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Trevor stumbles into the clearing, brandishing a sack victoriously. “So, I have good news and bad news… I didn't exactly find anything to eat. But, I did find wine, and a lot of it. The bad news… I, er, may have already drunk half of it, so you and Fangs will have to share.”

There’s a brief silence in which Sypha and Alucard exchange a look—Sypha, one of clear exasperation, and Alucard, one of indifference. Typical, his face seems to say.

Trevor feels a renewed urge to punch it.

But before he can express that thought, Sypha cuts him off. “Wine? Really, Trevor? How did you even—? No, I shouldn’t be surprised, should I? If there’s any alcohol to be found in a dark and desolate demon-ridden forest, we can trust Trevor to sniff it out!”

“And I would think that the bad news in this situation is the fact we’re eating stale bread for the third night,” Alucard adds.

“Exactly! You couldn’t have even caught a rabbit? Or a squirrel? Or a rat—I’d even eat a rat at this point!”

Well, Trevor can’t claim this isn't the reception he expected. He thought Sypha might at least try to soothe the rising tension, but it seems she’s far less agreeable on an empty stomach. “Fine. There are two bad news. Newses? News? Fuck me for trying to be an optimist, I guess...”

“For a Belmont, he’s turning out to be quite terrible at killing things,” Alucard murmurs to Sypha, loud enough that Trevor knows he was intended to hear it.

“For your information,” he says, “I did search through half the forest, and if there were any cute woodland creatures scuttering around before, they sure as hell didn’t stick around. And if you have any doubts about my killing capabilities, I’m more than willing to demonstrate them to you firsthand.”

“This joke again?” Alucard says dryly. “You truly do enjoy beating dead horses over the head.”

“What makes you think it was a joke?” he retorts.

“Careful, Belmont. You’re treading on thin ice.”

“I’m practically shaking.

Trevor might have responded with a bit more venom if he weren't carrying such precious cargo; instead, he chooses to sidestep Alucard (Look at him, being the mature one for once!) and plop down at the opposite side of the fire. Ignoring the stares fixed on him, he begins loosening the sack. The bottles jostle with little clinks, though thankfully, none of them were damaged in the trek to the campsite.

He grabs the first one within reach and begins loosening the cork with the blade of his dagger. It’s pried off with an audible pop.

Sypha’s nose crinkles in distaste. “Well? You didn’t answer the question. How did you come across this much wine, in a forest, of all places?”

Trevor sighs.  He leans back, takes a swig; he’s going to need it if he’s expected to go through a full interrogation. “Oh, you know… I just...stumbled upon them…” He trails off, shrugging.

Alucard raises an eyebrow. “You just ‘stumbled upon’ multiple bottles of wine? Lying on the ground?”

“Not exactly on the ground,” Trevor admits. “More like...inside a cabin.”

Aucard snorts. “Ah, so you stole them. Hardly a surprise.”

“What?” Sypha’s reproachful eyes turn on him. “Did you steal them, Trevor?”

Trevor wipes a trickle of moisture from his chin, tries to gauge the best way to answer. “...Trust me. I doubt they’re going to mind.”

“Ah, my mistake. You didn’t steal them. You just took them without permission.”

Trevor glares at Alucard from across the fire. Something about his face—the slight sneer, or maybe those inhuman golden eyes—is pissing him off more than usual. “Just drop it.”

“You may as well be upfront. It’s practically a family tradition, isn’t it? Taking things that don’t belong to you?”

Trevor’s hardly the type for self-restraint, less so with a bottle and half of wine sloshing in his stomach. “They were a little bit too murdered to talk to, Alucard, so you’ll have to excuse me if I didn’t mind my manners.”

Alucard’s mouth clamps shut.

A silence ensues.

What? ” Sypha finally says. “How?”

Trevor groans, rubs at his forehead to avoid looking them in the eye. This is why he didn’t want to bring it up. “The usual,” he finally says. “Something inhuman. Long gone—don’t worry. Spent over an hour trying to track it—or them—down. We’ll be fine.”

“And the occupants of the cabin?” As expected, that’s her first concern.

“Pretty fucking dead. Ripped into little pieces.” Trevor’s aware he’s being a little cruel, but...   

“Trevor, you could have told us! We wouldn’t have hassled you about the food if we knew.” Sypha tries to place a hand on his shoulder, but be brushes it away reflexively. 

“Oh for fuck’s— I’m not the one to be pitied here! Maybe you haven’t noticed, but slaughtered children practically grow on trees these days. I’m more than used to them by now. I’m just tired out from the long fucking walk, and I want a drink.”

He does his best to avoid her searching eyes; it’s clear she doesn’t believe him.

“So you’re just going to get drunk every time this happens?” 

“Why not? It’s worked up till now.”

“Yes, but…” She trails off, shaking her head. “Alucard…?” she says, turning to him for help.

Alucard’s lips press into a thin line. His expression, as always, is indecipherable, but he seems to be having an internal battle of sorts. It culminates in a weary sigh. “I could use some wine.”

Trevor didn’t expect his support to come from Alucard, of all people, and he is equal measures surprised and displeased. Sypha, likewise, seems taken aback by this change of pace.

“You mean you don’t think it’s a bad idea?” she asks.

“I don’t know…” Alucard murmurs. He stares into the fire as though there’s something only he can see concealed within the flickering flames. “I believe it’s worth addressing that tomorrow, we will arrive at the Belmont Estate—or what’s left of it, rather. And from there…” he trails off, eyes flickering to the sword at his side, “...from there, we figure out a way to do what we came here to do—stop Dracula. This might be our last night of normalcy—or our closest approximation to it…”

Sypha’s face softens. She inches a little closer to Alucard so that they’re side-to-side, shoulders casually brushing, because for her, touch is comfort. “It’s alright,” she says simply. “I understand.”

The very same argument seems to have an entirely different effect when it’s Alucard doing the talking.

“Well,” Trevor says, cutting in before the conversation can progress into anything describable as heartfelt. “I wasn’t planning on sharing with Fangs, but I guess I can spare...” He rummages through the bag until he identifies the right bottle, which he rolls in Alucard’s direction. “...this one. I figured you’d want a red. Being what you are, and all. Obviously not your preferred drink. But with enough of it in you I’m sure you can pretend, right?”

Alucard appraises him coldly. “Hilarious.” He raises the bottle to eye-level and inspects its faded label. “Unfortunately, I don’t believe there’s a state of inebriation that will be enough to convince me I’m drinking a palatable wine.”

Sypha makes no attempt to disguise her snort of laughter. Trevor frowns.

It wasn’t actually that funny.

“Ah, that’s right—I forgot we had a fucking gourmet in our midsts,” he grumbles. “And Sypha? Are you going to lay claim to anything?” He pries the cork off another bottle and extends it to her. One of the better ones, admittedly, but he figures she’s not the type to drink for the sake of drinking.

“I don’t know…” she says, though she accepts the bottle. She raises it to her nose, and it’s evident from her pinched expression that she’s never consumed wine straight from the bottle. (Trevor, on the other hand, can’t remember the last time he’s had wine from a glass.)

“It’ll be fine. You won’t turn into someone like me overnight.” Trevor follows this poor attempt at reassurance by downing the remaining contents of his bottle in a single gulp.

Sypha gives a disbelieving scoff. “Oh, I have no worries about that. But maybe it would be wiser for at least one of us to keep their wits about them.”

“What for? We can handle whatever comes our way. Hell, I spent a solid portion of the last—I don’t know, three, five years?—being too shitfaced from a hole in the ground, and I’m clearly still around and kicking.”

Alucard takes a sip from his own bottle, grimacing as he does. “Was there ever a time when you weren’t an alcoholic?"

Trevor shrugs. “Who knows.” Fragments of memories swirl in the recesses of his mind—his first successful hunt, head throbbing, body aching, clothes torn and crusted with blood, someone pushing a mug into his hands and ruffling his hair. “I was killing monsters by age nine. Why would beer be off limits?”

“Your parents let you drink at age nine?” Sypha sounds appalled.

“If not earlier. Why?” he asks before noticing their identical expressions of bewilderment. “It’s a little young, but it’s not that strange. Is it?”

“It actually explains quite a lot,” Alucard says.

“Says the man raised by Dracula, father of the fucking year.” Trevor snorts most ungraciously. “Did he also set up a proper bedtime and insist you finish eating all your vegetables?”

Alucard’s mouth flattens into a thin line. “My father was quite a typical parent in most regards.”

Trevor’s eyes widen, and then he doubles over with laughter. “Holy fuck, he did. Next you’ll be telling us that Dracula baked cute little pastries and embroidered handkerchiefs in his spare time.”

“Did he really?” Sypha’s eyes widen with intrigue.

Alucard pinches his brow, takes a long breath, and exhales. “It would be impossible to live as long as he did without developing several hobbies.”

“Like what?” Sypha blurts out, and then catches herself. “I’m sorry, it’s just all very fascinating. You’ve told us a bit about your mother, but what was it really like? Being raised by Dracula and a human woman?”

Alucard frowns at Trevor, a little wary, but ultimately decides he isn’t worth the concern. “...Quieter than you’d imagine. Peaceful. Like the castle was an entire world just for us. And perhaps it was, in a sense. And perhaps it was, in a sense. Surrounded by knowledge spanning centuries, information collected from all over the world, and two parents for whom affection was represented by the giving and receiving of knowledge.” He sighs deeply. “Time felt endless.”

“It must have been incredible,” Sypha says, a little dreamily. The question of whether or not to drink seems to have faded into the background. She clutches her bottle in both arms as though it’s a source of heat.

“Yes, those were pleasant times,” Alucard confesses.

“And Dracula. Was he…” She pauses, struggling to identify the correct word.

“I assume he’d fit your definition of a loving husband and father. At least, as he was.” Alucard’s gaze drifts back towards the fire, as if seeking out the memories. “My mother, she was...incredible. But with her…” He chuckles softly. “...there was always this underlying rush to learn all that she could, help as many as possible. It sometimes slipped her mind that the technical details of alchemy or biology weren’t always as fascinating to the mind of a young child—Not that I did not enjoy learning; it would be impossible to be her child and not value knowledge—but it was primarily my father who engaged in them with me. Reading me children’s stories—tales of heroes, romance, and happy endings. I think he appreciated the novelty, having lived for as long as he has. Rediscovering the world through the mind of a child...”

Trevor smirks into his bottle, but Alucard seems to have anticipated this response.

“Go ahead. You can laugh. Dracula himself found it humorous.”

“Dracula reading bedtime stories…” Sypha’s eyes drift up in speculation. “It’s difficult to imagine, but the idea of it… it’s very sweet. Almost comforting. A reminder that we’re facing a person, rather than a monster.”

“Those are hardly mutually exclusive, Sypha,” Trevor says.

“No,” Alucard agrees. “They aren’t.” He takes another gulp from his bottle.

The conversation stills, momentarily.

Trevor fishes out another bottle for himself, while Alucard continues to stare pensively into the flames. Sypha’s brow pinches in confusion, or maybe curiosity.

“But still, an entire world in just one place...” she says, shaking her head. “It’s impossible to imagine. The longest I’ve stayed in one place is three months. I think I’ve always liked the idea of a home. A physical place with walls and a roof. But spending my entire life in one...” She gives a little shiver, “...I’d get itchy.”

“Itchy?” Alucard chuckles.

“Yes! Something in me just wouldn’t like it. I mean, I’ve never tried it, so I wouldn't know for sure! But I’m quite certain I wouldn’t. Then again, I suppose the building or lack of wouldn’t really make a difference, so long as the people I care about were with me.”

Trevor can’t exactly relate to either. “And what if a Speaker decides they like a place well enough to call it home? What then?”

Sypha ponders on this a moment. “It’s happened, I’m sure. It doesn’t take very long to feel attached to a place. But usually, once everyone begins packing up, all doubts are gone. You follow your family.”

The certainty of her words is reflected in her eyes, the wistful smile on her face.

“You’ll see them again,” Alucard says. “I’m sure of it.”

“Oh, of course!” she adds quickly. “I didn’t mean to imply I don’t enjoy your company. Traveling with strangers has definitely been...an experience. But interesting!”

Alucard smiles. “Your company has also been greatly appreciated. I imagine we may have torn each other's throats out by now, had you not been around.”

“Let’s not rule that option out so soon,” Trevor says.

Sypha gives him a look that signals she might have elbowed him if he was within reach. Alucard simply rolls his eyes.

“Ah, of course.” He gestures at the sack. “Hand me another. It’s the only thing that makes your presence bearable.”

“I’m sure Dracula taught you better manners than that,” Trevor snarks, but rolls one in his direction nevertheless.

Alucard stoops forward to grab it. For a moment, his hair catches in the flickering light of the flames, and seems to shimmer the color of molten gold. Then he sits back, tucks a strand behind his ear, and pries the bottle open.

Thankfully, it seems Trevor isn’t the only one who’s noticed.

“Your mother, did she have hair like yours?” Sypha asks. Seeing his confusion, she adds, “In all the legends, Dracula is described as having hair darker than the night.”

“Yes.” Alucard purses his lips. “I took after her in that regard.”

“And many more, I’m sure.” Though Sypha hasn’t stopped staring at Alucard, a peculiar expression crossing her face.

Trevor snorts. “Admit it, Sypha. You’re pissed Alucard’s hair is prettier than yours.”

Sypha pretends to shoot him a dirty look, but she’s not very convincing—not with the smile tugging at the corner of her lips. “I’ll admit Alucard’s hair is lovely, but I’ve always been fond of my own. It’s got an incredible color, don’t you think?”

“It certainly suits you,” Alucard says. Maybe it’s the hazy lighting or the wine, but there seems to be a bit more warmth in his normally deathly pale complexion.

“Thank you!” Sypha plucks a wayward strand from her face, twirls it around her finger, and nearly goes cross-eyed watching it unravel. “I always wondered what it would look like longer. A little wavy, I think?”

Trevor recalls, then, that as a Speaker, she’s always had to keep her hair trimmed short, a passable boy’s length.

“Once,” she continues, “we passed through a village—a safer one, where the people felt comfortable coming out to talk to us—and I had a chance to spend the day with the local girls. I remember one girl—she had the most beautiful dark curls—and she was determined to teach me how to braid hair. I practiced on her all evening, but I never got it quite right...” She trails off, shrugging her shoulders. “And we left the next morning. Safe, happy towns aren’t the ones that needed our help, after all.”

She falls silent, though, in typical Sypha fashion, her smile doesn’t disappear for long. Leaving the village when they did surely gave rise to other opportunities, other stories, happy memories she’s likely reflecting on presently.

Still, Trevor nudges Alucard with his foot. “Well, go on. You know what you have to do.”

“What?” Alucard’s eyes dart between the two of them, widening comically upon realization. “Oh.”

Trevor tries and fails to restrain his laugh. Finally, he seems to have found the right tool to chip through Alucard’s normally marblelike composure, and she has red hair and does cool magic and goes by the name Sypha.

Alucard, meanwhile, manages to recompose himself, and shifts to sit cross-legged before Sypha. He shakes his hair loose over his back. “Please, feel free...”

Sypha breaks from her reverie with an, “Oh! ”, but there isn’t a second of hesitation before she starts running her fingers through his hair. “That’s very kind of you to offer, Alucard!”

Trevor rolls his eyes. So much for due credit.

“Of course.” Alucard bows his head, basking in the undeserved praise.

Sypha, meanwhile, begins sectioning out Alucard’s hair, humming under her breath as she does. “How do you get your hair so silky, Alucard? Are you immune to tangles or have you been hiding a comb in your coat all this while?”

Alucard gives a soft chuckle. “I will admit to smoothing out tangles with my fingers every now and then. Traveling in a common horse-led cart is no excuse to begin neglecting basic grooming and general upkeep.”

Trevor glances up. “I assume that comment was directed towards me?”

“In all honesty, I would be shocked to discover you’ve ever been acquainted with a bathtub.”

“Ah, that’s right. Forget killing Dracula before he destroys all of humanity. The real priority here is taking a bath!”

“It certainly wouldn’t hurt,” Sypha cuts in. “Now, shh! I’m trying to focus!”

Trevor wisely shuts up. Figuring his input is no longer needed, he slouches back against a nearby tree stump with a half empty bottle of wine he found sitting nearby—Sypha’s, or maybe Alucard’s. At the very least, he might get some entertainment out of this.

But it’s not at all at all the humiliating scene he expected. 

Alucard sits meditatively still, his eyes half-lidded and his back ramrod straight, betraying no trace of discomfort in his expression when Sypha tugs or twists a strand with excessive force. He’s the perfect subject, and Sypha is—Well, Trevor can’t exactly see her progress, but he can gauge her relative success based on the furrow of her brow or the satisfied curve of her lips.

She must be getting somewhere, though, because her hands move without hesitation, almost hypnotically, and the longer he watches, the more Tevor finds himself oddly curious to know what those delicate fingers might feel like sifting through his own hair, and—

Fuck... 

He’s nowhere near as drunk as he should be to start getting sentimental. He reaches over to fish out the last bottle of wine, only to find the situation worse than he originally realized.

“Fuck me in the ass...” Trevor slumps back against the ground with a groan. “We’re out of alcohol.”

Alucard peers down at him with honey-gold eyes, careful to keep his head trained forward. He’s really too good at this whole motionless subject thing. “What a shame. With enough of a buzz I was almost beginning to find you somewhat tolerable.”

“Aw. And I feel less of an urge to beat your pretty face in.”

Sypha chuckles. “Is this a hint of camaraderie I detect? Perhaps the wine wasn’t such a bad idea.”

“Ah, yes. I suppose we’re getting along just in time to visit the ancestral home of a family who would gladly murder me where I stand.”

Trevor holds up a finger. “Murder and set your remains up in a display.”

“Well, it was nice while it lasted,” Sypha says, rolling her eyes. “Maybe next time, you both will make it to three minutes without trying to kill each other.” She leans back and sighs. “Well, it’s done. I suppose…”

Alucard reaches back over his shoulder, appraising the results with his hands.

Sypha chews at her lip. “You could turn around and show Trevor…?” Though even she doesn’t sound convinced it’s a good idea.

After a hesitant pause, Alucard twists around, exposing his long, smooth neck, a few loose strands of hair, and, well…

It probably isn’t the worst she could have done.

“It probably isn’t the worst you could have done,” Trevor says.

Alucard snorts. And then he laughs. An actual open-mouthed laugh. (Trevor wonders if it’s habitual, all those closed-mouthed chuckles, an attempt to hide the sharp points of his fangs). “Tactful as always, Belmont.”

The criticism flies past Sypha entirely. She tilts her head to the side, humming in thought. “You know what… I think I actually like it! It’s experimental! Not quite practical, but it certainly catches the eye!”

“Well, it’s a remarkable improvement from what he looked like before—I’ll give you that.”

“Is that why you can’t stop staring at me?” Alucard asks in that silvery-smooth voice of his.

Trevor starts upright. Had he been staring?

It’s only when Sypha laughs that he realizes it was a joke. He forces out a laugh of his own. “Fucking kill me if my standards ever sink that low.”

“Don’t tempt me.”

He’s thankfully saved the need for a response when Sypha scoots away from Alucard and towards him—or the fire, he realizes, when she stretches her arms out over it.

“Is it just me, or is it much colder tonight than it was the previous nights?” she asks. The loose fabric of her robes billow as a gust of wind passes through, and a little shiver breaks through her. She draws her limbs in tight around herself, huddling into a ball.

In the dancing light of the flames, her face seems different. Sharper, more delicate. Or perhaps Trevor is only really now noticing the details of her features—that expressive little nose, the tiny, pointed chin, those sparkling blue eyes. Or, even more likely, he’s been averting his gaze all this while because he knew it would only take one good look for something like this to happen.

With a begrudging sigh, he shrugs off his cloak and passes it to her. “Here. Take it.”

She snatches it with an eagerness that suggests she’s been eyeing it for longer than just this one night and promptly buries her face into the fur lining. “Thank you! Oh, wow—It smells even worse up close! But it’s so warm!”

“I’ll expect it back at some point, obviously.”

Sypha gives a noncommittal hum in response.

“If the smell gets to you, you’re free to borrow mine,” Alucard says, fingers toying with the hem of his coat. 

“I didn’t realize we were playing dress up now. But since you’re offering…”

“Not a chance, Trevor.”

Trevor.

It’s pronounced with the usual amount of animosity, but it’s the first time Alucard has actually called him by name— his name, rather than his family name, and he’s momentarily taken aback.

Alucard seems to have missed his slip of tongue, but Sypha doesn’t. She drags her head up from the cloak, glancing between the two of them with interest. 

“Smart choice,” Trevor finally says. “I was going to rip it up to keep the fire burning.”

He yawns, stretching out as he does, so that he shifts closer to the fire in the process. The reassuring warmth of the wine is fading, allowing the late night chill to seep into his bones. More than that, he feels strange without the usual weight of his cloak around him.

It’s a casual enough movement that neither of them should notice. And yet Sypha does.

“Are you cold, Trevor?” she asks, almost apologetically.

“Eh, I’ll be fine.”

Wordlessly, Sypha rises to her feet, steps over, and then crouches down at his side. “It’s big enough to share,” she says, pulling one end of the cloak over his shoulders.

Trevor begins to speak, but the words sputter and die in his throat when she leans into him, slips her hand into his, and squeezes. She’s close, close enough that he can feel the steady rise and fall of her chest, hear the soft inhale and exhale of breath. When she sighs, the top of her hair tickles his chin, and he nearly pulls back on reflex.

Perhaps this level of intimacy is the norm for her, but he can’t remember the last time he was touched like this. He’s sure he was at some point—a mother, a father, a sister or brother—but he tries not to remember the family that once was.

Instead, he focuses his gaze anywhere but at her. His eyes dart left and right and land on Alucard, who's staring at them, and although his face betrays no emotion, Trevor can almost feel the longing radiating from him.

With a begrudging sigh, he lifts up his corner of the cloak. “Ah, hell. We may as well all get in at this point.”

Alucard’s hands twitch at his sides, but he hesitates. “I don’t exactly know if I want to touch that dirty thing.”

Sypha stretches out an arm. “Come in, Alucard.”

It really is that simple for her. With some weariness, as though he’s doing it more for their benefit than his own, Alucard rises to his feet and moves to Sypha’s side. Sypha nestles further into Trevor to accommodate the three of them, which the cloak does—easily.

“I can’t believe you wear this thing,” Sypha exclaims. “It’s practically a blanket.”

“It makes perfect sense, if you think about it. Why pay for a bed at an inn if any old trash heap you pass out instantly transforms into one?”

Sypha taps her chin in thought. “Interesting…” 

“Please don’t tell me you’re actually going to do that; I was partially joking.” He peers to the side to gauge her sincerity.

Alucard, at her right, is oddly silent, staring contemplatively at her hand wrapped around his own. There’s a certain resoluteness in his eyes, an unspoken tragedy, that leaves Trevor with a strange tangled mess of feelings. He’s always hated Dracula, for what he is, what he’s done, and what he promises to do. And yet, it hits him, unexpectedly, the full weight of Alucard’s vow.

He can’t remember the last time he was touched with such tenderness; doesn’t know if he will again, after tonight. But he’s at least had a decade or so to acclimate himself to that reality.

“Fangs,” Trevor calls out. He takes a long breath. This type of self-reflection is something that he hasn't felt—hasn’t allowed himself to feel—in quite a while. “Those stories your father read. Do you remember any of them?”

Alucard and Sypha turn to stare at him with identical looks of confusion.

“Just wondering if vampires tell the same fairy tales as humans,” he explains, scratching at the back of his head. “Or whether they’re a little more... you know, bloody?”

Alucard stares at him, as if trying to gauge his sincerity. “I do.”

“Tell us about it. In exchange, I’ll share a special Belmont tale.”

“Hm… Will this Belmont tale go anything along the lines of, ‘a tall, brave hero with an extremely large penis ventures off into the world to battle and defeat an evil vampire’?”

Trevor snorts. “Usually, yes, but this one, surprisingly no.”

Alucard’s eyes flutter shut. “Very well then.”

He begins speaking then. The words flow together, strangely familiar and distant all at once. A tale of aching loss, yearning, hope, clarity, and redemption. Trevor’s certain he’s never heard this tale before, and yet each line resounds in his head like the tune of a long-forgotten melody. Alucard’s voice is like honey, smooth and slow, and the longer he speaks, the heavier Trevor’s eyelids feel. Sypha’s hand, still wrapped around his own, gradually loosens, and the sneaking suspicion that she’s not quite awake is confirmed when her swaying head finally slumps against his shoulder.

Fighting against his own tired muscles, Trevor nudges her.

No response.

“I think your story put Sypha to sleep, Alucard.”

Alucard falls silent then, and it’s as if the spell has broken.

Sypha starts upright. “Wha—? No—Keep talking.”

“It’s quite alright,” Alucard says with a chuckle. “It’s late enough as it is.” He scans sky overhead. Trevor is well enough acquainted with the dark to recognize the hazy outlines of treetops, but he’s certain the ability comes much more naturally to a half-vampire. “Dawn is only a few hours away.”

She makes a displeased sound, somewhere between a grumble and a groan, which somehow transforms into a yawn. “Finish it tomorrow then?”

“I will.”

“Good.” she murmurs. She rubs at her eyes, shifting so that her legs are no longer folded under her. And then Sypha, who grew up where affection was free and love was unconditional, leans fully into him, resting one hand on his shoulder for leverage. She smells earthy, like wood and moss and sweet honeysuckle, and her lips are startlingly soft against his cheek.

“You—Er—” Trevor blusters, but before he can make sense of it, she’s already drawn back, twisted around to leave an identical peck on Alucard’s cheek, who, despite coloring, reacts with much more grace than Trevor.

“Good night,” Sypha says in explanation, eyes drifting shut, and thus unaware of the effect she’s caused. She slumps to the ground, dragging Trevor’s coat— hers now, apparently—down with her, and bundles herself within it.

Trevor meets Alucard’s gaze, and just as quickly, they both turn away.

In her absence, the illusion of normalcy seems to be broken, and what’s left in its place is uncomfortably raw and real. Trevor knows, somehow, the thoughts flitting through Alucard’s mind, because they are his own, and that shared understanding leaves him with a strange mix of sympathy and awkwardness.

And yet, it seems neither of them have the energy to put on their usual pretense of animosity.

Trevor cracks his knuckles, clears his throat. “So…” he says, eloquently, before realizing he has nothing to say.

“...Yes?” Alucard tucks a strand of hair behind his ear. It seems Sypha’s hairdo is coming undone. The ridiculousness of his appearance clashes with the solemnity of his stare, and suddenly, Trevor snorts.

“I guess it’s back to the usual tomorrow?”

Alucard purses his lips, a gesture Trevor is now beginning to recognize for the restrained smile that it is. “I look forward to it.”