Characters: Strauss, Bridget
Summary: A dream he had for a moment, before it died and was as though it had never been at all.
Pairings: (sort-of) Strauss x Bridget; Strauss x Stella
Author's Note: Though I've used the term before, I don't really like the term "illegitimate child". If anything, I find it more offensive than the term "bastard child", since to me it somehow implies that a child can be unlawful (Yes, my reasoning is—as ever—a bit strange); the term "bastard" wasn't meant as an insult until some genius decided it should be. Therefore, I will from here on out in any work either use the term "bastard child" or "natural child" if I have to, and since this is rated T anyway I figured I might as well go with "bastard child". You may proceed to laugh at me if you so wish, but I'm telling you, there's something wrong with the idea that a child can be unlawful.
Disclaimer: I don't own The Record of a Fallen Vampire.

He hadn't always known and been captivated by Stella Hazelburke, of course. There was a time in the life of Akabara Strauss when her name wasn't even an inkling on his mind or his heart.

And in that time, something strange and strangely wonderful feeling starts to come over him.

For many years, Strauss has had under his care Bridget, bastard daughter of the King of the Kingdom of Night. The relationship they share is not exactly that of father and daughter, though Strauss calls Bridget 'Daughter' to himself in an effort to make things simpler. It is more that she has been his ward and protégée, the inheritrix of every experience and lesson Strauss has had to teach, possibly more truly then any biological child Strauss could have.

Though Bridget is young, she is not a child anymore.

The spark bursts into life, glowing and ready to ignite into a flame at the slightest impetus. That physical closeness between the two of them, the sort that seems to herald some sort of sexual attraction in all others, is something that Strauss finds perfectly natural and comfortable at some times, and new and prickling at others, the feel of Bridget's bare skin against his hand, two hands meeting over the dinner table, enough to make his skin feel warm.

Adelheid will never be to Strauss what her sister is, though they are bound to each other by the betrothal of a legitimately born princess to the youngest general in the land. Adelheid will never be able to slide into a niche that so ill fits her; she perseveres admirably, but to no avail. Strauss is kind to her, because he knows it to be his duty to be kind, because it is easy to be kind to Adelheid—it's nearly impossible to dislike Adelheid, given her sweet and guileless demeanor—, and because it's not in Strauss to show unkindness to those who have done nothing to deserve such treatment. But she'll never be what Bridget is to him.

Bridget alone will Strauss ever trust and rely upon without question. She has proved herself over and over again, always following and abiding by his word even when Strauss can tell that she would like better to argue. A simple nod of the golden-haired head and she says she understands, face pale and jaw set, eyes gleaming oddly.

He has the measure of her devotion, though there are times when Strauss wishes he did not, that he could labor on in ignorance and perhaps be somewhat happy in that lack of knowledge.

But he's not ignorant, and he can't say that this situation is entirely unhappy.

It would be a simple arrangement, a happy dream to maybe give them both some cheer in dark corners.

It would be so easy, for both of them, to slip past what little boundaries are left. They are already used to the presence of each other's bodies, used to contact, to somewhat languid exploration, to the feeling of being so close that they are sharing a single skin.

And it would be so very easy, since Strauss knows how easy it would be to love her in such a way and Bridget practically seems to consider it her birthright, practically taking it for granted that they will be lovers someday, sooner if not later.

All of these half-explored, unfinished thoughts shrivel the moment Strauss meets a young village girl, and before the night is over finds his soul bound to hers as though it has always been that way.

He forgets what it was he felt for Bridget before, forgets how lines were slowly being crossed and discarded, thrown recklessly away. He forgets that he was ready to throw away a kingdom for a bastard princess whose loyalty was absolute.

Now, he instead throws the kingdom away for a human girl.

Bridget does not forget. She hurts inside of herself, and grows harder, the steel forged in fire finally starting to cool and harden, and she never makes mention of what once was to Strauss, or to anyone else.

This dream has fallen and shattered like glass on the floor.