Guess who's trying something a little different? *waves* It's me. Anyway, influences on this range from Starrrz, Werepuppy and redrachxo to... I don't know, it's 4am again. Anyway this is part one of I don't even know. Some of it is written. Some is not. Should be a ride (albeit a short-ish one. In theory.)
Disclaimer: Not mine, never mine.
Vlad stirred, calling out in his sleep, and Bertrand pushed the door open to check on him.
"Robin, I didn't mean to, I need to undo it, please be okay… Robin, Robin!" He closed the door again; he was having some kind of nightmare, that much was clear. "I miss you," came the mumbled confession from the sleeping vampire behind the door, and Bertrand knew there was something he had to do.
It had taken very little effort to worm the information he needed out of Ingrid, and less to fly to Stokely. Vlad would notice his absence, of course, but that couldn't be helped. He'd managed to find his way to the sixth-form before dawn, and was waiting for Branagh's form tutor when she arrived. It took no time at all to convince the woman to send the boy to Garside for a very important Art workshop at the end of the week, and then Bertrand was free to lurk in a shady corner until darkness fell and he could return to his own school. He didn't notice the dark haired boy sitting outside the classroom, plugged in to silent earphones.
On Friday, Bertrand woke Vlad a little earlier than the boy usually liked to wake, and warned him that he'd already been called in sick for the day.
"Why?" Bertrand treated him to his most enigmatic – and therefore terrifying – smile.
"I've got you a present." The reaction was not quite what he'd hoped for.
"Oh, great. Is this one going to try and kill me?" Vlad must have noticed his tutor's expression. "No offence, Bertrand. Your track record's not great."
Robin trudged up the driveway, shifting his bag higher onto his shoulder as it slipped. His train had been late, that was the story he was going to stick to. He hadn't overslept and missed it, no, it had definitely been delayed. He glanced at the piece of paper he'd jotted all the details down on. Report to the side door – well, he'd heard weirder requests, especially from arty types. And he really wanted to spend some time just drawing. If he happened to get the chance to draw someone, or something, particularly inspiring, that would be a bonus, of course.
He knocked on the side door and was greeted by a somehow familiar face, and certainly not the one he'd been expecting to see. It took him a few moments to place it.
"Renfield! No way, is that you?"
"You've got to be kidding." Vlad could hear the boy at the door as well as Bertrand could, though, and he didn't need Bertrand to contradict his statement. "You brought Robin here? Why?"
"You were calling for him in your sleep again the other night, while I was on guard duty. Nobody else knows, don't worry."
"That's not the point, Bertrand! Last night I dreamt about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, are you going to bring them here too?"
"You and this Robin clearly have some unresolved issues to work out. I am simply trying to help you do that so you can be the most efficient Grand High Vampire you can be." Vlad narrowed his eyes at his tutor and he realised he wasn't going to persuade him that easily. "I can get rid of him-"
"No." The bare longing in his student's voice surprised him, but Vlad got himself under control quickly. "He's not a snack, Bertrand. If you so much as-"
"I was just going to send him back to Stokely." Vlad relaxed slightly.
"He's come all this way. I might as well see him."
Bertrand was glad he'd reached that conclusion, because it was at that moment that Renfield ushered Robin into the throne room. The tutor simply stepped backwards, into the darkest shadows, and retreated outside the door.
Call me if you need me.
Robin barely noticed the tall man melting into the shadows, too busy gazing around him in wonder.
"Wow, this place looks just like the castle inside… oh yeah." He took three steps forward and gave Vlad a shove which, since he wasn't expecting it, sent him stumbling backwards a few steps. "What the hell, man? You could have at least called or written or something."
"I'm really sorry, Robin."
"Yeah, well, you should be. I was a kid, I thought something horrible had happened to you. I had nightmares for months, not that I can remember much about them." Vlad frowned, but Robin wasn't going to dwell on the past. "This is so cool! It still looks like a horror film set."
Vlad smiled slightly at that, but he still looked like he was trying to make his mind up about something incredibly important.
"You haven't changed a bit, have you?" He bit his lip. "Robin, can you keep a secret?"
He nodded, Vlad stared intently into his eyes, and then everything slipped out of focus.
Bertrand paced the corridor outside, wondering if he'd done the right thing. What if Vlad couldn't cope with seeing his old friend? After all, he was hardly the least sensitive of vampires. And what if the breather attacked him? He could be furious at being abandoned; Bertrand could understand that, the hurt that betrayal always left behind.
"Robin, can you keep a secret?" he heard, and then there was a long silence. The unfamiliar voice of the breather was the next thing to reach his ears.
"You git. What the hell did you do that for?" There was the slight thud of a fist hitting an arm, an answering thud, and then, just as Bertrand was about to burst into the room and intervene, "This is fogging awesome. Return of the dream team, yeah? You need my help for something, right? Are you finally gonna bite me?"
Bertrand relaxed and left them to it. The breather, it seemed, was no threat.
Robin couldn't quite believe he was really hanging out with Vlad again. And Vlad was a proper vampire now, with fangs and all, though he refused to show Robin.
"They're not cool, Robin, they're just fangs." That was a matter of opinion, but his old friend refused to be budged.
Now he was on the phone to Robin's mum.
"No, we've got loads of room. He can stay as long as he wants, summer holidays start next week – really? Well, then, however long he wants to, really, it'd be great to have time to catch up. Lovely to talk to you too, Mrs Branagh. I'd love to, if I'm ever in Stokely. Bye!" His friend hung up the phone while he was still marvelling at how much Vlad still sounded like that fourteen year-old he'd gone to school with. And now he was a real vampire. This was so cool.
Bertrand had hardly seen Vlad outside of meals and training, and both of those events saw him glued to his old friend's side. They'd been mucking about around the school all weekend, and it seemed that they'd fallen right back into their old friendship where they'd left off. Erin's nose was a bit out of joint; she'd been complaining non-stop to Ingrid about how she never saw her boyfriend any more. They seemed to forget Bertrand was still in the room during these conversations, and he just had to block it out and keep reading, or retreat to his room.
When Monday morning came, then, it was a surprise to see Vlad heading to school alone. Robin didn't emerge from the room he'd been crashing in – in a coffin, for reasons Bertrand didn't really care to examine closely – until half past ten, when Bertrand looked up from his book to find the boy blinking sleepily at him. Trust a teenage boy to find his way to the kitchen in times of doubt.
"Where is everyone?" He raised an eyebrow.
"School. I would have thought you'd be there too." The breather shrugged.
"Not my school, I'm not registered. You know that. You came to Stokely." Bertrand closed his book, finally giving the boy his full attention.
"How do you – ah." He remembered now; the teen slouched outside Branagh's form room. It had been the boy himself. "Yes, I did." Robin nodded, still half-asleep.
"Why did you come? Vlad says he didn't send you, but you can tell me the truth, right?" The tutor frowned.
"He didn't send me. He would never have sent me near you."
Robin's heart skipped at that; something in the way the vampire spoke told him that Bertrand was dangerous, perhaps more dangerous than Ingrid and the Count put together.
"He missed you." The three simple words somehow carried a much deeper meaning; the vampire must be completely devoted to Vlad if he was prepared to come all the way to Stokely and pick up Robin just because his old friend missed him. And Vlad hadn't even asked him to. They must be close. A thought struck Robin.
"Are you two…?" He knew Vlad liked girls, he knew he was with Erin, but that didn't mean there wasn't anything going on on the side. After all, Robin liked girls too, and he wouldn't say no – where did that come from? He frowned, trying to find his lost train of thought. "Y'know, are you together?"
Bertrand laughed, a noise of surprise as much as amusement, and Robin found himself smiling along with him.
"No. I'm just his tutor." The vampire's eyes narrowed. "Were you two ever…"
"Nah, just mates." Robin didn't mention that he would have done more or less anything, at one point, anything Vlad wanted, especially if it meant the other boy would bite him. It was irrelevant. Suddenly a thought occurred to him. "You're a vampire, right?"
Bertrand tried not to be affronted by that, really he did.
"Yes." The boy's eyes lit up, and he found himself more curious than angry. What did the boy want from him? If it was a flight around the school, he was going to be disappointed.
"Can I see your fangs?" Well, that was… unexpected.
"My fangs? Why?" The breather's shoulders slumped slightly; it was clear he thought that was a 'no'.
"Vlad won't show me his, and fangs are cool. Plus Ingrid and the Count are ignoring me, they say I'm annoying."
"Do they, now?" The dry sarcasm didn't seem to bother the boy, though, anywhere near as much as the prospect of not seeing real fangs had. So Bertrand sighed and flashed his fangs in what was supposed to be a menacing gesture.
"That's so awesome! I wish I had proper fangs. Thanks, Bertrand." He sounded so pleased; more pleased than Vlad ever did when Bertrand showed him something far more impressive.
The tutor thought for a moment, then stood.
"I was about to go and train. Would you like to join me?" He realised how bizarre the invitation was the moment he'd said it, and hurried to justify it. "Vlad probably wants you to be able to defend-"
"Really? Can I?" The boy's eyes were like saucers; he obviously didn't care why Vlad's tutor wanted to train him, only that he did. Bertrand would have time to examine his own motives later.
"Yes. Come on, I don't have all day."
Robin was sitting in the throne room, grinning at nothing, when Vlad, Erin and Ingrid came back from school.
"Alright, Robin? Not too bored without us, I hope-" Vlad stopped talking abruptly, staring at him. "What happened to you?" Robin didn't see what the fuss was about, all of a sudden; he was just smiling, it wasn't that unusual. Well, it was pretty unusual, but not since he'd arrived at Garside and been pulled back into the vampiric world he'd always wanted to be part of.
"Bertrand." Vlad looked him up and down again and left in a hurry. He must have remembered he had a training session, Robin supposed. Still, he could have said goodbye. Then again, that had never been Vlad's strong point. "Training. He's really good, isn't he?"
Ingrid arched a perfect eyebrow, expression turning sour.
"We wouldn't know. He's never trained either of us." And with that damning comment on vampire sexism, she stalked out, Erin following behind her. Robin continued to grin. He felt oddly detached. Maybe he was concussed? He closed his eyes, trying to remember if he'd bashed his head on anything.
Bertrand heard Vlad come in, but he didn't really take any notice until the Chosen One grabbed him and threw him against a wall, pinning him there with his powers.
"Did you really think I'd let you get away with it?"
"Get away with-?" This seemed like something of an overreaction to his brief detour through the Blood Cellar earlier.
"You brought Robin here, you know he's important to me, what makes you think you can just attack him?" Oh. Oh.
"He's covered in bruises and judging by the goofy grin on his face he's probably got a concussion, and when I asked him what happened he just said you."
"We were training-" Vlad scoffed.
"Yeah, right. You only train yourself and me, why would you train a breather?"
"He's your bes-"
"Fine, we'll ask him, shall we?" The Chosen One grabbed him and manhandled him up the stairs; Bertrand didn't resist. The sooner they got this sorted out, the sooner he could go back to working out tomorrow's training regime.
There was a crash and Robin opened his eyes to see Bertrand staggering against a table, a livid-looking Vlad turning to Robin.
"What did he do to you?" He blinked stupidly.
"Um, I don't know, there was some kind of chokehold, and something about-" He made a vague attempt to mimic a move Bertrand had showed him to protect his neck in a pinch, but that only seemed to make Vlad angrier and, for some reason, scared.
"He went for your neck?" The Chosen One rounded on his tutor and Robin finally realised what this was all about.
"We were training, mate, that's all! He was teaching me how not to get bitten!" Bertrand gave him a look as if to say You took your time, and Robin grimaced sheepishly. He really did think he might be a little concussed. Vlad looked at him suspiciously, paying particular attention to his eyes, then did the same to Bertrand before releasing his tutor from whatever strange hold he'd had over him. Robin let out a breath he hadn't realised he was holding.
Bertrand was a little offended – and a little impressed – that Vlad had checked for hypnotism before accepting that their stories matched because they were true. The Chosen One, embarrassed, mumbled an apology and stormed out, leaving his tutor and would-be victim alone. Robin stood, wincing slightly, and made his way over to where Bertrand was still leaning on the table.
"You alright?" He frowned at the breather; why would he worry about the much stronger, sturdier vampire?
"Fine." Now that he looked at the boy, he was quite bruised. He'd forgotten how easily breathers turned purple. "Are you?" Robin looked surprised.
"Yeah, 'course. Sorry I got you in trouble." Bertrand shook his head; it was Vlad who'd overreacted. He usually wouldn't blame Vlad for anything, but he supposed being thrown around for no apparent reason could dent a vampire's loyalty for a little while.
"You should have told me I was pushing you too hard."
"You weren't! It was awesome!"
"You're bruised. You should have told me you were hurt." Robin shrugged.
"Yeah, well, I'll tell you tomorrow, okay?"
Bertrand nodded, turning to leave, then stopped.
"Tomorrow? What makes you think we'll be training tomorrow?"
"Can we?" Robin grinned. "Besides, if I sneak up and attack you, you won't have a choice."
"Don't sneak up on me." The breather shrank back a little at his tone. "But yes. We can train."