Disclaimer: I'm just playing with someone else's toys...
I usually pre-write all of my stories with pen and paper while I'm trying to get to sleep, passing out eventually from exhaustion, before typing them on my computer. This one, however, I just sat down and wrote in Microsoft Word, which makes it feel a little weird to me. What I'm trying to say is that you should review to let me know that it's not complete crap ;D (Or maybe it is... either way, I'd love to hear your thoughts)
It's been a while since I last posted, so just humor me, ok?
"How is she?" Van Helsing demanded, looking up from his vigil at the window as the friar entered the room. His features were etched with worry.
Carl held his hands up in front of him in some effort to placate the agitated man. "She'll live" he assured him calmly, nearly collapsing in a nearby chair, his features softened from exhaustion. He twisted, craning his neck to face Van Helsing. "It's some kind of miracle, but she'll live." The only sound heard was the constant rain pounding on the window, falling heavily outside the manor. Carl fidgeted in his seat, waiting for Van Helsing to respond.
He didn't have to wait long. Van Helsing turned around to face Carl, not meeting his gaze. "How bad was it?" he asked, and Carl got the impression that the monster hunter didn't want to know the answer.
He chose his words carefully, not wanting to upset his friend any more than possible. "She suffered from severe bruising on her upper body, and I found a few minor abrasions. Your… claws must have…" he let his sentence dangle in the air, realizing with a small panic what he had been about to say. "They weren't fatal" he amended quickly, although the damage had already been done; Van Helsing's expression had darkened considerably as the monster hunter was once again burdened with memories of that night's battle. "I cleaned the wounds visible to me. With any luck they won't even scar." Van Helsing rubbed the back of his neck wearily, his eyes closed in either concentration or grief. Were Carl to venture a guess, he would assume it to be both.
Suddenly, Van Helsing looked up at his friend, who still remained twisted around in his seat. "Carl," he said seriously, "What else?" Seeing that the friar was about to protest, he cut him off. "What are you concealing from me?"
Carl sighed, dropping his gaze to the floor. He had hoped Van Helsing would be too distracted to notice that some cuts and bruises were far too few results of a full-grown werewolf tackling you, but he should have remembered exactly who the werewolf was…and who it was being tackled. He took a deep breath.
"There is a bone, here" he began, indicating on his own arm with his thumb the end of a bone near his wrist, "She must have fallen on it. The very end of her ulna was fractured. She'll need to keep it in splint I've made. She should regain full mobility, although she is sure to experience some amount of discomfort in the next few months. This is, of course, assuming the fracture is not as serious as it could be." He chanced a glance at the monster hunter, and was disheartened to see the emotionless expression settle on his face. He continued, "I'm also fairly certain that she's fractured a few of her ribs, and unless I'm very much mistaken, the force of the blow also resulted in a rather large fracture of her clavicle." He motioned to his collarbone silently.
"You bandaged her up?" came the sullen response.
At this, Carl began to blush. He tugged at the collar of his robes nervously, averting his gaze from Van Helsing. "I thought, perhaps, under the circumstances, you might be the better choice to oversee that particular, uh, course of action."
Van Helsing rounded on the embarrassed friar, and from the look on his face Carl was fairly certain the man was upset. "You what?" he asked, his voice dangerously calm.
Carl met the man's gaze, his face now a bright red. "The bandages are in her room at the foot of the bed, and I've filled a basin with warm water. It's on the dresser against the far wall." he told him sheepishly, "Should you need anything else, though I couldn't imagine what else you might want, it's sure to be somewhere in this enormous manor."
Van Helsing pursed his lips to keep from yelling at the timid friar. He took a calming breath, squaring his shoulders before walking out of the room silently, leaving behind a very relieved friar.
He had been about to knock of the thick wooden frame of Anna's door before he caught himself; she had fallen into unconscious on the return from Dracula's castle, and understandably so. Carl had hurriedly informed him, somehow managing his voice to carry over Van Helsing's panicked tone, that it was merely her body's way of beginning to heal. Shaking his head, Van Helsing pushed open her door cautiously, making his way inside.
Her room was dark, lit only by the stray streaks of moonlight slanting in from the windows. The rhythmic sound of the rain crashing against the windows outside was strangely lulling, echoing off the large walls of her room. Van Helsing stood still, silent, listening to the pounding of the rain and comforting breathing of the princess, lying unmoving under thick covers. He frowned; on listening closely to the princess's quiet exhales he could hear an unpleasant grating sound. He sighed. Carl had been right to assume she had suffered a broken rib. He was surprised she hadn't suffered much more.
Van Helsing busied himself with lighting the thick wax candles perched on the sill of her window, unable to just yet approach the princess. The soft golden glow of the now flickering flame bathed the room with its soft light, casting the room's corners into shadow. He found his gaze drawn to Anna, the curves of her face highlighted by the flickering candles, and suddenly his resolve hardened. He would dally no longer.
The strips of linen folded carefully at the foot of her bed were exactly as Carl had described them, waiting patiently for Van Helsing to make use of them. He sighed heavily, gathering up the lot of them. He made his way to the head of Anna's bed, dropping the bandages near her sleeping form. The covers had been tucked thoughtfully around the princess, cocooning her in plush layers of quilts and sheets. Delicately he began to unwrap her, pulling the covers off to pool in soft folds at her hips. The loose shirt and fitted jacket he had come to know her in still clothed her upper body, and some part of Van Helsing begin to feel quite embarrassed as he realized exactly how much of the princess he would have to expose to bandage her wounds properly. Part of him wondered, as his rough fingers brushed against her skin in removing the jacket, gently tugging the thin fabric of her top up over her head, if he had any right.
Another part of him was relieved by the fact that Carl had chosen to leave this particular task to him.
He folded her clothes with as much care and skill as he could muster, although they ended up looking as though they had been balled up hastily. He set them by the bandages.
Van Helsing saw the few scratches Carl had tended to, marring the smooth plane of her lower stomach, before his eyes traveled upwards, realizing the full extent of his attack. Fresh bruises mottled her upper body, one, he recognized with a nauseating horror, in the shape of a large paw print. He could clearly see the scratches he had inflicted upon her, red and swollen against her pale skin. The monster hunter was frozen for a moment, unable to bear that he had caused this; the pain she was sure to meet upon waking, the physical evidence of a brutal attack marking her very flesh, was all because of him. Gently his fingers traced her bruises, whispering over her skin. He bowed his head in shame, lifting a bandage to begin to fix what he himself had broken.
Carl's faced was etched with worry, a crease forming in his furrowed brows. Van Hesling had spent a great deal of time in the princess' room, emerging only moments before in a terrible depression. Carl had never before seen him in such a state, and although he considered himself a close, perhaps even only, friend to the unpredictable monster hunter, he found himself unsure how to proceed. What could possibly be said to him now, in this condition? Carl wracked his mind, a sense of deep discontent and disappointment settling over him as he realized that, for once, he had no idea what to do.
Van Helsing solved that particular problem for him:
"What are we doing here, Carl?" His question comes out as more of a deep sigh, and suddenly Carl thinks he feels a heavy weight drop onto his shoulders. He tries to evade the question because he is neither a troubled monster hunter nor fierce gypsy princess but he could attempt, at least, being some small form of comic relief.
"Well, this room is rather close to the princess's which means I don't have to wander about these halls to check her wounds, assuming of course I'm not entirely welcome to set up camp in her room which I'm fairly certain would only end rather badly for me." He's rambling and he knows it but for the life of him he can't stop, "And the fireplace, I think, is a nice touch. I don't know if you've noticed but it can get quite chilly in this big drafty castle…"
Van Helsing stopped his pacing in front of a large window; Carl could see the troubled man's expression in the glass, fat raindrops bouncing off the thick panes distorting the image. His brow was furrowed in an expression of deep concentration, and Carl spared a moment to really study his friend's face. Van Helsing was incredibly saddened by something.
"That's not what I meant, Carl" he finally spoke, no trace of humor in his voice from the friar's ramblings. "I shouldn't be here." He gestured about the room with his hands half-heartedly, never turning from the darkened window. "I killed her brother, and very nearly Anna herself. I have no right to be here." His shoulders fell the tiniest bit, but to Carl the change in Van Helsing's posture spoke volumes. Never before had he seen the man so broken.
"Van Helsing" Carl offered timidly, "You've helped to ensure that Anna's family will finally be able to pass through Heaven's gates. You've helped her to fulfill the promise of her ancestors." He paused, hoping to see his words have an effect, any effect, on Van Helsing. He thought for a second that he saw the man's bowed head dip in a slight nod, but a moment later he found himself unsure Van Helsing had moved at all. Carl rolled his eyes, continuing, "If any of us have a right to be here, Van Helsing… I'm sure Anna would look upon it as an insult if you were to leave now."
Van Helsing turned from the window to face the friar, tugging free the thick fabric curtains, watching with some satisfaction as they fell over the darkened glass with a soft swish. He made his way over to the friar, lowering himself into a plush chair in front of the cackling fireplace. The light cast his face into shadows, making the monster hunter features seem unusually sharp, dangerous. "Thank you, Carl" he said, a minute grin beginning to form at the very corner of his mouth. The old chair groaned under Van Helsing's weight as he shifted slightly, sinking into the ornate fabric.
Carl nodded solemnly, fingers pressing into the arms of his own chair nervously, choosing not to respond otherwise to Van Helsing. It was obvious, especially to the observant friar, that Van Helsing was still burdened by his guilt, and the last thing Carl wanted was to somehow worsen those particular feelings. Still, their current situation left more questions than answers, a scenario Carl wasn't entirely comfortable with. And, he thought, it might be better for Van Helsing to begin to concentrate on some of those questions, rather than brood moodily over recent events.
"Van Helsing?" Carl asked cautiously, breaking the uncomfortable silence that had settled over the pair. The monster hunter looked up from underneath the wide brim of his trademark hat, unspeaking. He silently urged the friar to continue. Carl took a deep breath, steeling himself for whatever Van Helsing's reaction would be. "What… what do we do now?"
His only response was a sharp exhale of breath from the monster hunter. Carl took this as a sign to continue.
He bit bottom lip nervously. "I mean, that is to say, what happens now? What are we…are we staying here? Are you staying here? Does Anna…have you talked to her at all? Granted, I doubt an opportune moment has really revealed itself, but, I don't know, maybe when you went in to, you know, bandage the, uh, wound and all…" His ramblings trailed off as he realized Van Helsing's head had dipped, posture slumped, breathing even in sleep. Carl allowed a small smile to flicker across his face; after all that had happened the least the monster hunter deserved was a bit of rest.
He pulled himself out of his chair, making his way across the room quietly, careful not to wake his drowsing friend. Tossing another log on the fire, contented by the small shower of sparks that erupted at the introduction of another log, Carl let himself sink back into his chair, twisting to find a comfortable position, willing himself into a dreamless sleep where matters such as inconvenient questions and unfathomable answers and a badly wounded gypsy princess caught somewhere in the middle of the two were not a reality.
He found, looking at the man slumbering in the chair across from him, that such a place did not exist.