Disclaimer: Hellsing belongs to Kohta Hirano; I take no credit for his wonderous creation, nor do I profit from this document.
Author's Note: In the spirit of Christmas, here is a small little ficlet for your enjoyment, set on December 24th, the first Christmas Eve for the Hellsing family since the loss of Arthur. Please enjoy, and happy holidays!
The air was frigid as most mid-winters tended to be in London. Walter stood with his hands clasped at the small of his back, trying to ignore the soft sound of Integra's giggling and Alucard's bass tones as they set to wrapping presents underneath the tree. He had attempted to help, but had been vehemently ejected from the room with a harsh verbal chastening on behalf of his Master; Alucard's smug smirk as he watched the thirteen year old displace the Hellsing family butler still plagued his mind's eye.
Well. He hadn't wanted to help wrap gifts anyway.
With a brief smile, he noted the reason for Integra's fervant outburst. Of course, it had to be because a gift of his was amongst those they were tending to. However, he could pretend to be brooding at her rude treatment, and allow her the sense of secrecy and surprise, no matter how insistantly he stressed to her each year he did not require a present. It was that Hellsing pride, the stubborn set of her jaw that spoke immediately of a losing battle - she would not budge, and the flare of indignant anger at the mere suggestion eventually lead him to simply give up.
This year in particular, he decided to indulge her wishes when it came to the Holidays. The tree was bigger than usual, the decorations those they had picked out together and decorated together, and he had made extra time in his schedule to set aside for the making of hand crafted ornaments alongside her. They had put them up with pride, sparkling together beautifully amongst the red-and-green lights, tinsel, and bows. And, at the very top of the tree was her crowning glory - a picture of her father cut out with care and attached to a badge bearing the Hellsing insignia. Walter had assured her he would not be forgotten this Christmas, not in the least.
It was the first holiday season that Arthur Hellsing would not accompany his daughter as she descended the stairs Christmas morning, yawning over a cup of coffee and sleepily murmuring about the early hour his over-eager butler had awoken him at. Walter was well-aware of this fact, well aware of the sense of loss his absense would renew in her healing heart, and thusly knew that his young charge required extra attention and care, for which he would both gladly divulge.
Times changed, as most things did, rolling on as the years ticked on by... the snowy setting beyond the windowpanes seemed the same as it was every Christmas, but Walter merely had to glance at his reflection in the glass for reminder. Chuckling, he turned away, humming a carol gently as he started towards the sitting room doors. "Are you nearly finished, Sir Integra? The hour is late. Your curfew is already thirty minutes gone."
"Walter!" Came the half-whine, half-exasperated call. "Don't you dare come in!"
"Why must you always wait 'til Christmas Eve to wrap all your gifts?" He asked with a smile of amusement.
"Because I am a procrastinator and I hate wrapping things. Is that what you wanted to hear? You better not be peeking!"
"I can assure you I am not," he replied with mock insult, chuckling under his breath.
"Good. I'm almost done. Just another minute more... Okay, you can come in."
He half-expected to see Alucard covered in masking tape and shreds of wrapping paper, but alas, it seemed their combined efforts had been more fruitful. Several red-and-green wrapped packages lay beneath the tree to the left corner, which had always been desegnated for the elderly retainer. A brow arched at the magnitude; four, this year. "I sincerely hope those aren't all for me."
"But they are," Integra said, beaming triumphantly, a devious glimmer in her eyes behind wide-rimmed glasses. "And it's Christmas Eve, so if I've finally outdone you, you'll just have to live with it."
Walter tilted his head slightly, smirking. "Is that what you think? Well then, I suppose I'll leave you to your dellusions." He stepped towards the tree, aglow with lights and ornaments, looking picturesque in it's beauty. As his eyes scanned the pile of gifts spanning it's base, he glanced over his shoulder. "Sir Integra, whom do these belong to?" He asked, gesturing to a small gathering at his feet.
The girl blushed slightly, attempting to hide it with an inconspicuous adjustement of her glasses. "Those are for Alucard," she said, before squaring her shoulders and holding herself straight, as if she expected an objection.
Walter glanced at the vampire with a glimmer of amusement crossing his aged features, a smirk on his lips. The nosferatu lifted his head, and something passed between them in a silent exchange; Walter chuckled softly. "Is that so? Well then, I will bring mine downstairs later this evening for him."
Integra seemed relieved, though she attempted to hide it behind a stately expression. "That will do," she said, lifting herself to her feet and smoothing out her skirt as she cleared her throat. The clock chimed eleven-o-clock in the backround, and she yawned as if reminded of the late hour.
"Time for bed," Walter said cheerily, placing a hand at her shoulder and guiding her towards the foyer and stairwell.
"Yes yes, time for bed," she mumbled. "Do you think we can make cocoa in the morning instead of tea? It's supposed to snow again, and I..." she said, as Walter's thoughts drifted, automatically responding to her requests as he glanced over his shoulder towards Alucard's lounging form in a chair beside the coffee table. The nosferatu's crimson oculars were aglow with humor as the butler departed from view with his young Master.
"Walter? Are you listening?"
"Yes, of course, Sir Integra," he said, patting her shoulder as they reached the base of the stairs. She halted upon the second step, turning to place her hands at her hips and give him a chiding look. "You are not."
"Forgive me," he said with a warm smile, ruffling her hair, which produced a squawk and an instant smoothing on her part. "Do you require anything before bed?"
After a moment of scrupulous examination of her butler, as if suspecting something underhanded, she relented. "No," she murmured.
"Very well," he replied. "Remember, you are not permitted to leave your room until I fetch you. No peeking," he added, giving her an admonishing look.
"I know, I know," she said, rolling her eyes. "You tell me every year."
"If you did not try, I would not have to remind you."
"That is entirely besides the point."
He laughed, stretching his hand forth to ruffle her hair again teasingly, when she caught it and instead pulled him into an embrace. Surprised, he stood still a moment, off-guard, before slowly enveloping her in his arms, gently stroking his fingers through her hair.
"Walter," she said softly, words muffled against his chest.
"Yes, Sir Integra?"
"Thank you," she breathed.
He half-frowned, lowering his head to glance down upon her, though he could not see her face from this angle. "For what, my dear?"
"...everything." Her grip around him tightened. "I... don't always say it... But I'm very grateful... for everything. I did not... I didn't want anything to... to happen, without saying that, at least once."
Surprise uptook his countenance for long, frozen moments before it melted away into a pang of utter affection. He did not need to see her expression to know she was crying. The slight waver in her voice, the gentle tremor of her shoulders in his arms, betrayed her; he held her tighter in turn, resting his cheek atop her head.
"The thing about love, Integra," he said quietly, "is that you never need to say 'thank you.' " He felt her grow still a moment, her breath catch in her chest as she listened to his words. "I will know how you feel, regardless. Your Father knows, as well, even if he is not here to say so himself. He was never more proud, or happy in his life as he was when looking at you."
There was a pause, minutes that passed in silence, before a small sniffle came from her within the fold of his arms, and she rubbed her nose, giving a soft chuckle as she pulled away, attempting to hide the fact she was dabbing the tears from her eyes behind the shadow of her hair. "Oh, I know," she said cheerily, though they both knew it was no more than a ruse, but perhaps one she needed to uphold. "I just wanted to say it... Seeing as it is Christmas Eve, and all that rot." She turned, starting to trot up the the stairs, waving over her shoulder. "I'll see you in the morning, Walter. Don't forget my cocoa, okay?"
He watched after her long beyond when the sound of her footsteps disappeared down the corridor, and he heard the click of her door shutting, lingering with his hand on the railing. It wasn't until Alucard's voice disturbed the silence that Walter came back to himself.
"She is truly wonderful, my Master," he said, not even a statement such as this escaping the thick humor that dripped from his voice.
"She is," Walter said in an absent-minded murmur.
The vampire halted to Walter's right. "What do you suppose is in those boxes?"
"A leash and collar, or so an old man could hope," the butler replied with a dry smile, but humor crept into his eyes as he tilted his gaze towards the nosferatu.
Alucard smirked before something indeterminable crossed those inhuman blood-red eyes. One gloved hand slipped within his coat. "Merry Christmas, Shinigami." He held out a small box, wrapped in black paper with a white bow.
Walter's brow perked, regarding the box with interest, and he chuckled before reaching into his pocket to procure a small package of the same length, extending it to the vampire. "...Merry Christmas, Count."
Outside, the snow began to fall, and Walter mused that perhaps this mid-winter was not as cold as he had thought.