. I didn’t mean to impose on such important figures. I only wished to announce myself as is proper.”

“Well, you’ve certainly done that,” Trevor says, giving a little shiver. Radu’s stare is getting heavier, but hell if he’ll acknowledge it. It’s rain. It won’t kill him.

“It was no imposition,” Alucard assures him, swooping gracefully into the growing silence when it becomes clear that Trevor is still disinclined to interact beyond the bare minimum.

“Still, I cannot begin to express my apologies,” Father Silviu goes on, his words coming more quickly. “My imposition is- um.” He falters. Radu rests a hand on his forearm, gently disengaging.

“I’m headed back to the forge.”

“Sure,” Trevor says. Alucard and Radu trade sympathetic smiles before Radu starts to walk out the door of the church.

As he goes, he calls out, “Change your damn clothes before you get sick, my lord. And wear a rain cloak in the future.”

The door thumps shut behind him.

Silviu shifts awkwardly in place.

“All right,” Trevor sighs, putting a hand to his face. “All right, that’s… let’s get a few things very clear, here, priest. What you said in the forest, about the lord of this land, you sure as hell weren’t wrong about. So let me give you a little more information.”

“Yes,” Silviu agrees amicably, but Trevor can see that he’s put his hands in the pockets of his cloak, can see the working of his fingers as he toys with some token contained inside. Alucard wets his lips, seeming uncertain of what role he should take here.

“Whatever the church has sent you for, I couldn’t give two shits about.” Trevor crosses his arms, and while he knows Silviu can’t see him, it makes him feel more stern than he feels. “I don’t want your priestly, divine self around my people, around my home, around my fields, around my family- I don’t want you.” Rage rattles the tail end of his words, makes them shake around like bones in a cage.

“Ah,” says Silviu, with obviously forced cheer.

“But I also know that some of the people here, for God knows what reason, would probably be pleased to have you. Somebody to spill their woes out on, I guess.” The faint musical dripping of the rain outside fills the silent church.

Silviu remains silent. Alucard remains silent. Trevor remains silent.

The only one that speaks is nature outside, in rumbling cracks of light and the crystal-toned sounds of rain meeting water. Trevor remembers, with as much weight to it as a burning feather, a time when those sounds held more meaning than the endless tongues of man. In this moment, he misses that.

“My lord,” Silviu finally says, quietly, in between rain drops.

“Trevor,” Trevor says with forced calm, anger still rattling his teeth, and if he were anybody else he’d admit that maybe wasn’t just anger, maybe it was fear, maybe it was a memory of being tied and held down and being forced to watch and listen as his sisters banged against the doors of their family home, and then they were screaming, screaming, screaming-

“Trevor,” Silviu says just as quietly as before.

“What,” he says, vibrating in himself like his skin is too small, like he was charred and burned and his skin split open tight and rigid over his flesh like it did on his sisters

Alucard clasps Trevor’s shoulder with a hand and gives him a squeeze. Trevor takes a slow breath, then another, and carefully raises a hand to rest over Alucard’s. His flesh feels very warm compared to Trevor’s own icy hands.

There’s a comfortable little noise from the kitten, a prrt and then the wet sound of a small sharp mouth closing, from where it must be napping in the pews. Silviu had set her down to dry when they first arrived. No matter the size of the animal, Trevor knows the sound of teeth being bared when he hears it.

“With your permission, I would like to renovate the former church in the forest. The Church, of course, will pay for repairs.”

Relief floods Trevor before he can even process what it is.

“Fine. Don’t expect to see me about.”

“I am here for you if you want me,” Father Silviu says, but Trevor is already half out the door, fleeing like a fox before dogs.

 

 

 

“I hate him,” Trevor hisses, working his body hard to stave off the cold of being completely sopping. They’re already up the mountain and on the way back to the house. The storm has become a deluge once more, the wind whipping so hard that the rain stings in pelting snaps when it hits flesh, even with its impact dampened by the forest canopy above them.

Trevor hasn’t said a word since bolting until now.

“Do you?” Alucard asks, looking shocked.

“No,” Trevor moans, his ire crumbling in jagged little streaks, like snow under the first rain of the season. He slows and then finally stops. “But I want to.”

“I know,” Alucard agrees, coming up to Trevor’s side. He undoes the clasp on his cloak and lifts it up, motioning. “Come here. You’re all wet.”

Trevor backs up, shaking his head. “I’ll just get you wet. It can wait.”

“Trevor,” Alucard says sternly. Trevor looks heavenward in exasperation before giving in and coming under the outstretched arm. Alucard folds himself over Trevor, heedless of the fact that Trevor gives an audible squish when he’s embraced. “You are cold,” he remarks, tipping Trevor’s face up just a bit to give him a kiss on his cheek.

“I don’t know what I should have done there,” Trevor confesses, letting Alucard kiss roses back into his icy cheeks. “I wanted him to leave. I figured they’d left us alone for so long, maybe they just wouldn’t send anybody.”

“Doubtful,” Alucard chides gently. “As priests go, he seems inoffensive. They could have sent worse.”

Trevor bristles, then sags as a thought occurs to him: Alucard is struggling with his own weight- he has no right to add to it with woes of his own.

“Sorry,” he sighs, rubbing his hands over his face, trying in vain to chase the tension from his head.

“For what?” Alucard asks, drawing back from where he was about to kiss-- Trevor’s neck. He looks puzzled.

“For- you know.” Trevor gestures, mindful to keep the cloak from jostling and letting the rain in.

“I don’t,” Alucard says somewhat wryly. “Or I wouldn’t have asked.”

“Augh,” Trevor says. “It’s only- you’re having your own shit to deal with here. Seems not right to add to it.”

To his surprise, Alucard snorts in what sounds very much like amusement.

“Congratulations,” he drawls, mouth fixing into a smug little half-smile. It’s not confident enough to be a smirk, Trevor decides, but it’s dangerously close to it. “On making such an exciting and startling discovery. The world will need to know this- surely it will change everything.”

“The fuck are you on about?” Trevor asks, brow furrowing. Alucard’s little curled forelock is stuck to right above his left eyebrow, painted there by the rain.

“Your amazing discovery that only one person is allowed be sad at a time, of course. This will truly change everything. I do wonder how it’s decided? Is it national, continental, or indeed worldwide?”

“Fuck off,” Trevor snarls, or tries to, but he’s laughing under it all, just a little.

“You know,” Alucard says sweetly, all glinting fang and dainty smile, his long fingers finding Trevor’s hip, “when we get back, I think, in preparation for- heavens, there’s no need for that. If you’re not up for it just say so.”

Trevor, having just drawn a short knife, gives Alucard the briefest of astonished glares.

“What kind of psycho do you think I am? Something’s in your pocket.”

“Oh,” says Alucard in a gloating sort of leer, but then his pocket gives a wriggle and he abruptly flings his cloak off. “Oh!”

Trevor takes a moment, just a little one, to mourn the passing of that nice warm pocket of air they’d been forming.

“Sometimes I wonder how you’ve managed to live this long,” he sighs, which feels nice to say given how often Sypha and Alucard say it to him.

Rather than answering, Alucard winces under the heavy downpour even as he draws his blade.

The cloak, flung into the mud, gives a high-pitched squealing noise that very clearly indicates an unusually high amount of displeasure.

“It’s the cat,” Trevor exclaims. Alucard, still wary, lifts up the corner of his dirtied cloak to confirm: a now muddy little white kitten, one with a stark pointed chin and pretty little licks of long fur that hint at the beauty she’ll be someday. Right now, she just looks awkward and pissed. Her tail, about as long as Trevor’s little finger, lashes ferociously as she gives a long, sharp mriiiiiiiiiiii!

“What a day,” Alucard sighs, sheathing his sword with a regretful look at the water beaded along the blade. “I don’t think a single thing has gone right today. Should we continue on and bring her back tomorrow, or today?”

“Don’t be like that,” Trevor chides, standing over her so she can at least stay a little dry. She’s tucked her ears back and is hissing at him now. Alucard leans down to reclaim his cloak; Trevor takes advantage of the extra distraction to sweep the kitten up. She’s so small that she fits in the palm of his hand. Her little body is warm against his skin.

“It’s revolting,” Alucard laments, shaking his cloak out in vain. Mud and dirty water has saturated the warm inner lining. “There’s no point in even putting it on now.”

“He’s a vain fucker,” Trevor informs the kitten, whose ears are tucking back and then forward uncertainly. “But he’s my vain fucker, so I guess I have to put up with it.”

“Trevor?” Alucard is still turning his cloak this way and that. He’s obviously trying to physically will himself to put the dirtied cloak on again.

“Uhh, yeah, good question.” He scrubs at his bangs. Honestly, he’s reached the end of his endurance for the day. He wants to lie down and make a fire and maybe convince Alucard to read to him. Hell, he’s so dirty that Trevor Belmont, house of Belmont, last son of the esteemed line and savior of Wallachia, wants a fucking bath.

Alucard finishes squeezing as much water and dirt as he can out of his cloak and very gingerly arranges it over the kitten in Trevor’s hands, who is making noises louder than anything that size has a right to.

“We have to take her back,” Trevor decides. Alucard nods in weary, and now mutually wet, agreement. “I draw the line at stealing a blind man’s kitten in his new,” deeply unwelcoming, and Trevor feels a touch of guilt that he mentally kicks into a corner, “home. Priest or not, that seems sort of cartoonishly evil of me.”

Alucard laughs, in the middle of braiding his hair up, and wheels around with Trevor to begin the long walk back down the mountain. In unison, they both sigh: they’ve gone a long way today, and this last errand is deeply unwelcome. Trevor is wet and dirty and shivering, Alucard is on his way to joining him, and they’re both wearied in mind and soul. The kitten continues her litany of complaints, unmoved by their sacrifice.

“You know, Maneater wouldn’t even blink at this stuff. Water just rolls off his back, he’s like a duck,” Trevor tells the kitten severely. She gives a particularly vowel-dense reply that is clearly the feline equivalent of ‘fuck off you.’

“Who is Maneater?”

“The cat Sypha loves- the terrifying one.”

“… I was about to ask what cat that is, but.”

“Yeah, you know him, don’t you? Deep in your gut. What a bastard.”

“It sounds as if you respect him.”

“Don’t you?”

“He’s given me fleas before.”

Trevor bursts into laughter. Alucard looks wounded.

“How did he manage that?”

Alucard straightens his stance, rolling back his shoulders pridefully. “When I fall asleep in town, I have occasionally woken to find him sleeping on me.”

“You should tell Sypha that,” Trevor grins. “She’d love it.”

“I will about as soon as you tell her that you call her precious sainted cat ‘Maneater,’” Alucard shoots back.

“You’ve got no sense of fun,” Trevor says, sighing. “I bet when you were a kid you just sat around reading instead of playing skip-stone or whatever.”

“Actually,” Alucard says, looking sheepish, “I shapeshifted a great deal when I was younger. My mother had to learn how to bathe me in quite a few shapes.”

“How did she even catch you like that?” Trevor asks, intrigued.

“My father,” Alucard chortles, “would have to turn into whatever shape I had that day, and catch me that way. I spent a great deal of time dangling in his jaws as a young child. When I went through a bat phase, he supposedly just gave up trying to find me over and over and tucked me in his coat pocket.”

Trevor tries to picture it and fails. A strange feeling takes root in him; he thinks of his own father, helping him hold his first practice weapons, and how his mother would always have some little treat squirreled away for him during the holidays. He thinks back to that memory of Alucard’s that he’d walked through twice while in Baba Yaga’s lands: Alucard clutched close to Dracula, cuddled and loved by both parents, waiting to grow into the man he would be someday.

“I wish I had met him,” Trevor says, trudging through the dense, sucking mud. He feels more than sees Alucard’s head whip around. “In your memories, he wasn’t unkind, even though he knew who I was. Or, what, I guess. Hell if I know how that works. Baba Yaga’s magic didn’t make much sense to me.”

“I…. think he would have liked you,” Alucard says, very quietly. The words are almost lost under the sound of the storm. He paces forward abruptly and links his arm with Trevor’s. They both squish now. “Mother could have- if she had lived, I think she could have made the introduction with minimal… excitement.”

“I wonder what the world would have been like,” Trevor mumbles. “If she hadn’t been killed.” His spine stiffens, and he whips his head over to look at Alucard. “Shit, I’m sorry, that wasn’t very-“

But Alucard shakes his head and sends water everywhere, tucking himself closer to Trevor’s side. His voice is still quiet, but his tone is intimate now instead of downtrodden. “I wonder that myself. It’s fine. I myself often have reflected that your life would have been very different if she had lived, my own situation aside.”

“Oh…. Yeah. But…. Yeah.” He’d still be sleeping in rotting hay stacks, likely, still be getting into bar fights. Still be drinking himself to death and puking in dark corners where he didn’t have to look himself in the eye. A whole lot less people would have died, though: Lisa to start, and then who knows how many other Wallachians?

“I think we would have met eventually,” Alucard says.

“I don’t think so,” Trevor replies uneasily, gaze locking out into the misty shape of the village ahead of them: they’ve arrived at the base of the mountain finally.

He probably would have gotten himself killed in a few years more, truth be told. His skills were top-notch, but a man was only as good as his will to survive, and his own had been ebbing. Picking fights and dodging starvation wasn’t the best way to make it to another sunrise. Hell, the witch hunts had been picking up again, hadn’t they? If Dracula hadn’t done his thing, Trevor might have been the one tied to Lisa’s pyre. He hadn’t exactly been subtle about who he was. He’d have been easy enough to find, to subdue, to execute: another black magic practitioner, turned into shards of bone just like his family.

“I can’t say I’m glad that things happened the way they did,” Alucard says carefully, picking through a minefield of implications. “But I am fairly confident that, as events played out, I am as satisfied as I could be.”

“Really,” Trevor snorts. Dead mother, murdered father, alone in the world except for Trevor and Sypha, his back turned to half of his own heritage?

“Yes,” Alucard says, and he gives Trevor’s arm a little squeeze. “Among other things, I will always be grateful for your extending your hand to me, grateful for you bringing me here.”

“It’s your home,” Trevor says lamely, uncertain on how else to respond.

“I know,” Alucard tells him simply, and rests his head against Trevor’s shoulder for a moment. “But you made it so.”

The weight of the kitten, and who she represents, aren’t much in Trevor’s hands. But at Alucard’s words, he feels it grow just a little bit more.

 

 

Father Silviu has, they discover, already gone back to the church in the woods.

“Just got back from opening up the place for him and starting the hearth there,” Radu says, his gaze fixed on Alucard’s now-sopping head. “Are you two allergic to staying dry?”

“Huh,” Trevor says, surprised. He’d sort of expected the priest to stay in town until the place was properly patched up. It hadn’t occurred to him that Silviu would take his warning so deeply to heart; the kitten’s weight grows heavier still in his hands.

“There was a mishap,” Alucard confesses, sounding embarrassed. Radu eyeballs the kitten in Trevor’s hands, cloistered safely in her little bundle of cloth.

“I see,” he sighs, and gestures to them to follow. “Come in for a second, boys. Ion! Ion, do we have any extra rain gear?” His mustache bristles as he wanders further in, looking this way and that. Trevor sees a lot of horse tack, some of it newly-made, but precious little in the way of human clothing.

“Extra?” Ion groans, stretching himself up to stand from where he’s been sitting on a cushioned bench. It doesn’t escape Trevor’s notice that the cushion is indented very closely indeed next to Ion; looks like Radu and he don’t spare much elbow room in private. Huh. He’d sort of suspected as much. “Lord Belmont, you running around like a damn fool again with no coat on?”

“It’s just before solstice!” Trevor protests before he can stop himself.

“Who cares? Sickness don’t bother what month it is, boy. Ecccch. Kids.” Ion pulls open a well-made cabinet behind him, his lined face clenching in irritation as he starts to rummage around. “Give Radu the dirty cloak, he can clean it.”

“Can I,” Radu mutters, but he reaches for it and helps Trevor to juggle the swipe-happy kitten as they extricate her.

“Thank you,” Alucard says earnestly. “I’m so sorry to be such trouble.”

“You should be. Young people are always making stupid choices. Mooning around in the rain on a day like today, what a bunch of idiots.”

“Yes,” Alucard agrees, a smile playing about his lips.

“Shouldn’t talk to the young lord like that,” Radu mutters, giving Trevor an apprehensive look. Trevor shrugs at him, awkwardly avoiding his eyes.

“I’ll talk any way I want to the kind of buffoon that soaks himself to the bone to show off how manly he is!” Ion cranks, shuffling over and throwing a towel over Trevor’s head. “Dry yourself off and stand by the fire. What kind of lord doesn’t even know how to keep himself warm? Usually that’s all they’re even good for!”

“Ion,” Radu says, his jaw clenching; Trevor silently goes to stand by the open firepit. He has sympathy for Radu’s apprehension, but it feels sort of nice to be bossed about by Ion. Hell if Trevor understands how, but he’s grown into the sort of man who likes to be henpecked about unimportant things.

“Don’t you lecture me, man! Look, at least Belmont has the sense to listen when I talk, unlike some people,”

“Are you scolding me for this? I didn’t do this.”

Alucard joins Trevor, and they listen to the sounds of the old men rattling around behind them with mutual pleasure; they share a smile as they dry off.

The kitten wriggles and flexes against his clothes until she’s tucked against his collarbone. Her whiskers prickle against Trevor’s skin as she settles down in her awkward perch. By the time Radu comes up to them with two shabby oiled cloaks in his hands, she’s breathing slowly, sending a thimble-sized wash of warm air against Trevor’s throat with every breath.

They thank the men profusely enough that even Ion gets embarrassed.

As they head into the gloom again, protected somewhat from the seemingly eternal downpour, Trevor chances a look back.

Ion and Radu stand at the door frame together, leaning against one another. Radu lifts a rough-calloused hand and waves at them, then, unthinkingly, places his hand on Ion’s shoulder. Ion looks up at Radu, says something, and they both look at Trevor again. Even from this distance, he can feel the intensity of their stares.

Trevor clumsily raises a hand and waves back, then darts off after Alucard, whose longer legs have taken him further away than he’d expected.

He hears a shout of laughter from behind him, and it twists a smile up at the corner of his mouth.

 

 

 

“Your master is up here,” Trevor tells the kitten as they come round the bend and see the old church, overgrown in vines and shabby with time. There’s a back window spilling light, which is expected, but the front doors are ajar and bleed light into the growing darkness, which isn’t. Voices can be heard.

“Praying, perhaps?” Alucard guesses.

“Maybe,” Trevor says, not meaning it, unhooking his whip from his belt.

They approach carefully. Trevor guesses bandits or brigands, curses himself for apparently scaring the piss out of Silviu to the point where he didn’t even dare to spend a single night in town.

They’re still in the shadow behind one of the enormous mossy doors when they hear Father Silviu’s voice.

“I’m not quite sure what you mean, but… this is a house of God. It offers shelter and care to all who enter its threshold.”

Alucard unsheathes his sword silently, eyes going hard.

All who enter?”

The hairs on Trevor’s neck stand straight up. He knows that voice.

“Yes,” Silviu says. His voice is soft, but there’s no mistaking the iron he’s trying to put in his tone. It’s working, sort of.

“Very kind of you,” comes that voice, and Trevor’s waist, likely bruised from where he was grabbed and held this morning, throbs. “What sort of care, then, do you give here?”

“None you’d much like, I think,” Trevor says coolly, swinging himself into the pool of light. It must be colder out than he expected- the warmth from the fire inside is tangible, a golden wash of heat the second he steps over the threshold. He can hear Alucard prowl into step behind him, moving like a wolf circling closer to prey. Silviu straightens up somewhat at the sound of his voice. “Didn’t think I’d see you so soon. Time for some questions of my own: what brings you here, beast?”

The man in front of Father Silviu is, in fact, absolutely rippling with muscle. He looks like the kind of man little children imagine when they think of a strongman: with every small motion Trevor can see the flex of skin and sinew, so much so that it looks unnatural, like a painting more than a man. He has a complex ring of jet-black tattoos all up his arm that stand out against his pale-tan skin, trailing up into his sleeveless laced-up tunic. Trevor recognizes the peculiar light-sucking inkiness of those tattoos from his previous fun with Chester.

The man had turned his head as Trevor spoke, and now that he fully turns to face the hunter, flexing his hands, Trevor can see those too-long fingers, jointed oddly in some way that he can’t quite pin down. He’s got long, coiled black braids in complex swarming shapes all down from the crown of his head, and as he turns his eyes on Trevor he’s surprised to see that rather than Chester’s iced-blue, this unicorn—shaped like a man, sure, but Trevor knows a monster when he sees one—has bright amber eyes, almost yellow. As before, he gets the itching sense that those eyes don’t belong on the shape he’s wearing, but he couldn’t really say what those eyes are supposed to be on, either.

“Lord Belmont,” says Silviu, raising his hands up in front of him. For the first time, his voice shakes. “I didn’t… expect you here.”

“Your cat stowed away in a pocket,” Trevor grumbles, realizing belatedly that it looks somewhat like he’s circled back to murder him in the dark of the night. Great.

“I’ll leave you to that,” says the unicorn-as-a-man, shifting to walk forward. He wears a lazy, arrogant expression on his face that Trevor longs to startle into rage, so: he cracks his whip, letting it light up with fire, right in front of the thing. Trevor takes the chance to make a dash for it, putting himself between the unicorn and the priest. The unicorn watches this with a private, cruel smile, shoving his hands into his pants pockets.

“Not so fast,” Trevor snarls. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“I was curious,” says the unicorn, smiling flatly, tilting his head to look at Alucard sideways. Alucard neither falters nor advances; he keeps his eyes fixed on the monster in front of him.

“Lord Belmont,” Father Silviu protests from where he stands at the warped, water-damaged pulpit, trying to feel his way forward. “Please. I don’t know what has made you so angry, but this man was only seeking shelter. Has he some reputation amongst your community? Please, allow him safe passage. Take your wrath out on me if you must.” He gestures to himself in the dim candlelight, trembling but unflinching.

Trevor, Alucard, and the unicorn turn as one to look at Father Silviu.

“Wow,” Trevor comments, uncertain of what to do with that.

“Work a little harder at trying to die less,” the unicorn agrees in his thunder-rolling voice, pulling a hand out of his pockets to scratch the weirdly little patch of beard at his chin.

“You misunderstand,” Alucard says, eyes flickering between the unicorn, held at bay between Trevor and himself. “This is no man at all. Only a monster.”

“I don’t wish to be arrogant, or foolhardy,” Father Silviu says, feeling his way down the steps carefully, “but I don’t think that’s pertinent.”

“You- what?!” Trevor glances between the unicorn and the priest, flummoxed by whatever he’s walked into.

“Explain,” Alucard says levelly, his sword still up, live steel shining powerfully in the enclosed dark of the church.

“This is a sacred place,” Father Silviu says, still trying to feel his way through the place, presumably to put himself between the vengeance of the bloodthirsty Lord Belmont and his innocent quarry. “It is here for anybody who seeks the mercy of God.”

“This is so fucked up,” Trevor groans. “Are you even a real priest?”

“Of course I am,” Father Silviu retorts, sounding offended for the first time today. “In fact, the first thing I did when I came in tonight was consecrate the grounds. Those who would do harm are not allowed to cross the threshold.”

The unicorn looks just as uneasy at that as Trevor and Alucard do; they all trade glances. Trevor finds himself in the unenviable position of finding himself sympathetic to the muzzled frustration on the monster’s face. A million questions rise to the surface of his mind, but he finds he can’t give any voice to them, not even one. Alucard’s gaze is darting around wildly.

“On that note,” the unicorn says, rolling his enormous shoulders that are still dripping with rain, “I’ll take my leave.”

“Like hell you will,” Trevor snarls, turning all his attention to the monster brazenly walking away from him. Alucard looks between the priest, the church’s pulpit, and the unicorn. His focus is clearly gone.

“I heard that the village was taking refugees of all kinds,” the unicorn says, walking backwards, his unnatural-looking hands sliding up to hover in the air next to his head. “And I have some blacksmithing skill. I figured you could use a man who knows how to use a hammer.”

His eyes bore into Trevor’s. Trevor bares his teeth.

“Like hell am I going to let you nestle down all cozy next to the people who have-“

“I heard that this village was a sanctuary of sorts for all types of people,” the unicorn cuts in, finally stopping his retreat at the edge of the church’s light. “People who are looking for a fresh start, free of the pressures and rules that lie heavy on people in other lands.”

“The place is consecrated?” Alucard asks nobody who’s paying attention.

“Like you’re going to run off if I tell you to,” Trevor says, narrowing his eyes.

“Lord Belmont!” Silviu breaks the tension once more, grabbing clumsily at the back of Trevor’s cloak, trying to hold him back from pursuit. “Please, is this how you receive all refugees?”

“No,” Trevor agrees, still staring at the man hovering in the border between the light and darkness of outside. “Just the ones that could kill the whole village on a whim.”

“Couldn’t you do that too, though? If you wanted to, I mean.” The unicorn smiles from the door.

“I think you’re missing a key piece of information,” Alucard says urgently to Silviu.

“I’ll stop by tomorrow morning to see about what the smithy needs to be up and running again,” the unicorn promises. His expression is sharp, mocking. “You can call me Silas.”

“The only thing I want to call you is dead,” Trevor tries to say, but the monster is gone before he can get his witty rejoinder out. “What the fuck is going on here!?”

“Thank you,” Father Silviu breathes, releasing the back of Trevor’s cloak, “thank you for letting him go in peace.”

“Can we please go back,” Alucard says patiently, “to the part where the church that we are inside of is consecrated?”

 

 

 

Alucard has made them all tea in the damp old kitchen by the time they finish explaining their morning encounter with the unicorn to Silviu. They do make some amendments to the story.

“It isn’t as if I doubt that monsters exist,” he says, holding out a chipped mug they’d found in a cabinet in the hall. “That would be madness. But rather, I don’t see the point in slapping away a hand that reaches out for help.”

“Even if the owner of that hand,” Trevor says dryly, “is going to drag you down to devour you?”

“Even then,” Silviu agrees quietly. His kitten had, in all the ruckus, escaped from Trevor and gone to lie down in Silviu’s small bedroll. They’d found her when he asked for help navigating to his living quarters in the church. It hadn’t escaped Trevor’s notice that Alucard surreptitiously inspected the bedding for warmth. “You may think that they will cause harm, but what if they genuinely need a hand up?”

“You seemed pretty sure that I was going to enact some horrible bloody revenge on you,” Trevor points out sourly.

To his surprise, Father Silviu lowers his head. “I… apologize. That’s true. It’s well known that you have a negative opinion of the church. Reasonably!” Silviu adds hastily.

“Sure, whatever,” Trevor sighs. Alucard leans over him to press a hot cup into his hands, which he takes with a mutter of thanks.

“But that was wrong of me. I let my own fear guide me. Please forgive me.”

“It doesn’t look good,” Trevor grumbles, uncomfortable with the apologies. “Us charging in like that in the middle of the night, weapons out.”

“Father,” Alucard says, and gently guides him into taking the mug. Trevor’s eyes fall on that missing pinky again.

“Thank you, Doctor. What an aromatic brew- I’ve never smelled anything like it.” Silviu raises it to his face, taking in the scent with a pleased inhale.

“Probably something herbal,” Trevor says, raising his eyebrows at Alucard. “To calm everybody down.”

“There’s something to be said for herbal tonics,” Alucard huffs. “But, Father, I do agree with Trevor. Your generous spirit is,” he tips his head, considers, and carefully sounds out, “admirable, but there are certain cases where caution is the better option.”

“This church is here for any who enter,” Silviu insists. “If that includes Silas, then I am doing what I have been sent to.”

“What, die?” Trevor asks, and regrets it when Silviu goes pale. “Shit. I’m just saying… look. My job is to hunt monsters. He’s ground me into a tree already, so trying to believe he’s got genuine intentions is… a stretch.” Alucard nods. “And just because the church sent you as some kind of- of- sacrificial lamb to me, doesn’t mean you have to lie prone under the blade, you know?”

Silence falls. The room is dark except for the small fire Alucard started for the water. Trevor can’t see much, but he doesn’t see the point in protesting: Silviu is blind and Alucard can see in the dark. He’d just make them both uncomfortable if he asked for more light, and not for dissimilar reasons.

“A sacrificial lamb,” Silviu comments, amusement making his tone go light, “might not have been the best choice of phrasing to dissuade me from my course of action. All the God stuff, you know.” He waves a hand. Father Silviu sounds very much like he might be poking gentle fun at Trevor.

Trevor rubs his fingers on the splintered wood of the table. Alucard finally sits down next to him with his own mug, sitting close enough that they touch at the hip, at the elbow, at the shoulder. Trevor drinks that contact in, draws strength from it.

“I sort of thought,” Trevor confesses, putting his head in his hands, “that I would catch on fire or something if I set foot in a church. An actually-consecrated one, I mean.” Alucard raises his eyebrows in expressive agreement but makes no comment. Trevor and Alucard had both discussed, previously, their concerns about crossing over the thresholds of consecrated spaces. Sypha wasn’t baptized, but she had her own god and religion, which they supposed might be good enough under the circumstances.

“Hm... I was told that you never did accept the offer to be brought back into communion.”

“Uh, yeah…” Trevor sips at his tea rather than go into detail on that. He… still hasn’t made his mind up about that.

Father Silviu sips at his tea as well, perhaps considering his guests. Without eyes to follow, it’s harder for Trevor to read him than he expected.

“If you ever change your mind,” he says finally, “I am here for you.”

Trevor fiddles with his cup, eyes fixed downward.

Alucard puts a comforting hand on his knee.

“It is true,” Father Silviu says abruptly, as if remembering something, “that monsters who attempt to enter consecrated spaces with the intention of harm combust in a spectacular fashion. I don’t know that it applies to humans, though.”

“Let’s not test it out, all right?” Trevor rests his head in a hand, watching the priest. “They’ve already taken their fair pound of flesh from you. Let’s not add to the debt.”

“Hm?” Silviu startles. “I’m sorry?”

“Your, ow,” Trevor says, feeling awkward, shirking away from the jabbing elbow Alucard is digging into his side until he’s practically half-off the bench.

“Oh!” Silviu laughs, shifting the cup to his left hand in order to touch at his face, where his eyes would have been. His fingers trail down the line of scars on his face. “No, demons didn’t do this to me.”

“Huh?” Trevor blinks. Alucard abruptly stiffens next to him. Trevor takes the opportunity to slide back into his seat.

“In fact,” Silviu gives a hollow little laugh, “Dracula’s army’s advance actually sort of saved me. I was…” He rubs at the stump of his little finger. “Anyway, that’s a story for another time. Will you two be staying the night here, or are you going back?”

Trevor and Alucard exchange a glance.

“We should probably go back,” Alucard says, “if just to make sure that the village is peaceful.”

“You boys should rest up tomorrow,” Silviu advises, standing up and feeling carefully to put his mug down safely. If Trevor is honest, he finds it sort of interesting how quickly the priest adapts to a new space. He wonders if, given the need, he himself could adjust so easily to missing a sense. “You’ve been up and down all day. Thank you very much for bringing Pasha back to me.”

“We couldn’t steal your cat,” Trevor says, watching him carefully navigate in the near-dark.

“I appreciate it nonetheless.”

Trevor stumbles over some debris as they enter the windowless hallway that goes from the priest’s quarters to the front of the building. Alucard grabs Trevor’s elbow solicitously; he gives the other man a nonplussed look, but Alucard simply smiles delightedly. As they walk back to the front of the building, Trevor resignedly admits, if only to himself, that he probably did need the help.

“Go back carefully,” Father Silviu says, standing with them at the threshold. “God is with you.”

“Er,” Trevor says.

“Thank you,” Alucard says graciously.

“Be careful out here yourself,” Trevor says, leaning on his professionalism where his personal conversational skills have failed him. “Close and lock the windows, and any doors if you can.”

“Thank you, Lord Belmont. I hope to see you both another time.”

“Yeah,” Trevor agrees vaguely, looking beyond Father Silviu into the church again. “By the way, you’re not banned from the town. So… come by if you need anything.” He rolls his shoulders uncomfortably, looking fixedly at the giant doors, splintered and jammed where they are. It looks like Radu had to muscle them open. Trevor would be more concerned, but he’d seen a pretty good barricade bar on the door into the priest’s quarters.

Father Silviu smiles at Trevor; behind him, a demanding yowl sounds out from the depths of the church. Alucard laughs a little.

“It sounds as if she’s expecting you.”

“She’s spoiled rotten,” Silviu says, tossing his head and clucking his tongue. “She’s just like my sister. It’s a good thing I’m sworn to chastity- if I’d been a father, I think I’d have been far too indulgent.”

Alucard chuckles, but Trevor can’t quite stop himself from laughing aloud.

“Oh,” Father Silviu says, tipping his head even as he steps back. “I think that’s the first time I’ve heard you laugh, Lord Belmont.” Another yowl sounds. “Ah- pardon me. Good night.” He nods once more, then vanishes back into the church.

“You do have a nice laugh,” Alucard agrees as they step out of the pool of light on the front steps. The chill of the night immediately hits them. “I’d like to hear it more.”

“Hey,” Trevor says, pacing back and forth from the light to the darkness, warmth to chill.

“Yes,” Alucard says patiently. “I noticed that as well. I must say, I’m glad to know that I can enter a church.” He gazes up at the stone building with happiness on his face, seemingly heedless of the rain. “It takes something of a weight off my shoulders, if I’m honest.”

“Me too,” Trevor says with feeling, and pulling the borrowed cloak up over his head walks into the night at Alucard’s side. “Magic is crazy.”

“Tell Sypha that,” Alucard teases. “See what she thinks.”

“She comes back in a few days, doesn’t she?” Trevor slinks close to Alucard, then slips his hand in Alucard’s. It’s the middle of the night and dead dark out- nobody will see them. Even if they do, it’s easy enough to pass it off as Alucard leading him. It’s pretty inarguably clear, even to the casual observer, that Alucard does have good night vision.

“Still think you’re going to get the unicorn bit sorted before she comes back?” Alucard asks, giving Trevor’s hand a squeeze.

“Hell no.”


 

Chapter Text


 He doesn’t remember coming in. The night goes smeary and soft around the edges by the time he’s out of the village, and his memory comes and goes in flickers, like Trevor is walking into a room, then out again with no reason for any of it. He holds on to Alucard and lets himself be pulled along. The thunderstorm has kicked up once more, and the world lights up brilliant and submerges them back into oblivion; Alucard’s hand clenches on Trevor’s with every punch of light.

It isn’t that he’s physically weary, not really- walking back and forth and back and forth, even in the rain and mud, isn’t too demanding. It’s not that he’s exhausted from the cold, a barbed sliver of chill that’s eaten through his skin to nest, quaking and clenching, in his belly. And it’s not that he’s too worn through by everything—though the weight of a monster, a priest, and the weight of lordship he considers himself unsuited for all drag at him with sticky, urgent hands.

If he considers it, through those lightning-burst flickers of wakefulness, it’s that all of that together has piled on him in one day.

Living on after everything happened, he decides, in a moment of lucidity as they pass through the Belmont gate, is so much harder than he’d thought it would be. He isn’t sure what to do with himself now.

Then darkness folds over him again, and he’s dimly aware of his body moving, the confusing half-agony of working through deep fatigue, the way everything seems far away and hyper-real and too much, too much, even softened through the cottoned slow senses of exhaustion.

 

 

 

Trevor comes back to consciousness with his face buried against Alucard’s neck. It’s pitch black out, raining hard, lightning spreading through the sky like roots through the earth. He can feel the cold eating through their blankets, which has woken him up. The world still feels askew under him, likely from exhaustion. He feels confused, but he’s not sure about what.

“Go back to sleep,” Alucard says, smelling of lavender. Trevor can feel Alucard’s hand rubbing along his shoulders, the firmness of his arm against Trevor’s spine, the rumble of his voice running through his own flesh and into Trevor’s. Trevor flexes his toes and feels how clean they are. His own hair is lying pressed to his face, still drying. Alucard must have washed them both.

“I don’t know why you’re still here,” Trevor mumbles quietly, fighting against the laziness of his own tongue to get the words out coherently. He thinks it’s probably a testament to Alucard’s having starting to find his feet under himself again that he stays relaxed, supine, at that potentially dangerous statement.

“You’re lying on my arm, for one thing,” Alucard says. He turns his head to kiss Trevor on the forehead.

“You always have to look after people,” Trevor clarifies. “We don’t mean to do it to you but you’re just better at a lot of stuff.”

“I like to feel needed,” Alucard agrees instead of deflecting. Perhaps it’s the lateness of the hour.

“Do I need you?” Trevor asks, breathing slow and quiet against Alucard’s neck.

There’s a long silence.

“I don’t think so,” Alucard says into a black void between lightning and thunder.

“I don’t think so either,” Trevor agrees, still exhaustion-drunk and hungry for something that he doesn’t know.

“But you want me anyway,” Alucard says, and thunder roars like a lion.

“No,” Trevor says, the room lighting up hard and sharp and unnaturally bright.

“No,” Alucard echos, and this time he does tense up, though it’s hard to tell if it’s because of what Trevor’s saying or because of the monstrous, heavy echoing crack that peals out. The storm is coming closer.

“It’s like,” Trevor says, sleep clouding his senses once more, making him settle and snuggle against Alucard’s body in an attempt to ward off the chill. “I don’t want you, I want you to be…. I want something good for you. For you to be happy, after everything you’ve been through. And being here seems to make you happy. But if you wanted to go to…. To England…” He yawns, scrubs at an eye. “Go to England.”

Alucard huffs a breath, then another, and another and another. Trevor can’t think enough to lift his head and figure out what’s happening with him- crying?, so he just listens as Alucard steadies his breath.

“You are so good,” he says. “So good.” Trevor is falling back down inside himself, sinking into sleep, before he can tell Alucard that he likes him just fine himself. Distantly, as he goes, he feels Alucard turn to embrace him fully, tucking his own face against Trevor’s.

His body pulls him down like a stone, and he doesn’t have any more fight to give: he sleeps in Alucard’s hold.

 

 

 

“Holy shit it’s still raining,” Trevor groans before he even open his eyes. “The bastard is definitely trying to cause a flood. I’ll kill him. I’ll roast him and serve him to the whole damn village. It will be a fucking feast.”

“I think it’s usually frowned on to eat unicorn flesh,” Alucard replies from somewhere above Trevor. Trevor unwillingly cracks an eyelid to see Alucard sitting upright. The grimoire is balanced on his knees, and he has a steaming teacup in hand. As usual, it’s fucking dark- a little before dawn, if Trevor’s senses are giving him the right information.

“I don’t care,” Trevor grumbles. His head is pillowed on Alucard’s bony, bony thighs. “I’m roasting him anyway.”

“He is unsavory,” Alucard agrees, licking a finger to turn the page. Almost as an aside to himself, he murmurs in a spiteful tone, “I’ll show him a man that knows how to use a hammer. My god.

“We should have slept in the village,” Trevor sighs. “I swear to god if I go down there and everybody is murdered by a fucking horse I’m just going to take the whole damned country over and ban the fucking things.”

“What, horses?” Alucard sounds unconcerned.

“Sure,” Trevor grumps.

“You love horses. You love animals in general.”

“I do not.

“You give Sypha’s horses all the little treats you can find. You point out mice to that unsettling cat of hers but you hide birds. You covet puppies.”

“Shut up,” Trevor sighs. The effect is lost on Alucard; he’s turning the page again. “I am a big tough man and I hate horses, puppies, kittens, the elderly, children, and beautiful damsels.”

“Do I count,” Alucard says dryly, “is that me, am I the damsel here?”

“We’ve been over this,” Trevor snorts, loathe to move even though he is genuinely concerned about the village. “It’s sure not Sypha.”

“It might be you, did you ever think of that,” Alucard snaps back, but he can’t hold back the amused little curl of his lips. “And anyway, Sypha put a ward around the village on the solstice. Remember? You held the north point in the diagram.”

Trevor thinks back. He still doesn’t really get magic, even with the whip and the fire still eternally burning in him. He was also, and this he won’t mention to Alucard, but, yes, he was super drunk that whole day. Pleasant memory, that. Or, pleasant lack of memory.

“Do you think he just… won’t be able to get in?”

“Oh,” Alucard says coolly, “I suspect he won’t. I believe she used what she learned against the previous unicorn, so he should be fairly matched. And anyway, any attempts on his part to get through would be fairly…. Showy. She built a rebound model off of some minor feature that your ancestral wall has.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning that if he tries to force his way in, he’ll be launched three stories in the air in the opposite direction. The village, and everybody in it, is fine.”

Trevor grins against Alucard’s thigh.

“Atta girl.”

“About that,” Alucard says, setting the book aside. He looks at Trevor, arches an eyebrow. It is, overall, not a subtle expression, the one he puts on.

“Yeah?” Trevor blinks.

“She should be back in a day or two,” Alucard says, sipping his tea. Trevor remains silent, contemplating if he wants tea too or not. After a moment of silence too long, Alucard draws his brows down and continues, “so, I was thinking, if you wanted to continue on with your…. request,” Trevor abruptly realizes what they’re talking about and feels his face flood with heat, “it might be better to ease you into it a little.”

“Riding my ass, you mean,” he says, because Trevor Belmont is no coward against man nor beast, and he’s not about to get spooked by a dick of all things.

“Yes,” Alucard says and takes a sip of tea. “I was thinking that we might open you up a little in the days before.”

“Is that a thing?” Trevor sits up. “Wait, is that a thing? Wait, I have a lot of practical questions here. Am I going to-”

“It won’t impact anything that you’re worried it will,” Alucard says in such a flat, put-upon tone that Trevor feels sort of relived; that’s his doctor voice, and Trevor’s heard it applied to shredding enough wives’ tales about baby health and wound treatment that he trusts it implicitly. “Believe it or not, your life will continue as normal after you’re held down in bed and fucked within an inch of your life.”

Trevor stares at Alucard. Alucard stares back.

“Except that will have happened to me,” Trevor says, and he feels that little shiver of excitement in him that had nudged him to chase after this.

“Are you sure that you want this?” Alucard looks worried. “I really don’t want to… I want you to enjoy yourself in bed. It’s not as if I’m sitting there going, ‘ah, if only….’”

“Sypha seems to like it just fine,” Trevor says, shifting and swinging himself over to sit on Alucard’s lap. He reaches out and takes Alucard’s tea from his hands, finishing it in a long, slow swallow. Alucard takes it black, or says he does to maximize the amount of honey and milk Sypha and Trevor get; the tea leaves a bitter, astringent prickle in Trevor’s mouth like that. Alucard oversteeped it.

Mindful that he’ll get no peace, or sex, if he breaks one of the five teacups Alucard loves, Trevor leans over to place it safely to the side, far away from the blankets. But, remembering that incident at the door, when Alucard had all but fled from him, Trevor decides to test the waters a little. He stretches and slithers, working his muscles in a protracted full-body flex. It’s completely unnecessary, and really he feels absurd—until he straightens in Alucard’s lap and feels the evidence of his success.

“So what did you want to do?” Trevor licks his lips, bites at his bottom one.

“It’s partially a physical thing,” Alucard explains, sliding his hands up Trevor’s thighs. “Mostly it’s the fact that you need to be able to relax when I’m….” He flashes his fangs. His eyes are bleeding into red again, just the slightest hint of it around his irises. Trevor swallows. “When I’m penetrating you.”

“See,” Trevor says, gesturing between them. “See, I’ve always said the biting bit was a sexual thing.”

“Of course it is,” Alucard agrees smoothly, his hands rising up and back, his nails tracing fine lines over Trevor’s muscular back. He trails his nails slowly to Trevor’s ass. “But I think you’ll find that being bitten is much easier to get used to than being lain with.”

Trevor nobly resists the urge to make a joke about the two bed hogs he sleeps with. “Are you seriously bragging about how big your dick is right now?”

“Let’s see what you think when I’m in you,” Alucard smirks and grab his wrists in a tight grip, which makes Trevor kind of irritated, but in a weird, sexy way. He’s coming to the unfortunate conclusion, lately, that what he likes in the bedroom is an unsettling echo of what he likes least in battle: he likes to be held down, he likes to be bested, and, perhaps most unsettlingly, he likes to be controlled.

“I think I’m going to make you work for it,” Trevor says, grinning, because he might find those urges of his strange, but Alucard certainly doesn’t. In fact, he seemed to have keyed into those tastes long before Trevor himself had.

“You won’t have the chance,” Alucard snorts, before Trevor rotates his wrists to break Alucard’s hold (a move Sypha had taught him from her travels out East) and tries to lunge forward to pin Alucard back. Alucard laughs and lunges forward, tangling his body with Trevor’s. They wrestle in bed wildly, Trevor trying to get a hold on Alucard and Alucard trying to get Trevor where he wants him.

Alucard catches Trevor’s hip and too late he realizes he’s already lost; he’s pressed down against the bed, panting, Alucard leaning heavily against his back. He’s got his legs on either side of Trevor’s, an arm around his neck, and another holding Trevor’s wrists together behind his back. Trevor goes slack, but Alucard, wise to his ways, doesn’t let up his hold in the least.

“You know,” Alucard comments, shifting so that his dick slides smoothly against Trevor’s sweat-dappled back, “perhaps I should just tie you up for the first time. You could lie in Sypha’s lap so she could see your face and I could enter you at my leisure.”

Trevor jerks against Alucard’s hold. Alucard might as well have been nudged by a blade of grass for all that he reacts.

“Or perhaps I’ll just fall on you,” Alucard continues, his tone cool, but there’s nothing cool about the way he moves, shifting so that he can rut against Trevor’s ass, his cock sliding between his cheeks; Trevor gives a muffled groan at the feeling of Alucard’s quick, eager little thrusts, “tuck your legs up over my shoulders and work at you and work at you.”

“Touch me, you bastard,” Trevor tries to say, but his mouth is jammed into a fold in the blanket and so all that clearly comes out is a testy moan.

“Perhaps Sypha will hold your hands above your head,” Alucard muses, hips working, precome making him slide faster, quicker, “so that you have to come from my work in you.”

Trevor doesn’t really know if that’s a thing, but right now, he’s too turned on to protest.

“I like that,” Alucard says, and Trevor can hear the smile. He gives another irritated snarl, trying to rub himself against the bedsheets. “Tying somebody up is a bit much for their first time, anyway. Sypha would definitely object to that.”

Trevor wriggles just enough to get some slight hip motion going, and getting that taste of motion against his cock is so good that he moans. Alucard eases up on him, so Trevor takes the space given to him, spreading his knees so get a better angle against where he’s being held down. He moans again, driving himself desperately against the sheets, his wrists turning against Alucard’s grip. No escape.

“Meanwhile,” Alucard says, and it drives Trevor up the wall because he sounds both cheery and very dangerous, completely different from his normal dignified, arch self, “let’s see about what we can do here.”

Trevor turns his face to suck in air as the arm around his neck is pulled back. It’s a momentary reprieve, though- Alucard buries his fingers in Trevor’s hair and jerks his head back.

“You have a thing for pulling my hair,” he complains, still shifting his legs in the guise of seeking more space to satisfy himself with. If he can get one knee under him, he can shift both of them, and from there he has another chance of coming out on top in this little tussle.

Not really, but half the fun is this: wrestling and writhing and grinning at each other through fake snarls.

“Since when?” Alucard demands, pulling Trevor’s hair in a manner he can only describe as sarcastic.

“Since the fucking hour we met, you long-toothed would-be-messiah,” Trevor grunts. He finally gets enough room under him to slide a knee up, and he’s about to use that to initiate that turnabout in positions when Alucard abruptly shifts, positioning his knees in between Trevor’s thighs and using his own legs to open Trevor’s more. “Hey!”

“In my defense, you usually do need a haircut,” Alucard retorts, which Trevor personally finds a bit hard to swallow coming from a man with hair so long he can sit on it. “Spread your legs.”

“Why?” Trevor asks suspiciously from where he’s being held.

“Because I want to know that you want me between them,” Alucard says, which makes Trevor move eagerly, his legs flexing. “I’m going to let go of your wrists. Rest your head on your arms, please.”

“Do you think it’s weird that we do this?” Trevor asks, obeying. His wrists aren’t even bruised. Alucard has gotten good at hanging on to him. “I mean, it’s probably fucked up, isn’t it?”

“You clearly enjoy it,” Alucard retorts, cupping Trevor’s balls and thumbing at the base of his shaft. He uses that touch to guide Trevor into lifting his hips, listening with some evident satisfaction to his little eager grunts. “And so do I.”

Trevor grinds lustily into the touch, hips jerking impatiently; his cock, in this new position, stabs ineffectively at the air. He flexes and arches just to show off to Alucard, and is rewarded with an appreciative sigh and a loving caress of his ass.

“You should do it. Sypha holding my hands, I mean.”

“If she assents, we will, then. Hold that position. I want something.” Alucard gets up off the bed; Trevor lifts his head to stare after him indignantly.

“What the hell?” He can hear Alucard entering the next room over and rummaging around. The sound of rummaging is more nerve-wracking than he’d expected. Lying here, his ass tilted into the air and his arms pillowing his head, Trevor has time to reflect that it’s a pretty uncomfortable position before he hears Alucard coming back for him. “What was that about?”

“I’m sure you’ve realized that Sypha has a clear advantage over both of us when it comes to taking a man into her body,” Alucard says. Trevor isn’t sure how he feels about the phrasing—it feels too raw, almost, too plain-facedly intimate to be anything but erotic.

Trevor has something to say back, something very clever and sassy and biting, but it flies out of his mind like a startled bird when Alucard sets himself down between Trevor’s spread legs and reaches forward and up to pet at his asshole with two fingers.

“Woah,” Trevor says, jolting up onto his elbows. There’s something slick there, something that’s melting on his skin as he straightens somewhat to look back at Alucard. Alucard looks back at him seriously, his hand coming to rest on Trevor’s hip. The touch is kind, his face concerned. Trevor shivers, rolls his shoulders, and lies back down. “Uh, it’s okay. Sorry. I just got… surprised. Is that the wound salve you use?”

“I made a different batch for more intimate uses,” Alucard sniffs. “The other variety tingles when used on sensitive areas.”

Tingles,” Trevor says disbelievingly. “How did you find that out?”

“Sypha jerked me off with it,” Alucard says happily, reaching down again to swirl the melting salve over Trevor’s skin. The aroma is herbal, sort of soothing. Trevor can’t say he minds it. “I haven’t tried to use the tingling one internally, so I figured that safer was better for you.” He rubs the slickness all around Trevor’s- well, right now he supposes it’s an entrance, and if that isn’t a lesson in how perspective can change things he doesn’t know what is.

Trevor can feel those long fingers working at him, the pads dipping into the salve and spreading it over him. He gives an impatient thrust forward, growling.

“I don’t suppose you could touch me while you do that?”

Alucard makes a thinking noise. “I could. But I want to see you take at least two fingers tonight before I will.”

Trevor whips his head around. “What?!”

“You could just take care of yourself,” he says, dangerously, his eyes half-lidded and his smile edged with glints of fang.

Trevor thinks on it, breathing desperately against his arms. Alucard is petting him all over, rocking forward in antsy, impatient little rubs of his cock against Trevor’s thighs. If Trevor calls it off for tonight, he has total faith that Alucard will settle, quite happily, for jerking each other off. But he’s offering Trevor more, offering to pin him down again metaphorically, and Trevor is so down for that.

“I can take it,” Trevor says, wiggling his ass in the air like Sypha has done to him a million times. “Give it to me.”

Alucard makes a happy little noise. His fingers slide immediately to Trevor’s asshole, and fuck him but he’s realizing, as he feels the faintest pressure against that spot, that he’s always thought of Alucard’s fingers as dainty and fine-boned against the context of his own rough hands. But as Alucard presses a finger against him, further and further, Trevor realizes that context, in fact, is not for chumps: it feels fucking huge.

“Easy,” Alucard reassures him, “I’ll go gently. Breathe out and let me in.” He slides his finger back and forth, and Trevor tries to follow the advice. It doesn’t hurt, he muses, focusing on keeping his body lax and pliant. That’s not too bad, not really: he’s always had good luck at picking up physical skills, and this is easier by far than stilling himself to stitch a wound shut. It’s not painful, aside from the faint burn at his entrance. Even that fades quickly. Trevor breathes slowly, closes his eyes, focuses on the way it feels to have somebody else in his body, if even just by a finger, the way that subtle in-and-out feels

“Are you all right?”

“Yeah,” Trevor confirms, swallowing. “Give me another.”

“I did say two at least,” Alucard reminds him. “We can go further if you want.”

“Take it easy, Jesus. One at a time, thanks,” Trevor says, fighting against himself—don’t clench, don’t lock down around Alucard’s finger, don’t let nerves take over. He harbors no illusions that that would be pleasant. Alucard removes the risk by pulling out of Trevor, rummaging by his leg to where he must have put the little salve box before turning back to his task. Trevor realizes his heart is racing, that his erection has flagged somewhat but not enough to make this unpleasant. It just feels like he’s gotten…. Distracted, he supposes, from his own sexual pursuits. It’s taken the edge off his urgency for gratification.

“Here’s two now,” Alucard says, as if Trevor can’t feel the two fingers prodding at him together.

This one takes effort to not fight against. He can feel his body working to take them, can feel the stretch in that entryway muscle as Alucard works his fingers in little by little. Trevor lets out a breath, realizes he’s been holding it a while, and breathes steadily against the dizziness the knowledge that he’s got two fingers up his ass brings.

Alucard works those two fingers in and out slowly, steadily. Trevor grunts- he’s slipping here and there, keeps clenching on the withdrawal. He’s trying to catch the rhythm, slow as it is. Alucard is being patient with him. He breathes in, out, in again. There’s somebody in his body. He asked him to be there. Somebody’s inside him. He invited him. Okay. Okay.

“I admit,” Alucard says into the silence, “you look good like this.” Trevor can’t bother to lift his head to look around, not when he’s starting to get the hang of what’s happening- the need to resist fighting it is easing, and with it, the slow slide of Alucard’s fingers in him is almost soothing, relaxing. He can feel Alucard warming up as he works, too, his fingers going from body temperature to slightly warmer. Trevor himself can feel sweat sliding down his back, can feel a trickle rolling down his temple. He breathes again, in and out, and finds he can’t feel the chill of the dark right now, only the slow unfurling of his own desire.

Trevor leans into the pressure of Alucard’s fingers just a touch, enjoying the brush of Alucard’s erection against his legs. The evidence that he is, in fact, enjoying watching Trevor open himself up for him is a bigger ego stroke than he’d like to admit.

“How good?” he asks, his voice shaky, pitched low and gravelly. Lusty, he realizes. His cock is tucked up high against his belly again. When did that happen?

“So good I just want to pull you back onto my cock, and fuck the waiting,” Alucard breathes.

Trevor, working to take two fingers, abruptly recalls that Alucard’s dick is shorter than his but thicker by enough to notice. How many fingers, precisely, is a cock?

“No thanks,” Trevor eases out, still working to stay still and calm. “Aren’t you always the one saying it’s best to wait?”

“How about a third finger?” says Alucard by way of changing the subject away from his own moral hypocrisy.

Trevor bites his lip, shifts his hips, then closes his eyes.

“Go for it. Slow though. Slower than before.”

“Of course.” Alucard pulls his fingers out, like before, but Trevor is surprised to feel something in him give a little jump. He breathes out a shuddering breath and subtly adjusts his stance, spreading his legs a little wider. Then he feels Alucard’s fingers at him again, and nerves almost overwhelm him.

He breathes for a moment, feeling Alucard rubbing his hip in soft, pleasant little circles before nodding again. He trusts Alucard, he realizes, to treat him gently when he needs it, to fantasize but not actually leap forward without his consent. He really, really trusts Alucard. Pretty typical of him to realize something like that while he’s getting his ass fingered by the guy, not before. Still, it’s a nice, steadying thought, and it sustains him as he feels the unrelenting press of fingers in again.

“Ugh,” Trevor gasps, squirming in not-quite-pain.

“I’ll pull out,” Alucard says, but Trevor shakes his head.

“Keep going,” he says, breathing so deep that his belly works as he does. Fuck if he doesn’t enjoy some of the burn, some of the tension in his body as he’s forced to accommodate Alucard’s invasion. He’s never had to do something like this, and part of Trevor relishes it like he relishes learning a new weapon.

“You know,” he says, his voice still sex-rough, his cock now drooling precome even as he squirms around those fingers in him, “you’re the first person to do this to me.”

“I know,” Alucard says, but Trevor feels the jerk of his dick against his leg where he’s rutting methodically against him. He has to give it to Alucard, the guy has coordination.

“Not even Sypha,” Trevor tries again, and Alucard gives a little whine, his dick another quick spasm. “You’re the only person who’s done this to me.”

Alucard is getting warmer, putting off heat more strongly than before. He feels feverish. Trevor usually doesn’t appreciate that particular aspect of Alucard’s physiology in the summer. The way he gets almost too hot when he’s excited, it’s as if his body is trying to mimic a human’s warmth and getting it just wrong enough. Trevor can feel the heat bleeding into him from Alucard’s fingers and his mind wanders, absently, to what that dick in him will feel like when Alucard gets all hot and bothered.

He sure hopes it’s cool that night, because just imagining it he starts sweating like he’s working in the noontime sun.

“I’ll be the first one to press you open,” Alucard growls, leaning down, his fingers working their way in suddenly enough that Trevor hisses, belly tensing. He finds that, as before, he likes the struggle, likes the challenge. Likes the little sting of pain as he’s forced to take it. “I’ll be the only one to spread you wide and hilt myself in you. I’ll pull you so tight against me that you’ll think you were made for me.”

“Shit, yes,” Trevor says, feeling those fingers moving in him now, not in and out like before but around in him like how he works Sypha up. He feels Alucard loop an arm around his hips, holding him still- no escape now. “Please, fuck,” and he starts babbling, because Alucard’s fingers are driving him crazy, are brushing something as they work in him that is making that little spark at the base of his spine fizzle again. Alucard is half-bent over him now, leaning his weight on Trevor as he speaks into his ear.

“Sypha will probably want to see you face, see every expression you make. You’ll have to lie on your back for her so she can watch you as I slide into you for the first time.”

Trevor cries out, jerking in Alucard’s hold, but Alucard, now thrusting his cock under and against Trevor’s own, doesn’t let him move, just keeps arching his fingers in him, working at him, driving him crazy as that spark in him gets wilder and wilder.

“Perhaps it will be difficult for you to take me. I’m sure she will be very sympathetic.” Trevor groans, reaches back with one hand, and finds Alucard’s cheek. He pets at what he can find, feels Alucard give his hand a quick kiss. “But you’ll need to take me, won’t you? All of me. You know she wants that.”

“Fuck, yes, she, I, yes, I want you to,” Trevor babbles, his mind rattling into pieces as Alucard works his fingers into him still more, sinking in that much deeper, giving him that much more access to that perfect angle, the hard stroke and press of fingers that’s making him jerk and whine and moan and shake in Alucard’s arms.

“Good,” Alucard says, switching his hold, removing his hand from Trevor’s hips where he was holding him still, and Trevor spares his single working brain cell to mourn that loss before that, too, shorts out and he’s screaming, because Alucard is working at him from inside with those fingers and now he’s got both of their dicks in his other hand and he’s jerking them off together, rocking Trevor back and forth with every forceful press inside him and pull against him, and the spark keeps on growing and growing and growing and then

and he’s fucking going blind,

he’s shouting to God, the sun, the earth below,

his body is shuddering and his mind is falling apart like a teacup dropped on a stone floor and everything sears through him everything

 

he comes back to himself eventually, unable to make much of a thought at all as he does.

“Good?” Alucard asks from where he’s reclining in bed, watching Trevor possessively with half-lidded eyes.

“Ngh.” Trevor struggles to sit up, gives up halfway through, and ends up sprawled out dazedly watching the ceiling as his brain tentatively pieces itself back together again.

Alucard pets his hair, and, when it becomes clear that Trevor isn’t about to move any time soon, pulls out the grimoire and cracks it open.

“You were out for a little bit after we finished. I hope you don’t mind, but I cleaned us up.”

“Mm,” says Trevor, but then, because brain cell two has activated, says, “sorry about that.”

The low laugh that bursts out of Alucard startles him. He blinks muzzily, inchworming up until he’s lying with his head on Alucard’s shoulder.

“The day that I’m cross about knocking your mind out of you in bed is the day I officially move to a mountain to become a hermit, having given up on the world,” says Alucard, and now that brain cell three has fired up as well, he realizes that Alucard is indeed exuding a phenomenally self-satisfied aura.

“Fuck yeah,” Trevor says, boneless and hoarse.

True strength, he muses, looking at an illustration of a rainbow-colored chicken as it pecks its way across the bottom of the page, is knowing when you’re fucking beaten.

Or, in this case, beaten at fucking.

Chapter Text


 

The next time Trevor wakes up, the sun is halfway across the sky and Alucard is gone. Trevor, slumping around the kitchen, chews on some dried meat as he contemplates what to do.

Alucard is likely off doctoring, and while Trevor doesn’t mind assisting, the villagers don’t much like their lord handling their soiled bandages and listening in on when they last had a good solid shit. There are a few babies getting ready to be born from their mothers’ bellies, too, and Alucard has been especially solicitous of them—and while Alucard’s gentle hands put them at ease, Trevor staring them down from the corner clutching a jar of herbs isn’t likely to do the same. It isn’t intentional, but to say that his bedside manner is lacking is the kindest way to put it.

Trevor goes outside. Looking out across the fields, a dim simmer of satisfaction rises in his breast. They’re slowly recovering under the watchful (and occasionally wrathful) eye of Sypha and the villagers, the wheat and other crops rippling in smooth, golden undulations like the flanks of a fine-bred horse being put through its paces.

The weather is nice, for once. He tips his head back to catch some sun, then, when the sensation is too nice to resist, he leans against the house to soak it in.

There is something he’s been meaning to do. A breeze sweeps by, pleasantly cool against where the sun is heating his skin, and Trevor sighs. There’s something he’s been meaning to do, and he’d better do it before he gets into another fight with a unicorn.

Trevor departs from the wall to pull on his boots. He consciously chooses the old beaten brown ones.

 

 

 

When Alucard finds him, he’s on his knees.

“Are you all right?” he asks, which is a completely understandable question, given the location. Trevor doesn’t turn around, just lifts his shoulders in a shrug.

“I was just thinking about some things. I haven’t come by,” Trevor says, eyes tracing the shapes in front of him distantly, “since…” he sighs.

“I have,” Alucard confesses, stepping up to Trevor’s side only to fall to his knees next to him. Trevor looks at him in surprise, but Alucard’s eyes are fixed forward. “Your family’s death weighs on me as much as my own. I cannot help but feel… responsible, somewhat.”

“It was the church,” Trevor fires back without heat, almost automatically. This is ground tread so commonly between them by now that it feels like he’s making a desire path, a shortcut in conversation to avoid the insurmountable summit of guilt. “They were burning people long before they found your mother.”

“Yes, but—“

“You can’t blame yourself for everything, can you? But you can try, I guess.” Alucard doesn’t know if he should look stung or worried. He finally settles on a heavy sigh.

They kneel together in silence.

“Thank you,” Trevor says, reaching out and clutching at Alucard’s arm, grabbing him at his forearm where he’s put his hands together. Maybe he’s praying. Maybe he’s simply offering respect. Trevor doesn’t join him, though. He still stares ahead.

“For-?” Alucard looks over, surprised. His hair is still up in a bun, so Trevor’s guess about him going off to do his rounds was likely correct. “Of course. Your loss-“

“No,” Trevor says, looking over at him finally. He fixes him with a hard stare. “Thank you for staying. Thank you for…” Trevor squeezes his arm. “My world got small, after everything that happened, just narrowed down tight as a pinhole. It narrowed down to, uh, just me.” He gestures broadly with a hand, a circular sweep of the wrist that says what he’s trying to get out but with more grace. Trevor’s never been as good with words as he is with his body. “You and Sypha didn’t let me stay like that, and every day I’m grateful for it.”

“Oh,” Alucard says, and his eyes go all sweet and soft and tender. Even kneeling in the dirt and the grass, he looks like an angel made by the finest sculptor from a far-off land where men are more ethereal and women more sainted. Trevor realizes, perhaps for the first time, that he looks so much more beautiful, so much more tenderly beautiful, as he begins to lose the iron-jawed determination he’d clenched on to during their journey to kill his father. He’d mouthed it like a horse would an iron bit, but he’s gone out to pasture now, and he’s turned soft for it. Trevor doesn’t mind, not a bit: soft things are for holding.

“Hey,” Trevor says, wondering, idly: “Do I look any different?”

Alucard studies him for a moment.

“A little,” he agrees, after a careful pause. “A little.” Trevor can’t read that, but he lets it go. Alucard doesn’t look anything other than fond, and that’s good enough for him.

As one, they stand and dust their pants off. Trevor reaches down and plucks a flower, a single stem from an absolute mess of a bush sprouting from between two charred blocks of marble. Whatever the thing is, it’s steadily overtaken the old manor, and is working on erasing any trace of burned wood from the sky’s gaze.

“I’ve seen this at Alya and Esthe’s grave. Dunno’ what it’s called.” He looks it over: it’s as gold as a woman’s necklace at the center, with little green dots all up the edges of each full, frilled white petal. It doesn’t smell much, but he can get a faint whiff, if he holds it right up to his nose, of something mysterious, something like the scent of a woman he doesn’t know.

“I have never seen it before, myself,” Alucard muses, inspecting the compact little flowers. The stems are straw-like and resilient despite their over-eager green color; Trevor, on a whim, plucks some more and starts to make a flower crown. Alucard watches with a tipped head. It’s been ages and ages since he last made one, and he fumbles a little, trying to remember the old rhythm. It’s harder to catch than he thought. To be fair, that’s everything about settling down into a steady life again, isn’t it?

“Everything good in the village?” Trevor asks, sticking his tongue out the side of his mouth to concentrate.

“Yes!” Alucard exclaims, standing bolt upright with the air of a man who’s forgotten something in the hearth.

“G-ooood,” Trevor replies cautiously.

“Turn around,” Alucard demands, tilting his nose up.

“No,” says Trevor, because he’s like that sometimes.

“You might want to,” Alucard wheedles.

“No thanks,” Trevor starts to reply, but then he feels the press of a body against his back, and arms come up and then gentle hands, right over his eyes.

“Guess who,” comes a comically deep voice from against his shoulder. Trevor can feel the shimmy of her body against him as she giggles silently, the press of her soft cheek as she rubs her face against his shirt.

“Don’t know who it could possibly be,” he tries, but he’s laughing too, now, and Alucard grins as Sypha peels herself off his back and swings around to tangle into Trevor’s arms. The unmade flower crown drops to the earth, forgotten.

“I missed you!” Sypha says, raining kisses on him whenever his face gets close enough to, and he laughs, trying to kiss her back. It’s like trying to say hello to an over-eager puppy; he just gets a faceful of wet and sloppy. He gives up and lets her kiss him; it works out much better that way. “It feels like forever, and I missed you both so much!”

She turns to beam at Alucard, who smiles back unreservedly. She wiggles herself out of Trevor’s arms and flings herself into Alucard’s, hugging him so tightly it looks like she’s trying to pop his head off. Alucard only laughs, pecking her on her forehead fondly.

“We’ve missed you as well,” Alucard says. “She arrived ahead of time when I was down checking on the village,” he explains, “and we thought we might surprise you.”

“Come here,” Trevor says, gesturing, and Sypha releases Alucard to throw herself at him once more; this time, he catches her and picks her up at the waist, swinging them both in a circle that makes Sypha laugh and yell in excitement.

“Whew,” Sypha says, her eyes still bright with excitement, touching a hand to her hair to push it out of her face when Trevor sets her down again on her feet, “so. Tell me everything that’s happened!”

And, walking back, they do. Sypha takes over making the flower crown, and when she finishes, they all take turns wearing it.

 

 

 

“I did see that the old church was opened,” Sypha comments, helping Trevor prepare to mount a window. She’d made out like a bandit—as it turned out, trade was booming now that merchants domestic and foreign weren’t afraid to be killed, either by the church or the demons, and no merchant alive was a match for Sypha’s silver tongue. When that failed, her enormous blue eyes were a cruel finisher indeed to even the sternest of hearts (and money bags). Apparently she had ordered some more repair supplies for the village that were due in to arrive a few days after she was. Too heavy for their cart and the old darling pulling it, she had explained.

“But you’re sure this Silas fellow means harm?”

“He’s a monster,” Trevor objects around a mouthful of metal. He’s checking the hinges for the frame; after a few days on the road, they’re in need of some oil and cleaning. He’s got the pin clenched between his teeth, working the individual pieces of the hinges gently in an oiled cloth. Behind them, the faint nicker of one of the old horses can be heard.

“True,” Sypha sighs. “A smith would be convenient. Is he any good, I wonder?”

I’m a monster,” says Alucard, reclining dreamily in the grass like a fucking princess. Trevor gives him a dirty look. Alucard ignores him.

Alucard’s species hasn’t tried to kill me horribly multiple times,” Trevor fires back.

Sypha pauses in her adjustments and looks over the window frame at him. Alucard lifts his head up to squint at Trevor in the sunlight.

“Say that again,” she drawls, “but more slowly.”

“… Well, the human…” Trevor blusters, and fumblingly realizes that on either branch of Alucard’s family tree that still isn’t true. Alucard seems to be relishing his discomfort, the utter bastard. “Look, anyway, okay, whatever. I get what you’re saying, but I think we can both agree that he’s a bit of a special case.”

“That’s fair,” Sypha agrees. Alucard leisurely chews on a piece of grass, tipping his head this way and that. He holds his silence, though Trevor doubts it’s out of any sense of diplomacy: it’s noon, and a miracle that he isn’t out cold.

“It’s crooked,” he objects. The grass stem bobs up and down as he speaks.

Trevor looks at the window, resting unevenly on Sypha’s fingers and the will-be sill, and wonders if Dracula ever had to build his own windows; if so, he certainly never demonstrated how to his son.

“It’s not ready to go in yet,” Sypha tells him firmly. “It better be. I did meet him with the other women as I came in, you know. His tent was crooked. Silas, I mean.”

“Really, the poor thing,” says Trevor, rolling his eyes. He starts hammering the pin back into the hinge, so everybody falls silent for a moment. Over the din, Trevor hears Sypha yelp, and he looks up in mild alarm to see her jumping back, shaking a disturbingly hairy spider off the window into the grass.

“He had set up a camp slightly away from the new bridge,” Sypha says, staring down at the grass as if the spider is about to come back for her, “he said it was to have better access to cold water, but now I suppose it must also be to avoid the issue of our barriers.”

“Motherfucker,” Trevor grumbles. Alucard has stopped his window complaining and is listening. He’s also come up from his recline, perhaps also wary of the spider. “Was he a creepy fuck?”

“He seemed fine,” Sypha shrugs. “He gave our horse a rub under her reins and introduced himself. He said that he’d petitioned you to be the village blacksmith and was waiting on your reply.”

“Petitioned,” says Trevor, outraged. “Petitioned!

“I don’t think you can claim to stand on ceremony,” Alucard points out. “So, in a fashion, his request could count well enough as a petition. And, to be fair, aside from grabbing you that first time, he hasn’t actually caused any harm.”

“He sniffed me,” Trevor objects.

“That is weird,” Sypha comments. “Especially because you don’t usually smell so nice.”

“I’m regretting your return,” Trevor tells her, trying to sound sour, but she just smiles at him until he smiles back. Something about all three of them being together again makes the issue of Silas, of Silviu, of the world turning on whether he likes it or not, and all the new challenges and demands flying at him, seem smaller by comparison. Trevor doesn’t consider himself an uncertain man, but with Sypha back at their sides, it feels like, once again, nothing can stand in their way. In the face of that shared power they hold, the conundrum of a horse that wants to make its own shoes seems small.

“I really think it’s going to be crooked,” objects Alucard, sitting up.

“He bickers less when you’re gone,” Trevor mumbles.

“It’s the same when you’re gone,” Sypha mutters back.

“I heard that,” hisses Alucard, “and it’s no excuse for a crooked- oh hell, it’s on me!”

 

 

 

The window successfully set in place and riding high on the triumph of victory against the spider that wanted to touch everybody, Trevor agrees to go and chat with Silas.

As Alucard and he approach, Trevor feels a pang of mingled spite and pity: Silas may be many things, but he is not good at raising a tent. He casts a side-glance at Sypha, who is giving the scene a wide berth and walking ahead into the woods, towards the old church. Usually he just chalks her tent assessments up to pickiness, but in this case, the thing is absolutely pitiable- it’s got patches poorly sewn on, and is wobbling visibly even in the faint breeze. It is, even to Trevor’s casual inspection, an objectively bad tent.

“Heavens,” Alucard remarks, perhaps similarly stunned by the inanity of the sight.

“Lord Belmont,” Silas says, rearing up from where he’s sitting: next to Silviu, on a log in front of a modest fire over which a small rabbit is roasting. Silviu’s got his hood back and his face tilted into the sky.

Never mind. Alucard was remarking on the priest approaching a monster.

“What are you doing here?” Trevor asks, crossing his arms and unintentionally broadening his stance. Then, when Silas looks at Silviu and Silviu points his face questioningly towards Trevor, he clarifies: “I just meant Father Silviu, but you know what, yeah, I want to know what both of you think you’re doing.”

“I told you last night, I want to open a smithy,” Silas says, some of last night’s smarminess gone, perhaps evaporated in the noon sun like a malevolent miasma. “Re-open the one in town, that is.”

“No,” Trevor says, very firmly.

“Lord Belmont,” Silviu protests, and Trevor points at him and opens his mouth to speak before realizing, belatedly, that the gesture won’t do anything, “this man seeks only the shelter of your domain.”

“I’m sure he does,” Alucard says quietly. There’s something to his voice, his tone, that makes Silas start to inspect him, working from the feet up. It raises Trevor’s hackles, but then again, pretty much everything about Silas does that for Trevor. “But that is up to Lord Belmont to decide, Father, not you.”

“Unless the church wants to get a word in,” Trevor says with such ice cold intonation that even Silas shudders.

“I…. only ask that you consider the path of mercy, my lord,” Silviu tries, his voice soft. “I understand your conflict is an ancestral one, but I beseech you: must we all be tied so deeply by the past?”

Alucard and Trevor look at each other.

“Father Silviu,” Trevor says, exasperated, “let me sort this out, okay? You mind the souls of the good sheep and we’ll mind the bodies of everybody else.”

Silas jerks his head to the woods behind them, and it’s a testament to how irritated Trevor is that he nods and just starts walking, nudging Alucard towards Silviu by the elbow. Silas looks between them, raises an eyebrow, then shakes his head and follows Trevor. He’s careful to stay in Trevor’s peripheral vision, which Trevor—well, he doesn’t appreciate it, per se, that’d be a hell of an exaggeration, but he understands why he’s doing it and doesn’t mind the effort.

As they cross the tree line, Trevor hears Alucard ask Father Silviu about his health in a solicitous tone. Trust him to jump at the prospect of another patient.

They keep going until they’re completely out of sight.

“So,” Silas says, giving Trevor a wide berth but pacing around him in an arc anyway, like a fly that knows it’s going to get smacked. “That’s a no, then.”

“You’re not allowed in the village. Regardless of anything else, Sypha has a barrier up to keep the people safe and we’re not taking it down for you.” Trevor wants to let his hand fall to Vampire Killer, wants to pull out a throwing knife and play with it, wants to do anything but talk to Silas with his not-human not-horse not-anything eyes and his solar-death tattoos and his skin roiling with muscle like a pond does when a pebble’s been chucked in. He wants to be a vampire hunter and a monster killer, but Alucard was right, wasn’t he? He’s got to be a lord now, and that means dusting off a whole lot of skills he never intended to have to use ever again.

“Sure,” Silas says, rolling his shoulders.  His braids curve over his face as he turns away to face the mountains, visible in blots through the treetops. “Sure. Okay.”

There’s a silence.

“There are two old men living in the shop,” Trevor says, hating himself for being such a fucking soft touch, his blood rearing back in horror and the fire in his bones trying to convince him to just pick a goddamned fight with this thing, “and they got here first. But if you can prove your skill, and you can prove that you’re actually here for what you claim you are…. You can stay. The old smithy is in bad shape anyway for what you’d need it for. My family has been meaning to build a new one for a few decades now.” The words feel like acid in his mouth, and Trevor grits his teeth, anxious for some reveal—some hint of deception, some sinister flicker in those unnaturally brilliant amber eyes.

Silas doesn’t explode with gratitude. He doesn’t laugh in contemptuous villainy either. He just huffs out a long breath, turns his face to the ground for a moment.

“Generous of you,” he says, finally turning back to face him, and Trevor catches the bob of his Adam’s apple as he swallows.

“The village is warded. If you kill the priest….” Trevor makes a helpless gesture, his voice catching. “Don’t kill the priest.” He sounds bitter and tired and just as uncertain of all of this as he feels. He doesn’t like Silviu, but if he’s honest, it’s less about the man and more about what he represents. He’s seen enough dead countrymen to last the rest of his life, and he’s bound to see more in his line of work, likely at the hands of monsters and men both.

“You got any actual proof that you know how to use a hammer, or was that just a fun, smarmy comment you made last night?”

“I’ve got proof, but I don’t think you’ll like it much,” Silas says, his expression quizzical. “…. I didn’t expect you’d say yes.”

“Yeah, and why’d you try, then?”

“What’s life without trying, Lord Belmont?” Silas gives a helpless flex of his shoulders, clearly trying to read something from Trevor he’s not getting.

A whole lot less difficult, Trevor doesn’t say, because the fact is that without trying, life is a whole lot less good, too.

“All right, come on, give me an eyeful of whatever it is you want to show off before Alucard talks the poor fucking priest into an early grave about drinking more water.”

“Quite a mouth on you,” Silas says with absolutely no intonation, locking eyes with Trevor. Trevor feels sweat prickle on his temple. Silas raises an eyebrow. Was that dirty? That was dirty, wasn’t it. Fuck. “I have something. It’s all that came with me.”

Trevor’s eyes fly to Silas’s feet even though he knows, with grim certainty, that it’s certainly not actually horseshoes. His phrasing is odd. It makes him sound like he was fleeing something, but Trevor isn’t sure what, if anything, could contain the insanity and malice and raw power of the unicorn he’d met before. It seems blatantly unsafe bordering on negligent to assume that, somehow, Silas is less powerful. Doubt, fear, guilt and more claw up his spine again, hissing warnings in his ears in stereo. He swallows and tries to hold on to his nerve.

“Go on, then,” Trevor says, grimacing.

Silas paces a little, once and then twice, and suddenly his tattoos are growing. They clamber up and over his skin with a distinctly odd effect, like if a house Trevor was watching far in the distance suddenly got up and started to come closer very quickly. There’s a bare moment of Silas being consumed with that light-gone darkness before his shape twists and stretches and runs, for a moment, sharp and lean.

Then he’s standing there like nothing happened at all, except he’s the most beautiful horse Trevor has ever seen. There’s that peculiarity to his shape that makes Trevor’s brain start chasing its own tail, something in even the way he stands perfectly still that screams, I eat people whole. Out of morbid curiosity, Trevor glances down, and there they are as he knew they would be: hands, long, jointed wrong, and just barely black-taloned, flexing wrong for paws and wronger still for humans, where hooves should be. He shivers before he can stop himself, and for a strange, tilted moment Trevor thinks he can feel breath on him, teeth in his elbow, can hear lightning in the skies and see the burn, the endless burn, of the other unicorn as he strikes, and

“Lord Belmont?” Silas says, rearing back a little, shimmying out of range like a dog skirting the edge of where he knows his master’s leg reaches. His eyes don’t roll around blindly, searchingly, like the other unicorn did, but fix forward like a wolf’s, like a hunting hound. His voice has resonance it shouldn’t have no matter what shape he wears, but shaped this way, rolling his voice from a light-eating chest covered in sleek, slippery fur, Trevor hears thunder again distantly. The other unicorn’s hocks flash to his mind, raw and wet-looking, all exposed blood vessels and muscle and tendon. His gut roils, churns, bucks.

“Give me a second,” Trevor says, pressing a fist to his stomach. “Give me. Just a second.”

Silas remains silent, bowing his head. His ears pivot back and forth. He seems like he’s listening carefully for interlopers, as if villagers discovering his secret could ever be any risk to him at all. Trevor forces himself to steady, to feel the earth under his boot heels. Finally he nods and looks again.

Silas and the other unicorn are definitely, absolutely the same species, but whether from madness or some other obscure difference, the two don’t actually look that similar. Chester was finely-built and long in some places, clearly built for speed and stealth above all else. Silas is barrel-chested and tall, built like the strongest draft horse Trevor’s never seen in all but his ankles and feet. He’s got with powerful hind legs that, notably, have all the skin on them, and the fur too, which curls and twists into long feathers at his heels. His hair has stayed braided, and it’s at his forelock that Trevor sees what Silas must be referring to as his ‘work’: it’s an iron spire with little fern-like spirals coming off it, the flat parts of his makeshift horn hammered in neat dapples. It’s polished to a brilliantly threatening shine at the very tip.

“I don’t think I’ve seen a single unicorn with the ‘corn’ part actually there,” Trevor comments before he can stop himself.

Silas flicks his ears, tosses his head. The sword mounted on his forehead rocks up, comes back down. Trevor imagines a body in the way before he can help it. Silas lowers his head further, tipping the flat of the blade towards Trevor in a clear invitation.

“They’ve probably all been chiseled off by now,” Silas says, holding still as Trevor takes one uneasy step forward, then another. He doesn’t know why he does—even from where he stands, it’s clear that if Silas can make that, he can fix horseshoes and bang out nails. But he waited while Trevor gathered himself, and Trevor knows that they do, absolutely do, need a blacksmith. “My mark is on the bottom spiral. It’s a sapling.”

“Chiseled off by who?” asks Trevor, still leery of that mouth that he knows hides an infinitely expandable maw, acutely conscious of the fact that he’s out of sight of anybody else. Not out of earshot, though. If anything crazy happens, he can just scream. Somewhat encouraged by that, Trevor leans in and looks- sure enough, there’s a tiny little etching on the middle loop. It is fine work, he has to admit. Plenty of men can hammer out some nails, but Silas seems capable of a hell of a lot more.

He can see Silas’ nostrils flare, maybe at his question, maybe at his proximity.

“Sorcerers, usually,” Silas comments with such obviously false nonchalance that Trevor can’t resist striking where he should draw back, because he’s a Belmont to the marrow:

“That who you’re running from?”

Silas blinks at him. Trevor blinks back at him. It occurs to him that he’s basically leaning under a bare sword, over the head of a monster that could easily crush his throat before he could even try to call out.

He’s an idiot, really.

“Tell you what,” Silas says, stepping back to give them both some space, and this time he compresses with an audible crunch until he’s just two legs and zero horns again, his tattoos swirling down his body until they settle with a slosh up and down his arm again, “I’ll trade you an answer for an answer, Lord Belmont.”

“I’m game,” Trevor replies, “but if I don’t like the question, I’m not giving it the time of day.”

“Sure,” Silas agrees, ruffling his braids. If Trevor sees him rubbing at his forehead with the back of his hand, that’s none of his business. “Here it is: you smelled like a certain type of flower the other day, when we met. You smell like it today, too. Seen any buds you don’t recognize?”

Trevor fixes Silas, standing there with his hands in his ragged pockets, with a deeply scrutinizing stare.

“They’re up at the old Belmont mansion, mostly.” And Esthe and Alya’s grave, but that’s behind the Belmont line too, and anyway, it’s not something he’s about to discuss with a carthorse given to double entendre.

“Anywhere special?” Silas presses, and he tries to sound casual but fails, spectacularly. He looks too hungry, too close to a dog being teased with bloody meat. “Like, say, an old grave?”

“Fuck off,” Trevor shoots out, struggling to pull his temper back to earth. “I answered your question, answer mine, you fucking pony.”

“Do I look like a pony to you,” Silas mutters in a tone that’s a little warmer than ‘dark’ but not decent for any church Trevor’s been in, even the blood-spattered ones, but then he shakes his head and sneers a little as he says, “I got free when Dracula’s armies swept through, didn’t stick around to see if he made it or not.”

Huh. Trevor scratches his chin.

“You didn’t answer my question,” he points out. “You running from a sorcerer?”

Silas bristles. “Does that make me safer, Lord Belmont? A monster neutered by a golden bridle clutched in a human hand? Are you into that?” He smiles, and it’s a wild, sharp grin. Trevor recognizes it from Chester, wonders for the first time if that unicorn had always been like that or if he turned into it over time, warping bit by bit until the only thing left was that smile and those mad, mad rolling eyes. Warping, maybe, or warped.

“Don’t be sick,” Trevor says, spitting. “That flower, that why you ambushed me the other day?”

Silas shrugs awkwardly.

Trevor rounds on him, pointing at his chest. “Let’s get one thing absolutely, perfectly clear here, Silas. You’re going to obey the law of the land, and the law of the land is, you let people alone here. I so much as hear that you made a mean face at one of the kids and I’m going to snap your fucking dick off.”

“Wow,” Silas says, blinking rapidly, “that’s, actually, that’s a new threat, so, points for novelty.”

“What do you eat? Meat? Hunt deer, there’s plenty, and other game if you get bored of that. Sypha’s no sorcerer, but she’s got some damn mean tricks up her sleeve, and if you decide to graduate back up to eating humans, we’re going to see how long you can last as we freeze parts of your body off.”

Silas holds up his hands defensively. His fingernails are black along the very edges, Trevor notices. He can probably just pass that off as soot, once he gets a forge going.

“Deer is fine,” he agrees slowly, his eyes roving slowly over Trevor’s face, the off down his body. “You run hot, don’t you?”

“Damn right,” Trevor agrees, bristling.

“Hm,” Silas says, giving a tilt of the eyebrows that Trevor can’t interpret; he suspects it’s because his brain is shielding him from the awful truth.

They walk back to his miserable little tent in silence. As they leave the woods, Alucard’s face lifts to him with obvious relief. Trevor waves back casually. Father Silviu is nowhere to be seen, but given that Alucard is wearing the flower crown now, Trevor thinks he knows where he’s gone.

“Your tent, by the way, sucks,” Trevor says, because he’s never learned when to stop putting his foot in his mouth.

“You’re welcome to show me how you pitch a tent any time you want, Lord Belmont,” Silas returns. Alucard, who has stood up and come forward to greet them, stops dead where he stands and locks eyes with Silas. He gives a smile that is about as close as he gets to actively trying to kill somebody with his mind without actually doing it. Silas eyes the flower crown on his brow, looks at Alucard’s expression, opens his mouth, and closes it again. He looks a little pained, probably from how hard he’s just jammed his own foot into his mouth. No chance he’s getting any information from Alucard, and certainly not Trevor.

“Hooooly shit,” Trevor says, grabbing Alucard’s forearm in a vise, and he can hardly believe himself that the next words out of his mouth are, “I’m going to the church.”

 

 

 

When they get there, Sypha is playing with the cat on the front steps. Ion and Radu are bickering about what to do with the doors, and Father Silviu is sitting nearby. He looks like he can’t decide if he’s expected to get a word in edgewise. Trevor can’t help but notice that he’s got his hood up and down over his face again.

“Maria and her children will be coming down to bring everybody lunch soon,” Alucard calls out; they’d run into a few of her children running back to town with armfuls of enormous apples. Trevor is munching one contemplatively, and he holds the other one the kids gave him out to Sypha. Alucard has his in his pocket. As minor revenge for the window business, he doesn’t tell Alucard that it looks like he has some kind of weird tumor coming out of his hip. It is, as Alucard sometimes fusses, completely ruining his silhouette. Alucard’s too sleepy to notice himself, merely flopping down on the stairs next to Sypha. Trevor can’t be sure, but he’s reasonably certain he’s already unconscious.

“There’s no need to bring me lunch,” Silviu says desperately into the smallest pause. Radu snorts.

“Got other plans for midday, Father?”

Ignoring the bickering that breaks out behind them about how to talk to their new priest (Ion loves to scold people, and god knows he loves to scold Radu best), Trevor flings himself down next to Sypha and Pasha.

Sypha smiles at Trevor. Even though she’s got an actual kitten in her lap, she still looks like the cat that got the cream.

“What are you so smug about?” he asks, leaning against her. She lifts a hand up to scratch at his head, and Trevor huffs a soft sigh of pleasure.

“It seems that this priest wants to stay here,” Sypha says instead of answering the question. With Alucard’s light, birdlike snore coming from behind her and with the relaxing draw of her nails on his scalp, Trevor can’t really begrudge her the leisurely route she wants to take to getting to her point. The sun is still high, but it’s being filtered by the thick foliage, meaning that he gets little dollops and doses of warmth here and there on him: his leg, his cheek, a place where Sypha and his thighs touch.

“Sure does,” Trevor agrees, his eyes sliding half-shut. He won’t tell, but he can smell Sypha. She smells good, to him: travel dust and horse and sweaty cotton hot from the sun, and a musky human scent he knows as her, her, her all the way down to the core of her being. Still, he holds his tongue— the chances of her not minding that she smells are zero, and the chances of her being horrified enough by that fact to stop giving him head scritches is, inversely, very high.

“I figured it might be nice, just to save us some stress, if I was a little proactive,” Sypha coos, keeping her voice low. Ion and Radu are yelling at each other about the merits, or lack thereof, of behaving with great decorum towards Father Silviu, and Silviu is meekly trying to keep them calm. A lost effort, Trevor muses, but worth a try anyway. They’re both old woodworkers, and both have very different views on traditions and rules.

“Can’t object there,” Trevor says, instead of telling her how sexy he finds her when she’s ‘proactive.’ There’s a priest and two old men behind him, and even he has limits to his shamelessness.

“So I warded the place against monsters,” Sypha says concisely.

Trevor’s eyes fly open.

“All by yourself?” he asks, pulling away from her hand. She folds it in her lap. The kitten pounces on it. “Isn’t that dangerous?” Alucard is still sleeping, but Trevor has the sneaking suspicion that he would be having an even stronger reaction. Trevor was, yes, blindingly drunk when they warded the village, but he also knows that Sypha used both of them to exhaustion for the spellwork, and planned it to accord with just the right alignment of stars and planets to give her an extra boost. Working that degree of magic all by herself just doesn’t seem…. Safe.

“It’s a much smaller space,” Sypha says quickly, reading the alarm in his face. “And anyway, I had help.” She twiddles her fingers and the kitten dissolves into a frothy frenzy of activity. To Trevor’s eye, she resembles nothing so much as the foam on top of a fresh-squeezed pail of milk.

“You used a cat?” Trevor asks, not certain if he should be aghast or not. Without Alucard to peevishly deliver facts in an insulted tone, Trevor is at a bit of a disadvantage. “How is that better?”

Sypha quirks her brows up. She looks a little surprised. “You know that a small amount of people have magic.”

“Yeah,” Trevor agrees. “We used to, but it’s been too long since the Belmonts had a mage marry in. The Church’s fault, probably, now that I think about it.” He still had enough magic in his blood to use magical weapons’ special abilities, and to trigger some mechanisms, which had made infiltrating Dracula’s castle easier. Still, to him, magic was completely invisible. That had been a large part of why crossing the church’s threshold had been so surprising last night.

“Well, animals are the same way,” Sypha continues blithely, as if that was the most normal thing in the world to say. The cat in her lap noodles out of her grasp, leaving a veritable snail trail of long white fur, and starts hopping up the steps.

“What,” Trevor says, “the fuck?”

“Is everything all right, my lord?” Father Silviu’s voice floats down from the entrance. He sounds a little desperate, and Trevor realizes that he might not be terribly excited to have more people start to argue on the premises. Radu and Ion have stopped bickering to look over at them.

“Everything’s fine,” Trevor says, waving a dismissive hand to the two older men. Pasha sinks her little claws into Silviu’s robes and starts to haul herself up. Sypha giggles a little at the sight. “Just getting some updates on…. Gossip,” he finishes lamely.

“Excessive gossip is a blackness sent to taint the heart against your fellow man,” Father Silviu scolds half-heartedly. Trevor would wager it’s hard to muster dignity when you can feel a cat shoving her way into your vestal pockets.

“Not a member of your flock,” Trevor snipes back, and leans in to Sypha’s personal space to hiss, “I’m sorry what? Animals have magic!?”

“Not all of them,” Sypha mutters back, eyes sliding between the men clustered at the head of the stairs and Trevor. “For heaven’s sake, Trevor, why is this a surprise? Don’t you remember the chickens from,” her voice dips even lower, so much so that Trevor has to practically press his ear against her lips, which work wetly against his skin to send a very inappropriate shiver through him, “that house?”

Oh. Oh yes. He remembers. Still, he’d assumed that was a product of them having been human once, turned into chickens by a witch. Fucked up way to end up in a pot pie, that was for sure.

“She’s not going to start changing colors, is she?” he whispers back, taking the chance to tuck some of Sypha’s curls behind her ear. His fingers linger on her hair, and she smiles at him fondly even as she shakes her head.

“I don’t know much about how it is for animals. They’re rare- it’s not like with humans, animals don’t exactly cultivate lineages. I just know that she stayed where I asked her to, and the barrier is sound. Isn’t that good enough?”

“All this weird shit comes crawling out of the woodwork,” Trevor grumbles, “makes a man nervous, you know?”

Sypha titters, snuggles closer to him. He sees her eyes slide to Alucard, sprawled comfortably in the half-sun of the woods. Neither of them move to touch him, though, not with an audience at their backs. Her fingers stroke along his wrist as they both fall silent. He knows her well enough, now, to read the gesture: trust in me, everything is fine. Alucard stirs just the faintest bit, and Trevor realizes as he watches him that his hair is still tied up in a bun. Sypha seems to be thinking the same thing, because she pulls a leaf from the stair and begins to very surgically insert it into his hair.

 “Sorry to keep you, my lord,” Radu says with a cough. “Lady Sypha and you must be eager to catch up after her having been away so long. We can take it from here- Father Silviu is in good hands.”

Trevor looks over his shoulder at him in surprise. Radu and Ion are looking at Sypha’s leaf pursuit. It occurs to Trevor that Father Silviu might not realize that the trio of heroes who saved Wallachia are idiots to the bone, even if everybody else in the village does.

“Do you have everything you need, Father?” Sypha asks, focused deeply on getting the leaf just so. Trevor looks for the perfect second leaf and has it out for her to take before she even gestures for it.

“More than I need,” Silviu says, with an edge of something soft and frail in his voice. Trevor feels like he’s a hound, suddenly, and his ears have pricked up with a sound of something from very far away.

“The townsfolk’ll look after you pretty well,” Trevor says, experimentally, and he doesn’t know Silviu well but he thinks he does just enough to catch the uncomfortable edge of his smile.

“It’s much too kind of them,” he replies, hands going to his pockets, to Pasha, “I don’t mean to be a burden.”

“It’s nothing of the kind,” Ion says, stretching. His body gives a few audible pops. “Nice to have something to do. We could use a young cat to mouse some of the buildings, too, if you’ll allow it. Everybody knows queens are the best at it.”

“Maybe she’ll deign to have a few babies while she’s at it,” Radu muses, “give the local crowd some of her good looks. Never seen an uglier group of cats than what we’ve got here, I’ll tell you that.”

Trevor waits until Sypha has successfully inserted the second leaf, making Alucard look like he’s got ears or something coming out of his head, before he stands. They gather up their sleepy half-vampire and make their excuses. They have to delay their departure to greet the children, though, and Trevor admits that he takes a certain amount of pleasure in the sight of them all. They arrive bearing covered baskets, marching two-by-two like ants moving in reverse away from their hill, with full cheeks from a summer of good nutrition and clean water and a safe, happy village. Not all of this lordship business is bad, he admits to himself, if he can give these children something as rare as that after so many hard years. They sure didn’t look like that when they came to the village in the spring.

They greet Maria when she arrives too. Maria, ever enthusiastic, pauses to give Sypha a friendly hello kiss and then Trevor, too, and even Alucard, which makes him blush. That makes Maria kiss him a few more times for added effect, and they’re all laughing by the time they wave goodbye. Trevor thinks about her, too, about how confident and cheery and boisterous she is now. She didn’t look like that when she came to the village either.

As they walk down the forest road, Sypha happily pinching Alucard’s cheek to keep it red and keep him laughing, Trevor looks back over his shoulder.

Silviu is surrounded by a veritable swarm of people--

children laughing and playing, Maria hugging Ion and then Radu who picks her up and gives her a little shake that makes her laugh and swat at his chest coyly--

but hell if he doesn’t look alone.

 

 

 

“Lord Belmont,” Silas calls out as they’re all almost to the bridge. Trevor argues with himself, but after a resigned sigh from Alucard and a shooing gesture from Sypha, he finally just turns around and walks back to the man. Judging from the mud splattered on his pants and smeared on a cheek, he’s been down by the narrow riverbank. If he’s actually serious about building a new smithy, he’s probably inspecting the water situation.

“What?”

“Heard about the house,” Silas says seriously, and for a world-twisting moment Trevor thinks he’s about to be offered condolences on the House of Belmont’s fall from a monster, but thankfully he goes on, “rebuilding and all. Let me know what I can do if anything’s needed.”

“Thanks,” he says, tilting his head. That’s…. unexpected.

That stack of letters from would-be builders floats to the forefront of his mind. He never did make a choice past what was immediately needed. The house they’re living in now will probably be expanded to be the stable house in the future, and the thought of such a long-lasting decision swimming in front of him shocks Trevor back to the present. “Right, thanks. I’m sure there’ll be some requests, eventually.”

“And,” Silas goes on, quietly, glancing to where Sypha and Alucard are talking amongst themselves, glancing their way with enough frequency that Trevor’s pretty sure he knows what Alucard’s saying at least, “… I understand the risk you’re taking, leaving me here on your land. It’s slim worth indeed, I’m sure, but… you have my word I’ll abide by your rules. Your people are safe from me.”

Trevor stares at Silas, who looks back with a degree of confident arrogance that his fists clenched tensely at his sides belie. He feels like he understands Silas better than he’d like to, like he’s looking back down the path at somebody who’s following, distantly, still struggling through mud and ruts and puddles before he hits the stone of the road.

“If that’s so,” Trevor says, slow and calm, deliberate, “they’re your people too, not just mine.”

Silas retains a certain equine fashion to his body language no matter what shape he wears. It sticks out like a sore thumb even to the untrained eye. It also, to Trevor, comes off as more honest than his words, and so when Silas shies back a little and turns half-away, Trevor doesn’t take offense, just nods his goodbye and walks back to Sypha and Alucard.

As he goes, he notices a little basket covered with cloth, one just like the ones the children were bringing to the priest, tucked carefully at the mouth of his feeble tent.

 

 

 

“I’m proud of you,” Sypha tells him, looping herself under his arm to rest her head against his chest. The mountain path up to the forest crunches underfoot. It’s still wet, even after the sun today.

“I don’t know if I’ve done the right thing,” Trevor tells her urgently, parting from her grasp to wheel out and gesture at the scenery, at the drop of the cliff and the village spread out sweet as a sleeping child below them. In the orange light of late afternoon, it’s easy to see the place as it was when Trevor was younger. It leaves him with a crushing sense of nostalgia, and, buried in that, a keen awareness of the fragility of this current equilibrium. “I could have just gotten everybody killed. I can’t even say whether the church or the monster worries me more.”

“What would you propose doing instead?” Alucard asks, trying to look serious even though he’s yawning. A basket swings on his arm. Maria’s mother had caught them in the town square as she was bustling out, muttering about being late, and had pressed it on them. Her little toothless smile was Trevor’s kryptonite, and so he’d meekly accepted. “Would you simply dispose of them? Either of them, I mean.”

“Kill them?” Trevor clarifies, shock making the words come out louder than he intended. Sypha bites at a nail, watching him closely. Her gaze on him is intense, unreadable. “What the hell did we kill your father for, then, if I’m just going to murder people on sight because I don’t like the idea of them?”

“A very good question,” Alucard replies, “and really, likely the only answer to your doubts.”

“I agree,” Sypha says. “Didn’t you once tell me yourself that part of being a leader, Trevor, is making choices that will hopefully hurt less people than any of the other options?”

Trevor closes his eyes at that, lets his hand rise to Vampire Killer, lets it drop again, empty. He did, didn’t he.

“If I had come back,” Sypha says quietly, and her cheer fades like a candle being gently snuffed out, “to your hands covered with the blood of those two… I don’t know what I could possibly tell myself about that. That’s why I’m proud of you, Trevor. It’s hard to put down our weapons, to bandage up old wounds. In some ways, it’s much easier to just…” she waves a hand, and a little trail of fire follows her fingers, “fight, and claw, and destroy anything that stands in our way. I have a lot I need to learn to stand at your side here. Both of your sides.” She twists her hands in her robes. Trevor feels a pang of sympathy: it’s not just him that needs to bone up on how to be a landlord. Sypha is even less prepared than he is for this kind of life, but here she is, trying anyway.

“We have to build a better world,” Alucard agrees, coming between them both and sliding an arm around each of their waists. “And now, as before, we must lead by example. It’s only that the example is very different, now. A fight for the soul of the future, if you will, instead of simply the body.”

They stand together. Trevor doesn’t know what Sypha and Alucard are looking at, but he can’t tear his eyes away from the village, from the distant little dot past the bridge that might even be Silas’ tent, from the slow curl of smoke up from the forest where he knows the church is. This high up, the breeze is chilling, and Trevor draws in more closely to Alucard and Sypha to protect himself.

“It’d be nice,” he finally says, “if trying to move on from things left you feeling a little less raw.”

“It would,” Alucard agrees in a hollow, tired tone.

Sypha takes their hands, one of theirs in each of hers, and gives them a squeeze. Wordlessly, they peel away together, and even with the threat of consequences breathing down their necks, by the time they get to their home, they’re laughing and joking and playing at being ambushed by the hairy spider again.

Can’t carry it all, Trevor muses. Can’t carry it always.

Alucard still has the leaves in his bun.


 

Chapter Text



He wants to be settled, he wants to be still, but that bone-thin spur at the edge of Father Silviu’s smile has caught at Trevor and snagged a thread long-run through him, a warp thread carried through all his ancestors and given on to him.

“It’s your birthday tomorrow,” Sypha says quietly, coming out to join him where he sits, along a fence at the purple dusk of the fields.

There’s something about summer nights, just after the sun has gone and before the stars have come, that always struck Trevor as close-packed, almost cloying depending on his mood. Tonight is no different- summer around him is brilliant and full of itself and proud, blazing in color and warmth and vividness of sensation. The birds have gone quiet but the insects are chirruping now, the scrape of an orchestra setting itself to tune before a great work begins. The air is sweet and the wind cooling without bringing a chill; distantly, Trevor can hear the roar of the river, fat and tan-brown with all the rain they’ve had dumped on them.

Trevor holds out his arm. Sypha sets herself on the old wood of the fence tentatively, and, when it holds them both with no buckle, she scoots herself to come under her arm. She nests against him with all the trust in the world, curling against him and rubbing her cheek on his chest. Closing her eyes, her hand comes to rest on his thigh, in the center of the whorl Vampire Killer makes. Tenderness rises in Trevor until it almost hurts to hold it all; it feels like it could pour out of him like water from a bucket and drench the soil beneath them, imparting fecundity to all in its path.

“I’m glad you made it back in time,” he says. He has an arm around her waist, is tracing the intricate folds and tucks her robes make with a light fingertip.

“What are you thinking about?” Sypha asks, and if she sounds worried, Trevor can’t really find it in him to begrudge her that. If he came out and found her sitting alone to brood, he’d have the same damn question.

“Something’s off about Silviu,” Trevor tries to explain, but that doesn’t sound right, so he tries again: “I don’t know what’s going on with him, but he’s left something out.”

“He seems nice,” Sypha says softly, and Trevor feels his heart sink before she goes on, her tone resolving into one he’s familiar with as her ‘let’s burn things down’ voice, “But he’s suspicious as shit.”

“Yeah,” Trevor agrees, mentally shuffling through what he knows of Silviu. He flicks through the most recent chain of events, pauses, and hones in on something. “I don’t know if you saw, but he’s got no eyes. He’s totally blind.”

To his surprise, Sypha straightens a little in his grip.

“Yes,” she says, cautiously. Trevor looks down at her, but she’s biting her lip and looking out over the fields, the softly bobbing leaves of the crops illuminating under the rising moon. Trevor doesn’t want to push her, but he also, abruptly, wants to know what’s inspired the hesitation. He feels like a terrier listening to the sound of a rat scratching in a wall. “Yes,” she says again, wringing her hands. “I’ve seen…. That, before.”

“You have?” Trevor exclaims, surprised. She looks up at him with her big blue eyes and her wringing hands and says, haltingly,

“The Church did that to an elder of another caravan a few years ago.”

Trevor flinches back and looks out at the fields fixedly.

“Do you know why?” he asks, but he knows, anyway, he always knows.

“Dangerous ideas and blasphemy, or something,” Sypha says in a faux-casual tone. “There were a few men who wanted to marry into the tribe and come travelling, and Elder Aharon welcomed them.”

“Huh,” Trevor says, brow furrowing, “I’m surprised that he allowed that. Would the kids…”

“You do know Speakers trace our inheritance through our mothers,” Sypha prods, perhaps a little impatiently, “right?”

Trevor, sheepish in his ignorance, shrugs open-handedly. “It never came up with Esthe or Alya.”

“I suppose that’s…. fair,” Sypha allows, quirking an eyebrow. “Anyway, the Church blinded him and then threw him into the gutter. It took them a few days to find Elder Aharon. He insisted the men come still, if willing.”

Trevor whistles, impressed.

“The man’s got nerve.”

Sypha hops off the fence, keeping her back to Trevor.

“You’ll probably meet him when we have our wedding…” she says, leaving a curious, trailing tone at the end of the sentence. It drags behind her like a skirt cut too long.

“Old goat’s still kicking? Sounds good,” Trevor drawls out, shifting to rest his elbows on his knees. “Can I ask you something, though?”

“Of course,” Sypha says stiffly, drawing herself up. Trevor, puzzled, studies the firm set of her shoulders, the way she stands braced as if for battle. The empty spot at his side is growing cool as the night settles into its chill.

“How is it that you don’t just burn down every goddamned church you see?”

She looks at him over her shoulder. Her expression is keen and narrow, the intense long-distance glare of a hawk as it’s spotted by a lesser being.

“The world is filled with all sort of people,” Sypha says, finally turning to face him completely. She steps up to stand between Trevor’s knees, taking his large, rough hands in her smaller ones. She’s got callouses and rough spots too, though in different places than he does. He loves her hands. “And for some of them, the Church is home and safety and warmth.”

“It’s control,” Trevor objects, his fingers closing on hers, “And a hell of a lot of other things, none of which are any kind of good. I don’t know why people still support it.”

“Do you really?” Sypha asks, tilting her head skeptically. Trevor thinks, guiltily, of that wash of warmth as he’d crossed the threshold of Father Silviu’s church. He thinks of singing, as a child, next to his sisters, of his mother’s cool hand on the back of his neck when he would fidget during hot summer sermons, and of the trust he’d had then, trust in his place in the world, trust in people around him. Trust in the world.

“Ugh,” Trevor grunts, because he doesn’t have any words for the complicated snarl of emotions those memories bring up in him, not when they all end in the same way: with him forced on his knees in front of his burning home, the screams of his sisters gliding up on smoke to a heaven looking coldly on. There’s too much in him to ever pull out and lay straight, he feels, too many snarls and burls and neps and noils; as a member of any flock, he’s a bust, gone feral and sullen and stubborn.

“You know that we have our own religion, Speakers,” Sypha offers, freeing her hands to reach up and cup his face. “And there are caravans where things have gone just as wrong, and still do. Speakers still stay with their caravans, even when an outsider might say we should simply leave. No man is perfect. If I speak of our excellence, Trevor, know that Speakers also have our shadows. The grounded citizens of Wallachia are no different. How do you pick the good from the evil? If it’s human to have flaws, does that mean we should burn the entirety of humanity to the ground?”

“You sound more sure of these things than I am,” he says, leaning in to let her head butt him gently. She doesn’t pull back when she makes contact, just keeps their heads pressed together as if they’re sharing a secret. “You have more faith than I do.”

“I don’t think that’s true. I think I have more trust than you do. I think you probably have the most faith of any of us, though,” she whispers, and Trevor shuts his eyes against her words, which stab into him as deeply as any blade singed live and raw with moonlight, “which is why you always beg me to remind you of your love for this world, Trevor,” and she cups his jaw and kisses him tenderly, sweetly, and he lets her do with him as she pleases.

 

 

 

They’re walking back hand-in-hand, Trevor’s thumb moving over the softness of the back of Sypha’s hand, when the sky is split, violently, with a crack of lightning so intense that he actually sees afterimages.

The peal of thunder sounds like an animal’s bellow. Sypha whips her head around to look out past the gates to the looming maw of the forest. Her eyes narrow. Her hand drops from his, comes to rest at her side with a trail of flame licking at each finger.

“Alu-“ Trevor says, but he doesn’t get it out before another lance of lightning strikes at the earth. There’s a pealing, ripping crack of a noise—the lightning has hit something.

“I’m here,” he calls, running up to them, tossing Sypha his rain coat and Trevor the borrowed one from Radu and Ion. “Go!”

They make it out the gates before the rain comes. When it does, it’s like being struck: it pours down like a blow, stinging and merciless. He hears Sypha gasp in shock, feels something pelt hit him, and then drags them all into the cover of the forest: hail has started up, sharp little pinging rolls of ice. Alucard rubs at a spot on his cheek, which smears blood along his face: the hail has cut him.

“We have to hurry,” Trevor says, as the sky shakes again. It feels like the world is trying to come undone around them.

“Then hurry,” Sypha snaps, already running toward the path to the village, Alucard at her side, “and save your air for it!” Lit by the fire at her fingers, her curls edged in ice and smoke, she looks less like a woman and more like a vengeful spirit sent to correct the evil hearts of men.

God but he loves her.

 

 

 

Trevor can hear the scream of a horse as they run into the town center; the rain and hail have made the path to the village exponentially more dangerous, but compared to Dracula’s ever-shifting castle, it’s still nothing. They had opted to go straight down the mountain, Sypha freezing paths into the sluicing mud with an efficiency that reveals not just mastery but supreme comfort with her power.

They round the edge of the old church to see Ion and Radu trying to get a hold of a horse, rearing wild and terrified, painted in stark black and then white with every flash of lightning. Maria is out there too, and a few of the younger men and women, all of them trying to wrangle the panicked animal. There’s a woman lying in a heap at the edge of the circle, other women clustered around her. They spread out their arms, hands reaching for help. Alucard takes a tight breath and strides over urgently.

“Lord Belmont!” Radu cries, and Trevor leaps into the fray, not making any apologies as he pulls Maria off her feet, out of the way of a kick that would have orphaned her children.

“Give him room,” Alucard calls, “Where did-“ and the rest of his words are drowned out as the skies open up again and lightning lights up, in perfect silence, first the stone church and then the inn, still empty and dilapidated as Trevor remembers it from their wintertime stay.

The inn lights up like tinder despite the rain. Trevor sees Sypha surge into action but he’s too busy dodging the horse, moving too fast and thinking only from one second to another, to pay it any attention. He lunges and manages to catch his fingers on reins, then has to dodge back again as the horse screams shrilly and strikes at him with its mud-caked forelegs.

He’d like to just let it calm itself down, then bring it back inside when it had worked its fright out, but that doesn’t seem possible. The storm is what’s causing the animal’s panic, and every stinging slice from the hail and every catastrophic crack of lighting is making it worse. He winces as the old church bell rings once, twice, and then starts an alarm: the horse’s ears pin back and it lunges at Trevor, teeth bared, before stepping back stiffly.

Trevor forces down his frustration, casting an eye about. Alucard is carefully taking the injured woman in his arms, the other women running ahead to open the old church’s doors. Sypha is trying to use ice to stop the fire, with limited success: he can see that she’s relying on Radu to keep an eye on the horse, and has to keep moving out of the way herself. People are hovering in their doorways and windows, clearly eager to help based on the buckets and pots they’re clutching. His job, then, is to make sure they can get to it.

“Maria,” Trevor yells, above the sound of everything in the world crashing down on them. “Open the- where the hell did this thing come from?!” He’d been about to ask her to help him herd the horse back into the stable, but with an abrupt clench of his gut, he realizes he’s never seen this enormous horse before in his life. It’s far too fine to be one of their mountain-found nags. He can’t see the saddle well, but the whole kit screams wealth.

“It bolted in from the woods in a panic,” she says, favoring her side where he pulled her over. Trevor claps her on the shoulder.

“You all right?”

“Yes!” She says, her expression set in granite. Adrenaline, maybe, but she looks angry and hard, ready to bite the world in half. Trevor grins at her.

“I’m going to keep this asshole busy for us. Open the barn door and pull out Peony, will you?”

She nods. Trevor turns his eyes back to the horse. It’s well-fed and well-formed in equal measure, but its flanks are stained with blood from the hail, and its feet are positively caked in mud so thick it looks like clay. As he rounds on it, its ears tuck back once more; it’s ready to try to murdering him again. Trevor works to distract the animal, lunging and then dodging back, though every strike of lightning means he has to catch its attention again. He tries not to focus on how relieved he is that the horse has hooves, shoed ones ringing sharp notes when it comes down too hard on the cobblestone underfoot. He isn’t sure if it’s professional relief or personal.

“Hey now!” Maria shouts, and Peony, old, broken-down Peony who may in fact be both deaf and mostly blind but loves chin scratches beyond all reason, just shakes herself resentfully in the rain, a rope thrown hastily around her neck. Trevor pants quietly, muscles drawn tight with the mental strain of dodging but not striking for so long. He’s no horse-catcher, that’s for sure, and it feels like Maria took forever.

“Go to her,” Trevor pleads quietly, urgency riding him. The horse came from somewhere, and coupled with the storm’s severity, Trevor isn’t getting warm fuzzies about whatever’s happening out towards Silas and Silviu. “Come on, buddy, don’t make me do something we’re both going to regret.”

It’s an option, every one of his glittering knives, but one he doesn’t want to take. If a priest and a unicorn can live, so can a panicked, frightened animal.

The horse looks between Trevor and Peony, eyes flashing white. Peony whickers, steps back in an effort to get out of the rain. The strange horse is close enough that Trevor can see the fine hair along its spine lift up.

Maria whistles a sharp note and holds up a tin. “Cake, sweet boy. Treats! Come get something good!”

Trevor contemplates his lot in life as he watches the horse edge slowly to her, his saddle dragging askew on his side. As he reaches the edge of the pool of light from the barn, Peony noses forward aggressively and sniffs him, and that seems to do it: he lowers his head to the tin, browsing eagerly, allowing Maria to grab his reins and lead him inside alongside Peony. Maria puts the tin down carefully, then comes back to shut the doors, firmly, behind her.

Horses get cake, but all he gets is a hail storm, a fire, and an unknown crisis on the other side of the river.

Trevor sighs.

“I hate horses.”

“Good work!” Radu yells, rushing by with a bucket full of water.

“Wait a second and maybe the pail’ll fill itself again,” Maria’s mother yells, rushing after him. Trevor hastens to the edge of the square to look up at the inn. The structure is being dissolved in fire, being eaten alive from its feet to its crown, the wet timbers growling and squeaking strangely as they steam from the heat. It sounds like screams.

He feels numbness and a terrible, static-filled nothingness creeping up from the back of his head. He can’t do anything but stare, wide-eyed and lost, as the building is wreathed in possessive flames that lick in and out of black windows like a devil’s fantasy.

“God,” he says, hands shaking, eyes fixed, knees locked.

“Lord Belmont,” somebody says, but they’ve killed him, haven’t they? They laid him out in the dirt and beheaded him after taking his fingers, one by one, and then his hands, and now there’s nobody at all to bear witness but him, but Trevor, to the endlessly, ceaselessly escalating screams of his sisters. Nobody at all but the last son of the Belmont house, and certainly he was no lord, just a son.

“God forgive me for this,” he hears, before he’s reeling from a slap that’s the mildest blow he’s felt in a long time. It still sends him sprawling into the mud and flood of the town center. “Lord Belmont, your lady said to go!”

“Oh,” Trevor says, sucking in a breath like he’s come up from far below underwater.

“She said to tell you she has the fire under control, and Doctor Tepes is seeing to the wounded,” Maria continues, shaking him a little as she pulls him to his feet. “The horses are under control. We have this. Go!”

“Yeah,” he says, scrubbing at his face. “Yeah, okay.” Unwillingly, his gaze turns back to the burning inn, but he staggers under a sudden, unexpected weight and the spell is broken again.

“Don’t look, Lord Belmont!” Maria has thrown herself on him, bringing her arms up around his face as if she’s shielding one of her own children from something. Trevor lets himself go still in her hold, trying to take advantage of the brief refuge she’s given him. “Just go! We’ll handle it here! Nobody is inside, just go! Everything will be all right when you come back!

She scruffs his hair roughly and pushes him toward the bridge. Trevor starts running as if he’s being chased, urgent and terrified, before catching himself. He gives himself a shake, reminding himself that he’s not a bolted horse, and sets off at a no less urgent but altogether steadier pace.

The bridge is a hair shy of flooding as Trevor runs over it. He catches himself before he slips once, manages a second time, but the third time he’s swept off his feet by a slap of water from the brown-white foam of the river as it lips over the surface of the walkway.

He drags himself along the edge of the bridge carefully, mindful that an ignominious death in a river is no way to end his lineage when Dracula didn’t do it, and sets off through what he’d like to think are puddles but he knows are swirling encroachments of the river itself. The storm is going to sweep the whole damn town away if it goes much longer, he thinks, and gritting his teeth against his own fright picks up speed.

 

 

 

Silas’ camp is empty. Trevor expected no less. The water is moving from puddles to undeniable flooding, and though he looks as best he can he can’t tell if there’s blood anywhere. There is a hell of a lot of churned-up earth, though, clear signs of a struggle. Trevor is running on too much adrenaline to feel concern, but he does file away the fact that whatever took Silas was able to take on an enormous, full-grown unicorn.

The tracks are smeary and jagged, cut abruptly into the mud as they are, and they go every which way. Trevor can see several trails, not counting the one of the horse they had to calm. Men, and a lot of them. Some of the tracks go into the woods, some up further west, yet more east, and all of them helter-skelter in different directions.

 

 

 

Luckily, he knows exactly where to go.

 

 

 

He slams into the church with no preamble, fueled entirely by rage. It’s been a long time since he was this angry in a fight, and it shows: he takes the hand of the man levering a knife into Silas’s skin in a crack as sharp as the thunder outside, jams his elbow into the gut of the man trying to grab him from behind so hard the man immediately vomits, which, well. He’s been covered in worse, but that just feels insulting.

Not this time,” Trevor hisses, over the scream of the man he just took a hand off of, and Vampire Killer explodes into flames.

There are six men at the altar of the church, four more behind him, and another man laid out on a pew covered in mud. He looks dead, but Trevor’s used to dead men rising at the least convenient times, so he doesn’t count that one out. They all rise and circle towards him, and fuck him if he’s unsurprised to see they’re all wearing crosses, nice ones. A few men at the front of the room are rushing over to the man with one hand, attending to the wound as best they can.

“Out on choirboy business, I see,” Trevor sneers, cracking his whip. They all step back. He abruptly wishes he’d brought Sypha or Alucard with him. He thinks he can make it, hopes he can, but nine or ten to one is bad odds no matter whose land the fight takes place on.

Silas is a pile of heaving, straining horseflesh at the foot of the altar. Blood spills from him in a rich stream where the knife was sliding along inside him before, but no matter how hard he flexes and works, he can’t seem to break from, impossibly, the fine golden thread wrapped around his head as a bridle. It looks as if he can barely twitch, let alone break free.

Trevor realizes, with a sudden jolt, that somebody is attached to that hair-width of gold, and that somebody, of fucking course, is Silviu. Silviu’s hair is clenched in the grip of another man who has a sword naked and ready. The end of the bridle is tied around his wrists, binding him and Silas in one neat stroke.

“I love a good hostage situation in the dead of night,” Trevor mutters. If he can get them angry enough, they might just forget Silviu and go straight for him. Worth a try, at least.

“Lord Belmont,” says one of the men who had swooped to attend the one-handed man, rising to his feet. His tone is venomous, which Trevor considers fair given the current circumstances. As he stands, he raises an arm to point at Trevor. “You have sold Wallachia to the devils, and we are here to put you down before you sully your own name further. You are a willful sinner and refused to be re-embraced by the church, harbor men of false faith and clutch monsters to your breast. You shelter whores and atheists and are pledged to marry a witch.”

“You forgot something,” Trevor says grimly.

“And what’s that,” asks a man with a stylish haircut and a handsome smile, clutching a pike sharpened to glinting menace.

“I’m a sodomite too,” he responds, and strikes.

 

 

 

He falls into a rhythm, a division of movements that are less a pattern and more a patient masterwork in death: strike, fall back, dodge, reposition, strike, fall back, strike, don’t get greedy, fall back, strike.

He gets grabbed and throttled, and then he gets free again, and he gets grabbed and piled on at one point too, with fists cracking into his ribs. He doesn’t remember how he gets out of that, but the next he knows there are two less men and the rest are much more wary of him.

There’s blood and screaming, but Trevor was baptized more thoroughly in blood and screaming than he ever was in holy water. He knows his own pain and weariness and fear so intimately that he knows how to tuck it aside, how to pat its head and tell it later, later, like he’s talking to a child begging for attention.

He strikes like he would against any other monster, his only mercy the merit of his own efficiency and strength. They fall like any other man would, crying and gurgling and moaning.

Trevor is so focused, so dialed in on survival, that when the room falls silent he wheels around and scans mechanically before realizing that only one armed man remains: the one at Silviu’s throat.

“Let him go,” Trevor says, eyes falling again on Silas’ bloodied thighs. They’d been skinning him, he realizes, and curling up Vampire Killer draws his shortsword. They’d been starting to skin him alive. Revulsion makes his hand shake, but only for a moment.

The man with his sword to Silviu’s throat sees the tremor and seems to think it’s a sign of weakness; he laughs shortly and tightens his grip on Silviu’s hair. Silviu grits his teeth. He’s got a black eye, or would if he had eyes anymore- now he’s just got a painful-looking bruised eye socket.

“The Devil himself take you, Lord Belmont, but I will take you down from your dark seat. The righteous will always emerge from the ashes triumphant.”

Trevor raises an eyebrow.

“You don’t have a lot of options, from where I’m standing. So, do me a favor, will you,” he says, feigning a disinterested tone as he leans on the pew with the muddied dead man, “and tell me what this is all about? Aside from your obsession with me, which, hey, it’s flattering, but I’ve already got a full bed.”

Trevor keeps a keen eye on everything. Silas seems to be trying to calm himself. Silviu is desperately frightened. The lone survivor, well. He’s frightened, isn’t he? Trevor just killed more men than he’d thought even he could. He’d managed it so easily, barely felt any of their blows-

He pushes that thought aside and returns, with a brittle smile, to the current situation: two men at the mercy of another, and him watching it all.

“If you’re trying to stall, don’t bother,” the man says, his face set into grim acceptance. “I know I will die here. My only need is to see you come with me into death.”

Trevor leans forward, hands clenching the pew, soaked in blood, bleeding from cuts and injuries he can’t feel yet and can’t care about yet.

“So you came here to assassinate me? What’s this,” he gestures to Silas, to Silvius, “a bonus prize? Skin a horse, murder a priest for fun? I know we’re out in the boonies, but we do have other ways to entertain ourselves, you know. You could have just asked. Isn’t he one of yours, too?”

“This man is a criminal,” the last man standing says, shaking Silviu by the hair. “He is a blasphemer. He was released for a final visit to his sister before execution, but he cruelly assaulted the innocent maiden and bolted.”

Silviu cries out and then silences himself by biting his lip. Blood trails down from his mouth.

“Interesting,” Trevor says, scratching at his chin. “What exactly was his crime? You know Father Silviu,” he tips his head from side to side, “so closemouthed.”

“Sacrilegious essays,” the last man standing says seriously, “He wrote several theological notes on matters that are frankly shocking even to my ears.”

“You don’t say,” Trevor says, stretching himself out, eyes fixed on the sharpness of that blade next to Silviu, who is panting. He looks agonized.

“Lord Belmont, we have wasted enough time. You will come with me, and stand for your private execution.”

“I’m not really following,” Trevor confesses. “Did somebody send you, or….?”

“We are small in number after the assault against the Church by Dracula’s army,” the man says, shifting uneasily, “but we know you to be an evil man, Lord Belmont. Most of our colleagues are willing to turn blind gazes upon your sins, but there are a few righteous souls who decided to gather and exterminate your line once and for all.”

“Oh,” Trevor says softly, feeling an awful, personal kind of violence stirring in his heart. His breath is coming shorter and shorter. “So here’s what I don’t get,” he says, standing, aching, baring his teeth at the pain his body brings to him. “You’re talking like you’ve got me under your blade, there, but all you’ve got is some hostages and a shit-ton of dead men.”

“Do you think this was all of us?” the last man asks with a terrible kindness, and Trevor remembers, with a bolt of clarity, the horse-tracks going into the wood. The pain fades—his heart has started pounding against his ribs again like it’s trying to claw its way out to fight alongside him.

“Shit,” he swears, and in one abrupt movement draws his whip again just as he hears steps, plenty of them, even through the rain and the hail and the lightning. They’re coming for him.

“Surrender and the dissident will live at least long enough to hang, instead of dying like a lamb sacrificed.”

“I would prefer to die at the feet of my father the Lord!” Father Silviu spits, “who gazes at this land in love rather than scorn. Spill my blood as Abel’s was! Run, Lord Belmont! There’s a back door!”

Trevor opens his mouth to retort, to beg Silviu to perhaps be less of a sacrificial lamb, to maybe take the whole religion thing less seriously, to try to talk his way out of death coming for him finally, dogging at the heels of a burning building after all. It all jams up in him, so many things to say and none of them, none of them, not really, of any use.

The clipped tread of city-cobbled boots looms behind him. They’re almost to the top of the stairs into the church. It sounds like a lot. The last man has Silviu and Silas, and, resultantly, Trevor completely by the balls. He can’t just watch them die. He can’t let Silviu hang and Silas be skinned and driven mad with who knows what else other tortures. Trevor can scarcely lay down and die, though. He can’t take that grief and lay it out for Sypha and Alucard to simply endure. It’s not an option for him.

He locks eyes, desperately, with Silas. His eyes blaze furious and wild. He’s foaming a little at the mouth, even held silent and deathly still as he is at the mercy of the golden bridle.

“Fine,” Trevor says, mind working furiously, “fine, I surrender.”

“Turn around, then,” the last man says, his tone dripping scorn, “and drop your cursed weapon. Lift your hands where I can see them. We will kill you mercifully, Lord Belmont. Be not afraid.”

Trevor snarls in response before he can help himself, following the directions. His mind is racing faster and faster, like an animal in a too-small cage. He has to figure something out. Perhaps Sypha will notice and come for him- no. She’s keeping the village from burning down. Alucard? Treating burns, now, most likely. Hell but he hurts everywhere. His breathing hasn’t evened out. He can’t take two more men, let alone twenty.

As he turns to face the approach of his death, a curious cry comes from behind him, like a man whose fingers have been pinched in the door.

But he can’t bring himself to find out what that is, because lightning is striking down again, Silas’ heartsickness and fear made manifest, and it has illuminated the shadow of something enormous, and stretching, and infinitely, terribly, unceasingly squirming. The stretching shadows of the men coming to kill him are vanishing. Trevor watches, dumbfounded, as the lightning flashes and every slash of light reveals less. The screams are growing thinner and smaller, less a group of terror and more the cry of a man alone facing death.

He hears a thunderous pound and the whole building shakes once, twice, and then a third time. There’s a clang behind him.

Silence falls. Is it his imagination, or is the rain lessening?

“Lord Belmont,” says Father Silviu, his voice shaking.

Trevor turns around quickly, clutches at his ribs in agony. When he uncrooks himself he looks around, confused, and then hears something. It’s a thin, reedy noise, barely audible over the soft patter of rain on the roof.

Pasha is coming down the stairs toward him, crying out in her demanding little kitten-cry. Her chin is wet with deep scarlet blood. She’s licking her chops like she’s been buried in a cream-bucket.

Trevor looks, unbelieving, at the steps. The last man is dead, keeled over sideways, eyes bulged and tongue bloated purple out his mouth. The corpse is, even by Trevor’s standards, unusually ugly.

“What the fuck,” Trevor gasps, trying to walk and ending up in a limping stagger. “Are you- all right?” Pasha dashes away from him up the steps, circles Father Silviu and starts to rub against him aggressively.

“What’s happened?” Silviu asks, trembling. Trevor’s hands are slippery with blood and weaker than he’d like as he works to untie the bridle from around Silviu’s hands. Its strands have cut into his flesh, and he spends a frustrated moment fumbling with the knots before he pulls out a throwing knife to slice them open.

They give way like spidersilk under the iron of his blade. Trevor peels the threads out of the bloodied chasms in Silviu’s wrists, then laboriously, achingly, making noises he thinks could safely be counted as whimpers, he drags himself over to Silas and cuts the bridle off him. He doesn’t move when the first thread is cut, or the second, and it takes Trevor peeling the entire thing off his flesh before Silas suddenly surges, like a wave against the rocks, to get upright.

“Lord Belmont,” Silas says in a faint whisper, “please, tell me what has happened.”

Silas and Trevor lock eyes, then look at the kitten, who is busily washing her face seated next to her master.

“A fucking miracle,” Trevor finally chokes out, “I think…. I think.”

“Oh,” Silviu says, clearly taken aback.

“You need to lie down,” Silas says once he’s smoothed himself down back into his almost-human shape, looking Trevor up and down. “I can- urgh.”

“Did they hurt you?” Silviu asks, and reaches out. “How bad is it? I can tend the injury.”

“Lord Belmont,” Silas tries again, but Trevor is driven by some strange urgency and drags himself to the door, over bodies and limbs and through endless pools of blood. The church certainly isn’t consecrated anymore, he thinks grimly, and pushes himself laboriously through the door held ajar by the torso of a man he’d apparently ripped in half. The pain of the act brings tears to his eyes, but he has to know. He has to see.

Outside, the forest is quiet.

The sky is a sweet velvet blue, the storm parting and chasing itself away from the skies as quickly as it formed. Trevor slips on the wetness of the stone steps, catches himself with a laborious jerk that brings yet more tears to his eyes, a blurring stream now instead of a brook-trickle, and walks on.

There’s something sitting in the gloom in front of him. Trevor, resigned, trudges forward. He’s starting to notice in his peripheral vision that his pants have gone red in spots, that his tunic is slippery instead of tacky, the difference between fresh blood and old mud. Still he goes on, staggering step by step, until he falls to his knees before a wax-wrapped package and a chicken, gold with a pretty green breast and a rose-pink set of wing tips, sleeping dumbly on top of it. Chicken and package both are set in the hollow of an enormous footprint, one made uncomfortably clear by the mud, one with talons the size of Trevor’s arm. There’s a whole trail of them stretching from the forest to the church and then back again to the trees.

He fishes a note out from under the chicken, who peeps, and surveys it mutely.

“What the fuck,” he hears Silas exclaim, but it sounds odd, as if he’s speaking from very far away.

Trevor finally gives in to his own humanity and lets the world fold in over his head. He’s done what he could. He has to trust that Sypha and Alucard can take it from here.

As he fades, his eyes trace over the glittering ink, written in sharp loops:

‘Auntie has sent your dowry. –E’

Chapter Text


 

“You know what this is,” Alucard says, flicking the piece of parchment in a distinctly irritated fashion.

“Of course,” Trevor says breezily. He’s laid out in a pew in the old church (he supposes it’s a hospital of sorts, now, isn’t it, not just an old church?) in the middle of town, wrapped up in bandages and bundled under animal-smelling sheepskins next to the other invalids. Some of the villagers, children mostly, have been bringing him treats, scavenged berries or bird feathers or good pieces of grass. To Sypha’s amusement, they’ve been piling their treats and treasures on him when he’s unconscious instead of simply laying them next to him.

He suspects the real reason for the gifts is the bird chuckling to itself in a steady patrol around the perimeter of the hospital, the gold-colored chicken with rose-pink wingtips. Alucard hadn’t wanted it in, but since it didn’t seem to produce any chicken shit his objections were shot down by Maria’s mother, who was doting on the thing like another grandchild.

“I can’t believe her nerve,” Alucard continues, putting the note aside to finish wrapping Trevor’s shoulder neatly in clean bandages. “It’s absolutely- it’s just not a thing anymore. It’s preposterously old-fashioned.”

“You’re completely right,” Trevor agrees, closing his eyes for a moment.

“I certainly can’t be ungrateful,” Alucard gripes, putting his cool hand on Trevor’s forehead and frowning, “and in a way that’s worse, isn’t it? Manipulative old bat.”

“Wouldn’t ‘bird’ be more appropriate?” Trevor asks off-handedly, opening his eyes again to look around.

“Yes, I suppose—coming, coming! Trevor, be good, please lay still and let the salves and wraps do their job. Radu, please yell if he does anything. More burns. Hell keep me up.”

“Anything?” asks Radu from another pew, one turned to face its peers. They’ve all been turned into sickbeds, and while they’re not roomy, there are enough to hold all the injured and still let visitors sit. He’s got an arm swaddled in white and is busy bleeding through a bandage on his leg.

“You know what I mean,” Alucard huffs, and then he rushes off again.

“You alright there, Belmont?” asks Radu.

Trevor crooks his head just a little to see him better.

“Great,” he tells him, and means it.

Radu chuckles.

Trevor had come back to consciousness briefly to Silas carrying him on his back, stuck at the barrier on the mud-covered bridge. He’d been directing Silviu to fetch aid from the village. Trevor hadn’t been able to pick out whose blood was whose, so he’d given up and dipped back into unconsciousness. From there, he’s surfaced like a bobber in the pond, picking up this and that, but never enough to make sense of. The more he works his mind the less clear everything gets, though, so he takes a few breaths of clean crisp air and lets go.

Anemic beams of sunlight are flexing in through the broken windows. Trevor tries to decide what time it is, can’t, gives up.

“Your doctor man makes a mean painkiller,” Radu says into the quiet. A few agreements come up from pews around them, a little rueful laughter.

“The lady’s got healing hands,” a man says from another row of pews, behind them. He sounds reverent. “She’s sainted. I’d thought my leg’d go off for sure.”

“Don’t forget Lord Belmont,” a woman says sternly from further down Trevor and Silas’ row. There’s a row of blankets that’s been tied up to keep the sexes separate. Modesty, of course. Trevor gives a lazy laugh, mostly to himself—all these people have seen each other naked plenty of times this summer, down at the calmed part of the river. It doesn’t make any sense to him to waste the sheets. “If it weren’t for him those marauders’d’ve come for us all after they finished burning the town down, and the doctor and the lady came with him anyway so they’re thanks to him too.”

“S’my job,” Trevor says, but his voice is lost under a flow of agreement from all around him, a babbling brook of sound that buoys him up and starts to carry him away, away, away.

“You saved us again,” somebody else says, and another voice chimes in, “The Hero of Wallachia!” and “Lord Belmont is incredible!” and that, come on, it’s all a bit much, so Trevor just closes his eyes and finally allows himself to be swept downriver into sleep.

 

 

 

By the third morning, Trevor is well enough to stand up. A good thing, too- apparently there are some visitors asking for him.

It still hurts to stand, and he’s not going to be helping to fix any of the damage around town yet, but it feels good to be able to move under his own power. Radu is still bundled up and on forced bed rest, but his dressings are growing thinner as the bleeding slows. Trevor doesn’t know precisely what happened to him, but he seems to be in good spirits regardless.

“You heal like a goddamned demon,” Radu complains when Trevor stands upright and gives a contented little groan. His back cracks and it makes his ribs hurt, but even that pain feels good after two days of star-snuffing sleep.

“I’m young,” Trevor tells him, stretching as much as his bandages and his body will let him. He’s in a plain tunic, brown pants, barefoot, but Vampire Killer is, as always, curled at his hip on his belt. He’d slept with the whip under his head, hadn’t he? Old habits die hard, he supposes. At least when Sypha and Alucard sleep at his sides, he keeps the whip at the foot of the bed. Maybe they can go home tonight, sleep side-by-side again. He’s missed that, though he’s barely been awake enough to.

“Never seen anybody heal that fast, you brat,” Radu sulks, but his eyes are impish and his tone so theatrically sullen that it’s impossible to take him seriously.

“Maybe I got special treatment,” Trevor grins, and has to bite back anything ruder than that because he’s in the literal center of the village right now with every injured man and woman a captive audience. No need to spark a public discussion on Lord Belmont’s bed life, thank you.

“You let Doctor Tepes hear that and he’ll break your legs himself,” says Ion, shuffling up the row with a stack of bowls and spoons in his hands. One of Maria’s children is lugging a steaming pot. She’s got curly red hair to Maria’s straight brown, and it seems to be tied up in a blue silk ribbon Trevor’s used to seeing on Sypha. Well. Maybe she’s finally found an apprentice after all. “You want some food before you take a look at the damage, my lord?”

“What’s for breakfast?” Trevor asks, slouching around them to try and look in as they start to dole out breakfast.

Radu gives him a half-annoyed, half amused squint. “The same thing everybody makes every morning: pottage. You want some or not?”

“I don’t know how to cook,” Trevor says with a grin, and he lowers his head for Ion to ruffle his hair. Ion finishes with a light smack to the back of the head that makes Trevor laugh a little. Radu tuts, already holding out his hands for the bowl Sypha’s anointed assistant—Sofia, he things?-- is filling. “I’ll beg a carrot from Maria.”

“Boys never got strong on carrots,” Ion chides, and reaches in to his pocket to pull out a cloth wrapped lump. “Eat up, get some fresh air.”

“Thanks,” Trevor says, too drugged and sleep-swaddled to attempt to resist. He holds out his hands and accepts the warm little bundle as it’s pressed against his palms.

“Walk slowly,” Radu tells him. “Don’t open everything up again.”

“I won’t,” Trevor assures him, sheltering the little warm bump in his hands like an egg.

“And eat that, don’t cuddle it,” Ion says, tone exasperated.

“I will,” Trevor says, smiling, flicking a hand in goodbye, and he turns around to go out.

 

 

 

Trevor is more surprised than he’d like to admit to find himself confronted with four men in glinting, well-made armor waiting for him in the town square. Sypha and Alucard are talking to them, but they look at ease, so he approaches readily enough. He isn’t a vain man, but abruptly he wishes he’d put on shoes. He had assumed the people asking for him were pilgrims or refugees, not… this.

“Lord Belmont,” says the man in a robin-breast red undercoat as he approaches. He’s got the thickest and, dare he say, most luxuriant mustache Trevor has ever seen in his life, and his hair is just as thick and glossy, the black-gray of a fall storm-sky in the brilliance of the morning sun. The golden cross around his neck and that of every other man in his company draws Trevor’s eye; he resists making a comment. “Forgive me for not greeting you immediately. I was informed that you received some injuries, and your lady and the good doctor warned me you would need a little time to recover. I hope it isn’t displeasing to you that my men and I have been working with the villagers through yesterday to take care of some matters of necessity.”

He speaks with the clipped, exact tones of a man born and bred in the capital—the same as Silviu, now that Trevor thinks on it.

Sypha gestures excitedly to the empty spot where the inn used to be. Now it’s a mostly-cleared lot.

“They helped us to get rid of the burned wood, Trevor, they’ve been so helpful. We’re very grateful.”

“It’s an honor to help the Heroes of Wallachia,” a man with a dazzling smile says, coming up behind the ones in armor, and Trevor realizes there’s a whole company of strangers amongst them, well-fed well-washed men with well-bred manners. They’re helping to carry and hammer and brace and lift, and Trevor is equal parts grateful and cautious. Gifts from the capital are, he’s reasonably certain, inherently double-edged.

“Great,” Trevor says coolly, limping a little in his approach as the euphoria of being able to stand fades, to be replaced by a plethora of aches both physical and existential. Alucard notices and shifts, putting out what he probably thinks is a subtle hand to hover near the small of Trevor’s back. “Kind of you, but you’re actually working on the local baker’s house.”

Maria waves from her newly-repaired upper balcony.

Yes,” the man says with enthusiasm. Trevor raises an eyebrow.

“I am Captain Jderoiu,” the man in red says, bowing now that Trevor is closer. “My men and I were sent from the capital, as many others have been, to assist with bandits. We received information very late two nights ago that a group of bandits with minds bent to nefarious purpose had been spotted coming this way, and so we re-routed. I was afraid we had arrived too late, my lord, but my relief was great when we found the village mostly unharmed.”

“Bandits,” Trevor says, still unmoved. Alucard shifts, subtly. His hand isn’t exactly on his sword, but it could certainly be there if he wanted it to.

“If I could speak with you in a private location,” the captain says, smiling in the way men do when secrets are clutched between their teeth and they dare not slip them loose, “I would be happy to relay some important information meant for his Lordship only.”

“Are you going to threaten me? Here, on my own land?” Trevor demands, tired of all this bullshit intrigue already. Alucard stifles a laugh with a cough. Sypha hunches up her shoulders, making a funny sort of half-frown half-smile. “I have other things to deal with here, and I don’t have any interest in your stupid courtly bullshit. Men came, men died. It’s how it’s gone before, and it’s how it will always go, no matter how many idiots with pikes you send at me.” By the time he’s finished speaking he’s advanced on the captain and is standing way, way too close, eyes hard and mouth run in a line. His hands have dropped to his hips, fingers finding Vampire Killer out of sheer habit. A good one, Trevor thinks to himself, and solidifies his hold.

“Lord Belmont,” Captain Jderoiu says, putting up his hands in a clear gesture of surrender; his men have their hands on their swords and their eyes locked on Alucard and Sypha. They probably didn’t notice, did they, that Mr. Fancypants Fop Doctor has a sword on him. And, based on the expressions on their faces, they may have heard the stories about Sypha but they sure didn’t believe them. Idiots.

Standing here tensely, it’s easy to pick out the villagers from the visiting army men: the army men are nervous, looking to and fro. The villagers are ready to run.

Trevor recedes to his own personal bubble, unwilling to risk the peace of the village itself. He’s not some itinerant monster-slaying vigilante anymore. These people are his responsibility, and like hell will he get them all killed because he’s a little cranky. Anyway, credit where credit is due: the captain is rock steady. He hasn’t even blinked at Trevor’s behavior. He’s probably seen worse on a good day in the capital, now that Trevor thinks about it.

“May I ask you something?” The captain twists at the end of a mustache with his fingers. It looks to be a habit, as the twist is a little higher on the same side as his dominant hand.

When Trevor doesn’t respond, only looking at the captain with thinly-disguised contempt, Alucard clears his throat, stepping up again to bracket Trevor firmly. Sypha is already there, has ghosted up despite being in her bright blue travelling robes. Spelled to resist disease and filth, she’d told him once. One month on the road in, he’d believed her.

“If it’s within our ability to answer, we’ll certainly try,” Alucard says, which is nice and diplomatic and not at all what Trevor wants him to say. Sypha puts an arm on his elbow, pinches the fabric there lightly.

“I heard from the village that they saw no men,” Captain Jderoiu says, and for the first time his face slides from poised gentility into a kind of hungry expression that wouldn’t look out of place on a wolf. “And heard from the tradepost off the main road that they saw thirty. How many reached you?”

“About ten or so,” Trevor tells him, because that information seems harmless enough.

“…. I see.” Captani Jderoiu looks well-satisfied at the answer. He shifts and gives Trevor a nod, and if it’s faint, it’s a genuine enough smile that comes to rest on his lips. “That’s about how many bodies we thought were in the church, but we had a debate, you see. I appreciate you settling it for us.”

“Trevor,” Sypha says, pulling at his sleeve, “Let’s hear what he has to say.” He looks at Alucard, who arches his eyebrows. To an outsider, it might seem noncommittal, but Trevor knows the truth: Alucard is dying to know whatever secret has been brought.

“It’s for Lord Belmont’s ears only,” says one of the captain’s men, one in a faintly blue-green undercoat. He’s got a streak of white going up from his temple, likely tracing the other end of a scar that comets down from his hairline to his upper lip.

“Convenient, that,” Trevor says, spreading his arms gingerly despite the pain to motion at Sypha and Alucard. “These two are my ears and eyes when I’m not about. Let’s go. We can talk in the stable.”

“Very well,” says Captain Jderoiu, holding up an gauntleted hand before his men can say anything. “Your lordship is lucky to have two men-“ he glances at Sypha and falters, gaze darting away, “-ah, people he can trust so deeply.”

Sypha makes a face at his back as he leads the way to the open door of the stable.

 

 

 

As they enter the building, Trevor’s eyes slip over a patch of night that just doesn’t seem to fit. The hairs raise on the back of his neck and his spine jitters with electricity, and it takes every modicum of self-control he has to not storm over and strike before whatever’s there does.

Good thing he doesn’t, too: it’s Silas, cat-quiet and dog-purposeful, stretching up to his feet in the stall he’s apparently residing in. He’s so enormous that his head almost touches the lower rafters of the stall’s entrance. It is, Trevor muses, one thing to see him in nature, where at least a tree makes him look small; in the shadow of a building made by men, it only makes Silas look more titanic, like a pocket of darkness left over from when the world was younger, hungrier.

Trevor’s eyes fall to his forehead, but the horn isn’t there. His feet, next: hooves shod in dull metal. Illusions, he figures. Nothing illusionary about the veritable tablecloth of a bandage strapped to his hip where the bastards had been starting to skin him, though. Trevor wonders who patched him up, or starts to, but it’s an absurd question: only Alucard is that tidy with his wrappings. As if Sypha and he would let anybody else handle bandaging a fucking monster, anyway. The medicine must be making him soft in the skull or something to even consider otherwise.

“Are you all right, Lord Belmont?” the captain starts to ask, clearly concerned, before Sypha lights a lantern and the poor man almost jumps out of his skin in shock, arms pinwheeling comically. “God help me!”

“He’s just a horse,” Sypha says sweetly, and Silas, the hilariously awful bastard, tucks his enormous face into her hands as gracefully as a swan. He huffs out a sigh that spreads sweet-grass smell about. “The poor thing suffered an injury when the storm hit, so we’re keeping him from work. The other horses seem to be worried about him.”

“I’ve never seen an animal so….” Captain Jderoiu falters. “Uncanny,” he tries, grimacing: clearly not what he’s trying to express.

Trevor glances at Alucard, who tips his chin to the ancient, moth-eaten horse-blanket over Silas’ shoulders. The Belmont crest shines there, a little too beautiful to be real even with the golden thread. Magic to shield him from her shield, Trevor realizes. Sypha must have figured it out amongst everything else she was doing in the village, healing and firefighting and organizing and working.

He’s the luckiest fucking man, Trevor reminds himself, and looks at her with a smile playing about his lips. She smiles back, wicked and pretty and shadowed in the drafty old stable, with a black unicorn staring intensely over her shoulder.

The more they stand there and the longer the quiet stretches, the less convinced Trevor is that the captain won’t call bullshit. He looks Silas up and down uncertainly, still clearly taken-aback by something ineffable about the animal in front of him. Silas isn’t helping: he looks back in silence, unmoving, his gaze fixed as a wolf’s. Trevor, standing between them, is abruptly aware that being caught harboring an undebatable monster in the center of town might not be great for his future plans.

“He is quite large, isn’t he?” Sypha chucks him under the chin, her words catching at the unspooling silence and pinning them firmly back into the mundane. “Go lie down again, you big thing.”

Silas gives the captain a stare that clearly doesn’t help the man’s nerves before obeying, letting himself down carefully to keep the bandages tidy. Trevor can still feel him staring at them from the shadows of his stall, but Jderoiu visibly eases, running his hand through his hair and rolling his shoulders. He looks sheepish.

Foolish. Trevor is always astonished at how bad most men’s instincts are around monsters.

 “I hope you’ll forgive Lord Belmont for sitting,” Alucard says loftily, and he moves so gracefully that Trevor wouldn’t know that Alucard is basically forcing him down onto a bale of hay except that he’s the one being sat down. Alucard handles him like it’s nothing, even after endless days and nights of tending to patients and brewing potions and changing bandages. He’s exhausted and has dirt smudged here and there, has hands turned dry from all the washing between injuries he’s probably been doing. He’s tired around the eyes, worn around the elbows, and he’s probably saved the lives of every person he’s touched.

Who on earth, Trevor muses, where in this vast world, what man there is luckier than he?

“Of course, I wouldn’t begrudge you.” The captain looks around, possibly for any more lurking ink-horses, before his eyes fall on the door to the stable. Alucard takes a seat at Trevor’s left, sinking in with a quiet groan. “Do you mind if I…”

“I can handle it,” Sypha says, sitting down at Trevor’s right. She lifts a hand.

“I wouldn’t dream of allowing a lady to-“ starts Captain Jderoiu, taking a step to the entrance, but he abruptly pales as the door swings shut gently but firmly, tugged into place by a well-controlled breeze.

Sypha folds her hands into her lap, looking at the man in front of them all alertly. She looks like a cat waiting for a bit of fish.

“All set!”

Trevor honestly can’t tell if she did it to intimidate or because she was tired on her feet. An academic matter, he supposes, and leans down to rest his elbows on his knees.

Bracketed by Sypha and Alucard, Trevor feels more in his element than he has in what feels like forever.

Captain Jderoiu huffs out a slow, steady breath, eyes fixed on the straw-strewn floor. Trevor waits. When the man lifts his gaze, he’s impressed to see that he’s steadied himself and gathered his nerve once more.

“I don’t see the point in beating around the bush: the priests and guardsmen that came to kill you are part of a splintered faction of the church, Lord Belmont.”

“Splintered,” Alucard says, tone light, “as in?”

“We are putting them down as we find them. They lost an incredible amount of support following the attacks by Dracula’s army, and the men I serve and I see no reason to give them the time to bounce back.”

“That’s convenient, you defending me in a way,” Trevor says, skeptical. “Why not just knife me and return to how things were?” Sypha and Alucard tense beside him. He can feel the sharp prickle of Sypha’s nails through the thin cloth of his pants.

The look Captain Jderoiu gives Trevor is pure shock. He gestures to all three of them in a sweeping arc.

“Do you understand, Lord Belmont, how truly revered you and your companions are? There was speculation- maybe even hope!- that when you three rode into the capital it would be to claim kingship!”

“We don’t have a king,” Trevor says, but he’s reeling back anyway, alarmed at the very idea.

“There are whispers that you three are angels sent by the Lord himself to bring life and hope back to Wallachia!”

“Goodness,” Sypha comments, blinking rapidly.

“And, regardless of absolutely anything else, Lord Belmont, Lady Belnades, Doctor Tepes,” and here the captain strides up to them and almost dives to the ground, his low, decadent bow is so abrupt, “you have saved the lives of more people than can be understood. The peasantry calls you the hero of Wallachia, but amongst learned men, we had doubt that Dracula would be content to make the borders of her lands alone run red. You may well have saved the entire world of men,” he finishes, and finally lifts his head.

His gaze is iron-coated, determined, and his tone is stern as he goes on:

“The people know of your personal history with the church, Lord Belmont. They are not as meek and dumb as some of your noble peers would believe, and would not accept your death or disappearance at the hands of bandits, claimed or actual. The day of your death, Lord Belmont, will be a deeply fraught one for this nation if it happens any time sooner than as your whiskers gray.”

Trevor feels his stomach plummet into his ankles as the enormity of what Captain Jderoiu is saying sinks in. He’s steadied by the faint press and rub of Sypha’s thumb on his leg, warm and steady despite the jarring conversation.

“Good,” Alucard says, standing. His tone is as diffident as if the captain has simply been briefing them on summer planting progress. “I had suspected as much. Is that all you had to tell us?”

“I cannot express how deeply grateful I am that you survived, Lord Belmont. Please make sure that you continue that trend, for all of our sakes. Please accept my apologies for the lateness of our arrival. We will patrol more closely in the future, until this matter is more settled.”

“I hope that doesn’t mean that strange military forces will be roaming our lands,” Sypha says, looking so abruptly serious that Captain Jderoiu blinks.

“We… no, my lady. The main roads and borders will be patrolled, as well as a few known passes.”

“Do you know where they are?” She asks, crossing her arms. “How familiar are your men with the area?”

“We have travelled in the region before,” he answers cagily. He turns his eyes to Trevor and Alucard as if asking for them to rescue him, which leaves Trevor annoyed. Sypha has spent more time on horseback running down bandits than anybody else as of late. She knows how the rains have shaped the rivers and how the mountains have come down from winter, and she knows it better than anybody else.

“I can help you to put together a map,” she tries, looking exasperated. It’s a generous offer, given how adamant she still is about not learning to read or write. Drawing is an exception, she’d told him once, but everything else had to be learned and held in the mind in Speaker tradition.

“Sypha knows the hidden paths better than anybody else here, Captain,” he intercedes, sighing heavily. “You’d better find a man good at cartography so you have an idea of what you’re working with, if you intend to send patrols out. The land here is rough and riddled with monsters and hungry wild animals.”

“Monsters,” says the captain, looking shocked. “Why do you allow them so near to your home?”

“They help keep the boar under control mostly,” Alucard says with a sharp-edged lightness. It’s clear, to Trevor at least, that he’s not a fan of criticism on the topic.

“I’d rather the southern harpies than that big mean sow we saw late spring,” Sypha agrees, putting her fingers to her mouth. “Do you think she’s had babies?”

Trevor shakes his head, annoyed by the change in topic. He still has plenty of thoughts on the matter, and none of them are about the local wildlife.

“Have you ever tried to get rid of every monster in the capital?”

“We don’t have that problem,” Captain Jderoiu says with absolutely no hesitation. Silas snorts in his stall, which earns a glare from Alucard. Trevor gives a long, drawn-out sigh.

“Nice to know I’ll be coming to visit the capital now and then. I’ll try to remember to pay you a friendly call when I come in for a job.”

 The captain put a hand to his head, looking concerned.

“Surely you’re toying with me, Lord Belmont?”

“You asked me why I ‘allow’ monsters so close to where I live, Captain Jderoiu. There’s your answer. I no more allow them to exist than I allow bears to walk through the mountains.” Trevor leans back, surveys him. He still has the air of a man certain somebody is pulling the wool over his eyes, or trying to. “I’m sure you burned a fair amount of witches in the past few years, isn’t that right? Probably some grisly killings they were accused of.”

“You know the truth of that matter as much as I do, Lord Belmont,” responds the captain, which, hey, is a pretty diplomatic way of saying what needs to be said, Trevor has to admit.

“And I’m sure the killings stopped right away, easy as can be.” He tips his brows up, smiling a little bitterly. “Women are easy to burn. Monsters are a little trickier.”

“I… don’t know what to do with that information,” the captain says, his mouth now a little agape in a particularly morose fashion.

“Send for us when you need us,” Sypha says firmly. Captain Jderoiu looks over her again, blinking as if he’s just stepped into desert-bleak sun. “And let me help your men to keep from being eaten needlessly. I am a mage and a healer, captain. I don’t enjoy seeing men go off to die.”

“I….. thank you, for your offer, Lady Sypha. You have my gratitude. I will sent Paul to you.” He rubs a hand through his hair, mussing it considerably. The poor man looks to be thrown wildly out-of-sorts, but he’s still holding it together. Maybe Trevor really will go visit him when he’s next called to the capital. “Do you have any questions for me?”

Sypha tips her head and swings her feet, then leans in conspiratorially. “Was Father Silviu actually sent from the capital?”

Captain Jderoiu nods. “The good Father comes from a long line of great minds, and so I believe the hope was that he would prove an interesting addition to your populace. His sister in particular felt that his philosophical ideology would be of interest to your lordship.”

“He’s too politically hot, so his well-connected sister sent him away,” Alucard translates, sounding a bit snide.

“Just so,” Captain Jderoiu confirms, fixing a curious eye on Alucard, who sends a placid stare back. “He had just returned from a long trip to Russia when he was put under suspicion, and, eventually, entered the dungeons. I make no claim of understanding, given that it’s all priestly sorts yelling at each other about things I can neither see nor touch, but…”

The man sighs, straightening up out of his kneel to look at all of the beseechingly.

“His sister is a good friend of an old army friend’s wife. I didn’t know him well, but from what I do know, he doesn’t deserve what was done to him.”

Trevor sighs as he stands, putting a hand up to his temple when the world goes spotty and sharp in strange places.

“Most people don’t deserve what they get, you know.”

“Well said, my lord,” says Captain Jderoiu, looking him up and down with something of a regretful expression.

They all start toward the door, each mired in their own thoughts. Sypha tucks herself under Trevor’s elbow to help him walk and Alucard’s hand finds the small of his back again. Focusing on limping to the stable door, Trevor works to keep his breathing even and his pace up. It’s harder than he wants it to be. He probably needs to rest again.

They stop outside the stable to take in the bustling scene in the village. Captain Jderoiu seems to drink it all in with satisfaction; Alucard and Sypha are clearly looking around with more critical eyes, thinking of this project or that patient that needs to be attended to.

“We’ll stay for a few days, if that’s all right by you, my lord,” the captain says slowly. Trevor follows his gaze and sees Maria and the man from before, the happy one, hauling up water from the well together.

“If your men are inclined to work,” he says, feeling the weight of responsibility settle comfortably on him for perhaps the first time, “I don’t think we should turn you away.”

“It’s our honor,” the captain says, and starts to walk toward the town square, his fingers working to undo his armor.

 

 

 

Recovery, for both Trevor and the town, goes quicker than expected.

Captain Jderoiu’s men prove to be well-mannered and thus quite popular. The man who’d been working on Maria’s house promises to come visit her when he can, and every morning that he’s in the village he goes out and finds flowers for her with all the younger children, leaving her and her older ones to a peaceful morning of baking. Trevor has a feeling he’ll be seeing Paul around, that’s for certain.

Silas returns to the other side of the river to find that there’s a temporary lean-to put up next to the developing frame of a new smithy, and if he seems sheepish or shy about it at all, Trevor doesn’t care to dwell on it. The children bring him covered baskets of good warm bread and fresh-picked vegetables from the fields, and before too long the technicolor chicken has found him as well. Silas, unlike Sypha, has no compunctions about eating eggs from a magical chicken. Alucard opines that the protein is good for his recovery, and that, as they say, is that.

Radu and Ion go back to their old house together, bickering and old and grateful, so grateful, to have not been parted from one another by death. As Trevor recovers he starts acting as a carry boy for Sypha, well-used to the specific nature of her requests by now. With everybody pulled away from death’s door that needs it, she’s trying to recover and conserve her magic to help rebuild the town. Trevor doesn’t begrudge her that; he can handle some creaky ribs and sore stab wounds if it means that the town is taking shape again before his eyes.

He doesn’t see her much, aside from when he brings her things she asks for, herbs and things like that, but he steals a kiss and lets her feel his forehead every time they do meet. At night, as they all sleep, he swears he can pick out the soft little snort she makes sometimes when she turns over funny and her arms flail out.

Alucard is tricker, though: perhaps if it were just the villagers about, Trevor and he might sleep side by side on the men’s half of the church-hospital, but with the soldiers here too, neither of them dare risk waking too sweetly intertwined. So they sleep in a line, Trevor on his bed-pew and Alucard at the other end of it. They still tuck their feet against each other, late at night, and that isn’t enough, not nearly enough, to show Alucard his love.

 

 

 

When the army men are all rounded up to finally go and packed in their armor, metal and leather both, Trevor goes to find their captain. He’s got one last word to have.

“I’m a monster hunter,” Trevor points out, patting the captain’s horse on the neck. It noses him seriously, well-used to his offerings of whatever treats could be scavenged up. True to form, he’s got an apple tucked in a pocket, and soon enough the horse is lipping him to try to find it. “It’s not a safe line of work.”

The man casts an eye down over Trevor, then over to Sypha, who is using her magic to carefully lever an enormous support log into place on the bridge into town. Men with hammers and ropes are waiting on both sides of the bridge for her signal. Alucard is tucked inside the hospital-church, in out of the sun. He’s marking chalk lines for where he thinks they should put up new walls to make it into an actual hospital.

“Then you had best get to work building up a legacy, my lord,” he says in as even a tone as he can manage given the circumstances, “so as that if you do pass away on a hunt, there’s a son who can keep the country from rioting.”

“A daughter’d work just as well,” Trevor says, finally pulling out the apple from his pocket. The horse, bless the old war nag, takes it from his fingers as gently as a child would.

Sypha drops the log into place gently with a  flick of her fingers, but it still gives a heavy, booming thud. The men cheer and start to swarm over it like ants. Captain Jderoiu sucks air in through his teeth, eyes locked on the scene.

“Maybe so,” he agrees, eyebrows up to his hairline. “Maybe so.”

Chapter Text

 


“We missed your birthday,” Sypha says three days after, standing on her toes to hug Trevor. He doesn’t know if it’s a Speaker thing or a Sypha thing, but either way, she’s more physically demonstrative than Trevor recalls most Wallachian women being with their husbands. He likes it, likes the way her fingers find the soft hairs at the base of his neck as she squeezes him, likes the way her body cuddles up to his with fresh enthusiasm every single day. It’s noon and he’s only been away from her side for a few hours, but here she is, pressing her nose into his clean shirt and rubbing her cheek on his chest.

“I think it’s more fair to say I missed my birthday,” he corrects her, smoothing his hand up and down her back. “You two were busy looking down at my unconscious body.”

She bites her lip, looking at him from under her bangs.

They walk out of the church together, Sypha dusting her hands off on her skirts, Trevor with an enormous sheaf of lavender for Maria. The sun is beating down, all traces of clouds gone. The floods have left behind a wash of fertile soil in the fields, and aside from some fire damage that frankly took less than Trevor had expected, all is reasonably well. Not a single villager died, nobody was crippled, and last Trevor had seen Alucard, he’d been washing off a brand new baby screaming her little lungs out. He himself has recovered swiftly with typical Belmont stamina, and he’s up today feeling good as new.

A good day, given the past few.

“I was worried,” she finally confesses as they step out of the shadow of the newly-christened hospital. Men are coming in and out with wood and tools; Alucard had apparently found the time to collaborate on some suggested renovations to the building. There’s something to be said for his stamina, Trevor muses, even when worked to the bone.

“I’m sorry,” he says, because he knows Sypha enough to read between the lines there, knows what she’s actually saying.

“I thought you’d be a little feistier than that,” Sypha laughs, putting her hands on his forearm and spinning to face him.

“I was afraid too,” he tells her in a low voice, softly, as gentle as a mote of dust would float on a sunbeam. “I thought that… that might have been it. For a monster hunter to die at the hands of men,” Trevor tsks. “It’s the sort of shitty ironic death this world loves.”

Sypha has frozen at his words. Trevor looks down at her, almost not daring to meet her eyes. So he looks at her brow, arched up, and the bow of her mouth, pressed just barely apart, and then finally he looks her in the eye.

Tears are swimming there, and Trevor finds that perhaps he shouldn’t have looked after all—it feels bad to make Sypha cry, after all.

“I….” She lifts a sleeve up, tucks her face into it for a moment. When she speaks next, her voice is muffled. “I guess it’s part of growing up, isn’t it?”

“Fear is for people who have something to lose,” Trevor agrees. “And now, that’s us.”

“You’ll have to think of a new tagline, though,” Sypha says, finally pulling her sleeve away. As she puts it down, Trevor can see where the wool is dark with tears. “No more cool speeches for you about never fearing death.”

“Just wait until you hear what I told those bastards at the church,” Trevor says, grinning. “You’ll love it.”

“Tell me!” Sypha demands, puffing up and throwing her hands on her hips. Behind her, children are spilling out of the barn with old Peony trailing behind. They’re roughhousing and yelling joyously, but the horse is plodding behind them sleepily with drooping eyelids, looking for all the world like a beleaguered granny watching her descendants.

“Later,” he insists, shifting the lavender in his arms. “I’m going to go back to the house and tidy up a little. I hope nothing’s moved in while we were away.”

“Tell me now!” Sypha insists, but Trevor leans down to kiss her once, twice, and then runs away while the village children are swarming about her legs teasing her about it.

 

 

 

“The doctor’s gone back to your home, my lord,” Maria says with a cheery, dimpled smile. Paul hasn’t had a chance to come by, but Trevor has no doubt that he’ll see the man again the next time he can manage it. He wonders briefly if any other soldiers will come with him but shrugs it off. Let them come. There are still plenty of refugees and empty homes waiting for occupants, if they want to set down some roots after all.

“I suppose all the baby stuff got to him,” Trevor laughs.

“I can’t believe it myself, a man in the thick of it, but there he was and then there the baby was. A breech birth, too, my lord, and he and Tess pulled through together just fine. The little one is a rowdy girl, takes after her mum.” Currently Trevor can’t recall if Tess is the mother or the baby, so he just nods. Baby business is a strange world to him still, no matter how much Alucard and Sypha talk shop over his head.

“Glad to hear it,” Trevor says, and he is, he is. Is this the first baby born here since his family was burned down for somebody else’s sins? He can’t recall exactly, but if she’s the second or the first, fifth or seventh, he’s glad she’s come into a world he helped to make a little better.

It’s a strange thought. It strikes him suddenly, the sun-shot luminance of that idea, and Trevor turns it over and over in his mind like a skipping stone, feeling every curve and admiring the way it turns so easily in his hold.

“Put it here, my lord,” Maria says, thumping her solid table nearest to the door. Maria’s mother is dozing in a hard-backed chair nearby, snoring just a little.

He finally puts down the tightly-tied bundle, brushing himself off while Maria rummages in a cabinet and comes up with a round bundle tied in string and brown paper spotted with grease. “I made this once before for you, but we fed it to that wild thing that came charging in.”

“He’s all right now that he’s not panicking,” Trevor says automatically. He’s probably honor-bound to hate horses, especially after everything that’s happened, but he just can’t bring himself to. He has too many good memories of riding tucked against his sisters as a child, escorting his mother when he was a little older but still too young to go on hunts, and finally, the thrill of racing after his father on Trevor’s maiden hunt, and then his second, and then more until he rode alone in the dark.

The animals themselves, assuming they aren’t fairy-horses intent on eating him (or sniffing him, Trevor thinks with a wry twist of his mouth) are good as dogs. He’s always loved dogs, and he can’t help but love the beautiful, strong-hearted mountain horse stabled in the village now too. Radu and Ion are the only ones, aside from him, that have mustered the nerve to handle the beast. He’ll probably take the horse with him on a hunt soon.

Maria shakes him out of his reverie by plopping the bundle on the table and pushing it toward him. She’s smiling, and as sun streams in her front window, the one she lays fresh bread loaves out on the sill of to cool, it hits her flaxen hair. She’s lit up in the exuberant kindness of summer.

“Happy belated birthday, my lord,” she says, and Trevor feels color rise in his cheeks.

“I can’t…” he says, suddenly made bashful, looking at her in surprise. Though he’s an adult now, he has to fight against the urge to stare down at his feet like a child. The gift leaves him, abruptly, adrift.

“You’d better,” Maria’s mother says, smacking her lips from where she’s been dozing in the corner, wrapped in a lacy shawl. “Or the children and I will eat it!”

“You won’t,” Maria huffs. “Please take it, Lord Belmont. Every one of us is grateful for what you’ve given us here. A cake for your birthday is nothing compared to your laying down your lives for us.”

“They were after me, you know,” Trevor tries, but Maria keeps pushing the cake further forward. It’s dangerously close to falling off the table.

“They went for you to start with,” Maria says in a patient tone, and her mother chimes in,

“But they certainly don’t stop there, lord!”

Maria gives it one final push and Trevor, startled, reaches out to catch it as it topples off the table. She claps her hands, laughing.

“What good reflexes you have, dear. I’ll tell everybody you were overjoyed at your gift.”

“I am,” Trevor says, staggered by being remembered, being cared for, outside of the immediate circle he’s formed with Sypha and Alucard. The generosity of the gift, too, is staggering. He can’t remember the last time he had a sweet, and he’s sure that’s the same for the rest of the village. The vineyards and orchards have grown wild for too long, and it will take them several years before they produce reliably again. To be honest, he hadn’t even thought about the cake she’d given the horse. Too many other things had been happening. “I am, really.”

“I know,” Maria says, coming close to put one hand, not quite wrinkled but certainly getting there, on his cheek. She moves gingerly, uncertainly. Despite her shyness, it’s a motherly, tender gesture, and Trevor swallows against the feelings that brings up, lowering his head to make it a little easier on her. She smiles at him as she shifts her hand to cup his cheek more fully. He can feel the softness of her hands, slightly gritty with flour. Little crow’s feet bloom from her ocean-dark eyes.

“Lord Belmont, you are a good, kind man who is devoted to helping us all build a future here. I know we’ll have plenty in this village before long, and the children will have more than their fair share of sweets.”

“I hope they have a chance to get fat,” Trevor says, sincerely. Maria smooths her thumb over his cheek, then pats his face and drops her hand.

“Go make yourself a little fat. You’re thin around the edges. Make sure you share that with your doctor! He’s thin as a rail on the fattest days, and here he is looking transparent lately. It’s all the bandaging I bet. And I know Lady Sypha will love my plum cake.”

“I will too,” Trevor says, and Maria beams. Her mother is snoring again in the corner, her hands folded on her lap. “Thank you, Maria. And please thank everybody else, as well. I’m sorry for all the, eh, trouble lately.”

“What an upstanding young man,” Maria says, her tone turned teasing. “I heard you used to be quite the lout, my lord, always drinking and brawling. What happened to turn you out so nicely?”

“I couldn’t say,” Trevor answers honestly, bouncing the heavy cake carefully in his hands, looking at the meticulous way Maria has tied the string on the parcel. It forms a neat handle to grab as he walks back to his house. “Though in my defense, I still feel pretty confident I could drink most men under the table.”

“Most men,” Maria says with a wry grin. “One of these days we’ll show you the full power of the village women, my lord, and then you’ll be staggered in the hay and woozy as the old days.”

“Sounds fun,” Trevor agrees, and leans in to give Maria a little kiss on the cheek. She laughs and reaches out to pinch his cheek. He’s somewhat gratified to find that it hurts quite a bit, consistent with all other pinches he’s ever received from mothers, his own and others’. “I’ll take you up on that sometime.”

“Walk home safely,” Maria calls out, and Trevor waves at her, shifting the cake to use the handle she tied for him. “Don’t be a stranger.”

“I’ll be back tomorrow,” he calls, just before he turns the corner out of sight.

His cheek aches from her pinch all the way up the mountain, and from beaming.

 

 

 

Alucard is strewn dramatically all over their furs-and-blanket bed, half-dressed from a bath in a fashion that indicates the sun got him before anything else did. His hair is a fallen banner, his sword a line of night. His lashes are a dusting of gold, the line of his spine the arch of a whip laid prone. Trevor leans on the doorway to soak it in.

He feels hungry for this like he’s been starved for it. Really, though, hasn’t he? It’s been around a week since they’d all gone racing down the mountain on Sypha’s ice stairs. A week is a long time to go without when Trevor’s so used to being practically glutted on intimacy, and Alucard and he in particular have had more distance forced between them than he has between Sypha and himself.

Moved by an idea, Trevor steps over the threshold and drops to his knees on their bed, crawling up until he’s next to Alucard. There he pauses to watch, but Alucard doesn’t so much as tense his brow: he’s out. He still smells faintly herbal from soap, is a little damp in the corner of his eye, the hollow of his throat, the line of his abdomen.

Trevor swings a leg over to straddle him slowly, carefully, but Alucard sleeps on. He braces his arms, lowers his head, and places a kiss so light it could well have been a breeze on Alucard’s throat. Then he pauses, every hunter’s instinct bent towards the man under him.

Nothing.

Emboldened by Alucard’s stillness, Trevor leans in again, this time to press a longer kiss into his skin. Alucard inhales softly, one of his hands stirring before settling again. Again Trevor leans down, and this time he adds a swipe of tongue, a purse of the lips, and that sends goosebumps all up Alucard’s arms. He stirs just slightly, parting his lips to sigh softly. Trevor leans down more, pressing kiss after kiss along the column of his throat, on his jaw, on his collarbones.

Under him, Alucard is moving softly, breathing and shifting in the way he does when he’s trying to wake but finding himself just too comfortable to manage it quite yet. Struck by an idea, Trevor adds a little nip of teeth in his next kiss and finds that Alucard is awake, suddenly, wide awake, with a sharp stare and a shivering skin and a wet, needy wetting of his lips.

“Do that again,” he says, his voice quiet and unsteady from his sudden waking. Trevor obligingly lowers his head and gives the barest touch of teeth to his throat. “More,” Alucard demands, a hand sliding up from the bed to thread through Trevor’s hair, his body rolling sinuously against Trevor’s. Not one to deny direct requests, Trevor applies a little more teeth, a little more pressure. He reaches down, too, into Alucard’s barely-on smallclothes to find his dick. He’s not hard but not soft either, and as Trevor palms Alucard’s cock he gives such a delightful full-body shudder that it makes Trevor want to play with him like this forever. He rolls his wrist and presses his palm and crooks his fingers, and with every sweet shudder Trevor wants to give him more of what he wants until that’s all that’s between his own two ears, everything in the world narrowed down tight to keeping Alucard happy.

Alucard keeps on asking and Trevor keeps on giving until finally he doesn’t want to bite down any harder, is reasonably certain he’ll break skin if he goes any further. He’s rock hard in his hand but Trevor won’t speed up, won’t take a grip on him, because it feels like it will break whatever strange spell they’ve woven here. It’s clearly torture for Alucard, because he’s got a face on like a painting of the Rapture.

“Harder,” Alucard whispers again, his body fever-hot to the touch. Trevor shakes his head this time. He whispers again, “More,” and Trevor shakes his head to that too, which seems to be the last straw, because Alucard shakes Trevor’s hands out of his underthings and rolls them over to slot his hips up tight against Trevor’s. “Trevor,” Alucard says, still whispering, and something about being pinned by Alucard makes that whisper a little more intimidating than before. “Give me more, Trevor.”

“You want more,” he says, pulling his hips up so he can rub against Alucard properly, which is a nice little spark of yes after all that aggressively leisurely touching, “you’ll have to take it. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“I’m famished,” Alucard says with peculiar emphasis on the ‘f’ as he rocks against Trevor, his erection standing out in a sharp line against his undergarments. He reaches a hand down and starts to work them off of himself. Trevor is still fully clothed, and he finds the contrast more interesting than he’d expected he would.

“I have something pretty good,” Trevor says, thinking of plum cake, but when Alucard smiles at him and grabs one of his wrists in his hand, he realizes that he’ll always be sort of an idiot, won’t he?

“I’m sure you do,” Alucard breathes, his eyes rimmed red in a pretty little halo all around his irises. “Fine Belmont blood, is it?”

Oh. Oh. It’s Trevor’s turn to swallow, and he does, his breathing suddenly coming quicker than it already had, his heart beating a sudden tattoo against his ribs. Usually when this comes up, this strange dynamic, an element of dangerous play to their relationship that isn’t present anywhere but a practice match or the bed, Trevor backs out, and Alucard lets him. But right now, as pent-up as he is, freshly healed and riled from the beautiful feeling of Alucard letting him do what he wants with him, Trevor feels unusually bold, unusually confident about whatever this is.

“The finest,” Trevor says, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallows. He sees Alucard’s eyes track that. “But it’s not for you. I had something else in mind. Another delicacy.”

“I’m only interested in two things right now,” Alucard says dangerously, lowering himself and knotting a hand in his hair so that Trevor is arched taut under him rather like the first day they met, and doesn’t that make for a confused boner, “and both of them involve being inside your body.”

“Do you want me to beg you to preserve my chastity?” Trevor asks, trying to sound disdainful despite how desperately, wildly hot those last words just made him, lighting him up with heat from the inside like a lantern. The hand in his hair doesn’t hurt either.

“I see no reason not to thoroughly despoil you.” Alucard grins as he speaks, and there his fangs are, long and snake-like and dangerous, glittering in the sun. It’s ridiculous. Trevor licks his own canines, his tongue lingering on the point of his teeth. “I’d have to be a fool to let you go without leaving my mark on you for all to see.”

“I’d like to see you try,” Trevor shoots back, reaching out with his free hand for anything he can use to try to gain an advantage. It’s not a real fight, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t seek out a victory anyway.

Alucard uses his hold on Trevor to tip his head back further, baring him fully. Despite Alucard being naked to Trevor’s fully-clothed, Trevor feels very exposed.

“How do you think people would take that? The legendary Belmont, marked for all to see by the prince of vampires. Mine.”

Well isn’t that interesting. Trevor tries not to show his surprise, but he’s reasonably certain that’s the first time in a long, long time Alucard has referenced his own status in such a way. In fact, has he ever?

“I know a mage who’ll want to fight you for shared rights,” Trevor says wryly, groping out a little further. Alucard’s sword is just out of reach, and his coat too. The sword feels dangerous, feels a little too on-the-nose for this playacting, but the coat might be interesting. He can figure something out there.

“Mages are good at sharing,” Alucard says, and drives his hips down. “And you’ll find that I’m hardly jealous myself.”

“Well that’s a crock of shit,” Trevor mutters, which makes Alucard crack a grin briefly before he goes all cold and flinty and sexy-bad again.

“Here’s what I think, Belmont,” Alucard says, but he’s clearly struggling to retain character, because he narrows his lips in a distinctly amused fashion before continuing, “I think I’ll have you both ways before this day is over.”

“Greedy son of a bitch, aren’t you? You want some homemade plum cake as an aside on that?”

And that does it, because Alucard bursts out laughing and lets go of Trevor’s hair to brace himself on Trevor’s belly.

“What are you-? Why plum cake of all things?!”

“Maria,” Trevor says succinctly, relishing the way his scalp aches even though he’s been set free. “I didn’t eat any but I want to. I snuck a sniff through the paper. Maybe a couple, actually.”

“You insufferable man,” Alucard groans, still laughing around the edges of his mouth. “I offer you ravishment and you return with plum cake. What a terrible creature you are, Trevor.”

“You love me,” Trevor says, smiling, smug, flexing his pinned hand to reach for Alucard’s fingers. Alucard goes with it, twining his hand with Trevor’s.

“Hell if I know why,” Alucard grumbles. “Ugh. I do.”

“Cake?” Trevor asks, eager for it.

“I am hungry,” Alucard says somewhat winsomely.

“Cake,” Trevor says again, still eager, and tries to sit up to stand.

“Let me just,” Alucard says, and leans forward to press him back down, tousling Trevor’s hair before snagging him into that tight hold again, which makes Trevor groan loudly in mingled frustration and arousal, “satisfy myself on you first, Belmont, and then we’ll see about that cake.”

“Let me go,” Trevor says, perhaps a little more convincingly this time. Alucard twines his legs with Trevor’s again, rubbing his cock against the hard outline of Trevor’s own in his pants. Trevor whines and shifts against him, rather paradoxically satisfied when he isn’t allowed to get anywhere in particular. One of these days, he promises himself, one of these days he’s going to get to the bottom of that one.

“I think some cake will be perfect for your blood sugar once we’re done here,” Alucard says sweetly.

“I don’t know what that means and I really do want cake,” Trevor replies, “or at least for you to get my trousers off so we can have a proper little roll. Come on.”

“I’m going to take your blood,” Alucard says firmly, “and then I’m going to take your body later today, once Sypha gets back. You can wait.”

Trevor opens his mouth to protest again, mostly for the sake of it, but Alucard is on him before he can make a sound. He feels the wet press of his tongue, urgent and hot, and then the keen pleasure of a little nip, a little cut of the teeth without much depth. It makes Trevor squirm, and so Alucard does it again, holding himself there this time. The feeling is so strange that Trevor cries out loudly, his hand spasming in Alucard’s and his free one going to clap on his naked back.

“Don’t just- hngh!- leave it there!”

Alucard, obviously unable to respond, says nothing, but he also doesn’t go deeper or pull back to bite again. Trevor squirms, frantically wriggles, but Alucard just stays like that, and every second that goes by makes it feel stranger and stranger, less like a bite to feed and more like some kind of precursor to being fucked.

“Just bite me, dammit!” Trevor hisses. Alucard makes a soft sound against his skin. Trevor has never really paid attention to where his tongue goes when he bites. He can’t help but notice now, though, because it’s tracing little patterns against his neck and running over where his flesh is punctured by those fangs and it hurts, aches like a bad bruise, but it also is making him desperately, wildly turned on, so much so that when Alucard locks his body to Trevor’s to keep him from rutting up against him he gives a drawn-out shout in frustration, clawing at his back.

Finally he pulls back, though he’s still pinned so tightly to Trevor that he can barely even rub himself against his naked body.

“Eager, are we?” Alucard teases, licking the slightest blush of blood from the corner of his mouth. Trevor pants open-mouthed, scraping at the flex of Alucard’s spine with his fingernails.

“Give it to me,” he says, “Don’t just tease me like that.”

“I like when you sound so desperate,” Alucard confesses, looking a little pink around the ears, garnet around the eyes. “You never do, so it’s novel. You get so needy so quickly. It’s appealing.”

“You’re gonna’ kill me,” Trevor gasps, still trying to rub against him and still feeling rather as if he’s trying to resist a stone wall.

“I like to see your frustration,” Alucard continues, sliding the hand in Trevor’s hair back further and then clenching, pulling Trevor into a harder arch than before. “I enjoy how you beg, because you never do otherwise.”

“That’s fucked up,” Trevor growls, working to swallow in this exaggerated pose.

“I like it because I think it means you trust me enough to know,” Alucard says smoothly, leaning down and in, his breath spilling hot over Trevor’s throat, “that I will eventually give you everything you ask for and more. You trust me to take care of you. You don’t beg for anybody else, do you, Trevor?”

“You fucking,” Trevor spits, fighting in a surge again, for all the good is does him, because he knows what’s coming here,

“Just Sypha and I,” Alucard coos, easily keeping Trevor pinned. “So why don’t you show me how much you trust me?”

He bites again.

Trevor gives an audible sob this time, body jolting and his nails scrabbling on Alucard’s back hard enough to draw blood. Like before, Alucard leaves his fangs in, doesn’t press deeper, doesn’t pull out, and like before Trevor finds himself jerking and fighting and crying out desperately for any kind of stimulation, anything at all except the maddening press of those teeth half-in and the way it seems to be teasing at something in him he didn’t even know he had, teasing quite meanly indeed.

Trevor starts to tremble, his voice coming rough, and sooner than he’d like to admit he’s thinking about it, thinking about it, until his need overcomes any sense of shame he might have and he’s saying, shakily, “Please, Alucard, please,” but that doesn’t do it, so he tries, “I’m begging you,” and he feels like he’s going to explode or cry or die, but still nothing is happening and he jerks in Alucard’s hold and says, panting in desperation, “Let me come, bite me, fuck me, I don’t care, just- fuck, Alucard!

Alucard snaps his teeth down and Trevor gives a breathy, faint cry of surprise before he’s gone limp in his hold. Trevor is still desperately, wildly horny, but he can’t do a damned thing about it, floating in the halcyon haze of being given a good solid bite. He feels Alucard finally let go of him, and he spares a confused, swirling thought to that before he feels Alucard fumbling with his pants, feels him push them down over his hips, feels him reach for his dick and press it next to Alucard’s own. The deliciousness of that sensation isn’t lost on him, not right now—he gives a sigh, eyes rolling back a little.

He’s so riled up, strung so tightly, that even with Alucard fang-deep in him he gives a moan when Alucard flicks his wrist just so. He tries to offer a hand to help but can’t manage to coordinate himself, just ends up blearily pawing at Alucard’s back, at the side of his face, at his hair.

Alucard leans into the touch as best he can while jarring Trevor’s neck minimally. His fist works over both of them, faster and faster, and as he jerks them off Trevor cries out, rocking shamelessly into the feeling even through the fog eating away at any sense of reality he can assemble.

At some point Alucard takes his mouth off Trevor’s neck to whisper into his ear, hissing dangerously again, “Imagine when it’s my cock in you, darling,” and Trevor finally gets enough motor control back to dig his nails into Alucard’s back. That just seems to spur him on, because he starts working their cocks furiously between them, tracing the shell of Trevor’s ear with his tongue as he goes on, “Shall I make you beg like that then as well? Sypha will be just as merciless. Perhaps she’ll even make you kiss her pretty sex once we get you started taking me. All you’ll be able to do is do what we tell you, take what we give you.”

“Yeah,” Trevor says, mouth gone dry as he pants, “I want that, fuck yes,” his hips snapping up in a tight, tense stutter, his balls drawing up and then he’s coming, painting their bellies both white.

Alucard finishes a few strokes after, and he refuses to let Trevor’s cock go until he’s done too, which just feels mean after everything that just happened. Trevor can’t even say anything, just lifts his eyebrows up in a silent plea and whines with bared teeth. Alucard bares his own much more impressive teeth until finally, finally he comes with a sharp cry, collapsing down onto Trevor even as he’s still coming sticky and hot over their skin along where Trevor did.

Alucard presses his forehead to Trevor’s and they both breathe in tandem, exhausted.

“Fuck,” Trevor says, his throat painfully dry.

“Are you all right?” Alucard asks, smoothing his clean hand up and down Trevor’s face from temple to jaw and back again. “Did I hurt you?”

“Nah,” Trevor says, still drifting in contentment. “Good. You?”

“Excellent,” Alucard says, and he smiles like a cat in a sunbeam.

 

 

 

Alucard offers to bring Trevor cake in bed, but he declines. He’s spent so much time lying down the past few days that he’s sick of it. Alucard, though, hasn’t, so they compromise and spread a blanket outside in the sun to wait for Sypha on. They choose a spot near the house, one tucked in the tall grasses and under the boughs of a shade tree that Trevor remembers Esthe reading to him under.

 

 

 

Sypha finds them waiting for her when she comes trudging up the drive. Alucard is asleep in the sun, Trevor licking a little smear of jammy plum sauce from his thumb as he investigates a butterfly landing on some wildflower he doesn’t know the name of.

“Welcome home,” he says, straightening up, and she smiles at him so hard it looks like she might break in half.

The butterfly lifts off to land on the corner of Alucard’s mouth.