Amazing the inspiration you can get from going on an Australian movie binge...

Van Helsing was creeping stealthily down the hall. Over the past year he had noticed something about Carl he found disturbing and he was determined to find out what was going on.

It began when he came back unexpectedly from a mission. Usually word spread through the Vatican upon his arrival, and Carl would always be ready and waiting for him. This time though, he had been traveling in disguise and therefore he was able to slip into the Vatican without anyone the wiser. He had gone straight to the lab even though it was rather late, intending to see Carl before retiring.

It had become something of a ritual to him. Before he could really settle down from a mission he had to see Carl. Jinette he saw first because the Cardinal insisted but it was Carl who he really wanted to see. It was something he couldn't completely explain but he never felt at ease until he had seen the man and listened to him grouse about this, that or the other thing. He liked to tell himself it was just part of having a routine – something his life was sorely missing but deep down he knew it was more then that. He just didn't like to think about it too much.

This night, he had entered into the lab and found Carl hard at work scribbling. Carl was forever taking notes about his many projects and ideas and there was something sort of comforting about seeing Carl bent over the table. Smiling widely, he made his way over to Carl with the intent of slapping him on the shoulder (since Carl had made it abundantly and violently clear that ruffling his hair was NOT acceptable). However, Carl must have sensed his presence and looked up. What came next surprised Van Helsing.

Instead of greeting him with the usual friendly banter/grousing, Carl looked almost displeased to see him. More over, he gathered up his papers and locked them in a drawer – something he had never done before. Carl had always tried to talk about his work with Van Helsing, even though most of the time it went right over his head. But Van Helsing took it as a sign of trust that Carl shared with him. He didn't like this sudden exclusion.

Trying to make light of it he joked, "So, what are you working on? Secret plans to overthrow Jinette? If so, I'd be more then happy to help out. I'm getting rather tired of him yelling at me."

Carl merely gave him a withering look and "I'm not trying to take over the Order. Why would I want to? Thankless job running this place if you ask me." He then bustled around the lab, straightening test tubes and other equipment that he clearly hadn't been using.

So if Carl wasn't working on an experiment, what had he been working on? The curiosity was killing Van Helsing but he also knew that Carl was clearly not in the mood for sharing. Perhaps tomorrow when they had both gotten some sleep?

Carl fiddled with a few things and then grumbled, "I wasn't expecting you. No one sent word that you had arrived. So what did you do, sneak in through a window?" He clearly looked unhappy at the lack of notice.

Van Helsing's eyebrow shot up. Irritated and slightly hurt he said, "Pardon me. I didn't realize my arrival was such an inconvenience for you. I'll just take myself off, shall I?" He turned, and walked out the door, his body stiff with anger.

Carl just sighed and said, "I'm sorry. It's just that I was expecting to have some uninterrupted time to work and then you came in. Usually word comes down to the lab when you've been spotted." Making a conciliatory gesture he said, "So how was the mission? Other then the strange clothes, you look well enough." He gave the Hunter a small smile.

Van Helsing accepted Carl's offer of contrition and smiled, "What, you don't like the disguise? I think I make a rather dashing sailor." He struck a pose he thought was suitably nautical.

Carl merely shook his head and rolled his eyes. "Its just as well no one recognized you. People wonder about you as it is." With that he gave a sudden, large yawn.

Van Helsing chuckled and said, "Looks like its time for good little friars to be in bed". He threw a companionable arm over Carl's shoulder and eased him towards the door. Carl gave one last look at his desk and then shrugged and allowed himself to be lead from the lab.

Van Helsing had thought everything would be back to normal between them but the next day came and went and Carl did not show him whatever it was he was working on that night. As time passed, Van Helsing dropped subtle hints, which were completely ignored. Moreover, on several other occasions he caught Carl again working on this mysterious project. Each time it happened, Carl would gather up his papers and lock them away in his desk drawer. Questions were either ignored or given a vague answer. The one consistency was Carl's steadfast determination that he never be allowed to see them or know what was on them and his strange secrecy.

He tried asking some of the other monks about Carl's mysterious project but they knew nothing. Carl didn't share his work with the others unless he needed help so as it turned out, Van Helsing knew more then they did. Frustrated, he decided to be unethical and break into Carl's desk. Sneaking into the lab late one night, he picked the lock on Carl's desk only to find the drawer completely empty. It would appear that Carl was expecting him to try this and had moved the papers someplace safer. Growling in frustration, he stormed out of the lab, determined to find out Carl's secret.

But it was months since he first surprised Carl in his lab and he was still no closer to finding out what was in those papers. Tonight he was determined to change that. He was going to sneak into the lab and wait until Carl hid away his papers. Then, after Carl left, he would finally be able to see what Carl's big secret was. It had become about more then just curiosity. He hated the distance this secret had created between them. Whatever was on those papers, he was sure that it wouldn't change the friendship they shared. They had been through far too much together for that. But he was less certain their friendship could survive this secret.

Sneaking into the lab, he moved careful until he was hidden in a place where he could clearly see Carl. Once again he was hunched over his desk, scribbling away. Periodically he would raise his head and scan the area, as if trying to sense if anyone was around. Van Helsing knew he was well enough hidden but it raised the hackles on the back of his head. What could Carl possibly be working on that he would be this nervous about being discovered? Settling himself more comfortably, he prepared to wait Carl out.

To Be Continued...