Fools in Love

DISCLAIMER: I do not own anything, apart from the plotline of this fic.

Morning was still hours away as the carriage sped the Professor, Alfred, and Sarah away from Castle von Krolock. The wind howled, the horses were restless and impatient, and Sarah was drawing lazy patterns on Alfred's neck. Herbert chased the carriage, and his father chased him. They might not have caught up, if the combination of a blizzard and the smell of the vampires had not spooked the horses, and toppled the carriage.

Sarah and Alfred rolled out of the way, and they were up in time to see the professor fall off his perch. In a flash, the Count had Sarah, who immediately forgot that she was about to bite Alfred. Herbert reached Alfred a split-second later, crying out, "Alfred!" Alfred wanted to shrug him off, but he couldn't help being touched that Herbert worried about him at all, and though he'd never admit it, he was simply too scared to move away. Then, everything in his world went black.

Alfred woke to find himself in thick, dry pajamas, (definitely not thinking about how he got into them,) tucked snugly in the bed he was given when he first arrived. Herbert was flitting around the room. Alfred watched him for a minute, then closed his eyes to savor the smell of porridge.

"Eat, darling," Herbert said, placing a tray in Alfred's lap as Alfred opened his eyes.

"Dear God! Professor Abronsius!" Alfred cried, falling back onto the pillows.

"He was dead long before the horses spooked, mon Chèrie. I'm sorry," Herbert said with a sympathetic look.

"He's… is he…?" asked Alfred, sitting up again.

"Koukol buried him, and marked his grave with a stone. He's on holy ground, I promise." Something about Herbert's tone made Alfred certain he was telling the truth, and he was both moved and comforted. Without another word, he ate his breakfast. A warm feeling of strength spread through his body. Herbert, meanwhile, had disappeared to the bathroom. Alfred heard water pouring into the tub.

"I've drawn you a bath, darling. I'll be in the library if you need me," said Herbert, as he came back out of the bathroom. Alfred stopped Herbert at the door.

"Thank you, Herbert." Herbert smiled and left Alfred to bathe. It took all he had not to run to Alfred and kiss him before leaving. Or offer to bathe the boy himself. Alfred had been through enough, after all. As Alfred cleaned himself up, wondering what would happen next, he reflected on Sarah's approach just after they got out of the wrecked carriage, and the hunger in her eyes.

Alfred did not join the others that night. He didn't want to be alone, but he couldn't bring himself to face anyone else yet. He mourned the professor in solitude. Just before the sun rose, Herbert knocked on the door. When Alfred answered, Herbert said, "We're all going to bed now, darling." Alfred tried not to start crying after the stress of the day as he said, "Sleep well, Herbert." Herbert gave him a warm smile, nodded, and left.

The next night, Alfred met Sarah in one of the many rooms in the castle whose purpose Alfred was unsure of. He'd been exploring, and considered himself quite lost until he spotted her. It all started out innocently enough. Until Alfred decided to sit in the chair next to her. Before he knew what was happening, Sarah was slowly petting his arm. Fingering his hear. Tickling his neck. Alfred's head swam so that he could barely register Herbert's voice calling his name. Both Sarah and Alfred jumped when the door opened, and Herbert shouted at the sight of Sarah pinning the student to the floor.

What happened next was a blur of commotion. Sarah bared her fangs as Alfred struggled and Herbert grabbed Sarah by the throat. He threw Sarah to the other side of the room and grabbed Alfred, shielding the boy from her in an embrace. Alfred was terrified almost to the point of passing out, but he settled himself deeper in Herbert's arms. Sarah's voice practically dripped from her mouth as she said, "As if you're any safer with him! He wants you right now at least as much as I do!" Alfred let himself puzzle over this.

"The difference is I want him," Herbert said. Sarah laughed.

"I don't see why. What good is he to anyone, blood notwithstanding?"

"Did I ever mean anything to you?" Alfred asked, leaving his thoughts behind. It broke Herbert's heart, but sent Sarah into a fit of hysterical laughter.

"I see," Alfred mumbled. Herbert clutched him tighter still, and led him away. They went to Herbert's room, where it was safe.

Alfred sat on the edge of Herbert's bed, next to Herbert. Herbert put a hand on his back, but Alfred stayed perfectly still, staring at his lap. He didn't even cry. They sat motionless like that for what felt like hours.

"Alfred, darling, as fascinating as your lap is, are you certain you don't want to talk to me?" Alfred didn't snap as Herbert hoped he would.

"I loved her."

"I know mon Chèrie," Herbert said, tightening his grip on Alfred. He rubbed Alfred's back, laying him down on his side to rest. Alfred fell asleep under Herbert's hand, unable to stop himself from thinking how pleasant Herbert's touch was.

When Alfred woke the following evening, he was startled to find himself tucked in Herbert's bed. He calmed down as he remembered the previous night, and noticed Herbert reclining on a comfortable chair, rubbing his eyes.

"Good evening, Alfred! Are you feeling any better?" Alfred shook his head as his eyes began to water again.

Herbert immediately gathered Alfred up. The tears rolled down Alfred's cheek as he said, "I couldn't even save her! Oh, I am worthless!"

"Alfred, don't you ever let me hear you say that again!" Herbert shouted, pushing Alfred an arm's length away.

"I'm worthless! An ugly, pathetic little nothing!" Herbert tugged Alfred roughly up, and dragged him to the vanity, forcing him to sit down and look at himself in the mirror. He gently pinned Alfred down from behind. Herbert reached for the cloth in the wash basin, and washed Alfred's face. Then he combed the knots out of Alfred's curls.

"Now, Alfred. What do you see?" he asked when he was finished fussing.

"What?"

"You heard me. What do you see?" asked Herbert, smiling.

"I see a nothing. A worthless waste of space. A complete and utter fool!" Herbert awed over this.

Alfred shook his head at the reflection in the mirror, and Herbert began rubbing Alfred's shoulders. He said, "I see a wonderful, beautiful man." Alfred scoffed, rolling his eyes.

"But it's true, darling! Those silky curls. Soft skin. Those eyes!" To tease Alfred a little, Herbert said, "I never saw a more perfect butt before you." He pulled back and glanced down before leaning in and turning his face to Alfred's ear to say, "And your lips are irresistibly kissable." All the while Alfred was squirming, fighting between being flattered and being uncomfortable, but Herbert kept him in the seat, and forced him to listen.

"Herbert… Why can't Sarah see any of that?" Alfred asked, blushing so hard it took all Herbert's strength not to bite him.

"Because, as much as this hurts you to hear, she is in love with Father," Herbert said, sighing.

"Does that have to make her so cruel?" Herbert nodded. It wouldn't do any good to tell him she was always that way. Alfred thought this over, but found it hard to be sad while Herbert continued rubbing his shoulders. He felt so peaceful and deliciously spoiled that he could only close his eyes on a sigh and lean his head back on Herbert's stomach.

Herbert would not hear of Alfred being alone or even leaving the room that night. Not that Alfred wanted to leave. He reasoned with himself that this was just because he'd never been treated the way he treated the professor before. The oddly flattering way Herbert held him as they slept had nothing to do with it.

When he woke the next afternoon, Alfred went to pay his respects to the professor. Herbert was waiting by the window at the front door for him to come home safely almost the second he woke that evening. He was still by the door an hour later when Sarah found him.

Sarah looked over his shoulder at the window.

"I don't know whether to stake you or thank you and ask you to do it again," Herbert said without turning to look at her.

"What are you on about?"

"Alfred was only too glad to have my company. And he was so obedient. I, on the other hand, wanted to rip your head off…" Sarah shuddered involuntarily; luckily for her the conversation ended there. Alfred was walking up to the door.

Sarah gave an annoyed growl and stormed off as Herbert flung the door open before Alfred could even knock.

"You're home!" Herbert said as Alfred blinked.

"Did you wait for me all evening?" Alfred asked, smiling just a little.

"What else is there to do?" Herbert asked, shrugging. Alfred gave a slow nod.

"Can we talk, Herbert?" Herbert grinned.

"Of course, libeling, of course. Come with me." Alfred followed Herbert back to Alfred's room, and they sat on the bed together.

Alfred cleared his throat and stammered, "I never properly thanked you for all your help, did I?" Herbert shook his head.

"Thank you," Alfred said, looking him in the eye.

"You're welcome," said Herbert, smiling still brighter.

"I really mean it, Herbert," he said, laughing once.

"I know, darling." Alfred got up to stand in front of Herbert.

"Why do you do that?" Herbert was confused and his face fell, so Alfred said, "Call me all those pet names." Herbert's grin reclaimed his face as he reached out to smack Alfred's arm.

"Because I love you, you beautiful little fool!" Then he started laughing quietly to himself.

Alfred rubbed his arm as he thought. What could he say? He couldn't question the truth of such a confession. It was too direct, and Herbert proved it too often. He didn't know what to do, either. After all, he loved Sarah, didn't he? Then again, what was the point of loving her? Especially when she made it so clear how cruel she was. Terrible as he found the concept, he had to admit the woman he fell for didn't exist. His eyes were focused on the floor. When he looked up into Herbert's face, it shocked him to see the things he looked for in Sarah staring back at him. But Herbert was a man. Alfred sat back down, and Herbert turned to face him.

Herbert waited expectantly. He had no notion of what might happen, but he knew it had to be something.

"I really have been a fool, haven't I?" Alfred asked.

"You were in love," said Herbert, shrugging.

"How do you know I'm not still in love?"

"Because surely you wouldn't be that foolish." Alfred shook his head. Herbert decided he'd best let Alfred get ready for bed, kissing Alfred's forehead as he left. Alfred groaned in protest, but deep down he had to admit several things: first, the kiss felt good. Second, Herbert had very soft lips. Third, it could have been worse, and last, the surprising chastity of it was endearing. Herbert endearing was certainly a novel concept, and he went to sleep wondering at what exact point a vampire and a vampire hunter's assistant became… whatever they were.

The next night, Alfred found the count walking the library. He wanted to ignore the man… vampire, but Count von Krolock saw Alfred put A Lover's Guide back on the shelves.

"I wondered when you were going to part with that," von Krolock said, simply.

"It has no advice for letting go," Alfred said with a wistful sigh. The Count nodded, and soon they found themselves sitting together.

"First love is always the hardest to lose. And worse when unrequited." Alfred lowered his gaze for a moment from the count's face.

"No, she wasn't what you needed," the Count continued as though reading Alfred's thoughts.

"Why can't anything be simple?" Alfred asked, shaking his head.

"If you had accepted Herbert, it would be." Alfred couldn't even bring himself to act affronted.

"But Herbert's a man."

"If you are vowing not to have him, then stop thinking about that kiss," Count von Krolock said, leaning toward Alfred. Alfred went pale as an oh-so-smug voice behind him said, "Vati has a sixth sense about these things, Liebling." Alfred ignored Herbert.

"How do you—?" he asked.

"It's my gift, Alfred. It enables me to find people like you and Sarah. Only right now it does nothing but plague me." He stood up, saying, "I'm going to leave you to sort your mess out. I think Herbert wants a word in private, Alfred." He left, and Alfred took a breath before getting up to turn and face Herbert.

Herbert's face was a lazy smile like a cat staring at a bird with a broken wing. He said, "Is it true, what Vati said?" Alfred dragged a hand across his face.

"Herbert, I have been thinking about the restraint of the kiss. It isn't like I've been gushing over you behind your back." Herbert pouted.

"That's all?" Alfred motioned for Herbert to join him.

"I'm sorry." Herbert shook it off.

"It wouldn't be the first time Vati tried to change someone like that for me. I just…" As he trailed off, he began to cry. The tears came slowly, and he wiped them furiously away. It took him several minutes to realize that Alfred had gathered him up.

Alfred shushed him, cradling his cheek to wipe away tears with a thumb. He rocked Herbert gently back and forth. He dimly registered the tightness in his fingers as he clutched Herbert, who was sobbing away centuries of heartache, loneliness, and disappointment. Alfred tried to explain their— friendship? Over the sobs, but somehow, that didn't feel right. It certainly didn't help. He had the strong urge to protect Herbert. They continued on like that for hours that felt like days, until they fell asleep holding each other, with Alfred's back against the chair.

When they woke, Herbert couldn't resist the snuggling in to Alfred's lap as Alfred asked if he was better. When did this closeness become something other than worrisome? Sweet?

"Alfred would you… let me kiss you? Just once?" Herbert asked, looking up at Alfred's face. Alfred protested that Herbert had already.

"No, I mean kiss you. Just once?" Alfred wanted to ask what good it would do, but he didn't. After all, had not Herbert's affection brought him comfort? Why, then, could his affectionate act not do the same? In a halting voice, he said, "Alright." Herbert tilted Alfred's chin and kissed his lips.

At first, Alfred didn't move. It was several moments of struggling with the unexpected pleasure of the kiss before Alfred realized sitting like a statue could hardly be a comfort to Herbert. And he could feel Herbert trying not to get frustrated as he repeatedly licked Alfred's lips. Tentatively, Alfred opened his mouth. Herbert's tongue explored Alfred's mouth 'til he spooked and pushed Herbert away. Alfred gasped, and it seemed he couldn't get away from Herbert's eyes.

"You could have just asked me to stop." Alfred could see Herbert trying not to cry again.

"Herbert."

Before Herbert could respond or Alfred could analyze his behavior, they were kissing again. Herbert worried Alfred was getting carried away, but when he tried to pull away, Alfred held him firmly in place. Herbert melted when Alfred separated to say, "I do, Herbert," between smaller kisses.

"Do what, darling?" Alfred shook his head, chuckling.

"Herbert." Herbert's eyes were sparkling.

"I just want to hear you say it, Liebling."

"I love you," Alfred said, touching Herbert's cheek. Herbert turned his head slightly to kiss Alfred's palm.

Anxious over his confession to Herbert, and confused over when, he had fallen in love with Herbert in the first place, Alfred went to church to talk to a priest the following day. Surely God sanctions anything said or done with love. When he explained all in confession, he left excommunicated. Alfred knew he ought to be afraid for his soul, and sad that the church cast him aside, but all he could feel was free.

A year later, he returned to Professor Abronsius's grave to say a final goodbye. At midnight, he lay pinned under Herbert on Herbert's bed. Herbert was drinking, and Alfred was screaming, though no sound would leave his throat. When Herbert finished, he slit his own wrist, pulling Alfred into his lap to make less of a mess.

Both men moaned as Alfred drank. He never knew anything could feel so good. So right. Alfred felt Herbert squirming underneath him, but did not stop drinking until he felt them both shudder. Herbert screamed Alfred's name as though Alfred had just lifted him up to touch Heaven. When they were both spent, they collapsed in a heap, kissing and giggling breathlessly, to wait for Alfred's transition.