All characters © Hirano Kouta
Summary: It didn't take Islands long to realize that Arthur had gone insane.
Hellsing: Section Eight
He supposed he had first begun to notice something...amiss when they had been fourteen. It had happened suddenly, it seemed, starting one afternoon.
"Are you bloody serious?" Islands squinted to read the painted numerals on his grandfather clock from across the room. The digits weren't as sharp around the edges as they used to be; Islands supposed he would be needing glasses before long. "It's not even eight, Arthur."
"Yeah, but the sun'll be dropping soon," Arthur answered, rising. He smoothed back his hair which, despite the globs of brylcreem combed into it, still stuck up in a wiggly cowlick.
Penwood paused from his game of solitaire to speak up. "But bed? You've been retiring early going on a week now, mate."
Arthur bristled. "I just don't want to be outside while it's dark out, is all," he told them before disappearing into the shadows of the afternoon sky.
That had been the first alarm bell that had gone off in Island's head.
Islands threw a curious glance to his left, trying not to notice how the tinted glasses made his friend look all the more like a human-fly hybrid. "It's not that bright out, Arthur," he commented, "you can take off the shades."
This was greeted with a head shake. "Not yet."
"Can I ask why?"
"It's like blood."
A crease appeared in Arthur's cream-smooth forehead that was still free from the blemishes of acne, disrupting the calm there. "The sky, mate," he said, as if it was the most blatantly obvious thing in the world. "The colors of the sunset." Islands saw that the sky was indeed red this afternoon, punctuating the blue with a bright and slightly sublime blanket of crimson light.
"Oh," Islands answered, somewhat lamely. He turned to look at his friend. "What's with you lately, Arthur? You disappear in the evenings without telling us anything, it looks like you've lost some weight, and your habits are getting bloody strange."
Arthur returned the gaze. Islands could see his own reflection staring back in those oversized lenses, and suddenly he was not so sure he wanted to hear the answer. Arthur seemed to catch this and gave a shrug, turning away so that his face became enveloped in the ember-like glow of the sunset.
"I found something in my basement," was all he replied.
After a few months Arthur appeared to have returned to normal, slipping into his raucous, bawdy self that defined the very epitome of Arthur Hellsing. Penwood and Islands had breathed a sigh of relief...until Islands observed that Arthur hadn't returned to normal at all, not really.
There were subtle things.
"Arthur," Islands hissed, elbowing his friend while Penwood turned a florid shade of salmon. "That's the fifth one this afternoon."
Arthur grinned and straightened up, laying down his fake cane which he so cleverly called his "Peekie Stick."
"I was only getting a look," he protested. "It's a shame their skirts've become longer these days-but a man's still gotta have a little fun. You agree, don't you, Penwood?"
"You're only fifteen!" Islands snapped as Arthur glanced longingly at a young woman whose decent legs were encased in nylon stockings.
"Yeah, but you have to live life to the fullest mate," Arthur replied, picking up the Stick again. "You're only human once."
"So tell me again why you're wearing a rugby helmet and padding when you're not actually playing rugby?"
Arthur watched the other boys throw around the ball and dash gleefully through the grass. His expression was brooding, pale eyes abstrusely turgid with an expression vastly different from his typical joviality. He looked up at Islands, who was sweating lightly with exertion, his knees scraped casually in the roughness of the game. "I can't bleed."
Islands frowned, adjusting his spectacles. "Pardon?"
"Blood is precious," Arthur said brusquely, gesturing to Island's knees. "Cover that up, you fool!"
"I...don't have bandages with me now, but I can get some when we're finished," Islands said tentatively, hoping to put Arthur's odd mood at ease.
Arthur flapped his hand. "Don't come near me until you're covered, Islands," he said, staring off into space.
Islands visited the Hellsing estate one day and found all of the mirrors in the house to be covered with tarp.
"Care to share, Arthur?" he'd inquired, after a trip to the lavatory left him more than a little confused.
"It's not what you see, but what you don't," Arthur had muttered, more to himself than to Islands. "That's one thing the legends got right..."
After that Islands's visits to the manor became less frequent. He had begun to get a weird vibe from inside the walls, almost like he wasn't alone. It was always cold at Arthur's place too, as if the weather outside couldn't get past the door.
There were other mannerisms and quirks that Arthur picked up between the ages of fourteen and sixteen that left Islands questionable.
The first was smoking. Chesterfields mostly, then Wintermans. Islands, who was an asthmatic as well as myopic found this habit utterly repulsive. On one occasion he had asked Arthur about it.
"It covers up other smells, mate," Arthur had answered, blowing out a plume of white fog. Island's eyes watered, and he struggled grimly with the urge to sneeze as he held his breath for an uncomfortable minute. When he thought he could breathe again he sniffed his lapel curiously.
Arthur laughed heartily, expelling more smoke. "It's not you, don't worry," he chuckled, then immediately sobered. "But you wouldn't believe some of the smells out there, not until you smelled em. Necrosis and decay, mate. Total necrosis."
This was a comment that had kept Islands up late at night, for no other reason other than he didn't understand it at all.
On several occasions he had tried talking to Penwood about it, but as bright as the kid was he seemed to dismiss it all as part of Arthur's natural eccentricity.
"It's normal to give up red meat," Penwood shrugged his beefy shoulders, "especially for people like me. It's a coronary waiting to happen."
Islands still wasn't convinced. "Have you realized that he's become obsessed with war? He'll go off on these morbid battle stories like he's telling a fond memory!"
"Well we are on the brink of war, probably," Penwood remarked.
"Yes, but I doubt it'll be as enjoyable as Arthur makes it out to be," Islands commented dryly. He didn't think Penwood, as squeamish as he was, had been presented with the full version of Arthur's war lore. Arthur would talk of unspeakable things, bloody things, things Islands thought Penwood could do without hearing. He didn't even want to know how Arthur knew such things. The uncensored trivia, to Island's dismay, had been saved for him alone.
"Oy, Islands. Do you know that if you stick a spear far enough into a person's rectum, and if the spear in question is long enough, it will come out their mouths?" Arthur had inquired on such occasion. The casualness of such a disturbing statement had made Islands shiver. He looked over, and saw that Arthur had a little smile on his face.
"No Arthur, I didn't know that. Why the bloody hell would I want to know that?"
Islands would never forget how Arthur had replied; the words still chill him.
"It's quite interesting, once you've seen it."
For the better part of two years Islands had lost faith in his friend's sanity, as precarious as it had been to start (both the faith and the sanity). Others saw it as a healthy uniqueness, since Arthur could be quite the charmer and could use his chiseled, Aryan looks to get away with anything. But it was Islands who saw the doodles of Theban on Arthur's notes, Islands who noticed the oddly high bills from the Ipswich Blood Bank, and Islands who observed the double padlock chain Arthur had put on the doors to his cellar. At the time Islands was maddeningly curious as to the idiosyncrasies of his childhood friend, but refrained from inquiring. But Arthur seemed to read him, as always.
"You must think I've got a few toys in the attic, Islands!" he had remarked once. He grinned, looped an arm around Island's neck, and cupped a hand to the side of his mouth despite the fact that no one was around. "Next year, when we join the Council of Twelve, I'll tell you everything, mate."
And so he did. Islands would never forget that day; he and Penwood had both alternated trips to the lavatory to relieve their stomachs while Arthur waited regrettably outside with double shots of brandy. But that part hadn't come until later.
He remembered meeting Alucard. The rest was hazy after that, all except for the clarity of being utterly terrified for the first time in his life.
After the initial shock of things and a few weeks to recover, Islands wondered how Arthur had ever coped alone. But then again they were young boys, malleable like taffy. He began to realize, as life eased back to a tentative normal, how Arthur had done it. There was a certain bittersweet superiority that came with sharing a secret, quite like digging a fingernail into your gums so it brought an intense but enjoyable pain. The power of esoterica gave one a sense of comfort, Islands concluded, as he watched the London people go about their everyday lives, unknowing.
The Round Table all knew about vampires to some extent. Penwood and Islands soon came to discover that the nobles' knowledge varied-with some it was very basic, and others, themselves included, knew Alucard personally and were aware of his true identity.
It was this knowledge, half a decade later and during the midst of war, that caused Islands to keep a level head when the ghouls started appearing and Arthur had begun talking about recruiting his Ultimate Weapon. The other members of the Council spluttered around him, but Islands merely stared impassively. Had he ever doubted his old friend?
He had, once, when he presumed the definition of crazy to be covering your mirrors, bandaging yourself when you had no wounds, and chatting incessantly about the gory details of lost wars.
Islands knew a little better now.
Author's note: I wanted to write about the topic of insanity, and decided to revisit my beloved Hellsing fandom. Since Hirano Kouta gives us a lot of holes, I took a few liberties. I wanted to write about how Arthur discovered the Hellsing secret before Islands and Penwood (under the impression that Alucard wasn't serving the family regularly), and about how Islands sees the change in Arthur. Hope you liked!