Well, its finally Date Night... can our intrepid Hunter win back Carl or is he destined to be a lone wolf???

Van Helsing was not so sure about all of this. The monks had assured him that their research was sound and that if he followed the plan, everything would be fine but he still had some serious doubts. For starters, he was following a plan created by celibate males who hadn't been outside of their lab in years. Research is all well and good but some of this seemed… well, sissy. However, when he tried to object, he got lectured about the importance of what he was doing and how he had to put aside his pride for the sake of the team. That last bit hadn't impressed him and he was about to tell them what to do with their plan when Brother Thomas pointed out to him that he'd be spending a lot of cold and lonely nights if he didn't make this work and that stopped the complaining dead.

Once the plan had been agreed upon, everyone got rather caught up in making it happen. At first Cardinal Jinette protested vehemently about the diversion of resources but when it was pointed out to him that it was get Van Helsing back with Carl or deal with an unhappily single Wolf/Hunter, Jinette suddenly seemed to get into the spirit of things. He even donated a bottle of wine from his private stash to help matters along.

A carefully worded invitation had been sent to Carl in the Lab and been accepted and now Van Helsing was nervously awaiting his arrival. Their quarters had been transformed – into what the monks had assured him was the height of romantic settings. He thought the flowers seemed a bit overdone but after having dozens of books, poems and paintings shoved in his face showing how flowers played a KEY role in romance, he decided to let it go. He did think that perhaps they should have picked just one type of flower but after a near fistfight had cropped up over it (apparently there wasn't a consensus on what flower was the most romantic) they had decided to hedge their bets and go with a little bit of everything. The smell was just a little overwhelming but Van Helsing was willing to endure some discomfort to fix things. The Wolf wasn't very happy but was trying to behave since it knew it was the only way to get Carl back.

Pacing around the room he tried to remember all the things the monks had coached him on. Muttering bits of poetry and tips like "remember to ask how his day went… and look like you are listening" he awaited Carl's arrival. He tried not to fiddle with the collar of his shirt – another "improvement" the monks had insisted on. He looked at the clock for the 5th time in as many minutes. "Where is he?" he grumbled.

Carl meanwhile was nervously fiddling with something in his lab. He was trying to distract himself from his upcoming "date" with Van Helsing. Ever since the invitation had come, he had been unable to concentrate. It didn't help that everyone in the lab had been acting strange for days. They had been coming and going on strange errands and there had been a lot of whispering and conferring with each other. They had also been giving Carl a lot of speculative looks. That last part wasn't too unusual as everyone was always wondering if Carl was about to blow something up but the rest had left him feeling a bit on edge. And he had to confess he was a little nervous about what Van Helsing had planned. He picked up the gear works again and attempted to fit them together. However he was just too distracted and when he noticed that a group of monks were watching him and whispering, he had finally decided he had taken enough. "What are you looking at?" he barked and threw down the gears. The monks hastily scattered and pretended to go back to work but Carl knew it was only a matter of time before they started again. Clearly everyone knew that he had a date tonight. He heaved a sigh and decided to get out of there. It wasn't like he was getting anything done anyway.

Carl headed up to their rooms feeling rather nervous. While they were apart, it was easy to maintain his self-righteous state but now that he was to have dinner with the man, he was wondering if he could hold to his stance. He stood outside the door for a moment and nervously brushed down his hair. Maybe he should have changed into something else… Carl shook his head. Like what? He didn't own any other clothes. Steeling himself for whatever lay ahead, he raised his hand and knocked. He immediately felt foolish – he lived here, he didn't have to knock. However the door sprang open almost immediately and Carl jumped back, startled. Van Helsing stood in the doorway looking rather tense. "Where the hell have you been?" he said peevishly "I was beginning to think you weren't coming" Carl felt vaguely guilty. "Sorry, I was just finishing something up in the lab" "You were working???" Van Helsing almost snapped. Carl, feeling a bit attacked said "Yes, Van Helsing. I was working. I have a job, remember?" Van Helsing, suddenly remember that he was suppose to be winning his way back into Carl's good graces said "Yes, well, I'm glad to hear you are keeping busy" and with that grabbed Carl by the arm and dragged him into the room.

Carl looked around in a sort of fascinated horror. The room looked like the kind of setting one might find in a tacky bordello. There were flowers of every color and type stuffed in any kind of vase or jar that had been available. Carl even recognized a beaker from the lab. Where there weren't flowers there were candles and the whole thing had been topped off with large amounts of red satin. The overall effect was beginning to make Carl's eyes water. Van Helsing, seeing that the room was not quite having the planned effect, quickly moved on to Phase Two of the night.

"Why don't you sit down. I'll get you a glass of wine" he said, grabbing the bottle and hastily pouring a glass. He practically sloshed it on himself as he shoved it at Carl. Carl looking slightly startled at Van Helsing's abrupt movements, took the glass from him and took a quick sip. He was feeling a bit on edge with Van Helsing acting like a cat in a roomful of rocking chairs. He just wasn't sure what to expect next.

Van Helsing poured a glass of wine for himself and quickly downed it. This was much harder then he thought. Carl clearly wasn't impressed with the "ambiance" as one monk had dubbed it and Van Helsing was going to have to work hard to make up the lost ground. He cast his mind for a suitable topic of conversation but nothing was coming to him. He nervously ran his fingers through his hair and smiled weakly at Carl. Carl merely looked back at him like a small animal facing a predetor. The Wolf perked up for a moment at that thought and Van Helsing had to sharply order him back. "No pouncing. That's what got us in trouble in the first place" The Wolf sulked but retreated.

Carl watched the various emotions cross Van Helsing's face and began to wonder if maybe all of this was a bad idea. Van Helsing looked ready to explode and Carl began to look for the exit. This was not missed by the Hunter who realized that he'd best do something before Carl bolted, never to be seen again.

Clearing his throat nervously he began. "So, how is everything in the lab? Invented anything new?" Carl looked flabbergasted. Van Helsing wanted to talk about work? Had a new mission come up? "Why, has something happened I should know about" Carl said. "No, there's nothing new. I was just wondering about your work. What you do and all…" Carl looked really confused now. "But you know about my work. You use my work all the time. What's to talk about?"

Van Helsing was beginning to sweat. The monks had said to talk about Carl's work but clearly Carl had nothing to say. Now what? He poured himself another glass of wine and gulped it down. When all this was over, he was going to kill those guys. Now what should he do?

Fortunately for Van Helsing, he was saved by a knock at the door. "Ah" he said in a relieved tone "That would be dinner" and practically ran for the door. Carl watched all of this with a slightly wary expression. He had never seen the Hunter like this before. It was like watching a stranger in Van Helsing's body. Van Helsing wretched open the door like a drowning man grabbing for a life preserver. Brother Ben, who had been tapped to make dinner for the couple gasped and almost dropped the large tray he was carrying. Van Helsing gestured him in madly "Thanks for getting here so soon. Why don't you come in and serve everything right away" Van Helsing was attempting to smile and look like everything was under control but instead came across like a man about to come unglued. Brother Ben, terrified that the evening would fail, quickly set about serving the food. He smiled somewhat unconvincingly at Carl and said "What a lovely room. Really, very romantic." Carl looked at Brother Ben like he had 2 heads. He thought this was romantic? It was like be trapped in a funeral parlor.

Van Helsing was breathing hard and trying not to fidget with the draperies. The monk who had put them up and been very specific about leaving them alone. He tried to smile at Carl but had to look away when he saw slightly uneasy look on Carl's face. When Brother Ben had finished putting everything out, Van Helsing grabbed his arm and said "Well thanks again. I'll just see you out" Brother Ben barely had time to give one last smile at Carl before he was shoved roughly out into the hall. Van Helsing slammed the door shut and leaned back against it. Pasting another smile on his face he said "Alone at last" Carl looked slightly alarmed at this and Van Helsing's smile slipped. He was really blowing this.

Taking a deep breath, he squared his shoulders and prepared to dive back into the fray. He was Van Helsing, the Order's Top Hunter. He could handle a romantic dinner. He walked back and joined Carl at the table. Pouring himself his third glass of wine, he looked across the table at Carl and said "I'd like to propose a toast." Carl raised his eyebrows at this but obediently picked up his glass. Van Helsing looked at Carl and realized he didn't know what to say. He bit his lip and ran over various bits of poetry in his head but none of them seemed right somehow. Finally, realizing that Carl was looking at him expectantly he said "To us" and drained his glass. Carl just looked at him for a moment then sighed and drank his own glass. Trying to recover, Van Helsing said "So, let's eat" and began to quickly pile food on a plate for Carl. Carl watched him with growing alarm and finally said "Van Helsing, you don't really expect me to eat all of that, do you?" Looking down at the plate, Van Helsing realized he had gone a little overboard. He flushed a deep red. "Ah, no. Of course not" He started to remove some of the food but Carl just grabbed his wrist and said "its fine" and took the plate from him. Van Helsing filled his own plate even though food was the last thing he wanted. But it filled time and at this point, that was a good thing. This evening was turning out to be a total disaster and he wasn't sure how to fix it.

Carl starting eating mostly to cover up the fact that he was thinking hard. It was clear that Van Helsing was trying to give Carl what he asked for but it was equally clear that the effort was going to drive the man over the edge. Watching Van Helsing from under his lashes, it was clear that it was taking all the man's willpower to remain sitting at the table. Carl looked around the room and had to smile. It really was atrocious but clearly a lot of time and effort had gone into it. The flowers though were starting to get to him and he could feel his eyes beginning to itch. But all in all, it really was rather sweet.

Van Helsing, lost in his own thoughts failed to notice the tide was turning in his favor. He was convinced that unless he did something truly romantic and fast, Carl would walk out the door and this time never come back. Running through all the things the monks had told him, he seized upon one thing. He leapt out of his chair, startling Carl half to death, and grabbed a flower from one of the vases. Practically throwing himself to his knees by Carl's chair he thrust the flower at Carl and gave him what he hoped was a charming smile.

Unfortunately for Van Helsing, the flower was the final straw for Carl's sinuses. He immediately began sneezing though he did manage to turn away before showering the hapless Hunter. Poor Carl was practically doubled over as he was undone by the floral overload. Van Helsing looked for a moment in total horror and then got up and grabbed the bottle of wine from the table. He didn't bother with the glass anymore and just drank straight from the bottle.

Eventually Carl was able to get himself under control again though he had to repeatedly wipe his streaming eyes. He looked over at Van Helsing who was sunk low in his chair and drinking from the bottle. He was the picture of misery.

Carl looked at the Hunter and felt his heart swell with pity. The man had clearly tried so hard and now looked like he wanted to jump off a bridge. Carl had never wanted to make him this miserable. Moving towards Van Helsing's chair, he knelt down beside him and gently touched his arm. Van Helsing looked at Carl, clearly expecting the worse. He was confused to see a sweet, affectionate smile on Carl's face.

"You put an awful lot of effort into tonight. I'm really very impressed" Van Helsing looked at him skeptically. "Really? Because most of the time you looked like you were a bit put off by it all" Carl bit his lip and debated about how honest to be. Deciding to err on the side of tactfulness he said "Well, the décor is a little over the top but it does show that you care and that's the important part" Van Helsing looked at Carl and said "How over the top?" Again, Carl debated with himself and decided to be totally honest. "Well, you might have done better to stick with only one type of flower and maybe a lot less of them. And the idea of candlelight is to create a nice soft glow whereas you've got so many I could work in here. Oh, and lose the red satin – its just tacky" Van Helsing glowered a bit and said "I told them it was too much but they didn't listen"

Carl felt a sense of dread come over him. "Told WHO it was too much?" he said in a slow, controlled voice. Van Helsing realized he had just shared too much information and tried to go for damage control. "I may have asked for some advice as to one or two points of the evening… " he trailed off when he saw the look of horror on Carl's face. "You went to my co-workers and asked for advice??" Carl's voice took on a slightly shrill quality that caused Van Helsing to wince. "I can't believe you discussed our personal life with the rest of the Order" Carl sank into his chair and covered his face with his hands. He was totally humiliated.

Van Helsing saw Carl's distress and felt horrible. "I'm sorry. I didn't intend to embarrass you. It just that I was afraid that if I screwed this up that you'd never speak to me again and I just couldn't face that." Van Helsing knelt in front of Carl and took his hands in his own. "You are the only thing in my life that really matters and without you, I'm incomplete. I'd do anything for you"

Carl raised his head and looked at the man kneeling before him. He had tears in his eyes. "Now THAT is romantic" and he leaned forward and kissed Van Helsing. Van Helsing froze a moment in shock and then began to enthusiastically kiss him back. When they finally had to break for air, Van Helsing leaned his forehead against Carl's and said "does this we're back together?"

Carl smiled and said "only if you get rid of the damn flowers… "

THE END