Title: Under the Milky Way
Author: bnomiko
Rating: R to NC-17
Pairing(s): Trevor + 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. "How to Save a Life" is performed and recorded by The Fray. 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. 6: He smiles politely back at you
You stare politely right on through

* * *

Trevor woke up exhausted, having slept terribly. Part of it was guilt; he remembered the way Adrian had ducked his head when he was rejected, and Sypha assuring him, "We would not walk off on you, silly," and yet, he'd done just that to Adrian. And for what? Misreading Trevor's intentions?

The other part was, for lack of a better word, lust. Despite the fact that he hadn't been in the mood last night, he'd woken up hard as a rock, thanks to a torrid dream involving writhing, naked bodies that he could only just barely remember. Now that he'd come clean to himself, and Sypha had come clean him, his mind had declared open season on considering the possibilities. He'd be flat out lying to himself if he said that Adrian's reactions the night before weren't... appealing. The faint blush that had colored those high cheekbones, those wide, guileless eyes... it was innocent and alluring at the same time. Though it seemed weird to call a well-educated, fully grown man with that much fighting prowess "innocent." But it set off the protective and possessive instincts in Trevor.

Did Adrian prefer men? It wasn't like he answered to any religion prohibiting that. Actually... was he okay with women? That would be a stumbling block in their plans, if he wasn't. Or... did he not care? Sypha had proposed sleeping together in bed - strictly sleeping - for no real reason, and Trevor had gone along with it... but Adrian had been agreeable too, so what could be gleaned from that?

He couldn't help but wonder if Adrian had been in a relationship before. His guess was no, due to who and what he was and all his recent circumstances, but then again he had apparently matured much faster than anyone could've guessed, so Trevor supposed it wasn't impossible, either.

Seeing no point in lying around, questioning and fantasizing, while there was work to be done, the brunet pushed himself out of bed, got dressed, and quietly padded out of the room, so as to not wake Sypha.

The first thing he saw out in the hallway was the dour not-yet-teen, yet-fully-adult portrait of his not-quite-friend. Trevor sighed as he studied the painting again, feeling attraction clashing with annoyance. He liked his life simple. Why did it keep getting complicated? Wasn't bringing Adrian into his relationship with Sypha the biggest complication of all? How would that work, anyhow? Was it really possible to love two people equally? He had no idea how Speakers lived like that... didn't anyone get jealous or feel slighted?

He headed over to Adrian's room out of curiosity but the half-vampire wasn't there, so he tried the kitchen next.

Sure enough, Adrian was at the counter, working on some dough. He turned slightly as Trevor walked in, greeted him with a bland, "Good morning," before returning his attention to what he was doing.

Trevor echoed the greeting, then after a moment's thought, he walked to the counter on Adrian's right, wanting to apologize properly, but Adrian twisted to the left, so the hunter slid over to the left, only to find that Adrian was now looking the other way.

"God damn it, don't be like this. Look, I'm sorry for how I behaved last night..." Trevor began.

"What does that mean?"

The brunet took a deep breath. "If it makes you feel better, Sypha immediately scolded me when we got back to our room. She said we'd been relaxed and having a good time, and I ruined it. I... I shouldn't have walked off like that." He stopped himself from saying anything more, realizing it wasn't up to him to out Sypha's feelings, nor his own, when he wasn't settled enough to be doing anything crazy like confessing, either.

Adrian sighed. "Okay." Reluctantly, he slowly turned until he was partially facing Trevor. The brunet couldn't help noticing that Adrian looked as tired as he felt. "I'm sorry if I... did something to make you uncomfortable."

Ah, so he was aware of it. "Nah. I reacted badly over nothing."

"... Over nothing...?"

Trevor cringed internally. "I didn't mean... ugh. I hadn't meant to, uh..." Mislead you? Arouse you? "confuse you," he ended up saying lamely. He desperately wanted to slap a reassuring hand on Adrian's shoulder - or perhaps stroke a strand of sunlit hair - but he didn't want to muddy the waters any more than they were.

"Confuse... oh." Adrian's eyes slid shut as he appeared to be mulling that over a moment, then he said, "I suppose there was some confusion, yes."

Trevor really wasn't happy leaving him with that thought, but there wasn't much he could do about it at the moment, either. If he couldn't sort himself out first, it wouldn't be fair to any of them. "So are we good now?"

Adrian just made a soft grunting sound, and turned back to his baking.

"I'll be outside then, taking care of the uh, 'project' out front," Trevor said, before fleeing the room.

* * *

Trevor estimated he'd been at it for maybe just under an hour, before Sypha joined him outside. Pulling up the stakes had proven much harder than he'd thought - damn Adrian for managing to bury the posts so well - so he'd resorted to cutting them down by the base like they were trees to be felled, then dragging them over to the burn pile.

As the bonfire started up again, with the newly added kindling, Trevor went to talk to Sypha, who had immediately backed off to a respectable distance upwind from the fire - though it was unavoidable, no one really wanted to smell corpses charring. He wanted to tell her that he'd tried apologizing to Adrian, but considering how much he'd screwed it up, did that count at all? He and Adrian had talked about confusion... speaking of which, Trevor was pretty sure he was still confused.

"I still don't know what to think," Trevor ended up saying. "How do your people handle things like this?"

Sypha just stared at him. "This?"

"Relationship stuff, with multiple people. Isn't there jealousy or insecurity? What if two people are arguing with each other, and don't want to get in the same bed? What does the third one do?"

Sypha tilted her head in thought. "I suppose it depends on the people involved, and the specific situation... I don't think it is right for everyone, nor is there a set answer for dealing with issues." She shrugged. "Isn't that true for all relationships, no matter what type or who is involved? You have ups and downs. You try to talk things through. Sometimes it doesn't work out despite your best efforts, but that is the nature of such things."

Trevor grumbled, not liking the thought of failure. "What if... we bring this up, and he doesn't want it?"

"It's a risk, yes. I think it'd be worth it, though. At the very least, I believe he'd give it careful consideration - and I think he'd still be our friend afterward even if he decided it wasn't right for him."

Trevor folded his arms. "I still can't decide if this is right for me. And it's not fair to bring this to his attention until I figure that out."

"Yes, I agree." Sypha paused a moment, then asked, "Did you apologize to him?"

"I did, but I don't know if I made things worse. He thinks I'm confused... or something like that. Which I am, but maybe not in the way that he's thinking?"

Sypha gave him a sympathetic smile. "Right now, don't worry about what he's thinking - is that what's holding you back? I know what I want. So what it comes down to is, what do you want, Trevor?"

The brunet sighed deeply, the lingering dream he couldn't quite recall still tinting every crevice of his mind. He thought about all the times he'd bickered and joked with Adrian, all the times they fought side by side. Yes, that had felt right - "destined" as Sypha would say. He thought about putting Adrian to bed and waking up to the sight of him bathed in the morning light, that lion's mane of hair cascading down his shoulders and spilling over the sheets. That had felt right, too.

He wondered what it would be like to kiss him. Everything about Adrian was elegant and controlled - to the point that it was appealing thinking about what would make him loosen up on that self control - but would the fangs complicate things? For that matter, was he into biting? The thought should've been terrifying; Trevor had been raised with tales of Belmonts past who'd had their throats torn out, and Adrian himself had threatened to do the same when they'd first fought, but it sounded kind of sensual too. Supposedly there were some people who enjoyed that sort of thing...

"I think I just felt all my predecessors roll over in their graves," Trevor said, rubbing idly at his neck, his chuckle a low rumble.

"Thinking indecent thoughts?" Sypha teased.

"No! Well, I wouldn't call it indecent. Just... well, not sure what to call it." He sighed again, wondering if he really was crazy or lucky or maybe a bit of both. He shook his head, figuring that crazy and lucky suited him just fine, and looked his girlfriend in the eyes and said, "Oh hell, let's give it a go..."

Sypha beamed at him.

"I... just have no idea how to go about it," Trevor added. "Like do we court him or what?"

"Agreed, we need a plan." She held up her hands dramatically, as if gesturing at a large sign. "The seduction of Adrian Tepes."

"Oh God. Is this going to turn out like Belmont and Belnades?"

Sypha was practically sparkling with glee. "You mean Belnades and Belmont. And Tepes."

"Oh good, he gets last billing."

They both began laughing at that, but Sypha suddenly stopped, her eyes widening. Trevor began turning around just as she said, "Good morning, Adrian."

The half-vampire was standing a good distance away. For a moment he stared at them mutely, but he finally said, "Breakfast is almost ready, I'm just letting you know."

"Thank you," breathed Sypha. "We'll be in in a few minutes."

Adrian continued to stare at them for a bit, as if waiting to see if anyone would say anything else, then turned to head back in, though Trevor noticed that he paused to glance at the spots where the now-missing staked bodies had flanked the gates. His hands balled into fists before he stalked off and disappeared inside.

"Well, that was awkward," Trevor commented. He hadn't been close enough to get a good look at Adrian's expression when he had stopped: was he upset, relieved, surprised? The hunter still wasn't sure if he'd done the right thing in removing those corpses, even if they upset him and Sypha, even though Adrian had given permission... reluctantly.

"You think he heard us?" Sypha asked, her voice just above a whisper.

Trevor didn't bother trying to lower his volume. Either Adrian had heard them, or he hadn't. "Who knows. Even if he did, he's going to pretend he didn't." He scrubbed at his face, trying to recapture a bit of the mood from earlier, before Adrian's melancholy had swept through like a cold front.

"So what's the plan, then? Is there anything different with seducing a man?" he asked.

One of Sypha's eyebrows arched. "Well, what did you do to for women?"

"Buy them a beer, maybe snagged a flower from someone's garden if no one was looking." When she glared at him, he reminded her, "What, I wasn't exactly picky at the time. I was just trying to get laid."

The Speaker sighed. "Let's try a bit harder than that with Adrian." She considered what she knew of their target. He was elegant, educated, and at times fussy to the point of fastidiousness. He also had come from parents who had loved each other fiercely, so there was no doubt that that had colored his view on relationships. "He's probably a romantic. His parents really loved each other, so that would've set the bar high for him."

"So wine instead of beer, and flowers that weren't stolen from a garden?"

"... Trevor..."

He grinned. "Okay, how about we make dinner with some of his favorite foods, and eat by candlelight with some white lilies at the table since they seemed to be his mother's favorite. And then we can go up to that scary as hell balcony in the clouds to stargaze for a bit before taking a long hot soak in that ridiculous tub, followed by a massage?"

Sypha stared at her lover in disbelief. "... You never offered me all those things."

"... Well... I had no reason to court you."

Her eyes narrowed. "Trevor."

"I mean, you're the one who came to me and said you wanted to travel the world with me. Why would I need to get you flowers and shit after that?" the hunter said with a laugh.


The brunet took a step back. That was the third time she'd said his name in under a minute; he knew when to cut and run. The last time he'd pissed Sypha off that badly, she'd frozen his beer. What did that poor, innocent tankard of beer do to deserve such a fate? "I think I'll head in. It's time for breakfast," he said, flashing an appeasing grin, even as he took another step back.

"You get ten seconds. Better start running," Sypha warned him.

Trevor turned and beat feet, even though he knew full well he couldn't outrun a magician's attack. But better to try and fail than to not try at all, right?

* * *

By the time Trevor and Sypha arrived in the kitchen, the table was fully set, the food was plated and waiting, and Adrian was sitting and staring morosely at the two dolls while idly spinning a butter knife around between his fingers like it was a tiny sword. He glanced up as the pair entered, but didn't say a thing - though truth be told, that was because he'd been talking to the dolls about what he'd heard outside, and had only just managed to catch himself when their real life equivalents reached the kitchen. He still wasn't sure what Trevor had meant by, "Oh good, he gets last billing," in response to Sypha reciting their names, but if he hadn't felt like an afterthought before, he certainly felt like it now.

Seeing Adrian's dejected expression, Trevor immediately felt bad that they'd stayed outside and screwed around. He shook his head, frowning that there was still a bit of ice in his hair from his admittedly well-deserved punishment.

"This looks delicious. Thank you, Adrian," Sypha said, primly taking her seat and giving Trevor a look to tell him to sit as well, instead of standing there, looking like a sad, slightly frosted over, dog.

Adrian nodded and started eating.

Trevor plopped down onto his chair and dug in as well. The food was good, as always, though slightly cooled off from sitting out; it suddenly occurred to him that Adrian was a great cook, and he and Sypha... well, not so much. Trevor was pretty good at butchery, and he could handle a roast no problem, but that was the extent of his cooking prowess. Sypha could make simple soups and stews. Neither of them could bake, nor could they put out full plates with varied sides and decorative little garnishes like Adrian did with ease. They probably should have thought about that before planning a candlelit dinner. And where the heck would they get lilies when they weren't in bloom yet?

After all that fantasizing about how they could woo Adrian, Trevor wondered if they'd already tripped and fallen at the first obstacle? But if nothing else, he was resilient - or stubborn, as Sypha would likely say with a wink - so he wasn't going to let this opportunity slip by without him at least making an attempt, even if he had no actual game plan.

"So... I was thinking, you want to spar with me later on?" Trevor asked as casually as possible.

Adrian only looked up once he realized Trevor wasn't addressing Sypha. "Spar?"

"Yeah. Doesn't have to be a long session. Just something to keep us in shape. At one point, Sypha and I were in combat almost daily, so I don't want to lose that edge," Trevor said smoothly. He was proud of himself for coming up with the idea so easily - it'd let him physically work out some of his frustrations, and if they worked up a good sweat he'd have an excuse to get Adrian in the bath again. "We can even go strictly with close range combat if you want, since that's your specialty."

Sypha tried to hide the slyness in her smile. "Oh, can I watch?" she squeaked out, a hint of pink atop her cheeks.

Adrian's brows lifted, but he didn't immediately answer. The request wasn't unreasonable; he had no reason to refuse. But he couldn't forget how badly things had gone the last time he fought Trevor... no, no that was different. That wasn't sparring and that certainly wasn't Trevor's fault.

"Is it... will it be alright?" the blond said, more to himself than anything.

"Yes, it will," Trevor said decisively. "We'll use wooden practice swords if it makes you feel better."

Maybe it would have, if they hadn't been beating each other with branches only a couple days ago. "I'd rather not."

Trevor shrugged. "Real swords then." That was perfectly fine with him. They weren't novices who didn't know how to pull their blows.

Adrian couldn't repress the shudder that ran through him. The last time he'd physically touched his sword was the afternoon before Sumi and Taka came to his room... He wasn't even sure where he'd left it after he'd cut himself free of his bindings. All the night creatures he'd left staked outside the castle, he'd dispatched with his bare hands... or in a couple of cases, a wood axe. He was pretty sure he'd even beaten one to death with a rock.

"Or fisticuffs is good too..." Trevor quickly added, seeing that Adrian had gotten unhappier with his latest suggestion.

The brunet sounded really eager... maybe all the time spent indoors wasn't doing him any good. With a sigh of defeat, the blond said, "Fine, fisticuffs then."

They agreed to meet up an hour past noon, on the grounds outside the Hold. Trevor showed up armed of course, though he left all his weapons with Sypha before he began stretching his arms and neck in preparation for the sparring session. Adrian came over after finishing up in the stable and animal pens, no warm up needed as he'd been doing physical labor all morning.

There wasn't much ceremony to it. The men headed over to a reasonably flat patch of grass, agreed to stick strictly with fists - and no "vampire shit," as Trevor put it - shook on it, and then Adrian immediately leapt back as Trevor took the initiative, going for a series of quick jabs, all of which were dodged. Adrian was simply faster, even without deliberate use of his innate abilities; he couldn't help but see and react to each attempted strike as they came in.

"Why am I the only one swinging?" Trevor complained as he threw yet another punch that he was sure would connect, only to miss by a hair. From his perspective, everything was just barely missing - yet Adrian looked completely unperturbed by all the close calls.

"I thought you were still warming up. I can retaliate if you insist," Adrian said.

"Yes, I insist, or else I look like an idiot swinging at the air," Trevor growled.

Adrian gave a small nod, parried the next swing, then stepped in and managed a glancing blow just under Trevor's left arm; the hunter landed one of his own in nearly the same location. No worse for wear, the blond turned the tables by using his left arm to pin down Trevor's right forearm in place at his side, then backhanded him lightly across the face.

If they were keeping tally, Adrian would be up a point. But Trevor didn't mind, even if his face stung a little. Strange as it sounded, there was something comforting about trading blows, knowing full well that they could really hurt each other if they wanted to, but trusting that their partner wouldn't do it.

Trevor took advantage of their close proximity to grab onto Adrian's shirt, pull him off balance, and throw him backwards. The half-vampire lightly sprung back up onto his feet as Trevor drove forward with two punches in succession. Adrian pivoted on his toes to neatly let the other man's fists whiz past him, then chopped down, hitting Trevor on the right wrist, causing the brunet to step back and shake the feeling back into his hand.

A second point scored. Yet, the brunet grinned. Adrian was better technically than he, but Trevor didn't mind playing a bit dirty.

They circled around, looking for an opening. Trevor went ahead and presented one as he wound up and committed to a big swing, which predictably Adrian ducked under before jabbing him in the gut, but as the blond went to straighten back up Trevor caught a big fist full of hair, pulled, and simply head butted him. They both went down, hands going to foreheads and stomach and scalp, respectively; a draw.

"You can't do that, Trevor!" Sypha yelled from the sidelines.

"Why not? If a shirt's not off limits..." Trevor huffed, forcing himself back up on his feet. But if he were to be honest about it, he did feel a little bad. If it were a bar fight, he'd pull moves like that all day. But even though he had warned Adrian that his hair was impractical in combat, it'd be awful if he had actually damaged it or something.

"You said fists only!" said Sypha.

"I... was using my hand at one point!" Trevor argued back. What, were head butts not allowed?

Apparently Adrian didn't care either way as he stood, squared up, and finally made the first move in the next set, darting in with a short punch which did no real damage, then shifting his weight to drive his opposing shoulder into Trevor's chest before spinning and elbowing him in the ribs. Trevor grunted at the impact but gathered his wits enough to bring down both his fists in an overhead axe chop between Adrian's shoulder blades. The blond staggered slightly, but pivoted and threw another backhanded blow into the other side of Trevor's ribcage.

Trevor pushed away to buy himself some time as he sucked air. He wasn't out of shape, but the past several weeks had taken a toll on him; he still hadn't recovered from all of his and Sypha's "adventures." "Ha, I'm overmatched, aren't I?" He could probably use a few more cheap tricks to gain an advantage here and there but he was going to run out of them pretty fast, whereas Adrian still seemed to have more moves in reserve. Maybe they could add in kicks as well, but Trevor wasn't any more specialized in those, and Adrian was slightly taller with longer legs. Trevor imagined that Dracula had learned quite a few different combat styles and techniques over the years, and passed some of those on to his son. "I don't remember you giving me such a hard time the first time we fought," he groused.

"That wasn't a fight. I was testing you," Adrian replied.

Trevor stared at him a long moment, as reality sank in, then loudly complained, "Well I sure didn't know that at the time, what with your fancy sword shenanigans and threatening to rip out my throat and all!"

Adrian rolled his eyes. "It was all posturing; even if you weren't the ones I was waiting for, I had no plan to do harm to you." He relaxed and straightened up, figuring they were done for now. "But I see you haven't improved as far as hand-to-hand combat goes. You treat everything like a bar fight. Big swings, no finesse. If a punch connects, it'll do damage, yes, but that's if it connects," Adrian pointed out, as if he were a teacher correcting a student.

"Yeah well... that's how I learned to brawl - in bars and taverns. It doesn't have to be pretty, you just need to walk out alive." Trevor cracked his knuckles. "Besides, I don't want a lecture from a guy who habitually uses his face as a shield. I've never seen anyone use their head to absorb attacks as much as you do. I don't care if you heal up instantly; it's a terrible habit."

"What does that have to do with fisticuffs? We're both getting hit in the face. And I do own an actual shield you know."

Trevor swung incredulous eyes in Adrian's direction. "... What the fuck? Then WHY haven't you used it?"

Adrian stared back, suddenly wondering the same thing. There was the fact that he hadn't had access to it earlier, given that it was in the castle's armory... but it hadn't occurred to him to go get it when he could have, regardless. He cocked his head in thought. "... I'm not sure, actually. It's a bit cumbersome, I suppose. I favor speed."

"Cumbersome?! Guess which is designed to stand up to a blade or a blast of acid: a sheet of reinforced wood and metal, or your face?"

Adrian couldn't help but chuckle. The hunter was making a good argument. "You never cared about what happened to my face before."

Trevor slapped his hand over his forehead. "Oh Jesus help me... Your face is one of your good qualities. Let's not be so eager to ruin it, okay?"

That caught Adrian off guard. Was Trevor complimenting his appearance? Unsure of what that meant, he tried to parry back. "Just my face, not my brain?"

The brunet snickered, then responded in a mocking sing-song, "Yeah, just your face. Because you're not using your brain, Mr. 'I have a shield but it's too cumbersome' - likely because you've had your head slammed into walls too many times."

Adrian frowned at him. "I really don't think you, of all people, should be commenting on the intelligence of others, Trevor Belmont." He turned to their sole spectator. "Sypha, have you managed to teach him to read yet?"

"No, not really," she said with a smile. She had made the effort, but Trevor was never really interested and would find ways to weasel out of it.

"Hey, I can read a little bit," Trevor shot back.

"Beyond just your name?" Adrian lobbied.

"Yeah, smartass - I'm working on it, okay? It's hardly high priority compared to things like, not getting torn to pieces by an army of skeletons when all I was trying to do was find a place to piss."

Sypha laughed. "Are you making excuses, Trevor?"

Adrian folded his arms, a slight hint of a smile curling his lips. "Let's make a deal: I'll go pull my shield out of the armory, and in exchange, you spend an hour each evening with either Sypha or I, reading and writing."

"That's a lousy exchange!" Trevor protested. "Are you seriously threatening to keep using your goddamn face as a punching bag otherwise?"

"It seems fair to me. You did say it was one of his good qualities, why wouldn't you want to protect it?" Sypha asked, pleased with the suggestion.

"Are you two teaming up on me?"

"Yes," they answered simultaneously.

All three began chuckling.

Trevor knew he'd been defeated. But he wanted to make sure he got the most he could out of the agreement. "Fine, fine, I'll do it, of all the stupid... Anyhow, in the meantime, let's start over and do this properly." He bent down and began picking up his whips, re-coiling them and attaching them to his belt. "Go get your sword and shield, and I'll use what I have here."

The faint smile vanished from Adrian's face as if it had never been there. "I... actually don't know where I left it," he admitted in a small voice. "The sword, I mean."

That... made no sense. How could Adrian of all people misplace his sword? It followed his commands better than a trained hound. "You can just call it to you, right? Even from a distance," Trevor wanted to confirm.

"Well, yes."


Adrian just shook his head, good mood completely gone.

Trevor suddenly remembered the bloodied bed he'd taken apart, its canopy cut cleanly as if sliced with a razor, and the two human corpses with their throats slit. "Never mind. Sorry. It's fine, don't do it if you don't want to."

Adrian didn't say anything. He didn't move from where he was standing either, as if uncertain whether he should stay or go.

The brunet looked over at his girlfriend, desperate to fix things before they got worse; he knew how quickly Adrian could get to brooding. Sypha looked concerned as well, but wasn't sure what to suggest as a distraction, until she looked down at the small stockpile beside her and said, "You could both try using daggers. Trevor has a few different options here."

"Want to give it a go?" Trevor asked, grasping at straws. He was unsure if Adrian had ever used daggers. Though for safety's sake, he was going to have to check if any of the weapons were actually safe for the half-vampire's use, as at least one of them was consecrated and another laden with some sort of ancient magic he hadn't yet identified.

Adrian turned slowly. "I don't know." One hand went to the opposing wrist, the fingers idly tracing the scars, but for the moment he didn't do any further damage. Trevor released the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.

Sypha stood and approached, gently putting a hand on Adrian's shoulder, like a handler dealing with a skittish horse. "If you don't want to continue, will you at least sit with us?" When he didn't answer, she slid her hand down to his elbow and tugged him closer, then carefully wrapped her arms around him, embracing him. He was a bit stiff initially, but began relaxing as her body heat starting seeping through his clothes and into his skin, before he finally reciprocated.

The redhead peeked past Adrian's shoulder to stare at Trevor as if to say, "Get in here, silly." And so Trevor gave a tiny grunt of acknowledgement before joining in, wrapping one arm around each of their shoulders and squeezing.

The trio stood there like that a couple of minutes until Sypha's nose wrinkled and she said, "I can't take it anymore. Trevor, you're really sweaty..."

"Thanks, I hadn't noticed," Trevor said sarcastically. Taking that as a sign to let go, he released the pair and took a half step back, pleased to see that Adrian no longer looked as lost. If anything, he looked a bit... thoughtful, perhaps? Warmed up, at the very least, as there was a bit more color to his skin; apparently he did run a little on the cool side, like he'd claimed. "A bath sure would hit the spot right now," Trevor added as he swiped his wrist across his forehead.

"Oh... yes, that's a good idea," Sypha agreed. She kept her hand on the small of Adrian's back, but even without her actively holding onto him he made no move to pull away, which was encouraging. "Let's do that!"

Seeing no reason to stick around, Adrian nodded and finally went to leave.

Sypha immediately reached out and grabbed his arm. "Wait... don't you want to join us?"

"Why?" Adrian asked. Didn't they say they were going to take a bath together?

Sypha stared at him. He wasn't clueing in, so what could she say that would convince him to go along with it, considering he still looked as fresh and unruffled as... "You were just cleaning the animal pens, weren't you? You definitely need a bath then."

Adrian's nose lifted as he sniffed the air as discretely as possible. Yes, he was absolutely sure he did not offend; if anything, he smelled more of Trevor than anything else, but the mix of leather, metallic tang and testosterone didn't bother him. Maybe it was offensive to Sypha? "I assure you, I'm quite clean. I changed clothing for the task and washed my hands thoroughly afterwards."

"But Trevor just sweated on us..." Sypha insisted. She looked over at the aforementioned man, who didn't seem to think he was that sweaty and was now visibly cringing at how awkward this was getting. This was your idea, he mouthed at her. No way, no how was he going to get blamed if this went south and Adrian ran away.

Luckily for Sypha, Adrian was too distracted with his own thoughts to realize what was going on. He took another sniff and wondered if maybe Sypha just perceived things differently, as women were supposed to be more sensitive about scents and odors. "I... see."

"So? Will you join us?" Sypha asked.

Adrian sighed. He wasn't sure why they kept trying to include him in things if he was just an auxiliary concern. Maybe they were trying to be polite since they were staying in the castle. Or was there something else going on that he was unaware of? He wanted to trust them, to believe that he mattered, but he'd trusted Taka and Sumi too, and where had that gotten him?

Immediately he felt guilty for thinking that way, even for a moment. Trevor and Sypha weren't like that. Sypha had believed in him from the very start, despite the fact that he had fangs and slept in a coffin; Trevor had ended up giving him his childhood home. They'd returned to his side even though they didn't need him any longer, because they were friends.

No, wait... they'd said that things hadn't gone as they expected, and this was the closest thing they had to a home, and something about plots to resurrect Dracula? Or did he mishear that because he'd been intoxicated at the time? But Sypha had said that that wasn't why they'd returned, so then...?

"Adrian?" Sypha was peering at him now, concern written all over her face.


"The bath?" she prompted him. "Will you come with us?"

"Oh. Well, if you insist," Adrian finally answered. Although he didn't understand why they were being so pushy about it, he had no real reason to refuse. But he still felt uneasy - what else they were keeping from him?

* * *

Author's Notes:

January 4, 2023