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Catching Falling Leaves 🍂

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He wakes with a start after dreams force his eyes open, dreams full of fire and smoke and his family’s dying screams ringing in his ears, rising over the burning shell of his childhood home—and it takes him a moment to remember where he is.

Used to nights like these as he is his heart is still hammering, and his ragged breathing is loud in the stillness of the night as he gets his bearings. He just lies there for a while, the world settling back into place around him as newer memories come flooding back from where the past had dammed them, slowly filling the reservoir inside his head with something almost like familiarity. He’s on the road. Sypha and Alucard are with him. They’re going to kill Dracula. The fire was ten years ago.

The campfire they had lit a few hours ago is nearly spent now. A bed of coals glowing a soft, gentle orange is all that’s left of it, casting a ruddy circle of light only a few feet wide. He turns, bare fingers curling on the snow beneath him crumbling in pinpricks of burning cold against his skin, and looks around.

Sypha is asleep somewhere to his left, just outside the circle of firelight; he can see the faint impression of her in the dark, a smudge of shadow among shadows. She’s wrapped herself up in her voluminous Speaker robes, presumably to keep warm, and her breaths are steady and even. The quiet sound of her soft snores reaches his ears from a few paces away, and despite everything he can’t help but find it oddly endearing.

It’s only been five days since they’d left Greşit, and he still isn’t used to this. To… company. Still isn’t used to waking in the middle of the night after nightmares fill his head with fire and blood and seeing someone fast asleep beside him, much less someone who trusts him enough to.

And even stranger is the fact that he falls asleep around them, falls asleep beside them around the campfire after fighting with them and laughing with them and… being with them. That’s the only word that can really describe this, whatever it is that they have. Because they do have something—and it’s strange and slightly discordant and it’s still a little hazy around the edges, but it’s there.

It’s there now too as he watches Sypha sleep for a little while, sees the shallow, even rise and fall of her chest. She’s so unlike the girls he’d known as a child, so unlike anyone he’d known as a child—or anyone he’s known at all. She’s rash and hotheaded and full of fire, both magical as well as the other kind. She laughs at all his worst jokes and shoves at his shoulder whenever he teases her, and her quips back are always thrice as quick and four times as sharp.

And Alucard—God, Alucard. Alucard is quiet and enigmatic and maybe even a little distant sometimes, but whenever he deigns to rise to Trevor’s baits his tongue is sharper than the crack of his whip and his smiles are all teeth. And some days Trevor has found himself laughing and slinging an arm over his shoulders and Alucard doesn’t throw him off, and on especially rare days he leans into it and laughs too, unselfconscious and carefree and right in Trevor’s ear.

For the life of him Trevor doesn’t know which came first. The trusting, or the liking.

He doesn’t know which is worse, either.

“I know you’re awake, Belmont.”

He jumps violently, unprepared for the suddenness of the voice that rings out softly but no less clearly from across the fire. He looks up just as Alucard leans forward into the circle of dull firelight, his loops of fair hair slipping over his shoulders and an unreadable look on his face.

“Jesus, Alucard.” He sighs, letting his head fall back onto the ground as his galloping pulse begins to steady. His breath comes out in clouds of white mist, dissipating into the frigid air a moment later. “Maybe a little forewarning next time you decide to give me a fucking heart attack.”

“I didn’t mean to startle you,” says Alucard. He leans back into the shadows surrounding the wagon, one of whose wheels he’s sitting against, insouciant as ever with one of his long legs drawn up to his chest and the other stretched in front of him carelessly. The dark swallows him up as if eager to swathe him in its inky arms, his eyes glowing an eerie yellow in the dimness like a cat’s.

“How’d you know I was awake, anyway?” Trevor struggles to sit up, wrapping his cloak tighter around his shoulders to stave off the shivers the cold threatens to wring out of him. He scoots closer to what little remains of the fire, holding his icy hands over the coals in a futile attempt to bring some much-needed heat to his fingers, stiff and clumsy and half-numb as they are from the cold.

“Your breathing,” Alucard says simply.

“Right,” Trevor mutters. He still isn’t sure how he feels about knowing Alucard can hear their pulses and feel their breaths like a weight in the air and on his skin, that he can smell their blood and probably imagines ripping their throats open to get a taste of it.

“And your heartbeat,” Alucard goes on. “It sounded as if you were… having trouble sleeping soundly.”

“You can say it, you know.” He blows on his hands to warm them. “I know you’ve worked it out. Sypha has, too, only she isn’t polite enough not to ask outright.”

Alucard cracks the barest of smiles, one that vanishes as quickly as it had appeared. All his smiles are like that, there one moment and then gone the next. Fleeting things that barely curve his mouth before it thins out again into its usual tight, inscrutable line.

Sometimes Trevor wants to chase them, coax them back to Alucard’s lips and keep them there to remind himself that there really is someone there behind those eyes, flinty and unearthly gold and haunted, by ghosts only he can see. Someone who, even as a number of his forebears roll in their graves, is one of the only two people in the world Trevor thinks he might actually trust. Or like. Or, terrifyingly enough, both.

“I wouldn’t want to pry,” Alucard says. “It isn’t my place.”

“Aren’t you curious?”

He only shrugs. “Perhaps my caution outweighs my curiosity.”

Trevor huffs out a laugh, half ironic and entirely humorless. “It’s not like what happened is a secret; the church has certainly taken to bragging about it every chance they get. It’s still fodder for gossip in villages, for peasants to tell to their children as if it’s some kind of fucking bedtime story.”

There’s a few seconds’ silence between them, punctuated only by the low hoots of an owl somewhere in the trees overhead and the quiet sound of Sypha’s snores.

“People,” Alucard says finally, softly, and there’s an unexpected venom behind the word. “They can be so cruel sometimes.”

“Funny, isn’t it, how we’re here to save the people when they’re the reason this has all gone to shit in the first place?” They’re scornful words, but he just sounds tired. Tired and jaded and hollowed out, by years of bitter acquaintance with the uglier side of humanity. “Sometimes I think your father had the right idea. Maybe the world would be better off without us.”

“But you’re here anyway,” Alucard notes. “We face almost certain death in confronting my father. If we do fail, then it is those very people for whom you would die.”

Trevor looks down at his hands, still and unmoving in his lap. “It doesn’t matter. My family, everything they did was to protect the people. Maybe your father is right. Maybe we really do deserve to die. But this—what he’s doing—it’s never the answer. And I’m not going to squander my family’s legacy just because of a petty vendetta. It’s wrong. It’s not what I was taught, and it’s not what I believe, either.”

Alucard merely nods, his eyes reflecting the orange glow of the embers. There’s another few seconds’ pause and they’re both looking at each other and fuck, Trevor just can’t get a read on what he’s thinking, on what he feels about any of it. He doesn’t give him anything, doesn’t give either of them anything.

“Anyway.” Trevor is the first to look away. “What’s done is done. The house is gone now, no matter how many times I see it burn.”

“And now that is our destination,” Alucard observes. He tilts his head ever so slightly. “Is that… exacerbating things?”

“It’s nothing I haven’t dealt with before,” he hears himself say. The lie comes easily to his lips—too easily. He’s used to this, to deflecting questions about what had happened with a casual, forced indifference. Alucard says nothing, still merely looking at him. His gaze seems to pierce straight through Trevor’s artifice and strip away his hastily built pretense, giving him the uneasy feeling that he sees far more than he should.

He stands, suddenly feeling the need to get away from Alucard’s eyes roving over his face, shrewd and far more perspicacious than Trevor is comfortable with. It’s as if he’s studying him, as if Trevor is a book he’s reading and trying to understand.

“I’m going to stretch my legs,” he says, even though Alucard hadn’t asked him why he’d gotten up. “I’ll take the next watch once I get back. I won’t be long.”

He resolutely avoids Alucard’s eye as he moves away from the camp, pausing only to shuck his cloak off his shoulders and drape it over Sypha, curled up on the snow and shivering as she is, knowing she probably needs it more than he does. An involuntary swell of fondness wells up in his chest when she makes a soft, pleased sound and buries herself into the folds of fabric, her shivering breaths evening out.

He heads for where the forest begins, allowing the shadows enveloping the trees to swallow him whole, grateful for the welcome cover of darkness. He feels Alucard’s eyes following him, the weight of his gaze a nearly physical thing on the back of his neck, pins and needles making him tense and hold his breath. A predator stalking his every move until he disappears from view.

It isn’t until he’s sure that he’s out of earshot that he finally allows himself to breathe, stumbling, his back slamming against the cold solidity of a frost-slicked tree. He slides to the ground, closing his eyes, and puts his face in his hands.

The realization creeps up on him when he’s least expecting it.

They’d been ambushed on the road, a pack of night creatures melting from the shadows and onto the road in front of them. It had been unexpected and had very nearly caught them off guard, but battle has become an easy thing between the three of them. Just as easy a thing as time has become, stretching out around them into molasses, heavy and slow and sweet.

It should alarm him how quickly everything had slid into place, bolts and switches and pieces he hadn’t even known were there sliding home snugly whenever he’s with them. Everything becomes comfortable and simple and effortless, battle and conversation and sleep, laughter and looking at them and seeing them looking back. It should alarm him how he’s stopped looking over his shoulder whenever he fights and that he’s laughed more in the last two weeks than he has in the last ten years.

It should alarm him that the sound of their voices chase away the nightmares and it should alarm him that they have rapidly become something that he has gotten used to, a knife whose handle has molded so easily to fit into the palm of his hand that he can’t remember a time when it hadn’t. He’s even beginning to get used to the scent of them; Alucard’s odd combination of leather, fresh rain-soaked earth and sharp sweet pine that’s subtle but rich, and Sypha’s magic layered over her skin heavy and spicy and saccharine, the heady smell of vanilla and cinnamon and lightning filling the air whenever she’s near.

But it doesn’t—and that’s what terrifies him the most.

“Trevor, behind you!”

He whirls, his body reacting almost before his mind does, his arm sweeping forward to cast out his whip. It snakes around the throat of the night creature that had been advancing behind him, and a single unforgiving jerk of his wrist snaps it taut. The tightly braided leather cuts cleanly through skin and bone, severing its head from its body in an explosion of gore. Its headless body collapses, blood pooling from the stump of its neck, metallic crimson beneath the moonlight.

He doesn’t waste a moment, turning back around to face Sypha, her hands raining shards of ice and her face set in a determined grimace. Rolling forward on a shoulder behind the demon that’s bearing down on her he loosens a throwing knife from his belt and slices open the backs of its knees, two quick slashes that gush blood. It buckles, a screech ripping from its throat.

Sidestepping its flailing body he stabs his blade into the night creature’s back, slicing cleanly through its spinal cord. It topples and he uses the momentum to propel himself up and over its body, landing in a neat crouch right next to Sypha.

“Hell of a thank-you.” She grins at him, actually fucking grins at him, with blood on her face and the stench of demon guts in the air and more of them still coming. Her electric, half-mad glee is infectious and he’s grinning back before he even realizes it, their eyes meeting across the haze of blood and smoke between them.

Alucard had vanished into the early morning mist a few minutes ago, but Trevor can hear the clear, metallic ring of his blade and the low hiss that usually accompanies the flash of red that envelops him whenever he moves too fast for the eye to see. There are more than a few night creatures on that side of the camp, but seeing as he and Sypha have their hands more than full the most he can do is hope that the dhampir can hold his own.

“Yeah, well, you know me,” Trevor says. Sypha ducks neatly as his whip darts out, striking another demon directly in the chest. Its skin sizzles as the tongue of consecrated leather meets it, peeling away from its ribs with a crackle. One of Sypha’s ice shards slices into its throat immediately after, killing it instantly. “I like to think my actions speak louder than my words.”

“I’ve noticed,” she pants, spinning around. The four or five night creatures remaining start to converge on them and they both move in unison, locking into position. He isn’t entirely sure how exactly it happens but a moment later they’re both standing back to back and she’s a hard taut line of bone and muscle thrumming with magical energy pressed flush against him, a deadly live wire.

“It’s a wonder my grandfather managed to put up with you for even a day,” he hears her say, out of breath. He feels her where they’re touching all along their backs—feels her voice through his ribs, feels the soft brush of her hair tickling his nape, feels the shift of the muscles in her shoulders as she lifts her arms. It’s startling and unfamiliar in her proximity, and even more so is how good it feels; practiced and easy, like they’ve been fighting together their whole lives and not mere weeks.

“We Speakers tend to favor the contrary,” she goes on, tensing against him; there are only a few night creatures left, advancing slowly in a ring around the two of them, and they’re both beginning to tire.

“Yeah, he mentioned that,” says Trevor, eyes flicking around, scoping out each plausible opening for an attack. “In any case, I’m sure he was very happy to hand me over to you to deal with.” He flips his blade over in his palm, readying his whip.

“I’ll have you know he was equally happy to hand me over to you to deal with.” She laughs, a gleeful crow of delight as she sweeps her arms forward, her robes catching the wind and billowing around her. He feels the hairs on the back of his neck rise, the same way they rise whenever the air charges during a storm just before an explosion of lightning cracks down from the seething sky.

Trevor ducks instinctively as a churning inferno erupts from Sypha’s hands, exploding through the air and tearing into the night creatures. It fissures beneath their hides in cracks of pure energy, devouring them from the inside out in a blaze of gold fire tipped with scarlet. They don’t stand a chance—they burn to crisps within seconds even as they watch, collapsing in charred husks onto the snow.

“Christ, Sypha.” He straightens, looking around, his whip slumping uselessly to the ground. He’s suddenly inordinately glad that the insanely powerful elemental mage is fighting on his side. “You could’ve left some for me to finish off.”

“Where’s the fun in that?” she laughs. She turns towards him, her cheeks flushed a hectic pink and her eyes two bright points of light, the wind catching her hair in its frivolous fingers and teasing it across her face. She’s panting and breathless, but when she smiles at him she looks exhilarated and fierce and beautiful

A soft growl sounds from the other side of the camp and both he and Sypha turn just in time to see the mist shrouding the trees part like a curtain, revealing a blur of white that streaks through the air, coalescing into the form of a massive wolf. Its fur is ivory white—or at least it seems to be, underneath the black and crimson stains smeared all over its pelt. Its strangely familiar golden eyes gleam like twin suns in the darkness and its muzzle is matted with blood, its teeth dripping red. It lopes towards Trevor and Sypha then leaps into the air, launching itself towards them. In midair it shifts with a flash and hits the ground in the form of—

“Alucard!” Sypha drops her hands where they’d been raised defensively, her eyes widening and her eyebrows rising. A moment later they knit into a frown, the surprise on her face melting into a sort of awed confusion. “You… can turn into a wolf,” she says after a moment.

“That’s very observant of you,” Trevor says, looping his whip around his arm. He gets a smack on the shoulder for that, one he rubs at ruefully as Alucard moves toward them, sheathing his blade, which had spun gracefully into his waiting fingers the moment he had held a hand out to call it.

“I can,” he says, coming to a stop beside them. “Among other things.”

“I bet you can turn into a bat, too,” Trevor says resentfully.

“Multiple, actually.” His grin as he turns it on Trevor is all fangs. “And mist.”

“Now you’re just showing off.”

“Would you like to bear witness?”

“Boys,” Sypha chides, putting a hand on both their shoulders and squeezing a bit tighter than is necessary, ignoring their identical squeaks of pain. “Behave.”

She turns to Alucard, worry turning the corners of her lips down. “Alucard, you’re not hurt, are you?” she asks. “We could hardly see you through all the chaos and that fog...”

He blinks down at her, his brows drawing together as he hesitates visibly. Confused and surprised and—and taken aback, Trevor realizes. Taken aback by the total and utter sincerity of the question, of her tone, of the concern in her huge blue eyes as she looks up at him. By the fact that she really seems to care. Something hot and painful twists in Trevor’s chest suddenly; it’s an ache that’s almost entirely new to him, and it takes him a moment to realize what it is.

Bloody fucking hell. He’s really empathizing with a vampire. Is the threat of the end of the world looming over them not enough?

“I’m… I’m fine,” Alucard says, and there’s an unexpected warmth in his voice as he lays a careful hand on Sypha’s arm. It’s chaste and mindful but it’s there, and he makes it look like it’s the easiest thing in the world to just reach out like that, to touch and not fear the consequences.

“I saw what you did to those last few night creatures,” he continues. Trevor sees a touch of pride in his eyes, maybe a little fear, plenty of awe and admiration and—yeah, it’s very likely that that’s how he looks when he looks at Sypha, which is—well. He tries not to dwell too much on that.

“I’ve never seen anyone wield such power with that much skill,” he says. “You were incredible.”

“Oh,” is all Sypha says, and her red, wind-kissed cheeks redden further.

“I almost pitied the night creatures,” Alucard goes on, and she laughs, still blushing. “Alucard, you flatter me.”

“Not at all,” he says smoothly, courteous and charming as ever without so much as a flash of fang in his smile. His hand is still on Sypha’s arm.

And then it occurs to Trevor suddenly as he looks at them like this, a jackrabbit of a thought zigzagging through his head before vanishing, so fleeting it can hardly be called so. Just a suggestion, an abstraction.

They’re good together, he thinks absently.

It’s—unexpected. It’s not an unwelcome realization, because they are. They’re both beautiful and they’re both dangerous in their own ways, Sypha with her bright eyes and earnest smiles who fights as recklessly as if she has something to prove and Alucard’s delicate porcelain looks whose every move is liquid and deadly. They’re both unabashedly bookish and are prone to blathering on and on about things he doesn’t have the faintest idea about but he doesn’t even care because it’s enough to listen to them talk and see their eyes brighten whenever they do. They’re clever and kind and good, and they both burn so bright that no matter how hard he tries he can’t look away from them, and—

And then it hits him almost physically, a swift fist to the jugular cutting off his breath for a moment.


Oh fuck. Not this. Not now.

He had thought, perhaps somewhat naively, that those ten years had hardened him. That they had carved all the softness out of his heart and left him detached and remote, and he would be invulnerable. But ten years is a long time to be alone, and he realizes now that he isn’t invulnerable at all. He’s torn open and raw and bleeding, because they are the blade that has somehow slipped so easily through every chink in his armor to reach the very thing he had hidden away so fiercely.

Sypha and Alucard are good together—far too good for him.

Because Trevor is—he’s nothing. He’s fucked up and broken and he’s been alone for so long that he has nothing to give, nothing to offer them but his fists and his fight. Ten long, lonely years on the road drifting had snatched away most of what little goodness had survived the fire, and the alcohol and abuse had taken the rest. He isn’t noble or valorous or righteous by any stretch of the imagination, and this suicide mission of a quest is all he has left to prove something, to make something out of what he’s become.

Half of him just wants to leave. To turn tail and run because that is all he is good at, that is the only way this might solve itself. Because if he leaves, if he’s gone, then at least he’ll know that he won’t fuck this up. Then, even if they aren’t safe from anything else, at least they’ll be safe from him.

But he can’t. There’s still the rest of this journey to carry out, still Dracula waiting at the end of it all. He has to see this through, for the sake of his family’s honor if nothing else.

Then, after, if they manage to survive this, he’ll leave. He’ll slip away quietly. Then he can fuck off to some godforsaken corner of the country and try to forget them. Maybe in time this will go away, become just another mistake to learn from. Just one more in a long line of regrets.

He hears Sypha’s voice say his name, bringing him sharply and abruptly back to the present. They’re both looking at him, squinting against the brutal gold light of the dawn whose harsh rays are beginning to peek through the trees. It gilds their outlines, limning them in a halo of light that casts their faces in an artful chiaroscuro.

“Are you coming?” she asks, her face upturned towards his. The chill of the early morning midwinter air mists her breath and does nothing to quell the warmth of her fingers as she puts a hand on his arm, and he forces himself not to pull away.

It’s just another few days, he thinks as he looks back at her, his eyes clinging to the full curve of her lower lip and the faint smattering of freckles dusted across the tops of her cheeks. Then I’ll be gone.

And so, as much as he wishes he could say no he says, “Yeah, I’m coming,” and follows them to the wagon and back onto the road.

He doesn’t know how long they stay in the Belmont Hold.

Time starts to bleed into itself almost immediately, turning sticky and meaningless until he can no longer tell day from night. It just becomes one long blur of walking aimlessly through a towering maze of shelves and unearthing weapons tucked away into chests and closets, waking up with his cheek pressed against the pages of a book with a warm black coat that smells like leather and pine needles and petrichor spread over him.

The library is massive, so massive that they could walk for days in different directions and never come across each other, but by some unspoken accord the three of them stay close together anyway. They hover in each other’s orbits and occasionally pause to exchange a brief remark or two, be it to discuss the mechanics of Dracula’s castle or to laugh about any particularly farcical finds, and time drips like water through their fingers.

Alucard and Sypha are in their element, surrounded by books as they are—so many that it’d take twenty lifetimes to read them all. They devour as many as four tomes every day, discussing their contents animatedly and comparing the notes they scrawl onto scraps of paper in languages Trevor has never even heard of. He gives them space, not wanting to impose on the quiet intimacy of them sitting with their heads bent together, speaking softly into the few inches of space between them.

But sometimes he sees them together, arguing good-naturedly with Sypha leaning back against Alucard’s chest and laughing as he uses her back to support a sheaf of paper he’s scribbling furiously on to prove his point, or reading side by side with Alucard watching her fondly, reaching out to tuck that one errant curl of strawberry blonde that falls into her eyes behind her ear and leaning in to kiss her when she looks up to smile at him—and Trevor can’t help but think Of course, of course they’re together; how could they not be?

He always leaves before he can see any more, because he knows there is more—but that is something he is unwilling to play voyeur to.

The three of them spar sometimes, in pairs some days and occasionally all together in the wider open spaces of the lower levels. It’s a distraction, he knows. From the monotony of the research, from the impending confrontation that is sure to test them if it does not kill them. He and Alucard teach Sypha how to fight with a blade, and by the sixth or seventh lesson she manages to disarm Trevor and jab Alucard in the ribs with the makeshift sword Alucard had whittled for her. They don’t hear the end of that one for days.

When the exhaustion inevitably sets in they drag Trevor’s cloak and a dusty old sheet they find into a relatively clean corner and bundle them together into a pile that’s more akin to a nest than anything else. They light candles and sit by their flickering, mellow golden glow and share what meager food they have left, nibbling on hard cheese and bread and strips of dried meat.

Weariness eventually creeps up on them and Trevor tries to make his excuses, to slip away and give them their privacy. But Sypha tugs him back down and refuses to take no for an answer, insisting that he stay until he gives in and allows her to manhandle him onto the blankets between them.

They lie down side by side, elbows and shoulders and hips touching, and look up at the arching ceiling far above their heads. Sleep doesn’t come easily and so to tempt it they take turns talking into the vast open darkness, telling each other stories from Alucard’s childhood and Trevor’s days on the road, tales from the inexhaustible reservoir of information that Sypha has read into her memory. They go back and forth talking and listening until the candles burn low, and lulled by each other’s voices they fall asleep one by one, Sypha and Alucard’s presences on either side of him steady and familiar.

He knows that he should be avoiding them. That it would probably be for the best if he distances himself now rather than make the eventual parting a thousand times more difficult. But some perverse urge makes him seek them out regardless, trying to soak in their nearness as much as he can before this ends.

It isn’t as if this has never happened before; there have been boys and girls in villages and cities in the past, brief infatuations that fizzled out within weeks. But this—this fierce longing that comes with being around Sypha and Alucard—it’s searing and unfamiliar and chafing, like an itch under his skin that he can’t scratch.

He’s sitting cross-legged on the ground by a chest full of weapons, having found a particularly fine blade that’d be a good replacement for the short sword that had met its unfortunate end during his fight with Alucard beneath Greşit. It’s longer than what he’s used to, but it’s a surprisingly light weight in his hand. Its point is still deadly sharp, nicking the pad of his fingertip when he presses it to the end to test it, and the metal is undamaged. It catches the light of the lamps in a bright spark of silver when he holds it up, examining it.

“Hard at work, I see.”

He looks up just as Alucard rounds the corner of the shelf up ahead, his arms full of books. To Trevor’s infinite surprise and faint gratification he sits down right beside him, dumping the books he’d been carrying unceremoniously onto the ground in front of them.

“I thought I’d leave you two to it,” Trevor says, lifting the blade to his eye again. “At least you like books and research.”

“And you don’t?”

“It was never really a burning passion of mine, you know?” he murmurs absently, still absorbed in inspecting the sword. “I was taught my fair share, but I never picked it up as well as my parents hoped.”

“What were they like?” Alucard asks. “Your parents.”

Trevor abandons the blade and turns his head to look at Alucard, frowning. “Why?”

He isn’t sure, but he thinks Alucard might actually be blushing, two faint spots of color high on his cheeks. “Can’t I be curious?”

“I thought you didn’t want to be curious.”

“Maybe I do now.”

Trevor sighs and slides the sword into its sheath, placing it beside him. “They were just—parents, you know? A little strict sometimes, always worried. There isn’t much else I remember about them. I was too young to think of them as anything else but just my parents.”

“Which of them did you resemble most?”

The question catches him off guard. “What? Why?”

He shrugs. “I’m just trying to get a picture of them in my head,” he says. “We’re under their roof, after all.”

“I suppose so.” He tries to remember past the echoes of screams and blood and fire, tries to recall long sun-soaked summer days and the sound of his sisters’ laughter, chandeliers and stained-glass windows and his parents’ faces untouched by smoke and fear.

“I always looked more like my mother,” he says finally. “I got my father’s eyes, though. But since they’re dead it’s technically my roof you’re under,” he realizes. “That—never occurred to me, actually.”

The corner of Alucard’s mouth flicks upward. “Does that mean that Sypha and I are indebted to you for so graciously granting us asylum, Lord Belmont?”

The words startle a laugh out of Trevor. “Maybe it does. I expect you’re both properly grateful.”

“That we are.” He leans back, stretching his legs in front of him. “Even my father doesn’t have this many books in the castle. I’ve never seen so many all in one place before, though the breadth of his knowledge is far wider.”

“The information here is pretty limited,” Trevor concedes, picking up one of the volumes Alucard had brought with him and flipping through it. Another demonology book. “It’s mostly just about killing things.”

“And about my father.” Alucard pokes despondently at another book on the ground. “Though most of that information is inaccurate.”

“Yeah, well. It isn’t like any of my ancestors ever met him. And whichever of them actually did never lived to tell the tale, so it’s based mostly off rumors and folk stories.” He leans his head against the shelf behind him, closing his eyes with a sigh. “If we survive this, maybe we should write a book.”

There’s a loud thump and Trevor’s eyes snap open. He turns, and feels confusion his brows draw together as he realizes the sound had come from Alucard, the book he had clearly just dropped lying facedown on the ground between them. Trevor stares at him and he stares back, his tawny eyes wide and an utterly flummoxed look on his face.

“A book?” he asks blankly.

“Yeah. You know, one with actual facts in it.” Trevor rubs the back of his neck, feeling suddenly and inexplicably embarrassed. “If we manage to make it out of this alive, that is. It’d be a lot more accurate if you add everything you know, which I’m pretty sure is a lot more than anyone else does.”

“I don’t think your ancestors would… take kindly to Dracula’s son adding to the Belmonts’ repository of vampire-hunting knowledge,” Alucard says after a few seconds’ pause, somewhat stiffly.

Trevor blinks, thrown for a moment—because that is both the last thing on his mind as well as the least significant thing he can think of. “Because I care about what a bunch of very dead people think,” he says, nonplussed. “Fuck them, what do they know?”

Alucard goggles at him for a few seconds, then seems to realize it and shuts his mouth with a snap. “I—oh,” he says finally. He looks away, appearing to be fighting a smile, and there it is again—those two pink splotches of color on his cheeks.

“Anyway,” he says, still avoiding Trevor’s eye and looking down to rummage in his coat, “I came here to… ah, give you something.” He pulls out, bewilderingly enough, an apple, which he places on the floor in front of Trevor like a peace offering. Then he stands and clears his throat awkwardly.

“I’ll just—” He raises a hand as if to gesture, then appears to decide against it and half-turns away, still blushing. “I’ll leave you be, then. We’ll be in the upper levels if you… need us,” he says. Then he’s gone, warping away rapidly in a flash of red until only the fuzzy imprint of where he’d been standing remains before that too fades, dissipating into the air with a sigh.

“What the fuck?” Trevor says aloud.

The fight with Dracula goes better than expected, all things considered.

They survive, which he supposes was the whole point of it, albeit coming out of the whole ordeal looking and feeling the worse for wear. They’re all in one piece, though not undamaged; they’re all sporting an impressive collection of cuts and bruises, and the aches set in after dawn.

“Trevor, stay still,” Sypha hisses, grabbing his shoulders and keeping him in place as he squirms away from her fingers, carefully spreading a thick, pungent salve on his chest. “I can’t do this properly if you keep writhing around like a demented serpent.”

“It burns,” he mutters, trying to hold himself as still as possible. “And by all means, prod at my ribs as hard as you like. It isn’t like they’re splintered or anything.”

They’d all heard the loud, telltale cracks of his ribs breaking more than once during the battle, but it was only after Alucard had examined the bruises that had formed as a result and pressed careful hands to his chest to determine the extent of the damage that he’d realized how bad it was.

Alucard had estimated six of Trevor’s ribs were cracked, then unearthed salves and bandages to treat them and dressed the wounds on Sypha’s shoulder deftly before turning and leaving without a word, presumably to be alone with his grief. Trevor and Sypha had let him go, and he thinks they both know he’ll come back when he’s ready. However long it takes.

“Stop being such a baby, Trevor,” Sypha says, still gripping his shoulder with one hand while she smears the salve onto his ribs. “You survived a fight with Dracula himself and here you are whining about ointment.”

“It’s because I survived the fight with Dracula that I’m allowed to whine about this,” he says as Sypha withdraws and starts to unspool the roll of bandages. “It’s a temporary privilege.”

“Hmm.” Her lips curve up into a smirk as her eyes sweep up the length of his bare torso appreciatively. “And I suppose this view is my temporary privilege.”

He chokes on his own breath and only just manages not to start coughing. “Sypha.”

She only laughs, starting to wrap the bandages around his ribs. “Don’t worry, Treffy,” she says. “I’m not going to compromise your virtue. But a girl can hardly be blamed for looking, can she?”

“I, uh—” Fuck. “Hmm.”

“There.” She leans back, having finished wrapping him up, and admires her handiwork. The bandages are snug but not tight, the slight pressure holding his broken ribs in place. It hurts a little to breathe, but he’s had worse.

“Thanks.” He sighs. “How’s your shoulder?”

She glances at it dismissively. “Not bad,” she says, looking back at him. “But it’ll leave scars.”

“Scars that stand testament to the fact that you helped kill Dracula,” he reminds her. “They’ll be reminders of last night, reminders that you fought bravely.”

“I’ve never had scars like these,” she says.

“We can match,” he says halfheartedly, gesturing at the scar through his own eye. She smiles, but it fades as quickly as it had come as she looks down at her hands.

“Do you think he’ll be all right?” she asks after a long silence.

“I don’t know,” Trevor says honestly. “I hope he will.”

Her eyes are unusually bright in the dimness. “Me too.”

She looks small and crumpled and sad and the impulse to take her into his arms is almost overwhelming for a moment, to feel the delicate strength of her against him, feel her heartbeat against his. He wants to hold her so badly it hurts, but he shoves it down and reaches out to take her hand instead. Her fingers lace with his tightly and they both sit like that in silence with their hands entwined till the sun reaches its zenith in the sky.

There’s still a fair amount work to be done, bodies to be cleaned out and provisions from the wagon to be unloaded and stored in the castle. They work together in silence till afternoon wanes into evening, and as night begins to fall the castle grows steadily more eerie, empty and still and lifeless, like a corpse.

Something about the cold dark structure unsettles him, and there’s a bone-deep sadness that seems to pervade the very stones of it, the shadow and echo of earth-shattering loss and grief. A bottomless chasm filled with bitter black water that no amount of light can penetrate. They both sleep in the wagon that night.

He wakes the next morning tangled up in Sypha, her head tucked underneath his chin and her breaths tickling his throat. It’s warm and comfortable and they fit together perfectly, arms and legs having slipped under and over each other, intertwining during the course of the night until he can’t tell where he ends and she begins.

He knows he should pull away. He knows that it’s wrong, that he is not who she has chosen, but instead he shuts his eyes and breathes her in along with the morning. Sweet vanilla and sharp ozone flood his senses in a fragrant cascade, something in his mind sighing Safe-content-familiar-Sypha. He lingers a moment, allowing himself to be selfish for just a little while before he withdraws, untangling his limbs from hers before waking her.

They explore the castle, which looks less macabre with sunlight spilling through the windows, pooling on the hardwood floors and infusing it with warmth. Most of the place is in ruins, but what’s intact has a sort of strange otherworldly beauty to it, like something out of a story told a hundred years from now. They walk through rooms and corridors and libraries, their footsteps echoing off the walls and filling the empty spaces like heartbeats.

It’s almost noon by the time they circle back to the entrance hall, daylight flooding through the open doors along with the smell of a fast-approaching summer. They simply stand in the sun for a while, the buttery warmth of it soaking them all the way through.

“We made it,” Sypha says softly, her eyes locked on the ruins of the manor in the distance. “We actually made it. We saved the world.”

“And nobody apart from us even knows that we did,” he says. “The people have no idea about any of this.”

“I think we should keep it that way, at least for a little while,” Sypha says. “It would be nice to have some quiet before the inevitable chaos of the aftermath.”

“Yeah, it would,” he says, even though he knows that he will most likely be long gone by then.

“Maybe after everything quiets down again I can go and find my caravan,” she says. “I’m planning to read our journey into our memory stores.”

Trevor turns to her, surprised. “Really?”

She raises an eyebrow. “We defeated Dracula and saved humankind, Trevor. Isn’t that something to celebrate and memorialize?”

“I suppose.” He feels a grin tug at his mouth. “Though you might have to embellish things a little.”

“What do you mean?”

“We’re not exactly your typical world-saving heroes, are we?” he asks. “People will be expecting to hear about a selfless, chivalrous and honorable triumvirate and they’ll get a story about the three of us instead.”

Sypha laughs. “And I would not have it any other way,” she says earnestly. “I know that even if I had my pick of a thousand companions, I would choose both of you. Prophecy or no prophecy.”

I would choose you, too, he wants to say, but the words stick in his throat. “We’re missing one right now, though,” he says instead.

“We are,” she agrees quietly.

He wants, suddenly, to tell her the words that have been burning hot and uncomfortable in the back of his throat for weeks now, the words that have kept him up at night and the words that he knows he will regret one way or another; whether he tells them or not. It would be so easy to just say it, three simple words that are so innocuous on their own but strung together can bring down mountains and churn seas and shatter entire universes. But they would only be another burden on her, on both of them—and he has given them enough of those already.

“It’ll be all right,” he says, swallowing the other words. “He’ll come back, and he’ll have you.”

She holds his gaze steadily, a challenge in itself. “He’ll have us,” she says, and an edge creeps into her voice. “Unless you were planning to run away the first chance you get.”

When the anger comes it’s swift and vicious, but unsurprising. “I wasn’t going to run away,” he bites out. “The job is done, that prophecy or whatever it is has been fulfilled, Dracula is dead. You don’t need me here anymore, and I don’t need to be here anymore.”

“So that’s it?” she says, her eyes narrowing dangerously. “That’s all this was to you, that’s all we were to you? Just a job, just a prophecy? And now you’re just going to leave like none of it mattered to you at all?”

No. “Yeah,” he says, forcing himself to sound nonchalant and dispassionate and like he doesn’t care—but he does, too much, and he wants to scream rather than lie like this. But he doesn’t have a choice.

Her jaw tightens. “You’re a fucking coward, Trevor Belmont,” she says, and it’s startling, not because Sypha doesn’t curse but because Sypha doesn’t sound like that, so harsh and cold and angry.

“Do you really want to be away from us that badly?” she asks, and the tremble in her voice isn’t from sadness. “Do you find the idea of being around us so detestable?”

“It isn’t like that,” he says. “You—”

“Because it’s been weeks, Trevor.” Her eyes are shining with unshed tears now. “And all you’ve done is avoid us. It’s like you want nothing to do with us. How do you think that made us feel?”

“I’m not blind, Sypha. I know that you and Alucard are—that you’re—” His hands curl into fists hard enough for his nails to score red half-moons into his palms, but the pain is a distant thing. “I had no intention of intervening.”

“‘Intervening’,” she echoes softly, incredulous. “So that’s it. That’s why—you thought you were being considerate.” She shakes her head. “Trevor Belmont, you are by far the densest, most foolish—”

“What the fuck was I supposed to do?” he says, his voice rising to half a shout. “I left you alone because you two wanted to be alone, because I knew you wanted to be—”

“We didn’t want to be alone,” says a quiet voice from behind them, and they both turn in unison to see Alucard melt from the shadows of the stairs and step into the light spilling into the entrance hall, hair snarled and bruises peeking from beneath the collar of his shirt, his eyes bloodshot with dark shadows smudged beneath them. He looks like hell and heartbreak.

“We didn’t want to be alone,” he repeats, stepping forward. “We wanted to be with you.”

“You—” His brain shuts off mid-sentence. “What?”

“Was it that impossible to fathom?” Alucard asks, taking his place on Trevor’s other side. “I thought we were quite obvious.”

“What,” he says again, only this time it comes out a strangled whisper.

“We—we sought you out for weeks,” Sypha says quietly. “We thought you’d noticed, and we thought—”

“We thought you didn’t want us,” says Alucard. “You kept leaving, kept refusing to see that we were pursuing you, so we thought it best to leave you be.”

“You…” His tongue feels thick and heavy, too weighted to wrangle into coherency. He thinks of those days on the road, Sypha’s magic and Alucard’s sword raised without a second thought to protect him, flaying apart every demon that got too close. He thinks of waking up in the Belmont Hold with Alucard’s coat tucked around his shoulders, of Sypha insisting that he sleep beside them every night. He thinks of how Alucard’s hands would find excuses to rest on his arm, his shoulder, his back, of Sypha laying her head on his shoulder whenever they sat beside each other and that stupid fucking apple Alucard had laid in front of him that day with all the gravity of a suitor giving his lover flowers, and then—then it all slides home.

“Me?” is all he manages to get out.

“At long last, epiphany strikes,” Alucard says drily, but there’s no bite behind the words. “Of course, you.”

“I… both of you?”

“Yes, Trevor, both of us,” Sypha says, putting a careful hand on his arm. “Is that all right? I know it’s… unusual, and we don’t have to unless you don’t want—”

“No.” He can’t get the word out fast enough, and it’s desperate and scrapes past his throat in half a rasp.

Her eyes are shining, a rosy flush spreading across her cheeks, and she’s never looked more beautiful than she does in this one moment. “So you’ll have us?”

He drags in a breath and clutches her back, and hopes to God that he doesn’t fuck this up—and then he says, “Yes.”

They both smile at him then, and something in his chest seizes helplessly at the sight. Fucking hell—he’s really in love twice over. God, he is so fucked.

“So,” Sypha says softly, “what do you want, Trevor?”

He’s going to have to get used to being asked that question, and there is no other problem he would rather have. It is the best sort of realization.

There is too much he wants, but there will be time enough to ask. For now, though— “Kiss me?” he ventures cautiously.

It isn’t Sypha who kisses him.

Alucard’s lips are warm and soft and slightly chapped, and his hand as it reaches up to cup Trevor’s cheek is gentle and careful. Trevor can feel the smooth hard length of his fangs pressed against his mouth when Alucard parts his lips, tilting his head to avoid catching Trevor’s skin on their points. His own hand comes to rest on the back of Alucard’s neck, tangling in his hair as his eyes drift shut. The kiss is slow and unhurried and tastes of ashes and blood and dust, but in that moment Trevor has never tasted anything sweeter.

They break apart slowly, and Alucard’s eyes as they open are the same color as the sunlight and ten times as warm. His thumb runs carefully along Trevor’s lower lip, and the look on his face is soft and adoring and it’s definitely something, to be looked at by Alucard like that.

“I certainly prefer this to our usual bickering,” he murmurs.

“Me too.” He tries to go in for another kiss but a pair of small warm hands come to rest on his waist, turning him away from Alucard. “Oh no, you don’t. It’s my turn,” Sypha says, pulling him closer. She’s all luminous eyes and flyaway hair and God, she’s beautiful.

He says as much, breathed out against her mouth when she kisses him, tugging him down as her arms go around his neck. She kisses like she fights, uncompromising and fierce, nipping at his lips in demanding caresses until he parts them for her. He allows her tongue to stroke into his mouth, searching and tasting and taking. He tries to keep up, letting his hands go where they’ve been starving to for so long, sliding up the delicate upward sweep of her back and into her hair.

He doesn’t know how long the three of them stand there like that, entwined and trading kisses in the sunlit entrance hall, Trevor in between Sypha and Alucard. It’s almost surreal, a perfect little pocket of bliss akin to the hazy, halcyon fantasies his mind would conjure up while he watched them across the fire, smoke in his lungs and a heaviness in his chest that he thinks is lightening with every moment that passes.

Eventually they retire to the back of the wagon, pulling a sheet over the open end to gain some semblance of privacy. Their hands are deft on his clothes but careful on his body, and he ends up on his back with two hands on his shoulders and two on his thighs pinning him down and a tongue in his mouth, the delicious sting of teeth at his throat leaving bruises. It renders him unable to do anything but tip his head back and look up at the ceiling wheeling and spinning above him and think that this cannot possibly be happening, people don’t get things they want like this.

He gives up thinking after that, and everything dissolves into a blur of impressions and suggestions, the taste and feeling of them filling him until he can’t even tell himself from them the longer they wind themselves around each other like intricate thread. All he remembers of it is breath and skin and touch, the murmured promises and whispered confessions lovers make in the space between each other’s lips.

After, they doze in each other’s arms until evening springs into the sky in hues of orange and red and pink, the chill beginning to permeate the air coaxing them back into their clothes. They start back toward the castle and begin to talk about what to do next, about what the future will hold. Trevor lingers a moment at the ruined gates of what had once been his home as Alucard and Sypha go on ahead, taking the time to remember, to regret, to mourn a little. To say goodbye.

He turns away and sees Alucard and Sypha standing together by the castle steps. They catch sight of him and smile, calling his name and beckoning him forward.

And Trevor smiles back, not glancing backward as he makes his way towards the castle to join them.