Intellectually, Petru knew that the proceeds from the sale of the tavern wouldn't have paid for even a single year at a university in Paris or Berlin, and he couldn't go to any lesser institution, having already memorized every text he'd ever come across. Over the years, his mother had done her best to feed her son's voracious appetite for learning, sometimes writing some mysterious benefactor, who always responded with crates of books for Petru. He often wondered if that benefactor was his absent father, but his mother would never say one way or the other. All she'd tell him was that his father was a good man, a warrior for God, brilliant and kind and all things good. As a lad, Petru sometimes felt that the words were some sort of excuse, a way to sooth the hurt feelings of a boy who didn't know his real father.

And now they were in Rome, a trip financed by the sale of their only possession of value, the tavern. But his mother was sick, dying really, and she'd insisted that the trip to Rome was of vital importance. So Petru had worked hard to prepare them, selling most of what they owned, even his precious books, and caring for his mother as best he could.

At seventeen, Petru was tall and wiry. He had the dark hair that so characterized the eastern European folk from which he sprung, but his bright blue eyes were the legacy of his mysterious father. He had a curious mind, always wanting to know the answer and willing to work to find it. He also had a talent for the mechanical. As he helped his mother into the great basilica of St. Peter, his name saint, he found himself staring up at the great arches above and wondering at the architectural acumen required to build the great cathedral, so many years ago. His mother knelt to pray, and Petru took his place beside her, though he did not offer his words to God. With the turn of the century upon them, Petru adopted a modern and fashionable disdain for religion, like others of his age, though his mother was fervent in her devotion.

Soon his attention was drawn to a door on the side of the cathedral. It was smaller than the great entrance, and mostly unremarkable, save for the flash of bright sunlight that flooded through it when opened. Two figures entered there, both tall and striding purposefully through the basilica. One was slightly larger than the other, broader, dressed in black with his face shadowed by a slouching hat. The other wore all brown, like a monk, with a cloak and a glinting silver crucifix. He had dark blond hair that brushed his shoulders, and a small smile on his face. As they neared, Petru could hear their conversation.

"...not going to be happy about this one."

"He resisted." Growled the man in black.

The monk sighed. "I know. But the Cardinal is still going to complain."

As they got closer, Petru could see that the brown man was an older man, despite his obvious fitness, of an age with Petru's mother. He still couldn't make out anything more about the darker man.

As if cued by Petru's observations, his mother suddenly turned and gasped, "Carl!"

The two men stopped. The brown one took a step towards them, coming into the light. "Gita?" He asked. "Gita!"

Petru's mother began to struggle to her feet. Petru automatically began to assist her, but the monk immediately rushed to them and lifted Gita right up and into his arms, hugging her close.

"Sweet Mother of God! Gita! What are you doing here?" The monk smiled tenderly at Petru's mother, more tenderly than any man had looked at his mother that Petru could remember.

"Oh, Carl. This -- this is Petru!" His mother turned in the man's arms to grasp her son's hand.

Like a moment frozen in time, no one moved. Then the monk's face seemed to light up.

"Carl?" The dark man said quietly.

"Go on, Van Helsing. I'll catch up." The monk said, his eyes never leaving Petru's face. The youth took the time to really look at the man holding his mother. He had a high brow, and a roman nose. Like someone surfacing from under water, Petru slowly realized what he was seeing. His own eyes reflected in the bright blue eyes of this monk.

"But. But you're a monk!" Petru gasped, not yet daring to voice his suspicion.

"Friar, actually." The man corrected with a small laugh echoed by Gita. "I'm truly delighted to meet you at last, Petru."

Petru glanced as his mother, reading the truth in her face. This man, this friar who walked like a lord or a soldier, and were those pistols Petru could see on his belt? This man was his father.

Gita looked up at Carl. "Carl. I'm sorry, I know I should have written, but -- but I'm dying."

"No," Carl gasped. "The tavern?"

"Sold it, so we could come here. I'm not going back, I know this. But Petru, Petru is still young. And he's brilliant," Gita grasped Carl's coat, and he covered her hands with his. "He's brilliant, and he needs to go to university." Her voice was urgent, as if she were on her last breath.

"Of course, Gita, my darling friend, of course. Anything for our son." Carl soothed her gently. "Come, you'll both stay here for now. The Order will care for you, and I'm sure Petru will be fascinated by our work here." Carl glanced up at Petru, his eyes questioning. Petru could see that Carl understood this all came as such a shock, and that Carl hoped that Petru could accept it all.

Petru smiled at his father. His father! "Mother never lied. She said you were a warrior for God."

Carl smiled back, relief clear on his face. "Your mother saw me truly before I did." He lifted one of Gita's hands to his lips and kissed it. "She had the making of me. Come, let us find some food and rest, and I'll tell you the whole tale."

He led them through the cathedral and down the secret stairs. Petru felt his whole life opening up to new possibilities as he followed his father. Like many of the other boys he'd known back in Transylvania, he'd have a chance to know and be proud of his father, and maybe even, learn to follow in his footsteps.


(BOY OH BOY! Had to get this done, because I've already started my next Van Helsing fic, which will be a wild ride: a crossover fic, a slash fic, a reincarnation fic, all rolled into one! Stay tuned for that, my friends. In the meantime, thanks for reading, and big props to all the dads out there.)