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starving creatures of bone

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If you have been broken, stand up.
If you have been broken, abandoned, alone
If you have been starving, a creature of bone
If you live in a tower, a dungeon, a throne
If you weep for wanting, to be held, to be known
Come stand by me.
- “A Monstrous Manifesto,” Catherynne M. Valente

Trevor’s thought a lot — maybe more than he should’ve — about how their first return to the castle would go.

He has a whole long list of insults for Alucard, sharp enough to wring a laugh out of him. His ridiculous low-cut shirts, his habit of floating around for no reason, whether he’s been enduring life well in the sun-drenched vale where the Belmonts built their home. All kinds of things to make him roll his eyes and laugh and flip an elegant finger in Trevor’s detention. Jokes about whatever he’s been doing in their absence: ignoring the Hold, maybe, or excavating it? Giving the books away to passing travelers, or moving them all into Dracula’s library, or drawing mustaches on all the Belmonts? Maybe oiling all the old weapons, maybe shattering them? Maybe burying the skulls?

Well, whatever he’s been doing, they’ll find out. And Trevor is going to complain about it.

(Sypha is going to hug the man, too, Trevor just knows it. She’s going to fling her tiny self at Alucard with enough force to knock a human on his ass, and Alucard will take the blow without blinking and hug her back. His hair will fall over hers, rose-gold and pale intermingled like the metals of a crown, and the daylight will glint off his teeth when he smiles. They’ll stay for a moment like that, and then Sypha will look up and beckon Trevor over, saying something fondly insulting, and Trevor will take the excuse and throw his arms around them both. They’re so slight, the both of them, and so strong.)

So yeah, Trevor’s thought about this more than he really should’ve. You’d think this would mean he was prepared for any occasion, but, unfortunately, you’d only think this if you’ve never looked at the lifelong history of Trevor Belmont.

“Well,” he says to Sypha. “Charming decorations he’s got up.”

The staked corpses stare back at them, clothes whipping in the wind. The smell is… deeply unfortunate.

“How long have they been dead?” Sypha asks, voice a little above a whisper.

“Three weeks, looks like,” Trevor says, advancing grimly on the gruesome display. He moves a hank of foully matted hair aside. Sypha is standing emphatically upwind. “Give or take. And the stakes weren’t what killed them.” He points at the slit throat on the man, not actually touching the rotting skin. “Pretty quick death, anyway.”

“Was it him?” Sypha asks. Trevor’s mouth twists without his permission.

“Well,” he says, “either he approves of the decorating, or we’re about to have to go vampire-hunting.” Or vampire-killer-hunting, but Sypha’s smart enough to figure that out and he’s not going to be the one to say it. “We’ll find him,” he says, despite a lifelong rule against making promises he has no way to keep.

(Except he’s going to keep this one. They’ll find Alucard, or they’ll find whatever’s left of him, and if it’s the latter, Trevor’s going to find someone to kill for it. Alucard’s one of Wallachia’s people, at least on his mother’s side, and he deserves safeguarding as much as anyone.)

“Obviously,” she says, and pushes the immense doors open. “Alucard? Are you here?”

Her voice echoes off the hall. So do their footsteps. Trevor stamps his feet, trying to be heard throughout the house. There’s cobwebs in the ceiling rafters, high above.

“Alucard?” Sypha calls again. “Alucard!”

“Come on, you vampire bastard, we know you don’t burn in daylight!” Trevor echoes, and bites his lip, reaching for the hilt of the Morning Star. The place is quiet as a crypt — quieter than some of the crypts Trevor’s seen, in fact — and Alucard is powerful, but he’s not his father. Even his father turned out to be mortal enough.

There’s a blur of red at the top of the stairs, and a smile is starting on Sypha’s face even before the blur resolves into Alucard. “Well,” he says, looking down at them. “Back again, I see.”

You look like hell, Trevor almost says. That wasn’t one of the insults he had planned, and furthermore, it’s not even true. Alucard is clean and pale, perfectly groomed, his clothes untattered and unstained. He should look every inch the nobleman’s son, elegant and timeless.

He doesn’t.

“Alucard!” Sypha says, taking a half-step forward. “Good, you’re all right.”

He chuckles; it makes the hair on Trevor’s neck rise up. “Why wouldn’t I be?” He sounds like he did in the crypt under Gresit, like a sharp-tongued stranger.

“You’ve got some interesting decorations,” Trevor says, jerking his head towards the door. “What, couldn’t find a statue you liked enough?”

Alucard grips the banister; a few flakes of stone drift loose to the floor. “They tried to kill me,” he says. “What do you want?”

“Want?” Sypha asks. She and Trevor look at each other. “Well, to see you, I suppose. The snows are setting in, and there’s a few things we wanted to look up —” And they want to hole up for a while and lick their wounds, but neither she nor Trevor has said that part aloud.

“Ah,” Alucard says, mouth going thin. “I see.”

“Those people outside,” Trevor interrupts, before they can have whatever fight Alucard is spoiling to have. If he wants to be left alone with his grief a while longer, they can do that, but he needs to know this first. “Are you sure they didn’t think you were Dracula? You’ve got the fangs, you’ve got the castle, it’s an understandable mistake.”

Sypha kicks him in the ankle. Alucard stares at him for a long, long moment, his eyes shadowed in the gloom, and then he laughs. It’s maybe the worst sound that Trevor has ever heard, that laugh. It makes him think of the shriek of metal twisted long past all endurance.

“I assure you,” Alucard says, “they knew exactly who I was.” He shakes his head sharply, long strands of hair falling over his face. “Well, if it’s books you want, you should be able to get into the Hold without too much trouble. My father’s library is in what used to be the east wing, although after someone —” with a glare at Sypha — “spun the castle around like a child’s top, it’s ended up in the north-west. There’s no shortage of beds, so do what you like with them. I intend to stay out of your way.” And with that he blurs into red again, and then he’s gone, with only the swinging of a door to show that he was ever there.

Trevor stares at Sypha. Sypha stares back at him.

“What the fuck was that?” Trevor asks.

They don’t see Alucard again for three days.

Trevor and Sypha don’t talk much more about it, that first day. They stable their horses, get their bags unloaded, and find themselves a bedroom on the first floor. It’s got a good-sized bed that’s free of both mold and mice, but it looks like it’s been unused for a while. Trevor has this thing about not sleeping in the bed of someone he’s killed if he has any better options.

They also find a room with an immense basin set in the floor, and devices like keg-taps set in the walls that disperse hot and cold water when turned. Trevor loses Sypha to its wonders for over an hour, and puts up only a token resistance when she bullies him into a bath of his own. And neither of them talks about the empty space next to them, where Alucard isn’t pointing them towards particular rooms, or explaining the mysterious function of the bath, or making sarcastic remarks because they can’t figure out his magic lights.

Finally they’re curled up in the dusty bed, lying skin to skin in the safety of the dark. (They don’t fuck, that night, but neither of them owns a nightshirt. Trevor’s glad of it; he likes the feel of her back under his hands, all warm and soft and living.)

“Do you think we made a mistake, going away?” she asks him, tucking her head under his chin. He buries his nose in her hair and thinks about it, really does.

“I think we came back too soon,” he says at last. “Grief is an ugly thing. Sometimes you just need to curl up and be ugly till it’s over. It’s like how sometimes your hangover doesn’t get better till you puke it all up.”

“Mmm, that’s true.” She learned that lesson a few weeks ago, as Trevor knows well; he held her hair for it. Her shoulders are tense under his hands. He rubs his thumb into her neck, trying to loosen up the muscle. “You really think so?” she asks him.

“I think he doesn’t want us here,” Trevor points out. “Or at least, he made it pretty clear that he doesn’t want to see us.” It comes out a little more bitter than he meant. Okay, a lot more bitter. “Either he’s not ready to be around people, or he was only putting up with us to take out his dad.”

She pinches him. “That’s not true.”

Ow,” he whines.

“Well, don’t say stupid things.” She kisses the sore spot, though, because she is, secretly, adorable. He pets her hair.

“Sometimes people want things that aren’t good for them,” she says, soft and worried in the dark.

“Why do I feel like that was directed at me?” he asks, mostly because he knows it’ll make her laugh. And it does.

“Maybe a little bit,” she says. “Shut up, I want to sleep.”

“You were the one talking,” Trevor retorts — it’s a practiced debate already — and pulls her closer, letting his eyes fall closed.


The first thing they check in the morning is the Hold.

“Without much difficulty, he says,” Trevor mutters, shaking the railing of the platform suspiciously. “This thing is a death trap.”

“You’ve seen the castle,” Sypha says. “He probably knows what he’s doing.” She sets one foot on the edge suspiciously. “…Anyway, you’ve got your whip, right?”

“Says the woman who flies,” he says.

“I’m asking for you, you lunk,” she says, swatting his arm. “All right, I’m pulling the lever.”

He mutters the whole way down, but Alucard’s contraption delivers them to the bottom safely and without any particularly alarming jolts.

“Has he even been down here?” Trevor asks, looking around. “There’s no torches.”

“He built the platform, didn’t he?” Sypha asks, shoving open the door.

“Eh. Who knows how long that took,” Trevor admits. Maybe Alucard just got it finished, after all. He follows Sypha, just in time to see her frowning at another lever in the wall.

“Was this here before?” she asks.

“Don’t think so,” Trevor says. “You’re going to pull it, aren’t you?”

“How else would we find out what it does?” she asks, and pulls it.

The Belmont Hold fills up with stars.

Not true stars, Trevor sees once his vision starts to clear: just rows and rows of cool blue lights, steadier than any flame. Lightning-lanterns, like the crypts under Gresit, like in his family’s books on Dracula’s castle. They’re illuminating those same books, now.

“Well,” Trevor says slowly, rubbing the back of his head. “That’s a hell of a thing.”

“It must have taken a long time,” Sypha says, heading for the stairs.

“Oh, you know how long it takes to make a lightning lantern?” Trevor asks. “Maybe it’s easy once you’ve got the trick of it. Maybe it takes five minutes.” Sypha narrows her eyes at him. “…Yeah, probably not.”

She pauses with her hand on the staircase railing. “Does it bother you?” she asks, tilting her head at him. He shrugs.

“The lanterns? Nah. I told him to do what he wants with it. Just glad he didn’t torch the place.” Sypha flinches at the mere idea. He braces his elbows on the banister, looking out over the circles of pinpoint light. “It’s kinda pretty,” he says softly. It’s a little ghostly, cool as will-o-the-wisp light, but nothing could be as ghostly as the Hold untouched. It was all the tomb his parents ever got, before, and this is the first time he’s stood in the place and not felt that bearing down on him. It’s better as a living thing, however alien the life.

“It is,” Sypha says. “So. The Infinite Corridor.”

“Right,” Trevor agrees, and shoves himself away from the railing, shaking his head. There’s already one broody asshole around the place; they don’t need another.

He roams the shelves halfheartedly; there’s a lot of possible entries for Infinite Corridor, and Corridor, Infinite, and Corridor, Too Fucking Long. He’s starting to wonder about lunch when he hears Sypha call, “Trevor!”

“What’s wrong?” he asks, hurrying. That’s not a come-running voice, but it definitely calls for a brisk trot. She’s a couple levels below him, in a little alcove between the bookcases.

“Nothing’s wrong, just —” She points. “I thought you ought to see this.”

One of the magic lanterns is set on the wall, low and bright, and under it is an overstuffed armchair that most definitely wasn’t in the Hold the last time they were here. A wool blanket is tossed across it, clearly rumpled, and there’s a side-table set conveniently to hand. It holds a stack of books and a worn mug with something dried and crusty in the bottom.

“Huh,” Trevor says. “What was he reading?”

“There’s an Enochian text on magic,” she says. “And a dictionary. But one of the others is the Commentarii de Bello Gallico, and one of the others is just a book of poetry, I think. Beowulf?

“I remember that one,” Trevor says quietly. “One long poem. It’s a pretty good story. My da would read bits of it to us at night, to get us to sleep. Once he thought we were old enough not to get nightmares.” He takes a slow step towards the table, nudging the stack with his finger. “Huh.”

“I think it’s just whatever interested him,” Sypha says.

“Well,” Trevor says. “All right. So he was reading, so what?” He glances around at all the dusty shadow. “In the Hold. Underground. With all the mouse crap.” He rubs at his arms and sighs. “Where there’s no heat. When the house he grew up in is right overhead. All right, all right, I get the point.”

Sypha is biting her lip, her hands tucked into the folds of her robes. “I want to look around the castle this afternoon,” she says. “Maybe we can find out what happened.”

“With the bodies, you mean?” Trevor asks. “You think it has something to do with… the mood he’s in?”

“I think something’s wrong here,” she says, and raises her head, chin stuck out. That’s done it now. Nothing survives once it’s provoked the ire of the Belnades chin. “I want to know what.”

They return to the castle in the feeble light of winter noon, carrying three books about the Infinite Corridor. Trevor couldn’t tell you a single thing that any of them says about it, and he bets that Sypha can’t either.

“Family records say there’s a kitchen somewhere in here,” Trevor says, glancing around. “Might even have beer in it.”

“Might have a stove,” Sypha says wistfully. “Imagine a fry-up.”

“Mmm,” Trevor agrees. “Not that jerky fries very well.”

“We’ll figure something out.”

It takes a little wandering, but they do in fact find the kitchen, and the room is warm and sweetly smoky. A cauldron is simmering away over the fire, and there’s most of a loaf of bread on the table, cold but fresh. There’s even a bottle of white wine set on the windowsill, where the outdoor cold will seep in and keep it cool.

“Huh,” Trevor says, and lifts the lid off the cauldron to sniff. The steam that rolls out is savory-rich, and smells of fish laden with basil and rosemary and more expensive things: black pepper, white wine, a whiff of something Trevor can’t name. It’s the kind of stew that can cook away for hours over a dying fire and only get richer for the time, and at worst it comes out delicious but with all the roots in it falling apart. By the markings on the walls of the pot, someone’s taken a serving already.

“Well,” Trevor says. “Beats warmed-up jerky, I’ll say that.”

“Oh,” Sypha says behind him, in a voice he’s never heard from her before. Trevor turns and finds her staring at a shelf on the wall like she’s just found a body there. He follows her gaze.

“Shit,” he says. “Is that…”

The dolls stare up at him accusingly, button eyes blank. They’re adorable. Alucard could make himself the most popular man in any village in Wallachia, making dolls like this; every girl under ten would want one. So would half the boys. He might need to get better arms than the cutlery he apparently used, but he’s even gotten Sypha’s robe the right color.

It’s maybe the most pathetic thing Trevor has ever seen. It might’ve been easier, less invasive, to find Alucard covered in his own filth and too drunk to stand.

“Shit,” he says again. “Shit. Okay. You were right. We shouldn’t have left.”

“Not for that long,” she agrees. Her hand finds his, and clings. “Maybe he needed a few days, but then we should have come back.”

“Maybe. Maybe we should’ve just fucked off to another wing for a while. Gone and organized the Hold, or something.” He squeezes her hand and then goes for one of the cabinets, digging out bowls. There’s a ladle hanging by the fire. “We’ll figure something out.”

“So you’re going to eat his lunch?” Sypha asks.

“It’s not his lunch, he already ate his,” Trevor says. “And if he comes out to kick my ass for eating his leftovers, at least we’ll have a chance to talk to him.” It comes out a little too raw and honest — because yeah, he’ll take whatever ass-beating Alucard hands out, after this. “Besides, it smells good,” he tacks onto the end, a deeply inadequate cover.

Sypha looks at him for a long moment, eyebrows worried and intent. “Give me a bowl,” she says at last.

The stew tastes as good as it smells. There’s roots in it he doesn’t recognize, satisfyingly starchy chunks soaked up in broth and wine. Some of the spices are unfamiliar too, strange and tangy on his tongue. Traveling castles apparently lead to impressive herb pantries.

Afterward he and Sypha split up to roam the halls. It’s one of the things they’ve learned, how to search a place and stay in earshot of each other, how to keep to the range of each other’s easy reach. And if there’s any danger here, it’ll come from poking the wrong thing, or falling through a broken step. There’s nothing living here that means them harm.

Well, that scuttling mouse looked pretty malicious to Trevor, but he’s pretty sure he can fight that one off on his own.

The castle twists and turns according to no logic but its own, empty room after empty room, all shrouded in dustcloths or gone to moldering heaps. Trevor’s never heard of Dracula holding parties here, or having any more guests than his handful of generals. What did he ever do with all of this, anyway? What was it for?

(No one was ever lonely in this house. Sure, all right. But the Belmont house isn’t standing anymore, and in this house, he’s not sure anyone was ever anything but lonely.)

There’s a room with one wall that’s mostly immense windows, made of clear and flawless glass. They’re probably worth more money than Trevor’s ever seen in one place. The moth-eaten curtains are drawn back, and someone’s dragged the covers off the armchairs and the writing desk. One of the windows stands half-open, letting in a biting breeze. No rumpled blankets or forgotten mugs here, though; no bedroom slippers or books or half-made dolls. Wait — no, there’s something crumpled against the wall under the open window.

Trevor crouches. It’s a book, and it’s borne at least one snow blowing through the window. There’s no shelf nearby from which it could have fallen. The spine is cracked and ruined; from the way it’s crushed against the wall, it looks like it might’ve been thrown. The rest of the room seems to be fine, except for some leaves and water-stains added to the carpet.

It’s been sunny lately; the pages are dry, though water-stained. He teases them apart carefully, delicately, and hisses in between his teeth.

It’s a sketchbook. There’s flowers, birds, several mis-proportioned horses. A whole page of hands, half ruined now. Another page, also half-smeared, that’s all rough charcoal sketches of a woman with long and flowing hair. She’s caught in the middle of — what? Mixing something; it could be food or medicine or poison or paint, for all that Trevor knows. The artist only left faint bottle-shaped smudges to suggest what’s in her hands. All his focus was for her face, and the changing shape of her arms and shoulders as she went about her work.

She has Alucard’s chin, Alucard’s jaw, and, at least in the colorless charcoal, her eyes look a lot like his. Or rather, Trevor’s sure, it’s Alucard who has her face. Not her nose, though: hers is an upturned snub. And she’s smiling, wry and amused and deeply fond. The drawings are simple, but they capture that in every line.

He hesitates, then, guiltily, pages a little further forward. This could’ve been Dracula’s or Alucard’s, and it seems important to know which.

His question is pretty definitively answered a few pages on, when he finds the first picture of himself.

It’s pretty accurate, for having presumably been done from memory. He thinks he would’ve noticed Alucard carting a sketchbook around on the road. On the other hand, he’s been captured in sleep, mouth slack and snoring with drool gathered at the corner of his lips, so it’s not like he would have noticed it being drawn. It’s not the most flattering picture of him, except for how Trevor isn’t sure anyone’s taken the time to draw him before.

The next page is Sypha, scarfing down a wedge of cheese with her cheeks puffed out like a squirrel. Her hood hangs around her shoulders; her sleeves are pushed back to her elbows in ungainly folds. This one has to be from memory, because Trevor remembers that. They were halfway to the Belmont Hold when they had to cross a half-frozen marsh, and there was nowhere good to stop for lunch and too much unsteady ground and splashing water to eat as they walked. By the time they made camp, he could hear her stomach growling from the far side of the fire.

The snow caught the front of the book worst; the next few pages are in decent shape, damage confined to the bottom. Trevor’s no connoisseur of art, but the pictures back here look better-done than the ones at the beginning. Steadier lines, better-proportioned shapes. There’s more flowers, a rabbit, a couple of birds, an inexplicable and detailed boot. Sypha with her nose in a loose-sketched book, her lips parted in concentration and her hair curling around her ears in painstaking fronds. A squirrel, a pinecone, a leafless twig. Trevor himself, caught smiling, thumb crooked toward something in the blank page behind him. A vase that Trevor recognizes, because it’s on a side table in this same room.

The next page opens on a pair of strangers. Delicate jaws, notched eyebrows, bright eyes and smiling mouths. There’s more detail in their clothes than in the sketches of Trevor and Sypha: the charcoal outlines rough-edged fur and cords threaded through folds of cloth. Long, lovingly detailed falls of hair. The woman’s is silk-straight; the man’s is all gentle curling waves. One sharp dark line runs through the middle of the page, tiny rips poking through the paper at one end.

Trevor snaps the book shut. Guilt hauls off and slugs him in the stomach.

He tucks the book under his arm, though. It shouldn’t be left under the fucking window for the winter to erase. If Alucard wants his sketches gone, he can burn them himself. And he can sign his fucking drawings.

His footsteps take him wandering up flights of stairs, along hallways that spiral into the more damaged parts of the castle. He inspects the rooms less carefully, doesn’t push at stuck doors. He is, in fact, falling down on the job, which is why he doesn’t realize where he is until he nudges the wrong half-open door.

In his defense, last time he came through here he was fighting for his life. It was a little distracting.

Alucard’s childhood room is nearly untouched: rug still scorched, rubble scattered,cobwebs thick on his childhood toys. The pile of twisted, bloodstained cloth, though — that’s pretty new. Trevor would have remembered that.

“Sypha!” he bellows.

She hurtles around the corner only a few heartbeats later, fire sparking at her fingertips. She lets it drop when she sees him safe. “What is it?”

He gestures at the room, the fabric, the blood. “What the fuck is this?”

“Don’t ask me, I can’t even see it yet,” she says, elbowing him aside, and stops. “Oh.”

“Yeah. And again I ask, what the fuck is this?”

“You’re asking the wrong person,” she says, and takes another few steps into the room to crouch by the bloodied cloth. “Ew.”

“What is that, anyway?” he asks, still in the doorway. He’s pried into enough of Alucard’s things today. “Shroud, curtain, tablecloth?”

“I think a bedsheet,” she says, pinching a corner between her fingers, and turns it over. Her mouth does something strange. “Oh. Definitely a bedsheet. That’s not a bloodstain.”

“Sypha, are you telling me what I think you’re telling me.” It’s not a question.

“Do you think I’m telling you that someone had sex on this sheet?” she asks, raising her eyebrows.

“I do, and I’m telling you that I didn’t need to know that,” he says. It isn’t true, not with bloodstains on the sheet and Alucard a ghost in his own castle. He needs to know whatever he can. “I don’t suppose someone went for a romp at that time of the month?”

She wrinkles her nose. “Maybe,” she says. “But if that’s all it was, why would it be here?”

“Why would it be here anyway?” Trevor asks, and does actually cross the threshold, crouching next to her. The fabric is fine linen, the clean parts soft and smooth. The room still smells of ash and old blood. “Are there any answers to that question that I’m going to like?”

“I found some rooms that looked like they’d been used,” she says. “Only two, next to each other. Not the ones where Dracula’s generals slept.” They’d all three discovered those together, in the days after Dracula’s death. “I didn’t go through them, but they looked… like someone was expecting to be back. Socks on the floor, clothes on the hooks. But dusty.”

“How dusty?” Trevor asks. “Oh, been here for five years, nothing to do with anything dusty?” She crooks an eyebrow. “All right, all right, you’ve been in a bad mood lately, I thought I’d take a turn being the optimist. So. Alucard had guests of some kind, and now he’s got some very unfriendly lawn ornaments, and something in the middle involved a lot of sex and blood. That’s… great. That’s just fantastic.” He swallows. “So. Jealousy, you think?”

“Do you really think that’s like him?” she asks, mouth a skeptical curve.

“I didn’t say he was the one who got jealous.” He turns the fabric over, eying the long streaks of blood. “Well. Shit.”

“We need to talk to him,” she says.

“Do you have a plan for how?” Trevor asks. “Because I can try and snag him with the whip if we see him, but I don’t know if that’ll put him in the mood for a conversation.”

“He’s stronger than you anyway,” she says, pinching her lower lip between her fingers. “I’m worried.”

“Yeah, me too.” He shoves the sheet to the ground in disgust. “Let’s go read up on the Infinite Corridor. I’m about at my limit for depressing rooms in this castle.” The room he shares with Sypha is the only room that isn’t depressing in this castle. The kitchen could be nice with fewer piteous dolls in it, maybe.

It’s after midnight on the third night in the castle when Trevor’s nose wakes him up.

“Sypha,” he says, and pokes him in the shoulder. “Sypha, wake up.”

“This better be good,” she says blearily, lifting her head from the pillow. “I was asleep.” It’s a good bed for sleeping, feather-stuffed and warm with layers of wool, and more than big enough for two.

“You smell that?” he asks, and sniffs deeply to emphasize the point. “Baking bread.”

So?” she says, and then her eyes go wide. “So Alucard’s baking.”

“That, or we’ve got a whole lot more questions,” he agrees. “Let’s go.” He swings his legs out of bed and pauses. “After I find my pants.”

He’s a little worried they’ll find the bread out of the oven and Alucard gone, but his nose is usually better than that. Still, he doesn’t exactly take his time getting dressed, and pads down to the kitchen still in his stocking feet. Sypha lights the way, keeping the firelight steady between her fingertips. In contrast, the kitchen door leaves light and shadow dancing on the hallway floor. And inside, finally, is Alucard.

He’s dressed in his shirtsleeves again, and he’s got his hair is tied back with a leather cord, which Trevor has never seen before. He’s rolling out what looks like a pie crust, of all the damn things — there’s a pie tin waiting on the table, at least. He’s biting his lower lip in concentration, which Trevor had thought would be a hazardous proposition for vampires, and there’s flour all over his hands. Smudged on the bridge of his nose, too.

There is a deeply surreal moment when all the unexpected things in Trevor’s life rear up at once, like flour on the nose of Dracula’s son is just that one goddamn bridge too far. He shakes the feeling off, shakes his shoulders straight, and says, “This is a weird time to be making pie.”

Alucard goes marble-still for a second, not even breathing. His first motion is a blink. “I started the bread dough,” he says, “and there was a draft in the pantry. It didn’t rise properly until now.”

“Well, that explains the bread,” Trevor says. Alucard doesn’t seem to be fleeing, so he steps actually into the kitchen and leans on the inside of the doorframe. “What about the pie?”

“Well,” Alucard says, and slowly pushes the rolling pin across the pastry dough again. “I had to fire the ovens anyway.”

“Is that apple?” Sypha asks, craning her neck. Alucard nods, just the tiniest jerk of his head.

“And honey,” he says. “There’s plenty of both. I’m not sure how the piecrust will turn out, though — I haven’t got a cow on hand, so it’s just animal drippings, not butter. It might be a rather gamey pie.”

“Pie’s mostly about the filling anyway,” Trevor says, shrugging. “So, are you going to tell us what the hell is going on with you?”

Aaaaand they’re back to stiff and still, shoulders locked in stubborn place. “I wasn’t planning on it,” he says evenly.

Trevor glances at Sypha. She’s wincing, mouth gone fretful and small. He goes with: “Why not?”

“Because it’s my business,” Alucard says, thumping the rolling pin onto the lump of dough with — well, all right, with a lot of restraint from a vampire who Trevor has seen chuck rocks around like balls of yarn, but still with more force than pastry dough really requires. This is not going well.

“We’re worried about you, Alucard,” Sypha says. He flinches.

“I’m perfectly all right,” he says, shoulders hunching over the table. He still hasn’t noticed the flour on his nose, and it’s bothering Trevor more than it should. It makes him look like any villager in Wallachia, except for the fangs.

“Yeah, okay,” Trevor says, “that’s why you’re hiding from us.”

“Maybe I just don’t like you,” Alucard suggests.

“You’re hiding from Sypha too,” Trevor points out. “Also, making us lunch. And pie.”

“You don’t know that I was going to share the pie.”

Trevor raises his eyebrows, then pointedly reaches into the bowl and swipes two chunks of honey-soaked apple. He hands one off to Sypha and pops the other in his mouth, sucking his fingers clean with an obnoxious pop. Alucard avoids his eyes.

“Uh-huh,” Trevor says, and glances at Sypha, jerking his head: tag in.

“Alucard,” she says, bracing herself on the back of a chair. “What happened with those people outside?”

He bows his head over the table, hands flattened on the wood. The look on his face gives Trevor vertigo, because he’s seen that look on other people: someone terrified to look head-on at something they’re starving-desperate to talk about. It’s a hell of a balance to hang in, and Sypha’s stubbornness can swing it with a vengeance.

Trevor should know.

“Let me get this pie in the oven,” Alucard says at last. “It shouldn’t take much longer. Kindly don’t put your fingers back in the bowl now that you’ve licked them, Belmont.”

Trevor ends up sitting in the chair by Alucard’s elbow and swiping more apples from the bowl — with his unlicked hand — while Sypha perches on the edge of the table, feet swinging above the flagstones. Alucard whistles a little as he crimps the edges of the pie. They don’t talk about much, but it’s comfortable; they remember how to be silent together.

“All right,” Alucard says at last, when the pie’s in the oven and he’s scrubbed the flour off his hands. “The sitting room across the hall is reasonably warm. Shall we?”

He leads them to a whitewashed room with deep green curtains, turns on his ghostly lights and heads over to poke up the fire. Sypha perches on an armchair; Trevor leans against the doorframe. The firelight leaps behind Alucard’s face, leaving his profile shadowed in the glow.

“So,” he says, still staring down at the coals. “Their names were Sumi and Taka.” He doesn’t say anything else for a moment. Strands of hair are slipping loose from his ponytail to cover his eyes.

“Which was which?” Trevor asks, since Alucard seems inclined to leave it there. Alucard gives one soft shake of his head like a man coming free of a daze.

“Taka was the man,” he says. “Sumi the woman.”

Sypha nods thoughtfully. Trevor is remembering those pictures, the notched eyebrows and the smiles. Taka and Sumi.

“They were…” He purses his lips, looking for a word. “Captives,” he seems to decide, “of one of my father’s generals. They found themselves poorly-disposed to vampires at the moment, and came to me for advice on how to kill them. Us.” He pokes at the coals again, though they’re burning along just fine. “Given that I have some experience —” his mouth twists — “and that we are sitting on top of possibly the world’s largest repository of information on the subject, it seemed like a reasonable request.”

“With you so far,” Trevor says, but Sypha holds up a hand to him. It’s a small gesture really, just a quick spread of her fingers.

“Why did you say yes?” she asks Alucard. “You did say yes, right?”

He blinks, taken aback again. “I…” he says; his mouth tries out different expressions for a moment and then settles into bitterness. “I suppose… I liked the idea.”

“Of training monster-hunters?” Sypha asks, tilting her head. “Or something else?”

“Of accomplishing something. Of having students. Company.” He prods another innocent log. “We lived together for a time,” he says, still looking down at the flames. “They had heard the stories of the moving castle, of course, and they were… surprised that it no longer moves.”

“Because somebody broke it,” Trevor says, nodding.

“I didn’t break it!” Sypha folds her arms. “His father broke it. I just moved it.”

“Because you broke it,” Alucard says. Trevor can’t see his face anymore, but his voice suggests the ghost of a smile. He sighs; his shoulders slump. “I suppose I didn’t explain it well. As you can see,” he adds, turning to Trevor, “they were well aware of who I was.”

Trevor shifts guiltily from foot to foot. “Yeah, well, I know that now,” he mutters. Sypha gestures hush at him again, palm-down.

“There’s this thing about Trevor and worst-case scenarios,” she says, somewhere between explanation and apology. “Sometimes he needs to check for them first.”

“I take reasonable precautions,” Trevor says, to cover the sudden and alarming sense of nakedness.

“You do?” Alucard says, twisting over one shoulder to raise his eyebrows at Trevor. “I must have been looking the other direction.” Sypha, traitorously, snorts.

“I do!”

“I’m sure,” Alucard says archly. Sypha sits forward.

“So they lived here for a while,” she says. “But you said they tried to kill you. What happened?”

Alucard sighs, going stiff again. “Well,” he says, very quietly.

“She’s like a rat terrier,” Trevor says helpfully. “She gets the scent of something and that’s just it, you’re never going to pry her loose.” So you might as well say it and get it over with, since this is clearly killing you. He doesn’t say that part.

“It’s true,” Sypha says modestly.

“I’m unsurprised.” Alucard turns back to the fire, giving it another few jabs. If he keeps stirring it like this he’s going to kill the flames, but Trevor chooses this moment to keep his mouth shut for once. “They came to think I was… manipulating them. Withholding things, hiding information. Deceiving them. They had… they were very used to cruelty. I suppose they expected no better from me.”

Trevor swallows hard. He hadn’t known he thought Alucard was a good man until this moment. Not that he thought Alucard was a bad one, just — he didn’t go around making value judgments, as a rule. Evidently he’d made this one.

“So,” Alucard says, voice falling, “they… came to my bed, and — well, I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept. And then, as I said, they tried to kill me.” The tip of the poker trails through the embers. “I tried to reason with them, but… I failed. By that point I had very few options, and I found I didn’t want to die quite yet.” It’s the eventual stillness of his hands, in the end, that tells Trevor the silence is the end of what he means to say.

Damn,” he says inadequately into the hush between them.

“Alucard,” Sypha says, her hand at her mouth. “That’s awful.”

“It wasn’t my favorite experience, no.” He resettles the poker on the rack, arranges it carefully as if its exact position is vitally important.

“Which of them was it?” Trevor asks, because it seems to matter, somehow. He wants to know which of those bright-sketched faces is most responsible for that bloody, sex-stained sheet.

Alucard half-turns, eyes wide and confused. Trevor half expected him to be red-rimmed and teary; he’s not sure if this is an improvement or not. “Which of them was which?”

“Honey-potted you,” Trevor says “Handled the seduction part. No, uh, no personal judgment,” he adds hastily, “just, that’s a nasty trick.”

Alucard laughs. It’s not that tortured-metal laugh again, but it’s one that Trevor recognizes: the look-at-this-shit-that-God-took-on-my-head laugh, the at-least-it-went-to-interesting-pieces laugh. “It was a mutual effort,” he says. “They did their best work together.”

Trevor’s mouth drops open entirely without his permission.

Alucard’s mouth twists. “Indeed,” he says. “You see why I was a little… overwhelmed.”

Sypha’s frown goes more complicated. “Did you want them?” she asks, very quietly. Alucard stares at her.

“Yes,” he says, just above the edge of hearing. He turns away from them again, gripping the edge of the mantle tight. “Yes, I did.”

What the hell do you say to that?

“The irony of it is,” Alucard says, sounding very far away, “if they had asked me again to move the castle, after that, I would have started repairs the next morning. I suppose I should be grateful they lacked the imagination.” He shudders, unmistakable even in the firelight. “I am so very tired of killing the people I love.”

Trevor swallows back bile. Wood scrapes on stone as Sypha stands.

“Right,” she says, every tiny inch of her quivering. “You.” She points at Trevor. “Go hug him.” Her finger points him imperiously towards Alucard. “I need to go do something.”

“Ah —” Trevor says, as Alucard goes stiff. Sypha pays him exactly no attention, slamming through the door with the approximate force of a gale. Trevor glances from the doorway to the fire to Alucard’s unmoving back.

“Well, shit,” he says. “Sorry, but she’s scarier than you are.” He inches up on the fireplace, ignoring the voice at the back of his head that wants to know what stupid thing he thinks he’s doing now. “If you object, now would be the time to do your blurry thing.”

Alucard lets out a long and shaky breath and doesn’t move. Right.

It had been a long time since Trevor hugged anybody, before Sypha, but he’s been getting the hang of it. He wraps his arms around Alucard’s waist and hooks his chin over Alucard’s shoulder, and Alucard is stiff as iron but he doesn’t pull away. In fact, his hands settle on Trevor’s wrists, holding him still.

They breathe together for a little space of time.

Finally Alucard asks, “Do I want to know what she’s doing?”

“At a guess,” Trevor says, “burning those bodies out front.”

“They served a purpose,” Alucard says, but it’s weak.

“They stank,” Trevor says.

“You, complaining about a smell?”

“I had a bath this morning!” Trevor says. “Anyway, I’ve grown on you. Look at yourself.”

Alucard laughs, a faint and fragile tremble under Trevor’s hands. “Shut the fuck up, Trevor Belmont,” he says, and turns in Trevor’s arms, burying his face in Trevor’s shoulder. His fingers twist into the front of Trevor’s nightshirt.

“Shutting up,” Trevor says softly, and lets his hand run down Alucard’s back. “Special favor, just this once.” He sways back and forth a little. Sypha does that with him, sometimes, and it feels, well, nice.

Sypha herself reappears in the doorway, trailing smoke and breathing hard. “Oh, good,” she says, “you’ve admitted you like each other.”

“You can’t prove anything,” Trevor says.

“Oh, shut up,” Sypha says, and wriggles her way under Trevor’s arm, pressing her head into Alucard’s shoulder. Alucard moves one hand from Trevor’s shirtfront to grab a fistful of her robes.

“If there is,” Alucard says quietly, and turns his head sideways so his face hides in her hair. “If there is anything the two of you want from me, I beg you to ask. Just ask.”

“Of course,” Sypha says. “Of course. Or we’ll bully you into it.”

He laughs again. It settles the nausea in Trevor’s stomach, some. “Well, that’s not less direct.”

“Excuse me,” Trevor says. “Direct? Alucard, this is Sypha Belnades. Sypha, this is Alucard.”

“You’re not funny,” Sypha says, shoving him gently, but the smile in her voice gives you away.

“Not remotely,” Alucard agrees, sounding no more convincing. “Terribly dull.” He leans his head on Trevor’s shoulder.

“We’re your friends, Alucard,” Sypha says softly. “That’s why we came back. We needed a friend.”

Alucard’s grip tightens on both of them.

Trevor and Sypha crawl back into bed, eventually. Trevor is midway through his third count of the ceiling cracks when Sypha pokes him in the shoulder. “Trevor. Are you awake?”

“I am now,” he grouses, by habit. She scoffs.

“That wouldn’t wake you up, I should know,” she says, and rolls over onto her side, curled towards him. She’s a dim silhouette in the darkness, blankets piled up around her. “I keep thinking about it.”

“About Alucard?” Trevor asks. Yeah, the man’s maybe been on his mind too. He tugs her into the crook of his arm, her head against his shoulder.

“About what he said they did to him,” she says, drawing the covers protectively higher over them both.

“Yeah. Whew.” He winces. “That’s… that’s a hell of a thing.” The first time Sypha took him to bed, he found himself thinking of lindworms and their victorious brides, like she was peeling him out of layers of old skin and scar tissue as she stripped him out of his clothes. He wept a little, buried inside her, and she rubbed the tears away with her thumb and was kind enough not to say anything about it. If she’d been lying…

“What a waste,” Sypha says, nestling into him. “You have a man like that in your bed and the best thing you can think of to do with him is kill him? Ugh.”

Trevor’s entire awareness of the world tilts sideways for a moment. It feels a bit like being yanked out of free-fall by an unexpected noose around his foot.

“Uh,” he says — more like squeaks. “Sypha?”

“What?” she asks, a little defensively, and rolls over onto his chest. “Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed.”

He sputters a bit, because, all right, Alucard is a gorgeous man, but — “That’s, I mean, I don’t, I…”

“That’s what I thought,” she says, because this woman knows him too well. She doesn’t sound victorious, though. “I mean, obviously it’s awful. He’s heartbroken. I just… keep wondering what it was like.”

“Should I be jealous, here?” he asks, to cover the way his heartbeat is abruptly picking up.

“Don’t be stupid,” she says, and kisses his nose. “I only started wondering once he said it was both of them.”

“Huh.” And there it is, the image he’s been trying to hold at bay since Sypha first dragged his mind into dangerous territory: Alucard straddling him again like that first fight but with a very different heat in those incredible eyes, a very different kind of intent in his mouth. Or Alucard crouched over Sypha, with her hands in the luminescent fall of his hair, his thigh pressing between her legs — she likes that, when it’s Trevor, and he can’t imagine she’d like it less with legs like Alucard’s —

“Damn,” he says, before he can stop himself.

“Right?” She settles herself more comfortably on top of him. “It doesn’t exactly feel right to think about it,” she admits, quiet in the darkness. “Given how it ended. But it’s… it’s not fair,” she bursts out, and laughs at herself. “I know, I know, nothing ever is. But he deserves people who would appreciate him, and there’s, well… there have to be plenty of people who would. How does he end up with two who want to kill him?”

“You’re asking me?” Trevor asks. “Hell if I know. I have enough trouble with why my life goes to shit.”

We could have appreciated him,” Sypha mutters, tucking her head under Trevor’s chin. Trevor stops breathing for a moment.

“Sypha,” he says slowly. “Exactly how, uh… is this a nice idea while you rub one out, or are we talking about something you actually want to do?”

“Mmm…” She shrugs, narrowly avoiding slight damage to his jaw. “I’m not sure. Do you not want to?”

“Uh.” Articulate conversation, tonight. “I mean, in theory, sure, I wouldn’t kick him out of bed. Not by a long shot,” he admits. “But if you’re actually thinking we try and get him into it…” He pauses, chewing on the inside of his cheek. “If we try this crazy idea, you know we have to mean it, right? We can’t have our fun and run off in the morning, even if we do stay for breakfast.”

“Of course I know that,” she says, sounding actually on the edge of offended. “Do you think I’d be that heartless?”

“Look, I had to ask.” But he strokes her hair in apology. “So. We’re talking a long-term offer.”

“Do you want that?” she asks him seriously, cupping her palm against his cheek. She doesn’t do that often; it does something strange and raw to him, every time she does.

He thinks about it, weighs it out. Imagines it: Alucard’s wry, funny bitchiness following him around, weaving in and out of his day like Sypha’s amused disrespect does. Mornings with Alucard blinking awake next to them in the back of the wagon, probably complaining about Trevor kneeing him in the side. Alucard’s occasional outbursts of sincere philosophy, and poetry,and plain academic enthusiasm, and the way they all spark something alive in Sypha that Trevor can’t bring out alone. The way he and Alucard can toss a joke back and forth at Sypha’s expense — at expense she can afford — and the warm grumpy way he feels when the two of them mock him into the ground. The way his indifference cracks and reveals a kind of shining integrity that Trevor is only slowly kindling to life in himself again.

They were three before they were two. It’s… terrifyingly easy, actually, to fit Alucard back into this thing he and Sypha have grown between them.

He swallows hard, pulling Sypha close, and what falls out of his mouth is: “I’m pushing my luck enough with you as it is.”

“Oh, Trevor,” she sighs, and cranes her head up to kiss him. “You big idiot. You know I love you, right? I stick around because I want to.”

“Not sure why,” he mumbles into her hair. “You could do better.”

“Trevor,” she says against his shoulder, “this whole conversation started because I looked at Alucard and thought I wanted to share him with you. Not have him instead. Now, stop feeling sorry for yourself and start thinking about what you want instead of being cynical about whether you’ll get it.” It’s a firm order, but she reaches up to pet his hair, scritching at the place where his sideburns drift into stubble. He leans into her hand.

“I’m scared enough of losing you,” he admits, because it’s dark enough to let him. “If I lost you both…”

“You might not lose us,” she says. Thoughtfully, she points out: “You’re less likely to lose him than me, probably. I’m not half vampire.”

“Thank you for that cheerful thought.”

“Oh, is that how you’re going to play it?” she asks, flicking him in the side of the head. Her hand settles in his hair again. “You know, Trevor…” Her voice is hesitant, by Sypha standards. “Most people get more than one person who cares about them. It’s not actually that much.”

“Mmm.” He pauses. “Is that what this is? You’re going to find a whole harem to replace your caravan?”

She swats him on the shoulder. “Shut up!” she says, but she’s laughing. He really likes her laugh. “Maybe a little, but I don’t… if that’s all it was, I’d just suggest we bring him along. I wouldn’t be suggesting this. And you haven’t actually answered me, don’t think I didn’t notice.”

“Relentless,” he mutters. But there’s no hiding from the answer anymore. “I… all right, yes, fine, I’m all right if he sticks around. I must have lost my mind.” He kisses her hair. “I hope you have a plan for that, because I know you didn’t pick me for my silver tongue.”

“Your tongue helps,” she says innocently, “just not for talking.” His ears go hot, which he manfully pretends is not the case. “But, no, I don’t have a plan. I feel like he’d be easy to scare off.”

“Given that we originally scared him off by walking in the door, I think you’re right.”

“We’ll have to take it slow,” she says thoughtfully. “Give him time to get used to us.”

“I’m in favor,” he says. “Especially if it gets us more pie.”

“Mmm.” She resettles herself on his chest. “All right then, go to sleep. We start wooing him in the morning.”

Wooing?” he asks. “I wasn’t wooed. I’m offended.”

“Yes you were,” she says, and yawns wide enough to crack her jaw. “You just weren’t paying attention. Sleep.”

Turns out it’s a little difficult to woo the man who cooks all your food and owns the only building for miles around.

It’s not as if they ask him to do all the cooking, he just kind of… keeps doing it. They come downstairs in the morning to find warm bread and tiny hard-boiled wild eggs, porridge thick with a king’s ransom in spices, savory pastries that continue his experiments in animal fat. For dinner he magics up fried fish and roast rabbit, wine-sweet stews and baked pheasant in sauce, all arranged like a king’s feast on dishes that are maybe worth more than Trevor’s head. He smiles every time Sypha praises the cooking or Trevor loads up his plate with seconds; small, quiet smiles, warm ones, like he’s accomplished something. He didn’t smile like that once during all their long weeks in the hold.

“Does either of you know how to smoke meat?” he asks, once.

“I don’t,” Sypha says, shrugging. “I can make smoke, probably.”

“I can do it,” Trevor says. He’s done a lot of odd jobs over the years, when monster-hunting didn’t pay, and when he grew tired of being the hated Belmont and wanted to earn a simpler living. Very occasionally, when there was a shortage of monsters, but that was a pretty unusual problem. “Charcoal-burning, too.”

“Excellent,” Alucard says. “I may bring back a deer, later.”

And he does; vanishes for a few hours and comes wandering back through the woods with a deer flung over his shoulders, not a drop of blood left in it. They’re all three of them passable butchers — Trevor and Sypha have both spent a lot of time hunting for their dinner, he doesn’t ask where Alucard picked up the skill — and they set some juicy cuts aside for the next few meals and spend the rest of the day smoking meat in the castle courtyard. Alucard gets ash smudged across his forehead, and Sypha shapes the fire like letters and strange birds just to prove she can. That night they eat venison steaks cooked with sweet onions, and Alucard sits with them like a normal person and joins Trevor on his eternal, fruitless quest to persuade Sypha not to gesture with her knife.

It takes some work to fit all the meat in the pantry, and, sure, smoked meat will keep and Alucard could eat through it all on his own eventually, but it looks like a pantry that’s meant to hold three people through the winter. Not that Trevor’s getting his hopes up, or anything.

He hasn’t eaten this well this often since he was a child. It’s damn satisfying, but on the other hand, his wooing-related ideas kind of begin and end at feeding people. It hasn’t escaped his notice, either, that Sypha’s strategy with him was to tell him it was good for his health to kill vampires, eventually translate this lunatic remark, and then, on their first night in an inn, climb naked into his bed.

It did work. It worked better than any clever tavern flirtation, bought drink, or shared meal ever has, in fact, given that he’s going to follow her wherever she wants to go. Trevor is of the opinion — expressed a few times, amid late-night conspiring — that this is irrelevant.

So: food’s out, since Alucard is too busy plying them with food to be plied with it. Flowers, compliments, maybe music? Jewelery, for richer and fancier folk than the Belmonts were even at their height. Neither of Trevor nor Sypha can sing, there’s kind of a shortage of jewelers unless the woods are hiding a real talented squirrel, and if Trevor starts mentioning that Alucard’s pretty, Alucard is likely to ask if he’s been hit in the head.

Trevor does, once, go out walking and come home with a few springs of holly and a bundle of autumn snowdrops; he sets the holly along the mantle in the sitting-room that Alucard likes, and leaves the snowdrops in a cup on the kitchen table. Maybe not, you know, the clearest thing, but he just — he thinks about trying to hand Alucard a bundle of flowers and wants to turn tail and flee Wallachia entirely.

“What was the plan with that?” Sypha asks him, as they strip down for bed that night. “Are you hoping he pops up and says, oh Trevor, are you the one who set out those flowers, and did you mean anything by them?”

“Shut up,” Trevor mutters. “I don’t see you doing any better.” Her face closes up a little, so he tugs her close and kisses the back of her head, letting his face rest in her hair. She relaxes back against him, her hands settling over his.

“If he doesn’t want us, that’s one thing,” she says, in the soft way that she admits doubts. “But if we scare him away…”

“Yeah,” he says, and holds her tight. “I know.”

The next morning, though, the cup is gone from the kitchen table; instead the snowdrops are in a tiny blue-and-white vase edged in silver. Alucard doesn’t say anything about it, only says, “Good morning,” and hands them each a plate of waffles. But he looks better than he did when they first came.

There is nothing outside the castle now but two circles of char, soon buried under the snow. There’s a part of Trevor who can imagine what it would be like for them to live their whole life under the shadow of a vampire, how that would make it hard to look at Dracula’s son and believe he hid nothing but his wounds. There’s another part of Trevor who watches Alucard flinch back from his own laughter and doesn’t want to be fair even a little.

He’s lost people’s trust before, more times than he wants to admit, but usually because of something he, you know, did.

At least Alucard’s stopped ignoring them, now. At least he’s letting them stay.

One time he gets back from an ambling walk and finds Sypha and Alucard in the sitting room, right by the big window. Alucard has a book of blank pages in his lap; Sypha is perched on the high windowsill behind him, out of his light, her chin resting on top of his head. Trevor’s heart does the weird seize-y thing it does sometimes around Sypha, but doubled on itself and deepened, like a single note echoing against the rafters of a church.

“Oh, great, what’re you two doing?” he asks, to cover the feeling.

“We’re drawing!” Sypha says.

I’m drawing,” Alcuard says. “You’re heckling.”

“I’m supervising,” she corrects, swinging her feet.

“You’re heckling,” Trevor agrees, and comes over to join them. “Who’s that?” Alucard has drawn a woman leaning out a window, fingers clutching tight at the sill as she stares down at something far below. The look on her face is… strange, eyes wide, mouth small and elegant and troubled. Behind her, through the window, is a great cracked piece of glass.

La Donna di Scalotta,” Alucard says. A stroke of charcoal adds a lock of hair falling by her face, along the curve of one fine-cut cheekbone. Her chin is delicately pointed, her nose a long straight line. “The lady of Scalotta. If I can get her eyes right.”

“Where the hell is Scalotta?” Trevor wants to know.

“Nowhere,” Alucard says absently, charcoal hovering over her eyes.

“She’s from the stories of King Arthur,” Sypha explains. “This is an Italian version I found in the library. She was cursed to weave in a tower all day, only ever seeing the world through the mirror, until Sir Lancelot rode by and she stopped weaving to look out at him. And she fell in love, but the curse killed her.”

“What, just from looking at him?” Trevor wrinkles his nose. “Doesn’t seem like something to die for.”

“Well, she was locked up weaving,” Alucard says absently, and adds another line on the broken… mirror behind her, apparently. “Is that really something to live for?”

“Huh.” Trevor shifts from foot to foot. “What’re her eyes supposed to look like?”

“Excellent question,” Alucard says, sighing. “Obviously she’s not pleased to die, but she accepts it. I don’t think she regrets her choice. And she’s still falling in love, which is a challenge on its own. Could you get out of my light, please? I’m trying to draw here.”

“All right, all right,” Trevor grumbles, and circles around behind the two of them, letting his hand come to rest on Sypha’s back. “Why’re we drawing this extremely depressing story?”

“Again, there is no we,” Alucard says. “You’re an audience. And someone wanted to see me draw, and I made the mistake of asking for suggestions.”

Sypha shrugs. “I was reading it last night.”

“Huh. Something wrong with a flower or whatever?”

“Flowers are boring,” Sypha says.

“But take less time,” Alucard says, flexing his fingers. “We’ve been at this for quite a while.”

“Hah!” Sypha pokes his shoulder. “You said we.

“You did,” Trevor agrees.

“No I didn’t,” Alucard says peaceably, and sketches another fold into the Lady of Scalotta’s dress. “You’re both hearing things.” He turns the page sideways and sighs. “I’ll come back to her eyes, they’re not improving at the moment. If I’m going to be bullied into drawing Lancelot, you’re going to have to sit for it,” he adds, and starts shading in some of the window-frame. Trevor can’t help but notice that that’s the first he’s heard of drawing Lancelot, but he’s not sure how pointing that out will go with the whole wooing plan.

“Who, me?” he asks instead, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Not in the slightest,” Alucard says crisply, “I mean her.” He jabs the charcoal in Sypha’s direction and goes back to rubbing rough stone into existence with the side of the stick. “Lancelot’s a young man at this point, fair of face, so forth and so on. I’ll just thicken the jawline a bit.”

“What’s wrong with me being Lancelot?” Trevor grumbles. “Do I get to be King Arthur, then? Wait, if she’s Lancelot, is that going to make me Guinevere?”

“Is there a king somewhere you’re cuckolding?” Alucard asks, and blows a few crumbs of charcoal away from the paper. “Lancelot is an idealist. He believes in causes, in stories, in chivalry and doing the right thing. You’ve been cynical for so long your face froze.”

“Hey,” Trevor protests, a little feebly.

“He’s not wrong,” Sypha says, the traitor.

“Maybe Odysseus,” Alucard adds thoughtfully, using a few curling lines to create a delicately ornamental capstone on the arch of the window. He sounds absent, like he’s too busy with his hands to pay attention to his mouth. (That thought gives Trevor a few more thoughts that he shoves right back where they came from.)

“Who the hell is Odysseus?”

“Greek,” Alucard says, and adds another crack to Scalotta’s mirror. “He’s a tactician who runs his mouth at the wrong moment and then wanders the world for a decade trying to find his way home.”

Trevor’s life has involved a whole lot more than his fair share of floorboards giving out under his feet, which gives him a useful reference for the current moment. “Hey,” he says again, even more weakly than before.

“He killed a Cyclops, too,” Sypha says thoughtfully. “You knew about Cyclopes, but not Odysseus?”

“Family bestiary,” Trevor explains, shrugging. He sticks out his leg slightly, rotating his ankle for consideration. “I might look good in sandals.”

“You do have nice legs,” Sypha agrees.

“I’m sure we have sandals somewhere in this place,” Alucard says. “I wouldn’t swear we don’t have a Cyclops, come to that.”

“Feel like we’d notice,” Trevor says, leaning on the back of Alucard’s chair. There’s a lot of we in this conversation, and he thinks, overall, he’s in favor.

“So if we’re getting into other stories, do I still have to be Lancelot?” Sypha asks. “I never thought he was very interesting. What about Cassandra? I always liked Cassandra.”

“She came to a fairly terrible end,” Alucard says. “And had a fairly terrible life, come to that.”

“Says the man who drew himself as the Lady of Scalotta being cursed,” Trevor says, and Alucard drops his charcoal.


“Oh, you’re right, he did,” Sypha says, craning her neck to look at the paper. “Oh, no, and now she’s smudged —”

“It’s fine, I’ll fix it in a moment,” Alucard says distractedly. “I didn’t — I mean —”

“You really didn’t notice?” Trevor asks, catching the charcoal stick before it can mess up Alucard’s work any further. “That’s your mouth, right there.” He points, not quite tapping the paper because he doesn’t want to smudge the lines. “Your nose, too, and — face, the shape of your face.” He gestures.

“Well.” Alucard frowns. “I suppose I see a lot of my own face.” He grabs a square of soft fine leather off the windowsill and rubs at the smudges the charcoal made. “It’s my father’s nose as much as mine,” he adds, quietly enough that Trevor’s not sure he meant to say it out loud.

“Well, it’s not in your father’s face,” Trevor says. Sypha is looking at him funny. “What? It’s not.”

“I’m… not sure if that’s meaningful or just very obvious,” Alucard says, recovering himself a bit. “Hm.” He’s mostly got the picture back to how it was; the errant marks weren’t all that dark. He’s not drawing any further, though, just staring at it.

“Uh, so,” Trevor says; he’s trying to sleep with the man, he can extend him a little mercy here. “What’s wrong with being Lancelot, anyway?”

“I don’t know,” Sypha says; she’s looking at Alucard too. “I just never liked him. He mopes too much and he’s not very clever.”

“We seem to have gotten very different things out of his stories,” Alucard says dryly. “Hm.”

“Wasn’t there a goddess?” Trevor asks, trying to dig a few facts out of the depths of his memory. He studied mythology a bit, before the Belmont manor burned.

“There were a great many goddesses,” Alucard says, so apparently he’s got his feet under him again.

“Smartass,” Trevor says, and flicks him in the ear. He doesn’t get his hand ripped off, which is probably a good sign. “A Greek one. Big spear, city named after her, very smart?”

“You mean Athena,” Alucard says, glancing up at him. It has to be a vampire thing, the warm wine-gold of his eyes. It’s damn distracting. “That’s… not terrible, actually.” He looks back to Sypha, considering. “Gray-eyed Athena, goddess of wisdom and war. Blue, gray, there’s room for a bit of artistic license. And Odysseus was a favorite of hers, come to that. That could work very well indeed.”

“Maybe we should find you some paints,” Sypha says lightly.

“Mmm.” Alucard flips the notebook shut. “At the moment, what we should find me is something else to do, before my fingers start to cramp.”

“Hold on,” Trevor says. “You can walk off a kick to the balls but your hands still cramp up?”

“A cramp is the muscle contracting,” Alucard says, shrugging. “Stronger muscles, thus more force behind the contractions, until it’s enough to overwhelm my pain tolerance. It’s not devastating, but I don’t enjoy it.”

“I… guess that makes sense,” Trevor grants. “Huh.” He flexes his own fingers, thinking about it.

Something else to do turns into him and Sypha helping to roll out pastry dough for a meat pie, while Alucard fries up ground venison in olive oil and a deluge of herbs. “This would be good with garlic,” he says wistfully, stirring it, “but alas.”

“Can you eat garlic, then?” Sypha asks curiously. Alucard shrugs.

“In a manner of speaking,” he says. “I find it delicious, but I spend the next day with enough of a headache that I start to see strange colors. It’s not worth it.”

“I don’t know,” Trevor says, thumping the dough stubbornly, “beer gives me a lot of headaches, and I’ve never sworn off that.”

“Garlic doesn’t get me drunk,” Alucard says, shrugging. “Anyway, I don’t have your capacity for self-punishment.”

“I don’t know about that,” Trevor mutters. Alucard goes still for a moment, and then goes on cooking as if he didn’t hear it. Trevor braces himself to be kicked under the table, but Sypha doesn’t do it, only catches his eye and grimaces in wry agreement.

That night, Sypha crawls into bed next to Trevor and props her chin on her hands before she’s even put out the light. She’s gazing into the middle distance, vaguely in the direction of the whorls on the headboard. Trevor settles in under the blankets and waits her out, watching her. She’s beautiful when she’s lost in thought: lips firm, eyes gone all soft and unfocused because her mind has no time to spare for vision.

She stays lost long enough that eventually he pokes her, gentle on the curve of her shoulder. “Hey,” he says. “You alive over there?”

“Mmm.” She blinks, slowly.

“Want to share your thoughts?” he asks. “I’d offer you a penny, but I don’t want to get up.”

“Odysseus,” she says. “You don’t know much about him, right?”

“Never even heard the name,” he says. “Runs his mouth, wanders for a while, Alucard said?”

“Yes, but there’s a lot more to the story,” she says. “He was actually gone for twenty years, not ten. Because he went to war, and that was the first ten years, and then it took him another decade to get home.” She rolls sideways, setting her head against his shoulder. By the vagueness in her eyes, she’s still staring at Greek heroes in the shadows of the room. “He was the favorite of Athena, like Alucard said. She appreciated him, because he was clever and he worshiped her, and she helped him achieve great things. And he got home, eventually, because he did have a home.”

“All right,” Trevor says cautiously. “I don’t worship you, for the record. Just in case that’s where we’re going with this.”

“You adore me,” she says, coming back to earth a little.

“That’s different.” He tugs at her hair, far too gently to be punishing at all.

“But the thing is,” she says, propping herself up on one elbow. “Odysseus had a wife, before he went off to war. And she waited for him, for twenty years. People told her that he must be dead, or never returning, and other suitors showed up, who took advantage of her hospitality and wanted to marry her for what she could bring them, but she withstood it all and outwitted them and kept waiting.”

“For twenty years,” Trevor says. “You don’t see marriages like that much.”

“Don’t you?” she says, and tugs the blankets close around her shoulders. “But when he comes back, at first, she doesn’t believe it’s really him. She waited all that time, but she still doesn’t believe it. So she tests him, again and again.”

“Until he wins back her trust?” Trevor hazards a guess.

“Until she lets herself believe that she was right to wait.” Sypha flops back onto the pillows, making the linen rustle.

“All right,” Trevor says. “So you’re seeing a pattern, here. I’m assuming Athena didn’t tag along for all of this.”

“It’s not a perfect metaphor,” she says. “But — yes. I’m seeing… I don’t know what I’m seeing. It’s something.”

“Alucard didn’t see it,” Trevor says, because he’s a contrarian like that. He’s not entirely sure what he’s contradicting.

“No,” she says significantly, rolling her eyes at him. “No, Alucard drew himself as Scalotta, dying for what she couldn’t have.”

“He didn’t do it on purpose,” Trevor says, and wilts even before she gets pointed with her eyebrows at him. “All right, all right, fine. And you had to tell me I was sad.”

That surprises her more than he thought it would; he can read it in the way she goes still. “Right,” she says, after a moment. “A great deal like that, actually.” She chews at her lip. “I thought… I thought we weren’t helping, because he was still so cold. I didn’t realize how much worse it could be.”

“Mmm.” He tugs her into the curve of his arm. “So. You’re saying you like our odds. In the most depressing, roundabout way possible.”

“You really want to start on depressing and roundabout?” she asks him. “You?” She kisses his shoulder. “I’m… I’m saying I think he wants us. I don’t know if that’s the same as liking our odds.”

“It improves them, at least,” he says. “You have to stop making me be the optimist here, it’s backwards. I’m going to wake up and try to put on your robes.”

“Aww, you would look so cute,” she says, smiling.

“I am not cute. I’ve never been cute in my life.”

Very cute,” she says, and actually boops his nose. He is never going to forgive this woman for what she’s done to him. “You’re right. We just need to find the right way to tell him.”

Before they can come up with any clever plans, the first true blizzard of the season hits.

“Well,” Trevor says, eying the window with his hands on his hips. “That’s going to freeze the balls off anybody.”

“Neatly put,” Alucard drawls, setting a steaming teapot on the table. They’re in the kitchen, staring out its low windows — Trevor and Sypha hadn’t bothered to open their curtains, thus hadn’t discovered the howling white that had swallowed the world. Brief dim shapes form in the snow; they might be trees or simply quirks of the wind.

“Fortunately,” Alucard continues, setting a platter of waffles next to the teapot, “there’s an entire castle, most of which doesn’t have a blizzard in it.”

“It’s fucking cold,” Trevor points out. “Aren’t you supposed to have magic heating?”

“Scientific heating,” Alucard corrects, “and we do, but it still takes fuel. If you’d like to chop down half the forest in order to heat a bunch of empty rooms, you’re welcome to do it. The mice will be thrilled.”

“You have mice?” Sypha asks, already piling her plate with waffles. Four kinds of jam await on the table, in a little ring around the snowdrops Trevor brought back.

“Everyone has mice,” Alucard says disdainfully. “My father was a vampire, not a god. I kill any I see, but I’m only one man.”

“I can start killing mice,” Trevor muses.

“If you take that whip of yours to any furniture I like I’m shoving you into the blizzard,” Alucard says. “The sausage is ready, eat your breakfast before I give it to Sypha.”

“Like you didn’t make enough for all of us,” Trevor retorts, but he does sit, tugging his own plate protectively close. Alucard flips sausage onto his plate directly from the skillet in a show of dexterity that makes even Trevor envious, and tosses his apron over the back of his chair.

“I wanted to go down to the Hold today,” Sypha says, a little mournfully. “I suppose I can try the library.”

“The library’s cold when the weather’s nice,” Trevor points out. “It’s the windows.” Alucard makes a noise of begrudging agreement.

“Do you have a suggestion for how we spend our time?” he asks, raising a delicate eyebrow.

“Traditional snowed-in activity is to get roaring drunk,” Trevor muses. “Got any beer?”

“I can do better than beer,” Alucard says disdainfully. “I have brandy.” He takes a bite of waffle and considers his handiwork judiciously. “That said, it’s several hours until noon.”

Unexpectedly, Sypha shrugs. “Once a year,” she says. They both look at her. “What? It’s a Speaker saying. There are vices you indulge once a lifetime, vices you indulge once a year, once a month, and vices you never touch.”

“I drink a lot more than once a year,” Trevor says.

“Wow, I wonder if I could’ve possibly known that,” Sypha says, and steals a bite of his waffle. “Ass.”

“You have your own waffles,” Trevor complains. “From the same fucking batter! They’re the same waffles.”

“You put different jam on yours,” she says peacefully.

“Children, settle down,” Alucard says.

“Hey!” Trevor points at him. “You’re the youngest person here, don’t think I’ve forgotten.”

“And yet,” Alucard says. “So, a once-annual bout of midday drunkenness?”

“We can start off slowly,” Sypha says. “You two can play chess.”

“You could also play chess, you know,” Alucard says. Alucard, it turns out, is very bad at chess.

“I could,” she agrees, pleasantly enough that she clearly intends to do no such thing, and takes a large bite of waffle.

“She might be better at it than you,” Trevor points out.

“Entirely possible, but it would give my pride a rest,” Alucard says. “I think you could have given my father a run for his money.”

“There’s an image,” Trevor mutters, boggling a little. Okay, maybe more than just a little. It is ridiculous, in Dracula’s own castle, to sometimes forget that he was Alucard’s father, and yet… it’s easy to slip into thinking of this as a place they’re camping in, like a better-equipped version of the Hold. Until Alucard says something like that, and Trevor has a dizzying moment where he imagines himself across a chessboard from a faceless man, then remembers he should be picturing Dracula across the chessboard, then has to shove his brain back into his head.

“I just like watching the two of you scowl about it,” Sypha says. This is a lie, because she also likes fiddling with the captured pieces. Alucard’s set is intricately carved, and its knights and pawns and bishops lend themselves well to little scenes. The last one was a knight rescuing a crew of pawns who had gotten stranded atop Sypha’s pile of books.

Once breakfast is done, they mount an expedition into the castle’s cellars, where Alucard does in fact whisk them all past the array of wine to unearth two bottles of lethally strong fruit brandy. His liver, Trevor gathers, is as cast-iron as his balls, which is likely to be the only reason they don’t die here. Trevor drinks a lot, but he’s neither a vampire nor a god, and Sypha’s tolerance is frankly shit.

By midmorning, Trevor has defeated Alucard at chess twice, at a handicap the second time because Sypha ordered him to capture an extremely nonthreatening bishop so she could complete her scene (of the bishops scolding several pawns, tipped over onto their fronts to convey their pleas for forgiveness).

By noon, their combined efforts and the brandy have induced Sypha to learn to play. Alucard gets halfway through slaughtering her before he decides his pride is assuaged and starts narrating the logic behind his moves. Trevor hangs over the table and advises both sides equally, with a general aim of maximum carnage.

Alucard herds them all into the kitchen after that, where they discover that at some point during the last game he got definitively tipsy. In a fit of alcoholic enthusiasm he digs a massive wheel of waxed cheese out of the back of the pantry and stacks slices of yesterday’s bread, his hard-won cheese, and smoked meat together. And then, refusing to be deterred by Trevor’s sobriety and good sense, he fries the whole ungodly stack in leftover fat while Sypha eggs his madness on. Tragically it turns out both convenient and fucking delicious.

It also turns out to go well with more brandy, which is why by early evening they’re all draped around the sitting room Alucard likes. The storm is still howling outside, and Sypha makes an offhand comment about the Speakers’ traditions of singing to drown out the storm, which is how they discover Alucard has — of course — a tenor voice like bright gold mead, clearer and sweeter than his speech. He sprawls out on the low couch, head tipped over the arm so his hair falls nearly to the floor, and sings: “The boar’s head in hand bear I, bedecked with bays and rosemary, and I pray you my masters be merry, quot estis in convivio…” Sypha translates the English for Trevor, afterwards; he gets his way through the Latin well enough.

As many are at the feast,” Alucard repeats when he’s finished, with the solemnity of the drunk. Trevor makes a mental note, for the family annals: vampires, or at least half-vampires, are exactly like humans while pissed — in this sense — and good company besides. “Two is as many, I suppose.”

“Are we not enough?” Sypha asks, with the concern of the also-drunk. Her eyes are wide and worried and as blue as the skies will be when the snow clears, a brighter blue than any Mother Mary that Trevor’s yet seen painted.

Trevor, himself, is of course nearly sober and not at all having any sorts of flights of fancy.

Alucard drops his half-full glass, catches it, and maneuvers it through the air to catch the bulk of the splashed brandy. “What?!” Trevor re-evaluates the exactly like humans while drunk observation. “You’re lovely, Sypha Belnades, of course you’re enough. Trevor, what are you telling this woman?” He points an indignant finger.

“Alucard,” Sypha protests, and leans over to tug at his sleeve. “I said us! Do you need more people, are you still lonely?” She looks like she’s about to cry.

“I — what? Oh dear, Sypha, it’s all right.” Alucard’s hand hovers over her back. “I’m not lonely.”

“Fucking LIAR,” Trevor says, at maybe unnecessary volume.

“We should bring you to my grandfather!” Sypha says, grabbing Alucard’s shoulders. “Once the winter’s over. We’ll introduce you, we’ll travel with them for the summer, he’ll make you a story. That way, no matter what happens, no matter what happens to us or how long you live, you’ll always have somewhere to go, okay? You can always go to the Speakers. I mean all of us, for generations. We don’t turn away our own, we never, ever will. And you know so much and you cook beautifully and you’re kind, they’ll love you.”

“I.” Alucard is at least as wrecked as Trevor has ever been, before the full force of Sypha Belnades’s capacity for love. His eyes are wide and shocked and shining. If asked, Trevor would have assumed he would weep blood as the annals say full vampires do — it would never have occurred to him to consider the question on his own — but no, those are real saltwater tears trickling down Alucard’s face. “Sypha.” A thin thread of brandy has spilled from his glass to the floor.

“We care, you know,” she continues earnestly, squeezing his arms. “We care about you, Alucard, we both do. So much. We just — you’re so lovely, and so good to us, and your hair is so pretty, I know Trevor thinks so too —”

“Sypha,” Trevor cuts in, before this can get out of hand.

“What?” She blinks at him, not moving away from Alucard yet.

“We weren’t talking about that,” Trevor reminds her. He feels a little hard-done-by, frankly. She was the one who was worried about scaring him off. She blinks at him a little more and finally remembers.

“Oh, right!” She sits up a little. “Well, it’s still true.”

Alucard is staring at her, which is when Trevor notices he’s gone still, fingers tight around his glass. “What aren’t you talking about, Sypha?” he asks, and he’s gone from overcome to strange, fuck, fuck, this isn’t good. “Belmont, what aren’t you telling me about?”

“Ah, shit,” Trevor mutters, and takes a massive swig of brandy, which is why his mouth is full when Sypha says, “The part where we want to sleep with you.”

Alucard’s glass cracks into pieces on the floor.

Sypha blinks. “Oh, no.” Trevor’s not sure if it’s about the mess or whether the last sober shreds of her mind are starting to catch up with her mouth.

“I beg your pardon,” Alucard says weakly.

“You fucking heard her,” Trevor mutters in disgust, and empties his own glass. They’re perilous things apparently, glasses. Also brandy.

“I,” Alucard says, and closes his eyes. The strangeness of his face is something Trevor needs to be much, much drunker to cope with. “Why?” he asks, distant and shaky.

“Have you seen yourself?” Trevor snorts. He gestures in Alucard’s general direction. “Even once?”

Alucard blinks back at him. “I — seriously?”

“I’m dead serious,” Trevor says, giving in to defeat. “Look at you. And she’s right, I like your hair. Give me the brandy.”

“You have the brandy!” Sypha points out.

“Oh, right.” It’s on the floor by his chair. He pours himself another generous measure. Alucard and Sypha are still staring between him and each other.

“Why else?” Alucard says, at last. Something in the shape of his mouth looks desolately lost. “Why else, Belmont, Sypha, tell me — whatever you want, whatever it is, you can have it, but please don’t — don’t…”

“She already told you, you heartbroken ass,” Trevor says, and slides out of his chair. He scrapes the broken glass aside; it’s a few large pieces, which is good because he’s far too drunk for shattered fragments. It gives him space to kneel by Alucard’s couch, his head level with both of theirs. “You poor sad fuck. Lucky for us, she likes those.”

“You’re what we want, Alucard,” Sypha explains, and reaches gently out to push his hair back from his face. “We like you. We want you with us.”

Somehow, Trevor’s hand has covered Alucard’s. He’s going to blame this, too, on the brandy.

“With you,” Alucard says weakly.

“Yeah,” Trevor says. “We didn’t do great on our own, it turns out. Could use some extra hands. Also, you’re a handsome bastard.” He shifts to lean against the leg of the couch, still holding Alucard’s hand. Alucard hasn’t tried to take it back.

“Trevor means we missed you,” Sypha says. “Like we told you.” She frowns, studying Alucard like a text that’s giving her trouble in translation. “We’ll stay anyway,” she adds. “Or bring you with us. You don’t need to come to bed with us to keep us. But we do want you.”

New, bright tears roll down Alucard’s cheeks. His hand is shaking under Trevor’s. Sypha says, “Oh, no,” fretfully and tries to thumb the tears away from Alucard’s eyes. He lets her do it. His mouth is half-open, lip trembling, fangs glinting in the light. It doesn’t make him look any less fragile.

“I don’t dare believe you,” he whispers. Trevor sighs.

“Yeah,” he says heavily. “That’s why we weren’t talking about it yet.”

Sypha’s free hand slams into the couch hard enough to make the cushions bounce. “I hate them!” she bursts out. “They had you, and they didn’t look at you, and they didn’t treat you carefully, and they didn’t — they didn’t — it’s not right!” Sypha has the cleanest-burning anger of anyone Trevor’s ever known.

“It’s not like that,” Alucard says, voice thick and heavy now. “They deserved better lives. A better world. Maybe we all did.”

“Maybe,” Trevor says, playing with Alucard’s fingers a little. “I’m not feeling real fair to them, though.”

“You’re a Belmont,” Alucard says, with something in his voice that makes Trevor’s drunk mind think of a poison aged far past its potency. “Aren’t you supposed to be in favor of vampire hunters?”

“Yeah, I’m a Belmont,” Trevor corrects. “We’re loyal.”

Alucard’s hand tightens under his.

“You really both want this?” he asks, just above a whisper.

Trevor shrugs. “Yeah.” It should probably be more dramatic, but, well. He’s warm and he’s drunk and he has Alucard’s hand in his, and Sypha next to him, and he doesn’t want to stop. There’s never been any shortage of dramatic in his life, and it’s the quiet parts instead that keep him warm.

“We do,” Sypha agrees. “We do, Alucard.”

Trevor can feel the shiver run through him. He blinks his eyes open; another few tears escape, when he does. “Ah, for Christ’s sake,” he whispers. “Why did you do this when I’m too drunk to stand?”

“Do you want to leave?” Sypha asks, blinking owlish and worried. Trevor snorts.

“I don’t think he does,” he says, because Alucard’s fingers are now intertwined in his. He holds up his linked hand to show her. Alucard gives his head a tiny shake.

“Oh good!” Sypha cries, and flings her arms around him. She knocks Alucard back against the couch, which, wow, he’s drunk. Or dizzied. “Oh, good, I’m so glad.” She nuzzles his cheek like an overgrown cat.

“Christ, you’re drunk,” Trevor says. He tries to stand and has a little trouble with it. “Christ, I’m drunk.”

“I think we’ve established we’re all drunk,” Alucard says, squeezing his hand. “I missed you. I missed you both.” He’s crying still.

“Yeah, we know,” Trevor says. “You’re not subtle.” He leans his head against Alucard’s shoulder. His shirt smells nice.

“Where’s my glass?” Alucard asks, glancing around him. “Trevor, did you take my —”

“You dropped it,” Trevor reminds him. “It broke.” Alucard makes a face of absolute indignation, like it is a personal affront that crystal glasses break when you drop them.

“Here!” Sypha says, because Sypha can’t bear for anyone around her to be unhappy when she’s off her tits like this. The brandy bottle is on the end table, in easy reach. She sloshes a dangerous amount of liquid into her own glass and hands it off to Alucard, beaming as if she’s performed a feat of wit on the scale of capturing Dracula’s castle. “Here you are.”

“Thank you, Miss Belnades.” Alucard’s voice goes soft. “Sypha.” He takes a slow sip; it does interesting things to his throat, and Trevor says so.

“Excuse me,” Alucard says. “I’m the vampire here, thank you.” He seems to find himself very amusing, when drunk, because the end of the sentence fades into low laughter. Unfortunately, Trevor laughs too.

“Fuck, who knows if any of us are going to remember this in the morning,” he says wearily, readjusting his head against Alucard’s arm. He’s warm. “Wouldn’t that be a way for God to piss in our wine.”

Sypha’s eyes go wide and horrified for a second, and then she brightens. “Alucard!” she says. “You have to write it down.”

“What?” Alucard blinks over the rim of the glass that is now his.

“Write it down,” she urges. “In case your memory fails. That’s what it’s for! Just — here, where’s your sketchbook? It’s — oh, oh dear —” She sways as she stands, giggling to herself, and makes her way across the room by holding on to the furniture. “Here!” She almost stumbles into Alucard’s lap, presenting not only sketchbook but charcoal proudly. Trevor is honestly impressed that she remembered the charcoal.

“I — what am I supposed to be doing with this?” Alucard asks, but he accepts it, presumably because she’s going to smack him in the nose if she keeps presenting it so enthusiastically. “What?”

“Writing a note,” she insists. “A note!”

“What… who am I addressing?”

“Yourself, of course!” Her eyes are shining with enthusiasm for the idea. “In case you can’t remember.”


“Just give in,” Trevor advises. “She’s relentless.” Alucard’s chest shakes under him. “What? What’s so funny?”


“I’m not relentless!”

“Irrelevant,” Alucard says, and laughs again. It’s dangerously close to, in fact, a giggle. Adrian Tepes giggles when he’s drunk. “Your weapon.”

“What?” Trevor glances down at his crotch, where his weapon, on account of the alcohol, is of no particular relevance to the conversation.

“I think he’s saying you’re whipped,” Sypha translates.

Thank you, Sypha.” Alucard points to her with his charcoal, as if awarding a point, and then scribbles industriously at the edge of a page. “There, note completed. As my lady commands.”

“Now who’s whipped?” Trevor wants to know. Alucard’s shirt is really soft, and he’s warm — are all vampires warm, or is it the human in him? And Trevor usually drinks beer, not brandy. And… he’s warm.

His eyes closed, at some point. He could move, but, well… why should he?

Trevor does not enjoy waking up.

This is a common experience in his life. It’s one he hasn’t actually had in a few months, which could be pleasant, but a realization like that is a cruel, cruel thins to inflict on a hungover man.

“Ugh,” he declares.

“Agreed,” Alucard says, from what sounds like next to him. Sypha, somewhere off to the side, just whines.

That’s an odd arrangement. Huh.

Trevor blinks his eyes open resentfully and finds the sitting room that Alucard likes, with its clean white walls and its soft green curtains. Also, the shattered glass and the smell of spilled brandy. He’s lying on the floor, cheek pressed against the carpet.

Oh, right.

Sypha’s miserable noise turns into a retching sound, and Trevor just has time to think oh no before before Alucard blurs across the room. When he at last slows to speeds that Trevor can see, he has an ornamental bowl under Sypha’s mouth, just in time for the inevitable to occur.

Vampires are useful to have around, sometimes.

“Thank you,” Sypha says weakly, once she’s finished puking. “Ugh. I’m never drinking again.”

“I’ve said that,” Trevor says, rolling his head back against the floor. If Alucard wants to volunteer for this particular task, he’s more than welcome to take on that burden.

“She’s smarter than you are,” Alucard says. Trevor hopes he spills puke on himself.

“Go put that bowl somewhere I don’t have to smell it,” Trevor complains.

“Ah, for once you have a clever idea. We can institute an annual holiday to commemorate it.” This bit of utterly uncalled-for bitchiness is, however, accompanied by the sound of a door and a reduction in vomit odors, so Trevor will take it.


“Do vampires get hangovers?” Trevor asks, when Alucard comes back.

“No, I was attacked by twelve men with large clubs while you weren’t paying attention,” Alucard snaps. Trevor rolls sideways to find Alucard leaning against the doorframe, clutching his head. Sypha has collapsed back onto the couch, making horrible faces.

I can take twelve men with large clubs,” Trevor says disgustedly, “you’d be fine.”

“Poetic license wasn’t designed for vampires.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Sypha says, followed by, “ugh.” She pauses. “Alucard, your sketchbook’s — oh! Oh, right.

Judging by the silence that descends on the room, Sypha’s grand note-to-self plan is unnecessary.

“What’d you write, anyway?” Trevor asks, closing his eyes again. He’s fairly sure he was leaning on Alucard when he fell asleep, but he’s not feeling any of the sore spots he would get from just slumping to the floor. Someone laid him carefully down on this carpet.

There’s the slow sound of footsteps as Alucard crosses the room. “That,” he says quietly, “I don’t remember.” Paper rustles. When Alucard’s voice comes next, it’s baffled: “Why did I write this in terrible Greek?”

“Well,” Trevor explains, “it’s ‘cause you were drunk.”

“Thank you, Trevor, you are a font of helpfulness.” There is a further rustling of paper, then silence. Trevor blinks his eyes open to find Alucard staring at the page, unmoving. Sypha sits up, eyes still closed, and gropes around in the air until she can ease the notebook out of his hands. Trevor’s not sure the extra four seconds of darkness are helpful, since she still has to open her eyes to read it, but he’s not going to argue wit her.

“Your handwriting is awful in Greek,” she says, turning the notebook sideways. “Oh.”

“What the hell did he write?” Trevor grumbles. “Silence spell?”

“Roughly translated,” Sypha says, “and fixing his bad grammar, it says…” She clears her throat. “They say they want you. Don’t fuck it up.

“Ah.” Trevor drags himself to a sitting position. His head pounds. “You sad bastard.”

“You’re one to talk,” Alucard says. He takes the sketchbook from Sypha, flipping it shut as if they’ll all forget the words.

“I want to go to bed and stay there until my head stops hurting,” Sypha says, squeezing her eyes shut again. “Maybe forever. Can we try this again after that? When my mouth is less disgusting?”

“That… sounds like an excellent idea,” Alucard says, wincing a little too. “Regroup for a late lunch, perhaps?”

“Sounds like a plan,” Trevor says. “Ugh. Don’t wanna stand up.”

“Stand up,” Sypha says. “If I have to stand up, you have to stand up.”

Trevor stands up. Trevor stumbles to bed alongside Sypha and trips into it still dressed, which is going to be the thing that forces him back into his other tunic. He sleeps off his hangover like the practiced expert that he is, drags himself through a rather unpleasant bath, helps Sypha wash her hair, and staggers downstairs feeling almost human again.

Maybe make that feeling conscious. Whatever.

Given that none of them have been awake for long, their late luncheon is not fancy, only smoked venison and porridge; but it’s Alucard’s cooking and Alucard’s castle, so the porridge is thick with wild spices and honey. There’s mint tea to drink, and a few little wedges of cheese that Trevor’s fairly sure are there because Alucard thought the table looked too empty.

It’s… strangely ordinary. They talk about nothing, they laugh, they compare hangovers and curse the brandy and Alucard insists he’ll prove his Grecian handwriting is adequate when he’s sober. And, occasionally, Trevor will see Alucard watching Sypha with a flush in his cheeks, will see Sypha glance at Alucard with something hungry in her smile, will catch Alucard as he glances at Trevor and away. (Like he’s shy.) Trevor and Sypha catch each other’s eye between bites, of course, excited as children at Christmastide.

At last, they’re all fed, heads cleared, and Alucard settles their bowls in the basin to soak and flicks water off his elegant hands. “Well,” he says, faintly pink. “Shall we… my room?”

Sypha stands up so fast her chair falls over. For a moment there is only the echoing clatter of wood on stone, and then suddenly all three of them are laughing, bright and dizzy as the still-blowing snow.

“Yes,” Sypha says, and stands. “Yes, your room.” She grabs Alucard’s hand first, then Trevor’s, and pulls them gently on. Trevor catches Alucard’s tiny, wondering smile, and realizes that he’s smiling too.

Alucard’s room is immaculately tidy, which could be what Alucard is like or could be that he’d woken clear-headed enough to clean the place for them. Alucard drops their hands, reaches past them to tug the doors closed — pointlessly, in Trevor’s opinion, but all right.

“Ah,” he says, and clears his throat. His blush is getting pinker, now, and Trevor wants to know just how flushed he can get. “I suppose you’ll know shortly, anyhow — I, ah, I cycle fast, apparently.”

“Sorry, what?” Trevor asks. Sypha’s blinking too, equally confused, and Alucard’s blush gets even worse. He rubs his hand over his eyes.

“I won’t last,” he says, into the side of his arm. “But, ah, if you don’t stop — in a minute or so.” He clears his throat. “It will, er, resolve itself.”

It takes Trevor a minute to get it, and then he does — at roughly the same time as Sypha, to judge by her look of dawning delight. “Damn,” he says, and means it. “That’s a hell of a party trick.”

Alucard lowers his hand. Yup, there’s the blush, spreading down his throat now, and he’s gorgeous.

“How many times?” Sypha wants to know, catching his hand so he can’t hide again. He blinks at her. He is adorable when he’s embarrassed. Trevor slightly wants to go back in time and tell himself, just after their first meeting, that he will one day have this thought; the look on his own face would be incredible.

“Ah — four, last time,” Alucard says, diligently studying the carpet.

“Was that the only time you’d…” Sypha asks. Alucard nods. Sypha reaches up to touch his cheek with careful fingers. She and Trevor lock eyes and trade nods: they’re not letting Alucard leave this bed until he’s come at least five times, then.

“So, I’m not insisting on anything,” Trevor says. “But do we have any oil? Which I maybe should’ve asked before we left the kitchen, actually.”

“I may have appropriated a bottle,” Alucard said. “Earlier this morning.”

“Oh!” Sypha says delightedly. “Wonderful. So, what would you like, Alucard?”

“I…” He looks caught, lost, glancing between them. Trevor gives in to temptation and reaches out, runs his fingers through Alucard’s hair. Alucard sighs, leaning into his hand.

“Kiss me?” he asks, so quietly Trevor’s heart seizes up. He glances at Sypha, but she gestures him on, so, all right.

“Come here, then,” he says, and turns Alucard’s face to his, and does as he’s asked.

Alucard’s lips are soft, under his, softer even than Sypha’s often-chapped ones. His mouth opens easily, softly, and his hands settle on Trevor’s back. His fangs are a distinct pressure against Trevor’s tongue: not their points, but the smooth length of them. Trevor bites gently at Alucard’s mouth, the softest hint of teeth that he can manage, and that does bring the two pinpricks of pain to his mouth as Alucard responds in kind. He likes it.

Alucard’s eyes have a little glassiness to the gold when Trevor pulls back. Sypha’s fingers press against his chest, and he gives her space to slip between them. Trevor settles his hands on her waist as she takes over cupping Alucard’s face, and listens to them both sigh softly as they kiss.

“Bed,” Sypha decides, when she pulls back, and catches both their hands again. She settles herself crisscross in the middle of the mattress, and draws them after her to perch on the side of the bed. Trevor’s a little surprised when she leans up to kiss him, but, well, as if he’s going to not kiss Sypha Belnades. She’s fiercer about it than Alucard is, bitier, leaves his mouth pleasantly raw; it makes him laugh.

“What’s the joke?” Alucard asks, leaning on his chin. Trevor glances over, worried for a moment, but Alucard looks — content. Amused.

“She bites more than you do,” Trevor says.

“You like it,” she says, shoving him playfully. “He does,” she adds to Alucard, conspiratorial. It is unfortunately true.

“Yes, well,” Alucard says, and bares his fangs.

“A little’s fine,” Trevor says with a shrug. “A little more than you did before.”

“Noted,” Alucard says, and leans in to kiss him again. It’s still gentle, but just a little less cautious, a little less careful with him. Trevor works his fingers through Alucard’s hair some more, because it’s just as silky-soft as it looks and he’s not going to get tired of it any time soon. He tugs one strand a little, tentatively, and Alucard sighs into his mouth. Trevor lifts his head just in time to see Sypha’s eyes light up, because she is a wonderfully cruel woman who loves scratching up his back.

They trade kisses back and forth for what feels, somehow, like a long time and none at all, before Trevor looks up from kissing Alucard’s throat and finds that Sypha is wearing only her trousers. Alucard turns his head and makes a startled sound, almost a gasp.

“I thought we were wearing too many clothes,” Sypha explains with a shrug, and catches the hem of Alucard’s shirt with her fingers. “Alucard, is this okay?”

“By all means,” Alucard breathes, and pulls back from Trevor, just enough to give her space. He doesn’t move to remove anything himself, only lets her do it. Trevor, seeing the way the wind is blowing, sheds shirt and tunic both, and takes the opportunity to lose his socks as well. When he looks up, Alucard is cupping Sypha’s breasts gently in his hands, a look on his face that borders on awe. His fingers are long enough to span her breasts almost completely. Sypha sighs, tilting her head back, and Trevor’s a little impressed. Not squeezing her like fruit at a market, then; no, Alucard’s managed to touch her the way she likes. Gentle, letting the weight of her tits roll against his hands.

Trevor’s fingers itch in memory. He runs his hand up Alucard’s spine, down again, works his fingers under Alucard’s hip to squeeze what he can reach of his ass. Alucard jumps a little, and squirms back against him.

“I’m — amenable,” he says, breathless enough that Trevor suspects amenable is underselling. This does not answer the question of:

“Amenable to what now?” Trevor asks, since that sounded a lot more specific than just do more of that.

“Ah,” Alucard says, and kisses him, in what Trevor suspects is a very charming way to get out of answering the question. Which: he’s in favor, as deflection goes. Alucard’s lips part at the faintest brush of Trevor’s tongue, it’s great

“What do you want, Alucard?” Trevor asks, and his voice is lower than he means it to be. Alucard sighs, dropping his head against Trevor’s shoulder. Sypha leans up to stroke Alucard’s back, brushing Trevor’s fingers with her own.

“You,” Alucard mutters against his throat. “I —” Pressed close together like this, Trevor can feel him breathe in. “I’d like you to take me,” he says, just above a whisper. Trevor swallows, hard.

Sypha chuckles. “You’ll have to take turns with it,” she says, and then, explaining to Alucard: “Trevor likes being taken too, you know.

“I —” Alucard blinks up at her, wide-eyed and almost confused.

“She’s good with her fingers,” Trevor explains, going a little warm around the face. (He’s a little warm everywhere, honestly, even in the castle’s cold.) “Speaking of which, uh. Would you like her to start you off? It’s a hell of a feeling.”

Alucard glances between them; then, eyes closed, he nods.

“All right, then,” Trevor murmurs, and goes for the ties on Alucard’s trousers. “Let’s get these off, hm? Sypha, want to grab the oil?”

“I’m on it,” she says, scrabbling across the bed. Alucard tilts his hips, letting Trevor ease his trousers down; his cock is as pretty as the rest of him, almost elegant, and long. The hair that curls between his legs is a few shades darker in its gold. And he’s so hard the tip of his cock shines already.

“Damn,” Trevor says softly, running his hand along Alucard’s thigh. “Look at you.” Alucard sighs, shivery and slow, not quite looking at Trevor. “Hey. Alucard. We’ve got you.”

“We do,” Sypha agrees, wriggling up next to them. She’s taken this opportunity to strip down to the skin, it seems, with impressive efficiency. “Here, let’s — hm, this might be best.” She nudges them both by the shoulders until Alucard’s at the edge of the bed with his legs spread open, Trevor left to his own devices next to him. “Trevor, give me a pillow?”

“Sure,” Trevor says, tossing one over; she settles it between Alucard’s feet and drops to her knees, smiling. Fuck, but she’s beautiful, naked and bright-eyed and happy. Alucard strokes her cheek, her shoulder, down to the parallel scars; he’s shaking, a little. Trevor settles an arm around his shoulders.

“All right, there?” he asks. Alucard nods.

“Please,” he says, and leans into Trevor’s side. Trevor holds him, resting his cheek against Alucard’s hair, as Sypha uncorks the bottle.

“This might get a little messy,” she says, over a glugging sound. “Ugh, there’s oil on the floor already.”

“Somewhere in this castle there has to be a magic mop,” Trevor says, rubbing his hand along Alucard’s arm. Alucard sighs, burrowing further into Trevor’s side even as he lets his legs fall further open. “Anyway, better too much oil than not enough. Believe me, I know.”

“But not from me,” Sypha assures Alucard, and turns her head to kiss the inside of his knee. “Trevor, here, for when you’re — you’re still wearing trousers, fix that.”

“In a moment,” Trevor promises, but he takes the bottle she hands him. She re-corked it, so he just drops it on the mattress. He doesn’t want to let go of Alucard, just now; he wants Alucard in the circle of his arm as Sypha first touches him. He shifts, so Alucard can lean back a little more.

Trevor can’t really see what she’s doing — everything not blocked by her head is blocked by Alucard’s cock — but oh, it’s easy to tell anyway, because Alucard shivers and pants against Trevor’s shoulder, making soft sighing sounds that go directly to Trevor’s dick. That must be just from her hand tracing over him, too, because then Sypha says, “All right,” in a tone of adorable determination, and Alucard bites sharply on Trevor’s bicep. Trevor maybe yelps, a little.

“Ah — hell, Trevor, I’m sorry —” Alucard pants, lifting his head. Sypha’s gone still, presumably because Alucard’s tensed up like fuck around her; he’s sure tense under Trevor’s arm.

“Don’t worry about it,” Trevor says, “I’ve had worse. Including from her,” he adds, tilting his head at Sypha.

“Only if you measure by size of the mark,” she says, a little indignantly.

“How else would I measure? Least I can be seen in public like this,” Trevor says, thumbing over the two pinpricks. There’s the marks of Alucard’s human teeth, too, just little pink dents in the skin. His fangs actually drew blood, though, in a thin trickle that’s just enough to be annoying.

“I can maybe, with your permission… they’ll heal faster,” Alucard offers, and lowers his mouth to just above Trevor’s skin. And, yeah, Trevor’s familiar with this property of vampire saliva, and: fuck it.

“Sure, all right.” It feels… well, like anyone’s tongue running over a sore and sensitive spot on his skin, which is to say, it makes him bite down hard on his own lip and makes his cock jerk sharp in his trousers. Alucard groans against his shoulder, from which Trevor deduces that Sypha is moving her fingers again.

“Feels good, doesn’t it?” Trevor asks him softly. “She has such little fingers, feels like it’s going to be easy to take until she spreads them out. She’s gotten four in me, before.” They almost tried her whole hand, but he does need to ride in a wagon that hits every goddamn rut in Wallachia. Though they’re not going anywhere for a while, not this winter…

“I’ve only got one in him, right now,” Sypha says, leaning her cheek against Alucard’s thigh. “He’s tight, but he’s loosening up for me. You feel good, Alucard,” she adds. “You’re warm.”

“Ngh,” Alucard manages, spreading his legs a little wider. It makes Trevor’s mouth go dry. Alucard’s eyes are open, fixed on Trevor’s lap, and — okay, yeah, it’s incredibly unsubtle, how hard Trevor is right now. His cock tents his trousers in an obscene stretch, verging on painful, which reminds him that Sypha had instructions for him. He doesn’t want to let go of Alucard, still, so he fumbles his laces open with his left hand, wriggles his way out of his pants with maybe not a lot of grace. Oh well.

Alucard licks his lips. Trevor’s breath hitches.

“Hey,” he says, grabbing for the oil. “Alucard.” He nudges him, holds out the bottle. Alucard takes it, wide-eyed and obedient. His fingers are shaking. “Can you —” He holds out his hand, palm up. Alucard blinks at him, fangs pressing into his own lower lip as he pants around Sypha’s fingers. “Oil,” Trevor says gently. “Pour for me.”

Alucard nods and does his best, with his hands still trembling so the oil falls in messy drops. It smells oddly good, clean-sharp and green. “There,” Trevor says softly, rubbing his fingers together so the slickness spreads. “That’s good for now, you can set it down.”

“Here,” Sypha says, reaching up with her left hand to take it from him. “I can use some more.”

“I — I’m all right,” Alucard whispers, canting his hips up a little further.

“I’m going to give you two, now,” Sypha says, slicking up her hand again. “And maybe three in a minute, so, more oil.” Trevor settles his hand over Alucard’s knee, eases his legs a little further apart so that Trevor can watch as she sets her hand against Alucard and slides two slender scholarly fingers into him to the second knuckle. Alucard’s cock jumps, a bead of precome escaping the head to roll slow and lovely down his skin. Sypha must crook her fingers against the right spot inside him, because then he does it again. He’s gasping, eyes closed.

“We’ve got you,” Trevor promises, slicking up his own cock. The wet glide of his hand feels like it’s soothing a wound, he’s so wound up; he groans, squeezing a little harder. “We’ve got you.”

The noise Alucard makes is nothing like words, but it’s an answer, accompanied by a tiny nod into Trevor’s shoulder. Sypha’s free hand strokes up and down Alucard’s thigh, absently, her focus all between his legs. Trevor squeezes his cock tight at the base and regretfully lets go — unlike Alucard, he does actually need to rest a bit between goes, and he means to give Alucard the ride of his life.

That said, like hell is he going to be able to keep his hands off his dick unless he has something more interesting to do with himself. There’s oil still all over the fingers of his left hand, and the angle is going to be terrible but he reaches over to Alucard anyway, meaning to make a rough ring with his fingers that Alucard can rock up into.

Instead his fingers close around Alucard’s cock and Alucard comes on the spot.

It’s beautiful to watch. It’s mostly Sypha’s fingers doing the work, Trevor guesses; he was just the tipping point. Alucard comes with only a soft gasp for air, his head thrown back so that his hair falls straight down like a waterfall, his throat and chest in an arc like a dancer. Not a one of them was ready, and he catches Sypha’s forehead, her cheek, her collarbone, the back of her arm as she presses inside him.

“Ah,” Alucard pants, body slackening until Trevor’s holding half his weight. “I… I apologize, I didn’t intend…”

“Here’s a secret,” Trevor says, leaning close to his ear but speaking plenty loud enough for Sypha to hear him. “She likes getting come all over her.”

“Mmm,” Sypha says, and leans in to lick the back of her arm clean. “It’s true,” she adds with a devilish grin, like she’s confessing some kind of utterly delicious mischief. Alucard chuckles, breathless and winded.

“I can try to warn you next time, regardless,” he says; the last word vanishes into a breathy sigh as Sypha keeps working him open.

“I don’t even have you relaxed enough, yet,” she says, with a faint frown. “Almost, I think, but a little…”

“He said he’ll be started up again soon enough,” Trevor points out, cupping Alucard’s slow-softening cock. This is something new for him, actually, even in all his time committing whatever interesting sins his excommunicate self can get up to — oh, not his hand on another man’s cock, but this need to be gentle on oversensitive skin, touching after they’ve achieved their aim.

“Indeed,” Alucard says, and then, “oh —” He turns his head, actually nuzzling a little into Trevor’s abused arm. Trevor gives in to the kind of sentiment that previously only Sypha got out of him, and kisses the top of Alucard’s head. Sypha must do something good with her fingers then, because Alucard makes a soft and punched-out sound against his skin. Trevor’s arm is going to be sore in a moment, reaching across his own body like this, but he doesn’t quite have the heart to move Alucard away.

Sure enough, though, Alucard is hard again under his fingers in an amount of time Trevor is comfortable calling humanly impossible. Trevor is just marveling at that when Sypha lifts her head, a smear of come still shining on her cheek, to say, “All right, I think he’s ready. Alucard, how do you feel?”

Alucard’s mouth works soundlessly, for a moment; then he just nods, glancing between them. Trevor figures out, after a moment, that he’s looking for suggestions.

“Come up here,” he murmurs, tugging Alucard back bed by the waist. Sypha crawls up onto the bed next to him. “Hey, Sypha. How would you feel about us both fucking him at once?”

Yes,” she says, eyes dark and hungry. “You mean him in me and you in him, right? Yes. Alucard?”

“I may die,” Alucard says blankly. Trevor and Sypha both laugh, and after a startled moment, he does too.

“That a no?” Trevor asks.

“It is not.” Alucard sits up a little straighter, glancing around. “Where do I…”

“Hm.” Trevor considers, tapping his finger against his lips. “She basically doesn’t weigh anything to you, right?”

“Trevor, you don’t weigh anything to me,” Alucard says, managing to sound awfully sarcastic for a man as hard as he is — which is still not nearly as sarcastic as he can ordinarily manage.

“All right,” Trevor says. “I’m thinking…” He eases himself back against the headboard, legs stretched out and flat to the bed. “C’mere.” He gets his hands on Alucard’s trim waist again, easing him back. Alucard lets him do it, lets Trevor pull him until his back is pressed to Trevor’s chest, kneeling with his thighs on either side of Trevor’s hips. Trevor’s cock brushes at the inside of Alucard’s thigh, and it’s easy to feel Alucard shudder when they’re pressed so close together.

“Like this,” Trevor says softly. “Sypha can ride you, kind of. Get across your hips, face us both.” He likes seeing her face, and he’s starting to suspect Alucard’s even soppier than she’s made him. “The movement will have to come from you, I won’t have the leverage.” And Sypha certainly won’t, Trevor suspects; Alucard’s going to be holding most of her weight. “But we can help you guide the pace.” He glances to Sypha. “Good with you?”

“Yes,” she says, beaming at him, and leans in with a hand braced on Alucard’s shoulder in order to kiss Trevor’s cheek. “Good boy.” And ah, fuck, Alucard definitely notices Trevor’s little whine, just there.

“I see,” Alucard says, both amused and breathless. “That’s how it is, then?”

“Shut up,” Trevor mutters, squeezing his hips.

“Yes,” Sypha says, and pets Alucard’s cheek. “Don’t worry, Alucard. You’re being very good too.” Alucard shivers in his arms, and Sypha kisses him more smugly than Trevor thought it was possible to kiss.

He’s pretty smug about it himself when he kisses Alucard’s shoulder, though. “See,” she says. “She’s like this.”

“I’m irresistible,” Sypha says proudly.

“You are,” Alucard says, more easily than Trevor knows how, and this time when Trevor kisses his throat it’s grateful.

“Okay,” Sypha says, and kisses Alucard again. She slings herself over their tangled legs, her feet framing their stacked hips, her weight balanced on Trevor’s outstretched thighs. From this angle, Sypha’s legs spread like this, he can see that her cunt’s so wet her thighs are shining.

“Let’s get him set, first?” Sypha suggests, and Trevor nods.

“Alucard, you ready?”

“Trevor,” Alucard says with ostentatious patience, “if you don’t —”

“All right, all right,” Trevor says, and pushes into him. Alucard swears in a language that Trevor doesn’t even recognize.

“There,” Trevor says gently. He’s just got the head of his cock inside Alucard, now, hot and wet and slick. “There.” With the softest pressure on Alucard’s hips, he urges him down, and Alucard throws his head back and sinks deep. His Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat. He takes Trevor in one steady rush, thighs trembling, and then just gasps for breath.

“Fuck,” he whispers, back in Wallachian again.

“Damn,” Trevor says, and presses a kiss to his spine, right between his shoulderblades. “Fuck, Alucard, you feel good.”

Alucard opens his eyes at that, shifting his hips a little. He makes a low overwhelmed noise in his throat and reaches out for Sypha. “Beautiful, please —”

“I’m here,” she says, and guides his hands under the curve of her ass. “There, lift me up just a little,” she says, looping one arm over his shoulders. He shifts on Trevor, holding her up. Gently, Sypha takes Alucard’s cock in her free hand and rubs the head against her cunt, along the long line of her slit.

Alucard’s head drops back against Trevor’s shoulder again. Trevor settles one hand lightly around Alucard’s arm, the other on his hip.

“All right,” Sypha says, Alucard’s cock pressing just between her folds. “Come on, Alucard, sweetheart. Bring me down.”

Alucard swallows. Trevor presses at him just slightly, guiding Alucard to lower her down onto him, guiding his hips up into her. Alucard makes a sound like a man forgetting how to breathe.

“There,” Sypha says, and locks both her arms behind Alucard’s head. “You feel wonderful, Alucard, you feel perfect.” Alucard shivers, and Trevor and Sypha make the same noise at once, sweetly pleased.

“Please,” Alucard whispers. “Tell me…”

“Like this.” Trevor guides Alucard’s hips up again, guides him to lift Sypha up and roll his hips down on Trevor’s cock, guides him to fuck back up into Sypha again. Sypha throws her head back, throat bare and perfect for kissing, but Alucard’s far too wrecked to do it now. He’s is trembling under Trevor’s hands, but still moving, steady and trusting, letting Trevor command all that inhuman strength with just the lightest touch. Down and up again, all three of them swaying together. Trevor is leaking into him, now, into the tight clench of his body. Alucard’s cock shines with Sypha’s slick.

“I,” Alucard whispers; the corners of his eyes are damp, glimmer in the light. “I… you…”

“Go on,” Sypha says, “Go on, darling, fill me up,” and arches her back in the way she does whenever she clenches her body tight on purpose. Alucard lets out a broken animal cry as his hips jerk up, and then he’s fluttering tight around Trevor’s cock, shaking, coming again just like that. Trevor twitches his hips up as best he can, helps him keep it going.

He goes sweetly boneless against Trevor’s chest as he comes down, and lowers Sypha to the mattress between Trevor’s feet. “Should I not have, ah... I’m afraid I didn’t think…” His come spills out of her, clinging to his cock as she pulls off of it.

“Alucard,” she says, with fond offense, “I am a daughter of the Speakers. If I didn’t have the right herbs to prevent those kinds of surprises, don’t you think I would have mentioned it?”

He laughs, vibrating against Trevor’s chest, through the place where their bodies join. Trevor’s breath catches. “My apologies, Speaker,” he says, light and wrecked and happy. “You’ve fucked my brains out already.”

“I say we do some more of that,” Trevor says. “How about we get you on your back? I don’t think I’m earning my keep.” He runs his hands up and down Alucard’s ribs, a gentle caress.

“Trevor,” Alucard says, “this is already enough to make up for all manner of annoying — ah!” That’s Trevor easing him up, easing his cock free. Alucard’s strong, but he’s light, and he doesn’t think to push back.

“Here, now,” Trevor says, laying him down on his back, knee bent and pushed out to the side. “How’s that?” Alucard’s cock is already stiffening up again, still trailing come and slick onto his stomach.

“Awful,” Alucard says, “you’re not in me anymore,” and Trevor has to grab his cock at the base and squeeze and count slowly to five.

“All right,” he says, “all right, I’ve got you.” He slides in so easily, this time, with Alucard relaxed like this and spreading his legs wider to welcome him in.

“Oh,” Alucard whispers. Trevor holds himself still and glances at Sypha for approval, and gets a happy, enthusiastic nod.

“Alucard,” she says, “may I sit on your face?”

“Oh wow,” Trevor says, as Alucard spasms around him again, “that felt like a yes.”

“You hush,” Sypha says, raising an admonishing finger in his direction, and cups Alucard’s cheek. “Sweetheart?”

“I… my teeth?” he says, dazed. “I — if you’d like me to —”

“I trust you,” she says simply. “Just be careful with me, okay?”

“Always,” he says. “Always, always, yes,” and reaches for her again, taking her hand. She squeezes his fingers and slings her thigh over his head, straddles his face. She grins at Trevor, giddy and glad, and then Alucard’s jaw moves and her eyes roll back in her head.

“Yes,” she says, “oh, sweetheart, just like that, keep going — mm, yes, a little — yes, there, perfect, that’s good —”

She’s close, Trevor’s pretty sure, from the breathlessness in her voice, the way her teeth bite into her lip. Trevor rocks in and out of Alucard gently, slowly, not trying to blow his mind just yet. Just holding them both here. He needs to be able to focus on licking his own come out of Sypha, on making her shudder and cry out. Alucard wraps one hand around Sypha’s thigh, craning his neck up to reach her; his other hand is still holding hers. She sways, grinding against his mouth, and it makes her tits bounce beautifully. The soft litany of her encouragement mixes with the slick messy human sounds of Alucard’s mouth.

“Fuck, this looks good,” Trevor says softly, when Sypha’s voice cracks. “Never gotten a view like this before. I didn’t know you looked this beautiful, when we did this.” He’s lost enough in the feel of it all that he doesn’t even blush until after he says it. Alucard makes a soft longing sound, somewhere between agreement and a whine, and Trevor laughs. It’s not even funny, but he does. “Yeah, Alucard, you look good too,” he says indulgently, running his hand over Alucard’s stomach. Along the traces of come from his last orgasm, up to the long rough ridge of the scar. Alucard shivers, rocking his hips hungrily up against Trevor.

Something he does makes Sypha shiver, whole-body, swaying forward enough that she has to brace her hand on Alucard’s chest. Trevor covers her hand by instinct, for all the mess his fingers are. “Please,” she says, “Alucard — please, more, please —” and Alucard makes a soft noise of affirmation and grabs her thighs with both hands, pulling her down against his face, jaw moving frantically. From the sound, he’s working thorough and sure over her clit, making her shudder and squirm.

“Ah, fuck!” she says, and Alucard makes a startled sound as Sypha squirts all over his face. Trevor can actually see it stutter out of her in little pulsing spurts, running down Alucard’s chin, trailing out of Trevor’s vision again. He’s never seen that before, only felt it.

“Damn,” he says, cock jerking inside Alucard. “She, fuck, she doesn’t do that every time.”

“Mmm,” Sypha agrees. “Just — slow, a little more, slow, lower down — yes, there, mmm, just… yes.” She means she wants Alucard licking along slow and tender along her folds. She loves that, in the moments after she’s come; it eases her down, leaves her relaxed like a cat in sunlight.

Sure enough, she flops sideways off Alucard’s face, no dignity at all. “You did so well,” she reassures him, brushing strands of soaked and sticky hair away from his forehead. He shivers, smiling in a tiny blissed-out unconscious way that does unmentionable things to Trevor’s heart.

“All right,” Trevor says, running his hand down Alucard’s thigh. “Let’s do this right.” He closes his eyes and gives Alucard a few short exploratory thrusts, shifting the angle until —

Alucard makes a sound that’s almost frightened, arcing off the bed. “Fucking Christ,” he whispers.

“Oh, there we go.” Trevor grins, grinding the head of his cock into that same spot until Alucard mewls and claws at the sheets. Sypha, laughing more with delight than anything, drags herself into a sitting position again, easing Alucard’s head into her lap.

“I’ve got you, Alucard,” she promises, cupping his slick-covered cheek, and Alucard looks up at her with such naked adoration that Trevor shivers. It’s — yeah, it’s real possible that that’s what he looks like, looking at Sypha, and it’s how she deserves to be looked at but goddamn if it’s not terrifying.

“Want me to keep going?” he asks, and Alucard shoots him an indignant look and wraps his legs around Trevor’s back, working his hips up against him. “Fuck, all right.” He hitches Alucard’s right leg up on his shoulder — the man bends like a willow branch, might as well take advantage of it — and thrusts sure and steady and careful-aimed, watching Alucard’s cock leak liquid with every little thrust. His other leg is still wrapped around Trevor’s waist, foot pressed against the small of Trevor’s back. He can feel Alucard’s toes curl when he thrusts in — they almost tickle.

Alucard’s breathing picks up, faster; he squirms as Trevor rocks into him, so clearly trying to figure out how to get what he likes best. Trevor keeps going, watching Sypha pet Alucard’s hair, and then suddenly Alucard gasps and his hands are on Trevor’s hips, forcing him into stillness while he’s buried to the hilt in Alucard’s ass. Fuck, that’s going to bruise — and then Trevor doesn’t give a shit if it does, because Alucard’s coming all over his own stomach, utterly untouched. And he wanted to do it with Trevor in him, motionless, just to clench around his cock, and holy fuck goddamn.

Alucard,” he pants, somewhere between accusatory and admiring, and nearly bites through his own lip in trying not to come himself.

When Alucard lets go, his hands fall to the mattress like he can no longer hold them up. Trevor rocks into him gently again — not even aiming for the sweet spot this time, not right away — and Alucard squirms back across the bed, shaking his head.

“Mm, no — sorry, sorry, too much, I, sorry —”

“Shh, shhhh,” Sypha reassures him, and leans down to kiss his forehead. His eyelids flutter. Trevor’s already gone still; he pets Alucard’s hip, now, as soothing as he can.

“Hey, it’s fine,” he promises. He’s no charmer, but he’s nowhere near enough of an asshole to say anything else. “Here, want me to pull out?”

Alucard nods, biting his lip, and Trevor grits his teeth and does, making it gentle and slow. Alucard still shudders, chest heaving. He’s still in Sypha’s lap, his hair falling across her thighs.

“Fuck, I should’ve just come,” Trevor blurts, before he can stop himself, and Alucard laughs breathlessly, no mockery in it at all.

“Give me a moment,” he says. A few deep breaths, and he sits up, wincing slightly. “Let me, ah — this shouldn’t feel like much of anything.”

“What’s the point of — oh what the fuck that tickles,” Trevor says, flinching, as a little burst of shimmery motes floats out from Alucard’s hands and over Trevor’s hips, brushing for a moment. When it fades, his cock is perfectly clean. “What the hell, Alucard, warn a guy.” Annoyingly, this has not made him any less hard.

“I apologize,” Alucard says with surprising sincerity; he’s still catching his breath. “I wasn’t thinking.”

“Eh, that’s at least a little my fault,” Trevor admits. “Seriously, though, what was that?”

“Cleaning charm,” Alucard says. “It’s meant for wounds, actually, but — well.”

“Do it again?” Sypha asks, leaning forward.

“If you clean off your stomach I’m making you come all over it again first thing,” Trevor says, and then turns bright red when Alucard’s mouth drops open. “Elp.”

Well,” Alucard says. Thoughtfully, he draws one finger through the mess on his stomach, and then brings it to his lips. Slowly, showily, he licks it clean, all fang and slow slide of the tongue. Trevor’s fingers clench on the blankets before he can stop himself, and a new bead of precome spills down the clean side of his cock.

Alucard’s smile is a wild clash with the flash of blatant seduction; it’s bright and almost boyish, the smile of someone pulling off a brand-new trick for the first time. “I see,” he says. “Well, let me finish the lady’s request first…” Another little burst of silver, this time floating onto the tip of Sypha’s nose and vanishing there. She laughs.

“Oh, good!” she says, and copies the gestures, beaming. The same swirl of motes bursts forth, catching just the pad of Alucard’s finger.

“Hey,” Trevor says, squirming a little. Still really, really hard, over here. “Is this seriously the time?”

“Impatient?” Alucard asks, but he turns back towards Trevor. Reaches out for a moment, then hesitates. “Are you, ah.. I understand if you’re not as nonchalant about the fangs as she is…”

Trevor stares at him as the words sink in, takes another moment to remember how to speak, and says, “You want to blow me.”

“If you’d rather I didn’t,” Alucard says, drawing back a little. His fangs aren’t that big, really — smaller than an ordinary vampires, Trevor’s pretty sure — almost cute. And besides, it’s not like it wouldn’t hurt like all fuck if a normal human bit down on his cock. And he’s so pretty, with that fine delicate mouth, and he’s starting to frown, to pull away like he’s hurt, and —

“Ah, fuck, in for a penny,” Trevor says, and spreads his legs a little further. “C’mere.”

Alucard’s eyes go wide for a second, and then he’s on his hands and knees, crawling between Trevor’s thighs. Trevor can just see his face furrowed up in concentration, which, again, makes Trevor’s heart do something dizzy and helpless. It’s tragically sweet on its own, but even more than that — Sypha did that, too, the first time they tried something new to her. These beautiful scholars, the pair of them, alike in the strangest ways.

Alucard’s tongue laps gently at the head of Trevor’s cock, and that’s the end of Trevor’s ability to think.

“Oh,” Alucard says, startled, muffled between Trevor’s thighs. “Oh, that’s still what you taste like.”

“Of course that’s what I taste like,” Trevor says, not sure if he’s confused because that was confusing or if he’s confused because he’s been hard as hell for roughly the last thousand years.

“Not this,” Alucard says, leaning in close enough that his breath whispers over Trevor’s cock. “That’s — blood doesn’t taste of blood, it tastes of the person’s spirit. Self. So does this. That’s how your blood tasted, to me.”

The reasonable response to this is probably to remember that Trevor is currently fucking a vampire and flee the castle completely. What actually happens is that Trevor makes a desperate little grunting sound deep in his throat and another burst of precome leaks out of him. What happens then is that Alucard leans down and licks it up, slow like Trevor is something to savor.

“That’s fascinating,” Sypha murmurs. She’s been watching; she shifts forward, now, settles her hand at the small of Alucard’s back. It’s not even a sensual touch, it looks like, just kind.

Alucard licks tentatively along the side of Trevor’s cock, quick little flicks turning longer and slow as he gets used to it. He tongues at Trevor’s balls for a moment, making him groan, and Alucard’s little chuckle against the sensitive skin hits his heart and his cock at once. Then Alucard moves back up, eases his mouth over Trevor’s cock. Eases Trevor’s cock between his teeth. Trevor can’t feel the fangs, only the softness of Alucard’s lips, the glorious heat of his mouth, but he still knows they’re there, and that’s kind of a lot. Then Alucard sucks at him, and — shit, okay, Trevor fucked Alucard through two orgasms, no matter how fast he comes in Alucard’s mouth he’s still not embarrassing himself.

Alucard makes a satisfied noise and starts drawing Trevor’s cock deeper into his mouth, inch by inch until Trevor catches his jaw. “Careful there,” he says; his voice is a rasp like he’s the one sucking cock. Alucard pulls off completely — hey — and gives him a look that’s almost disdainful, except for the smile breaking through like sun through a worn-thin curtain.

“Trevor,” he says, and there’s nothing artificial about how pleased with himself he sounds. “A little faith, please.”

“You’ve done this once, I’m trying to keep you from choking yourself here —”

Alucard raises his eyebrows with the poise of a man in a banquet hall and sucks Trevor’s cock down in one stroke until Trevor hits the back of his throat. Trevor has never shut up faster in his goddamn life. Alucard bobs his head a couple of times like he’s making a point, cheeks obscenely hollow, and then makes a soft and thoughtful sound. This time, when Trevor’s cock has filled his mouth, Alucard tilts his head back carefully. For a moment Trevor’s not sure what Alucard is even trying to do, and then it’s not Alucard’s mouth around the head of his cock: it’s the tight clench of Alucard’s throat.

Trevor comes instantly. It’s a fucking whiteout, a lightning strike, he’s done, entire body seizing up. He has no idea what sound he makes. Orgasm just shakes through him and through him and through him, as he comes down Alucard’s throat for what feels like near forever. Alucard swallows around him like it’s easy, like he’s trying to get as much out of him as possible. It’s like nothing Trevor’s ever felt in his life. It’s incredible.

“Holy shit,” he says dazedly, slumping back against the headboard. Alucard just waits there with Trevor’s cock going soft in his throat for another few moments, and then finally lifts his head.

“High tolerance for negative physical stimuli without involuntary reaction,” he says, which is a whole lot of syllables to throw at a man right after you take his cock out of, again, your goddamn throat. “Ergo, no gag reflex. Found that out a few years ago, under much more disgusting circumstances.” He is absolutely, radiantly pleased with himself. “I’m also not ticklish.” He rests his cheek on Trevor’s thigh, and presses a kiss to the oversensitive skin of Trevor’s cock.

“That’s… huh,” Sypha says thoughtfully. Her hand is shifting slowly, almost absently, down Alucard’s back to the curve of his ass. “You’re clearly just as sensitive to some stimulation — what makes the difference?”

“I honestly don’t know, but I’m not going to complain about it,” Alucard says. He tilts his head up a little. “Also, I’ve never actually done that before. At all, I mean.” It’s an almost shy admission, just a little raw.

“Well, that’s just unfair,” Trevor says. “You’re a menace.”

Alucard laughs, glancing over his shoulder to Sypha. He’s still mostly lying in Trevor’s lap. “I actually got his cock in my windpipe,” he explains. “I wasn’t honestly sure it would work.”

“Well done,” she says, raising her eyebrows. “Look, his thigh’s still shaking.”

“I know,” Alucard says happily, “I can feel it.”

“Hey,” Trevor says. “I can hear you.”

“Good, we’re gloating,” Alucard says.

“I don’t think it’s time to gloat just yet,” Sypha says gleefully, and silver puffs out from her fingers, brushing between Alucard’s thighs. He jolts, grabbing thoughtlessly for Trevor’s hand, which — look, Trevor just came so hard he stopped breathing. He can’t be expected to deal with something that sweet, that kind of trust, from Alucard of all people. They’ve come a long and winding way from Gresit.

“Spread your legs a little more for me, Alucard?” Sypha says, almost absently, like just hearing that doesn’t make Trevor squirm against the headboard a little. She’s so straightforward about this, always; she really and honestly believes there’s no shame in any kind of pleasure. Alucard makes a faintly embarrassed noise, but he does as she asks, turning his face into Trevor’s thigh. “There,” she says, settling her hands on the firm curve of his ass. “Tell me if you don’t like it, all right?”

“Mmm?” Alucard asks, sounding confused, and that’s when Sypha lowers her head between his legs and Alucard gasps like she just stole the air from his lungs. Her head bobs, and he arches his back with a sound like a sob. His grip is white-knuckled on Trevor’s hand, like Trevor is holding him back from some wild abyss, and that’s when Trevor figures out what Sypha is doing with her mouth.

“Oh what the hell,” he says, astonished and admiring at once. “That’s a new idea, Sypha, when the fuck did you come up with that?”

“Well, I wasn’t going to do it without that spell of his,” she says, lifting her head enough to wrinkle her nose at him. “I was thinking maybe after a really long bath, but that’s it. Do you want me to try it on you next time?”

Trevor’s skin prickles with heat all over him, at that. He loves her mouth on his cock and he loves her fingers on him, in him, and the idea of her tongue there, between his legs, opening him up — “Yeah,” he says, not even able to flippant about it. “Yeah, that’s, uh, that’s new.”

They’re doing pretty well at fucking Alucard’s brains out, apparently, because he doesn’t say anything sarcastic involving Trevor’s personal hygiene. His eyes are closed, damp around the lashes again.

“Alucard?” Sypha asks, stroking at his thigh again. “Do you like it, sweetheart?”

Alucard nods frantically against Trevor’s thigh, his lips still parted. He doesn’t seem inclined to speak, so, “He says yes,” Trevor reports, and Sypha nods and dives between his thighs again. her fingers dig into his skin as she spreads him open. Alucard actually keens, this time. He has to be sensitive, after all this, maybe still swollen from Trevor’s cock, and with Sypha’s tongue a smooth hot slide over all that — yeah, no wonder he’s right back down to speechlessness again.

Trevor’s never just… held someone as they come apart like this, before tonight. He’s never had the space, the clearness in his own mind, to just watch as someone’s eyes screw shut. The way Alucard bites at his lip, the way he swallows. He’s — well, obviously naked, but he’s utterly unshielded, between them.

He’s beautiful.

Trevor strokes his hair back from his face and watches him pant through it as Sypha licks him open. She’s a genius and a lunatic, this woman. Every once in a while he can see her fingers squeeze Alucard’s ass, unabashed and possessive, and it’s just — she’s so very much herself, all of the time, always. He never could have imagined her. Never could have imagined either of them.

He’s in goddamn love twice over. He’s so screwed.

On the one hand, kind of an appropriate realization to have in bed; on the other hand, he’s watching the woman he adores lick the ass of the bravest man he knows, which he’s pretty sure is more in the line of sodomy than lovemaking.

Well, Trevor is the first Belmont in a few hundred years to occasionally know when he’s been beaten. Maybe every defeat was worth it, to be able to admit that he’s been lost to them for a long time already.

“You’re turning me into a sap,” he says softly, cupping Alucard’s cheek. “Ruining all my good sense.” Alucard, somehow, manages to laugh. “Hey, now, you’re supposed to be too fucked-out to hear me talking.”

“I hear you,” Alucard says. “I — ah! Oh, ah, I —” It’s like speaking set something loose in him, like now that the pleasure got into his voice he can’t hold it back anymore. All breathy desperate little cries. Trevor smooths his hands along Alucard’s shoulders and watches in something like wonder as Alucard squirms against the mattress. And yeah, there they are, he’s pretty sure what he’s seeing when Alucard’s hips stutter like that, when Alucard’s fingers slip desperately on his hand.

“Oooh,” Sypha says, lifting her head. “Was that what I think it was?”

“Looked like it,” Trevor says. Alucard is panting, face still buried in Trevor’s lap, and: “Yeah, I think that was a nod.” He pets Alucard’s hair, scratching a little.

“Alucard, sweetheart, roll over?” Sypha asks, and with an impression of heroic effort, Alucard does. He’s flushed red; there’s fresh come smudged on his stomach, joining the rest of the mess. Trevor’s not sure he’s going to be able to go again before the other two exhaust themselves, but — damn. He’s not getting tired of this any time soon, that’s for sure.

“I can’t feel my knees,” Alucard admits. Sypha laughs.

“Here, then,” she says, gently nudging at him until his leg is crooked up just a little, slightly bent. She moves to straddle his thigh, bracing her hands on his chest. “That was fun,” she says, with an almost conspiratorial grin, and grinds her cunt against him. Alucard makes a choked-off sound.

“Mmm,” Sypha sighs. She’s left a shining streak on Alucard’s thigh, gleaming-wet. She rolls her hips again, hard, throwing her head back.

“I — I can…” Alucard offers, reaching out; Trevor catches his arm.

“She likes this,” he murmurs, leaning down a little closer to be sure Alucard can hear him. “Likes how it feels, likes to get me where I can’t move and then do this. I think she’s just being smug, personally.”

“A little,” she pants, and grinds herself nearly the length of Alucard’s thigh. “Mmm, that’s good.”

“She’ll stop if you want her to,” Trevor promises. “But it’s a hell of a show. Look at how her tits bounce.”

“Oh, I see,” Sypha says, laughing a little. She doesn’t stop moving her hips. It’s hungry, unabashed, chasing her pleasure without the slightest hit of self-consciousness, and, yeah, it makes her tits bounce in a way that he could watch for hours, but also, he just loves the abandon of it.

“They are very nice tits,” Alucard says, propping himself up on his elbows. “Don’t, ah, don’t let me interrupt.”

“Thank you,” Sypha says, with a quick filthy little hitch of her hips. “You have very nice legs for this.” Her voice goes all breathy and desperate with it. Trevor laughs.

“Yeah, I thought so,” he says. Alucard’s cock is twitching valiantly as Sypha grinds against him, and maybe with a little help… “Hey, c’mon, sit up.” He slides his hands under Alucard’s back, coaxes him until he’s at least half-sitting, leaning back against Trevor’s chest. Alucard rocks his thigh up a bit as he sits, pressing up between Sypha’s legs as she rubs herself on him, and she gives a happy little gasp and beams at him.

“There you go,” Trevor says, and reaches forward, wraps his fingers around Alucard’s cock again. The man’s come so many times that his cock is slick with it already. He jerks him a little, and: “Ah, and there you go.” Yeah, a little touch is all it took, though Trevor’s well aware that Sypha’s doing plenty of work here. She can use a man like this and leave him feeling precious, beloved, better than any kind of servicing ever could.

“There you go,” Trevor repeats, working Alucard’s cock, steady and sure. He hooks his chin over Alucard’s shoulder, lets their cheeks rest against each other and lets his eyes fall closed. There’s something deep and dreamlike-peaceful about it: Alucard’s trembling warmth in his arms, Sypha’s appreciative sighs and the slick sound of her working herself on Alucard’s thigh, the heavy fucked-out content weight all through him. And through it all, the rhythm of his hand on Alucard’s cock. Simple and meditative and right.

Eventually, he hears Sypha’s breathing reach a desperate pitch, and blinks his eyes open enough to watch her come. Her hips work frantically against Alucard’s thigh. Trevor lets his hand go slow for a moment so they can both watch as her eyelashes flutter, as she tosses her head and groans in happiness, rubbing her cunt against his skin.

“Beautiful,” Alucard whispers. Trevor laughs and kisses his cheek, on the grounds that they’ve definitely figured out they have him by the balls at this point.

“Damn right,” he says, and goes back to jerking Alucard off. Sypha’s fingers settle over his, between his, until their hands are almost laced together as they stroke him. Alucard moans unabashedly between them, shivering now without strain in it, like he’s letting himself drift in the pleasure. When he comes over their fingers again, it’s nearly clear, a softer slower spill.

“There you go,” Sypha says, and leans in to kiss first Alucard, then Trevor, then Alucard again. “There.”

“Mmmm.” Trevor abandons any last pretense of — well, anything — and rubs his cheek against Alucard’s hair. “Calling it a day, then?”

“Christ,” Alucard says dazedly. “You’re human, you can’t be less exhausted than I am.”

“We did kind of gang up on you,” Sypha admits, and sets her fingertips to Alucard’s jaw, turning his face gently towards her. “Was that all right?”

“Sypha,” Alucard says, and then just laughs, sounding more out of his head than all the brandy got him. “I.” He covers her hand with his; most of his weight is still settled against Trevor’s chest, as if he’s helpless and content to be so. “Ruin me any time you like, you beautiful creature.”

“Hey,” Trevor says petulantly. “I think I helped.”

“Yes, but if I say that to you, you’ll use it as an excuse to drop me in a river.” Alucard’s free hand finds Trevor’s, laces their fingers together. “You… both of you. You are — you are a greater blessing than I could ever have imagined, never mind deserve.”

“You two,” Sypha says with loving disgust, “are the stupidest good men I’ve ever met.” She kisses Alucard again, soft and kind. “We love you too, Alucard. Both of us.”

“Oh, go ahead and rat me out like that,” Trevor grumps. Alucard laughs wetly; he’s crying a little again, shining at the corners of his eyes.

“Yes,” he says. “I — for as long as I live. However long that is.” And, with a stubborn set to his jaw, “Properly.

Boy, there’s a lot in that, isn’t there. “Yeah, you know, I wasn’t worried,” Trevor says, squeezing his hand. And it’s true. Alucard doesn’t have wholesale slaughter in him, and if that’s a kind of faith Trevor never imagined he’d offer to Dracula’s son — well, sometimes Trevor’s an idiot. He’s never claimed anything else.

“Thank you.” Alucard’s eyes are falling closed, now, and he’s been getting slowly heavier in Trevor’s arms. Trevor chuckles.

“We really did wear you out, huh,” he says. It is made slightly less triumphant when he yawns in the middle of it. “Balls.”

“Stay?” Alucard asks, and, softly, “Please? There’s room…”

“Yeah,” Trevor says. “Hey, you have the best bed.” This is complete bullshit even before you take into account that the bed is mostly wet spot. Sypha smiles, knowing and warm, and it makes him want to bury himself under the earth and also to reach out for her and never let her go.

“Blankets, I’m fucking cold,” he says, as a compromise between the options. If his voice comes out a little choked, neither of them calls him on it, Sypha because she is occasionally merciful and Alucard because he is clearly using all his strength to stay awake even this long.

“I may get up and get a book, if I don’t nap as long as you two,” Sypha says, as they negotiate the covers around the three of them — which is a little bit of a process, frankly, especially as Alucard’s past moving. They manage, though. “But I promise I’ll come right back.”

“Mmm.” Alucard nods in vague understanding, and Trevor can’t help but laugh.

“You two,” he says, not even sure what he means, except that they’re both his favorite people that he’s ever met.

“Us three,” Sypha corrects, tugging the blanket so high around her head she looks like a mouse peeking out from the wall.

“Yeah, all right,” Trevor says. Goddammit, he’s not much better off than Alucard after all; his eyes are going closed already. “Us three.”