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The world bled.

Crimson clouds covered the sky, eclipsing the stars and fleetingly casting a maroon glow upon the moon before shifting to obscure it completely. Gales of frigid air ripped across the land, tearing through flesh and fabric without discrimination and leveling buildings in a single icy blast. Grass withered and died in instants, shriveling to nothing and leaving only ashy residue in its wake as the soil turned cracked and brown in the blink of an eye. As the sky grew red and angry, the ground wept tears of mud and blood, gaping chasms cracking open as rivers of rusty red welled up from below to sweep across barren fields and spill down slopes to meet with frothing rivers. What livestock remained spooked and fled, stampeding across the barren waste of land and often as not falling prey to the rampant rendering of the earth.

Above it all raged a vicious storm, forks of jagged lightning wailing down to blast the scorched earth, rending trees in two and igniting fire across the ruined earth as the clouds wept scarlet tears. The massive castle rose high amidst it all, a silent silhouette against the bloody sky. It sat amid a field of ruin, the surrounding land scorched for miles beyond the horizon, blackened soil and burned out skeletal trees eerily still against the raging gale. 

Windows sat darkened, doors sealed shut, and even the constant, whirring hum of the engine deep within the bowels of the structure was muted. Silence hung heavy across the entire land, the world stagnant and muffled against the overwhelming agony and wrenching rage, the sorrow and regret and stabbing, blistering, gnawing sense of absolute and utter loss emanating from the being enclosed within. 

Dracula sat unmoving, back stiff against the straight back of his chair, hands clenching the arms so tightly that his clawlike nails gouged chunks out of the wood. He had not moved from this position in the two days following his return to the castle after Lisa’s death. His fury had powered him long enough to begin the muster of his army, then all of the emotions he had repressed had begun to burn, consuming him from the inside out until he could do nothing more than sink slowly into the chair in his study and watch the wood in the hearth turn to ash. 

Despite his near-perfect posture, his head hung low, bowed in uncharacteristic submission as a horde of emotions played out across his otherwise-stony face.  With eyes completely consumed by blood-red pupils, Dracula stared desolately into the fire crackling in the hearth, the image of Lisa’s burning body flickering before him with every dancing tongue of flame and upturned log. Screams echoed in his ears, horrible, pained shrieks that took what feeling he had left and shredded it, peeling back layer after layer of carefully constructed armor until his very soul was left exposed, red and raw and shivering beneath the accusation of a pair of piercing blue eyes. 

He felt tired, worn down beyond anything he had experienced in his long life. The years spent alone prior to meeting Lisa seemed infinitesimal when compared to the few days that had passed since her demise, and now an eternity alone yawned before him, an endless cycle of loneliness overshadowed by the knowledge of all that he had lost. 

This life was nothing without her to grace it, the humans less than worthless without her as their champion—little more than vermin to be exterminated in order to erase their pollution from this earth. Humans, who only believed in false teachings and fake magics, who turned on each other at the barest whisper of suggestion. Humans were worthless, vile pollutants, a plague upon this world.

She had been human, a treacherous voice whispered in his ear. She loved them, cared for them, would do anything for them. “And they killed her,” he snarled out loud. “She gave her life to them.”

He blinked furiously, eyes trailing tears of blood as he rose to the full extent of his towering height. Unseeing, he slammed a fist into the wall, punching through stone and sending tremors reverberating through the castle down to its sluggishly-beating heart. The pain of the impact was inconsequential, skin and bone knitting almost instantaneously after the impact. He roared, a wail of rage and fire and hopelessness that cut across the land, the storms outside seizing his pain and fury and expanding in a wave of ferocity. 

 

He couldn’t— 

 

Gone—

 

Teeth bared in a silent snarl, he spun and began mindlessly smashing everything in sight, toppling candelabras and vases, crushing furniture and paintings tearing ancient tomes to shreds and rending tapestries from their walls. Finally, chest heaving, he sank to his knees, the visceral, primal rage that had previously consumed him leeching from his body and leaving him…hollow. He was truly empty, no spark of joy or even purpose to be dredged up from within his depths. No purpose of hope or life or joy remained to be seen in the blackness that now gripped his heart.

Lisa was gone, dead and burned and departed from this world. 

 

He had not been there. 

 

He. Had not. Been there. 

 

She had been taken from him far before their time and he had not even been there to protect her, to care for her and save her as he had promised.  The brightest spot of his long and lonely life, extinguished in an instant without giving him the chance to truly say goodbye. And he, with the unending life of the immortal he was, as close to all-powerful as any being that walked the earth, had no hope to truly join her. 

Never before had his life felt so like a prison, the bars of eternity swinging shut before his hollow eyes. 

Bracing one fist against the cold stone beneath his knees, he bowed his head, dark hair falling to frame his face. “Lisa,” he breathed softly. “Forgive me.” The plea was layered, grief pairing with absolute fury and a bloodthirsty drive for revenge, the burning, all-consuming rage welling up from endless reserves within him as it slowly devoured him from within. “Forgive me for failing you, for not being there when I was needed, for not doing my duty.” His eyes hardened, the faint traces of white that had returned slowly eclipsed by a crimson gleam. “Forgive me for what I am about to do. You might have loved them, but for what they did to you…they deserve to die.”

He stood, clenching his hands into fists at his sides, fangs bared. “They all deserve to die.”

There was nothing left in humanity, nothing to redeem them in his eyes. Even his son—his last connection to the human world, to her—lay slumbering in a healing trance, deep below the earth after attempting to intervene. Nothing would stop this. 

The tempest outside picked up in fury as its master raged, loss and sorrow hollowing out into a fathomless void of enmity, violence, and resentment. It filled him to the brim, overshadowing Vlad, consuming the man who valued science and knowledge and creation—and love, his traitorous mind whispered—until only a burning shell remained. 

One final, traitorous cry tore from his throat, a wail of sorrow that ripped through the castle and left him shaking, hollow, burning with feeling and overcome by too many emotions to name. As his scream died away, one by one he extinguished those lingering agonies, snuffed out all the burning little lights that had kept him tethered and sane. Vlad Tepes was done playing human, playing a man. Dracula would bring hell on Earth, and no one would be spared. He spun on his heel, putting the room and all of its memories behind him as he did, unheeding of the bloody tears streaking down his angular cheeks.

Dracula wept, and the world would weep with him.

Chapter Text

She could not help but be drawn to him, a bright moon absorbed into the orbit of a massive planet, his intrigue and allure a magnet drawing her perpetually closer to his overwhelming presence. From her first moments in his towering castle, those first moments in his towering presence, Lisa had been acutely aware of the authority, power, and uncanny intelligence simmering just beneath the surface of Vlad Dracula Tepes. 

It was not just his physical presence she found arresting, though, she certainly could not deny that it was a contributing factor. Tall, dark of hair, swarthy beneath his deathly pallor, stronger than any mortal or immortal in existence—the merest whisper of his presence instantly commanded attention. The very air hung heavy in anticipatory silence of his every action and word, drawn in by that commanding aura that he wore like a second skin.

It was more than that, though, that truly drew her to him. She had come to him to learn, to become knowledgeable in the world’s scientific truths and theories that she had consistently been denied. She had come willing, unbiased, unpolluted—and so he taught. 

He, with the experience of centuries, the truths of magic and science, had consented to share such wealth with her. His mind was vast library, filled with information not even contained within the boundless depths of his physical collection. For every question she posed he had another twenty waiting to counter, to challenge her convictions and entice her to think beyond the realm of what she thought she knew. 

For every mistake she made in an experiment he had a handful of solutions and explanations, the cant of his head or the angle of his eyes the only evidence of amusement or disapproval. And, truly, he was seldom annoyed. She had feared, at first—albeit silently and only within the deepest confines of her own mind—that she would not prove worthy, that the years of being forced to endure alongside the narrow-minded idolatry of the Church had stripped her of any capacity to truly be worthy of his tutelage. This proved a fleeting, fanciful bout of dread, however, as her mentor responded with meaningful critiques, sarcastic quips, and only the most nominal trace of exasperation when she was unable to follow his instruction. 

For a woman denied the education she had desired for so very long, there was truly no better company in the world. 

She knew in truth, however—in that same deep, dark little corner that had harbored her very real and very true doubts in herself, in the dark recesses of her heart that she closed away and ignored as studiously as she pored over her books—that it was far more than Vlad’s bountiful stores of information and apparent willingness to share it that drew her to him. 

He was an enigma, for all his apparent transparency when they were at work. He was an immortal, a vampire with a long, bloody trail winding in his wake, alive for lifespans beyond that of an ordinary man.

She was not naive—she was very well aware that he had page upon page of past atrocities accounted to his name, that he had killed and tortured and stood at the head of slavering hordes of infantry and cavalry alike as he waged his wars. He cloaked himself in death and bore and burned with the fires of Hell deep within. Though she had yet to see him demonstrate his more demonic inclinations, Lisa knew they simmered just beneath the surface, smoldering embers just waiting to be stirred into an unquenchable blaze. 

No, Lisa was not unaware.

However, she could not ignore the man he was around her—the man who met her word for word, took her taunts in (relatively) good humor, shared long evenings and rainy days and countless hours of conversation with her. He seemed…himself when he was with her. The idea was laughable—after all, she had no baseline, no control with which she could compare her observations.

Even so…. 

The heavy patter of rain on the window pulled her from her musings with a frown and a slight groan. “How long have I been sitting here?” she mused rhetorically, glancing at the greatly-reduced candle as she rose to her feet with a wince. She slipped a mark between the pages of her book and stretched, arms raising above her head as she shook the kinks out of her shoulders and back. It had been the perfect evening to read, the sun sinking into obscurity as a blanket of clouds and night stole across the earth. Somewhere in the midst of her studies her focus had slipped, however—as it had been every day over the course of the last few months. 

She had been in Dracula’s castle for nearly a year by this point, and somewhere along the way her conviction to maintain a strictly professional relationship had evaporated into thin air. She found herself fully taken by affection—by love, her treacherous mind whispered—for her unusual host, and was reduced to time-wasting musings when her focus slipped. They were all she would allow herself, and even then only rarely; it did not do to dwell upon impossible things.

“I was beginning to think you would never stir.” 

Lisa nearly leapt from her skin at the deep, humorous voice resonating from the doorway behind her. 

“It is not polite to startle someone lost in thought,” she chastised, masking her discomfiture behind her stern words. 

He chuckled, sweeping into the room to loom over her. “Oh, is that what it was?” he asked, smoothing a hand over his mustache to mask a smile. “I had thought you might have fallen asleep for as long as you sat staring out the window without noticing the rain.”

Blue eyes narrowed and Lisa gave an exasperated sigh, flinging her hands up in the air. “Fine, so I was not exactly at my best,” she consented, brushing a hank of blonde hair back from her forehead. “But I’ve been quite productive this week otherwise,” she said brightly. “We’re making a lot of headway with that fever remedy, and my knowledge of medicinal herbs has expanded tenfold these last five days.” She beamed up at him, any tiredness forgotten in the exultation of her progress.

Vlad gave her a small indulgent smile, arm coming down automatically in a silently-accepted offer as he guided her from the room. “That you have,” he agreed, his free hand crossing over to trace the fine veins in the hand curled around his sleeve. “You have—you are—exceeding all of my expectations with your studies.” His eyes closed briefly, sable lashes falling over scarlet irises to kiss the pale skin of his cheeks. “But I wonder,” he posed, eyes flickering open as he shifted to look down at her with that burning red gaze, “if you might be persuaded to take a slight reprieve from our lessons tonight?”

Lisa cocked her head in silent query, but nodded her assent. “That would be acceptable,” she deadpanned, “especially since earlier evidence indicates I am in no fit state of mind to focus tonight.” Unconsciously, her fingers traced the fine brocade of his sleeve, trailing over the red and back stitching in a tender caress. 

He started at the touch but said nothing, realizing as he tilted his head to study her that she was entirely unaware of even initiating the gesture. “Excellent,” he declared, a touch of fangs showing in his smile. 

His smile. He scoffed at himself. A year ago, he could count on a single hand the times he had smiled since his rebirth as the King of the undead. But now? Now, he came unhinged at a single, soft touch or word from the human woman beside him. Smiles, even laughter—even love, his demon hissed—came readily to him now, welling up from depths he had thought unfathomable. Now, he lived for her smiles, her approval and joy and excitement. Her achievements made him prouder than he could ever recall being, her presence in his life a bright spot he did not ever want extinguished. 

Together, they crossed across a long hallway of tapestries and ascended a winding staircase, stepping slowly up the heavy grey stones to a tower Lisa had never visited before. “This is new,” she prompted, her unvoiced questions swimming in her upturned blue eyes. 

Her host shrugged. “I thought it would be a pleasant change of pace from our usual routine,” he demurred. 

Lisa frowned in thought and glanced out the single barred window set into the turret, the gleam of the moon capturing her attention. “Oh, the rain has passed,” she exclaimed. “I do so love the night sky.”

A secretive smile touched Dracula’s lips briefly as he led them up the final few steps. "Yes, it was a rather quick storm," he agreed, raising an eyebrow as he stopped behind her to peer out the same window. She could feel the rumble of his chest behind her as he murmured softly, the remaining few clouds dissipating into nothingness with a slight twitch of his elegant fingers.

"Vlad," Lisa chastised, spinning on her heel to glare exasperatedly into the face she suddenly realized was far closer than she had initially imagined, "What have we discussed about manipulating the weather?"

He snorted. "The laws of physics apply to magic as well as science, yes, I know," he recited back to her. "Removing a small storm here will not damage the state of the world's weather in any noticeable manner, my dear. Relax." Deftly, he stepped around her, smirking at her pronounced huff, and stopped before a heavy wooden door inscribed with glowing silver runes. He turned the iron handle and swung inward, sending the door thudding back against the wall with a light push. 

“Ladies first,” he intoned with an ironic look, knowing she despised the turn of phrase. With a roll of her eyes, Lisa followed his extended hand into the room.

It was not a large room, in the grand scheme of the castle itself, but what it lacked in size it made up for in content. The edges were framed by shelves of books of every size—a luxury she had been spoiled for after living in his castle—and in the center, rising up into the heights of the tower itself, was a massive telescope to rival the likes of the one in the main laboratory. 

Lisa’s breath left her in an admiring sigh. “Oh, Vlad,” she exulted, “it’s wonderful.” She let go of his arm to cross over to the gold instrument, running a hand along the eyepiece. “Though, what distinguishes this from the one below?”

And indeed, they had spent a great deal of time poring over star charts and mapping planets—for all that Lisa aspired to heal people, she held a deep affection for the intrigue and allure of the night sky. It was deep and dark and mysterious, filled with the obvious intrigue and allure but all the while sheltering hidden depths that most people would never be privileged enough to see or understand. 

He gave her a small smile, that secret, special little outpouring of affection that was meant only for her eyes. “This one shows much of the same,” he shared, “but I have…modified it slightly. It will show you the stars you cannot currently see in this hemisphere.” He nodded toward a book lying open on the table beneath the great instrument. “It shows the opposite sky to the one below.”

Lisa’s eyes lit up in excitement. “That’s ingenious,” she marveled. Her eyes narrowed. “Though, it sounds more the work of magic than science.”

Vlad followed her into the room, sweeping his arms out to the side in a shrug. He could not help but notice how her eyes followed the movement of his shoulders, the trail of his great, black cloak as it followed his outspread hands. “A little of both, perhaps,” he conceded. “What is the world without compromise?”

Her lips parted in surprise as he threw her words from an earlier conversation from months before back in her face. A faint flush spreading across her fair skin, she turned her attention back to the collection of marvels before her. “So,” she mused, “with this, I should be able to see Cancer, and Hydra, and Leo, and…” her voice faded off to abstract mumbles as she eagerly pressed her eye to the telescope, nimble fingers adjusting the focus as she scanned the night sky. Her fair hair hung alongside her fine cheekbones, curling over her shoulders to fall down her back in a golden waterfall. Caught in the silvery light of the moon she was radiant, an angel who had somehow stumbled and found herself ensnared in the lair of a demon.

Overcome, said demon moved without thinking, crossing the room in a single blink to rest just behind her, one hand extended to—to what? He paused, hand hovering in midair, unmoving but for the faintest tremor in his extended limb. What was he thinking? He had brought her up here as a surprise, to delight her in the mysteries of a sky she could not typically see, not to disturb her with an old immortal’s unwanted affections. His hand clenched into a fist and curled in toward his chest, resting over where his heart would beat were he still alive.

“This is marvelous!” Lisa exclaimed, whirling from the machine to find him. “Oh!” she started, not expecting to find him so close. “Truly, though,” she persisted, coming back to herself, "I could not imagine a better end to the evening. Have you had this here the entire time?”  She had her suspicious about the age of this particular device and its rather unique features, and they were confirmed as her vampire (Her vampire? When did that start?) shifted slightly and gazed up at the moon rather than meet her eyes with his glowing red gaze. 

“Oh, long enough,” he hedged, waving it away with a dismissive hand. He would do anything for her—this was a mere trifle. 

He was not expecting the armful of grateful woman that followed.

Thank you,” she professed, leaning back just enough to peer earnestly into his eyes, a broad smile spreading across her face. “To be able to see everything in the sky, and not just from a single perspective—it’s an amazing gift.”

“Yes, it is,” he murmured in agreement, ruby eyes boring down into hers. His hand rose of its own accord to frame her face, thumb rising to trace the fine edges of her cheekbone. “It takes a rare soul to even desire to look beyond a single perspective, to see beyond what has always been seen and look for more.” His voice was soft and contemplative, and both he and Lisa knew quite well that why no longer discussed the stars. 

Her own hand rose to meet his where it held her face, thumb tracing his pale wrist as she stood enthralled in that burning gaze. “What point is there in living if we do not seek the truth?” she countered, her own voice as soft as his. 

“And what truth is it that you seek?” he asked, stepping closer so that they stood but a breath apart, only their markedly different heights separating their faces. 

Lisa’s breath hitched in her chest, all of the feelings and thoughts and desires she had been keeping suppressed welling up to the surface in a single surge. She hesitated, words catching in her throat as all of her insecurities followed, telling her she was imagining things, reading far too much into a simple situation between friends. Her heart, however, beat traitorously within her chest, thrumming out a pulsing pattern of nerves and anticipation and something else that she knew he would be able to hear even without his predatory inclinations. 

Steeling her resolve, she released his wrist to reach forward and seize the fabric of his cloak at his collarbones and tug his head lower, standing on her toes to further reduce the space between them. “This,” she breathed, and pressed her lips to his. She could feel him stiffen beneath her, his lips cold and icy against her own, smooth as marble and stone to the touch. Briefly, she allowed herself the selfish pleasure of his taste, of this one singular moment of contact between them. She breathed in deeply through her nose, overwhelmed by the rich scent of sandalwood, the iron tang of blood and the comforting caress of crisp evening air and rich, worn leather. Her hands smoothed a shaky path along his chest, trailing from where they had clutched at his neck to draw him close down to his abdomen and back again. 

All the while, he remained stock-still beneath her touch.

Foolish, Lisa thought to herself, of course he does not feel the same. Her grip on his cloak relaxed, her parted lips slipping from his as she lowered herself and regretfully withdrew. She kept her eyes downcast in a vain attempt to mask the hurt in them. At least she had tried, had known what she wanted and made the attempt. Perhaps she had just shattered the fragile bud of their friendship, but she could not have lived not knowing whether that hazy “perhaps” might have actually come to pass. 

It was then Vlad made his move. Quick as a snake, he caught her in his arms, one hand sweeping down to rest at the small of her back as its partner buried itself in her hair. Hungrily, he pressed his lips to hers, and Lisa could not suppress a gasp at the difference between this and the kiss they had shared just moments before. Lips that had been ice were quickly thawing, the tangible passion between them reviving veins that otherwise sat stagnant, an undead heart beating rapidly within the chest that housed it. 

Those lips caressed and tasted, mapping every contour of her mouth until she could do nothing more than hang limply in his arms, peering up at him with hazy blue eyes. “I didn’t think,” she breathed, raising a shaky hand to smooth the fine thread of dark hairs framing his forehead,

“—that you felt the same?” he finished, a knowing gleam in his eyes. He raised one hand—a hand easily capable of felling a man in a single blow, yet so gentle with her—and trailed the backs of his fingers across her cheek. The tenderness of the gesture and the keen, curious expression in his eyes sent a surge of affection rushing through her. She loved this man more deeply than she had ever dreamed one could love another, and the thought left her simultaneously disconcerted and filled with an overpowering, thrilling elation. 

“Well, yes,” she confessed, the reality of his words sinking in as she finally heard them. She buried her face against the crest emblazoned on his chest rather than meet those intense scarlet eyes. “What have I to offer you? My life is a single flicker against a much greater flame—here today, but gone in an instant relative to yours."

His face darkened at her words, the truth of them bitter salt in the perpetually open wound that had plagued his existence from the first moment he realized just how very much the woman in his arms had penetrated his defenses. 

“My Lisa,” he sighed, burying his nose in her flaxen hair, hand cradling the base of her skull as gently as she had even seen him hold anything. “Why must you undermine your importance? You are the brightest point in my life, the only thing that makes these endless days livable.” He swept his other arm around behind her back, cradling her in the great, sweeping shade of his dark cloak as he blanketed her in his embrace. “You have made me reconsider everything I believed about myself, about even humans—my greatest dread in this existence is the moment you step out of it.” 

What little she could see of his face held an expression of such pain, such alarming, calculated despair that Lisa nearly wept. "Oh my love," she said, carding her hands through that great black mane. "Think no more of things beyond our control. I am here, and I offer you my love, and all of the days that yet remain in my life." She thought perhaps that she had spoken rashly, overstepped herself yet again as she was so wont to do, but--

When he caught face up in his hands, great palms dwarfing her fair cheeks, and pressed a long, lingering kiss to her forehead, and then her temples, nose, chin, lips--

--then she knew well that she had instead spoken well.

"You would truly remain here, dear one? As mine, my partner, my equal, my love?" 

Lisa gave him a beatific smile, her own hands coming up to press against his where they cradled her face. "As much as you would be my own partner and equal," she returned. She pressed a kiss to his lips, taking the time to savor the slide of her skin against his, the otherworldly cool that seemed to seek out her own heat and drink it up, an unquenchable cold flame that flicked ever outward. 

"I love you, Vlad," she confessed, holding her gaze steady as she stared determinedly into his overwhelmed gaze, her cerulean eyes searching his own narrowed red ones and divining all of the emotions he otherwise strove to suppress. "I love the man and the monster, the scholar and the skeptic, the magician and the mathematician. I know I can never claim the entirety of you, that I can never even hope to possess a fragment, but--" she bit her lip, the pull of her teeth against the plush, delicate skin drawing his gaze. "--I love you so much I fear my heart will burst for it, and I will gladly take any piece of  you that you are willing to offer."

"Oh Lisa," he sighed, a platitude offered up to Heavens he had long since cast aside, "you don't realize just how much of me you do have. I am yours, my love." Casting aside the shreds of propriety to which he had been clinging, he took the routes of a lesser man and brought his mouth down to bear upon hers once more, seeking affirmation and deliverance and comfort from the enduring warmth of her embrace. He plundered her mouth, angling her head with his fingers on her chin so that he might sweep his tongue through the parted seam of her lips and continue his exploration. He took no mercy, accepting what was offered and challenging her to give more, and Lisa reciprocated, her own tongue chasing his in broad, sweeping strokes as she met his fierce embrace. 

They were kindred spirits, of sorts, the monster and the maiden, each of such a passionate nature that the other could not help but be caught up in the other. Lisa knew she should step back, should allow them time to sit and talk and speak of the shifting dynamic of their relationship, but--

--there would be time for talk tomorrow, when the moonlight was not so fierce and the fever of their passion had temporarily cooled. She closed her eyes and lost herself in the embrace of the man she loved, the only one, human or otherwise, who had ever deigned to mark her as their equal. Tongue darting over the tip of one pointed fang, hand tracing the pointed tip of a pale, sensitive ear, she hummed delightedly to herself as he pressed insistent kisses to the pale column of her throat. 

It could certainly never be said that she had tamed the Beast, but neither could it be said that the Beast would ever tame her. 

Chapter Text

He lay as though one dead, pale face smooth in his rest, arms crossed across his chest in a corpselike fashion. Dark hair fanned out across the ivory pillowcase, the contrast of shadow and light stark in the bright light of the early summer day spilling through the window. Lisa could not help but snicker to herself at the predictability of his pose—the monster slumbering and temporarily at peace.

Had his scarlet eyes been open they would have been narrowed in exasperation. She had teased him, as day broke and the sun rose above the horizon to send brilliant golden beams dancing across their bedroom, teased him about not retreating to the elaborate coffin she knew he kept in the bowels of the castle. Shouldn’t he flee the daylight in the sanctity of his lair, retreat from the advancing sunlight to shelter in the shadows until night returned once more?

He had simply stared at her with one dark brow quirked, an ironic smile tugging at his bloodless lips. “Do you think me so poor a vampire that I cannot tolerate daylight, should I so choose?” he had asked, turning on his side to loom over her in the bed, silken strands of sable hair falling to frame his face and just brush the curve of her fine cheeks. “That, upon the touch of a single ray of sunlight, I will simply turn to ash and be scattered by the wind, borne to parts unknown never to be seen again?" That solid chest had shaken in silent mirth, dark humor glinting in the depths of his otherworldly eyes.  “Hardly. It takes a great deal more…effort to eradicate me from this world.”

And she had blushed and denied the turn her thoughts had taken, given him the satisfaction of a reaction to his taunts, before reaching up to curl a gentle hand around his neck, thumb tracing the pulseless veins. Her eyes were still heavy with sleep, wakefulness taking its sweet time to draw her fully into its power, and she had murmured something indecipherable and shifted upwards to brush her nose along his chest, nuzzling into his cool skin and humming to herself as she curled into his arms. 

“What was that?” he had asked, an echo of laughter rumbling against her cheek. He could feel her blink against him, the lashes framing those brilliant blue eyes fluttering down to kiss his collarbone before retreating to their resting place. 

“I said,” she had reiterated, scooting out of his arms to flop back against the pillows, “then what is it, exactly, that you do have to do in daylight hours? I certainly don’t see you out often in the mornings.” Her eyes held a slightly clinical gleam as she quizzed him. “I confess I am not an expert in such things, but it is the accepted belief.”

Gathering Lisa into his arms, Vlad had turned onto his back, drawing her on top of him and pressing a light kiss to her temple. “It depends,” he had confessed. “Before I knew you, I often would retreat to my resting place below. All vampires must rest at some point, and our coffins are understandably the best places to do so. However, the older and more powerful one of my kind, the longer he may go without such repose, and the more exposure to traditionally ‘harmful’ forces he may withstand.” His hand had passed up and down her back in broad, sweeping strokes, fingers carding through her thick yellow hair in a fond caress. “With you here now, I find myself motivated to spend as much time in your company as I am able,” he confessed softly. 

Unable to control the overwhelming affection that his words had conjured, Lisa had leaned forward and pressed her lips to his, curling a hand around his neck as she mapped the contours of his mouth. “But surely you must still rest,” she had persisted, drawing back slightly and tracing the slight lines at the corners of his gleaming eyes. 

“Oh, yes,” he had murmured, leaning up to press his advantage and seek out her lips once more, “I must. But,” he continued, brushing his mouth across first one corner, then the other, of her mouth, “if I must rest I would much prefer it be here.”

And that was how Lisa found herself with a bed full of slumbering vampire king. She had things to do that morning, had planned to conclude an experiment she had been running in the laboratory below, but—her opportunities to see him unguarded were limited, even after over a year in the castle. Since becoming lovers, they often shared a bed, but she typically drifted off to sleep long before he did, and required so much more rest that he was always awake and aware long before she returned to the realm of wakefulness. 

She would have glimpses, in the laboratory or library, when he thought her engrossed in their work, of his most closely-guarded self. He sat, eyes focused and intent, chin resting on his clasped hands, gaze fixed firmly on her. She had blushed the first time she felt his eyes upon her, a dark pink flush spreading from her cheeks to her neck, the intensity of his scrutiny flattering but overwhelming. She had waited for the incoming idle comment at her obvious discomfiture, but when it never came her eyes had flickered back to him to realize with a jolt that he had not moved a muscle. Lost in his thoughts as he had been, he was not even aware of her eyes on him.

From that point on, she had watched him, eagerly awaiting those fleeting moments when she could catch him unguarded, study him as he so often did her. Even now, though, she could count on two hands the number of times she had actually seen him in any sort of restful state. 

For one such as him, weaned on war and fed by fire and blood, moments of reprieve were simply weaknesses to be exploited by the next enemy. His guard was always up, his mind and body always primed for violence and self-defense. Every move was calculated, every word considered. 

Lisa smiled, a small, tender twitch of her delicate lips, one slight hand reaching to smooth his cheek. That he trusted her enough to relax his guard so obviously… A joyful, incredulous laugh escaped her before she could contain it, and her thumb reached to trace the contour of his nose, the line of his mustache above his elegant lips. This was all still so new… She marveled in the freedom she had within his presence, the implicit trust he placed in her with his actions and choice of resting place. 

It frightened her, somewhat, how desperately she loved the being slumbering before her. She would give up her doctoring for him, her aspirations to help and heal, should he ask—and she loved him all the more because she knew he never would. 

She was also coming to realize just how much she meant to him, as well. That thought frightened her even more; she was well aware of her own mortality, her own insignificance in this world, and she feared for those she strove to protect should she ever depart before her time. 

But, such maudlin thoughts were best left for more depressing times. Here now, with the sunshine streaming through the window and her lover splayed out before her like a corpse on a slab, she had no choice but to explore. She propped herself on her left arm so that she could lean over him, right hand tracing patterns on his cool shoulder. She took a few moments to admire his full profile, the contours of his muscular frame defined in the golden light steaming through the window. His height, too, was impressive—even lying prone on the bed he made her feel small. She would never confess it to him, but she loved the feeling of utter affection and security his arms offered when he gathered her into his embrace. 

Pressing a soft kiss to his shoulder, she trailed her hand across to his neck, bared as it was by the soft white shirt he had worn to bed. Questing fingers dipped in and out of the hollow of his throat, smoothing a careful cadence across his skin. It was so very rare for her to catch him without his full ensemble of clothing that she could not resist this opportunity. Clever hands crept across his clavicle, following familiar patterns across his flesh. With a slight smile, Lisa dipped her head and pressed another kiss to the underside of his jaw, tongue flicking out to trace the strong line of his neck as she followed the trail down to the top of his chest. 

She rested for a minute, head nestled in the juncture between his neck and shoulder, eyes closed as she curled herself around his prone form. He had become her life, this man, this vampire, master of all worlds and answerable to none. Seized by a sudden impulse, she grasped one of his hands in hers, playing with it as one might a particularly favored toy, thumb tracing the fine veins lining his wrist, lacing their fingers together as they so often did during late night strolls around the castle. His skin was smooth against hers, stark white against her own coloring. She admired the elegant curve of his nails, flushing slightly as she recalled the rasp of his clawlike appendages against her flesh during their more intimate passions. 

Scooting up to the elaborate, gilded headboard, she rested her cheek upon the pillow beside his head, face turned to study his own expression as he slept. That same, questing hand smoothed the lines of his forehead, lithe fingers combing through the dark strands of his hair and luxuriating in the feel of the sable strands. Lisa would never tell him as much, but she adored his hair, and indeed had long been resisting the urge to run her fingers through it—passionate moments non-withstanding, her opportunities to do so were few and far between.

Humming to herself, she passed her hand across his brow once more, smiling at the silken feel of his hair sliding through her fingers. She swept her hand up and down, setting a pattern of caresses through his thick mane. The serenity of it set a smile on her lips, this tranquil moment of solitude with her lover slumbering before her. Now on a mission, her hands left his dark tresses and passed over his curiously pointed ears, down along the fine curvature of his jaw, scratched lightly over the neatly-trimmed beard that lined his chin.

“You are making it quite difficult to rest,” he rasped, voice deepened by sleep, startling her as she ran her thumb along his lips. 

Lisa’s arm shot back in shock af the sound of his voice and the sudden motion of his jaw beneath her fingers. “Oh,” she exclaimed, turning a fiery red and meeting his amused gaze with a sheepish grin, “How, um, how long have you been…aware?”

He laughed outright, arms uncrossing so that he could sit up and tug her unresisting form against his chest, wrapping a solid arm around her waist and pressing a light kiss to her ear. “The entire time, of course.” Red eyes narrowed and his face drifted lower, mouth trailing from ear to neck as he pressed a light kiss to the juncture of neck and jaw. “I would be a poor predator if I remained unaware of my surroundings during my repose.”

Lisa could not repress a shiver at the cool scrape of his fangs against her flesh. He would never bite—he held her trust in him in the highest regard—but the heady touch of his cruel teeth at her carotid sent a bolt of desire shooting through her. “Vlad,” she admonished, her censure weak even to her ears, “that’s not playing fair.”

Those red, red eyes rolled skyward and he drew back, the hand not holding her snug against him rising to smooth her cascading blonde hair back from her face. “And when do I ever play fair, my love?” he inquired, face softening into an expression that a brave man might have called fond, and an even braver one might have deemed ‘lovestruck’. His eyes closed and he pressed his nose to her hair, inhaling her unique scent—a touch of leather from the tomes of his library, a slight hint of springtime flowers, the stale musk of sweat and sex lingering from the night before, and an ever-present sweetness that was purely her own. 

“Do you not still need to rest?” she asked. 

Dracula sighed, not moving. “I am much more comfortable here than I could ever be at rest,” he murmured into her hair. “I believe I shall remain here all day.”

One golden eyebrow arched. “And if I have plans for the day?”

He snorted. “Cancel them.” Arms like iron bars curved around her midsection, fitting her even more snugly against his chest, cradling her to him as though she were the most precious thing in the world. 

Lisa laughed, a bright sound that resonated throughout the room. "It seems we are at an impasse, my darling," she conceded, settling in against him and nestling her head against his shoulder. She could feel him smirk against the back of her neck as he dipped his head to press a kiss to her trapezius. Despite herself, her eyes fluttered shut, and she relaxed against him fully. 

"And yet, I seem to be getting my way," he rumbled against her back, his elegantly lethal hands smoothing through her hair in a tender caress, nails rasping against her scalp and sending delightful flares of sensation spiking through her. 

"Only because I will it," she countered, hand rising to cover his where it wrapped around her waist. 

Smiling because he knew it to be true, Vlad closed his eyes against the harsh glare of the sunlight and allowed himself to drift back into that fleeting realm between sleep and wakefulness where he claimed his repose--whether it be by his will or hers, he found himself exactly where he wanted to be, and he fully intended to enjoy it. 

Chapter Text

Lisa’s feet dragged over the dusty earth, her boots sending puffs of brown into the air around her legs. Exhaustion threatened to overcome her at every moment, emanating out from her core, flooding her arms and legs with fatigue. Her usually-powerful stride lagged slightly under the weight of the gash on her thigh, the bandage around it stained rusty red with day-old blood. At least the bleeding had mostly stopped, although the wound was not nearly as clean as she would have preferred—the matching wound on her opposite arm had greatly hindered her efforts to dress her injuries, and it was all she could do by this point to keep on her lonely trek.

Hood pulled up to mask her face, she glanced ahead down the long road sprawling before her, despairing at the miles that yet yawned at her feet. A trip to town had seemed simple, a journey she had made countless times both before and after coming to Dracula’s castle. She had made the trip there in a few hours, had set up shop and even attracted a few patients who did not fear her unconventional treatments. The day had passed quickly, and the night at the local inn as well. 

However, Lisa had not accounted for the bandit duo that had waylaid her early the next morning once she passed outside of the town’s limits. She despised fighting, the unnecessary taking of lives—but she was not naive, and knew well how to use the slim dagger she carried. Through a combination of luck and her attacker’s ineptitude, she had escaped with her life, leaving the two men wounded and cursing in her wake, but the following miles had been long and tenuous.

She pushed a hank of sweat-soaked hair from her forehead, skin and lips pale from her blood loss. It was not an ideal situation—she had studied more than enough anatomy to know that her cut came dangerously close to her femoral artery. It hadn’t opened it, otherwise she would have been dead from blood loss already, but she had only been able to staunch the bleeding long enough to bandage it by packing the wound with strips torn from her tunic hem. 

Never had she so longed for the familiar sight of the impaled skeletons lining the walk to Vlad’s castle—but those were still three miles off yet, and at her current pace that spelled at least another two hours. A sudden rush of pain left her reeling and she knelt in the dirt, gasping. Her ribs felt as though they had been pounded by a hammer, the ache resonating deeply within her torso, a painful, throbbing complement to the harsh, screaming agony of her arm and thigh. She could certainly not forget about the vicious kick she'd received to the chest, a lucky final attempt on her assailant's part to incapacitate her.

“Nngh.” She groaned despite herself, mentally assessing her injuries with a doctor’s clinical detachment: broken ribs, certainly—at least two, maybe three. Leg, arm, bruise on her face, cut above the eyebrow—and a murderous, wrathful fiancé should she ever manage to make it home. Exhaling deeply, she struggled to her feet and trudged onward, every step sending a stabbing pain shooting through her side. How she continued on, she could not say, but the thought of Vlad, alone in his castle, unaware of her state and anticipating her return, certainly helped propel her forward. 

She slipped in and out of consciousness, her body moving as her mind drifted, seconds bleeding into minutes, minutes melting into hours. The sun overhead was unrelenting, pounding down with a burning intensity as she forged ahead. It was the sudden lack of heat that caught her attention, snapping her from feverish musings as she realized with a cold start that she had been walking through Vlad’s skeletal greeting force for the better part of the last half hour. She now stood in the shadow of the massive castle, its tall turrets a comforting sight as they towered above her, cutting off any semblance of the brilliant sunlight overhead.

“Home sweet home,” she murmured, casting out several grateful thoughts to any listening deities. Glancing despairingly at the massive staircase unfolding before her, her mouth twitched. I made it only to die at the foot of the stairs, she thought wryly, letting out a dry cough as dust caught in her parched throat. 

As if in answer to her thoughts the grand entrance doors swung open with a heavy creak, and the Count himself descended, a war of fury and concern waging across his face. “Lisa,” his voice resonated down the stairway, becoming considerably louder as he appeared suddenly by her side, scooping her into his arms and cradling her against his broad chest. “What. Happened?” His eyes were fiery slits, his face drawn taut in ill-concealed anger. “Which humans were so foolish, so worthless, to dare attack you?”

Lisa shook her head, eyes fluttering as she allowed herself to sag slightly in his arms, head falling back to rest lightly against his tunic. “They are long in the past, my love,” she chided, one dusty, bloodied hand seeking out his much larger one, squeezing and threading its fingers through his.

He held on like it was a lifeline, trying to reign in his galloping fury, to temper the boiling rage that surged within and demanded justice and retribution, demanded vengeance, death for the ones who would so harm the innocent woman cradled in his arms. Every instinct in him screamed for blood, cried out of the vicious satisfaction of rending head from shoulders, flesh from bone. He burned for the cool wash of blood across his fist as he tore open a chest and buried his hand inside to seize the heart within, watching its owner's lifeblood spurt out against the ground and across his waiting lips.

But—he had Lisa to care for, Lisa, bruised and bleeding but not broken (never broken) in his arms. His face cleared, hand smoothing away sweaty blonde locks from her dirty, bloodied forehead. He could smell the sweet tang of her blood against the backdrop of her usual scent, instantly cataloguing the open wounds she still bore. The two on her leg and arm still seeped, bright ichor spilling out to stain the bindings that covered them. The cut on her forehead had slowed to a mild trickle, her lip where she had bitten it clotted and scabbed over. And--he noted with no small amount of pride--a great deal of the blood staining her clothes had the scent of her assailants, their stench clinging to her like old death.

Saliva gathered in the back of his mouth, summoned by instincts impossible to suppress. Nostrils flared, he bore her forward, transporting them in the blink of an eye to the inner rooms of the castle, setting her gently in the middle of the bed that they shared. “I will return,” he intoned softly, smoothing a hand across her brow. He still shook slightly, tremors of suppressed, wrathful energy yet threatening to overwhelm him. He was in their laboratory in another flash, questing hands seeking out disinfectant, a salve and antiseptic to treat the open wounds, a tonic to eliminate fever and prevent additional infection, a draught to ease the pain in her ribs as she healed. 

Reappearing by her side, he summoned a servant bearing a basin of warm water and towels with a snap of his fingers. “This will not be pleasant,” he cautioned, lifting her gently to remove the torn traveling dress, working her out of her undergarments until she lay bare and bloodied before him. “I am sorry,” he apologized, as she winced at the movements. The garments he tossed unceremoniously in the corner to be burned—he wanted no trace of the stench of the wretches who had led the attack to remain within his halls, and he and Lisa both appreciated the importance of removing residual traces of their blood from anywhere it might be accessed. 

Normally, having her bare in their bed sent a flood of desire surging through him, but at the sight of her marred, mottled skin he was seized again by a contradictory surge of compassion and the storming, passionate savagery from before. His primal instincts screamed for him to protect what was his, to burst forth and let his fury reign down upon the land, waves of blood once again staining the earth and polluting its fields... 

A hoarse laugh yanked him from his murderous thoughts. “That bad?” Lisa queried, looking up at him with humor in her brilliant blue eyes. “I know I haven’t bathed in a day or two…”

And Vlad smiled despite himself, his harsh expression melting as he moistened one of the towels and began to clear the grime from her face and torso. “You are perfect,” he said truthfully, hands gentle as he siphoned away blood and dirt. His eyes flashed garnet as he came to the rainbow of bruises spread across her torso. His hand remained steady regardless, continuing his ministrations as he passed her the tonics he had brought.

Lisa downed them without question, having made most of them herself not three days before.

Apology heavy in his eyes, Dracula began removing the bloodied bandage wrapped around her arm, his long-dead heart wrenching at her poorly disguised wince. “I am sorry, dear one,” he soothed, pulling away the last of the bindings. His nose wrinkled, the stench of clotted blood and infection seeping into the room once the wound was exposed to the air. He bared his fangs at the sight of the maimed flesh, the cut long and shallow, following the curve of her bicep and trailing down toward the elbow. The skin around the gash was a puckered, angry red, standing starkly against her otherwise-pale skin. 

“This is infected,” he observed dispassionately, and Lisa’s eyes snapped to his face at the utter lack of emotion in his words. His white towel came away red as he cleaned away the remaining blood, the cloth joining Lisa's soiled clothes in the corner. Retrieving a new one, Dracula applied a disinfected and cleaned the wound with the salve he had retrieved, smearing it across the cut and rebandaging it with clean gauze and linens. “You are in pain.” His brow furrowed, the slightest inflection of concern flickering into that otherwise empty voice.

Lisa lept on it, desperate to keep him from the anger she sensed simmering just below the surface. “Not anymore,” she lied smoothly, smiling despite her aches. “I am home.” 

Smoothing a thumb across the new bandage on her arm in silent response, Vlad turned his attention to the red-stained wrappings around her leg. 

Lisa winced in anticipation of its removal, know that this wound would not be so well-received—if, indeed, the reaction to the first one could be considered remotely close to positive. 

Lips pressed tightly together—his sensitive nose already indicated what he would find—Vlad pulled the linen from the wound, his claw-like nails gently picking out the threadlike fibers that remained caught in the oozing cut. As he pulled wadded fabric from where Lisa had packed her injury, Dracula’s remaining semblance of control snapped. The brilliant red of his irises spilled over to his sclera, completely eclipsing their usual white and painting his eyes scarlet. Dark, billowing clouds eclipsed the afternoon sun, summoned by his growing fury, a fell wind blasting across the plain and rattling the skeletons on their stakes. 

“There will be vengeance,” he growled, a low roar building deep within his chest until it burst from him in an echoing, feral snarl. Sketching a series of runes in the air, he summoned his mirror, hell-bent on finding and eradicating the vermin who had so harmed his Lisa. He would leave nothing of them or whatever town he found harboring them, would show no mercy and spare no one in his wrath.

“Vlad,” the touch of her hand on his wrist was a cool balm to his burning, violent rage. He turned those red, red eyes down upon her, his face twisted with fury and rent by guilt. “Let me go, Lisa,” he snarled, ‘Let me at least scour them from this Earth since I was not there to protect you.”

And there was the flash she had been looking for, the sharp, hot spike of guilt she had been waiting to see. “This was not your fault,” she insisted, the hand on his wrist trailing downward to press her palm to his. 

Despite himself, he found his fingers curling around hers, the steady thrum of her pulse against his undead flesh a grounding force. “I am supposed to protect you,” he ground out, the words tearing from his throat, an unwilling confession wrenched from him against his will. “Yet, I let you walk back out into that world of men knowing full and well what they were—what they are capable of.”

Lisa shook her head. “They are capable of many things,” she insited, the earnestness in her blue eyes threatening to consume him, to reach up and ensnare him and swallow him whole. “This was a hazard I accepted upon my departure, and it in no way alters my opinion of the world--”

“It should,” he spat, returning his attentions to the gash in her leg. “Humans are weak, easily giving in to greed and lust and violence, held in thrall by bigotry and ignorance.” Deftly, he sterilized the wound, suturing it with a needle summoned from one of his silent servants. 

“Do you so easily forget that I am human?” Lisa argued, voice strong despite her exhaustion and the tug of the needle against her skin. “That I, too, am mortal, borne of man and living among them long before I ever came to you?” Her voice shook in its passion. “Would you have me cast aside in the same manner as the rest of my kind?”

All of Vlad’s rage leeched from him in a single, sudden exodus, leaving him feeling weary  and ancient beyond time. “Of course not,” he said softly, kneeling by her bed and brushing his lips against her temple. He grasped her hand between both of his, kissing each of her knuckles before bowing his head, back mane falling forward to shadow his face. You are ether exception to every rule.” He sighed. “You are the best thing—the only thing—in my life, and the thought of losing you terrifies me in a way that nothing has in centuries.”

“Silly,” Lisa sighed, slipping her hand from his to press lightly against his chest. “No matter what happened I will always be with you.”

“Ah, but I am a selfish man,” Vlad chided gently, tucking her beneath the sheets and pulling them up to her chin, drawing a thick blanket across the bedding.  He cupped her cheek, thumb lightly tracing the curve of her jaw, her mouth curving into a fond smile at the motion.

“I love you too, you big softy,” she murmured, eyes fluttering as her body finally gave in to the toils of the day. 

“Sleep,” Vlad murmured, tracing a line from ear to jaw, his soothing touch drawing her ever closer to those few final steps into unconsciousness. 

Lisa's eyes flew to his as they struggled vainly against sleep and she tried to give voice to the question burning at her lips.  Dracula knew exactly what she desired, new she would not rest easily until she knew— “Because you ask it,” he said quietly, bowing his head in acquiescence, submitting to her present will, “the human scum shall live. I will not leave your side until you awaken.” It was a hard promise to give, for every instinct he possessed still screamed out for blood and vengeance. 

Giving a contended sigh, Lisa allowed her head to sag back against the pillow, eyes fluttering closed as sleep overcame her. 

Vlad’s mouth thinned to the point of invisibility, his hand still smoothing across her brow. “But only because you ask it,” he murmured, waving his free hand to banish his mirror. “Were it left to my will, those scum would be blasted from this earth. There would not be enough blood left for even one of my kind to enjoy." Crossing to the window, he drew the shade to hide the sunlight again filtering through, the clouds dissipating as the energy that had called them banished with his cooling fury. 

“What are you doing to me?” he mused, returning to Lisa’s side. He gazed down at her slumbering form, her face beatific in its rest, her golden hair fanned out around her head on the pillows. Summoning a chair, he settled in beside the bed, chin resting on steepled fingers, eyes focused on the slumbering form before him. 

Time and time again, he would have obliterated any mortal who dared challenge his authority, yet here she was—Lisa, who had him in her thrall, for whom he would rend earth from sky should she ever so desire. “But you only ask that I give the world a chance,” he marveled, lips turned down in a pensive frown.  She always wanted better everyone else, no thoughts given to her own well-being. "You only ask that I not judge, that I try to see the good in men as you do." He shook his head, eyes closing as he settled down for his vigil.

He could not promise her that he could sustain such a wish, but—for her, he would certainly try.

Chapter Text

A red, hazy twilight hung low in the sky, the sun but the barest sliver upon the horizon as a crescent moon rose in opposition. The great castle stood starkly against the outline of the mountains in which it sat, gnarled trees and scraggly bushes dotting the landscape. A handful of bats streaked across the sky, screeching as they flew toward the encroaching darkness. 

Inside, the castle was silent, its servants not yet risen with the night. Its master and his lover had retreated to the bowels of the fortress to read, ensconcing themselves in the cavernous library in quiet solitude. Lisa sat nestled in a massive black chair, legs tucked underneath her and book propped in her lap. 

Dracula had been at a table across the room, immersed in a great leather-bound tome, but now paced through the towering shelves of books, sweeping through row after row of shelves with a dark look on his face. He had been in an odd mood all day, emerging far earlier than was his wont and keeping Lisa company throughout the course of her day with his black mood. Reaching the end of the row, he finally paused in the darkest corner of the library, and turned to face Lisa where she sat far across from him. His mouth tightened, his hands clenching so tightly his nails punched through his skin.

“Why are you not frightened by me?” The question came out more abruptly than he had intended, slicing through the silence of the tomblike library, and he could Lisa blink, lashes fluttering agains her face as she started, taken aback by the sudden intrusion into her reading.

“What?” Eyes narrowed, she peered through the darkened room, trying to pick Vlad out from the creeping shadows that lined the maze of shelves. “Why on earth would you ask me that?”

“I am ancient. I am not human. I am dark. I have committed deeds the likes of which you cannot imagine.” His words came from a different corner with each sentence, his form fleeting and impossible to pick out from the darkness that hung heavy amongst the books. “Yet, you came to my castle despite all the rumors,” he hissed, “asked to learn, asked me to teach.” His red eyes gleamed the second level, then faded to black, extinguished as he shifted and disappeared, flitting away before her eyes could settle on his form. Those scarlet irises reappeared, again cloaked in shadow, on the far side of the cavernous room, narrowed as they peered across the library quizzically. “Not only that, but you have stayed.” 

Eyebrows rising to her hairline, Lisa slid a mark in place between the pages of her book and set aside on the small table to her right. Uncrossing her legs, she squinted intently into the darkness. “And more,” she added drolly, trying to pick him out from the shadows. “Or have you forgotten the course of these last months?”

“Hardly,” he breathed, and she could feel warm air across the back of her neck as he appeared behind her. Long fingers curled around her shoulder, a cool caress that she could feel even through her thick woolen dress.

Quick as a snake, Lisa struck, jumping up from her wingback chair and leaping around behind it to grasp his forearm. “Gotcha,” she taunted, slipping her other hand around the arm she held and sliding both down to loop her fingers through his. “Now,” she pressed onward, leaning up to peer into his stark face, “what has brought this on?” A hint of uncertainty crept into her voice. “Do you regret inviting me in, teaching me? Do you regret…me?” 

Dracula’s eyes widened, the near-imperceptible shift akin to a look of outright startlement in a lesser man. “Never,” he denied, hands catching shoulders and pulling her into his embrace, tucking her head against his chest and pressing a gentle hand to her golden hair, long nails carding through the thick strands with unerring tenderness. “No one could ever regret anything about you, my love.”

Those keen blue eyes narrowed as they peered up at him. “Then what brought on these maudlin thoughts?” she queried. “Why question me, question my commitment to you and your science? Why would you question my love?” She raised a hand to his pale face, smoothing over his proud cheekbone and trailing down to rest on his shoulder. “I chose you, Vlad Dracula Țepeș, knowing full and well what you are and what you have done.”

His stern face gave nothing away as he stared down at her with those fathomless eyes. “You know what you have heard, what you have read, what I have told you,” he corrected, thumb running across her collarbone, nail scraping across her skin and sending goosebumps racing across her chest and a shiver running down her spine. “My history is long, bathed in blood and battles that have long since faded beyond the annals of recorded history.” His voice grew deeper as he spoke, fangs glinting in his mouth as he growled. “If you even began to comprehend the things I have done, the things I know, you would be terrified of me.”

Lisa surprised them both by laughing, the bright sound diluting the tension that had risen in the room. “I hate to make little of your past,” she informed him, gazing fondly up into his astonished face, “but if you have not frightened me away by now you are stuck with me.” She took a step back, still holding onto his hand with one of hers, and waved her free arm to the yawning library that spread out before them. “I was not ignorant even before I came here, and I certainly have not let the last months go to waste. I know there are things that I do not know, acts I cannot even begin to comprehend. You are a being of fathomless depths, darling, and I am content with the ones you consent to share with me.” 

Her cerulean eyes, filled with their own boundless wisdom and faith, bored into his. “I know you love me,” she stated firmly. “I know you care, I know you are wise.” She stood on her toes and pressed a kiss to the corner of his mouth. “I know you keep your promises, and that you are trying to improve your opinion of the world.” She kissed the other side of his mouth, lips lingering a hair’s breadth from his. “I know you would never hurt me.” She closed those scant centimeters between them and kissed him properly, lips sliding smoothly against his, savoring the feel of his cool mouth as it covered hers. 

It was still such a novel experience, to be able to touch him like this, to have the freedom to hold him close and speak all of her mind and not fear rejection or ridicule at the hands of the individual she loved and admired more than anyone else in the world. Her hands snaked around his back, pressing him tightly against her as she tilted her head to deepen their kiss. He had been, to all points and purposes, an utter gentleman since the conception of their romantic relationship, not allowing their encounters to progress much beyond some rather fevered embraces. 

Lisa appreciated this, truly, but she also found herself wishing for…more. She closed her eyes as he continued to plunder her mouth, heart fluttering and a shiver of absolute want rushing through her as he shifted those cool lips to map a torturously slow path across her cheek and down the pale column of her neck. It was a tantalizing trail along her skin, a sedate, leisurely cares as he moved toward her collarbone, teeth brushing against her but never breaking the skin.

“So trusting,” he murmured, lips tickling the sensitive skin of the juncture of her neck and shoulder. He lingered there, hands against her waist as he anchored her firmly to his chest. “So many humans have met their ends in this very position, yet you accept my embrace willingly.” His fangs extended, pressing lightly against her jugular as he raised his head. One long hand rose to card roughly through her hair, combing it back from her face as his thumb traced her forehead. “I can feel your lifeblood pulsing,” he hummed, leaning back and drawing the thumb of his other hand along her neck to press against her pulse. His eyes were pure crimson, nostrils flared as he inhaled her unique scent. “It would be so easy to give in, to finally take a taste of that which has haunted me for so long.”

Lisa shuddered in his arms, but not with the revulsion she knew he would not be surprised to have evoked. Perhaps she was foolish, but she trusted Dracula with her life—and more than that, with her soul. 

Opening her own eyes, she gave him a heady glance and threaded her fingers through his thick, dark hair. She held him tightly in place, tilting her head back in obvious submission, baring her throat and not once taking her bright blue eyes off of his brilliant red. “It would,” she agreed, giving his hair a slight tug, “but you won’t.” 

He nearly came apart at the absolute certainty in her voice. “How do you know?” he countered hoarsely, voice cracking. “I have killed so many without thought, without question. I delight in it—do not think I have changed so much that my base pleasures have been completely overwritten.” His thumb pressed against her throat, his lips pulled back in a ferocious snarl as he gazed down at her with those scarlet eyes. “My past is awash with blood.”

Never once severing their visual connection, Lisa reached forward and grasped his cheeks in her hands, pulling his face down so that it was level with hers. “Yes,” she agreed simply, “and yet there is so much more to you than that.” Her thumb swept over one stern cheekbone. “When I look at you, I see what you were, yes, but I also see who you are: the scholar, the scientist, the magician and mathematician. You are an artist and an alchemist, a chemist and a count.” She slipped her hands under the high collar of his cloak to curl about his neck, thumbs tracing the sharp lines of his clavicle. “I see Vlad Dracula Țepeș, who is trying to change, who is better than he believes. I love you,” she insisted sternly, raising one eyebrow before pulling him down into an embrace, “all of you, in every way that matters.” She pressed her face into his chest, arms curling around his shoulders. “So stop trying to prove otherwise.”

She was content as a human, loved and desired and adored her otherworldly lover and his acquiescence to her desires. She wanted nothing more out of this world than to live and make a difference, to be happy while also improving the lives of others. She could see the glaring agony in his eyes every time she referenced her mortality, but not once had he degraded her desire to remain human. 

Her heart wrenched as it always did as her thoughts returned to that painful topic around which they always managed to dance. She was steady in her decision, knew in her heart that it was right, but the idea of her love alone in the years beyond was an ever-present source of guilt to her nonetheless. A sigh escaped her, and she seemed to sag in his arms, her earlier energy seeping from her as she allowed regret to consume her. She loved him more than she could ever begin to comprehend, but so too did she know deep within her heart that she would never be able to relinquish her human life span. 

But, he knew her, knew her just as well as he knew himself, and he could not help but admire her all the more for her choice. As much as it broke his heart, as black as the future seemed without her perpetually beside him, he would never ask her to betray herself for him—because she would, should he truly ask. 

He could and would not do that to her.

Gathering her close, he pressed a kiss to the top of her head, just the lightest brush of his lips across her blonde curls. “Do not despair,” he told her, knowing well the maudlin turn her thoughts had taken, the words a command to himself as much as a balm to her. He sighed heavily, breath ruffling her hair.

Lisa, for all her usual spirit, found she could not speak. She was overwhelmed by the feelings such a simple gesture evoked in her, a whirl of emotions embracing and smothering and consuming her as she stood in his arms. Instead of replying, she tilted her head back and turned those cornflower blue eyes to his, all of the words that refused to cross her lips passing instead between their shared gaze. Standing on her toes, she pressed her mouth again to his, her kiss soft and sweet. 

The sweetness lasted for a few, long seconds before their embrace turned to one more of passion, Dracula’s hands encompassing her waist as he held her tightly against him and took all of those unsaid words and emotions. 

“I do not,” Lisa finally returned, breath coming in short gasps as she clung to him, skin flushed and chest heaving. “I will never despair while I have your love.”

He gazed down at her, an inscrutable expression in those ancient red eyes. “And I yours,” he finally returned, head bowing. 

“Then we are rich indeed.” Small hands clasped the neck of his high red collar, drawing him back down for another kiss, this one lasting a long moment before Dracula drew back. He stared down at Lisa in silence and finally shook his head, no small amount of wonder in his eyes. Just when I think I have you figured out,” he murmured, smoothing a hand down her back, “you surprise me yet again.”

Chuckling, she drew back and fixed him with an ironic stare. “It should hardly be a surprise by now,” she scoffed. “I’ve told you my thoughts and feelings on the matter time and time again. You are just too stubborn to believe me.” 

His mouth opened, presumably to offer a contradictory retort. Lisa’s eyes flashed and he paused, shrugged, and offered a genuine smile, teeth flashing white against blood-red lips. “True,” he admitted, a spark in his eyes.

Lisa shook her head. “Ass.” Eyes darkening to a deep marine, she sank her hands into his hair and tugged his head level with hers, seeking his lips. She dominated the kiss, gave him no opportunity to take charge as he so often did, feeling him smile as she did so. Teeth nibbling at his lower lip, she swept her tongue between the slight opening his grin provided, tracing lightly over his pointed teeth as she took her fill of him. A fit of daring seized her, and she increased the pressure of her tongue against his fangs until she felt a small pinprick of pain against the muscle. 

An iron tang flooded her senses, and Vlad froze against her as he caught the taste of blood in their joined mouths. Lisa could feel him start to recoil, to jerk away, and she shook her head and used her grip on his hair to hold him in place. Her tongue chased his, the taste of iron growing stronger with each beat of her pounding heart. 

Dracula’s eyes flew open, the whites of his eyes completely eclipsed by crimson. He could taste her, taste the sweet, heady nectar of her blood in his mouth. Gathering her even closer, he groaned low in his throat, a sound of exquisite agony and ecstasy. Had it been anyone else, he would have doubted they did not know the magnitude of such a gesture. But from Lisa…what else could he do but accept her offering?

Growling, he slid his mouth hotly across hers, tongue chasing hers and catching each and every drop of blood that came from the small cut. His lips became a brilliant crimson, stained red by their shared blood and passion, her ichor reviving the first faintest stirrings of life in his undead flesh. Enhanced saliva clotted the wound, and Dracula drew away, panting slightly as his dead lungs again mimicked the actions of life. 

Lisa could only hang in his arms, lost in a haze of heady passion. She could…feel him, slightly, in her head. There was no way to describe it, other than the faintest sense of another presence in the back of her mind, the knowledge that he was there with her even when they remained two separate people. It was exhilarating, intoxicating, and she all but purred as he brushed his nose across her temple in a slow, dragging kiss, his lips caressing her flesh. 

“I would have you,” he breathed into the golden hair at her ear, nails curving into her shoulder and hips in a possessive press, “in every way you would allow.” 

Tilting her head back, Lisa stared up into those scarlet eyes, now a deep, bloody red as he allowed the extent of his desire to shine through. A slight smile touched her lips, and she raised a hand to trace the fine hairs that framed his mouth, thumb tracing those bloody lips. The touch lasted but a fleeting second before Lisa pulled away, eyes hooded. She gave him an apprising look, tilting her chin to bring her mouth a hair’s breadth from his. 

“Then have me,” she breathed.

Red eyes flashed, a black cloak rose around her, and they vanished from the library as the last traces of the sun sank below the hills. 

Chapter Text

They materialized in a room that Lisa did not recognize, large without seeming too much, enclosed without being stuffy. Some distant part of her mind took in the minute details—the dark hangings on the wall, the flickering sconces adjacent to the single window, and the towering bookshelves that dominated three of the great stone walls. Vaguely, she caught a glimpse of an ornate wardrobe—mahogany, to match the shelving—and a well-worn desk in the corner. A single bed stood on the left side of the room, wrought in black iron and made up with red silken sheets. Opposite rested a large mahogany coffin, sitting on a single, elevated platform, its cover and sides inlaid with golden runes and filigree. Lisa’s eyes widened slightly. The furnishings, decor, and well-used, private feel of the room told her quite clearly that this was Vlad’s room, his sanctuary within the castle to where he retreated when his study failed to afford him the privacy he desired.

Under normal circumstances, she would have been a well of questions, overrun with curiosity and prompting him to share any and every detail he might be persuaded to release. The paired coffin and bed, in particular, intrigued her, for she knew he did not need to sleep as mortals did—so, why even allow himself the semblance of such a human addition? The pragmatic, self-confident side of herself whispered that perhaps the bed was a very recent addition, included in the fervent hope that she might one day join him in his sanctuary.

But, her mind could not focus long enough to  truly reign in her rampaging thoughts, and she dismissed the idea as a passing fancy, her mind jumping to his more immediate presence as her gaze turned from the furniture. Her attention was rather much more focused on him as his hands tightened firmly at her sides, crossed behind her back so that she was now engulfed in his sweeping, shadowy cloak, her face pressed tightly against his chest as he cradled her against him.

A question—she couldn’t say specifically what—rose unbidden to her lips, but Vlad silenced before it could escape with a hand against her jaw and the insistent press of his lips against hers. All of her curiosity fled at the delicious sensation of his touch, nails scraping lightly up and down her hips and along to her shoulders, driving her to distraction with each delicious rasp against her skin. His touch never failed to ignite her senses, to set a torch to any and all defenses she had erected against personal attachment, physical desire--against the deep and overwhelming affection that had threatened to consume her from the onset of their unique arrangement.

Those questing lips, still so terribly red and gliding effortlessly against hers, drank her in with an unquenchable thirst, seeking and taking and claiming her as his own. Dracula inhaled her answering gasp, parting his own lips and sweeping his tongue into her mouth to continue his exploration. His large, clever hands uncurled from her back and came around instead to her shoulders, trailing long caresses along chest and collarbone as he sampled her sweet mouth.

Fingers spidered up and along the curve of her neck, resting on her jaw before traveling back down, thumb sweeping lightly over her pulse point before settling along her clavicle, dipping into the hollow of her throat. He delighted in the fluttering of her pulse beneath his palm, felt it soar beneath his fingers with each sweep of his tongue across her palette. 

“Mhmm.” Lisa could only cling to him, limp in his grasp, as she lost herself in the rush of sensation evoked by his touch.  She could truly kiss him all day, lose herself in his presence and embrace quite happily as he took all that she had to offer.

His mouth lingered, hovering, and then withdrew. A soft sigh of disappointment escaped her before she could catch it.

Vlad chuckled, chest rumbling, and buried his face in the crook of her neck. “None of that, now,” he murmured, beginning an insistent trail across her flushed throat, drawing the satiny skin lightly into his mouth and worrying it gently with teeth and tongue before continuing downward. He could tease and tempt and bring her to the brink of insanity as he pleased without fear of it being too much, secure in his knowledge of her confidence and trust. “Now that I have permission,” he murmured into her shoulder, scraping his fangs ever-so-gently across her flesh--enough to elicit a very obvious shudder of desire but not to break through her delicate human skin-- “I plan to taste every inch of you.”

The sheer want in his voice, the barely-barely-contained desire that threatened to burst from his burning eyes, was enough to set her own body aflame. Shuddering, Lisa buried her fingers in his ebony hair as she pressed herself further into his embrace. Her golden curls tumbled about her shoulders as she tossed her head back, baring her throat to him as she carded her hands through his dark mane. 

Humming low in his throat, Vlad obligingly moved his lips across the offered flesh, placing scraping kisses across every inch of the delicious skin she bared to him. “Lisa,” he growled, eyes flashing, the word tearing from his chest in a low, predatory rumble. His hands slid to the neck of her dress, and he tapped one long nail against the modest neck of the warm garment she had donned in response to the drafty castle air. “This has to go,” he declared.

In silent answer, Lisa twisted in his grasp, taking his hands in hers and shifting them to the buttons lining the back the dress, her brow quirked in challenge.

In return, Vlad bared his teeth in the semblance of a smile and brought his hands back around to her sternum, slicing straight through the garment with one sudden, calculated slash and leaving her bare from neck to navel. “That was my most comfortable dress!” Lisa exclaimed indignantly, shivering as the cool castle air crept across her now-bare torso. 

“There are more,” he dismissed her concerns with a flippant wave of one hand, stepping an arm’s length away to trace her form with a single, sweeping gaze, pinning her in place with his penetrating stare. She felt as through he could see everything about her, those brilliant eyes piercing flesh and bone and peeling away layer after layer of her mind and soul beneath. Never had she felt so exposed, so well known, so cherished as she did with the man before her.

“You are breathtaking,” he marveled, arm trembling as he reached forward and traced a light path from her shoulder to hip. He felt as though he were the one laid bare before her, his years and knowledge and experience stripped away to leave him helpless in her presence. Helpless in her presence, he lost all aspect of his self, his only thoughts bent on her--her beauty, her kind and so very sweet nature, her intelligence, her love. To be so loved by such a remarkable creature--he still could not decide what he had done to merit such attention from one so very much deserving of something more. She had become his life, his everything, and now here she was, laid bare before him, exposing herself more thoroughly than she could ever know and telling him that the depth of her feelings ran just as deep as his. Regaining some semblance of himself, he drew her in close and chased the rising blush from her cheeks with a series of slow, drugging kisses. 

“Dress destroyer,” Lisa heard herself mutter, her mind not tracking nearly as well as it had been prior to his sensual assault. Her hands rose to futility grasp at his cloak, fisting in the soft, slippery material at his chest. The dress truly had been one of her favorites, but here, now, contained in the embrace she had dreamed of for so very long, she could hardly bring herself to care. What was a single dress in the face of his passion, of the devotion with which he now met her? The little defiance remaining in her eyes fled as he turned those burning eyes down upon her upturned face, dissipating as the intensity of this one single moment stole her breath in a stereotypical jolt.

“You’ll hardly miss it,” he soothed, one large hand traveling down to rest at her waist, all but spanning its width. His touch was icy against her inflamed flesh, their contrasting temperatures somehow serving to make all of this so much more real, a fulfillment of desires long denied.

Goosebumps erupted across her skin, a bright shiver of absolute want wracking her entire body and leaving her quaking. “I suppose I could be…persuaded to forget it,” she murmured, a rush of wet heat traveling downward at the rough friction of his tunic and cloak against her chest as she pressed into him, the sliding caress of his cool hands at her back and side, the hot whoosh of air his breath against her cheek. Her heart thrummed in her chest, pounding out a rapid cadence as her body tightened in anticipation.

Suddenly, she was moving, swept into his arms and borne across the room to that solitary bed, laid down across dark covers and pressed back against satin pillows before she even had time to blink. Wide-eyed, she stared up at him as he loomed over her, pupils dilated and eyes a heady mix of pitch black and deep, bloody red. “You don’t know what you do to me,” he rasped, and Lisa was struck suddenly by just how much power she had over him, for all that the opposite physically appeared true. One word from her could leave him undone, a single gesture unravel him— 

He was wholly at her mercy.

For all that, though, the effect he had on her was not to be ignored either. Every moment she spent with him, be it here in the throes of passion or bent over beakers at a table or simply strolling through the moonlight hand in hand, each and every minute was precious. “I feel I’ve been waiting my whole life for you,” she told him, arms raising to snake around his shoulders and draw him down to her. “My whole life I have felt an outsider, a step removed from the world and watching it through a filmy window.” Fervently, she nipped at what she could reach of his neck, scratching her nails lightly along the fabric draped over his broad back. "But now...my life and existence feel whole, complete in a way I had never imagined I could feel." Her head rose, straining, and she nibbled at his ear, drawing one pale lobe into her mouth and worrying it with tongue and teeth. A delicious sense of female pride screamed through her as he shuddered above her at the sensual touch.

That dark head ducked down, lips ghosting across hers, caressing the corner of her mouth and shifting upward to whisper across her cheeks, eyelids, forehead, and back down once more to her mouth. “Centuries, Lisa,” he breathed, voice softer than she had ever heard, “I have lived centuries and only now to I truly feel alive. Even when my heart beat within my chest I did not experience such emotion as I do now.” A glint of steel shone in his eyes. “Nor am I willing to allow any time with you to pass me by.”

Lisa wrapped a leg around his hip and shifted, drawing him lower. “And I am not asking you to,” she soothed. Her cornflower eyes gleamed, darkening as the desire and affection that gripped her heart spread outward, body straining with a hot, wanting ache that screamed for resolution.  “I love you.” She ground up against him, bringing that part of herself that burned for him so very much up against his straining pants.

He froze, muscles stiffening and body turning to a veritable statue beneath her wanting hands. “I do not know my strength, sometimes." His muscles were taut as he hovered above him, strung tight with barely-repressed craving and a primal, feral desire screaming at her from behind the eyes she so adored. "I would not have you harmed by any hands, least of all my own.” The thought plagued his nightmares, waking and resting, and all-too often he would come back to himself with a terrible jolt, body shaking as he tried to draw himself away from the nightmares his mind conjured, her screams and piercing looks of betrayal echoing in his mind long after the horror had passed.

Lisa scoffed, gripping his wrists so tightly that even he could feel a slight twinge of discomfort. “Then do not harm me,” she said simply. “I trust that you won’t, so why can’t you trust yourself?” Pressing herself against him, she rolled her hips slightly and smirked. “Clearly at least some part of you has sense enough tonight.”

Eyes narrowed, Vlad stared down at her, his expression conflicted. 

Lisa decided that she’d had enough. Sitting up and pushing him with her, she unpinned his great cloak and slipped it from his shoulders, letting it fall to pool on the stone floor beside the bed. He looked oddly exposed without the high red collar of the discarded garment, his neck bare and his full tunic and shirt top exposed to her curious look and touch. Nimble fingers slipped under the hem of his elaborate tunic, dancing up the thin white shirt he wore beneath to begin undoing the buttons. She could feel him shudder as she hooked a finger beneath the top one, finger dipping beneath to slide across the marble of his chest. Smiling, she slid tunic up his torso and over his head, sending it to join the cloak on the floor as she began her assault on his silken shirt. It, too, soon followed suit, sliding over shoulders that remained still and passive as she continued to undress him.

Bare from the waist up, he made an impressive picture, tall and pale and broad, regal as a king in his domain. 

Nimble fingers traced up his sides, her touch barely light enough to tickle, mapping the contours of the solid muscle beneath his alabaster skin. His chest was mostly smooth, extremely pale and chill to the touch, marble in the moonlight and all but glowing with a pearlescent sheen. Lisa's hands paused in their exploration, fingertips flicking out to trace the myriad of white lines that crisscrossed his arms and torso. These were even paler than the surrounding skin, lacing across chest and abdomen and bisecting biceps and forearms in wiry, spidery patterns. 

“Old scars,” he murmured as her hands stilled and brow furrowed. “Not every battle is easily won.” Specters of bloody battles and battered armies shone in his eyes, unmitigated fury and vengeful wrath and gleeful, wild violence dancing behind those burning irises. She could feel his chest tighten beneath her hands, body taut as the bloodlust of long ago stole across him. He inhaled, nostrils flaring, and took a deep, shuddering breath, lips tightening as he struggled to carefully lock away those memories. 

Lisa bit her lip, not fooled in the slightest by his impassive expression. Darting up, she pressed a soft kiss to the largest scar, a great, slashing line that bisected his pectorals and ran to just to the left of his navel. Her fingers traced it all the way down, smoothing the skin and feeling him shudder. He moved quickly, snakelike, pinning her to the bed, looming over her with knees on either side of her hips and hands braced beside her head. Unfazed, Lisa continued to follow the line of his scars, lips soothing and fingers smoothing over the long-healed lines.

His eyes flickered shut, a low, appreciate hum sounding in his throat. Never had he felt such a touch, the simple joys of contact long since lost to him with the passing of his humanity. Vlad could feel her smile against his chest, her plush lips turning upward at his response. His forearms flexed as she trailed along his scars, deviating here and there as she hit one of the other pale lines forking across his sternum. “My control around you is tenuous even when we are not in such a position, my love,” he groaned, head lolling back before following the pull of gravity downward. Using his impressive height to his advantage, he shifted to halt her progress down his chest, dipping down to catch her in a searing kiss. Moving faster than Lisa could process, he pinned her hands to the mattress and nipped lightly at her neck. His fangs scraped lightly against the unmarked skin, as tender a caress as he could offer without breaking through. “My turn,” he said, smiling lightly. 

Lisa only had time for a sharp inhale before he was moving, trailing a path of searing, icy kisses down to her chest, tongue flicking out to trace the curve of first one breast, then the next. She shuddered beneath him, squirming against the pillows and shifting her hips upward, searching for any friction that might relieve the ache between her legs. Any remaining stoicism disappeared when he took one dusky nipple into his mouth, sucking and teasing and caressing. 

One hand released its captive, leaving her free to to bury her fingers in his hair and draw him closer, a moan building low in her throat. Never had a touch set her so much aflame. Her whole body, her entire being burned under his ministrations. Her head tossed back and forth on the pillows as she lost herself in her pleasure, writhing beneath him as he teased her.

Dracula brought his free hand down to bear on her other breast, caressing briefly before continuing downward. Eyes narrowing, he stared at the shreds of dress that remained at her hips and legs. Laughing softly under his breath, he sketched a rune in the air and banished it from the room, leaving Lisa completely bare beneath him.

“Cheater,” she teased, groaning at the delicious friction of her newly-exposed skin against the rough fabric of his pants. She could feel the chill radiating from his body even through his remaining clothing, a searing, burning cold that threatened to consume her. His was a icy heat, one that resonated from deep within, the chill touch of his skin on hers paralleled by the searing love and want that consumed him.

Her other hand broke free of his grasp and joined its partner in his hair, nails raking over his scalp and urging him onward.

He was practically shaking with desire, his composure dissolved in favor of passion, his eyes shot through with red and burning with ill-repressed longing. Hand continuing downward, Vlad gave a sharp, predatory grin at her sudden gasp as he reached his target. “And yet, we both win.” His hand moved slowly, thumb finding her center and dipping in before traveling upward, circling, seeking, teasing as Lisa gave a heartfelt moan.

“Vlad,” her blue eyes shot up to meet his, wide and wild and wanting, and she squirmed beneath him, overcome by unfulfilled need. 

Bending his head, he pressed a kiss to her navel, beard scraping against her stomach as he moved lower. Cool hands pressed against her thighs as he shifted downward, sliding to kneel between her legs. “You are everything,” he whispered into her thigh. “My everything.” He pressed a kiss to her opposite leg. “Everything good this world has to offer.” His lips and tongue met her center and Lisa writhed, overcome by the sensation of his mouth a that most sensitive of places. This was something she had never felt, this oh-so-intimate caress, the combination of lips and teeth and tongue and fingers--when had he added fingers?--the rasp of his mustache against her core sending her into sensory overload as he brought her to the brink of pleasure. 

“Don’t stop,” she keened, hips rocking in time with his strokes.

But, he did pull away, head raising so that he met her gaze, his eyes blazing and mouth glistening in the moonlight. “You are mine,” he purred, his profile stark against the moonlight pouring through the solitary window, “and I am yours.” It was an affirmation, a promise, a vow that he would never break. Lovers or no, he would rend the world in two to protect her. A few quick, calculated movements rid him of his remaining clothing and he captured her hands in his, pinning them up beside her face as he pressed himself against her. 

Lisa took in the fey, wild look in his eyes and hear heart swelled at the unconstrained passion his posture, voice and expression conveyed. To see him so free with his emotions, a slave to all the feelings he tried so carefully to repress, was more a gift to her than he would ever know. His usual stoicism was nowhere to be seen, and the fact that he trusted her, cherished her enough to be so unguarded was more than she would ever have dreamed could be a reality. 

Vlad was…he was her everything. He was brilliant—master of science and alchemy, wise beyond the ages, full of knowledge that could change the world should he be convinced to share it. And, he was kind—so very, very kind. He hid it well, behind that brusque, dispassionate exterior, but he was sweet and tender, had a sense of wry humor to rival any she had seen. 

Gods, she loved him so. 

Hooking her legs around his hips, she drew him flush against her and sank her teeth into his shoulder. “Vlad,” she groaned again, as close to begging as she had ever come. 

His shoulder throbbed where she had bit it, the pain a delicious anchor to the reality of the situation—Lisa, warm and flushed and so very bare beneath him, eyes filled with warmth and love and the radiant passion that threatened to consume them both. His lips returned to her neck, tongue laving across her throat in a lingering caress before he raised his head to stare deeply into her eyes, lacing his fingers through hers and linking their hands. Still, he hesitated, unable to completely cast aside his residual fear of harming her. 

Lisa decided she’d had enough of his uncertainty. Shifting her hips upward, she took him inside of her in a single, fluid motion, warm heat welcoming and inflaming him all at once. They both groaned at the contact, the delicious friction and sudden feeling of completeness consuming them from the inside out. Lisa shifted experimentally, the movement catching nerves that had yet to completely come down his earlier ministrations. Groaning, she moved again, and her eyes fluttered, channel clenching around him as she took him in fully.

Vlad snarled at the contact, his body screaming at him for release, his instincts pushing, driving him to fully claim her, to sink his teeth into that fair skin and free her blood, to drink her dry and press his blood to her lips and have her his forevermore. But, she did not want that, he did not want that, to damn her to this lonely life eternal of demons and darkness. Here, now, buried inside her, soul and mind and body bared as they hadn't been in so long, he was more than he had ever been and would not trade such unity for the world. Slowly the darkness faded from his eyes, his brow loosening and face smoothing as he locked away his demons, slamming them behind walls and battlements and bars and allowing himself to slip fully into the present.  

“I love you,” he told her, sliding partly out before returning, groaning at the heady brush of his flesh against hers. Theirs was so far beyond a mere physical union—it was the joining of two equals, a vital piece of him that he had only now realized he had been missing.

"And I you," she returned, rocking her hips in reply, gasping, her pupils blown wide open and her blue eyes darkened with lust. 

He smiled, a true smile rather than his usual baring of teeth, and began to move in earnest, driving into her with as they both sought that sweet release that had been building for so long. This night far exceeded a single passionate encounter, had been on their mutual horizons since that very first meeting when he had not turned her away, when she had ignored the world and dared to step beyond the threshold of what was deemed 'acceptable'. 

Lisa writhed beneath him, hands flexing beneath his grasp as she attempted to reach for him. "Vlad," she gasped, eyes flashing as his movements brought his pelvis jerking against her.

In response, he caught her in a kiss, lips bruising and tongue claiming. His hands slid into her thick golden hair, carding through it as he held her to him, his mouth mimicking the motions of his hips as he slid in and out, each thrust connecting to that certain place deep within her and bringing her ever closer to the precipice around which they danced. 

Now freed, her own hands rose to wrap around his shoulders, holding him tightly against her as her legs crossed behind his back, urging him onward. Her head fell back against the pillows, eyes fluttering, and he could feel her start to tighten around him. 

"That's it," he murmured, drawing a line down her neck with one nail, pinning her chest to the bed with his hand and drawing his head back just slightly, his kisses turning slow and drugging in sharp contrast to the relentless drive of his hips against hers. His other hand slipped between them, found that oh-so-sensitive nub and pressed, and Lisa was undone, convulsing around him as she let out a great, shuddering moan. Vlad drank it down, seizing her in another kiss, claiming her love, her passion, her undoing--he wanted it all. 

Lisa shuddered, chest heaving, and then slowly stilled, her hands sliding lower down his back, holding him tightly to her. Slowly, she pulled her head back. "Your turn, my love," she encouraged, and, eyes not leaving his, she bit her lip in a quick, calculated gesture and swiftly pressed her mouth against his.

Vlad's movements stuttered, his body shaking around her, as he tasted her blood against his tongue. A low groan tore itself from him and he shuddered as he demon flared back into life. He could not deny that the fierce, primal urge that screamed through him at the iron tang of blood in his mouth. Gently, reverently, he drew her bottom lip between his, tongue flickering out to sweep across the throbbing bite, and at the touch of her life against his lips he was undone, spasming, filling her to the brim as he drank in her sweet offering. "Lisa," he groaned, eyes fluttering shut as he lost himself. He shook, and the world faded out of focus, only the points where he and Lisa were connected anchoring him to the present--her legs wrapped around his hips, his cock buried deep within her, her burning hands pressed to his back, and the warmth of her lips, red and pulsing with her lifeblood, pressed between his. 

Slowly, he withdrew, afraid to disrupt the moment that so held them in thrall, and settled beside her, drawing her into his arms and combing sweat-dampened hair back from her forehead. "You..." he began, and then shook his head, at an apparent loss for words. 

She smiled, a wide, beatific thing that threatened to catch him in its rays and never let go. The mark on her lip was already clotting, and he leaned forward to catch that smile, swipe his tongue ever so softly across her mark, siphoning away the last trace of that heady nectar and leaving her whole and plush against his lips. "You did not need to do that," he murmured against her mouth, smoothing his thumb across her forehead as he cradled her face in his hand. 

"I know," she said simply, and scooted down to snuggle into his side, tucking her head beneath his chin and sighing contentedly. "But I wanted to." Her arm wrapped around his chest, securing herself as she plastered herself against him, mind already growing hazy with fulfillment and fatigue. "Mmm," she brushed her nose across the top of his chest, his cool flesh a balm against her still-burning skin. She could feel him chuckle against her, shifting so that he cradled her in his arms, an impressive guardian against the growing night.

"Sleep," he murmured, arms tightening around her. "I will be here when you wake, sunlight be damned."

And Lisa allowed herself to slip into the world of dreams, knowing, without a doubt, that his words carried far beyond this night. No matter what, no matter the when or where or how, he would be there--and she for him. 

It was a promise.

Chapter Text

Vlad awoke to the warm brush of Lisa’s lips at his ear and a wandering hand combing through his hair. Blinking back weariness, he tilted his head just enough to be able to catch her sparkling blue eyes. “What is it, my love?” he asked, squinting up at the window. “It cannot be much past noon yet.” Lightning quick, he reached up to catch the hand in his hair and dropped a kiss on her palm.

Smiling at the tickle of his lips against her skin, Lisa tucked her fingers under his chin and focused his gaze more directly on the window. “It snowed last night,” she exclaimed with girl-like glee, barely able to contain her delight. 

That was unexpected. “Are we not too far south for that?” Vlad asked, brow furrowed as he shifted to sit up against the headboard

“Old man.” She slipped her hand under the blankets, tracing the curvature of his abdomen, fingers dancing across cool skin to map the muscles beneath. “You moved the castle yesterday, remember? We’re just a shade west of the Carpathians—the altitude is perfect for winter weather.”

“Ah yes.” Frowning, Vlad sat up in earnest, eschewing the many blankets Lisa always insisted on keeping piled on their bed. “I noticed nothing earlier in the night, though,” he mused, eyes narrowing as he peered out at the grey clouds and thick white carpet of snow that blanketed the castle and surrounding landscape.

Lisa snickered. “We were both rather otherwise occupied, darling,” she pointed out archly, one eyebrow quirking toward her hairline. “I only noticed myself when I rose about an hour ago.”

“And then you just decided to watch me sleep?” he teased, running his hands through her hair and pressing a kiss to her brow. 

“Yes,” she gave him a cheeky grin. 

Humming, he gripped her shoulders and tugged her against him, sprawling back out against the bed with Lisa flat against his chest. 

“Vlad!” Laughing, she struggled to right herself, arms flailing as he cocooned her inside the discarded blankets and anchored him against him.

Using his otherworldly strength, he flipped them with uncanny ease, rolling to pin her beneath him, arms braced on either side of her head, hips pressing against hers as they held her blanket-clad body in place. “What?” he replied teasingly, his innocent tone belying how his current position kept her pinioned, immobile and entirely at his mercy.  “It’s cold, grey, wet…daytime. All perfectly valid excuses to stay inside together.”

Springs creaked in the mattress as Lisa wriggled in place, futilely attempting to free herself from his imprisoning embrace. Sighing heavily, she conceded defeat and leaned forward to mouth the underside of his jaw, cold nose brushing his equally cool neck as she moved. “So that’s your plan?” she taunted, lips tickling his throat. “The great and terrible Dracula wants to hide from the snow by staying inside and….snuggling?” Her eyes danced with ill-concealed mirth. 

“Hardly,” he scoffed, “I want to lay abed with my beloved wife and ignore the foot and  a half of crystalized water that has recently accumulated on my doorstep.” His eyes darkened and he lowered his head to mouth her breast, only barely concealed by her thin cotton nightshirt. “And, perhaps, move on to other avenues of recreation as well.”

“Mmm,” she demurred, fidgeting in place as she struggled to deter him and ignore the rush of desire that his touch incited. Cackling triumphantly, she yanked her arms free of their warm prison and wrapped them around his shoulders, pressing her nose to his. “That would still be considered snuggling,” she told him, pressing a kiss to the tip of his nose, lips traveling leisurely down to hover at the corner of his mouth. “And, while it does sound delightful to laze about in bed with you this fine winter day, there is one glaringly enormous flaw in this grand scheme of yours.

“Oh?” He nibbled at her neck, following the line of her collarbone. “Do enlighten me.”

Lisa squirmed out from beneath his arms, sitting up and peering down at him with a knowing smile, head cocked as she kept her ears trained on the door and the hallway beyond. “Aaaaand, now,” she murmured.

As if summoned by her words, the bedroom door swung open with a loud bang, flying back to smack into the stone wall behind it.  A blur of pale skin and blonde hair zoomed into the room, fifty pounds of six-year-old depositing itself into the middle of their bed. 

“It snowed!” Adrien said excitedly, molten eyes dancing. He paid no attention to their relative states of undress, having long since become immune to catching his parents half naked—it was remarkable how often he managed to stumble across them in such a large castle. Bouncing in place, he turned beseeching eyes to first his mother, then his father. “Can we go outside? Please please please please pleeeeease?” 

Groaning, Vlad flipped onto his back, pinching the bridge of his nose and closing his eyes. “This is when he’s your son,” he murmured to Lisa, who merely hid a smile behind her hand and shook her head, overcome by giggles. While Vlad laid glaring, she tucked her mouth into a less obvious grin, trying to contain herself. 

“That’s up to your father, dear,” she told her son, finally regaining at least a mild semblance of control and schooling her features into an expression of only minor interest. 

“Oh, so now it’s my call, is it?” the vampire in question asked wryly, a smile tugging at his lips despite himself. He sat upright, powerful shoulders flexing as he stretched. “Why on earth are you so intent on going outside in this mess, boy?” 

Adrien threw himself at his father, wrapping his arms as far as they could reach around his broad torso. “Please, father?” he implored, eyes pleading. “I’ve been reading about snow lately and really would like to see it for real,” he implored, “Mother taught me about condensation, and pressure systems, and the freezing point of water, and—“ 

He paused for a breath, mouth opening to continue, and Vlad surrendered, laughing. “Alright, son,” he agreed, resting a pale hand on Adrien’s head and tousling his golden hair. “We’ll go experience the snow—after you get dressed.”

The pair of smiles that he received in reply were well worth the sacrifice of a day abed with his wife. 

Clapping her hands together, Lisa slid out of bed, wrapping one of the blankets about her shoulders as a makeshift robe. “Right,” she said, tone businesslike, “let’s go get dressed, then, yes?” She scooped up her son, setting him on the stone floor and propelling him toward the door. “Go on and get out of those nightclothes and into your warmest garments.”

“But I can’t even feel the cold,” the boy argued, pouting. “Why do I have to put on so many clothes when I won’t even notice?”

Lisa snuck a sideways glance at her husband and began scooping up her own clothing from where it had been tossed to the floor the night before. “You may not notice the temperature,” she said, depositing her armful in the hamper and drawing her blanket more tightly about herself, “but regardless of whether or not you notice it your body does.” She placed a hand on his shoulder. “You’re still part human, dear. Now, get dressed or you won’t go outside at all.”

Adrien scampered, giggling, and Lisa turned to the wardrobe and began searching for her own warm garments. 

“You spoil him,” Vlad commented, sliding out of bed and rising to his full height, wrapping his arms around his wife from behind. 

“And you don’t?” Lisa returned, hands sliding over his where they rested against his stomach. She could feel him chuckle, the short hairs at the base of her skull rising as his breath ghosted across her skin. 

Pale lips passed across her neck. “Touché,” he breathed, placing a kiss just below her ear. 

Snow, cold, and daylight were lost to them as he enjoyed the sanctity of their embrace. Vlad’s hands dipped to slide beneath her shirt, nails tracing light patterns across her stomach as he rested his chin on her shoulder, tilting his head to nuzzle her neck. “Are you certain you don’t wish to remain inside instead?” He punctuated each worth with the gentle brush of his mouth against her neck, fangs scraping lightly at her jugular before moving downward. 

“And disappoint our son after such a promise otherwise?” Lisa slipped from his arms and shed blanket and shirt both, casting a sly, defiant look in his direction as she reached for the sensible woolen undergarments she had retrieved from the wardrobe. 

Instead of replying, Vlad sat back and allowed himself the luxury of watching her dress, gleaming red eyes blatantly tracing the gentle curve of her hip, the swell of her breasts, the press of lean muscle beneath skin. Warm light from the still-flickering candles gave her body a golden glow even as the wan light from the grey, grey skies painted an ethereal halo about her silhouette. Once again, he marveled that this magnificent creature was his wife. 

“Come,” Lisa took his hand and he started, coming back to himself with a jolt. “Time to bundle up our boy and make good on our promise.” She paused, gaze raking across his still-bare chest and soft linen pants. “And time for you to dress as well, my love. What sort of image would it project for the master of the vampires to breach the sanctity of his castle whilst undressed?”

Vlad raised his free hand to sketch a rune Lisa had long since memorized—he used it far too often, in her opinion, but who was she to argue when undressing him was so much fun? Borne by magic, his traditional red-accented black tunic and pants materialized around his form, buttons fastening themselves, gauntlets forming at his arms, and boots appearing to encase his calves and feet. “There.” His eyes flashed. “Satisfied?” 

Ducking around him to reach once more into their wardrobe, Lisa shook her head. “Not quite.” Eyes narrowed, she fished around and then grinned, retrieving her arm with a great black cloak clutched in her grasp. Thicker than his traditional garment, the heavy covering lent him a fey look as she fastened it around his shoulders, the rich black fabric and the darkness of his hair a stark contrast to his pale skin and burning red eyes. “There.” She pressed a searing kiss to his lips, hands rising to twist in that thick, soft fabric to pull him down to her level. “Now you are prepared to do battle against the snow.”

“Battle against the snow?” he asked, incredulous, standing tall and steering her toward the door with a hand at her back. “Just what do you envision taking place this afternoon?”

Lisa hummed noncommittally, humor dancing in her eyes. “If I know our son,” she declared, “it will be anything but boring.” Looking beyond, her eyes shot wide open. “Adrien!” she barked, lunging forward, “what have we told you about experimenting with levitation on the upper levels of the castle?!” She rushed out the door of their room in a whirl of fabric, sprinting down the hallway to where her son was hovering in the air at the top of a winding stone stair case. 

“But mother!” he protested. “I’m getting so good at it! Look!” He rose a few feet, grinning proudly. All at once, his concentration shifted, and he wavered, his grin falling to a frown. “I—“

Suddenly, Dracula was there, scooping his son into his arms and disappearing in a flash of red and black. Lisa could hear them down below in the massive entry hall as they reappeared in a clatter, and she heaved a sigh of relief and began winding her way down in a more human manner.

“What were you thinking?” Dracula raged, glaring down at his sheepish son. “You could have been killed. You are not wholly immortal, boy, no matter what you might think.”

Adrien’s lip wobbled, and he stared up at his father with his auric eyes. “I just wanted to be like you,” he said quietly, swiping an arm across his face and sniffling. “You can do anything.”

Dracula’s ferocious gaze softened considerably, and he  clenched his fist against his side. “Your mother would argue that point ferociously,” he commented, “for she often finds many things that are beyond my scope.” Kneeling, he pulled Adrien into a hug, hand sweeping up and down the boy’s back in a soothing gesture. “I’m not saying don’t ever test your powers,” he said, “just to use them wisely. There are so many things in this world—in this castle, even—that can bring you harm. To survive is to be aware of them.” He wasn’t sure how the day had suddenly turned so somber, and quite frankly did not prefer the gloomy look haunting his son’s expression.

The wave of a single hand sen the massive entrance doors sliding open, emitting a blast of icy air and a pile of snow into the castle entry. “Would you care to explore, my lord?” he asked, rising and giving a slight bow of his head.

Lips curving up in a small smile, Adrien nodded, trudging over to where snow met stone and peering out into the white world beyond. He made as if to jump forward into the entrance but froze, stopping and staring up at Vlad’s dark, looming figure.
Dracula nodded, a smile in his red eyes, and Adrien sprang forward, bounding out into the winter wonderland. “This is so cool!” he exclaimed, eyes wide as he ran out of the castle entrance into the snow. Young as he was, the foot-and-a-half foot tall snowfall rose to well over his knees, engulfing his small boots and encasing his legs in a wall of white.

“I believe cold would be a more accurate descriptor,” his father corrected, stepping out behind him with a look of distaste. Eyes narrowed, he peered at the thick swath of white sprawling out before him, coating the steep staircase and the world beyond. Dracula looked between the massive stairway and his son, mouth tightening as the boy trudged onward. “Down you go, child,” he murmured, scooping up Adrien and transporting them both to the foot of the stairs. 

The empty grounds rang out with Adrien’s delighted laughter. Clapping his hands, he squirmed in his father’s arms until Vlad released him, setting him gently on the ground  and straightening his long coat. “Where is your mother?” Vlad asked, brows drawing together as it dawned on him that she had yet to emerge from the castle. 

In answer to his query, the castle entrance opened and slammed shut, drawing their attention and emitting a slight figure with sunflower hair. 

Snow shot everywhere as Lisa carved a path from the closed entry, sprinting as best she could to gain momentum before launching herself in to the air and slinging a massive steel shield—stolen from one of the suits of armor in the entrance hall—beneath her. Whooping, she raced down the steep stairway, leaning left and steering her makeshift sled diagonally across the remaining distance. She slid to a stop before father and son, sending a spray of snow shooting straight into Vlad’s incredulous face.

“What?” he spluttered, brushing a mess of frozen water out of his hair and beard. 

Adrien grinned, delighted. “”I want to try!!” He reached for the shield expectantly, looking from mother to father to gauge their reactions. 

“Absolutely not,” Vlad snapped. “That is far too steep for you, and you are far too precious to risk your life doing something so foolish.” Though his words were directed at Adrien, his red eyes were focused on Lisa.

She, however, refused to yield, rising and brushing off her knees with precise movements, a large smile spreading across her face. “Oh, come off it,” she snorted. “Ive been planning that since I first looked out the window earlier, and we have much steeper stairwells in the castle proper and he goes scampering up those all the time.” Eyes narrowed in challenge, she poked him in the chest. “You’re just scared, aren’t you?” Winking at Adrien, she stood on tiptoes to peer up into her husband’s stern face. “Big, bad Dracula can’t even sled down the steps of his own magical castle.”

Adrien was well-accustomed to these exchanges of his parents, and had already settled on the shield, legs crossed and his mouth turned up in a merry smile as his eyes darted back and forth between Lisa and her husband.

“Come on, dear, have some fun.” She curved her gloved hand around the back of Vlad’s neck, yanking his head down to her level and seizing his lips in a kiss. “It’s not like I’m asking you to let him do it himself,” she whispered against his mouth, playing with the ends of his hair. 

“You’re incorrigible,” Vlad replied. He gripped the back of her head in both hands and returned her kiss with equal fervor, lips sliding across hers as he conveyed just how very irredeemable he found her. 

“And you love it.” Knowingly, she tapped his nose and propelled him over toward his son. “Now, make his day.” She knew he would fervently deny it, but the gleam of excitement shining in her husband’s eyes as he bent to take hold of his son’s shoulder was glaringly obvious to her rather discerning stare. Hiding a smile behind one hand she stepped back and watched them both disappear in a flurry of black fabric, Vlad sending them once again to the top of the looming entry.

Snow crunched as they rematerialized at the full height of the entrance stair, solidifying in a patch of as-yet-undisturbed snow. Eyes glowing red, Vlad exuded molten heat, disintegrating the clinging snow immediately around them and and tapping a thoughtful finger against the side of the shield in his hand. “Ready lad?” he asked, setting the armor on the still-snowy ground before them and placing Adrien right at the front. Adrien nodded eagerly, and, fangs bared in a fierce grin, Dracula settled just behind them and kicked them off the incline. “Then let’s show your mother how it’s really done!” 

They screamed down the slope, the snow so thick that the steps barely affected their passage.  “Whooo!” Adrien’s hair whipped about his face in a golden halo, his hands clutching tight to the shield’s strap as he gave another loud whoop. “This is great!”

Behind him, Dracula knelt close to his back, arms wrapped snugly around his shoulders, holding him tightly to his chest as they rocketed onto flatter ground. At a nod from Vlad and a transfer of energy, a thickly-packed mound of white sprang up before them, and they rocketed up the makeshift ramp and into the dreary sky, leaving Lisa and the ground behind to grow steadily smaller as they shot heavenward. 

“We’re flying!” Adrien shrieked gleefully. He turned his head up to and gave his father a joyful look, heedless of the tears leaking from the corner of his eyes at the fierce bite of the cold wind against his face. “We’re flying!”

White fangs flashed in a blinding grin. “If you think this is flying, son, just watch.” He shifted his grip on Adrien as a fell wind blew from the west, catching the underside of his cloak and sending it whipping into the air. Balancing on the shield, he sprang into the sky, Adrien clutched to his chest. Together, they hovered high above the ground, the world sprawling out beneath them in a gleaming white horizon.

Adrien’s eyes glowed golden as he stared over his father’s shoulders at the ground below. “I can see mother from here!” he chirped, pointing one chubby finger and waving with the other hand. “Look, Mother, I’m flying!!” 

Vlad winced slightly as his sensitive hearing was assaulted by the exuberance of youth. Slowly, he drifted closer to the ground, his great, batlike cloak flaring behind him like wings. “One day you will be able to do this as well,” he told Adrien, smoothing a hand over his blond locks—hair so very much like Lisa’s. He saw so much of his wife in his son—more so than himself, for which he was forever grateful. She showed in the boy’s eyes, as well, for all their different colors, her infallible spirit and capacity for love reflected back out of those uncanny metallic irises. He would do anything for them, these two beings who had so become his world. Unconsciously, his arms tightened around Adrien, cradling him close as the fluttered down toward the ground. 

Something hard and wet smacked into the back of Vlad’s head with a dull thud, violently yanking him from his thoughts. Multiple projectiles followed the first, each hitting its target with an icy thwack. Adrien giggled, his view over his father’s shoulder affording him the opportunity to watch Lisa launch her carefully compiled collection of projectiles at his father. 

As yet another snowball caught him in the arm, Vlad decided that he’d had enough. Lowering his head to his son’s ear, he bared his teeth in a ferocious smile. “Want to show her how it is truly done, son?” he asked, guiding them around the corner of the stairs to alight in the castle’s shadow and duck behind the masonry.

“Yeah!” Small hands scooped up a mound of snow, packing it into a pile and offering it up to Dracula. They knelt together in the snow, Dracula and Adrien quickly amassing an arsenal of ammunition as they anticipated Lisa’s arrival. Father and son sat, heads half-cocked, as they listened for her approach. “She should be coming soon, shouldn’t she father?” Adrien asked, bouncing with impatience as he tried to peer over stone three times his height.

“I know you’re over here,” Lisa called teasingly in response, her voice floating over the stairway to their waiting ears. “Do you plan to cower like little girls all day?” 

Her son scowled, affronted, face falling into a pout. “She called us girls!” He huffed and crossed his arms. “I am NOT a girl!”

Solemnly, Vlad hoisted the youth onto his shoulders. “No, you are not,” he agreed. “Let us remind her of that.” At Adrien’s nod, Vlad gestured, their frozen ammunition rising into the air to hover at Vlad’s shoulder. Lips curved into a smile, he expanded his senses, hearing and scent on high alert as he scanned their surroundings for Lisa’s heat signature.

Nothing—the world was a white wasteland, no sign of his mischievous wife to be seen.

Where had she—

“Gotcha!!”

Even with enhanced reflexes, Vlad was not fast enough to turn in time and the incoming projectile caught him in the back of the neck once more. “Damn,” he swore. “Adrien, fire!”

The boy pelted missile after missile, as many missing their mark as they landed. “You’re sneaky, Mom,” he accused, face screwed up in concentration as he hurled projectiles at his mother.

Lisa gave a little bow, a mass of snow sliding from her hair to plop onto the ground. “Sneaky is my middle name,” she conceded, diving forward between Vlad’s widened stance and lobbing a massive load of snow upward into her husband’s shocked face. He spluttered, spitting snow out of his mouth and in retaliation combined their entire reserve of snowballs into a hovering, horizontal wall of white and sent it cascading down on her torso

“Oh!” Lisa’s cornflower eyes widened as she was engulfed in a pile of powdery white, all but her legs from where they lay between Vlad’s completely obscured by snow. 

He laughed, a deep, gleeful guffaw that rang out through the grounds. 

Adrien stared up into his father’s face in shocked delight, having never heard him laugh so. 

“Come, son,” Dracula directed, still chuckling, “Let us dig up your mother.” He deposited Adrien beside the pile of Lisa snow, and together they reached in and fished. Vlad’s questing hand caught a set of fingers, and he pulled, yanking Lisa upright and into his waiting arms. “Alright, my wife?” he asked, carding his hands through her frozen hair and dislodging chunks of ice. 

She chortled, teeth chattering, and lightly smacked his chest. “Freezing, my love, but yes. That was a dastardly move.”

One black eyebrow curved toward his forehead. “As if you were not asking for it.”

“You were being pretty mendacious, mother,” Adrien added helpfully from her waist, tugging on her coat to help rid her of the snow clinging to her back and shoulders. 

Mendacious?” she mouthed at Vlad incredulously, and he chuckled and rolled his eyes.

You were the one who gave him that dictionary last week when he complained of boredom,” he muttered out of the side of his mouth. He frowned, taking in her stiff posture and the shivers that had begun to wrack her body. “And now out of the cold, I believe,” he declared, scooping her into his arms. “You need to warm up.”

It was a measure of just how chilled Lisa was that she only nodded, snuggling into his torso. “Yes, I do believe that might be best,” she murmured. “Adrien, follow your father.”

The boy nodded, stifling a yawn and looking up at his parents from beneath heavy lids. “Mmkay,” he agreed. “‘M tired now anyway.”

Rolling his eyes skyward and questioning the stubbornness of mortals, Vlad shifted Lisa to one shoulder and retrieved his son with his free hand, cradling them both against his chest. “You two…” he murmured, looking between them in fond exasperation. 

Adrien merely sighed happily and curled into his father’s arm, tucking his head against Dracula’s shoulder and promptly falling asleep. 

Lisa remained awake, slinging an arm around her husband’s shoulder and pressing a soft kiss to his cheek. “Thank you,” she told him. 

“For what?” Vlad asked, transporting them inside the castle and up to Adrien’s bedroom. Deftly, he stripped the boy of his wet garments, reclothing him in warm trousers and shirt and depositing him in his bed, not once letting go of his grip on Lisa.

“For today,” she said simply, nestling against him as he gripped her with both hands now that he had seen to his son. “You are his world, Vlad. He wants to be just like you, you know.”

“He should not,” Dracula murmured into her hair. “He is so much your son than mine—both of you are my light, my sun in a world where I thought I had none, brightening every day and pushing me to be better than I was. He is perfect as he is.”

“Mmm,” she turned her head into his neck, allowing her eyes to flutter closed. “You should tell him that more often. He needs to hear it.”

Vlad considered her words, staring down at his sleeping son with a mixture of emotions playing out across his face. His love for the boy was overwhelming, a fierce, burning passion that incited every protective instinct he possessed. Nothing would harm this child, nothing would bring him pain or despair or distress. He was so pure, so happy—and for such a being to come even in part from him—

I love you,” he breathed, “both of you so very much.” His arms tightened around Lisa and he bore her down the hall to their room.

“I know,” she replied, “and that love makes you so much better than you claim to be.” She shimmied out of his arms and dropped lightly to the floor, snaking her arms around his chest and leaning up to peer intently into his face. “I love you too, you great bat. Now, get me out of these wet clothes, and show me how you plan to warm me up.” Her expression grew coy. “Since it seems our son is out of commission for a while, I see no problem in us retiring for a little while.”  

Clothes flew everywhere as Vlad took his cue, rapidly divesting her of her freezing, sopping garments and scooping her lithe form back into his arms. “As my lady so commands,” he proclaimed, depositing her in bed and descending in a flurry of black, “so shall she receive.” 

As they lost themselves in each other, outside the snow sat on, a vast winter wonderland unmarred by man or beast, a fresh, raw, new beginning punctuated by a single ray of sunlight fighting its way through the grey clouds.

Chapter Text

Vlad and Lisa could honestly say that they were most certainly not expecting to be…well, expecting. 

Lisa, for her part, knew almost immediately—it was, after all, her body that was directly involved. 

After one week of overdue monthlies and unusual abdominal cramps, she was suspicious. Once another had passed and she had ruled out an affliction of the appendix, she was all but certain. By the end of the third week, she was convinced. And, as she plucked the vial of her blood off of the centrifuge, fingers shaking, and inserted her homemade test kit into her sample, she knew. 

From there, she spiraled into a week of seclusion and research, closeting herself away during the daylight hours, nose buried in books on natal development, mammalian physiology, and what few tomes she could dredge up on vampiric legend and lore. Vlad kept a remarkably detailed library, but his collection included surprisingly few books on his own condition—and, of course, that was the precise topic she unfortunately now needed to research.

Normally, Lisa did not mind—he had shared much of his personal physiology and capabilities with her over the last few years, making the lack of readable knowledge immaterial—but, Lisa also was not normally carrying a developing human-vampire hybrid in her womb. Such a thing should not have even been possible. Her husband had no living flesh, no blood pumping through his veins. When they joined, his seed did not pass to her—or, so she had believed. She could only imagine that the impossible had come to pass after he had fed one night, the blood coursing through his veins loaning him the semblance of living, human flesh and organs. 

A biologist at heart, Lisa channeled every iota of her uncertainty into her frustration with the biological implausibility of the entire scenario.

She tamped down the overwhelming elation that surged through her upon the initial revelation, through learning of their creation of a child, her child with Dracula, a soul they had both created—could she ask for any greater gift?

She ignored the niggling doubts jostling for position in her mind—what if she was a terrible mother? Children had never even been discussed, let alone allowed within the scope of her imagined future realities. She was a scientist, a researcher, a doctor. She treated and aided this condition and many others; she was not used to being the patient herself.

She also firmly, resolutely rejected the abject terror that went screaming through her in her most unguarded moments, threatening to bring her to her knees when it snuck through her defenses. She had no way of knowing how Vlad would react, could not imagine what she would do if he did not want their child. She did not think that she could bear that last, knew well that his rejection would truly break her as no other word or action could.

But, she also did not truly consider it to be an issue, not in her rational moments when she could take a deep breath and will away the nerves and allow her clear mind and common sense to shine through. For all that she and Dracula had never discussed a child, nor even considered it within the realm of possibility, she knew him, knew his love for her was unconditional and indeed ferocious. She could only assume that would extend beyond her to their offspring.

What bothered her most now, if she were being honest with herself, was not knowing how this pregnancy would progress. As a doctor, she had assisted in numerous births, helped many expecting mothers with cramps, sickness, and hormonal imbalances. Her fairly rural upbringing had given her additional experience delivering calves, foals, pups. she was well-versed in human and animal pregnancy and birth. She knew the natural progression and development, knew that at roughly four to five weeks along, the tiny fetus growing inside her now had a heartbeat. She knew the morning sickness was coming, had felt a slight twinge in her breasts as she dressed that morning. Clinically, she was well-prepared for a typical pregnancy.

But here, now, with a child of mixed heritage and potentially not even remotely human growing inside of her, she was completely and utterly at a loss. 

Would their child be human, or vampire? Or, neither? She would love it no less regardless of what species, gender, and form it took, but even so, uncertainty ran rampant; she needed to make sure she did nothing to endanger her child, had to ensure that she would be prepared to see it all of his or her needs as he or she grew and developed. And so, Lisa did what she always did when she was unsure of something—she read. Books were devoured and cast aside, stacks taller than her even at full standing height towering on her traditional table in the library and around her counter in the lab.

So engrossed in her research was she that she failed to note night bleeding into day, and daylight sinking into the dark embrace of night.

It took Dracula exactly five days, four hours, eleven minutes, and a handful of seconds after Lisa’s discovery to realize that something was amiss. In his defense, he had been rather preoccupied with the uprising of a minor vampire lord across the country, and had been in and out of the castle by way of one of his mirrors for the last handful of days. He had not been to either lab or library since early the week before, and had only seen Lisa briefly in passing in the days between. 

However, as he entered their academic refuge and heard none of the usual hissing burners or bubbling chemicals, or the clank of dissection instruments against a tray, he knew something was awry. Then he caught sight of the alcove she preferred to use for study and his eyebrows shot up to his forehead—he could not even see his wife behind the mountain of thick tomes stacked around her. 

“Lisa,” he called, to give her some notice of his approach as he swept into the room, a dark shadow agains the golden glow of her candles and the silver cast of the moon overhead. “Lisa, my love, what is it that has you so affected?”

Even with his soft words she started, lurching out of her chair and upending one already-teetering pile in the process. “Shit,” she swore, flailing in a wild attempt to prevent the inevitable crash. 

Quick as lightning, Vlad was at her side, the imminent collapse halted as he used his inhuman speed to collect and re-stack the falling books. “Are you alright?” he asked, tipping her chin up with one long-fingered hand. His expression was quizzical, eyes narrowed in concern as he took in the dark circles beneath her eyes and the pallor of her skin. “Clearly not,” he answered his own question, pressing the tip of his index finger to her lips to prevent her inevitable objection. Guilt flitted across his face. “I am afraid I have not been the most attentive husband these last days, and you have suffered for it.”

Lisa shook her head. “Not at all,” she denied vehemently. “I am well aware you sometimes have business in which I want no part.” Her blue eyes were warm as she fixed him with a gentle, tired smile, her hand rising to curl around his where it cupped her cheek. “I have merely allowed myself to fall a bit too far into my research.” Stifling a rather poorly-timed yawn, she scrubbed her other arm across her eyes and leaned forward against his solid chest, the smooth fabric of his tunic and cloak a soothing caress against her clammy skin. 

A frown touched Vlad’s mouth as he took in her obvious fatigue. “What is wrong, dear one?” he asked gently, drawing her more firmly against him in a gentle embrace. Surreptitiously, he cast his eyes over to her research materials, scanning the spines of her selected reading and growing more and more concerned. “Dark topics for such a bright evening,” he murmured, plucking one particularly depiction of the “wampyr” from the top of her stack. 

Lisa closed her eyes and tucked her head into his neck to avoid his querying stare. 

“What is it?” he murmured, smoothing a hand over her golden hair and brushing his lips across her brow. His eyes were a dark rusty red compared to their usual scarlet, clouded with concern as he held his wife. “Lisa, love, you are doing an excellent job at alarming a man who has not been truly frightened in years.” His fingers shook slightly as they curled a lock of hair about her ear. 

Heart pounding, Lisa shook her head, desperately trying to gather the courage to talk to him, to tell him. Words, normally so quick to come to her lips, failed her, leaving her hollow and empty and unable to speak. 

Dracula felt the beat of her pulse against him, her heart pounding ferociously in her chest. He smoothed his hands down her sides, offering comfort in a soft caress, the thrum of her heartbeat loud in his ears. And, beneath it all, a light, ferocious flutter, birdlike, flittering beneath the much stronger sound of Lisa’s blood pumping through her veins. His eyes flew open, lips parting in shock.

A second heartbeat.

Stymied, he took a half-step back, placing a hand on her shoulder and tipping her chin up with the other. “Lisa,” he breathed, voice awash with wonder, “What…?”

She gave a soft, choking laugh and crossed her arms across her abdomen. “Yeah,” she agreed, finally meeting his eyes, not bothering to try to hide the myriad of emotions bubbling just beneath the surface of her thin veil of self control. 

“But—how—“ he stumbled over his words, grasping her hands and drawing them out between them, thumbs curving over her knuckles. Without warning, he bent to press a blistering kiss to her lips, mouth moving across hers, seeking her warmth. He lingered, tongue tracing the seam of her lips for a final sample, and then drew away, lips hovering a hair’s breadth from hers. “You’re carrying a child,” he said slowly, squeezing her hands, red eyes intent as he searched for confirmation. “Our child.” Their noses brushed as he leaned forward again, pressing a feather-light kiss to the corner of her lips. 

Lisa nodded against his mouth, her lips parting in a delighted smile. “I’m having a baby,” she affirmed, an unexpected surge of joy bursting from her as she finally, finally allowed herself to say the words out loud. Her nose brushed across his cheek as she peppered his face in kisses. “We’re having a baby.”

Dracula uttered a hoarse noise that might have been a laugh or a sigh. “This should not be possible,” he murmured, raising her hands to press his lips to her knuckles. “The undead cannot create life.”

“Do you think I haven’t thought that?” she asked. “I’ve been reading nonstop for over a week—I’m pregnant, I don’t know how,”—she paused to give him a sly look, “well, I know how.” She combed a hand through his hair. “But, I don’t know what to expect. I’ve done births, plenty of births,  but they were all human, or animal—what will this pregnancy bring us?”

“You don’t need to walk into the unknown alone,” he told her fervently. “I have heard of a few cases, very rare, where a human has carried the child of one of my kind. They have not been recorded on paper, but they exist.” He smoothed his hand across her brow. “From my knowledge, both mother and child were fine in all.”

“Oh,” Lisa smiled, a brilliant, glowing smile that spread across her face and consumed her entire being. “That’s wonderful.” Her smile dimmed slightly and she peered up into his serene face. “You…do you want this?” she asked, sounding far more timid than someone with her seemingly endless well of courage had any right to do. “You—we—children…do you want this baby?” 

Dracula felt his undead heart wrench in his chest. He could sense the terror that swam just beneath the surface of her joy, could feel the concern hovering just beyond the realm of her reality. And, more tellingly, he could hear the pounding of her heart in her chest as she struggled to contain her apprehension. 

Before she could even register his movement, he had her in his arms and nestled against his chest in her plush chair that adorned her reading alcove. “This is something I would never have expected,” he told her quietly. 

Her face fell, eyebrows drawing together, and she shook her head, hands clutching helplessly at his cloak.

“Let me finish, woman,” he chastised, seizing her face and turning it up to his. “I could never have imagined that we would be in a position to have a child,” he began again. “However,” he continued, nails scratching lightly across her skin, tracing the curve of the veins along her neck, “I have not felt this much joy since the day you consented to be my wife. A child, our child, is the greatest gift I could ever imagine. He—or she—will be the kindest, strongest, most well-loved being in the land.”

Awash in the sensation of his fingers smoothing through her hair, it took Lisa a moment to process his words. “It is?” she asked, jerking upright and twisting to stare up at him. “They will?” He nodded, slowly, giving her time to process his response. She surged forward and kissed him, twining her fingers through his hair and holding him in place as she took control of his mouth. “I love you,” she breathed against his lips. “I want nothing more than to have this child, raise it together, teach it everything about the world.”

He laughed softly, a light huff of air against her parted lips. “And so we shall,” he promised, cradling her face in his palms. His eyes lit up as his mind churned. “We will need to prepare a room,” he mused, thumbs smoothing across her lips in a repeated motion. “And acquire clothes, toys, books—“ 

Lisa giggled, catching his hand. “I think we have plenty of books, dear,” she said, biting back a grin.

Looking up at him, she was struck by another overwhelming outpouring of giddy relief. Outwardly calm though he appeared, she could sense the energy humming through him, the anticipation and joy and overpowering love he felt for her, for their unborn child. She had hoped—oh, she had hoped—but she had not allowed herself to expect anything beyond her revelation. 

“I’m only just a month or two along,” she informed him, drawing his hand down to rest upon her abdomen. “So we have plenty of time to prepare.”

Extending his supernatural senses, Vlad allowed himself to reach below flesh and bone and muscle, searching once more for that fluttering, birdlike heartbeat. He frowned, not finding it as easily as before, and then smiled outright as he heard the telltale pulse, his marble face transforming in his joy. “I can hear its heart,” he told he softly, awestruck. “That is how I knew, earlier. I could hear yours—I can always hear yours, feel you even when I am not searching. But, there, beneath that, was another.”

It had not occurred to Lisa that he would be able to hear their child’s pulse—though she could hardly forget her husband’s supernatural bearings, there were times his capabilities far exceeded her expectations. “You can hear it already? How—?”

“Healthy as can be,” he soothed, giving her one of his rare smiles. “Too soon to tell much else, I’m afraid, but there is life, and it is strong and willing.”

Overjoyed, Lisa gave an overjoyed chime of a laugh and wrapped her arms around his waist, twining her fingers together behind his back and locking them together. “Vlad,” she breathed, “we’re having a child. Our child.” She kissed the sliver of his neck left exposed between the high collar of his cloak and his crisp white shirt. Impishly, she met his gleaming gaze. “I have questions, husband,” she said, “so many questions. Did the other cases you know of produce human or vampire offspring, or some blend of both characteristics and abilities?  Were the pregnancies normal, or were their differences that I should know about? Do I need to do anything different to sustain our child throughout the course of the pregnancy?” Lungs burning, she stopped and took a deep breath. “Are—“

“Do you ever stop thinking?” he teased, placing one large hand over her mouth. “The union of a vampire and human produces a dhampir—a human-vampire hybrid. From what I know, the pregnancy will be fairly typical, although you might have some…unusual cravings depending on how quickly our child’s vampiric nature manifests in the womb.” His brow furrowed. “I can only presume that one of my feedings came at a time when you were susceptible, and the blood coursing through me imbibed me with enough life to allow me to impregnate you.”

The quirky light dimmed from his eyes and his pupils dilated, eclipsing the glowing red of his irises. “But for now, I have answered enough questions for one evening. You are fatigued, pregnant, and,” his red, red tongue flitted out to trace the outline of her lips, “the most beautiful creature I have ever seen.” Rising, he held her to him bridal-style, tucking her head beneath his chin. “Would you do me the honor of retiring to my bed, Mrs. Țepeș?”

The words were a claiming, her married name on his lips sending a thrill of heady desire flashing through her. “It would be my pleasure, my lord,” she replied, curling her hand around his neck. “After all, we have many plans to make in preparation for this child.”

His eyes gleamed in the moonlight. “That we do.” Cradling her close, he bore them deep into the heart of the castle to their private rooms, his one treasure now turned into two, his undead life gaining even greater purpose and meaning as it was stretched to welcome yet another being into his reality. 

Implausible it might be, impossible they might have thought it, but they would have this baby, and have it well. And, naysayers be damned, he would do well by this child. He would do well by both of them—his Lisa, his wife and the love of his life, and the son or daughter growing deep within her. 

 

Chapter Text

Lisa’s senses returned to her slowly, awareness trickling back in one bit at a time as she forced herself out of the treacherous depths of an exhausted sleep. Her eyelids refused to open, remaining glued together by the bonds of slumber as her lashes fluttered vainly against her cheeks. Silent air sat stagnant around her, the lack of sound leaving an empty void that sucked her further and further into its embrace. She was left stranded, awash in that empty vacuum that so often surrounds one during a deep rest—and she was lost as to where she was or what she had been doing prior to awakening.

Smell came back first, the distant smoke and wood of a fire burned down in the hearth mixing with the chill bite of a winter’s evening, the sharp burn of chemicals and disinfectant, and the harsh metallic odor of blood. Taste soon followed, her tongue heavy in her mouth and a stale, papery tang nearly gagging her with its intensity. Her fingers flexed against her sides, her sense of touch returning in a sudden burst, and her immediate impassion was one of cold. She was alone in a bed, exposed to the frigid bite of the room despite the pile of blankets nestled around her. 

Beneath the haze of her exhaustion, her instincts screamed at her, clamored for attention and demanded she awaken properly. Panicked, Lisa jerked upright, eyes flying open, mind still sluggishly clawing its way back from the world of dreams. Something was amiss, but with her thoughts still fuzzy she was uncertain what it was.

Diligently, she fought her way back to full awareness, blinking to clear her eyes and taking in the disheveled pile of red-stained linens in the corner, the scattered vials and fresh towels on the bedside table, and the low cast of the massive moon outside of her window. Her brow furrowed in confusion. There was something lurking just beyond the edge of her conscious memory, something important…

Pain flared in her abdomen, hot and intense, and she winced, her hand flying to cradle her stomach as she bit back a groan. Her fingers had only just brushed the fabric of her nightgown before Lisa was rocketing out of bed, eyes blown wide open in panic. “Adrien!”

Heart pounding furiously in her chest, she tore down the darkened hallway, casting frantic glances through the gloomy mind passageway as she tried to connect all of the thoughts swimming around in her hysterical mind. 

There had been pain, so much pain, in her back and abdomen and—Adrien. She had been giving birth. 

There had been blood, so much blood, more so than she could ever recall from a fully human birth. 

And—there had been Vlad, his actions calm and collected even as his eyes were drowning in panic, clinically keeping her from bleeding out while she had their child. She remembered the pain finally ending, a dam of sensation bursting as the agony threatened to overwhelm her, and a brief, euphoric moment of clutching a tiny, pale, wailing baby to her chest.

Then, nothing.

“Vlad?” Lisa called, her pace slowing to a mild trot. “Where are you?” The panic was still there, a gentle swell against her rational thoughts as it threatened to crest over the bulwark she had constructed against it, but her newly ordered thoughts gave her the ground she needed to stand firm. She was certain that there was a good reason she was alone in her room, an explanation for the absence of her husband and their newly-born son. There had been no complications, Adrien had been healthy in the few moments she had held him in her arms, he was fine—he had to be fine. 

As she reached the peak of another flight of stairs her pace increased, rationality gradually eclipsed as terror once again took over. Worry had plagued her throughout this pregnancy, her medical knowledge expansive enough to provide her dark hints to each and every complication that might arise. Vlad had helped, some, his encyclopedic knowledge and serene demeanor doing wonders to keep her grounded. But, still…

Her son had to be fine, they had done everything to ensure the pregnancy was a healthy one. Her footsteps echoed across the stone in an off-beat cadence, her stride much quicker than it should have been for a woman who had just given birth. Urgency drove her, an insatiable need to see her son, alive and well, and satisfy the demons that gnawed away at her heart and insisted he was not. 

“Vlad?” she called again, voice cracking. She was nearing their personal quarters now, coming up on the open doorway where her husband kept his study with its shadowy corners and flickering hearth. Her voice died in her throat as she reached the door frame. There, in the great chair before the fire, sat her husband, their newborn son cradled in his arms and blinking up at his father. The bright tongues of flame cast them in sharp relief against the darkness of the room, and Lisa was enthralled by the vision they made—her dark, solemn husband clutching their golden boy, one cast in the shadow and the other all but glowing in the firelight. 

Lisa hovered in the doorframe, leaning against the dark wood, content to simply watch the two of them caught in such a tender moment. Never would she have imagined this would be the turn her life had taken, but she could not be more satisfied with its course. Humming softly to herself, she sat back to observe, blue eyes bright as she traced Vlad’s sharp profile with her gaze, amused that even now he could not bring himself to shed his imposing cloak and colors.

It spoke to his distraction that Dracula had not noticed her approach. Instead, all of his senses were focused solely on the drowsy infant nestled against his chest, his red eyes memorizing every inch of Adrien’s face. Vlad wore the strangest expression, one that Lisa had observed but a few times, those rare moments she caught him gazing at her when he thought her unaware—it was one of utmost care and compassion, one of sorrow and wrenching agony. It a manifestation of the most painful, agonizing love one could experience, the look of a man who had everything, and knew all too well that it could be gone in an instant—that, in the scope of his immortality, it would be gone in an instant. 

She almost stepped forward at that expression, but was halted as another, softer look stole across his face. 

This was love, pure and simple. 

“My son,” he whispered softly, curving a large hand around Adrien’s head. “And here I thought the world had nothing more to offer me.” He let out a soft, disbelieving laugh and shook his head. “But instead it gives me not one, but two things to cherish, two precious souls to protect.” He pressed a soft kiss to the baby’s brow. “I do not deserve either of you,” he told his son. “Nothing I have ever done throughout the course of my existence has every given me cause to be in the position I find myself today.”

Tears—clear, clean, human tears—crested down his cheeks, and Lisa’s hand flew to her mouth.  How often was it she had seen her husband cry? She could count the times on one hand, and those all the red, bloody tears he cried in sorrow or rage. 

These—

These were tears of joy.

“Oh, my love,” she murmured, stepping lightly across the threshold. She tiptoed over to stand beside his chair, placing a soft hand on his right shoulder.

It was a measure of Dracula’s self-control that he only flinched, grip tightening slightly on his son as he turned to face the intruder to his sanctuary with bared fangs. His eyes widened as he identified her, clear tear tracks still glistening on his cheeks. “Lisa!” he exclaimed, scrambling to stand and then realizing halfway through that he still held their baby. “You should be resting, not wandering the castle in the middle of the night.”

Chuckling, she settled on his left knee, looping one arm around his shoulder so that she could face him and Adrien at the same time. “There,” she said pertly, “now I’m resting.” The hand around his neck toyed with his hair, combing through the thick strands framing his face. “I awoke to an empty room, incomplete memories of Adrien’s birth and the time following, and an empty bed,” she told him more seriously, peering up into his face. “I didn’t know what to think.”

“I—“ he stumbled, for all the moment appearing an uncertain new father rather than a centuries-old voivode. “You were resting, and he started to fuss. We went for a walk rather than disturb you.”

Her eyes softened as she caught his gaze and held it. “You big softie,” she teased. She traced her index finger through the blond fuzz on her son’s head. “He’s so small,” she marveled, willing her hand not to shake as she followed the curve of his brow, the slope of his cheek, the corner of his brilliant, golden eyes. Mothers were supposed to know how to touch their sons, were supposed to be calm and collected, but she—she was terrified. 

You will be a wonderful mother.” Vlad’s soft words made her start. She had not realized she wore her expressions so obviously. His cold nose brushed her cheek as he leaned down to press a kiss to the corner of her mouth. “You already are a wonderful mother.” A touch of wry humor flickered in his eyes. “I, however, haven’t the faintest idea at how to approach fatherhood. It is a role I never imagined that I would play.”

His admission of uncertainty cost him a lot, she knew, for he strove to always maintain control—or the semblance of it—in all aspects of his life. Lisa snuggled up under his chin. “It’s an adventure, my love, we’ll figure it out together.” She reached to trace the tear tracks now drying on his icy skin, finger trailing along cheek and down to chin, thumb tracing across his lips in a gentle caress. 

He pressed a light kiss to her tip of her questing thumb. “I thought we agreed I was too old for adventures,” he scoffed, offering Adrien one long finger. The infant reached up, clutching the nail between tiny hands, and burbled happily.

“Hardly,” she retorted, tapping the bridge of her husband’s nose. “What has your existence been but one massive adventure since I arrived?” Her lips quirked into a smile. “And, have you not enjoyed it?”

Leaning forward, he brushed a kiss across her lips. “Immensely,” he confessed. “I would not trade you or Adrien for the world. “

She thought back to his earlier words when he had believed himself alone with Adrien and her stomach gave a pleasant flutter. “I know,” she told him. “Nor I you.” Sighing contentedly, she tucked her head beneath his chin, her body suddenly exhausted once more as all traces of her earlier adrenaline fled. “I love you,” she murmured, the words a benediction. 

He received it with grace, inhaling sharply as she brushed a feather-light kiss across his jaw. “And I you,” the familiar words rolled off his tongue without conscious thought, an automatic response to a phrase he had long since ceased to question. He could not fathom how the fortunes had deemed him worthy of such a wondrous partner, or, even more a child, but he intended to do everything within his considerable power to protect them, keep them safe from harm and hardship. 

The human soul was ferocious and bright, but the human body was a fragile thing, susceptible to all sorts of ailments and injuries. He could not say yet how strongly Adrien’s inhuman traits had manifested themselves in his genes, but even so his son would not be fully immune to the ills of the world as a full vampire might be. 

“I will protect you, my son,” he promised, meeting the boy’s sleepy amber eyes. “And I will protect your mother.” The fingers of the hand not holding his son carded through Lisa’s blonde tresses, smoothing back loose strands. She shifted in his arms and sighed, eyes closed, centimeters away from plunging wholly into the rest she so needed. Dracula sighed heavily, closing his eyes and holding tight to the two suns in his otherwise monotonous existence. “I will protect you both.”

It was a promise, to them as well as himself. If he said it enough it would be true. If he said it enough, no force in the world—or beyond it—could tear their family apart. 

Their skin was warm against his hands, their heartbeats thrumming in his ears. He was dead while they were alive, his body pale and cold while theirs glowed golden in the firelight. Their chests rose and fell with measured breaths, his beloved wife and infant son, their mortality a burning beacon against his cold eternity. 

Dracula brushed a strand of hair—golden, like Lisa’s—from Adrien’s forehead, eyes bright as he imprinted this image of his son into his internal library. “May you never know any harm or hardship,” he murmured, “by my hand or any others.” He pressed his lips to Adrien’s brow, red eyes glinting with a bit of humor. “And may you grow up to be as kind and clever and curious as your mother.”

Air gusted across his ear as Lisa chuckled, stirring slightly as she caught his last few words. “Curious like his mother, hmm?” she yawned, stretching like a contented cat in his arms. “Do you think it wise to bestow that blessing upon a child possessing what is likely to be an impregnable will, limitless intelligence, and as-yet-unknown magical abilities?”

Vlad laughed outright at that. “You said you wanted an adventure,” he challenged, arching one black eyebrow. He rose, slowly, cradling Lisa in one arm and Adrien in the other, bearing them out of the room and down the hallway. Adrien he set gently in his crib, swaddling him in a blanket and leaving him tucked in and sound asleep. Lisa, he carried down to their own room, placing her in the bed and sliding in beside her, his clothes disappearing with a whisper and his loose black sleep pants forming over calves and thighs. 

“I did, didn’t I?” Her words were barely intelligible, muffled by blankets and thick and heavy in her mouth. “M’be t’morrow.”

Spooning up behind her, Vlad tucked her against his body, wrapping his arms across her chest and pressing his lips to her bared shoulder. “Tomorrow it is,” he promised, “now rest, my love.”

He could feel it as Lisa slid into unconsciousness, her breaths deepening into a steady rhythm, her heart slowing to a measured pulse. She was strong—she would rest, and recover, and tomorrow and the next day and the next would bring one adventure after another as they showed their son what it truly meant to live.

 

Chapter Text

It was the smell of blood that first drew his attention. 

It hung heavy in the air, an unmistakably sharp iron tang that overpowered all other scents in the castle. Normally the air was saturated with the earthy smell of stone, the heavy, musty aroma of the tapestries and fabrics decorating the walls, and the foreign, chemical smells coming from the lab and Vlad’s private workshop in the bowels of the castle. 

This morning, the aromas that typically permeated the castle were all but obscured by the creeping tendrils of sweet, syrupy blood. It permeated the hallways and invaded Vlad’s study, wafting through the cracked door and diffusing throughout his sanctuary, curling about him like a stray dog returning to its master. At its touch, his eyes fluttered shut, fangs bared, as the heady scent summoned a well of saliva at the back of his throat.

Shuddering, he forced it back, willing his bloodred eyes to open and rising, fists clenched at his side. That particular aroma…that was unique to a specific individual.

Aromas once pleasant to Dracula’s human senses now barely piqued his interest, harsh and unappealing to him, and the world passed by him in a blur of unremarkable, unmemorable odors. Few scents had the power to draw his attention in such a commanding manner, but blood…blood was the exception. 

No matter where he stood, no matter what the weather, no matter waking or sleeping, Dracula was aware of every drop of blood spilled within a remarkable radius. He could hone in on an individual pulse within a crowd, could tell the exact moment a human bit his lip or began her menses. He was aware of each and every drop of that sustaining red ichor that flowed throughout his domain. 

Each human had a different aroma, a different flavor that defined their lifeblood and marked them as unique in his eyes, his hyper-vigilant senses picking up each and every discrepancy and branding them like cattle in a pen. Over the course of his exceptionally long lifespan, few humans had stuck out as remarkable, or particularly appealing over the others. Most passed by him, no more distinct than any other prey, but there had been a select few, a very rare collection of individuals, whose blood would sing to him like a siren’s call. For these men and women, he did not even require an open wound, the pulse of their aortic artery alone enough to lure his inner predator. 

It was only fitting that Lisa was among these few. 

On the day she had arrived at his castle, his senses had been assailed by the allure of the blood in her veins, and since then he had been attuned to the unique cocktail of aromas that defined her as his Lisa. She called to him waking or sleeping, whether she was in his arms or across the castle, a siren call to every baser instinct he possessed. 

Naturally, then, when the scent of her very distinctive blood assailed his senses on what was supposed to be a quiet morning of repose he was on his feet in an instant, eyes narrowing as he stepped into the shadows of his study to emerge in the downstairs hall. Panic hummed in his throat, his long-dead heart stuttering in his chest as he ran through every possible scenario that might result in his wife bleeding out in the laboratory.

None of them served to ease the fear that gripped his heart with an icy fist.

“Lisa,” he threw open the door to the laboratory, mouth set in a fierce frown, his pace quickened by the perceived urgency of the situation. Passing through the entrance, he stopped short as he reached her, his eyebrows rising in bemusement. Whatever he expected to find, it was certainly not his wife, her face set in a stubborn, frustrated scowl, dabbing at a thin cut on her forearm with a sterile pad coated with some sort of viscous gel. 

Startled by his sudden appearance, Lisa jumped, the hand pressed to the scratch shifting as she jerked back. “Vlad!” Guiltily, her eyes slid from his face down to her arm, where he now noticed a series of half-healed puncture marks within a small radius of skin. “What—?”

“What on earth are you doing?” he inquired, mouth tightening as a stern frown stole across his face. He took her injured arm in his hand, the gentleness of his touch a direct contradiction to his rather obvious ire, and traced the pad of his thumb across the open skin, summoning a tiny bit of his will to heal the abrasions. 

Lisa nodded toward the half-filled beakers spread across the table. “I’ve been working on developing a coagulating agent,” she provided, delicately removing her hand from his grasp so that she could scribble notes in the overflowing book to her right. “I have the basics down, but so far I can only get it to work on extremely sluggish flows rather than more rapid, puncture-based wounds. For it to be of any merit it has to be able to handle both.” She pursed her lips, brows drawing together in thought. “I must be missing a compound somewhere…”

Crisis averted, Vlad’s fear and concern slid quickly toward anger. “What would possess you to experiment on yourself?” he asked, incredulous. “Your blood is far too valuable to waste.”

“But how else would I know if it worked on humans?” she countered, frowning. “It’s only a complete study if I have a test subject, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed but humans are rather in short supply around here—and I certainly cannot offer my patients any substandard medicines.”

Closing his eyes, Vlad cast out an abstract prayer to gods he did not believe in to grant him patience. 

“There are many mammals with similar skin composition to humans,” he told her, setting himself down onto the bench beside her and pinching the bridge of his nose. “Pigs, in particular, are excellent subjects when it comes to testing externally-applied remedies.” Red eyes flashed open to fix her with a pointed stare. “I would much prefer you use them instead of yourself.

“Oh.” Sheepishly, Lisa looked down at the thin white lines on her arm rather than meet the disapproval in his gaze. “I…hadn’t thought of that.”

A large pale hand closed around hers , thumb sweeping across her knuckles. “Foolish woman,” he chastised, words nevertheless fond. “It is possible to get so engrossed in your research that you lose scope of common sense.” His other arm curled about her shoulders, drawing her against him. 

“You say that as though you have personal experience,” Lisa informed him coyly, leaning into his embrace. 

“Perhaps.” He passed a hand over the top of her golden hair, fingers tracing the contours of her braid, catching the wispy strands that had escaped their confines during the course of her frustration. “But no more.”

Cool breath ghosted against her ear and she jumped, not realizing he had moved even closer. “You only have one life, Lisa of Lupu,” he told her sternly, “don’t waste time being silly.” He nipped at the lobe of her ear in retaliation.

“But sometimes it is fun to be silly,” she said, twisting in his arms to stare up at him. Lips pursed, she smoothed the lines from his brow, thumb tracking downward to trace the contour of his nose. She pressed a kiss to the corner of his eye. “But I will be more conscientious,” she promised, conceding. 

Teeth flashing in the semblance of a smile as he gauged her sincerity, Vlad chuckled softly and tapped the end of her nose. “I suppose that is all I can ask,” he conceded, clasping his hands around her waist. He rose in a single fluid motion, scooping Lisa into his arms as he stood. “Now, I do not know about you, my love, but this afternoon sunlight is becoming quite tiresome.” 

And, indeed, the day had crept onward, morning bleeding into afternoon, the sun cresting its zenith and beginning a gradual downward arc as it sent brilliant golden rays streaming down into the laboratory. Shadow was all but eliminated, the bookshelves and their contents exposed and standing tall amidst the day. Liquid in beakers gleamed, pierced by the the light and transparent to their sight. And, in the center of it all stood Dracula stark against the brilliant daylight, cloaked in shadow and paler than death.

Lisa squirmed in his arms, wriggling until he was forced to set her down. “My lord of night, alone without his shadows,” she muttered, reaching up to smooth his dark hair from his face. She tipped her face up to give him a bright grin. “Daylight suits you, my love,” she informed him. 

“Bah,” he shook his head in denial. “I only bear it when I must, and even then only for short durations of time.” Head cocked, his gaze slipped out of focus, his hand reaching out into the air.

“Vlad, don’t you dare!” she exclaimed. “I know that look!” She scrambled to knock his hand from the air but to no avail, the rune to carry them to the bowels of the castle already standing fully-sketched in the air before them. “You bast—“

They blinked out of the lab, reappearing in Vlad’s private suite in a whoosh of displaced air.

“—ard,” she finished, sagging into his chest as her knees wobbled from the teleportation. 

He snickered, combing her disheveled hair back from her face and waving a careless hand at the candles in the corner. “Come now, Lisa, there are at least five solid hours of daylight left—that is far more than I care to endure.

“And you deemed it necessary to drag me along…why?” she asked him, hands on her hips as she glowered up into his carefully impassive face. “I was on the cusp of a medical breakthrough.”

Cool lips silenced her as they pressed into hers, one broad hand falling to the back of her head, cradling her against him as he chased the protests from her mouth. “And your medical breakthrough will still be there when you get back,” he reminded her, drawing them back toward the large coffin in the corner. “The least you could do in way of apology for frightening your dear old husband by bleeding yourself is to allow him your company while he rests.”

Lisa was not fooled by the flattering language. “You don’t trust me not to go back and not test that solution, do you?” It was not intended as a question. She harrumphed, fidgeting with the pleat of her practical skirts. Finally, she gave him a half-hearted shrug and a genuine smile. “I suppose I might be persuaded to join you for a brief nap.”

Vlad smiled in triumph, whisking her into his arms and settling back into the cushions that lined his resting place. “Excellent,” he murmured into his neck, eyes already sinking closed as the exhaustion he had long been staving off finally started to take hold of him. His arms remains wrapped around her, bands of iron that held her in a comfortable but firm embrace, ensuring no more shenanigans until he would awaken with the dawning moon much later in the evening.

“Ass,” Lisa muttered, brushing a kiss to the underside of his jaw, tracing the crows feet that marked the corners of his eyes. She let her gaze wander around his quarters and shook her head, tapping a pendent around her neck in a certain cadence and banishing the light from the candles. “But you’re my ass,” she told him, settling in beside him. Her experiment would indeed keep, but moments like these—they were always worth treasuring.

Chapter Text

 

 

“Adrien Fahrenheit Țepeș!!”

Lisa’s bearlike roar echoed down the cavernous entrance hall, sending what few vampiric servants lurking in the wings scurrying for shelter. Armor rattled on its stands, tapestries wavering in the force of her wrath. The woman herself stood at the foot of the massive staircase, delicate face turned upward and blue eyes sizzling with furious intensity as she glowered at the pure white wolf pup with molten eyes currently doing backflips twenty feet in the air.

Feet braced shoulder-width apart, she straightened her back and directed a furious frown at her levitating, currently-canine son. “Adrien!” she barked, cheeks pink in anger, “are you even listening to me?”

The barest flicker of those golden eyes down to hers told her that yes, he most certainly was. 

Then that white head rose, and her son gave a happy little yip and set himself down on the upper level of the stairway, loping down the long hallway with an easy grace and disappearing into the dark shadows beyond. His paws were silent on the luxurious rugs lining the hall, his laughing barks growing gradually softer as he gained ground and drew deeper into the castle. 

As all signs of her wayward son faded from detection, a sudden wave of frustrated exhaustion seized Lisa and she sighed, letting her aggressive posture drop, one hand rising to knead her forehead. “Life was so much simpler before he realized he could shape-shift and levitate,” she muttered. Gone were the days of the cute, relatively immobile baby. She even missed his toddler days, when he would occasionally and inadvertently lose control of his magical abilities, rearranging rooms, teleporting himself—and whatever or whoever was nearest—elsewhere in the castle, and, on one memorable occasion, transmuting every piece of lead in the castle to gold. 

But now? Now her son was impatient, fully mobile, highly curious, and well aware of the entire unique suite of powers he possessed. He was impossible to manage. 

She closed her eyes briefly, summoning patience from a long-depleted well, and began the march up the stairs. Her short boots echoed on the stone steps as she reached the top, and she drew to a stop, staring down the hall with narrowed eyes. “I’m coming after you, child,” she called, ears pricked for any sign of her wayward wolf, “and so help me when I finally get a hold of you there will be hell to pay.”

It was a shot in the dark, of course, for though Lisa was highly remarkable for a human being she remained only human; her son possessed her strong will and intelligence as well as the abilities and cunning of his rather otherworldly father, as well. If he did not wish to be found, it would be an undertaking in itself simply to locate him, let alone pin him down long enough to encourage him to transform back. 

Sighing heavily, Lisa picked a room at random, poking her head into a long-abandoned workshop and peering halfheartedly under the assorted (and quite dusty) tables and stone benches. “Adrien?” Even before she received only silence as her answer, she had already withdrawn from that particular room, turning her attention farther down the line to the subsequent doorways and resigning herself to an afternoon of unanticipated hide-and-seek. 

Fifty rooms, three hallways, and an armory later, the idea wasn’t nearly as amusing as it had been at the beginning of her endeavor. 

“That boy,” she muttered, brushing a hank of sweat-dampened hair from her brow, “is more trouble than he is worth, sometimes.” She stared helplessly at the solid stone wall that marked the end of that particularly hallway and spun rapidly on her heel—

—and slammed into a cool, solid chest with a loud gasp. “Vlad!” she yelped, looking up into his stoic face with wild eyes and shoving at his chest, “you know I can’t stand it when you sneak up on me like that!”

The vampire’s mouth twitched in a nearly-imperceptible smile. “Oh, but your response to it is priceless, wife,” he told her, idly trailing a lean finger along the slope of her should before letting his hand fall to curl around hers. “And what else do I have to amuse me this fine day?”

Lisa’s eyes narrowed. “You could, perhaps, assist me in tracking down our son,” she told him pointedly, bringing their joined hands up to poke at him. “He’s currently running about your castle as a little white, levitating wolf.”

Centuries-old stoicism could only endure so long, and Vlad found himself laughing—a full, rumbling sound that ripped from his chest and rolled across the barren hallway. Free hand rising over his mouth, he attempted to stifle his mirth, but his halfhearted attempts did nothing to stay the flow of amusement stemming from within as he pictured Lisa sprinting through his castle in hot pursuit of their little cub. “I’d wondered when he would figure out that trick,” he finally wheezed, leaning back against the stone wall as he gradually regained his composure.

For her part, Lisa found herself torn between aggravation at his blatant disregard for her wasted, frustrating day and joy at his open, incredibly rare display of happiness. It was so rare she caught him so unguarded, and rarer still that he actually laughed—to have her normally stoic husband dissolving into—dare she say it—giggles before her had her earlier irritation all but melting away. “You knew this would happen?” she asked, honing in on his last words to hide her growing amusement. 

He snickered and drew her against him, fitting her back against his chest and bringing his mouth down to her ear so that his breath ghosted across her neck. “It was only logical,” he murmured. “He’s exhibited traces of all of my other abilities, so the levitation was only the next step forward. And the wolf…” he flashed her a toothy white grin. “Well, sometimes it certainly beats being a bat.”

Reaching backwards to bat him over the head in response, Lisa leaned back against his solid chest and sighed. “Yes, well, now he’s scampering about evading responsibility and punishment for his disobedience….he’ll never learn if we can’t discipline him.”

“He’s just being a boy,” Vlad protested indignantly. “How else will he excel in his abilities if he does not exercise them? We do keep him on a rather strict schedule most of the time as it is.”

Blonde eyebrows skyrocketed upward. “Well listen to you, Mister ‘I believe in discipline and intensity and working nonstop until I achieve my goal’,” she taunted, spinning around to leer up into his face. “How the mighty have fallen at the hands of the innocent.” Deep-seated amusement flickered in her eyes. “The great Vlad Dracula Țepeș, putty in the hands of an adolescent boy.”

The air of the hallway grew considerably cooler as Vlad’s irritation flared, a great blast of icy air sweeping along the stone and dissipating as it dissolved into the darkness of the far end. “I am not!” he argued, straightening to his full height and glaring down imperiously at his wickedly-grinning wife. “I am discipline incarnate, the king of the undead, ancient and knowledgeable beyond all else who walk this world—I am not soft by any means.”

The bright, musical yip of a pup at play spiraled down the far staircase and Vlad’s burning red gaze immediately softened, a small smile playing unconsciously at his lips as he listened to his son cavort about in the upper wing of the castle. Snapping back to himself, he met Lisa’s knowing smile with a sheepish shrug, pale skin of his cheeks tinged just the faintest pink. “Fine,” he muttered, “I might have a bit of a weakness where the lad is concerned.”

A lesser woman might have pushed the issue more, exploited this rare moment of weakness in her husband and leveled the playing field to put them on more even terms, but Lisa was content to just take her moment where she could. That, and she went admittedly rather weak at the knees to see his softer side shine through. They stood in contented silence for a moment, Lisa curling into his side, lifting her eyes to watch the bright light of his enchanted wall sconces flicker across his white face. His eyes gleamed in the red and golden hues, their normal scarlet glowing like a sunset before her wondering gaze. 

“You’re a good father,” she told him quietly, bringing a hand up to his shoulder and squeezing lightly. “You are an amazing father. You teach him and let him explore on his own, you guide him and challenge him and let him play—you encourage him to be himself.” Her smile grew a touch exasperated. “You consistently contradict what I tell him and refuse to let me be as stern as I might.” Pressing a quick kiss to the corner of his mouth, she hugged him tightly. “And he loves you for it.”

Overcome, Vlad felt his throat tighten, the words he summoned as a response refusing to come. 

A sudden, loud crash followed by a tinkling shatter of glass cut t brought heir moment of respite, and Lisa winced. “And now, you get to help me catch him and get him into the bath. You owe me one from last time.”

(last time had involved a sudden midnight rainstorm, sword lessons on the grounds, and a a blonde lad so coated in mud and gunk that he was nearly unrecognizable)

“Very well,” he acquiesced, and with a snap of his fingers he transported them to the upper reaches of the castle. The glass on one of the turret windows had been shattered, lining the ground far below with glistening shards of glass, and Adrien hovered in the air doing cartwheels beneath the setting sun.

Vlad cocked his head, staring pensively out at his son. “Shall we do this simply, or dramatically?” he mused. 

Knowing a response would be futile, Lisa simply gave a noncommittal hum and shifted to the side, placing herself out of the way and in an excellent position in which to partake of the show. 

“Dramatically it is!” Dracula’s tall form melted seamlessly into a massive, sleek black wolf, it’s eyes gleaming scarlet. Would you care to join me? He spoke to her mind, knowing his wife loved the thrill of the unconventional even on the worst of days.

“Oh, I suppose it couldn’t hurt just this once,” she agreed, slipping onto his back. She tucked her knees up around his waist, leaving his great haunches free to send them leaping out the window and into open air, her hands seizing the silken scruff at the back of his neck as they rushed into the sky. She gave a wild whoop, Vlad’s muzzle lolling open in a lazy grin. 

Without preamble, Vlad seized his son in his jaws, grabbing the scruff of his neck, and guided them back to the open window. Adrien hung limply, all the fight going out of him at the sight of his father, his golden eyes wicked even in defeat. 

As soon as they alit on solid ground Lisa slipped from Vlad’s back and he turned back to his typical form, crossing his arms and scowling down at his son. “Adrien,” he intoned, “you have been rather unmanageable today from the sounds of it.” 

Whining, his son drew his ears back and tucked his tail between his legs, looking up at his father with sad eyes. 

The pathetic sight did nothing to quell the vampire lord’s irritation. “Return to your true form, boy,” he commanded, pinching the bridge of his nose with one hand and sketching a rune in the air with another. 

Without further preamble Adrien shifted, paws becoming pale hands and feet, tail retreating into his hindquarters, muzzle drawing back into smooth skin and chubby cheeks. “But it’s fun to be a wolf!” the eight-year-old exclaimed. “Much more fun than being like this. I hear so much more, and have so much more energy!”

“And that energy has been exhausting your poor mother,” Vlad told him, placing one large hand on top of that golden head. “You have to be responsible with your abilities, my boy. Use them, learn them, but do not play with them and lose sight of their value.” His mouth twitched and he cut a side glance toward Lisa. “Plus, your mother becomes annoyed when she has to spend all day chasing you through the castle, and then she becomes annoyed with me.”

Lisa knelt to place her hands on her son’s shoulders, drawing him into her embrace. “You can have your fun sometimes, love,” she told him, “but I can’t keep up the same way your father can.” Calling on some of her earlier irritation, she looked at him seriously. “When I ask you to do something, I expect you to do it.” 

Adrien’s lower lip wobbled. “I’m sorry, mother,” he whispered, looking at the ground.

She cupped a hand under his chin, tilting this golden eyes up to hers. “It’s okay, love,” she told him, “but let’s not do this again, yes?” 

He nodded, darting forward to throw his arms around her. “Okay,” he agreed fervently. “It was fun, though,” he muttered into her shirt, and Lisa laughed, her amusement echoing bell-like through the drafty hall. 

“And I’m sure it was.” Scooping him into her arms with a grunt, she stood, balancing him on her hip. “Bath time, now, I think,” she told her two men. “At least for this one here, since you do not have to bathe.”

Taking Adrien from her grasp Vlad threw his laughing son over his shoulder. “I think I might still be able to join you, my love, once we get this little demon settled.”

Brilliant blue eyes glimmered in delight. “Is that so?” she asked, over Adrien’s dramatic gagging from behind Vlad’s head.

With a snap of his fingers Vlad sent them down to the far-too-modern bathroom, where a steaming hot, Adrien-sized bath was already waiting. He deposited his armload in the water, clothes and all, ignoring the indignant splutters coming from his son, and spun to take Lisa in his arms, dipping her down and pressing a kiss to her pliant lips. “That, my dear, is a promise.” he told her wickedly, and the exhaustion of the day suddenly seemed trivial in the face of the evening to come. 

She met his kiss with one of her own, then slipped from his arms and scooped up the waiting bucket of steaming water from beside the bath. “In that case,” she said, turning to dump the water on her now soap-lathered son, snickering at his surprised yelp, “I think it’s somebody’s bedtime.” 

Chapter Text

He didn’t know that this goodbye would be their last. 

It was undeniably a parting of the ways as Vlad threw open the heavy wooden door of their home and prepared to stop forth into the night. With bright twinkle of stars outside, the silver flea of the moon high above, and the cool air of winter’s night laying siege to the gaping door, this leave-taking could and should have been one like any other—another journey among many in his quest to re-learn the world he had stepped away from so long ago. His trips had varied greatly in length and distance, ranging anywhere from weeks to months away at a time, carrying him across the globe as he reestablished a connection with the far-flung realms of the world. Northern Africa one month, western Europe the next—he had explored far and wide, seeking out the goodness in humanity he had long since believed to be extinct in all but his wife. He had met Hector, and Isaac, among others, and gradually his faith in humanity had begun to take root again, a tiny mustard seed of belief that sprouted and grew deep within him.

The trips had been years in the making, months and months of discussion and bartering and arguing with Lisa, of Lisa insisting that she would be fine alone, that Adrien was grown and making his own way in the world, that she would still be there when he returned from his travels. Go, she had said, eyes firm and a smile on her lips, go and see what the world has to offer. 

And so, he had gone—gone not once, not twice, but five times across the countryside, spanning borders and boundaries without a thought, pacing through long nights and even longer days in his quest to relearn humanity as it had become. Thus far, he had been pleasantly surprised, had even begun to entertain the faintest glimmers of…fondness for certain members of the species—though those could never hope to measure up to the rather remarkable woman who stood beside him, his pack clutched to her chest as she watched him through heavy-lidded eyes.

Snapping himself out of his musings, he shook his head, bending to lace up the dark boots that typically rested by the thick oaken door of their little house outside Lupu village. The concept of physically dressing himself was one that Lisa had introduced throughout the course of their years together. His long years alone had banished all care to the effort of assembling his appearance, and he had settled into a routine of simply forming the garments about his form with his will. However, that had ended quickly as Lisa had settled quickly into harassing him whenever he would hum a note or sketch a rune and suddenly be clad in the exact same outfit as the day before. 

“Don’t you ever get bored of the same outfit?” she had teased, gripping his wrists and drawing his arms out to his sides so she could pin him with an appraising stare.

“Hardly,” was the droll response, and he had gently removed his wrists from her grasp and turned to make the bed with a wave of his hand, just to make a point. “And what about you, Lisa, lady of the practical skirts and sensible shirts and traveling boots?”

Sniffing, she had turned from him to hide her irritation that he was right as always, yet again turning her words in on themselves and thwarting her every attempt to disrupt his routine. From that day forward, Vlad had noticed a distinct difference in Lisa’s own wardrobe as time progressed—elegant dresses here, a tunic and tights there. He never outwardly addressed it, which was more credit than she would have given him, but if Lisa noticed a gradual shift in his own wardrobe, a marked increase in the amount of physical clothing fitted to her husband in their shared wardrobe, she only smiled to herself and continued on as usual.

Fair was fair, after all. 

This evening, with the bright moonlight spilling through the open window of their small home and workshop, Vlad thought fondly of those early days and had a sudden flash of nostalgia for his castle. He had left it settled harmlessly in the center of a valley on the northern side of the country, far from prying eyes and well-protected by his servants. Adrien was there, as well, researching some archaic language in the depths of the library—his son, ever the scholar.  He had supposedly been off to investigate border disputes on the edge of Vlad’s territory, but as the vampire lord quite preferred his son stay as far from potential violence when he was not there to oversee, he was less than upset by the abrupt and unexpected shift in plans. 

“Do you need anything else?” Lisa asked him, snapping him back to the present as she settled his dark traveling coat about his shoulders, his single pack temporarily abandoned at their feet. Her hands were gentle as they smoothed the creases from his sleeves, fingers flitting down to trace the jutting bone of his wrist. Her eyes were focused intently on his, their bright gleam leading him to believe she knew precisely the turn his thoughts had taken—and the slight furrow in her brow told him she understood all too well. 

“Hardly,” he scoffed, fidgeting under the attention. “I may walk the land as a mortal but I do not have the same constraints. This will be sufficient.” And, in truth, he did not exaggerate. He would find blood along the way, from animals as needed—they had sat for a long discussion at the beginning of his travels about why sampling from humans along the way would not be a good idea—had no need for water, shelter, or additional warmth, and carried only a pack full of paper for notes and his ever-present portraits of his wife and son. 

Lisa pursed her lips and then acquiesced, rolling her eyes. “Very well, husband, be that way. Have you decided where you will travel this time?”

“Somewhere warm,” he murmured, looking with distaste at the huffs of frosty breath that whuffed into the with each of Lisa’s exhales. “Spring should have set in weeks ago, and I am tired of the cold.”

She slipped lithely into his arms, flitting into empty space in the barest blink of an eye, curling into his chest and fitting against him far better than the air itself could ever hope to. “You do not even feel the cold,” she told him, nuzzling her own freezing nose into his neck. Even without a pule, his cool skin was far warmer than the dank air of the house that the lone fire that flickered valiantly in the hearth could not quite manage to chase away. “In fact, aren’t you typically the one who encourages cold weather?”

Vlad’s eyes flickered shut as she pressed her lips to his throat. “Less sunlight,” he ground out, hands flexing as he struggled against the urge to seize her and press her more firmly against him, hold her to him and never let her go. Years into their marriage and every touch, every caress, every teasing comment still felt like the first one, still felt like he was living for the very first time. 

Slender fingers danced up along his side, slipping beneath his coat and tracing the fabric of his shirt. “Of course,” she hummed in agreement, hand skimming higher and pulling at his collar, “you and your vampiric stance on daylight.” Amusement danced in her eyes as he swallowed convulsively, throat flexing in the unnecessary gesture. It was moments like these that she cherished above all others, these rare opportunities to see him with his guard well and truly relaxed, content to submit himself to her mercy. 

Those red, red eyes flickered open, gleaming brightly as they slanted down to hers. “And yet, have I not often been persuaded to the contrary?” One long finger rose to trace the shell of her ear. “You are infinitely brighter than the most brilliant sun,” he rumbled, “so much more alluring, your light overwhelming me from the moment I first met you.” He paused thoughtfully, drawing back slightly. “In fact, you could almost say i have not left the sun at all these past years, not while I have had you for my own.”

Lisa blushed a deep, fiery red, annoyed that his flattery could still elicit such a strong reaction after so many years of marriage. Quick comeback non-forthcoming, she hid her face in his coat, her flush deepening as she felt him chuckle. She did not typically find herself at a loss for words, and such shyness was ill-befitting a doctor of her age and experience. And yet, a simple string of words from her husband was enough to have her blushing like a maiden fair, out of sorts and hopelessly besotted by her lover’s insistent soliloquies.

“Don’t do that,” she finally hissed, withdrawing enough to swat at Vlad’s arm.

“Do what?” He was honeyed innocence, arching one elegant black eyebrow and peering down at her with his lips quirked into an ironic grin. 

Lisa shook her head. “Talk to me like I’m somebody special. I’m just like anyone else, dear—another human living her life as best she can amid this world.” Earnestly, she took his hand and pressed it to her heart. “I live as everyone else, and eventually, like them, I will die. I am not some idol to be held above all others.”

Vlad’s eyes had darkened as she spoke of death, and he pressed his hand more insistently against her chest, feeling the steady thrum of her heartbeat beneath his palm. Fingers splaying wide, he brushed his thumb along the underside of her collarbone. “But you are so much more than what any of the rest of them are—or could ever be,” he insisted. Like lightning, his free hand swept around behind her back, pressing her tightly against his back as his hand fell to her hip, slipping up beneath her simple tunic to skim the bare skin of her back. “I would be lost without you.”

The air hummed with a startling intensity as Lisa allowed him to gather her close and press a ferocious kiss to her pliant lips, his mouth searching and seeking and staking out a claim that no-one else could dismiss. Her hands rose to cradle his face, head angling to allow him better access as his tongue swept between her parted lips. For a long moment, the course of conversation was forgotten as they came together, tasting and taking what was each theirs and theirs alone, cementing yet another moment to memory as the seconds ticked by, turning into long minutes beneath the watchful eyes of the fire.

Finally Vlad withdrew, taking a breath he did not need and pressing his forehead to hers. “You make me a better man,” he confessed, like it was a great secret and not the anchor-point to their marriage that it had been all these years. “More than that, you make me want to be better. My apathy was boundless before you bullied your way into my castle and my life, and even these few weeks without you by my side are enough to make me doubt myself.” One hand flashed up to forestall her attempt at a protest, a grin twitching at the corner of his mouth. “That said I am experiencing a different side to humanity than I would ever have expected, and for that this endeavor proves worth the sacrifice.”

Satisfied, Lisa allowed her protest to die on her lips. “So go on, then,” she prodded, nudging him with her shoulder. “Back out into the great unknown with you, my explorer.” Though her words were light, her eyes held the weight of everything she did not say—the endless well of love for him that would never run dry, her pride in him for assuming responsibility for this great undertaking, the ever present worry and concern and what-ifs that dogged every waking and unconscious moment in which they were separated.

She did not need to say the words, for Vlad was ever aware of them as well, set adrift in his own mind as they were. 

“Lisa of Lupu,” he marveled, taking her shoulders and peering earnestly into her face. “Whatever would I do without you?”

She laughed, bell-like. “Do quite well for yourself, as you did for long centuries before I was even born, I imagine,” she told him. Grin bright on her face, she darted in and pressed a quick kiss to his lips, combing his dark hair back from his face. “Lucky for you, you’re just going on a trip, love. I’ll be here when you get back.” Her eyes held a glint of mischief. “Now, go, before I decide you are too alluring to let walk through that door and keep you here to have my way with you.”

“I fail to see the problem with that scenario,” he replied, nevertheless shouldering his pack and stepping forth into the brisk night air. 

Laughing once more, she followed him as far as the doorway, arms crossed tightly in a futile attempt to stave off the worst of the cold. “Shoo,” she banished him, flapping her hands at him. “Something to look forward to when you return, yes?”

He nodded, suddenly unable to speak, as an uncanny wave of foreboding rose, tsunami-like, and threatened to engulf him. “For when I return,” he echoed distantly, shaking his head to clear it. He saw Lisa’s brow furrow and forced a smile on his face—this was all for her, after all, these trips and the effort and the relaxation of his stance on humanity. What else could he do but step out along that path with a parting wave and a bow, setting a brisk pace down the lane toward the unknown? 

After all, it was as she said—one trip among many, another journey to check off his list—and all the way, keeping him company on long nights and longer days, the knowledge that his Lisa would be home and waiting for him upon his return. 

Eyes bright, he strode off into the darkness, leaving his home and Lisa, his life, behind.

Chapter Text

They each tell it differently, and in fragmented bits and pieces, so that by the time Adrien is old enough to understand the more intimate details of his parents’ relationship he has a version of events that is far more complete—and candid—than either Vlad or Lisa had ever intended it to be. 

It was supposed to be simple, a brief overview of their relationship, same as any other parents' story—a simple tale, the bare bones basics of their love affair. However, their particular story followed slightly different lines. What should have been cut and dry, black and white, instead turned into a broad-scale epic of supernatural proportions. Woman meets vampire, woman bullies vampire into teaching her science, woman and vampire fall in love, get married, and have a son—not exactly a tale for the average bedside.

Of course, neither was Adrien a typical or average boy, so naturally Vlad and Lisa’s attempted blasé approach failed to go according to plan, and what Adrien instead ended up with was the effective equivalent of a sweeping harlequin romance—if large-scale romantic overtures were also interspersed with graphic descriptions of violence, bloodshed, and implied sordid liaisons throughout ones childhood home.

Vlad and Lisa did not intend it thus, initially picking out the more family-friendly tales of their relationship in a valiant attempt to maintain at least a modicum of assumed decorum. As time passed, however, they could not escape the reality that was their atypical life, and intuitive as he was Adrien quickly cottoned on to the fact that his parents’ grand romance was indeed punctuated by all sorts of trysts in an assorted number of other locations he preferred not to actively recall, as well as the occasional bloodbath and/or research hermitage. His mother’s experiments occasionally exploded, his father’s guests did not always leave the castle in one piece (or even recognizable ones), and not one of the three members of their little family could ever be guaranteed to be awake at the same time as the others.

Despite the uniqueness of their family life, or perhaps because of it, Adrien could not have asked for a better childhood—except for more time in it, perhaps. 

Here, now, cemented firmly in the present and living alone in the ruins of his childhood home, Adrien has nothing but time as he dwells on the past and watches day after day pass. He ponders the events of the last months, recalls days long gone even as he bends his mind to what the future, bleak and lonely though it might appear, may hold. 

He is also very well aware that his new friends—and doesn’t that give him pause, such a foreign and surprising word to pass through his mind—are quite intrigued by the story of Vlad and Lisa. They bring it up incessantly, beginning with tentative queries prior to their initial departure and following up with more and more specific questions upon their many returns and communications that follow. 

Finally, the inevitable happens, Trevor and Sypha cornering him and asking him point-blank how someone as wonderful as Lisa of Lupu had been taken in by the dark and bloodthirsty Dracula. Their eyes bright with curiosity, postures singing of trepidation and a distinct hesitance to rock the boat, so to speak, they press him for details of his parents’ relationship, heads cocked and ears ready for any scraps he might deem worthy of sharing.

Adrien surprises them by smiling, albeit sadly. 

“My parents’ story? Theirs was a first on all fronts,” he replies softly, looking across the table he shared with the human duo in one of the still-functional kitchens of the now-fallen castle. Though his eyes hold all the sadness merited by the question, a gleam of mischief shines through, his brilliant teeth flashing white as he breaks into his first true smile since the return of the pair after they had last parted ways. “Would you like to hear it?”

As expected, they nod, eyes alight with curiosity as he offers so much more than they could have expected, caught up in rapt silence in the story they never thought he would fully share. 

Adrien settles more comfortably into his chair, kicking his long legs out beneath the table until they nudge Sypha’s, tangle with Trevor’s, and finally settle awkwardly out to the side, booted feet crossed. 

“It started out a day like any other…”

———

“And I walked for hours through a standing, silent army of impaled skeletons,” Lisa told the boy perched on her knee, meeting his wide golden gaze with serious blue eyes. “They went on forever, staring down at me with hollow, empty eyes as I kept on.”

“I would think we shouldn’t talk about skeletons yet,” Vlad commented from where he sat reading in the corner, nose buried in a tome as thick as his waist, head propped in one hand as he poked through the crackling pages with the other. “The lad is only three.”

Winking at her son, Lisa turned a disparaging glance on her husband. “Who drinks blood and has already received rudimentary training in shapeshifting,” she replied, absently carding a finger through Adrien’s golden locks. “And who has the intelligence and awareness of a boy double his age, if not more.” She snorted. “I think he’s fine.”

Smiling so wide it threatened to split his face, Adrien turned to his father and promptly turned the skin and blood vessels of his hand invisible, displaying the tendons and bone beneath. “Skeletons,” he agreed. 

Vlad huffed. “Very well, continue with your misinformation.” He waved one elegant hand. “It was hardly more than perhaps one hour’s worth of skeletons.” Smartly, he tapped Adrien’s hand, returning it to its typical fleshy opaqueness before retreating back into his book.

After sitting for a moment to ensure no further interruptions would ensue, Lisa continued her story. “So, then I reached the stairs—you’ve seen them—great, monstrous things leading up to a set of doors that could fit a giant ten times my height, and they open by themselves. By this point, I’m wondering if it’s worth it, if I’m even doing the right thing, but I did not walk all that way for nothing, so I went in.”

“And then a great, bloody bat swooped down behind you and caught you in its thrall,” Vlad added drolly. 

Lisa scoffed. “Hardly.” She gave Adrien a side glance, putting a hand to her mouth in a great show of shielding her words from her husband. “I insulted his hospitality and bullied him into letting me stay.”

Adrien giggled, his eyes gleaming in the candlelight. “You’re good at bullying.”


There was a pregnant pause as both parents sat in mild shock, and then Vlad coughed, barely muffling a wry snort before he completely abandoned his pretense of reading. “That she is, boy, that she is.”

Lips pursed, Lisa leaned down so that her head was level with her son’s. “And why would you say that?” she posed.

Adrien squirmed off of her lap, bounding over to pull at his father’s hand until the vampire lord stood and scooped him into his arms, book cast aside.  “Because you always tell Father and me what to do and we do it,” he said sensibly, “even when we don’t want to.” 

“Alright, that’s enough.” Lisa rose, hands on her hips, a slight frown playing at her lips. “If little boys don’t respect their mothers they don’t get any blood after dinner.” Her mouth twitched, belying her heavy amusement with the turn the conversation had taken, and she wrapped an arm around her husband’s waist and leaned down to press her nose against her son’s. “We don’t want that, do we?”

He shook his head, face still smashed against hers. “Nuh-uh,” he denied vehemently. “I quite like blood.”

“Good lad,” Vlad praised, tossing him into the air and catching him scant inches from the stone floor as Adrien shrieked with delight. “Takes after his father.”

Mouth opening to interject, Lisa instead caught herself and simply hung in the background, a small smile dancing at her lips as she watched them together, catching Adrien’s eye as he turned to beam at her from over his father’s shoulder. 

———

Present-day Adrien smiles as well, a match for the boy in his memory as he recalls the moment with a fond look in his eyes. “Mother always had the silliest expression when she watched me with Father,” he recalls, leaning back with his hands behind his head. “Like she knew exactly how unorthodox our situation was and was intent on cherishing every sentimental moment she could.”

He laughs lightly, and Trevor and Sypha exchange shocked looks at the levity in his voice. His parents had been such a driving force behind his rapidly shifting moods over the last months that they could never have imagined that he would perhaps glean some modicum of happiness from their story.

“He sounds like an entirely different man,” Sypha says carefully, watching her friend’s face for any sign that her words caused offense. 

Alucard blinks and his eyes grow a shade darker, a slight frown tugging at the corner of his mouth. “He was, honestly. What you saw, what the world saw, was a broken man. My father died the day he learned of my mother’s fate.” Withdrawing into himself, his eyes grew shuttered. “So many horrible deeds done because he was weak enough to love, weak enough to not follow her into death.

Trevor opens his mouth and promptly closes it, seeing Sypha subtly shake her head. “So,” he says instead, drumming his fingers on the table, “What then?”

Nodding to acknowledge the swallowed remark, Adrien brings himself back to the present with a heavy sigh. “It does not do to dwell on what we cannot change,” he murmurs, although more to himself than his companions. Thinking back to his parent’s story he snorts. “After they had me? Oh, they continued on parenting in their own unique ways,” he says. “Mother would teach me science, practical skills, how to take care of myself and a home, and Father…well, his lessons were a bit more unorthodox…”

———

“She was always incredibly intent on learning, in those early days, Vlad told his son drolly, mouth turned up into a wry smile as he stepped behind him to correct his stance as he fumbled with the too-long sword. 

“What did you teach her?” Adrien asked, cocking his head as he watched Vlad step around back in front of him and assume an attacking stance. 

Fangs glinting in the dim rays of daylight filtering through the high window, Vlad lunged forward in a sharp stabbing motion, driven the tip of his sword straight toward his son’s heart. “Everything. Science, maths, physics, biology, chemistry—she wanted to learn it all.” He paused for an unneeded breath as Adrien awkwardly dodged his strike, counting to ten before coming in with an atypically slow, sweeping slash and giving his son an approving nod as he managed the rather complex counter-strike. 

Gasping for breath—which he unfortunately needed even though his father did not—Adrien skipped backwards. “No one can learn everything,” he contradicted, furrowing his brow.

“Clearly,” Vlad replied, blinking out of existence to reappear at Adrien’s back and rap him on the back of his head with the hilt of his blade. “But your mother certainly tried.” He dissolved himself to reform in the corner of the practice arena, baring a brilliant smirk of gleaming white teeth and fangs. “Of course, it was a little farther along in the progression of our relationship that our lessons got…interesting.”

Concentrating, Adrien allowed the now-familiar swoop of energy to surge through him before shooting forward with superhuman speed to slash ferociously at his father’s unguarded chest. “Interesting how?” he asked naively, grunting as Vlad simply caught his blade between his hands and held him in place.

“I’ll tell you when you’re older,” the vampire snickered, his red eyes growing dark with…not anger, Adrien knew anger, but this…

The eight-year-old’s nose wrinkled. “Oh, gross,” he exclaimed. “Not in the laboratory!”

Vlad snorted. “Oh to be young and innocent.” He picked Adrien up by the sword and flung him into the wall, the boy crumpling to a heap on the floor. “I believe lessons are over for the time, son.” Extending a hand he hoisted Adrien to his feet, eyes gleaming with approval. “Excellent job today, you have improved exponentially since our last session.”

Beaming, the boy sheathed his sword and squeezed his father’s hand before scampering out the door. 

“You had to imply that we have…relations outside of our bedroom?” Lisa’s soft voice floated across the training hall, catching Vlad by surprise. 

He blinked once, appearing at her side and dipping her low to the ground, pressing a searing kiss against her lips. “What the lad doesn’t know--or thinks he doesn't know-- won’t kill him,” he said, running his tongue along her lower lip before taking it gently between his teeth. “If that is the only illicit transgression he ever accuses us of we’re doing well, love.”

Lisa’s giggle turned into a heady moan, her hands threading through her husband’s hair and pressing him to her, claiming his mouth just as much as he did hers. “Well he certainly doesn’t need to know about the library,” she remarked breathily.

“Or the bathrooms.” Vlad arched an eyebrow, mouth moving lower to her collarbone.

“Or the kitchen,” Lisa muttered, head lolling back as she conceded defeat and allowed Vlad free reign to nibble his way down.

Vlad peered up at her, hands shifting to the ties of her dress, his eyes dark with lust. “Or the practice yard,” he murmured pertly.

Neither of them noticed the wide-eyed youth gaping at them through the still-cracked door leading to the hallway.

———

Sypha and Trevor gaze around the ashy ruins of the castle with mirrored expressions of horror. “Is there anywhere your parent’s didn’t do it?” Trevor asks bluntly.

Adrien snickers behind one hand. “It isn’t likely.” 

The Belmont gags, looking disgusted. “That is a mental image I could definitely have done without!” he exclaims. “You didn’t get queasy thinking about your parents doing…that?”

Rolling her eyes, Sypha pokes him hard in the side. “Shut up, you,” she instructs. “They were in love, and it’s not like we haven’t—“ she breaks off blushing as Trevor splutters and Adrien smirks and raises an eyebrow. 

“Haven’t what?” he prompts in a slow drawl, eyeing his two friends. 

Silence descends upon their little party as the two humans blush. Adrien laughs out right at their discomfort, the sound brightly melodious and carrying through the desolate room like a brilliant ray of sunlight. It is a sound long lost to the lonely castle, and all three of them are startled by how loudly it carries through the open debris.  

It is Sypha who breaks the long pause, reaching over to grasp Adrien’s hand in hers where it has knotted into a tight fist. “Your parents sound wonderful,” she tells him. “They had such a strange beginning, and a tragic ending, but the times in between—they sound like they were everything parents should be.”

Pale lips turn up as Adrien nods. “And they were,” he acknowledges. “So wonderful, so loving in their own ways. They put me first far more often than they should—Mother waited years to truly open her own practice, just took patients on the side when I was a youth. Father stayed his hand and his influence in affairs for years—it took him months to fully regain dominance of the vampires once I was grown.”

“But what about before they had you?” Sypha asks. “How does one go from the pupil of the great and terrible Dracula to being the love of his…life?” She pauses over the end of the sentence, raising an eyebrow which Trevor punctuates with a snicker. 

“Unlife, perhaps?” the other man offers. “What made your parents start banging, man?”

Exasperation clear on his face, Adrien pinches the bridge of his nose. “Is sex and food all you ever think about?” he asks his friend with a pained grimace.

Trevor pretends to think for a moment. “I like to fight things, too,” he offers helpfully, grinning. Cracking his neck, he assumes a more sober expression, dark eyes intent as he peers across the table toward the blond. “No, but seriously, it’s quite a step to go from working for someone to falling in love.”

“This is true. They managed, though, and at a much quicker pace than I would ever give Father credit.” At their raised eyebrows, Adrien pulls his lips back in silent mirth. “He was hopelessly tongue-tied around her and refused to acknowledge that he actually cared about her for months at a time…”

———

“You need advice on what?” Vlad asked, dark brows drawn tightly together as he stared down at his son with a frown.

Gulping, Adrien forced himself to meet his father’s brilliant eyes. “How do you…talk to girls?” he asked. “Not like talking, but say there is a girl you like who is wonderful and nice and you talk sometimes but she doesn’t really see you and you want her to, and…” He flushes, pale cheeks turning a bright pink as he shuffles awkwardly from side-to-side.

“Have I met this girl? Who is she? I assume she is human?” Vlad’s questions were incessant, firing one after the other as Adrien withdrew further and further into himself. 

Ducking his head, the youth deflected the question, running a hand through his shoulder-length hair. “Nevermind,” he muttered, “was a stupid idea anyway.”

Despite himself Vlad softened, placing a heavy hand on his son’s shoulder. “I don’t mean to pry too much, son,” he said, and it was as much of an apology as Adrien would ever get, “but she has to be worthy of my boy if you’re going to be speaking to her.”

“Don’t take advice from your father,” Lisa said brightly from the doorway, leaning against the frame with crossed arms. “His idea of letting me know he cared was refusing to speak with me for nearly three weeks and then finally pouncing like a cat on a mouse and snogging me senseless against the wall without a word between us.”

This was delivered so matter-of-factly that Adrien nearly had to pick his jaw up from the floor. 

Vlad scowled darkly, looking over his son’s head to glare at his wife. “He did not need to know that. And you were driving me insane, being your usual kind and brilliant self and completely unaware of how you were cementing yourself further and further in my heart with each passing day. The only way to ensure I didn’t say or do something ridiculous was to put some distance between us.”

“Which worked brilliantly until you cornered me against the wall that afternoon,” she countered, blue eyes full of wicked humor. 

“I don’t recall you complaining.” 

Adrien was completely forgotten, standing between his parents with a resigned look of despair, lips twitching as he fought back a fond smile as they slipped into what he knew all too well to be a familiar routine. “I’m just going to…” He inched toward the door, ducking around Lisa into the relative safety of the hallway. Just as he was considering himself fully liberated, Lisa reached out and caught him by the sleeve.

“Just talk to her, love,” she told him, pinning him in place with her piercing blue gaze. “If she’s like most other girls, that will be more than enough. Be yourself, and please don’t be your father.”

Adrien snickered, nodded once, and then left them to it.

———

Adrien is all but lost in the past now, eyes staring sightlessly into the gaping hole where the doorway used to stand, looking beyond reality to a time where the castle and his family were whole. He hums quietly to himself, his breathing heavy and weighted by sorrow. “My father was terrible, yes, ruthless and bloodthirsty and entirely without empathy in most circumstances—but when it came to us, to his family, he was almost human. Mother saw that side more than anyone else, and loved him all the more for it.”

Breathing deeply through his nose, he sharpens his gaze to focus on his friends. “I believe that is more than enough sharing for quite a while,” he tells them, blinking furiously as he forces his mind back to the present. 

If Sypha’s eyes are uncommonly bright and Trevor’s apparent itchy nose extends past the typical period of discomfort, well, Alucard says nothing. He had hardly expected them to be even remotely moved by his tale, yet to have them so obviously affected means far more to him than he would ever admit.

“I wish they could have had a happy ending,” Sypha says softly, reaching over to place a light hand on Adrien’s wrist.

“My father would laugh at that,” he replies, absently mirroring her gesture with his free hand. “Say that if anyone deserved a happy ending it would not be him. He wanted it for my mother, though—I wish they could have had each other to the end, regardless of what end it might have been.”

“Who is to say they didn’t?” Trevor asks, thoughtful.  “In the end, after it’s all said and done, who knows what happened once they were...gone."

Cocking his head, Adrien offers a small smile. "Perhaps," he agrees softly, rather touched by his friend's attempt at tact. 

"And even if not," Sypha adds, "they had you, and to them that was without a doubt the greatest happiness they could have achieved. 

This time not even closing his eyes can prevent a few tears from slipping from beneath his shuttered lids, and Adrien exhales shakily, nodding his head in a sharp, jerking motion. "Yeah." It is not a concession he makes lightly, but as he focuses watery eyes on the empty doorway behind the human duo and catches the faintest glimpse of two indistinct figures, bathed in shadow and brimming with affection, he thinks that, perhaps, everything might be alright in the end after all.