Croquet


Disclaimer: Hellsing, Hellsing:the Dawn, Walter, Alucard and other characters are property of Kohta Hirano. No infringement on the copyright is intended.


Goosebumps arose in a desperately random pattern across Walter's unsuspecting flesh. He heaved an irritated sigh and looked at the floor from behind his book at the slowly forming pool of black, unidentifiable ink. It grew two mad eyes and an almost comical toothy grin in response to the gaze.

"With all of the experience and knowledge from the centuries you've been alive, can't you even amuse yourself without badgering me?" the butler asked, holding his place in his reading material with a finger.

A chilled snicker crept its way in between Walter's two ears.

"Is that how you greet your only friend?" came a distorted reply, sounding as though it were being spoken from under water.

"When we aren't out on a mission and I'm reading a book, yes." The muffled voice stated from behind the hardcover. He had opened it and stuck his face in it to keep from smirking at the puddle-vampire on the carpet. Walter fought with himself to keep from finding the situation humorous.

Suddenly the substance rose out of the floor, slowly and languidly taking shape into a youth that mirrored that of the teenager before him.

"Out of that armchair, Angel of Death." The lilting voice commanded in a mock-order. The only response afforded was an eye roll and then the raise of the left eyebrow silently asking what the rush was.

"Seriously Alucard, you act younger than I do. You've got more energy than a locomotive." Walter chided, trying to return lost concentration to the book he was reading. A gloved hand embellished with a strange symbol covered the right page lightly. Then, the hand pushed the book down into the retainer's lap.

"It's a lovely afternoon, Angel. Pause from your reaping of knowledge and play a game with me." The pre-pubescent vampire beckoned with a hint of mischief. His hand was still on the book, and Walter let go, groaning slightly in displeasure.

"I'm not falling for that one. Besides, you don't like being out in daylight hours. What's changed?" Walter inquired, mildly curious but trying not to seem so. The vampire's face leaned in closer to the human's.

"I can't really help being bored lately. Things have been slow for some reason, and what is eternity but a never-ending quest for ways to entertain yourself? Humor me, Angel." Alucard explained, eyes catching light and burning for a moment in the hues of sunset.

"Your games usually have high stakes. I don't feel like getting into trouble this time." The butler said simply, seeking to retrieve his book from the glove that held it.

Alucard put his other hand on the back of the green armchair behind Walter's head in response and tilted so the china-doll bangs were out of his face.

"Not this time. The field was recently trimmed down, and nothing is going on. Arthur is up in the office doing paperwork and talking to Islands, so he won't bother us." The undead youth told him, drumming his fingers on the book. Hellsing's retainer looked up again, meeting the inhuman eyes.

"So? Look, if I go play a game with you outside, will you let me read this book on etiquette? It's important, you know." He bargained, folding his arms. Alucard's face brightened.

"I'll let you alone for a while." The vampire permitted with a smirk.

"What are we playing, then?" Walter asked, shoving the gloved hand covering the book off of his lap and rising to his feet. He stretched a bit, thinking it might do him some good to move around after being cramped up in a sitting position so long.

"Croquet." The no-life king announced, already slinking toward the back door of the estate.

Walter had to stop himself from laughing at the answer to the question, and managed a small chuckle instead. He strode forward to catch up as they headed out back.

"I'm amused. I didn't know you even liked croquet." He confessed. It won him a glance and a crooked smile.

"You'd be surprised. You already know I can make anything fun." Alucard quipped. "I already have the croquet set out here."

"So you do." The young man nodded as they headed out into the backyard. The field was large and relatively flat, and it really was a nice day just as Alucard had commented earlier. It was not too cloudy or too cold, and fairly bright and pleasant. Not the sort of day he expected his inhuman ally to appreciate.

Then, it dawned on him that the vampire had to be up to something more than a game of croquet. It really didn't seem like him to enjoy many simple "human" games as he tended to call them. Everything with Alucard was complicated. He looked around.

"Alucard," Walter called. "There's only one ball. We can't play with one ball and two mallets. We have to have a ball a piece." His companion was setting up the wickets and stakes for the game and raised his head.

"I know that." He said, walking back and taking the first mallet with a big grin. "The other balls were missing along with the other mallets."

"Well, that's clever. How are we going to play, then? Have something in mind? I'm sure you do." The butler sighed, kicking the grass.

"Why, yes Angel. Draw out some garrote wire." was the vampire's response. A look of confusion crossed Walter's face.

"For what?" the Angel of Death questioned as he let a little bit of wire loose. He played with it absent-mindedly, watching his companion.

"For our second ball. Now, you're going to need more than that. You have to cut my head off." Alucard instructed with a flash of teeth.

"Cut your head off? Bollocks to that, Alucard. If I do that, I don't know what will happen." Walter exclaimed, retracting the deadly strings at once.

"I wouldn't tell you to do it if I wasn't sure what would happen. I'm sure there have been a lot of times where you've wanted to cut my head off, now do it. We have to have two balls to play the game." Alucard insisted, brushing his hair from his neck and taking his furry white hat off.

"You want to play croquet with your head? How the bloody hell d'you expect to see where to hit anything?" the butler wondered aloud genuinely as his friend stepped up closer.

"This won't get you into any trouble. I'll see with my third eye. Just stop protesting and decapitate me so we can play." The child-like monster pressed, sounding as calm as ever.

No sooner had he finished the request than Walter had drawn the glorious razor-sharp wires again with a tiny whirring sound.

"If that's really what you want…" he began to say, and never finished. With a flick of his graceful fingers, the wires criss-crossed around the vampire's neck like the arms of a desperate lover. He had to come to terms with the fact that the action sent a tingle through him, as perverse as any normal person might believe it was. An unsettling bear-trap grin broke out across Alucard's face and the wires pulled through the inhuman neck like butter knives through cream cheese.

The head slid forward and fell off, rolling unevenly and coming to a halt next to the mallet stand.

Walter shook his head and lit a cigarette, taking a drag and exhaling long and slow.

The body had collapsed to the ground with an unceremonious thud, but the retainer knew better than to expect he had accidentally ended the vampire's un-life. He showed no signs of surprise when the body stood up again, with a clean black stump for a neck.

"Admit it, you enjoyed that." A familiar voice resounded through Walter's mind. He chuckled.

"Maybe a little, but I don't know how long you can keep that up for. Must take a lot of effort." He replied, taking his mallet after withdrawing the wires.

"I don't know how long I can handle being headless and resisting the urge to de-solidify and reform either, but I know we are not going to need very long for this. You can go first, Angel." Alucard told him telepathically. Walter couldn't see it, but the vampire was visualizing the entire area around his headless body with his third eye. The way the game had been set up, they were actually facing the estate's backside, with the balcony connected to Arthur's office in the center of Alucard's inhuman sight.

Walter cast a sideways glance at the decapitated body before shrugging and positioning his mallet against the side of the blue and white striped croquet ball. He didn't think it would be proper for him to hit the head they were using as the extra ball, and figured he had best leave that to Alucard. He was never very good at the game, and could not recall a time where he had won it, but he promised the vampire he would play with him. After eyeing the wickets a few moments, he cocked the mallet back and hit the ball at an angle. It had enough force behind it to pass underneath three different wickets before finally coming to a stop in the grass.

"A three-wicket break! I've never gotten one before." He exclaimed, finally finishing his cigarette and putting the end of it out on his shoe. He cleared his throat and composed himself, watching his headless opponent.

"Good shot," was the mental message he received for the break from the nosferatu. The retainer blinked expectantly at him and lit another cigarette.

Finally, Alucard stepped up and aimed his mallet against the side of his head, which was lying in the grass and becoming a bit dirty in addition to being sticky with coagulated blood where his friend had sliced it off earlier (not that he really minded).

With a gigantic swing, Alucard cracked his mallet against the side of his own head, and instead of passing under all of the wickets, like Walter had half-expected, the head flew up into the air, sailing right over the third-floor balcony and toward Arthur's office. Walter could only stare wide-eyed, taking his cigarette out of his mouth as the head broke through the office window.

Arthur nursed his whiskey glass in one hand as he leaned slightly backward. Islands sighed.

"You should be contemplating your next move, I think." He advised, looking for any sign of acknowledgement.

Before Arthur could even respond, Alucard's head crashed in through the window and slammed into the desk, the sticky, drying blood keeping it from rolling all of the way across. Islands nearly jumped out of his seat when the window broke.

"Holy God in Heaven!" Islands shouted as he looked at the head on the desk, staring sightlessly at him like a murdered porcelain doll, mangled hair spilling over the edge of the surface before him.

Arthur rolled his eyes and picked the vampire's head up by the long, dark hair. Without missing a beat, he extended his arm and dropped it into the wastebasket next to his desk.

"Terribly sorry. You were saying?" he asked Islands, setting his glass down and folding his hands.

Since the window was broken, and because the field provided good acoustics, Walter and Alucard could both hear Islands scream as the head entered the office and interrupted whatever was going on. The vampire's headless body was not very expressive; however, after the butler had gotten over the realization of what the vampire had done, he was holding his sides laughing.

"That was brilliant… absolutely brilliant." Walter chuckled as he looked over at Alucard's body.

"I knew you would like it," he answered telepathically, dropping the mallet. "I wonder what Arthur said. I didn't hear his voice." He added.

"Who knows?" The retainer answered, setting his mallet back in the stand.

"See you tonight, Angel." A watery voice chuckled, seeming to come from all around him. Alucard had de-solidified and seeped into the ground. Walter nodded and headed back to the estate with a smirk on his face, a trail of tobacco smoke trailing after him.