The Round Table members had left, escorted by the soldiers who had come too late to do anything but help clean up the slaughter and guard the grounds. The wereghouls' bodies had been taken away for examination and autopsy. After Walter and Dracula's work, most of them had already been dissected after a fashion and Arthur didn't envy the men who had been tasked with quite literally picking up the pieces. The bodies of staff and guards had been taken to a military morgue until a proper story could be concocted to explain so many deaths. Arthur had comforted the surviving noncombatant staff and had them taken to the nearest military hospital until better arrangements could be made for them.
Richard's body had been retrieved from the dungeon and at Arthur's orders was taken away for cremation and disposal in anonymity in some potter's had a call in to Gerard Bernadette, but he did not know if the mercenary would be willing to take another assignment with him now that he knew monsters were real. All of which left him with one last duty to attend to before he could take himself to bed for a few hours before starting the task of rebuilding the Hellsing Organization.
Walter Dornez waited for him in his study. He still looked shell-shocked and withdrawn, the collar of his shirt stained with blood that was already turning brown. He was staring into some middle distance, holding an unlit cigarette in his hand as though he had forgotten about it. Knowing Walter and his nicotine habit as he did, Arthur found that detail both telling and troubling.
Arthur patted him on the shoulder as he walked past him to take the whiskey bottle and a tumbler from the shelf behind his desk. He nearly offered Walter a drink, then caught himself. No, that would have been crass to say the least.
Neither of them spoke until Arthur had poured himself two fingers of whiskey, downed it and put away both the tumbler and bottle. He wanted to fortify himself, not get pissed.
"I spoke with the other knights before they left," Arthur began after he had taken a seat behind his desk, then waited until Walter came back from wherever his thoughts had been and focused on him. "And they agree that there can be an exception made for you. We were all taken in by Dracula and by Richard and we all agree that your service is far too valuable to discard."
He did not know what reaction he had expected from Walter, but it was not the blank silence that he got. It unnerved him in a way silence from Walter never had before. Perhaps because he had never sat down to have a conversation with a vampire before.
He did not fully understand what had happened, and Walter had not vouchsafed exact details of his transformation. The stories the remaining guards had told of blood flowing away as though the world had tilted to change which way down was made little sense to him, but neither did the fact that Walter was a vampire and not a ghoul. If nothing else Bernadette's report had made it amply clear that his butler was no virgin.
All Walter had said in response to Arthur's shocked question of "How?" was "Hate."
Arthur had decided that he could wait to press Walter for further details after they had both had time to take care of the immediate demands of this disaster. In Arthur's case, there were more demands than ever before because he could not turn to Walter to handle the details the way he always had before. It had been illuminating as to how much he truly relied on the young man, and now he did not know if he would ever be able to turn to him in the same way again.
"You'll need a coffin, I suppose," he said when Walter did not respond for long enough for Arthur to grow restless. "But it will have to be specially made."
Walter shifted and drew in a deep breath for the first time, making Arthur realize that part of the reason he had been so unsettled by Walter's stillness was because he had not taken a breath since Arthur had entered the room.
"He went without a coffin for years. I can wait."
Arthur wanted to say something that would offer some measure of comfort, but that would violate the unspoken code of the stiff upper lip. If Walter wanted to tackle this change of fortune in silence, far be it from Arthur Hellsing to force him to unseemly demonstrations of emotion.
He cleared his throat and stood up. "Forgive me for saying it, but I must: can I trust you not to hurt my men?"
Walter turned an emotionless gaze up to him and said, "I am filled with the blood of every man and woman who died here tonight. I'm not hungry."
That did not set Arthur's mind at ease in the least. "Walter-"
"No. I will not kill any human here. I am the true undead. Not some pathetic creature that hasn't the sense to know that it should stay in its grave."
"Don't look at it that way, Doctor, your specimens performed beautifully for their debut." The speaker had to pause every few words for another bite of his meal, but his audience was unfazed. Their commander had to keep himself well-fueled after all.
"But we did not get the woman. She would have moved our project ahead immeasurably." The doctor twined and untwined his fingers nervously, gnawed on his lip, shuffled his feet, and generally seemed too wound up to stay still in the company of his commander and his looming bodyguard. "Especially after Dracula broke his word and killed the lieutenant before I could even get samples from her."
The diminutive mastermind waved that away with the hand holding his fork. "Betrayal is all part of the game. We used Dracula, he used us, and if we cannot have his Mina, he has left another even better prize for us to pluck in the future. The butler is, as they say, a self-made man."
The doctor's eyes lit up. "What I could do with him will exceed even what I have achieved with what we have learned from the Captain."
After all, the Captain was a resource the doctor was forced to keep alive and functional. He would have no such constraints with the butler.
Walter finally understood what Dracula had said to him about feeling the sun like a weight. It had not yet even risen above the horizon and Walter could feel it pressing him deep into the earth. He retreated down into the sub-cellar to find an empty room in which he could drop a folding army cot. He wanted his bed, but the thought of going upstairs, even with his blackout curtains, made something dark and inhuman inside him recoil in loathing.
Perhaps when he was as old as Dracula he would be able to tolerate resting above ground, but this was his first dawn and he could not face it like a man.
He lay in the cot and let the emptiness that had taken the place of his humanity swell and sweep him away from the oppression of the sun he could feel but not see.
This time when he opened his eyes in a dream, he knew it for what it was. Irdu sat across from him in the same stone room where he had fallen asleep, looking at him sorrowfully.
"Oh, Walter," he murmured. "I am so sorry."
Walter sat up. "What do you want?" Surely no one could fault him for having no trust left to give.
Irdu seemed to understand that he would find fallow ground for any dissembling. "I want your seed."
"In case you haven't noticed, I'm a vampire now," Walter said contemptuously. "The dead don't create life."
"Perhaps," Irdu conceded, "but perhaps not. There may be a spark of life left in the seed you created before you died. I'm asking you for this last chance. It is your only chance to ever have a child."
Walter considered him for so long that even the incubus was certain he would say no, then asked, "Can you make me forget the dream of us together? Just leave me enough to know I made this agreement with you?"
Walter looked down at his hands and swallowed twice to loosen the tightness in his throat enough to whisper, "Then bring me a dream of Doru."
AN: I started Hunting the Hunter in October of 2006 and this was always where it was going to end up. I didn't know most of the twists and turns it would take along the way, but I knew that it would end with Walter betrayed and a vampire. I know it's probably not in the best taste, but I have loved this story. There are chapters I don't love, or even particularly like, there are a couple of places I jossed myself (and I'm not going to point them out if you didn't notice them), and a few places where ten chapters later I went "OMG I foreshadowed this and I didn't even know I was going to do it!" This story started out because I wanted to write another AxW pairing fic, but it went places I never expected.
I have a feeling I'm going to get some feedback along the lines of "You can't stop here!" and you're right, I can't, but I don't know that I'll write what comes next as fanfiction or not. For the past year at least I've thought about what comes after Walter becomes a vampire and I do want to write it, I just don't know if I'll write it in this venue or not. Up next for me is writing the novels I have outlined, so we'll just have to see what time brings. In the meantime, if you want to ask me any questions about any events of Hunting the Hunter, you can ask me in reviews or private message me. I'll start putting replies in a FAQ in my author profile here on ff net.
Thank you for coming along for the ride, I hope you've enjoyed it. ~Jade