Love Like Winter

"She wanted love,

I taste of Blood,

She bit my lip and drank my war

From years before…" A.F.I.

When your day starts at the crack of dawn, and sometimes doesn't end until the breaking of the next, an early night can seem like a holiday. After the evening's chores were completed, usually after supper, that's when Walter began his own meal, taking it into the kitchen or on particularly quiet nights, in his quarters. Integra's dinner had been easy enough to prepare; she was irritable from her recent invitation and preparation for a "supernatural conference " to be held in Italy- a personal request was delivered to her direct from the Vatican by none other than her favorite tormentor, the Arch Bishop Maxwell. She ranted, raved, and cursed and demanded a rather rare steak. He noticed that whenever she was in an extremely foul mood, she wanted her food as bloody and pulpy as possible. While searing the meat, he could not help but smile and think of the old, Germanic folk-ways of when one needed strength, one ate blood, or raw foods. Alucard thought it was particularly ironic and offered to serve the master himself.

"If I'm a good boy, perhaps I'll get to dip a piece of bread in the remains." He stated

Walter was actually quite pleased to see his old friend being so kind to his mistress; he seemed able to deal with her mood swings like none other in the household. While not quite sure of their actual 'relationship', he was not blind to the increased care and consideration they had been showing to each other lately. Their company seemed to soften each other up and it warmed his heart to see the young woman smile more and gripe less. Perhaps love would nestle into her heart after all…

"It would be nice to see her settle into something happy, have another generation to raise around here." Walter caught himself thinking as he made his way down the hallway to his room, covered dish in hand. He almost laughed out as a vision of boiling baby bottles of blood in the morning crossed his mind. "Let's not jump the gun here-let's see what happens first- she might shoot him over supper tonight." His room was silent except for the rhythmic ticking of his clock resting on the mantelpiece. He sat down at his desk and placed the meal in front of him; a savory beef stew with carrots and potatoes, a rather large, firm lump of dark -rye bread, and some raw spinach on the side. Turnips would have been lovely, but with the added Hellsing family now residing in the manor, it seemed that vegetables disappeared rapidly. Both Sir Edward and Lady Meena were vegetarians, so anything green was fair game for food. He glanced up at the clock- it was only 7:40, plenty of time to have some tea, read a bit and maybe get some early rest, that is ,if she came home too late.

If there wasn't work to be done out on the battlefield, Seras usually came and paid him a visit a few times a week. Sometimes they would partake of a little tea or coco in the kitchen or take a short walk around the garden if the weather permitted. Other nights, it was cards or chess, though she wasn't a particularly good player. Sometimes he teased her, asking if her boyfriend would get jealous because of their constant companionship.

"Don't be silly- the Captain's not like that at all. You're my friend , I enjoy your company- also it's nice to get to spend time with you when we're both not, you know, shooting nasty things in the head, or covered with blood." She would smile and his heart would light up. She was a dear, a sweetheart, a love- while she could be overwhelmingly emotional at times, Walter just sighed and began to accept it as part of a larger package. Sometimes when she leaned in to give him a dutiful peck on the cheek goodnight, he wished to be forty years younger again. He sighed at his whimsy and began to delve into his stew before it got cold. The man knew all too well that having strong feelings for an immortal got one into … an unusual position. A light knock at the door broke him out of his melancholy.

"Hallo-can I come in, Mr. Dornez?", a perky voice inquired. Hmm, she was early, very early tonight. He wiped his mouth, got up and unlocked the door. The young, blonde vampire greeted him with a smile, still dressed up quite nicely in a black dinner dress and heels.

"The supper with Lady Emma and Andrew ended early, may I join you for a bit?"

"Of course- please enter." She side-stepped and kicked off her shoes in the doorway, making her way over to the table.

"I can't wear those silly things anymore, I wanted to wear boots, but it just seemed too punk for a fancy dinner out."

"Where did you end up going?" Walter inquired.

"It was a Thai restaurant that Lord Andrew had been raving about for ages. Since he's been doing so well with his training, we all figured that it would be fair to let him pick the place. I had to mix a little blood with the coconut soup, but it was really good. "

"Why didn't you stay out longer." Seras shrugged .

"Andrew and his family wanted dessert, then a trip to the pub for drinks-I just wasn't up to all that socializing tonight."

"And so, you are foregoing fine sweets and beer to bask in the company of an old man tonight- you're an odd girl, Seras." She grinned and nodded.

"Plus, you promised to show me those old pictures, you know, the ones from the war and such." Walter took a few more bites of supper and nodded.

"Indeed I did. I'm going to finish up here- I'd offer you some, but it appears you had your meal already, so if you want to get a head start, get them out of the 

large box in the closet." The girl made her way to the wardrobe in the back of the room near the bed. "There up on the top shelf next to my hats."

She carefully opened the wide, oak doors and stood tip-toe to grasp a pair of large, brown boxes. They felt like leather and smelled a bit musty, but not unpleasant. She brought them down and placed them on the bed . The lids came off and it was as if an entire world came into focus in black, white and shades of grey. Photographs always fascinated Seras from the time she was a girl; it was as if a little piece of time had been frozen forever. Gently she fingered all the pieces-there were so many!

"And this is just one box!" she thought. A few photos were in colour of a middle aged Walter next to a graying man, whom she took for Lord Arthur Hellsing, and a gorgeous Indian woman. This was Sir Integra's mother, the Lady Sheena Amurri. Other bright photos followed including several of her mistress as a young girl and teenager . Seras could not help but giggle; even as a mere girl , Sir Hellsing had a look of sheer determination on her face. However, it was the older pictures that captured her attention and whet her imagination. A few pieces were frayed around the edges and battered along the corners.

She grabbed a few and stared at them intensely . In one, a young, extremely handsome man starred out into the lens with a cocky grin and warm eyes. He wore a suit and waist coat of what appeared to be velvet and a cigarette dangled from his curled lips. His eyes were so sharp, so piercing. Another two or three showed him with soldiers, both American and British, and a young, blond man who closely resembled Lord Andrew. However, it was a particular image of the dark, handsome man, perhaps a little younger, maybe no more than fifteen or sixteen, with a female companion that really caught her fancy.

The girl was beautiful; she was young, not more than fourteen with long, dark hair and very intense eyes. She resembled some sort of china doll, perhaps she was even Asian herself, with her sleek features and pin-straight coif. The lady in question wore a prim, white dress and coat and seemed to have a great deal of affection for the boy-always close to him, arm around his shoulders. There was something odd about this girl, though, that the little vampire couldn't put her finger on. She knew this person, had some sort of connection to her, but that would be impossible- her own parents weren't even alive at the time, so how could she know whom this person was.

"Ha! It seems that you found my WWII photos.," Walter stated. Seras held up the picture in question and she saw him smile. "I was quite handsome when I was young."

"You still are, but tell me, just who is this. I feel like I know her ,but I know that's impossible. Was she your girlfriend?" The butler's face changed a bit as he saw the image. He took a breath and sighed . There was a silence for a moment and then he spoke.

"Sit down, Police Girl, and let me tell you a story…."

1939, Hellsing Manor.

Europe had its share of hardship during the 1930's; economics were in crisis, the echoes of WWI still rung out like a vicious bell, and it seemed that the whole world was a whirlwind of anger, depression and despair.

"That's why we have to be grateful to be here, to be of service, to make this little part of the world better, isn't that right, Wally." Grandpa would say . Working as a gardener was hard and dirty labour. The Mansion was huge and had an enormous garden that constantly needed upkeep. However, in a time when there was so much hunger and so little work to be had, it was a mitzvah, a true blessing to have so much to be done every day. Walter lived with his grandfather in the servant's quarters. Even at ten, he was a solid workman who could plant, cut, trim and arrange with the best of them. When he was exhausted and covered in dirt, his grandfather would beam at him and pat his head. After all, now that mum was gone, they were all that each other had in the world.

Lord Hellsing had taken the little family about eight years prior. While only a very little boy, Walter could recall that the young man was bossy, but kind. After all, not many people would give a widow, her young son and father a place to live and work, especially since there were whispers of them being, "Those people". At this point, they had become part of the family and used to life up on the hill. Also, with Walter growing quickly into his adolescence, a proposal had been made to bring him inside the house as a servant, perhaps even a butler- in -training.

"Just think of it, you'll get to wear proper clothes and get to stay inside on cold days, nice, huh?" Grandpa was hopeful; more than anything, he wanted his only remaining family to have a good life, a better existence than what he could offer. He secretly prayed that the boy could become a butler and rise up in the household, learn to read and write better and even manage the kitchen or staff.

"I've had a good life, Lord, but please, let the boy go on to better things. I am old-I don't ask for much, but he will live a long, long time….let him make his future bright." The man would pray. The boy wanted to make his Grandfather proud, but worried that the master would not like him once inside the house. He was a fickle man who could snap in and out of moods on a regular basis.

On the morning of his interview, the boy put on his best clothes, a brave face and entered the hallowed halls of the manor's west wing, an area he had never been in his whole life. The whole place was beautiful and majestic; thick drapes hung over windows like theatre curtains, the paneled floor was polished to a shine, and the large paintings of richly-dressed ancestors seem to follow his every movement with their eyes. For a young boy used to the dirt and vines, it was overwhelming to say the least. He was at last led to a pair of impressive, carved doors and the servant knocked for him.

"Enter!", a sharp voice cried from within. The door creaked open to reveal a handsome, blond man in a disheveled suit with an enormous stack of paperwork on his desk –and a huge glass of something amber in colour to his right. He ran his fingers through his hair and hissed through his teeth.

"Don't just stand there, boy-come inside." The servant closed the door and left Walter with the Lord of the Household. Walter drew closer cautiously.

"Damn budgets- if these idiot even knew how little we're asking for…" he paused at looked up at the confused boy. "Ah, pay no mind to that, my boy. Now you're the gardener's grandson, right?'

"Yes, sir."

"You're his apprentice , yes?"

"Yes, sir." He cocked an eyebrow at him.

"Not any more. You have just been promoted to be trained to take over the position of house butler. I've watched you work, and I'm impressed to say the least. You work hard, say little, and do a good job. I think that you may be able to handle more fine affairs of the household in time. Can you read and write?"

"Yes, sir. My Mother and Granddad taught me. " The man seemed very pleased and took a long sip of his drink.

"I will need you to be trained-it will be very hard, er, um…"

"Walter, sir, my name is Walter."

"Well, 'Walter', you will have to learn etiquette and languages, as well as perhaps some cooking and proper cleaning. I need my house and its entire staff to be a compliment to me, not a hindrance. Come closer." Sir Hellsing gestured with his finger and the boy approached.

"I also need your loyalty, my boy. My family, like yours, has worked very, very hard to obtain all that it has. I would consider it a great offence for you to take advantage of this situation by damaging, or taking anything of mine away-do you understand?" Walter nodded .

"I've never stolen anything in my life, sir." The poor boy had a frightened look upon his face. Sir Hellsing's tone softened a bit when he saw that his speech had promoted just the right level of respect from his servant.

"Very good, I'm glad that we have an understanding. Now, I will speak to your Grandfather and we will begin your training in a few weeks. You better get used to being in the house as soon as possible. Good luck to you." He took another sip of the beverage and gestured him to leave. The boy did a little half bow, thanked him, and showed himself out. As he walked down the great hallway, Walter could not help but to feel a presence of eyes upon the back of his head, as if someone, somewhere in the hall was watching him. For a moment, he paused and looked up at a huge, oil-portrait 

of an old man with white, flowing hair and a stern look on his face. "Abraham Van Helsing, 1898" the caption proclaimed . Walter gazed deep into the steely eyes and sharp line of his mouth.

"So, maybe you're watching over me, old man?" Walter asked, amused that only a painting could get him so paranoid. He smiled and continued back out to the garden. If that old picture could talk, it would have warned him that he was not the only one watching over him that day…

1940

The hard training of almost a year had paid off very well and proved to be a most valuable asset when the head butler was unceremoniously fired one afternoon after a bout of screaming in the Drawing Room. While the thick doors had muffled out most of the noise, Sir. Hellsing's voice boomed his anger; he was furious with the man and threatened to shoot him for his thievery… or so it seemed. After the row, Walter was called in and was calmly asked to fetch another brandy and to get his things moved out from his shared quarters by this afternoon , and into this ex-servant's apartment in the west side of the mansion. When he informed his grandfather of the change in events, the old man was thrilled; his hopes for the boy were coming true and he was well on his way to a better life.

"We must thank the Lord for this blessing." He beamed. However, his grandson looked sad.

"What's wrong, Wally?"

"I barely get to work with you anymore, and with moving, I'll never see you!" The man patted the child's head.

"You are becoming a young man, Walter. It's time for you to set off from the nest a bit more. Don't worry, we know what we look like. I'm sure we will have some time in the future together, so take this as a mitzvah –" He hugged him tight, and sent him off with his things packed.

The apartment was ordinary by most people's standards, but for Walter who had never had a room of his own, it was heavenly. The wall paper was a soft cream colour and the furnishing were pleasant and new; there was a set of dressers, a small wardrobe, a single bed with an open iron headboard , desk-and-chair-set, and even an adjoining wash room. He began to place his clothes, books and few worldly belongings in their proper places and set up house. When he was done, he could not help but to be a child for a moment, and bounce on the squishy mattress for a bit. He stretched out his body and tucked his hands behind his head, his weight sinking into the softness.

" I can't believe my luck," he thought to himself. The day was long, and he felt fatigue over take his body, lids lowering lightly and his mind drifting off.

Later That Night…

The only logical explanation for the pressure on his chest was that Walter was dreaming- some sort of intense dream where he was being crushed by a boulder, or squished by a long python in the jungles of the Amazon… however, when he felt something wet and soft lick at his ear, he knew the dream was either getting a little too real, or there really was a snake in the bed with him. He woke up with a start, and was even more surprised when another person was in there with him. He struggled for the light, nearly knocking the lamp over . The light snapped on to reveal the surprised face of a girl, with her arms still embracing his shoulders. Walter was dumbstruck; she looked a bit angry.

"You're not Thomas." She stated flatly, dropping her hands from his body. Walter wasn't quite sure what to do- she was very pretty, but rather irked.

"Um, I'm Walter, who are you?"

"Why the hell are you in his bed? " She huffed.

"That man got fired today. I'm taking his place, so this is my room, my bed now." The girl rolled her eyes and got off the bed. She mustn't have been more than fourteen or fifteen with long, dark hair and a thin frame. As she crossed to the other side of the room, Walter was a bit embarrassed; she was clothed in a rather short, white nightgown with plenty of ruffles and little else.

"Dammit!," she hissed ,"He must have found out-that jealous, stupid, over-protective idiot…. " she looked up at Walter again who was trying to focus on her face and nothing else. "What did you say your name was again, boy?"

"Walter." She crossed her arms and came back closer to the bed.

"Well, Walter, I hope you know that the man you work for is a horrid, horrid creature. "

"I would hope you wouldn't talk about your father that way, miss." A look of "What??" crossed over her face and she pressed her hand to her mouth to cover peals of laughter.

"Father, Father-oh, Lord, that's rich!" Walter just stared as the young girl continued chuckling as if he had told the most amusing story in the world. Great, just great, there was a crazy, half-naked girl in his room at midnight… what a hell of a way to start out his first day on the job…

Vampires have to be invited in-and Seras has manners...