Chapter 7: Reflections

A/N: Well, here it is at last, the final installment of 'On All Hallows Eve'! I hope you have enjoyed reading this story as much as I did writing it! It's almost sad to end it...ah well, I'm working on more VH fics right now, so I guess it's time to move on...Thanks so much to everyone who has reviewed! Your kind words mean so much. Now, without further ado, Reflections...

When Gabriel returned to his room, he postponed sleep a little while longer and stood for a long time staring out the window at the nearly full moon and thinking.

He thought about Anna, tracing her lovely face and her perfect body in his mind and storing away every moment of their last 'encounter'. She was amazing, he thought in wonderment. Strong and yet fragile at the same time. It was almost as amazing, he thought wryly, what a powerful effect she had on him. He had never thought of himself as a sentimental, loving man, but now he was beginning to wonder...I'll always protect you, Anna Valerious, he promised silently. Forever.

He thought then of Dracula, trying to muster some way to stop him from using Frankenstein's creature but finding none. Clenching his fists now, he heard the count's voice ringing over and over in his head...Gabriel...Oh, Gabriel...He knew his forgotten past was entwined somehow with Dracula's, but he wasn't sure he wanted to know how...

Most of all, he thought about himself. His past, his future. The curse. He put a hand to his chest where he had been bitten and sighed heavily. Not much time. Not much time at all.

His shadowy reflection in the window was directly below that huge moon, and Gabriel Van Helsing thought suddenly how small he looked in comparison.

Anna Valerious, warm at last, lay in her bed after Gabriel left, alone, but not truly alone. She felt as if he was there still, kissing her, caressing her, saying—could it really be? —that he loved her.

Love. It was such a powerful word, she mused. It required so much strength, feeling... She had never truly been loved. Velkan—God rest his soul—had cared deeply about her, certainly, and she had looked up to him and cared for him as well. But did they love each other? Perhaps not. Both of them had spent their entire lives in a mad race against time, with death lurking around every corner. No time for real love. Her parents—it was the same, really. She never even got to truly know them before death snatched them away. I have missed much in life, she thought sadly.

But maybe Gabriel Van Helsing could change this, give back the carefree, loving life she never had. A life with him would be adventurous, surely, but not without joy and, yes, love.

Before that could happen, together they had to defeat Count Dracula.

Dracula...his face appeared unbidden in her mind, and her thoughts turned to this night—was it truly only a few hours ago that she was enthralled in his lethally seductive spell? It seemed an eternity, an unreal experience that took place too long ago to remember clearly. A half-forgotten nightmare.

So close, came the thought. So close to the most evil being on earth. So close to such sharp fangs. So close to death, and much worse than death. She did not want to think about what would have happened if Gabriel had been only a few seconds late.

No matter. It was over, she was home, and Gabriel loved her. And for now, that was all that mattered.

Vladislaus Dracula stood silently in his private chamber at his fortress, looking in apparent fascination at the flickering flames of the torch on the cold stone wall.

The shadows became Dracula, bringing heightened awareness of his striking features, sleek hair, dark clothes. It was the environment he was most comfortable in, fittingly so.

Like a dark shadow himself, he began to pace the room, boots clicking methodically on the stone as he walked, staring at nothing in particular...immersed in thought.

Aleera was still sulking about not being able to attend the ball, and did not know yet what had happened there. He assumed she thought he was with the Valerious girl now, his new bride. He shrugged. Let her think so. He did not really care what she thought at the moment. His own thoughts were too numerous and complicated.

He did not take kindly to failure. It had always been that way, even in life. He had to win, had to succeed. At any cost. His life—and death—had brought him failure nonetheless, and in many ways tonight was yet another.

It was a bittersweet victory, he thought. The monster or the princess? Fate had chosen for him. He supposed he couldn't have both.

His lips twitched slightly in what might have been a smile. It was ironic, really, that he and Gabriel had "traded" after all, though neither willingly. Are you happy now? he thought to Gabriel. For him, too, the night was bittersweet, though Dracula suspected somehow that it was a little more sweet than bitter.

She could have been his. Should have been. They deserved each other, were meant to be together. They had so much in common, were perfect foils. She was strong, brave, headstrong, beautiful. And she was so near to becoming his—forever.

Dracula cursed inwardly. He should have bitten her right away, instead of toying and playing for so long. It was pride, too, he had to admit. Making Anna Valerious a vampire, his bride, before Gabriel Van Helsing's helpless eyes had been so utterly tempting, but apparently foolish.

He sighed as he broke off his endless pace and stood still in the center of the chamber, next to the cold hard coffin that was his true lair. It shouldn't have gone wrong. Everything had been perfect, meticulously planned. Yet he had made the error of underestimated Gabriel Van Helsing, and if there was one thing to be said about Vladislaus, it was that he learned from his mistakes. They made him stronger, even more invincible than before. It would not happen again. Gabriel had used his last defense, there was no possible new weapon or plan that could foil him now.

As for Anna Valerious—Count Dracula smiled, thinking of it. He would have her in the end. After all, eternity awaits.