Title: Under the Milky Way
Author: bnomiko
Rating: NC-17
Pairing(s): Trevor + Sypha + Alucard, Trevor + Sypha, Sypha + Alucard, Trevor x Alucard
Spoilers: through the end of S3 + through S4
Disclaimer: "Under the Milky Way" is performed and recorded by The Church. "Cuts You Up" is performed and recorded by Peter Murphy. Castlevania is the creation and property of Konami. Castlevania (animated series) is the creation and property of Netflix. This is a not-for-profit fanwork and I do not own any of these characters.
Summary: After the events of Lindenfeld, all Trevor and Sypha wanted was to return to the closest thing they had to "home," but Alucard has not fared well in their absence. "You wanted to save the world, remember?" " He also needed it. He needed us." Post S3 + S4 animation canon based.
Archived at: http://www.phenixsol.com/Miko/FF/

* * *

Under the Milky Way

Ch. 16: You lift me up
And get me out
Keep me walking
But never shout

* * *

It was getting to be very late in the night, and Sypha found herself nodding off despite her best efforts to stay awake. She told herself she was only staying up to make sure there was no further trouble, but the reality was she was reluctant to sleep, afraid of where nightmares might take her. Plus, she was worried about Adrian and wanted to wait up for him. But it had been such a long night and day, and she was beyond exhausted...

She didn't know when the half-vampire would be back - or if he'd come back at all that night. She'd heard the high pitched chirps of bats earlier and assumed he'd switched forms again to continue his search.

Closing the book that she'd been trying - and failing - to read, she was just about give in and blow the bedside candle out when she heard the familiar sound of chains jangling and scraping as if they were being dragged on the ground...

It was impossible. It had to be a ghost. She sprang out of bed anyway, darting for the door and throwing it open.

In the relative darkness of the hallway Adrian almost looked like a specter, his pale skin and hair nearly glowing against his black clothing and the backdrop of shadows. Startled, Sypha conjured up a light and found her ghost: Adrian had been dragging the Morning Star behind him, using his sword to carry it.

Sypha met his gaze, and he immediately averted it. "This... was all I could find," Adrian said, letting both weapons drop to the floor with a clatter. He was swaying slightly on his feet, with bits of debris sticking to his clothing and hair and heavy shadows under half-lidded eyes.

The redhead swallowed. She bent down to pick up the whip, coiling up the cold length of links mindlessly. It was heavier than she remembered. "I... we can try again tomorrow, okay? I'll come with you," she suggested, before she realized that Adrian might take her words as criticism that he hadn't tried hard enough, when all she'd been trying to do was offer aid.

Sure enough, Adrian sighed and said, "I combed through every bit of rubble at least three times. I scent tracked, I tried echolocation. I even found this," and he pulled off a badly shredded glove to display a battered platinum ring seated at the base of his thumb. Sypha's lips tightened but she didn't comment on it, nor did she make mention of the multiple oval burn marks on his hands, a silent explanation for why he'd been using his sword to carry the Morning Star instead of his hands. "I extended my search out for over a mile in every direction, but still... The only thing I can think of is the blast simply oblit..."

She didn't want to hear it. "Adrian. Why don't you get washed up, then come to bed?"

He hesitated a moment, but finally his shoulders slumped, and he shuffled past her and disappeared into the bathroom.

Sypha looked down at the chain whip in her hands, and sighed heavily. If this truly was all that was left... well, they couldn't exactly bury it. She would not force her child to take on the Belmont legacy, but it was rightfully theirs if they wanted it. But for the time being, the best she could do was stash the Morning Star somewhere in the spare bedroom so Adrian wouldn't accidentally touch it again.

Once that task was completed, Sypha grabbed a fresh nightshirt from the armoire, then approached the closed bathroom door, frowning. She wasn't ready to talk about the myriad of things she was feeling, but she couldn't just leave Adrian alone to wallow in his misery either. It wasn't just Trevor; he'd watched his father and mother's souls forcibly dragged back into this world only to lose them again, without having a chance to say a single word to them.

"Mind if I join you?" she asked softly as she pushed open the bathroom door.

Adrian was sitting on his usual stool, wet and naked, completely still except for his fingers which repetitively rotated his father's ring around his left thumb as he stared somewhere between the wall and floor. He didn't appear to have heard her, so she approached and gently placed a hand on his shoulder, avoiding the fading bruise there. "Adrian?"

He started, looking up at her with wide eyes.

She gave him a small, careful smile, then crouched down at his side, taking his hands into hers. The burns were worse than she originally thought, and he had small, half-healed cuts all over his palms as well. He'd said he'd gone through the rubble three times over; apparently he'd meant it literally. Durable as he was, all that digging had taken a toll.

"It'll heal soon enough," he said listlessly, seeing what she was looking at.

"I hope so," she answered, lightly thumbing over one of the burns, her eyes sliding over the marks on his wrists before returning to the newer injuries. "Want some help washing up?" she asked, figuring his hands probably hurt.

He seemed reluctant to grant permission at first, and she wondered if she'd crossed a line, but then he sighed and gave a nod.

She grabbed some soap and began lathering it up, running it over his back, chest, and arms, then his thighs and calves, before rinsing it all off with warm water. She couldn't help noticing he had a few additional bruises on his back, likely from falling debris, and his feet were cut up too, probably from traveling over sharp rocks in his wolf form. It was only when she began working on his hair that she remembered... this was what Trevor liked doing, always looking for an excuse to get his hands in Adrian's hair, until it got to the point that it was just a normal, everyday thing.

... But there was no normal anymore.

A sob caught in her throat. Not wanting to use Adrian's hair as a handkerchief, she could only stand there and silently let the tears run down her face as she clung to his tresses, unable to resume what she'd beens doing, unable to let go either.

Adrian slowly turned to her, his brows drawing together. Seeing her crying nearly pushed him over the edge, but he held it in as tightly as he could, feeling he didn't have the right to do so when she was obviously in such distress. "I'm sorry. I failed," he whispered. His chest hurt.

Sypha leaned down and wrapped her arms around his shoulders, not caring that it was getting her wet too. "You didn't. Never."

Adrian shook his head. Although he understood why Trevor had told him to take Sypha and go, how could he possibly face Trevor's child later on, knowing he'd left their father to die alone in battle? And then to not even be able to give him a proper burial... "At the very least... I wanted to bring him home."

"I know." She rubbed his shoulders, trying to warm him up.

"... I'm sorry," he repeated, helplessly.

"Don't be. Please."

"He said he loved us. I couldn't think of a single thing to say in return. Why couldn't I?" Adrian pondered aloud. His lips twisted. "Yesterday morning, he wanted to be intimate. And I refused him. He said he'd be good and wait..." He suddenly laughed, bitterly, then rubbed tiredly at his face. "He loved me, and I didn't do a single damn thing to deserve it."

"That's... that's not how it works. Adrian..." she choked out, mindlessly stroking his face. It was hard enough losing Trevor. She couldn't have Adrian spiraling back down into his bottomless sadness on top of that; just as before, she worried she wasn't going to be able to pull him out of it alone.

"I should've let him. He just wanted to play around. It was harmless. But I thought about what you said so I told him no," the blond rambled on, his shoulders trembling, his voice wavering. "I regret it. I regret everything. The way we handled the attack - we knew there was a good possibility it would happen, but I didn't want all these people housed in here; we could've saved more people, perhaps prevented the ritual from happening in the first place, if I'd only agreed to it. And the fact that Trevor had to destroy that... that abomination that trapped my parents' souls, because... I couldn't do it. Then he went on to face Death alone, in the condition he was in. I knew he was struggling. I could've made it up to that platform. You could've made it down to safety without me, I believe that. But he wanted to make sure of it. How could I refuse him when he entrusted the future to me?"

Sypha bit down on her lip. She wanted to tell him it was all right, that he'd done the right thing, but she couldn't help but agree with Adrian - she would've made it to safety without him. Maybe Trevor would still be here if Adrian had joined him. Or maybe... she would've lost them both. And that, she was sure, was the real reason Trevor had made his request: to protect the both of them.

"He had a plan. And it didn't involve either one of us," she finally said in a small voice, leaning into Adrian a little more, disregarding the cool dampness of his skin and hair.

"A plan..." Adrian scoffed, "to sacrifice himself, like that was all his life was good for. Like he didn't matter at all." Anger bubbled up, warring with sorrow and guilt... and the knowledge that he'd have done the exact same thing, if only their positions had been reversed. "'I love you' my ass. You knew what you were doing, you bastard," he muttered before burying his face in his hands, fingers gripping heedlessly at his hair, unable to hold back the tears any longer. Nothing had prepared him for how badly it hurt to go through this - to have someone give you a piece of their heart and ask for yours in return, only to have it all fall and shatter on the ground like rubble raining down from an explosion... Was this anything like what his father had felt when his mother had died?

Adrian's crying was always too painful to watch. If Sypha hadn't been heartbroken already, seeing that would've been a fatal blow; as it was, she couldn't stop more tears from spilling forth in response to his.

For the next several minutes the only sounds in the room were jagged gasps of breaths and wretched, wet, hiccuping sobs, punctuated by the occasional drip of water on the stone floor, until the Speaker pulled herself together enough to realize that shivering on the floor of the bathroom wasn't doing either of them any favors. She forced herself to her feet, then rubbed at Adrian's back. "We're both tired and cold and... and neither of us should be alone. Please, will you come to bed?"

For a moment Adrian wished he was back in Gresit, just so he could throw himself back in his coffin and shut out the world, pretending to have never woken up in the first place. But that wouldn't change anything. It didn't fix anything. And no matter if Trevor's decision made him mad, or sad, or both at the same time, their beloved Speaker didn't deserve to be left standing miserably in the middle of a bathroom.

His throat hurt too much to speak, so he simply nodded.

Sypha brought over some towels and the nightshirt, helped him dry off and get dressed, then took him by the hand and led him back to their bedroom, pushing the door open with her shoulder. Adrian jerked back and balked like a spooked horse as soon as the door opened, his hand slapping over his nose and mouth in futility as an almost canid whine escaped his throat. Trevor's scent permeated the entire room; from the hallway it had been tolerable enough to push aside and ignore, but now it was like he was being bludgeoned with it. There was no way he could handle sleeping in the bed they'd been sharing.

Sypha was startled at first, but she quickly realized why Adrian had reacted that way - what was warm familiarity to her was harsh and even overwhelming to his heightened senses. It hadn't bothered her at all; it might've even have been comforting, as she'd been sitting and reading on what had been Trevor's side of the bed, leaning against his pillow.

They had to find somewhere to sleep, but was there any room that Trevor hadn't been in at one point or another?

She shut the door and looked up at Adrian. "Wherever you need to go is fine. Just take me with you."

He managed to nod, then began swiftly walking away from the room, heading down a series of smaller hallways to skirt around the back of the castle, avoiding the villagers sheltered in the entrance. Eventually they found themselves back in the larger guest wing that had once housed a vampire army. Adrian led the way upstairs to the bigger suites, then picked one seemingly at random that was clean and intact. Sypha had to assume she and Trevor hadn't "tested" this particular bed out, or Adrian would've chosen a different one.

"It's a little cold in here," Sypha commented. It didn't help that they were only in short linen sleeping shifts and her sleeves had gotten damp, and that they had to keep the door open in case of any alarm from the people sheltering below.

"I suppose," Adrian rasped. His hair was still wet enough to stick to his shirt, but the chill didn't get to him the same way. Still, he wasn't unsympathetic to her discomfort. He had turned off the heat in this part of the castle given that it had been unoccupied; it would take some time to heat back up if he went and turned it on now. It'd be faster to get a fire going, but when he looked at the hearth, there was no kindling there either. "I can go get some wood if you wish."

She shook her head, staring at the bed. At this point she just wanted to pass out and not think about anything else. Without another word she pulled back the covers and crawled in, leaving the corner drawn back for Adrian to slip in behind her. He followed her lead, climbing in and curling up against her back in the middle of the bed, gently rubbing her upper arms to try and warm her up a little.

Sypha was asleep in a matter of moments, her breaths slightly uneven from the congestion in her nose. Adrian tried to follow suit, but his mind was just too active to allow him to rest, no matter how worn out his body felt. He felt guilty lying down in a comfortable bed instead of continuing to search, no matter how futile it seemed. But he didn't get up. Trevor had entrusted him with Sypha and the future of his clan. Even if he couldn't sleep, he had to keep her warm at the very least.

He buried his face in her hair and tried to push out Trevor's last minute declaration of love as it rang repeatedly in his ears, with nothing in the silent stillness to mute it. "We love you, too," he mouthed, only feeling safe enough to say it now that no one would hear it. When had he become such a useless coward?

* * *

Sypha awoke the next morning slightly disoriented. Her groggy waking mind first told her that the body spooned up against hers had to be Trevor; nothing had happened to him, the castle hadn't been attacked... it had all been a bad dream. But she didn't recognize the bedroom - had they stopped at an inn? They weren't in the wagon, that was for sure. And Trevor didn't have long, flaxen hair or pale skin...

She couldn't still the wet gasp that bubbled into her throat, as awareness came rushing back in. Oh... Trevor...

She quickly rolled over, almost wanting to yell at Adrian that it wasn't a nightmare; how could he sleep at a time like this?! But one look at his pinched expression as he slept killed the words on her tongue. She wasn't the only one suffering - he was in as much pain as she was.

It was impossible to tell what time it was since the slit windows on this side of the castle were designed to let in only small amounts of diffused, refracted light. All she could tell was it was daytime. But still, it was unusual to wake up before the half-vampire, no matter how early it was. And even with her restlessly shifting about, he didn't stir or awaken as he normally would've... that's how much he must've exhausted himself from his many hours of searching the previous day.

She hesitantly ran her fingers down the side of his face, tracing the high cheekbones with her thumb, then reaching back up to rub lightly at the creasing between his brows. Was it better to wake him and break him out of the grip of his nightmare? Or was being forced to confront reality a far worse thing? She hated to admit it, but she was pretty hungry. If she got up, would that wake him? Or worse yet, would it not, meaning she was running the risk of him waking up alone, and in an unfamiliar room?

Still wavering, the decision was made for her when her stomach rumbled loudly in complaint, causing Adrian's eyes to fly open. He looked momentarily confused, but his gaze quickly sharpened as he took in her face. She wondered what sort of expression she was giving him...

"Sorry, I did not mean to wake you," she said, kissing his nose before resting her forehead against his.

He let the affection wash over him for a heartbeat or two, a momentary balm for the ache in his heart, then pulled away. "It's late, isn't it?" He pushed himself upright, despite feeling like he hadn't gotten any rest at all. But if Sypha was hungry, he needed to remedy that. "I'll go make breakfast. You can rest a bit longer if you wish, I'll bring it back here."

Breakfast in bed was always a nice treat, but she knew that wasn't why he was offering. "Are you going to be okay in the kitchen?" How long did human scents linger for anyhow? She'd never thought about it before.

It also occurred to her that he'd gone to bed with injuries, mostly to his hands, but after a quick examination she was relieved to see that they had mostly healed up overnight, with the burns still a little discolored, but nothing more than that.

Adrian managed to curve his lips into a slight smile as he slipped his hands out of her grasp, but did not answer the question. "I'll be right back."

Sypha obediently lay back down for a few minutes, then realized that not only was she not going to be able to go back to sleep, she wasn't accomplishing anything by lying there either. At the very least, she ought to go help Adrian cobble together a meal, and then they could eat wherever he wanted.

She tried to retrace the route they'd taken the night before in case any of the refugees were still inside the castle, as she was clad only in a nightshirt. She took two wrong turns but finally managed to find her way back to the bedroom to get dressed. She threw open the windows to air out the room, in hopes that one day they'd be able to return to using it again, before heading down to the kitchen.

The fact that the room was a mess was no surprise - the dining table had been overturned, some items on the counter had gotten knocked over... there was even a night creature's corpse stiffly sticking out of the pantry door. Adrian was still in his nightshirt and standing by the counter, slightly hunched over, seemingly caught up in his own thoughts to the point that he hadn't noticed the Speaker walking in, but when she stepped to his side to let him know she was there, she understood why.

Adrian was cradling the little ragdoll he'd made of Trevor. It had survived the attack... mostly. One spoon "arm" had been torn off and the opposing button "eye" was also missing. There were a couple of stains of indeterminate origin on the tunic. The Sypha doll sitting at the edge of the sink was in better shape, with just one arm slightly bent.

Sypha - the real one - carefully placed a hand on Adrian's forearm. Her other hand went to cup the Trevor doll's head, gently fingering the twisted dark brown cording that served as hair. She leaned against Adrian's shoulder, sighing softly. At least the half-vampire wasn't crying, but he looked completely lost in his thoughts.

"I'm sorry, I said I'd bring you breakfast," he finally said, unable to swallow down the lump that kept lodging in his throat.

"It's all right. Let me help you with it. Or should I start cleaning up instead?"

Adrian's head jerked up slightly, as if he'd only just realized the state of the kitchen. "I can't do that to you." He looked around, then handed the Trevor doll to Sypha as he quickly righted the table, moved it back to its regular spot, and pulled over a chair out for her. "I'll make something that's quick. Ham, cheese... maybe some eggs?"

"That's fine."

Adrian nodded and turned and disappeared into the pantry, floating over the corpse like it was nothing more exciting than a rock.

The redhead sat down and looked at the doll in her hands, then carefully placed it in the middle of the table where it previously sat. Even with the damage, it was still unmistakably Trevor's likeness. She went to the sink and picked up her doll as well, carefully bent the arm back into position, and put it next to Trevor's. Then, with Adrian distracted, she started tidying up. The vase that once held the flowers Trevor had picked had shattered, so she began sweeping up the broken shards.

"Sypha, you don't need to do that. I'll take care of it later," Adrian said as he returned with the pantry goods, plus a bottle of wine that he tried to subtly tuck into a back corner. Sypha frowned. "Please, sit."

It was just as annoying from him as it had been from Trevor - being treated like she was breakable, when he was the one with the lousy coping mechanism. "There's a difference between pregnant and incapable," she pointed out, not wanting to tread over this territory again. She wasn't even showing yet! How bad was it going to get when she had a noticeable belly?

"I promised to take care of you and the baby," he stubbornly reminded her.

"And you are," she reassured him, doing her best to sound reasonable and not irritated and snappish. "But you wouldn't like it if our roles were reversed and I told you to simply sit here and do nothing, would you?"

He stared at her for a long moment, and she thought maybe she'd gotten through to him, but then his face started crumpling and she had to quickly rush over to soothe him, stroking his cheek and resting her other hand over his heart. "I know you're trying and I appreciate it, I really do. But trust me to know my own limits. I promise to not do anything reckless. This child means everything to me."

Adrian's lower lip trembled, but he held it in with some effort. He dipped his head slightly in acknowledgment, then placed a kiss on top of her head. "I did not intend to belittle you. I apologize."

Compassion softened her big blue eyes. "It's all right. Just... let me help. And I will ask for yours when I need it too."

He nodded, feeling slightly better. Whatever he could do for her, he would.

"Actually there is something I'd like you to do with me after we eat, if it's all right with you," Sypha said thoughtfully.

"Of course. Anything at all."

"... But for now," and she looked about, then settled her gaze back on Adrian, "while you start breakfast, I'm going to bring you a change of clothes. Don't run off before then. And then I'll get back to cleaning up in here."

He still wanted to say no, he'd do it, all of it, but his mouth said, "Yes," because that would please her.

She could tell he was still struggling with wanting to smother her with his overprotectiveness, but his effort to minimize it was what counted. With no further protest being voiced, she hurried to fetch some clothing before he decided the need for fresh eggs for breakfast was more pressing than his need for modesty.

* * *

After they ate, they cleaned up the kitchen so that it was at least presentable, with no more dead bodies in the doorways. Finally stepping outside, it became clear that it was much later in the day than they would've liked, but Sypha's planned activity wasn't going to be time intensive. The emotional toll it could take was a different matter entirely.

She led Adrian to the ruins of the Belmont estate. He was clearly uncomfortable being there at the moment, was perhaps even a bit jumpy, like he was expecting the spirits of Trevor's ancestors to show up and berate him for his failure.

"Why are we here?" he finally had to ask, his voice a bare whisper.

"Yesterday afternoon, the villagers buried their dead. They offered to put up a marker for Trevor, but I think..." She looked off in the distance somewhere. "Remember the tree he pointed out on the way in, the one he said he played in as a child?"

"Vaguely." Adrian hadn't been paying much attention at the time, but he thought he remembered them passing by a dead tree, split down the middle from a lightning strike.

"I doubt his family got a proper burial. So I thought that maybe we could put the gravestone there, for all of them. And I was hoping we could find something here that would be appropriate, with the Belmont crest."

Adrian glanced around at the rubble. Since the Belmonts liberally put their mark on most everything, that sounded doable. "All right. Let's have a look then." He paused, then added in a lower tone of voice, "I do ask that you not go around lifting large stones."

She quirked a smile at him. "Why do you think I asked for your help?"

It didn't take long to find a suitable marker: a rectangular stone with the crest on the face and a cross on top - despite the accusations and persecution, they'd been a proper God fearing family. It was perhaps a piece of the low wall surrounding the drive in front of the property, or maybe from a decorative pillar in the garden. Either way, it was large enough to do the job, small enough to not be obnoxious, and the carving was in good shape.

They followed the road from the house and found the tree without issue. Adrian set the stone so that it faced the road, straddling the two damaged halves of the trunk, then straightened back up with some effort, his shoulders tensing up. He took a shaky breath, then another. Somehow seeing the marker nestled there in the grass, with flowers blooming on a twining vine growing from the damaged trunk above, just made things seem so... final.

Sypha immediately took hold of Adrian's arm, squeezing it. Her breathing was just as uneven as his. "Should we say something?" she asked softly, her vision starting to blur.

Adrian's head drooped. He hadn't been able to think of what to say when faced with Trevor's confession. He wasn't able to think of anything now, facing his grave.

"I suppose he'd know, wouldn't he, even if we didn't?" Sypha added, trying to give him an out, if he needed it.

Adrian nodded without thinking about whether that was true or not. He'd read about how different cultures and religions viewed things like the afterlife, but in an academic sense; he'd never actually given thought to which, if any, were right.

"There is... something I'd like to do," he finally decided. "But I need to return to the castle first."

"Then if it's all right, I'd like to stay here." The Speaker crouched down and idly plucked a long blade of grass, then flicked it away. She stared at the crest. "Maybe I do have things to say. But I'm not going to be nice about it," she complained, trying to sound tough while blinking away the mistiness in her eyes.

She wanted a little privacy. That was her right. Adrian briefly brushed his fingers over her curls, then excused himself. Maybe a short walk was just the thing to help him unearth the words he was looking for.

* * *

Sypha uncurled herself from the little ball she'd tucked herself into at the sound of approaching footsteps, and began instinctively swiping at her face with her sleeve. Thankfully the surviving refugees had better things to do than wander around the old Belmont grounds, and she'd recognize those light steps anywhere.

Adrian had returned, with a... tankard?


"Yes." He held it out for her to inspect. It was pretty full. She was almost surprised to find that he hadn't drunk half of it on the way over... or maybe he'd helped himself to some before coming back, as she was pretty sure as she could smell it on him too. It was easier to pretend he had simply spilled it on himself, even if she knew better than that. "I think he'd appreciate this more than almost anything else," Adrian mused.

"It's better than sex..." Sypha muttered. When Adrian quirked a brow at her, uncertain if he'd heard correctly, she gave an exasperated sigh and said, "Did you know that that idiot professed his love to a barkeep before he did to us?"

"... Wait, what?"

"It's... it's a stupid story. It's all because of a free beer. Only Trevor values beer that highly."

Adrian looked down at the foamy beverage. "Did you at least make him sleep alone in the wagon after that?"

"No. But I did freeze his beer into a nice, solid block."

The blond couldn't help but chuckle. He could almost imagine Trevor's expression of horror when he'd realized what had happened. "I wish I could've seen it."

"Me too. I mean, I wish you'd been there. Or that we'd been here." She sighed. Too late to pretend she hadn't said it like that.

Adrian could only nod, his momentary amusement gone. He still wasn't exactly sure what he should say, but perhaps the words themselves didn't matter, just the feelings behind them. So after taking in a deep breath, he began to slowly pour out the contents of the mug onto the gravestone. "Here's one last drink, you ill mannered, foul-mouthed, horny bastard. Be happy this one isn't frozen. You have a lot of nerve running off and dying on us."

Despite the situation, Sypha couldn't help but smile through her tears as she stood up and wrapped her arms around Adrian's waist, leaning against his solid chest. He settled his arm around her shoulders. "We don't have anything nice to say, do we?" she asked.

"Well... I'm still kind of mad," Adrian admitting, pausing in his pouring. "Did you call him a bastard as well?"

Sypha thought back to her ramblings while the blond was away. A lot of it had been an outpouring of guilt - she'd trusted Saint Germain and let him run loose around the castle despite knowing that the man had an agenda; she'd forced Trevor out on the road to begin with when he'd been reluctant to go. Really the only good thing that had come out of all that time away was her pregnancy, but they certainly could've accomplished that without leaving Adrian. And now she was going to have a baby, and Trevor wasn't there anymore, and... would he be okay with his child calling Adrian "Papa" in his stead? Would Adrian be okay with that?

Now wasn't the time to talk about potentially impending fatherhood-by-proxy, but they'd need to have the conversation sooner or later.

She looked up at Adrian. He stared back, uncertainty starting to cloud his eyes... He probably thought he'd gone too far and needed to walk back his comment, lest she take offense. She gave him a gentle squeeze to let him know it was okay - this was his opportunity to say whatever he wanted, without judgement.

Finally in answer to his question, she said, "I did. Though it was more along the lines of, 'Don't knock me up and then die, you jerk.'"

Adrian snorted softly, let that percolate in his head a moment, then resumed what he was doing. "See, that is what you get for playing hero. No one appreciates it. But don't worry, I'll still take care of Sypha and the baby, because someone has to see things through."

Sypha felt a surge of relief at hearing those words - even if he had said it in sarcasm, there was truth in it as well.

Unaware of Sypha's reaction, Adrian continued, "And I'll make sure your child grows up literate and polite - unlike you - with the knowledge that their father was..." He trailed off as everything suddenly lodged so hard in his throat that it was a struggle to even draw breath, but he forced himself to continue, even if every word was accompanied by a tightening in his chest and a welling up of tears, "... was my best friend; the most foolhardy, upright, brave man I've ever met. One whom I will carry in my heart until the end of my days."

He had to stop to re-gather himself, but even after taking several deep breaths the slow trickle of tears wouldn't quit. The beer was the only thing that had run dry by this point. Shaking the overturned tankard to make sure he'd gotten every last sudsy drop out, Adrian couldn't help but add, "But you're still an asshole and I'm going to drink the rest of the beer you stashed away just to spite you."

Sypha squeezed him tightly, half-laughing and half sobbing. She almost expected Trevor to suddenly leap out from behind the tree to voice his protest. Not his precious beer!

They remained there for a while, sitting in the lee of the tree with the marker between them, reminiscing about the trouble Trevor had gotten them into - and out of - until the words started drying up and the weight of the afternoon shadows grew heavier.

"Sypha, we should head back," Adrian finally said, standing up to dust off his pants. "I should start on dinner. We did miss a meal, after all."

She sighed. She knew she needed to eat, but somehow her appetite hadn't come back since breakfast. She'd been eager to get the gravestone in place, as if that would've somehow allowed her to bury her feelings and move on. But even though Trevor wasn't physically interred there, it felt a little wrong to just... leave and head home, even with home only a short stroll away. "You're right," she muttered without conviction.

"I can escort you here tomorrow if you wish. Or you can come on your own, if you'd prefer."

"I don't know. I'll think about it."

With a quick nod to acknowledge that before switching topics, Adrian asked, "Is there anything you'd like for dinner?" as he offered his hand to help her up.

"Not especially. To be honest, I'm not hungry at all," she admitted as she let him pull her to her feet.

"Me neither. But... life goes on, even if we're not ready for it," he murmured.

Sypha nodded reluctantly.

Adrian took one last look at the gravestone, at the tree standing in silent vigil behind it. "Well... good night, Trevor."

A small, pained smile twisted her lips. "Yes. Good night, Trevor," Sypha echoed, before turning and joining Adrian as they began to head home. The breeze rattled the dry branches above them, as if Trevor was answering back.

* * *

Author's Notes:

July 7, 2023