He'd done it.
Carl almost always perfected his designs late at night or early in the morning, in the quiet of an empty room where he could work without prying eyes or questioning stares. Last night was no exception. Now, he stood before the long table, cluttered as it was with his papers, pieces of wood, metal and machinery, and smiled at the device he held in his hand.
Half of the Order doubted it would work. He suspected the other half doubted it, too, but had the good grace to offer positive encouragement.
And now he'd done it! He squeezed the handle, once, twice, a shudder passing down his spine at the satisfying whirr of the blade. He had to test it! He flicked his wrist and cut the corner off the table in one swift motion, and then realized. . . that he'd cut the corner off the table.
He laughed at his recklessness. Would they care about the table when they saw that it worked? He'd known all along that the key to this device was simply merging the proper force with the proper leverage, not, as Brother Caleb had suggested on more than one occasion, the manifestation of a minor miracle. He laughed at the expression Brother Caleb might wear if Carl marched into his room right now and sawed his bed in two.
He stopped the device, and he thought of the person he'd designed the weapon for--Gabriel Van Helsing. "Carl, I expect you to have that working when I get back." Van Helsing had said it loud enough for the entire lab to hear, then he'd smiled and nodded at Carl as he left, off to Sicily to look into the force behind the repeated desecration of three churches. Word was Van Helsing would be back soon, maybe even today, having found only thieves and vandals. Perfect timing, Carl thought.
Far too excited to sleep, Carl sat about tidying up his workspace, and reattaching the sawed-off corner, which would not cooperate. It didn't help that his mind kept straying to thoughts of Van Helsing. He couldn't wait to present him with the working model. He longed to see him use it in action, Carl's device like an extension of Van Helsing's arm. Carl could see him, blade in hand. No, a blade in each hand! Carl reached for the weapon again, his fingers gingerly touching the handle, the same handle Van Helsing would hold. Carl suddenly found that thought curiously erotic.
Van Helsing heard a low buzz on the other side of the door. He'd come straight to the lab upon arriving, eager to see Carl and tell him about his trip. Talking to Carl after each mission helped him focus the details in his mind before he had to report to the Cardinal. In fact, it relaxed him so much that he never really felt 'home' until he'd had a chance to see Carl, who, not being well traveled, listened to his stories with keen interest. He knew Carl was the only person likely to be in the lab this early, and sometimes Carl startled easily. So Van Helsing didn't knock in case he was working on one of his variations of glycerin.
He walked in just in time to see Carl saw a corner off one of the worktables.
Van Helsing had known all along that Carl would make the hand-blade work, it had just been a matter of time. And he'd fully suspected that Carl would finish it while he was gone--it seemed Carl spent more time in the lab while Van Helsing was away, and almost always had some new weapon to show off when he returned
Carl laughed as he regarded the table, and Van Helsing smiled, sharing in Carl's delight. He didn't want to speak and ruin the moment. He'll see me soon, he thought, and then he'll launch into a discussion of momentum and leverage and the laws of motion. But Carl stacked papers and pushed things into piles, and nailed the table back together. Well, he tried to nail the table back together.
Van Helsing smiled as he watched this man who could make weapons that practically defied physics and yet couldn't seem to master the combination of a hammer and nails. If Carl had raised his eyes once he'd have seen Van Helsing, but he was single-minded. Van Helsing was on Carl's right, amazed that the man hadn't spied him in his peripheral vision, but it was well known that when Carl set his mind to a task, he wasn't easily distracted. As Van Helsing was finally about to speak and announce himself, Carl stopped, seemingly lost in thought, and with his right hand he reached out and stroked the handle of the weapon. He ran his fingers across it, almost lovingly, Van Helsing thought. Carl's body rocked slightly as he closed his eyes and leaned into the table.
Carl ran his finger up and down the handle, and thought of the fingers that would soon be wrapped around it, squeezing the blade into motion, making it spin. . . . His left hand seemed to move of its own volition, and with a pang of guilt, he touched himself through his robes. He pictured Van Helsing, arms out on each side, a blade in each hand, squeezing, his legs apart as if braced for attack, and Carl leaned forward, pushing his stomach against the edge of the table, as if to hide from himself, from God, what he did underneath. He pressed the ache between his legs, rubbing himself through the coarse material, and he no longer wanted to imagine Van Helsing's hands on weapons. Carl placed his right hand on his chest and closed his eyes.
Van Helsing shivered as he watched Carl put his right hand on his chest, and moan. He was torn between speaking up immediately as if he'd just walked in and seen nothing, or attempting to leave as quietly as he'd come in. He knew he wanted to avoid an awkward moment, especially one such as this which would undoubtedly embarrass Carl, maybe even cause him shame, but he found himself unable to move. Carl's lips parted, and as his head fell back and he moaned again, Van Helsing felt himself grow hard. Carl's tongue traced his lips and Van Helsing realized his own mouth was open. He wanted to touch himself, but he was afraid to move.
Rubbing himself harder, Carl let the fantasy play out in his mind. Van Helsing came home early, he couldn't bear to be away any longer. He came in without Carl knowing, and watched Carl test the weapon on the table. He walked up behind him and without speaking, reached around and took the blade out of Carl's hand. Van Helsing pressed his body against Carl's back, and wrapped his arms around him, one hand on Carl's chest, the other touching him now, pleasuring him greedily, desperately, kneading him through his robes, too eager to wait.
"Oh, yes," Carl whispered. He balanced himself against the table and let his head drop back, his eyes still closed. He imagined Van Helsing's breath against the side of his face, Van Helsing's voice in his ear. "Yes, Carl. For me, oh yes."
"Oh!" Carl bucked his hips forward and let go, his/Van Helsing's hand drawing the sensation out as long as possible, then sliding up his stomach and coming to rest on top of his other hand. He shuddered and tightened his muscles as the pulses subsided. Sated, he opened his eyes.
And saw someone standing in the room.
Van Helsing was held captive by the sight of Carl in such rapture. He wanted to run, he wanted to walk back out and pretend he'd never been here. Yet at the same time, he wanted to give in to the feeling, touch himself. . . touch Carl. He wanted to take part in the passion he was witnessing, capture each of Carl's moans with his own mouth, slide his hand. . . . Van Helsing suppressed a groan.
Carl's breaths came fast now, he moaned softly, and then cried out, thrusting his hips forward. His face was flushed, his mouth wide open as he panted in the throes of pleasure. Van Helsing had never seen anything so purely erotic as the sight of Carl's ecstasy. As Carl's movement slowed, Van Helsing's arousal continued to grow. And when Van Helsing saw Carl's eyes open, in panic he pulled his hat off his head and held it casually, he hoped, in front of himself.
Carl's head snapped to the right. "Van Helsing!" Guilt washed over Carl as the object of his fantasy stood, staring at him.
"Carl." Van Helsing was impressed with how calm he sounded. Now to make it seem he'd just walked in, unaware of what had taken place. "Is there someone here with you?"
"N-No." Carl's eyes appeared about to pop out of his head.
"I thought I heard a voice before I came in." Van Helsing approached the table and picked up the hand-blade. "So, any progress?" He willed himself to be steady.
Carl swallowed, and almost swooned with relief. Van Helsing had just arrived. For a moment he'd feared he'd seen, he'd known. . . thank God.
"Progress?" Carl grinned mischievously and took the weapon from Van Helsing. He brought the blade to life, watching the handle as he worked it, always looking for areas that could still be improved. "How's that for progress?" Carl expected a smirk, a smile, a satisfied grin at his inventiveness. But when he looked up, Van Helsing's mouth was slightly open and his eyes were focused on Carl's so intently, Carl shuddered and felt himself throbbing back to life beneath his robes. Van Helsing's gaze went from Carl's eyes, to his mouth, back to his eyes, an almost questioning look on his face. Carl was so struck by the intensity in the glare that he dropped the weapon, blade still spinning. It skipped and sparked across the floor, leaving a inch-deep gouge in its wake.
The spell broken, Van Helsing cleared his throat. "Progress. Yes. Very impressive, Carl."
Carl chased after the speeding weapon. He called back, "Yes, progress. Don't get in its way or you'll get something chopped off. Oh, damn. Where did it end up?"
"I'll help you find it." Van Helsing followed Carl.
"Yes, you should since it's your fault."
"My fault? You dropped it." He gave Carl that curious, piercing look again.
"Yes, but if you hadn't. . . " Carl wanted to bite his tongue. Bite it right off before he could make a fool of himself.
"If I hadn't what?" Van Helsing waited.
"If you hadn't. . . come back early, I would have had more time to. . . prepare." Satisfied with his explanation, he looked for the weapon. "The initial excitement would have worn off, and I'd have been less likely to do something as stupid as drop an engaged weapon."
"Oh." Van Helsing felt slightly disappointed at that answer, and he wasn't even sure why. Before he could think too hard about what he was saying, he said, "So when I came in, that's what you were doing?"
Carl stared, eyes wide again. "Doing what?"
"Doing. . . you had just finished?" Van Helsing stared back.
"Yes, I'd just finished it and was still enjoying the moment." He took a breath. "Of success."
"I see." Van Helsing produced the weapon from behind the splintered remains of a chair. He handed it to Carl. "So, everything, I mean, it's all right?"
Carl searched Van Helsing's face, suddenly aware of the conversation they were having. Or was it Carl's imagination? Wishful thinking? Finally, looking Van Helsing directly in the eyes, he said, "I'm not sure." He held up the device, not really offering it to Van Helsing, but enough so that his comments 'could' be taken to regard it. "What do you think?"
Brother Caleb walked into the lab, startling them, followed by a bald monk who gestured wildly with his hands. Caleb stopped, hands on his wide hips. "Brother Carl, have you not been to sleep or are you up early? Oh, Van Helsing, I wasn't aware you'd returned, how are you?" And then without waiting for either man to answer, he turned to his companion, talking and gesturing just as wildly.
Carl was looking forward to showing Caleb his creation, but first he'd have to check for damage. He thought Van Helsing looked suddenly tired, and he looked as if he wanted to say something else. Both men regarded each other in silence. Carl coughed.
Van Helsing nodded. "I should report to Jinette."
"Yes, I need to check this, maybe make some modifications."
Van Helsing put his hat back on his head. "I'll see you later, then."
Carl nodded and hurried back to the worktable.
Before Van Helsing could go, he turned and watched the busy friar, amazed at such a different creature than the breathless one he'd seen only moments ago. He'd report to Jinette, later. Right now, he needed some time alone. When Carl didn't turn, caught up again in his work, Van Helsing left.
Carl turned and looked at the closed door, and wondered how many hours would pass before he saw Van Helsing again. And what they might talk about when they met.
"What hap--what happened to this table!" Caleb bent down, craned his neck to examine the table and with a frown, leveled his gaze at Carl. He shook the severed corner of the table as he spoke. "Brother Carl, what sort of mayhem took place here last night?"
Carl pulled his eyes away from the door, and looked at the blade in his hand. He squeezed. "Oh, just a minor miracle. Or two," he said, softly. The blade hummed.