My thanks to everyone who kindly took the time to review. Don't know why but I realized I'm in a terribly melodramatic place (hence this whole story) Hopefully the completing of this will end this rather mopey period of my life... :)
Carl ran into the lab and over to his hiding place. Taking only the briefest of moments to insure the lab was empty, he took the cover off the abandoned piece of equipment and peered inside. Sure enough, the small thread he had draped across the pile of papers was missing. Someone had found his hiding place. And judging from Van Helsing's recent behavior, he knew exactly who. He put the cover back on and sunk back onto a bench.
This was an absolute disaster! How had the wretched man found his hiding place? He had been so careful about only taking the papers out when no one was around. But knowing the blasted man, he probably found a way to lurk undetected. Damn him! Why couldn't he have just left it alone?
Carl dropped his head down in his hands. Judging from Van Helsing's reaction, he was horrified by what he had read. This thought only caused the pit in Carl's stomach to grow. What if Van Helsing was so horrified that he told someone about it? If he did, Carl was in the kind of trouble that no amount of fast-talking was going to get him out of. Swallowing hard, he realized there was only one thing to do. He had to go find Van Helsing and talk him into keeping his mouth shut about this.
Carl got shakily to his feet and headed out of the lab. The most likely place that Van Helsing would have gone was to was his room. And while this was hardly the place Carl would chose to have this conversation, its not like he could wait and hope to corner the man someplace more convenient. With the level of twitchiness that the Hunter had developed, it wouldn't take long for someone to notice and ask him what was bothering him. Carl just couldn't take that chance – he'd have to talk to Van Helsing tonight.
When he reached Van Helsing's door, he stood outside it for a moment trying to buck up his courage for what would come next. As much as he hated to admit it, it hurt that Van Helsing's reaction was so negative. While he hadn't expected total acceptance (which is why he had kept this a secret in the first place) he would have thought that once known, Van Helsing would have at least approached him and asked for an explanation. Carl thought that their friendship would have at least merited that. But it would appear that their friendship might not longer be an issue. That thought was painful indeed and almost made him leave for the privacy of his room so he could nurse his wounds but unfortunately there was much more at stake then his personal feelings. As bad as this could get, he had to talk to Van Helsing and get his promise to keep this to himself. If it came to it, he would agree to get transferred off Van Helsing's cases. It wouldn't be easy but it would be for the best if Van Helsing could not find a way past this.
Carl gave a heavy, sorrowful sigh then squared his shoulders. He might as well get this over with. He knocked on the door and waited for Van Helsing.
Van Helsing was pacing his room when the knock came on his door. Who the hell would be knocking at this time of night? He stared at the door and realized that the only person who would be up at this time of night was Carl. For one frantic moment, he debated about not letting him in but quickly realized that Carl wasn't the type who would go away – especially when he sensed something was going on. His curiosity just wouldn't let him let it go. Steeling himself for the worst, he walked to the door and opened it.
Carl had been fidgeting nervously and was beginning to wonder if the Hunter had gone to sleep. He had been just about to turn away when the door opened. Van Helsing was looking frazzled and his hair showed signs of having been run through with agitated hands. For a moment Carl forgot his own hurt in the face of his friend's obvious distress. But then he remembered that he was the cause of that distress and that the only thing he could do to fix it was to get Van Helsing's word to stay silent and then leave him alone.
"Look, Van Helsing… ah… we need to talk…." He found it hard to say the words that would effectively end their relationship. Still, it had to be done. Straightening his back, he pushed past Van Helsing and moved so that he was standing by the window. This gave him a reason not to face Van Helsing and that would at least make it a bit easier to do what he had to do. Bad enough he had to do this without having to see the look of disgust and rejection on Van Helsing's face on top of it.
"Its clear from your reaction in the kitchen that you've been reading my papers. And while I can't say I'm not disappointed that you didn't respect my privacy, it's obvious that what you have read you don't approve of. Now I'm not going to waste my time tell you why I wrote it – its clear how you feel about it and nothing I say is going to change that. All I ask is that you agree to not tell anyone else what you have seen. Give me your word and I promise that I'll have myself transferred to the Order's operations in England. It will probably take a few weeks to organize so in the meantime, I promise not to approach you or work on any case that might arise between now and then. As much as is humanly possible, I'll make sure that you won't have to have any interactions with me whatsoever since you find me so distasteful." Carl's voice chocked a bit on the last bit and he fought to get himself under control. There would be time enough when he was done here to mourn what he had lost. For now, he needed to hold himself together long enough to get Van Helsing's promise of secrecy. Taking a deep breath, he turned around though he made sure that he didn't make eye contact with Van Helsing. "Will you give me your word?"
Van Helsing didn't respond and Carl felt himself grow cold. Did this mean that Van Helsing's disgust ran so deep that he would turn Carl in? Carl started to tremble and he had to clasp his hands together to hide it. Taking a deep breath he whispered "Please Van Helsing. I know you now despise me but please, for the sake of what friendship we once had, please do not turn me in. If you want, I'll leave the Order entirely. Leave the church. Please just let me walk away. I'll do it tonight. I can pack and be gone in an hour. Please Van Helsing… please." Tears were streaming down Carl's face and his voice cracked with fear and grief. It was clear now that he had destroyed the one relationship that had ever really mattered to him. Affection had turned to hate and there was nothing left to do but pray for some kind of mercy.
Van Helsing was frozen in shock. He had been so caught up in his own reaction to everything that he had never really considered what was going through Carl's head. He had hid from Carl because he couldn't face his own reactions to what he had read. He hadn't realized that his shame had led Carl to believe that he was disgusted and angry with him. Worse still, it had left Carl fearful for his very safety. That Carl was begging for the chance to leave – to flee in the middle of the night like a criminal – was like a knife to the gut. He had done this to the man because he was too cowardly to admit to what he felt.
He reached out a shaking hand and slowly wiped the tears from Carl's face. The feel of them made him close his eyes, tears starting to sting his own eyes. "I'm so sorry" he whispered. "I'm so very, very sorry". He continued to gently stroke Carl's cheek as he murmured his apology over and over.
Carl looked at Van Helsing in confusion. He didn't understand what was happening. Van Helsing was apologizing and his touch was so gentle. Shaking his head, he struggled to speak. "Van Helsing. Please, just tell me what you want me to do. I'll leave tonight if that's what you want. Just tell me – I can't take not knowing." He looked with pleading eyes at the dark haired man before him who still hadn't looked at Carl.
Van Helsing flinched when he heard Carl once again offer to leave. That was the last thing he wanted. None of this was Carl's fault. He was the one who read Carl's writings when Carl had clearly not wanted him to. And he was the one who was ashamed of how he now felt. He had brought this down on himself and he would not let Carl take the blame for something he had not caused.
Opening his eyes, he looked at Carl directly for the first time since reading his papers. Seeing the pain and confusion in Carl's eyes, he wanted nothing more then to wrap him in his arms and promise that no harm would ever come to him. That he didn't need to run away or to give up the work that he loved. That he was a coward but that Carl would not have to suffer because of that. He wanted to say all that and more but all that came out was "Don't go."
Carl shook his head. "I don't understand. You hate me. You hate what I wrote. Why would you want me to stay?" He looked deeply into Van Helsing's eyes, trying to make sense of it all.
Van Helsing sighed and said softly "I don't hate you, Carl. I could never hate you. And I don't hate what you wrote. I almost wish I could say that I did. What you wrote… its… god, Carl… the things it has made me think… feel… want… I'm so sorry Carl. I'm so very, very sorry!" Van Helsing hung his head, unable to meet Carl's eyes anymore.
Carl took a shuddering breath as what Van Helsing said sank in. He didn't hate Carl or what he wrote. In fact, far from hating it, it stirred something within the man that he hadn't expected. That thought had Carl's mind reeling. But why was Van Helsing apologizing?
Summoning a strength he never knew he possessed, he reached out his hand and gently raised Van Helsing's face. Van Helsing allowed him to do it but still did not meet Carl's eyes. His shame and guilt was written all over his face. With a flash of insight, Carl finally understood the final missing piece. Smiling sweetly, he leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss upon Van Helsing's lips. It was soft and slow – barely touching. A kiss to show that there was nothing more to fear between them. A kiss for beginnings.
Van Helsing took a shuddering breath and drew back from the kiss. He searched Carl's face and saw nothing there but understanding, compassion and love. It was like a huge weight dropped off him. He reached up and trailed his fingers in a gentle caress of Carl's face. It caused his fingers tingle as if charged. "Carl…" he whispered "You've woken something in me. You are my friend and yet… I want more too. What you wrote… it made me want things. Want you. Its like a hunger that grows and grows. " His fingers continued to caress Carl's cheek and neck. "I want to be the one that you write about. I want to do the things that you talked about. Do them with you. " He dropped his eyes from Carl's and his fingers stilled, cupping the back of Carl's neck. He felt suddenly nervous to ask the next question. Licking his lips, he raised his eyes again and said "Do you want to do them with me?" His heart was in his throat as the words left his mouth.
Carl closed his eyes a moment at hearing the simple question and the sincere desire and love in Van Helsing's tone. It was a dream he truly believed would never come true. Opening his eyes he gave Van Helsing a smile that held every ounce of love he felt for the man. "You are the one I write about. It is you that I picture – you that I dream of. I started writing because I needed to find a release for what I felt. There is no other I would want to give myself to." Continuing to smile, he took Van Helsing's hand and drew him towards the bed.
That night was the first of many nights the men shared together. Like Carl's writing, it had to remain a secret but it was one that was well worth keeping. For some things are just too precious to share with everyone…