Red, Red Wine

1946- Evening- The Hellsing Manor

After a while, even the festivities left him bored. There was the usual music and dancing while conversations blended and merged into another. Heads of state chatted and ogled the pretty , young things that flitted in and out like butterflies throughout the manor. The cooks had been working overtime- dozens of trays of exotic dishes covered the dining table, and the alcohol flowed like water. In spite of all the merry-making, there was something about Arthur's soirees left the young man feeling a bit overwhelmed and unimpressed.

"I must be getting jaded…." Walter thought as he took a long drag on his cigarette, followed by a sip of his wine. After all, it was not too long ago that Walter himself had been pouring out champagne and lighting smelly, over-priced cigars at these affairs. He was content now to watch the party from a slight distance; the teen had staked out his territory on the balcony, occupying a tight corner where he could peer into the dinning and drawing rooms, or cast his gaze outwards into the manor's grounds and gardens. It was early April and the buds were beginning to burst into life, rivaling the gowns of the women on the dance floor. One young woman reminded him of a crocus in her purple chiffon…..

"She's really pretty, isn't she?', a light, feminine voice whispered into his ear. The young man jumped up, almost dropping his glass. Leaning next to him was the resident vampire of the household dressed in a frilly, cream frock and with the smile of a shark.

"Don't do that!" Walter chided. "How did you even get up here?" Ali pointed to the side of the wall and giggled.

"I scaled it. You were so busy watching Miss Crocus that you didn't even notice." She shook her head disapprovingly. "Shame on you Wally- didn't the war teach you anything? If I'd been a Nazi, you'd b e dead."

"Well, you're not a Nazi, and we haven't had to deal with any Nazis for almost four months. Excuse me for wanting to relax a bit." The young man sat down in a huff, and took an angry swig of his wine- there was no tone of relaxation in his voice. The vampire sensed his frustration and sat next to him.

"You don't have to be so cross about it. What's wrong- you've been edgy for weeks. I figured that you 'retiring' from the battlefield would be a good change of pace for you. Now you can do all the normal things a person your age should be doing."

"Like what- go back to bringing Arthur's breakfast and cleaning up his laundry? Trimming the hedges in the garden?" Walter huffed.

"Well, Arthur could ask you to trim his hedges….", The boy stuck out his tongue in disgust. Ali nudged him. "See, there are worse things you could be doing. Besides, you like working in the garden. You were concerned if Charles was tending the rose bushes when we were in Switzerland."

The war had come and gone, but the after-shocks still reverberated. While the main head of the Third Reich had been crushed, it's other branches still twisted and clung to desperate attempts to keep power in other parts of Europe and South America.

Their last mission was to crack down on a sympathizer on the German-Swiss border who was harboring a pair of officers in his chalet. The host had been foolish enough to trust that the Nazis would give him immortality- the only thing Dr. Eicher had been given was a bullet to the back of his skull. To add insult to injury, his gracious 'guests' stole all of his worldly possessions and had taken his young daughter. Alucard and Walter had been able to cut them down and recover the girl, but it was too late; Elsie Eicher had been violated, chipped , and turned into an un-dead horror. There was no choice but to dispatch her like any other ghoul. It had been a real shame- from the looks of it, she was only a few years younger than Walter, and far too young to meet such a demise.

After this incident, they had been called in only for a few, random jobs eliminating low-level ghouls and their makers. Under his bravado, Sir Arthur was concerned about the young man's resilience to such stress for the past three years. He was afraid of having Walter crack, lose his humanity, and perhaps out of his own selfish reasons, lose the abilities of such a talented servant. (After all, how many noblemen possessed a butler capable of preparing a perfect formal luncheon and destroy a Nazi battalion with razor-sharp accuracy?)The period of rest should have made Walter calmer, more interested in his daily life, but instead he seemed to be on edge, like a dog ready to snap its jaws at any passer-by. No, this would not suit the boy at all, and quite frankly, the creature was yearning for some more amicable company. One mad watchdog in the household was enough.

"I have an idea.," the vampire announced. "I wanted to give you a tour of something that Arthur has been setting up for you, if you can drag yourself away from being a voyeur." Walter shot her a quizzical look.

"What do you mean, 'set up for me'?", Curiosity spiked his tone. Ali arched her brows and coyly brushed her long, dark hair over her shoulder.

"Oh, it's a surprise, you're really not suppose to know about it, but due to my generous nature, I'm willing to show it to you." The teen's eyes narrowed. He knew his companion better than that.

"And what would you be getting out of this, Ali?" A slender finger reached over and circled the rim of his glass.

"I was hoping that afterward, I could go back to your room and we could finish drinking your wine- it smells like Port." She stated. Walter swallowed a lump in his throat. "It is Port, isn't it?" she asked, pressing a bit more firmly into his side.

"Yes."

Alucard giggled. She dipped a finger into the crimson liquid and licked it off . She repeated the action a second time, gesturing the digit to Walter. Nervously, he took the drop.

"Oh, that's good- they say that Port gives one strength- builds blood. Ready to go?"

The pair swept past the still reveling crowd, dodging the glance of their master and his entourage of ladies and men of state. Down the stone stairs leading toward the kitchen, they pulled each other- two anxious children racing towards a wonderful secret. The kitchen went by in a blur, they past the larder and pantry, until Ali and Walter were down another level, to an older part of the manor that had not been touched by the newer renovations of the past decade or so. The air seemed cooler and a bit stale. While Walter grew a tad uncomfortable, he was not completely lost; this was one of the lower levels where the first wine cellar lay. He had been here once or twice before to retrieve a few bottles of lesser quality drink. The really good stuff lay almost two floors below near the basement, but for some odd reason, he had always resisted going that far down, as if he would never return from such a trek. Ali motioned him to continue down the hallway to the left.

"It's dim in here- where the Hell are we going?", he huffed. The creature took his hand and guided him down the space. A great, latched door was before them-heavy, black, and ominous. Just the look of it gave the boy the willies.

"I am not going in there.', he protested. Ali tsked.

"Stop being such a sot." Walter pushed on the door.

"See? It's locked anyhow, so why don't-" He was cut off by his companion jiggling the door handle and opening the heavy portal with a long, low creak. For a moment , they both were engulfed by darkness, a darkness so black and thick that it was like being dipped inside a bucket of tar. Walter drew in a sharp breath.

"I don't like this place…." He thought

"Get used to it," Ali responded, "It's custom made for you."

"Stop reading my mind, I- ", the boy was cut off by a flick of a light switch. The interior of the space was not a tomb, but a work shop, an incredibly neat, organized work space, complete with tables, chairs, rows of tools, and even a set of blue-prints carefully laid out on the drafting board. Walter was speechless. Carefully, he took a step over and examined a set of screwdrivers so delicate that they looked like they belonged in a jeweler's shop.

"What is all this?" he asked while examining the set.

"Arthur believes that you have an innate mechanical ability and wants you to fully put that into use. After all, how many cups of tea can you brew a day- he wants to put your talents to the test." Walter shook his head.

"I mean, I know I fixed his radio the few times he dropped it, but I'm no engineer. I've barely had enough schooling to-" his train of words was cut off by a finger to his lips. A pair of crimson eyes stared intensely, but gently into his.

"Angel," she stated ,"You must give yourself more credit than you do. You're a person of many talents. Just think of what you'll be creating down here."

"Which will be?" Her stare took on a slightly predatory gleam.

"Weapons, all sorts of weapons. Think of all the new and effective tools you will be creating to aid in the battle against all that would harm your countrymen. Think of all the lives you will save and enable with your handiworks. Just because you are no longer on the front lines doesn't mean you stop fighting." Walter smiled and put down the screwdriver.

"Now remember, you have no clue, no inkling about this place- you are not suppose to know about its existence for at least another month-I believe for your sixteen birthday."

"That's Ace.", he replied with a grin. Ali slipped an arm into his and looked up.

"Now what do you say we get out of here, and finish that Port?"Walter flicked off the switch and quietly closed the door in the dark. In the dimness, the boy did not notice her licking her lips.

"After all," the vampire stated," I hear that Port gives one strength, builds blood."