They made it to the restaurant in short order and were seated without problems. Carl was pretty happy with the choice as it was small and intimate, they had been seated in a table that had a certain amount of privacy and the smells emanating from the kitchen were making his mouth water. All in all it was looking to be a good evening.
Carl was perusing the menu when their waiter came over. "Van Helsing! So you have returned to me. I have missed you. You have stayed away far too long for my liking." The waiter was giving Van Helsing a slow and hungry going over and Carl could feel himself bristling at the act.
Van Helsing grinned "Paulo! I didn't know you'd be on tonight. Yeah, haven't had to come to Rome for a while. So you are gonna take care of me tonight?"
Take care of ME Carl was definitely not happy with that comment. Clearing his throat, he smiled with mock sweetness and said "Paolo. I'm thinking that we could really use a good bottle of wine. We've had quite a day and I think we've earned it." Carl emphasized the "we" deciding to remind the waiter there were two people sitting here.
Paulo gave Carl a carefully calculated smile – one worn by wait staff everywhere and said "I can recommend several very fine ones if you have nothing specific in mind." His eyes turned to Van Helsing and the expression got significantly warmer. "I could get you a bottle of that wine you usually favor…" the voice trailed off but the look was inviting and suggestive. A reminder of previous times together.
Carl was not pleased at the route this evening was starting to take. While he was willing to accept that tonight would not end with the kind of bang Carl was craving, he'd be damned if he let someone else get shagged by Van Helsing! There were limits to just how noble he was willing to be! Clearing his throat to gain Paulo's attention he said tightly "Bring us a bottle of whatever Van Helsing usually has and have another waiting. When you've done that, then you can tell us about any house specialties" Carl knew he was sounding snotty but he couldn't help it. Paulo was hitting on HIS Van Helsing and that could not be tolerated!
Van Helsing frowned slightly at the imperious tone Carl was using. Just because Paulo worked here was no reason for Carl to treat him so demeaningly. To take the sting out of what Carl had said, he gave Paulo a smile and said "Thanks. You always do take good care of me." He was rewarded with a grin and a wink from Paulo who left to take care of Carl's request.
Carl looked at Van Helsing with a mix of annoyance and hurt. He had thought they had come here so they could spend time together but it appeared that Van Helsing had picked the restaurant in the hopes of running into Paulo. He pretended to study his menu rather then look at Van Helsing while he tried to recover his poise.
Van Helsing watched Carl looking so casual and unconcerned after his treatment of Paulo and felt a stab of irritation toward the blond. He couldn't believe Carl was acting like such a snob! If he had known Carl would act this way, he never would have brought him here. This was one of his favorite restaurants and they had always taken really good care of him every time he had come here. He didn't want Carl's attitude to ruin that.
When Paulo returned with the wine, Van Helsing made a point of smiling and touching Paulo's arm while saying "As always, the most attentive service in Italy." Paulo returned the smile murmuring "It is always my pleasure to serve you, Van Helsing…"
Carl wanted to throw something at Paulo… and Van Helsing. He couldn't believe he was being asked to sit here while Van Helsing flirted with another man. Barely a day ago, Van Helsing had slept with him and now he was already moving on to the next person. It was insulting! It was aggravating! It hurt like hell! He must have made some kind of noise because suddenly both men were looking at him. Paulo with polite inquiry and Van Helsing with a vaguely annoyed expression.
Carl bit his lip and then rallied. He wasn't the product of many generations of blue blood for nothing. Pinning a polite smile on his face he said in the most casual of tones "So, what is the specials of the house? I must confess that the smells coming from the kitchen are quite delightful. I'm sure that there isn't a bad choice from the menu to be made." Carl mentally congratulated himself on his control. His mother would be proud of how well he was covering his discomfort.
Paulo gave Carl a very measured look and then said, "Yes, we are quite proud of our kitchen. If you are in the mood for seafood, there are a couple of dishes I can recommend." He paused and gave Carl a polite look of inquiry.
Carl, deciding that he wasn't up for much more just gave a polite little smile and said "How about I leave the choice in your hands. Van Helsing seems to trust you so I shall as well."
Paulo's smile became tinged with a leer as he looked at Van Helsing. "Yes, I have come to know Van Helsing's likes quite well."
Carl's fingers itched to wipe the smirk off Paulo's oh so smug face. Slutty, pushy Italian skank! His hands tightened on the menu as he fought to keep his expression distant. But when Paulo moved closer to Van Helsing and leaned over his shoulder, Carl lost a bit of his cool. He heard himself saying "So Van Helsing, what about you? What will you be having?" Both men startled and looked at him in surprise at his sudden outburst but he couldn't help it.
Van Helsing quirked an eyebrow at Carl's abrupt comment and then mentally shrugged and said, "I'll have my usual. You'll make sure the chief takes care of it, right?"
Paulo gave a seductive smile and said, "You know I'll always make sure you get what you want." He brushed his fingers across Van Helsing's hand before taking the menu. He then murmured, "Anything you want – you know that."
Carl sucked in a sharp breath at the sensual touch to Van Helsing. Without thought, he slapped his menu down on Paulo's hand, breaking the moment and directing the man's attention to him. With a terse smile he said, "Here, you'll be needing this." Paulo nodded, took the menu, forcing him to move away from Van Helsing. He gave a polite waiter smile and said "I'll go and place your orders with the kitchen now." He gave one last smile to Van Helsing and moved off.
Van Helsing gave Carl a rather irritated look and said "Carl, your behavior towards Paulo is unacceptable. He's a friend of mine and I want you to treat him accordingly. When I first came to Rome, he went out of his way to take care of me. Every time I come here, he always makes me feel welcome. When he comes back to the table, I expect you to behave, understood?"
Carl looked at Van Helsing with annoyance. I'm supposed to behave? What about him? He's certainly not behaving himself! But Van Helsing was looking at him sternly so he bit back his sarcastic comments and said, "I'm sorry. I guess I'm just a bit distracted. I promise to be extra nice to him when he comes back." The tone was consolatory but Carl's eyes were sullen and nonrepentant.
Van Helsing wanted to shake Carl. Why was he being this way? Like the upper class snob he had always said he abhorred? He huffed out his breath angrily and picked up his wine glass. He didn't want to look at Carl in case he said something that he'd regret later.
Carl meanwhile was sulking quietly. He might have to be less obvious in his dislike of Paulo but that didn't mean he had any intentions of making it easy on Paulo to seduce Van Helsing. Van Helsing was his and if he had to be underhanded and manipulative to ensure that Van Helsing remained out of Italian tramp's hands, then so be it. All's fair in love and war as they say. And this was both!
When Paulo returned later with their salads, Carl made a point of smiling and thanking Paulo for his attention. He also engaged him in a conversation about possible things to see in Rome. Carl had been there before but there was no need for Paulo to know that. The goal was to keep Paulo's attention fixed on him so he couldn't be pawing Van Helsing every few minutes.
Unfortunately this ploy had a flaw in that it opened up the opportunity for Paulo to bring up past times together with Van Helsing. Apparently he had played "tour guide" to Van Helsing in previous trips and Carl had to bite his tongue to keep from screaming in frustration each time Paulo managed to turn the conversation to Van Helsing.
There was great relief when Paulo was forced to leave to serve another customer. Carl filled his wine glass for the third time and drank ½ of it in the first go. This whole thing was just a nightmare and Carl wasn't sure how he was going to keep from doing something that would really anger Van Helsing and set back all the ground he had just won with the man.
The two ate without speaking and it was another server that came by to remove their plates. Carl hoped that meant that Paulo for some reason had been removed from their table - perhaps went on break? But he returned with their entrees and Carl had to bite his tongue to keep from snapping as Paulo fussed over Van Helsing's meal – ostensibly to make sure that it was done exactly to Van Helsing's specifications. It wasn't until Carl grabbed the wine bottle, only to find it was more or less empty, that Paulo turned his attention to Carl and insincerely asked him if he liked what Paulo had chosen for him. Carl just stared at the man for a moment before finally managing to get out "Yes, its fine, thank you." Paulo nodded, noted the wine bottle that Carl was holding and said, "I shall just bring the next one, shall I?" Carl attempted a polite smile, failed and finally just says, "Yes, I would appreciate that." He then turned his attention to his plate where he stared morosely at what was probably a very tasty meal if he wasn't to heart sick to enjoy it. He picked desultory at his plate and continued to drink more wine.
Van Helsing was torn between irritation and puzzlement. Carl was acting very strangely. When they left Headquarters everything had seemed fine. There was no awkwardness from his earlier crankiness with Carl and he had thought they would have an enjoyable evening away from all the stress of The Order. But instead things were the worst they had ever been between them. First Carl had been rude and snippy with Paulo and now he staring at his plate like the thought he could divine his future in his linguini. Van Helsing just sighed. He couldn't figure out what had happened and therefore he didn't know what to say to fix things. So he too just focused on his meal and didn't say anything.
When Paulo came by with the other bottle, Carl immediately held up his glass for a refill. If he was going to have to endure this, he wasn't going to do it sober! Paulo filled it and then turned to Van Helsing. "More for you, Van Helsing?" Van Helsing shook his head. He was going to need to keep a clear head if he wanted to make sure that he didn't make things worse with Carl.
Paulo looked at the slight frown on Van Helsing's face and the looks he was giving his dinner companion who was steadfastly ignoring him. This piqued his interest a bit and so he decided to probe a little. "So Van Helsing, your companion – who is he? I have never seen you with another before."
Van Helsing said, "Carl is my new work partner. We were just made an official team today." He said it carefully as Paulo had no idea what Van Helsing really did and he wanted to keep it that way.
Carl on the other hand, only heard the emphasis on the word "working" partner and felt stab of pain in his heart. So Van Helsing was making sure that Paulo knew Carl was no competition was he? He picked up his wine glass and drained the whole thing and reached again for the bottle.
Van Helsing frowned as he watched Carl down another glass of wine and ready himself to have another. "Carl, don't you think maybe you should slow down some? That's your sixth glass of wine in under an hour."
Carl looked at disgruntled at Van Helsing and said, "I'm fine. If you are worried about having to take me home tonight, don't be. I'll be just fine on my own." Just to show Van Helsing, he deliberately picked up the glass, saluted Van Helsing and drank the whole thing.
Van Helsing watched Carl drink the wine and felt his temper flare. "What the hell is your problem, Carl? Christ! Ever since we walked in the door you've been in a mood. And you've been as rude as hell to Paulo who doesn't deserve any of it."
The wine already flowing through Carl's bloodstream snapped what little control he had left. Angrily he glared at Van Helsing and said, "Well then excuse me. I'll just go and leave you to Paulo's tender care. That is why we're here in the first place, isn't it? I'll just get out of your way and leave you to it." He got angrily up from his chair, intending on storming out.
Van Helsing just glared at Carl and then barked, "Carl, sit the hell down. You have clearly had too much to drink." He turned to Paulo and said, "Bring us a pot of very strong coffee. Carl clearly needs it."
Carl remained standing, glaring as he snarled, "I do not need coffee and I'm not drunk. I'm just sick to death of being made to watch as you pick up some other guy. You don't want me, fine. Just don't make me watch my successor." And with that he turned on his heel and made for door.
Van Helsing jumped up to go after Carl, anger in every line until what Carl said actually sunk in. He stood frozen as surprise as he realized that all of Carl's snippiness and rudeness had been from jealousy. Then a somewhat feral grin came over his face and he quickly threw down some bills to cover their meal and he made off after Carl.
Carl heading back towards Headquarters, his anger giving him a fair turn of speed. He couldn't believe that Van Helsing had done that to him. He had thought they had reached a new level of understanding from their talk. He had thought that in facing Jinette together and from all that had happened in the lab, that they had come closer together. But clearly that had been an illusion since Van Helsing had very cruelly flaunted his next conquest right in front of Carl.
Carl could feel tears prickling his eyes and he fought them back. He would not cry over Van Helsing. He would not! So caught up in his own hurt and misery, he didn't hear the running footsteps behind him.
Van Helsing had exited the restaurant and scanned the streets looking for Carl. He hadn't expected him to have gone very far but apparently Carl was moving very fast. He broke into a light run and made after him. When he caught up to him, he grabbed Carl and spun him around. "You were jealous. That's why you were acting the way you were towards Paulo. You were jealous of him." He was smiling from ear to ear.
Carl had to fight to keep from smacking Van Helsing. How dare he look so pleased about this? This was not some game, you know. He wretched himself out of Van Helsing's grasp and snapped, "Leave me alone. Just go back to your Roman stud and let me be." He started to walk away but Van Helsing grabbed him again.
"Carl, will you stop running away for one minute?"
Carl tugged, trying unsuccessfully to free himself. "No. I don't want to talk about this. Just let me go." He pulled particularly hard but to no avail.
Van Helsing just shook his head and said "No. I don't want to let you go. In fact what I really want to do is hold on to you." He suited actions to words and pulled Carl in closer. Carl struggled against him but he didn't let go.
When Van Helsing pulled him closer, Carl was caught between wanting to snuggle closer and running far, far away. As he struggled he said, "Damn it. Let me go. This isn't funny. Besides, isn't Paulo waiting for you? Or are you killing time until he gets off work?" That last thought proved to be particularly painful and made him try all the harder to break free.
Van Helsing heard the hurt underlying Carl's words and tightened his arms even more. "Carl. I'm not getting together with Paulo. To be honest, I wasn't thinking of him when I suggested the restaurant. I thought you'd like the food, that's all. But I can't say as I'm sorry that Paulo was there as I never would have known you were interested if you hadn't gotten all jealous." He felt Carl's struggling stop and he smiled to himself before continuing. "What do you say we forgot about what happened and head back to the cottage? No Italian waiters and no geeks. Just you and me."
Carl felt the hurt and anger drain away. He nodded and said softly "Yeah, I'd like that. " He let his head drop to Van Helsing's shoulder as he stood still in Van Helsing's arms.
Van Helsing held Carl close for a minute, savoring the feel of the man but his body began to stir and he pulled away. Grabbing Carl by the arm he began to drag him the rest of the way back, suddenly needing to have Carl someplace where he could have him naked and all to himself.