A/N: Okay, I lied. It turns out the next person to start regretting his choices is von Krolock, not Sarah. But she'll get her turn. Promise.
Alfred was shaken awake violently. "Hluh? Hwuh?" he slurred. Then swallowed – right. Fangs. "Herbert – what?" he managed more clearly.
"She's here. She's here!" Herbert was bouncing with indignation.
"Who's here? What are you talking about?"
"Sarah." He narrowed his eyes. "She thinks she can just come back here! As if my father would want her again after what she did!"
"Sarah's here?" Alfred tried to clear the sleep out of his head fast. "Well maybe she didn't come for him. Maybe she came for me."
At that, Herbert laughed aloud. "She can't be that stupid, darling. It would take a lot more than a silly little girl to pry you free."
"Herbert." Alfred slapped the hand that was encroaching up his leg. "Not now. I want to go see her."
"I knew you would. Fine. But first:" Herbert shifted to put both hands on his shoulders. "Look me in the eyes and tell me you understand that Sarah doesn't want you."
Alfred couldn't raise his eyes from his lap. "I understand that Sarah doesn't want me."
"She left you, Alfred."
"She left me."
Herbert put one finger under his chin and tilted it up gently, forcing him to make eye contact. "And she was a perfect fool for doing it."
Alfred nodded but didn't repeat after him, because he knew he couldn't say it with nearly the same conviction.
"That's her loss," Herbert persisted, "And you don't need to pine after someone with such bad taste. Understand?"
Alfred nodded again, and hoped that Herbert would draw him in for a hug, and was not disappointed.
The door to von Krolock's study was closed and there were voices coming from inside. Herbert turned up his nose. "How much do you want to bet that fickle little fool is in there on her knees," he sniffed, "Begging Papa to take her back."
In there on her knees. Now Alfred couldn't look away from the door. "We were scared, Herbert," he reminded. The idea that Sarah's welcome wasn't as warm as his had been was starting to worry him. "Do you think your father's going to be angry with her?"
"I don't know. And we don't care, remember?" Herbert's hand moved over his neck, but this time, for the second time in an hour, Alfred pulled away from his touch.
"Stop it. She could need me."
Herbert heaved a sigh. "We've been over this."
They certainly had. But it was one thing not to care for Sarah when she stood tall and tossed her head proudly at him, and another thing entirely to think that she might be alone, and scared, while a terrifying vampire towered over her wanting vengeance.
He knew exactly how to break me, he knew my feelings before I did, Alfred remembered. And how much worse could he do to Sarah? Sarah, who he'd already enthralled and seduced and then bent back over his arm to-
Alfred closed his eyes and tried to make the image go away. "No. I can't leave her."
"Too late for that, darling. She left you, remember?"
"Herbert, shut up." Alfred turned to face him and put a hand on the doorknob. "I'm going in."
"He won't like being interrupted…"
"… While he terrorizes her?" Alfred hissed. "While he makes her grovel and cry, and beg for her life, and whatever you were saying?"
"Oh, relax." Herbert smirked. "I just said she'd likely be on her knees, dear. I didn't say what she'd be doing."
It took Alfred a moment to understand that, but when he did he threw the door open without a moment's hesitation and burst into the room.
As it turned out, Sarah was not on her knees at all. Rather, she was standing by the fireplace, and she was staring down at von Krolock, who was on his knees before her, bowing over her hand and pressing it to his forehead.
Her free hand, which had been stroking his hair, came up fast to cover her mouth and stifle an oh!.
The count gave a long shuddering sigh and then, without getting up or even turning to look, said: "I distinctly recall instructing you to knock, Herbert." His voice was hoarse and uneven.
Alfred swallowed. "I… it's me."
Von Krolock sighed again. "Alfred. Go away."
"Um… is everything all right?"
Sarah hissed with irritation. "It's fine. Just go." She lowered her hand to the count again, cupping his head in a way Alfred would almost call protective. "Get out."
Alfred backed away in utter confusion, shutting the door quietly. He could hear the count's voice, low and continuous, but couldn't make out words. At last he turned to Herbert. "What on earth?"
Herbert was leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. "What on earth what?"
"He was kneeling to her. It looked like he was crying."
Herbert winced. "Not again…."
"What do you mean? What's he doing?"
Herbert shook his head. "I was hoping he'd moved on past this, but… when Papa bites people he often gets very upset. Sincerely sorry. He cried for four days after he bit me."
Alfred wondered if he was being teased again. "Really?"
"Cross my heart."
"So he's … apologizing?"
"Begging forgiveness. Pouring out his heart, wailing about his soul. It's very boring, honestly." He touched Alfred's cheek and then moved to tug him back down the hallway. "Come on – there are more interesting things to do in my room. Promise."
He wasn't through worrying about Sarah, but since for the moment she seemed to be in no danger and he couldn't really interrupt a second time anyway and besides there really were interesting things to do in Herbert's room, Alfred went with him. For the moment.
So now Sarah's back in the picture.