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All Bark

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Back in his personal quarters, Alucard heard something. Faint, muffled, coming from outside. Moving closer, fast-

There were three loud bangs on his front door and he leapt to his feet. He was at the door in a moment; he could smell blood.

When Alucard pulled open the door a body staggered towards him in its’ place. He grabbed the figure in the doorway, Richter, by the shoulders. He was covered in blood, some of it not his own, and Alucard’s senses were full of it. It was all he could smell.

“Richter-!” He ducked his head, trying to meet his eyes, but Richter reeled, unsteady on his feet. With considerable effort he straightened himself and met Alucard’s panicked face.

“I-I...I made a mistake…” He was favoring his left arm, which was horribly mangled; bitten and torn. Alucard rushed to get him inside and onto a cot.

“What was it?” He asked urgently, and his mind kicked into autopilot. Likely a large animal, and he needed to clean the bite immediately.

“A-a werewolf,” Richter struggled, and Alucard got a better look at his face as he laid back on the cot. His face was red and he practically radiated heat. He was moments away from delirium.

“Belmont, I need you to try and stay calm,” he said, partially to himself, and urgently gathered the supplies he needed from around his exam room.

Richter mumbled to Alucard quietly as he saw to his bite, but his words were unintelligible aside from vague apologies for showing up unannounced.

“You needn’t apologize, Richter,” Alucard replied as he poured clean water over the wound, though he had a feeling Richter couldn’t hear him. He was running a very high fever and he had to work fast. “Tell me what happened,” he said, and Richter continued to mumble. How long had he traveled to get to his door? Richter didn’t move too much as Alucard stabilized his bite. As soon as the bandage was secured he was at his cabinets, rifling through jars of herbs and ingredients. He grabbed a few, added them to the growing pile of supplies on his counter, then scanned the shelves again. And again. And again. Of course he didn’t have wolfsbane; he didn’t treat lycanthropy. Not until just now. He swore, loudly, and rushed back to Richter’s side.

He rested his hand on Richter’s forehead, then pulled away looking conflicted. His mother had taught him how to interrupt the lycanthropic cycle, but he didn’t have what he so desperately needed. He leaned in close to Richter, smoothing his sweaty bangs away from his eyes.

“I will be right back. Don’t move- try to rest.” Richter nodded vaguely and Alucard simply had to hope it got through. He hesitated in the doorway of his home, glancing back at Richter breathing heavily on his cot, and hoped to God that he would have enough time. He steeled himself, then took of running into the night.

Richter’s brain was being brought to boil. He could pinpoint the mistake he made that let him be bitten. Just a slight misstep, a heel caught on a low root, had begun his sudden battle with lycanthropy. The one who bit him didn’t escape into the night, Richter ensured, but it hadn’t stopped the curse making it’s way through his system. The fever seemed to radiate from the bite on his arm, burning and itching its’ way through him.

He considered going home first. It wasn’t that he was afraid of being ‘put down’, not entirely anyway. He hadn’t been taught about cures for werewolves at any rate. Alucard, while qualified, was really who he wanted to see before his mind was engulfed in flames. When he suddenly left Richter fought the urge to beg him to stay and instead tried to focus on breathing.

The fire spread through his skull and made its’ way down his neck and then his arms. Suddenly he was burning all over, skin itching and painful at every point of contact and he writhed. He slipped off of the cot and onto the floor, struggling to tug off his jacket, needing to relieve the heat somehow.

He realized vaguely that he’d begun screaming and then something started to change. He heard his bones pop and snap, then felt the burn on his skin reach a new and unfathomable intensity as thick coarse hair bristled across his arms and then across all of him. He was becoming a monster.

Alucard heard him screaming as he was making his way back to his home. He broke into a sprint immediately but the screaming suddenly twisted into a terrible bestial wail before stopping entirely. He ran as fast as his feet would carry him but the sight he found was exactly what he’d feared. The door to his practice was broken off its’ hinges, shattered to pieces from the inside, and Richter was gone. A pile of bloody rended cloth was the only hint that he’d been there, and Alucard leapt to work. He went to his counter and pulled out the satchel of wolfsbane clippings. He added them to a vial of clear liquid alongside other ingredients he’d laid out before he left, shook it hard, then rushed back out the door.

Alucard tucked the vial into his pocket and scanned the area. In a moment he was on all fours, sniffing the air with a long and noble white snout. He knew somehow that finding a wolf would be easier as a wolf. He didn’t smell any blood leading to the village, thankfully. He could smell something leading into the nearby forest and under further inspection he could see the broken branches that Richter had burst through. Alucard followed the trail as fast as he could manage; he had to find Richter before someone got hurt.

Perhaps Richter was aware enough to turn away form the village. His path led in virtually the opposite direction and was easy to follow, leading him into an open clearing in the woods. There, bent over a mangled body, was Richter.

He was roughly two feet taller and positively monstrous, covered in thick fur and standing on his toes as wolves do. Alucard could see his hands, his nails long and dark and sharp, as he tore into the body under him. The body…

...was a deer, it’s white ribs snapped and torn upwards towards the night sky. Alucard heaved a massive sigh of relief and stood on two legs again, becoming a man once more and drawing Richter’s attention.

The face that turned to look at him was nearly unrecognizable. The warm brown eyes that focused in on him were Richter’s, but he wasn’t behind them. Thick dark blood stained his mouth, which was now part of a long dark muzzle. His lips curled back in a snarl and he growled, the sound deep and gravely, before turning to face him. As the fur along his spine bristled and stood on end Alucard reached for the sword on his hip and found none. It was still on his wall at home. He’d need amore hands-on approach.

When Alucard didn’t stand down Richter’s growl grew louder. He charged at Alucard and swung down at him with a sharp clawed hand. He barely dodged it, leaping to the side and landing a hard punch against his jaw. He couldn’t help pulling it slightly, though he would never admit to it. Richter yelped and stumbled away, but turned on him again quickly.

“Richter, are you in there?” Once in a great while a werewolf could be soothed by someone they knew, but that didn’t seem very likely. There was no recognition in the beast’s face, who swiped at him again and caught the cloth of his cloak as Alucard jerked out of the way. Richter grabbed the cloak and yanked hard, pulling Alucard to the ground. He saw the bloody maw coming down, about to tear his throat out, and placed his boot against Richter’s chest and kicked hard.

Richter stumbled backwards and Alucard leapt to his feet again. He took advantage of the moment Richter needed to right himself and focused. In an instant he was behind Richter and jumped onto his back. He clamped his forearm over Richter’s throat and held on, his feet not even touching the ground. Richter gasped roughly and Alucard could feel the snarling sound scratching out of his throat. He clawed at Alucard’s arms, leaving deep read gashes in his flesh, but he held on even as he shouted in pain. Richter gasped and choked, straightening at first and then wobbling backwards until Alucard’s feet touched the ground again, then suddenly all of them both were on the ground.

Richter landed heavily on top of Alucard, who released his grip and sat him up slightly. He rummaged in his pocket as quickly as he could and found the glass vial he’d so urgently prepared. He uncorked it and forced Richter’s canid mouth open, smearing his hands in blood and slobber and grimacing, then poured the tincture into his mouth.

Richter gagged and coughed, but swallowed it down and it was enough. He sputtered but didn’t make any moves to get up or turn over and fight. Instead his previously shaky shallow breaths turned deep and urgent as his body changed again. Alucard dropped the vial unceremoniously in the dirt and sat up further, holding Richter against his chest as he grew gradually shorter, the long snout and ears fading back into his own features. The fur faded gradually until it left behind his usual mop of brown hair and some additional scruff across his jaw. He seemed the slightest bit hairier in general.

Alucard watched Richter slowly morph back into himself and was grateful. Grateful that he found Richter before it was too late; grateful that he didn’t have to choose between his life and the safety of the settlements nearby. He held Richter against his chest for a short while, listening to him breathe and feeling the feverish heat of his skin slowly cool. After a while Richter stirred, making a confused sound.

“It’s alright now,” Alucard said without thinking. He smoothed his hand over Richter’s hair. “It’s over.” He heard Richter take a deep breath before trying to speak.

“ didn’t...kill me…?” His voice was weak and he took his time. Alucard wrapped his arms around him a little tighter.

“Of course not,” he said softly against Richter’s hair. Not if he could help it. “Lycanthropy can treated,” he said, voice quiet. Richter’s breath escaped in a shrill wheeze with every awkward jostle as Alucard pulled him into his arms and stood. Richter was too weak and sore to stay conscious as Alucard carried him home. He let Richter sleep. His life was about to change entirely; how would the rest of the Belmont family feel about their strongest hunter’s affliction? He hoped for the best, but couldn’t be sure. He didn’t know the rest of the family very well.

How would Richter take it? He was going to blame himself, as if he hadn’t carried enough guilt on his shoulders after the castle. At the very least he had Alucard in his corner. Once Richter was rested he would go with him to the estate.

For now, Richter was safe. Alucard nudged aside the splinters of wood that were left of his door and spread the bloody mess of a man out on a cot.

For now he was safe.