My usual beta reader wasn't able to get to this so I decided rather then delay a week or more, to post it as is. Any mistakes you see are all mine and I apologize profusely.

The next morning dawned bright and sunny and Carl groaned and rolled over away from the light. He heard a chuckle and reluctantly opened one eye. He saw Van Helsing sitting up with his back against the headboard. "You really are not a morning person are you, Carl?" Carl looked at his lover's bare, well-muscled chest and handsome face and said "Well, this is certainly an improvement over my usual mornings. I could get to like mornings if they are all like this".

Van Helsing's smile grew tender "I could grow to like them too, if I'm waking up with you". He reached out his hand and caressed Carl's check. Carl snuggled happily into the touch. Yep, he could definitely grow to love mornings if they all involved being with Van Helsing. He squirmed his way a bit closer and laid his head on Van Helsing's thigh. This was heaven. He never thought he would ever be able to be so close to the man. Van Helsing's hand began to stroke Carl's head and it was all Carl could do not to purr.

Van Helsing looked down at Carl with a tenderness most members of the Order would have said he was incapable of feeling. His time in the Order had been full of darkness and isolation. When he had been found on the steps of the Vatican, he had been lost and hurt. Knowing nothing about who he was or where he had come from, he had allowed himself to be maneuvered into becoming a Hunter for the Church. After all, what else would he do?

He had trained hard and learned far more quickly then any other Hunter before him. Seeing his true potential for bloodshed and mayhem, they had decided introduce him to their best weapons designer. Jinette had waxed on about how it could lead to even greater results from the Hunter but Van Helsing had merely shrugged and followed along. He had been expecting to meet an older man, wizened and short sighted from too much time in the lab. Carl was nothing of the sort. Fired with creative zeal and possessed of a genius level mind, he was like a blond whirlwind – seemingly everywhere at once. He fired off questions in rapid succession and soon Van Helsing's head was spinning. He found himself being dragged back out to the training ground so Carl could "see him go through his paces" Feeling a bit like a trained animal, he ran through a typical session. When he finished he turned to Carl, expecting to see the usual unemotional look he got from his trainers. Instead Carl was practically vibrating in place and madly scribbling notes. He was muttering things too quickly for Van Helsing to make out but it was clear that Carl was excited and impressed. Once again, Carl began firing off questions, only this time he didn't stop to wait for the answers. Finally Van Helsing clapped a hand over Carl's mouth and said "Slow down."

Carl looked sheepish and said "Sorry. Its just I've never seen anyone with your reflexes before. It gives me all sorts of ideas for new weapons that could utilize your combination of strength and speed. In fact, there's an idea that 's been kicking around in my head…" Carl picked up his papers again and began scribbling and muttering. "It will need to be compact enough to carry concealed but powerful enough to do some damage…" Van Helsing realized that he had been forgotten in the rush of creative genius. He just shook his head and headed back for his rooms. He laughed as he remembered the strange blonde friar. Carl was definitely not like any other holy man he had met before.

It was a week later that Van Helsing was summoned to the lab. Carl was impatiently pacing beside his table. When he spotted Van Helsing he cried out "Its about time. Now come over here as I have something I think you'll really like" Carl picked up 2 strange devices that Van Helsing couldn't identify and looked at the Hunter expectantly. Van Helsing looked back at him with a slightly puzzled expression. What exactly did Carl expect him to say or do?

Carl sighed impatiently "Well, take them. I didn't make them for my use, now did I?" Van Helsing bit back the comment that since he had no idea what they were, that they might very well be for the friar, and reached out and took the objects. Seeing them up close still didn't give him any clue as to what to do with them. Carl huffed impatiently and snatched one back.

"You use them like this." He said and triggered the object. Sharp spikes sprang out and the disc spun into motion with a lethal buzz. Van Helsing looked impressed – this could do a lot of damage. He triggered his own and brought it down on the corner of Carl's worktable. It sheared through it like a hot knife through butter. He released the trigger and the blades slowed and retracted, leaving it a deceptively harmless looking device.

Carl was absolutely bubbling with pride. "I made them so they can be easily concealed in your sleeves. This way you'll never be defenseless. The tojos have diamond edged blades so they can cut through something as tough as a gargoyle as easily as it did that table." He radiated a smug air and impatiently looked at the Hunter. Van Helsing knew he was waiting for praise and couldn't help but tease the Friar by withholding it. Finally Carl snapped and said "Well, aren't you going to tell me how great I am? No one else here could have ever come up with something so elegant and yet so deadly. Those are one of a kind weapons designed especially for you." When the Hunter didn't immediately speak up, Carl said petulantly "Don't rush to thank me or anything. I'm only trying to keep you alive. I suppose you'd be just as happy with a sword and some holy water…" the pout was getting more pronounced and Van Helsing couldn't help but smile. Carl was adorable when he got into a huff.

That had been the beginning of their friendship and over time it had only deepened. For all of Carl's smug demeanor, he was surprisingly shy and used the annoying mask to hide a gentle, caring heart. Van Helsing had come to depend on Carl's support and having Carl as his partner made the ugliness of the work he did easier to bear. Carl provided a soothing balm for his soul as he always took the time to really listen and his tendency to fuss was enjoyable (not that Van Helsing would ever admit that of course). Mostly though it was just knowing that there was someone who actually cared if the Hunter came home, that made Carl so special to him. He needed a reason to go on and Carl waiting for him back at the Vatican had always spurned him to be a little more careful during his missions.

And now he had even more of a reason to take care. He looked down at the man who was not just friend now but lover. He ran his fingers through the soft blond hair and marveled at how much his world had changed in one night. He had never sought love. He thought himself too broken, too tainted to be loved. It had seemed miracle enough that Carl had befriended him. To want more would have seemed to have been tempting Fate but here they were. Carl loved him despite it all. Van Helsing swore to himself that he would do everything within his power to be worthy of the gift of Carl's love.

TBC

This story is going to get periodic updates as it seems to be the story I turn to when I don't want to face any of the other stories that are clammering for my attention. For everyone who has given me such lovely reviews and helpful feedback - much thanks. I hope you stick with this as it unfolds. - Seadragon