I do not own Van Helsing or it's related characters.

"Van Helsing is destroying his room," cried a young novice before collapsing into a panting heap not far from Friar Carl's work bench. Were he any less exhausted, it would have been the last place he'd choose for a rest, the inventor being well known for his random explosions and accidental weapons discharges. But today there was no risk of further injury, for the moment the novice gasped out his message, the friar took off from the work room at a run.

"He just got back from Sicily," Brother Bernard said. He'd sent the novice to fetch the inventor and while waiting had questioned everyone in reach to find out the whole story. As good as Carl was with the Hunter, no one wanted to send him in without proper intelligence. "Brother Paul says he went to meet with Cardinal Jinette, like always, and came out looking mad, like always." It never hurt to make sure Carl knew where the information came from, to know who to go after if it was wrong rather than Bernard himself. He was a middle man and proud of it. "But Novice Michael says he saw Van Helsing head straight for his quarters rather than down the passage to the labs."

Everyone knew Van Helsing always followed up his required meeting with Cardinal Jinette with a visit with Carl in the labs. It might be for a few minutes while he gathered equipment for an immediate mission, it might be for a few hours while the two men caught up, but he always went. Michael had realized the unusual situation immediately and followed until he ran into Bernard.

"Your message said he's destroying his room?" Carl asked, the hallways currently silent except for Bernard's and his slow footsteps.

"The crashes stopped just before you arrived," Bernard said. "The racket is what got my attention just before Novice Michael met me. It went on for some time. Perhaps he ran out of things to throw."

"Perhaps," Carl replied noncommittally, his brow furrowed with concern. "Thank you for alerting me."

"Who else can handle him?" Bernard said with a shrug before hurrying off, leaving the inventor before the hunter's door.

Carl considered the monk's words. He'd always had an interest in the hunter, from the day the large man had been found broken and bloody on the steps St Paul's. That Van Helsing had developed a soft spot for the friar had been a pleasant surprise. But it had been a loose friendship until the trip to Transylvania. That trip had cemented the unlikely friendship into a firm bond, but it had also cemented into the minds of the Order that the only one who could handle the hunter was the inventor. Sometimes that faith, misplaced as Carl felt it was, was terrifying. No one could handle Van Helsing, he just put up with more from Carl because Carl had proved he was worth putting up with. Someday Carl was going to go too far, and everyone else would see the truth. Van Helsing was like a wild wolf; one could make friends with him if they moved carefully, but no one would ever tame him.

With a sigh, Carl shrugged his ruminations off and tried not to worry that this would be the time he screwed up. Going in smelling of fear was a bad idea, the friar had learned. The so-called cure for werewolves was a little lacking, seeing as Van Helsing's senses were still sharper than the norm, even the norm for him pre-Transylvania. Of course, those senses probably meant the hunter knew exactly how long Carl had been standing at his door, but the friar knocked anyway to announce himself.

Van Helsing responded with a snarl that could have been interpreted as either "come in, Carl," or "go away." Carl decided to go with the former interpretation and slipped into the room, closing the door softly behind him to block the view of a few curious gawkers at the end of the corridor.

"I heard you had an argument with Cardinal Jinette," Carl said reflexively even as he took in the field of destruction that surrounded his friend. He had been to this room before, had seen the sturdy bed and clothes press that made the bulk of the furniture, supplemented with a small table that held a basin for washing and a small lamp. Nothing was recognizable as being part of any of that furniture. All that remained were small bits of wood and torn cloth, a few scraps of ceramic, and a speckling of glass encircling the growling figure of Van Helsing.

"Gabriel," Carl finally hissed chidingly after a minute of silence. He rarely used the hunter's first name. It seemed to have been tainted by association with Dracula, but sometimes it was the only way to get through to Van Helsing. Carl was the only person who could get away with using it at all.

This time the name cut the growl coming from the hunter, but garnered the friar a harsh glare.

"What happened?" Carl asked softly, remaining by the door just in case a quick escape was needed.

"Am I weak, Carl?" Van Helsing asked, his voice a low growl coming from the shadows the way the moonlight was filtering through the window behind him.

"Never," Carl responded reflexively, unable to even believe the question as he looked about the room again. It rather looked like Van Helsing had more of the werewolf's strength than he'd been admitting to if he could reduce solid wood furniture to kindling.

"Cardinal Jinette says I am weak," Van Helsing said, sounding more lost than Carl had heard since Anna's death.

"You take more missions, handle more evil, and succeed more often in a year than the rest of the Order's hunters combined," Carl said, disbelief flavoring his tone. "I've heard the Cardinal say you should be better about bringing them back alive, but I've never heard him even imply you are weak. Or anyone else for that matter."

"I left the warlock in Sicily," Van Helsing said, his head turning from his friend, but Carl knew he was being glanced at from the corner of the hunter's eyes.

"You usually leave them behind when they are dead," Carl replied, being deliberately obtuse in an attempt to get more than dribs and drabs from his friend.

"He was still alive," was the hunter's dry response, a hint of a grin curling the visible corner of his mouth.

"That is a new one for you," Carl admitted. "Want to try including a few details? That doesn't really tell me why the Cardinal would call you weak."

Van Helsing huffed loudly, a sound that reminded Carl of the hound his family had had when he was a child, not that he would ever admit that to the hunter.

"The warlock has a wife," Van Helsing finally said. "She ... she begged me to let the local priest redeem him so she could help. I managed to capture him, alive, and turn him over."

"That's wonderful," Carl said delightedly. "Having someone who loves him rather than just priests might well be an excellent aid in bringing him back to the light of God." However, he could not miss the upset expression on Van Helsing's face, and his friend's sour mood brought the friar's down as well. "Does the local priest not have the facilities necessary?"

"The facilities would do, but he definitely doesn't have the experience," Van Helsing admitted. "I told him what I knew and promised to have some information sent, maybe even an expert to guide him."

"That's wonderful," Carl said, his tone containing a hit of question. "He should record the experience to possibly aid others in the future."

"He won't have the chance," Van Helsing growled. "Cardinal Jinette is sending another hunter to collect the warlock and bring him here."

"What? Why?" Carl asked unhappily.

"Giving in to the wife's pleading was weak," Van Helsing said, spitting out the words as though they disgusted him. "The only proper place to redeem a warlock is the Vatican. I should have brought him straight here and was a fool not to. Love, apparently, is a distraction no hunter can afford."

"Nonsense," Carl managed though his tight throat. He couldn't imagine his friend's reaction to such words, not after what happened to Anna. "This is an incredible opportunity. And it is never weak to respect the family's wishes. Unless they are being completely unreasonable about the danger their loved one puts others in. God's love for all his creatures is one of the foremost tenants of our faith." As he continued to speak, his voice became clearer, his words more confident.

"Tell that to Jinette," Van Helsing snapped, his head turning to face the friar, his eyes almost glowing in the moonlight.

The friar refused to be cowed by his friends other-worldly eyes and soldiered on. "You ensured the warlock was fully contained before you left?"

"Of course," the hunter snapped. He was looking sharply at Carl, but it wasn't quite a glare, more a searching gaze.

Even so, Carl dropped his eyes slightly, fixing his view on the hunter's shoulder. Not staring into Van Helsing's eyes was a trick the friar had learned on the trip back from Transylvania. The hunter had almost attacked him once before he'd realized the trigger. Cardinal Jinette still refused to understand why it was so easy for him to piss his best hunter off, besides his attitude of course, and Carl was disinclined to explain. Even the Order occasionally caught the eye of the Inquisition.

"Then you did all you should, and the Cardinal should be happy to have an opportunity to observe the effect of romantic attachment on redemption," Carl said firmly. "And I will be happy to tell him so. In fact, I know several researchers who can probably come up with evidence in the archives to support the idea." That thought cheered Carl up completely. His eyes lit with excitement, and he dared a quick glance at the hunter's face, amused to find him looking rather flabbergasted.

"Yes, you go take a bath while I get them started ... and maybe talk to the monks in stores about fixing this mess," Carl began to babble. "You'll feel better talking to the Cardinal again after you've had a chance to clean up. I don't know why he refuses to let you settle in a little before you meetings. They would go so much smoother if he would just ..."

"Carl!" Van Helsing called, clasping a hand to Carl's shoulder to get his attention.

Startled, Carl looked up into the hunter's eyes.

"You really want to try and confront Jinette about this?" Van Helsing asked, his face blank. But behind his firm expression, his eyes were pleading. That cemented Carl's plan of action. It was about time someone stood up for the hunter.

"Of course. With proper back up, anyway," Carl replied cheerfully, grinning with the excitement of starting a new project. "Anyone I tell the story to will likely back us, and we'll get historical references. You'll see, help will be on the way by the end of the week at the latest. Likely sooner."

"And the hunter that's to be sent today?" Van Helsing asked sardonically.

"Will likely back us as well," Carl said confidently. They didn't show it obviously, but Carl had noticed the other hunters in the Order tended to defer to Van Helsing, following his lead and repeating his tricks whenever possible. It was time they came out and admitted what everyone knew, that Van Helsing was the head of the hunters. He had earned their respect, it was time to use it. "You'll see, after you bathe."

"You trying to say I stink?" Van Helsing said, a hint of humor in his tone now. His shoulders were starting to relax and his eyes looked, for lack of a better explanation, more human.

"If you can't tell, your nose has probably gone numb in self defense," Carl replied playfully. "Off with you," he continued, opening the door and standing aside to let the hunter pass. "I'll have stores send up something clean and someone to fix this mess."

Van Helsing paused in the doorway, looking back at the wreckage he had created. Then he looked at Carl and with a soft smile said, "Thank you." The words were so quiet, only Carl could hear them, and he only barely. But it was enough.

Carl grinned in response and waved Van Helsing on, promising with his eyes that he would always be there for his friend. "Come, I've got scholars to wrangle and a Cardinal to convince."