Title: Under the Milky Way
Author: bnomiko
Rating: NC-17
Pairing(s): Trevor + Sypha + Alucard, Trevor + Sypha (w/ implied Trevor x Sypha), Sypha x 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/

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Under the Milky Way

Ch. 18: I find you in the morning
After dreams of distant signs

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WARNING: Latter half of this chapter includes mention of medical procedures. I did not go into great detail, but there's still enough there that those with sensitive stomachs might want to skip past it.

* * *

In the end, Adrian gave his consent even without hearing the results of Greta's polling, albeit with one condition: the new village would be named after the maligned family who'd lived and died to protect the region. But it was a relief for him to get the numbers anyhow. Of the people who hailed from Danesti, every household except for one voted for relocation. The folks from the other villages that had taken shelter with them were more split in their votes, about sixty-forty in favor, so in the end it was decided that those who did not want to move would be welcome to set up residence in whatever was left of Danesti.

That did mean that the refugees wanted to make a trip back to their former village to scavenge what supplies and belongings they could, and to escort those who would not be making the trip back to the new location, as there was still safety in numbers. To maximize the time available, it was decided that they'd spend the remainder of the day preparing for the trip tomorrow, then depart for Danesti first thing the next morning. They'd spend the night there, then begin the trip back just before midday. Adrian was mildly concerned about leaving the castle unguarded, even for a short period of time, but Sypha was certain that the protective ward she used on the Hold would work on the castle gates as well.

The first leg of the trip went surprisingly well, with only one minor skirmish en route, easily handled by Sypha. Danesti had remained mostly intact as the vampires and night creatures had pursued their targets towards the castle, and there simply wasn't anyone left in the area to loot the buildings beyond that. Villagers were able to pick up everything from clothing to a few extra wagons and even round up some wayward livestock that had gotten left behind in their haste to find safety.

Greta offered Adrian and Sypha a spare room in her old house for the evening, as the back of their road worn wagon was getting loaded up with other people's belongings. They accepted without issue. What was harder was convincing Adrian to assent to an invite to the tavern, where the villagers were gathering for one last night of drinking and reminiscing. Not only would there be a lot of people in a small space - people he still didn't know well - but alcohol was a good instigator for bad behavior. In the end he opted to bow out, saying that someone had to keep an eye on things in case trouble found them, but Sypha and Greta both knew it was an excuse. The two ladies ended up going together just to socialize for a few hours, but Sypha spent much of that time staring out the window, watching Adrian aimlessly pace laps around the village.

The Speaker finally had enough of Adrian's wandering and dragged him back to Greta's house earlier than planned. At least he wasn't upset; he'd committed to this course of action and would see it through. He just didn't know what to do with himself while they were here, and still felt uncertain as to what this would all lead to. So she simply stayed with him and listened. And somewhere in between talking to him and comforting him in the close confines of their borrowed room, words of reassurance became an embrace of affection as they finally consummated their relationship.

Sypha had always prided herself on being a considerate and mindful lover. Normally that meant keeping an open mind and an open line of communication so that both she and her partner had a good time. With Adrian, it was a bit different. He had no issue kissing her, or taking his clothes off and climbing under the covers with her. But past that he was lost, and kept looking to her to direct him, which was baffling to her, until she learned just how little input he had in his previous encounter: he'd simply been pushed down, penetrated and fondled all over until he climaxed. She wasn't sure even now if he understood just how wrong that was beyond the obvious betrayal, but instead of getting angry she tried using it as motivation to focus on meeting his needs first and foremost instead. She could worry about her own needs later.

She would not have faulted him if he decided to put a stop to things then and there, but bless his heart, he did not, despite the hesitation that belied his inexperience. Maybe he saw this as an opportunity to wipe the slate clean, or maybe he was still feeling like he'd let Trevor down and wasn't going to make the same mistake twice. Still, Sypha wasn't going to let him charge headlong into this to try and "set things right" - it wasn't a battle, there wasn't only win or lose - so if that meant she needed to be the one to set boundaries or even take control, so be it. But knowing that consent was vitally important to him, she still made sure to ask for and receive it before trying anything and gave him permission each time he asked for hers.

She took a couple pages from Trevor's notes of all things Adrian and ran her fingers through his hair and over his ears as he took his time exploring her body, which he seemed to enjoy very much, then did her best to compile a few observations of her own as she mapped her way over his skin in turn. She learned that he didn't like being overstimulated... he responded best if she kept her attention to one area at a time, and showed some restraint even then. He also had to be one of the quietest lovers she'd ever had; although it seemed contradictory, he made less noise the more he was feeling it, mostly just breathy hisses and soft pants. And he was especially interested in oral pleasure, which gave Sypha a moment's pause - because who in their right mind would want a pair of knives anywhere near their most sensitive areas? - but he'd always been mindful of them even while kissing, so she gave him the go ahead. And oh, what a blessing it turned out to be as he was quite enthusiastic about it; once he found his rhythm, he had her seeing stars within minutes. She was more than happy to reciprocate, though she stopped well short of taking him to completion, having other plans for the impressive length she'd been lavishing attention on...

She ended up under him as he cradled her legs and rocked against her, his ragged breathing and the butterfly soft fluttering of long lashes over darkened amber eyes proof that he was enjoying himself despite his near silence. He was so strong and yet so careful that it was easy to forget that his emotional state wasn't quite as stable or reliable as his physical prowess. He managed to hold it together until the very, very end, before falling apart quite abruptly, which caused him to pull out a bit too soon and make a bit more mess than expected. By the time a dazed but concerned Sypha sat up to check on him he was curled up against the wall at the head of the bed, mortified, soundless apologies falling from his lips.

The redhead's first instinct was to pull him into a hug, but she stopped herself as soon as she saw he was rubbing at his wrists, as she feared that might feel too much like she was restraining him. So instead she sat next to him, placing a supportive hand on his shoulder and stroking small circles over it, but pushing things no further. He was free to decide if and when he felt safe enough to lean on her, if he wished to do so.

Eventually he loosened up from the knot he'd balled himself in, eyes glimmering as he gazed at her in the moonlight that glinted through the half-closed shutters. He worried she would judge him, or worse, coo at him in sympathy, because surely he'd done so many things wrong, but she didn't do either of those things. She just gave him a gentle smile, her hair in disarray and sticking slightly to the bit of sweat shimmering on her skin, and he melted a little.

She offered him her hand, and he laced his fingers with hers, tugging her a little closer. Her smile broadened. "You know, I've been holding back because I didn't think you were ready to hear it, but now I think you should. I love you, Adrian."

He made a small sound, like he wanted to reciprocate but forgot how to form words. Sypha just continued to smile, expecting nothing but willing to give him everything. He settled for pulling her halfway on top of him, feeling her heart pound against his, and did his best to try and respond to her by kissing her repeatedly until they were both panting for air, and it suddenly struck him that he was very, very tired.

They lay back down, shyly wiping away residual stickiness with a corner of the sheets. Sypha gathered him into her arms, her fingers sliding through his hair and over his shoulders and down his back. The muscles that had been tense with anxiety earlier started to relax as he drifted off to sleep. She kept running her hands over him even after she was sure he was asleep, grateful that other than their heights and ages, Adrian was nothing like Trevor. She loved them both for who they were. Neither could replace the other, and that was how it should be, even if it still hurt acutely to look at the void Trevor had left behind. But they had to honor his sacrifice by continuing to move forward. The prophecy that had brought them together was now part of the past; their future was still to be written.

The people of Danesti were starting a new chapter of their lives; it was time for them to do the same.

The next morning, as per his usual habit, Adrian woke up early and got up with breakfast on his mind, though he struggled to concentrate on what he wanted to make. His sleep addled brain was still trying to process what had happened last night. He hadn't been planning on making love to Sypha. He certainly hadn't intended to do it in Greta's small house. But maybe he'd agreed precisely because somewhere in the back of his head he identified this as someplace that had nothing to do with his parents, someplace away from the ghosts of Taka and Sumi, away from any reminder of Trevor, and all the associated failures in between.

He'd be lying if he said he hadn't enjoyed it, though he was still a little embarrassed that he'd needed so much encouragement and guidance, never mind the nervous breakdown afterwards...

But Sypha had told him she'd loved him regardless. And that made him feel like a cozy little fire had been lit inside his chest. He hadn't been able to answer back - he still didn't feel worthy of it, nor was he yet convinced that it wasn't a portent to bad things, given that it was one of the last things both his mother and Trevor had told him - but the weight of it, the promise of it, ensnared him nonetheless. It made him want to be a better man, someone whom she could depend on and be proud of...

He was suddenly very glad that he had the habit of getting dressed as soon as he woke, as it had sort of skipped his mind that they weren't alone until he left the small bedroom and found Greta puttering around the kitchen in a white shift, hair still slightly mussed up from sleep.

"Good morning," she muttered, yawning.

"Um..." was Adrian's eloquent response, his eyes darting around.

The fact that he looked like he was seeking escape caught her attention. "Sleep well?" she asked, keeping her tone as neutral as possible.

Actually, he had, once he'd gotten over his panic attack. He tried to remember if they'd been especially loud or anything; he couldn't even remember if he'd heard Greta return during... well, everything. He looked at the window, at the floor, and finally back up at her. Short of barreling past her to get to the front door, he was stuck. "I apologize if we kept you up."

Well, if he wants to admit to it... Greta's mouth twitched into a momentary smirk, then she waved her hand in dismissal. They were a couple, and couples did couple things. She was hardly scandalized by it.

She gestured at the table. "Breakfast? I would offer you tea, but alas, I've packed up already. So old bread, dried meat and water is all I've got to offer."

He glanced at the plain offerings on the table, then gave her a look that reminded her of a feral cat one was trying to lure in with a tidbit.

Greta rolled her eyes. "Sit down. I don't bite."

"That's... a terrible joke."

She grinned wolfishly.

By the time Sypha got up minutes later, Adrian had given in and was silently chewing his way through a piece of bread at the table. Greta greeted the redhead with a knowing smile but didn't say a word, and Sypha returned the gesture, grateful the other woman knew better than to say anything too inappropriate to Adrian, as he would've fled otherwise.

Greta nodded at the remaining seat, and Sypha pulled it closer to Adrian's side before sitting down and joining them for breakfast.

* * *

The return trip went smoothly and the group of settlers made it back to the castle while there was still some light out. Sypha invited Greta to join them for supper to return the favor of hosting them, and so they could continue discussing how to divide up the land and manage resources; they hoped to be able to start assigning lots the next day. They also talked about the possibility of Adrian incorporating some of his father's advancements in the building of the town, so those would need to be taken into consideration in the plans as well. It was a bridge too far to expect individual homes to have running water and electricity as the castle's stores had a limited amount of the necessary pipes and wires, but if the town could have water pumps and lit streets and sentry towers, that would be of great help.

Over the next few days, parcels were marked out and roadways were mapped. What had once been expansive forest was slowly cleared for materials and arable land. Sypha and Adrian agreed it would be appropriate for the villagers to remove some of the cut stones from in and around the old Belmont estate as it was a good source of material, and they wanted the area cleaned up anyhow. Eventually they hoped to put a park and a school at the site, something to benefit the children in the community.

It wasn't the same as working with Trevor, but Greta proved to be an invaluable asset in helping with the establishing of Belmont. She handled the supervising and heard any questions or complaints, as well as managed labor as needed. Sypha did most of the planning to ensure the village's layout was efficient as possible, and continued to oversee the distribution of needed items from the castle's inventory. Adrian helped with establishing wells to provide for immediate water needs. Once things were more settled he'd lay pipes to bring in water from the nearby stream to help supplement what ground water there was, and to power the eventual electrical system that he'd set up.

With so much to do, it was easy to push aside unprofitable thoughts and unwanted feelings and focus instead on things like digging and distributing foodstuffs. The pangs of loss didn't fade as quickly as Adrian would've liked, but the mild, persistent ache from hours of labor helped distract him even when it was evening and he and Sypha were just quietly passing time reading before bed. The wine helped too, but after Sypha voiced her concerns he stopped trying to sneak around behind her back and simply brought some to the bedroom to accompany his reading.

A few days later, as Sypha was coming out of the castle with bags of vegetable seeds for allotment, she spotted a familiar and yet surprising sight - a Speaker caravan of four wagons. It wasn't her family train, but still... seeing that Speakers had made it to their area was a promising sign. She thought back to how Adrian had suggested her grandfather would know where to look for her; that hope felt closer to reality than ever before.

She trotted up to the third wagon, seeing that Greta was there, speaking animatedly with a pair of women who were likely mother and daughter, going by the similarity of their faces. Sypha quickly introduced herself; in turn the women identified themselves as hailing from the Lower Prut region, traveling in a group of sixteen adults and two children. The two ladies added that they were learned in the arts of healing.

Seeing a moment to intervene, Greta was all smiles as she slapped a hand on the redhead's shoulder. "Sypha, I was just about to come find you. Your timing is perfect!"


Greta and the women exchanged nods, then they began walking towards the last wagon in the line.

"What's this about?" Sypha asked, but Greta took the sack of seeds from her and gestured at the rear of the wagon, a smile still playing about her lips, and one of the women pulled aside the door flap in an obvious invite, so she assumed there was something they wanted her to see inside.

Sypha made it in about two feet when she suddenly stopped and stared wordlessly at the sight before her. ... It wasn't real. It couldn't be real. She reflexively rubbed at her eyes and frowned when nothing changed. Even when Trevor rolled his head and opened his eyes with a groan to meet her gaze, she couldn't believe it.

Almost without thinking, she crawled a little further into the wagon and touched the nearest bump under the blanket. Yes, that definitely felt like a foot under there. A real live foot, wriggling slightly under her palm.

"Trevor...?" she whispered, as if saying his name would break the spell. "How? What...?"

"Hello, love," Trevor murmured, his voice thick and slurred from having just woken up a minute prior.

Sypha whimpered. The ghost was talking to her. Except... did ghosts talk...?

Eyes widening, she suddenly backed up and leapt out of the wagon, yelling for Adrian at the top of her lungs as she bolted for the castle.

The half-vampire could hear her all the way from inside the storeroom. Given how Sypha was bellowing his name, he feared they were under attack, so he dropped the pipes he'd been sorting through and immediately sped towards the entrance, calling his sword to his side as he hurtled out of the gates. He very nearly collided with the redhead just as she reached the bottom steps.

"What's happened?" he asked, head whipping around, seeing no evidence of demons or people running around in terror. There was a Speaker train though. Was that perhaps Sypha's family group? But going by his girlfriend's expression, that wasn't it. She seemed distressed, confused and excited all at the same time.

Seemingly unable to find the right words, Sypha simply grabbed his arm and dragged him to one of the wagons, pushing aside the canvas flap and pointing at a figure lying on the floor.

Trevor managed to lift his head just enough to flash a wobbly grin at Adrian. "Well, hello beautiful."

The brunet watched Adrian's weapon drop to the ground behind him, as an entire gamut of emotions flitted across the blond's face in a span of a few seconds: shock, disbelief, bafflement, a hint of anger, contriteness, and finally, a hesitant hope.

Adrian went from standing stock still to crouching down by Trevor's side. The hunter didn't blink an eye at it, but the Speakers outside gasped at the unexpected movement that caused the door flap to fly as if a huge gust of wind had picked it up. After a moment's pause the half-vampire began carefully prodding at Trevor with shaking hands, as if he still couldn't believe Trevor was actually there, alive, even though all his senses screamed at him that this was indeed real.

"Please don't cry," Trevor begged, as tears began dripping down from above him. "I can't wipe away your tears; I can barely move my arms."

"Trevor... Trevor..." Adrian whispered, as if in prayer. "How..."

"All the questions, you answer now," Sypha demanded once she'd followed Adrian in, albeit at a much more human pace. She was doing a marginally better job at holding back her tears, though the brunet could see them dancing in her eyes as well.

Trevor took in a few careful breaths, doing his best to focus so he could explain. "All I can think of is that Saint Germain opened the Infinite Corridor just before he died. I got the dagger into Death. He lit up like the sun." He smiled slightly, not only proud that he'd pulled it off, but because his last thoughts were of Adrian and Sypha... and now he knew for certain that they were safe and whole, just like he'd hoped. "A second later I was inside the Corridor. Next thing I knew I was lying on my face by the north bank of the Danube."

Adrian tried to process all that as he wiped at his face rather ineffectively. "Now what was the trick with that dagger?" he asked, not all that terribly surprised that Trevor had kept some sort of special weapon in reserve.

"I'd been picking up pieces of a weapon that reeked of death magic while we were on the road. And coincidentally, there was an old, incomplete dagger in one of the chests you dug up in the Hold, with the exact same magic imbued in it." He went to shrug it off like it was no big deal, but winced when he was reminded that his shoulders weren't going to cooperate. "I ended up completing a weapon that a mad wizard blacksmith once made to enact a very one-sided murder-suicide pact with God."

"So you knew the thing was probably lethal to you when you used it," Adrian mused, frowning deeply, his breath hitching despite his efforts to keep it under control.

"I didn't see much of a choice. And you know me, I'm stubborn. Can't even die properly." A lopsided smile tugged at Trevor's lips. "I told myself I couldn't die before I tapped that sweet vampire ass."

For a moment nothing happened. Then Sypha's jaw dropped and Adrian's entire face flushed as both brows slammed together. He abruptly sat back, forgetting that he'd been crying over the other man moments ago, and began trying to scoot out of the wagon. "Can someone please come over here and kill this man?"

"That won't be hard," the hunter groaned, suddenly realizing that blurting that out was... probably not the best way to tell someone he'd missed him. He couldn't even lift a finger to stop him from leaving.

"You're so crude! We should've dumped all your beer on the ground!" Sypha scolded, latching onto Adrian's arm to prevent him from making an escape.

"Shit, no! My only other reason for living..." Trevor moaned.

"Wait, what am I, chopped liver?" Sypha seethed, her eyes flashing like lightning.

"No, no of course not! I meant... uh... I mean, your sweet ass can be included in the tapping too," he stammered. He realized he was only making things worse even as the words spewed from his lips, but he couldn't help himself. The combination of physical pain and the relief of finally making it home made him strangely giddy.

Sypha sucked in her face like she'd just tasted a particularly sour lime. "You are a rude idiot, Trevor Belmont!"

"I know," Trevor sighed. His big, stupid mouth was guaranteeing he'd never see liquid beer again in his life. Or sex, quite possibly. God, what was the point of living, unless...? He turned desperate eyes to Adrian. "Wait - you didn't say no. Is that a yes? Please God let it be a yes."

"Your priorities are the worst," the redhead groused. She glanced at Adrian, who still didn't seem to know if he ought to be relieved, irritated, amused, or perhaps a bit of all three. But he wasn't upset, and at least outright horrified embarrassment seemed to have released its hold on him. She let go of his arm as he turned back around and curled against her a bit, relying on her to hold it all together as his thoughts continued swirling around uselessly.

"Adrian! Adrian, so that's yes, right?" Trevor begged, searching for something to hang on to.

Adrian looked back at Sypha. He supposed they were going to have to tell him at some point that Sypha had beat him to it, but now wasn't the time. "You're an ill mannered, foul-mouthed, horny bastard," the half-vampire finally snapped, echoing what he'd said at Trevor's grave marker. But even in his injured state Trevor couldn't help but notice that the color hadn't left Adrian's face and his words didn't quite have the bite to them that they ought to.

A slow grin spread across Trevor's face. He didn't say no!

Sypha sighed. "And we love you," she stated for the both of them, leaning down to press a kiss against Trevor's rather sweaty forehead even as she rubbed Adrian's forearm in consolation. They'd pay Trevor back for his rudeness, later.

Trevor relaxed. He'd worried he'd pushed things too far even for someone as forgiving as Sypha, but she understood. They both understood. They weren't going to bail on him just because he was spouting every stray thought that crossed his mind. "I know," he said, taking in a deep breath and immediately hissing in regret as throbbing pain in his side reminded him of the error of his ways.

Seeing Trevor's gritted teeth and hearing his uneven, shallow breaths, Adrian began more closely assessing his boyfriend's condition. He pulled back the blanket and leaned over Trevor, inhaling deeply as his fingers ghosted over the other man's bandaged limbs and torso. He didn't smell any fresh blood, which was good, but there were whiffs of infection and rot, which meant he'd need to identify which wounds needed to be cleaned and drained and which tissues were dying and in need of excising. And Trevor felt a bit feverish, his eyes glassy from more than just pain.

"Shouldn't we move him inside first?" Sypha asked, seeing the metallic sheen in Adrian's eyes, an indicator that he was starting to tap into some of his latent abilities.

"That depends on the severity, location and type of damage. I need to make sure I'm moving him safely," Adrian answered. "Trevor, what hurts?"

"Everything?" Trevor huffed.

The half-vampire narrowed his eyes, a bit of scarlet starting to bleed into them.

"Left shoulder was dislocated, arm broken. Right arm is just burned all over. I probably broke some ribs too. Back hurts. But... I'll be okay. I just need about a year's sleep and a new body," the brunet groaned.

"Have you been able to sit up at all, with help or otherwise?" Adrian asked.

"I've been propped up, yes."

"And it hurts to sit up?"

"A bit, yeah. But I manage. They've gotten me on my feet too, so I don't just lie here and piss myself. Oh, but in good news, I think that means everything below the belt is intact." Trevor laughed a little crazily, even though everything ached from it. He was so happy to be home. "You know what that means."

Adrian rolled his eyes. At least that confirmed Trevor's back wasn't broken, so the ribs were the main thing he needed to be mindful of. "Let's get you inside. Sypha, I'll need your help."

She was encouraged by Adrian's focus even in the face of Trevor's stupid comments. "Of course, anything you need."

It took a bit of careful adjusting to find the best spot to place his arm to lift, so as to minimize the pressure placed on Trevor's bruised back. As Adrian carefully picked him up and carried him out of the back of the wagon, Trevor couldn't help but notice the activity nearby. "Why are all these people still here?"

"Welcome to my village," Adrian replied.

"You have a village now? What's it called, New Danesti?"

Adrian glanced down at the man in his arms. He almost answered honestly, but Trevor still deserved payback for the "sweet vampire ass" comment from earlier. So without missing a beat he answered as smugly as possible, "Treffy."

With some effort, Trevor managed to roll his head back to stare up at the blond in horror. "Can someone please come over here and kill me?" he gasped as loudly as he could. "No, really..."

Adrian simply smirked as he continued into the castle.

* * *

Sypha ended up staying out an extra minute to talk to the Speakers, to thank them for what they'd done. They were more than happy to have been of service and had already gotten Greta's okay to set up camp. Seeing as the new village of Belmont was still in the process of setting up, they planned to stay a few weeks to further lend their aid in exchange for safe harbor and the stories of those who'd survived.

Sypha promised to come back and check in with them soon. They wished her well, knowing she wanted to see to Trevor first and foremost. She hurried into the castle to find Adrian levitating by the tower that led to Lisa's study, so she headed over to join him. Since he was moving with caution rather than speed, she had no issue keeping up as he made his way into the brightly lit room near the top of the tower.

"That was smoother than bumping along potholed roads," Trevor murmured appreciatively as Adrian's feet touched back down. "Why are we in here?" he questioned as the blond asked Sypha to help clear a table that was mostly hidden behind a white curtain. After she finished, Adrian pointed out a small sink where she could wash her hands, then instructed her on where she could find linens, as he wanted a clean sheet draped over the table.

"I intend to give you a thorough examination, and see if there's anything more I can do for you," Adrian told Trevor as he carefully lay him down on the prepared surface while Sypha watched attentively, ready and willing to serve as a supply runner, note taker, second set of hands - whatever was needed. "Easier having all my mother's books and materials close by, in case I need them."

"I just need rest," the hunter claimed, yawning as if to prove his point. "Or a couple of beers; I'll be right as rain."

"You need a proper doctor. We don't have one, so you'll have to settle for whatever care I can provide. Actually, Sypha, can you get an extra sheet?" And she moved to comply. "I'm going to need to cut off the existing bandages and strip him down, so put that over him to give him a bit of privacy and to keep him warm," he explained to her as he dropped his father's ring off on his mother's desk, then went to wash up as well.

"Don't care about privacy, you've both seen it," Trevor slurred, but Sypha ignored his protest and did as Adrian instructed. Silly as it was, she was glad the half-vampire was relying on her to help, that he didn't even feel the need to ask her to do it, which stood in stark contrast to how he'd been wanting to coddle her for much of the last couple of weeks.

When Adrian returned, he brought a small basin, a filled water jug, and a pile of clean rags with him. It wasn't going to do any good if he and Sypha had washed up if the patient himself still had mud from the Danube on him, in addition to a layer of road dust.

"Feel free to nap if you wish," Adrian said, his eyes glowing like rubies as he delved even more deeply into his vampiric side, increasing the perceptiveness of his senses above their normally heightened state. Trevor didn't need to be told twice; he was already starting to nod off as the exam began.

Figuring it would be easier to start with the areas less likely to need treatment, Adrian decided to start from the feet and work his way up, gently wiping the skin clean as he went. Other than an ankle sprain that was already healing it really did look like Trevor's legs had made it through relatively unscathed. He had Sypha make a poultice to help reduce the inflammation, but otherwise declared Trevor fine from the waist down, just like the man had claimed.

Unfortunately everything above the waist was a mess. The blond counted four cracked ribs with two more bruised enough to be troubling, breaks in the left ulna and radius close to the elbow that were starting to knit back together but hadn't been aligned well before being splinted, and a dislocated left shoulder that hadn't been immobilized for healing. The right shoulder had a fairly deep cut that was seeping; it needed to be cleaned out and allowed to drain before stitches could be put in. Trevor's right arm had burns covering approximately fifty percent of the surface, winding from his palm and fingers and all the way up to his shoulder like angry licks of flame. The burns were most severe in his hand and wrist, the thickened dark brownish-red scar tissue giving way to patches of dry, leathery char, indication of severe damage... If Trevor hoped to use that hand again, the skin would need to be debrided, a painful and drawn out process, and there was no guarantee he'd ever recover full use of that hand. But at least whatever treatment the Speakers had given him had kept infection at bay on that limb.

When Adrian carefully propped him up to check for what was causing the back pain, he found that in addition to the rib injuries that some of the small puncture wounds under the torso wrapping had become swollen with infection, and Trevor had also started developing pressure sores from being flat on his back for extended periods of time.

At least there were no head injuries other than a few minor cuts, which was a relief. Adrian had tried telling himself that if Trevor had gotten marginally stupider it wouldn't make much difference, but there was only so far down the hunter could go before he was mentally functioning at the level of a chicken.

Of slightly lesser concern were an assortment of rash-like scrapes and bruises; combined with Trevor's old battle scars, it was hard to tell exactly what was new and what was old. Adrian gave them all a once over anyhow, but most of them would heal up without treatment.

After Sypha finished jotting everything down, Adrian gave himself a moment to sit back and try to come up with a plan. Any infected wounds had to be cleaned up first and foremost. Trevor's ribs had been wrapped, but his mother's notes recommended leaving them unwrapped and instead icing the area down daily to reduce swelling. A padded wedge would help reduce pressure on his back and ribcage. Past that, he needed Trevor's input. His boyfriend would live if he continued the same treatment on the burns and let the left arm heal as-is, but he'd lose a lot functionality in both limbs. And for a guy as active as Trevor, he wasn't sure if that would be acceptable.

"Should we wake him, then?" Sypha asked after Adrian explained his thoughts to her. "Or can it wait?"

The half-vampire hummed. "Sooner would be better, I think. Frankly, I might lose my nerve if I think about this too long. Yet I cannot come up with better options."

Trevor was roused without too much difficulty and once he was updated on his condition, he opted for the more painful, extended recovery just as predicted, as he hoped to retain as much range of motion in his arms as possible. Practically speaking, he knew his days as a monster hunter were over. But he wanted to be the one to train the next generation that followed in his footsteps.

"I need to make sure you understand, I have no experience with anesthetics," Adrian explained, sparing a glance for Sypha as she flipped through a book in hopes of finding some sort of instruction. They'd located a bottle of some kind of narcotic tincture, and he knew he could soak a bit of cloth with it and give it to Trevor to breathe in the fumes, but he wasn't sure how much to use or how long to use it for. Worst case scenario they'd just have to experiment, starting with small amounts, but that raised the risk of Trevor waking up mid-treatment. "I'll do the best I can, but this may hurt a lot."

Trevor grunted. "It's fine. I can take it."

Adrian gave him a thin smile. "I know you can. That's not the point. It would be upsetting for me, too."

"Can't be helped. You know I won't hold it against you. Just give me something to bite down on so I don't eat my tongue."

A wooden spoon would do. Adrian went to get one, as well as to cut down some boards for a better splint. By the time he returned, Trevor was asleep again and Sypha was still researching, but to no avail.

"Just have to wing it, then," Adrian sighed, picking up the bottle. He didn't like it, but as he'd told Sypha, he didn't want to sit around and overthink things.

* * *

Adrian felt like he'd crawled through the longest three, maybe four, hours of his life before he was finally able to slump in a chair, staring vacantly at his gore-stained sleeves in exhaustion. His hands felt raw from having been scrubbed clean repeatedly. His head hurt from having tapped into his vampiric blood for so long; he was seeing double every time he blinked.

They'd finally gotten Trevor knocked out properly in the last hour or so... the rest of the time he was in and out of it to some degree, moaning and grunting and then screaming into his gag, at times struggling as if he was beset by foes on all sides. At one point Adrian had resorted to almost sitting on top of him while Trevor's dislocated, broken arm dangled in his grip. At another, Sypha got tired of watching the half-vampire struggle to keep his hair out of the way and went and fetched a ribbon from a desk drawer and tied Adrian's hair back for him. It was obviously Lisa's, but Adrian didn't have the luxury to complain about it, given that he should've just done that at the start instead of worrying about using his mother's accessories. No matter how clean his hair was, it wasn't exactly sanitary to be dragging it over open, gooey wounds.

Sypha was wiped out too, and rather nauseous. She was resting her elbows on her knees, with her head hanging down between them. Adrian had asked her a couple of times if she'd like to leave, wanting to spare her the worst of it, but of course she'd refused; now all the worry and weariness was hitting at once, and she began weeping silently, overwhelmed. Adrian looked away, feeling guilty for his role in all this, unable to push it aside to comfort her.

At least Trevor was resting quietly now. Even without anesthetic he would've passed out from pain by this point. He was far paler than normal, his skin tacky with sweat. It looked like he'd lost gallons of blood. Of course that wasn't possible, but Adrian had splatter all the way up to his elbow and on the front of his shirt too. There was more crimson liberally dotting the sheet Sypha had spread on the table, along with clumps of scraped off scar tissue that had escaped earlier rounds of clean up. Adrian could still hear the sound of bone snapping as he'd re-broken Trevor's arm, could still taste the tainted blood and pus he'd sucked out of Trevor's back after reopening the scabbed wounds, even though he'd immediately rinsed his mouth out two or three times after each attempt. He didn't regret it, given that squeezing it out seemed too risky as that could push the infection deeper, but it had to be one of the most disgusting things he'd ever done.

"I need to clean up, then we can move him to a bed," Adrian mumbled, more to himself than anything, as he forced himself back onto his feet, hoping he didn't sway. He went over to the sink and pulled off his shirt, trying his best to scrub his arms clean one more time, then returned to the table and began gathering up surgical blades for sterilizing and stained rags and sheets for laundering or burning later.

After a few minutes Sypha got up as well and silently began putting away books and bandages and other equipment for later use, as it would be needed. Adrian had mentioned the debriding of burns would need to be done multiple times; they were going to go through a lot of honey and a lot of bandages, so they needed to be efficient and organized with what they had.

After they'd tidied up as much as possible, Adrian carefully wrapped Trevor in a clean sheet, tucked him back in his arms, then asked Sypha to finish cleaning up the table's surface before meeting him down by their bedroom. Again he opted to levitate his way around to minimize any jarring.

Given that Trevor's wounds were likely to weep through the bandages, and Adrian wanted to be able to easily access him from either side, he opted to put him in the spare bedroom that he and Sypha had been sleeping in as it had a smaller bed. The two of them would move back to their old room.

They added extra blankets to the bed for cushioning and warmth, and to hopefully keep blood and plasma from permeating the mattress itself. Adrian made a note to fashion a wedge of some sort to prop Trevor up and take pressure off his back and ribcage, but that would have to wait for later. He was just wiped out physically and emotionally and... well, whatever overextending himself using abilities that he'd suppressed until recently, counted as.

The blond pulled up a chair to the side of the bed and did his best to get comfortable in it, not wanting to leave his boyfriend's side, but needing to rest himself. The throbbing in his head would not cease. He finally settled for slowly leaning his forearms on the bed, with one hand resting lightly on Trevor's wrist so he could monitor his condition on some level, then placing his chin on top of his crossed arms, hoping the mattress wouldn't dip too much in his direction. He sighed and shut his eyes. "Sypha, go get some sleep if you can so you can spell me later. We'll take shifts," he softly suggested.

"All right." A moment passed, then Sypha's hand settled atop Adrian's head, stroking carefully. They were both stressed out and exhausted; they weren't going to be able to take good care of Trevor if they weren't at their best.

The black ribbon was starting to slip, so she undid it, then retied it again, just in case. "I know you did what you had to do, even if it was hard to watch. I understand that. You did the best you could. Even if Trevor doesn't fully recover use of his arms, he'll understand too," Sypha assured him.

"... I hope so."

"The important thing is, he's alive. He's here."

"Yes," Adrian choked out. It still didn't seem real, even with the scent of Trevor's blood and sweat swimming in the air.

She leaned down to brush a kiss over the crown of his head. "I'll check in with you once I'm up," she promised, then glanced over one more time as if Trevor might've vanished the moment she looked away, before she felt confident enough to leave the room, shutting the door behind her.

* * *

Author's Notes:

August 3, 2023