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Transylvania, Douze Points

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At first, Walter put on the radio out of morbid curiosity.

It wasn't as if he had much else to do. He'd practiced at the range with every firearm in Hellsing's inventory, plus a few of his own modification; Arthur was out carousing somewhere and unlikely to be back before sunrise; there wasn't even a room in the manor that needed dusting.

(As the postwar years marched on, Walter had found that cleaning house was surprisingly therapeutic. Alucard thought this was hilarious. Arthur had been delighted and supportive, although that was probably mostly because Alucard kept scaring off the maids.)

During the third or fourth song, the ceiling above Walter's armchair developed a patch of inky black, which in turn developed a dozen mismatched red eyes. "Does Lord Hellsing know about these dulcet German tones invading British airwaves?"

"It's a multinational event," said Walter. "They're calling it the Grand Prix of something something. Meant to bring all of Europe together in friendly contest."

"I see," said the shadow, unblinking eyeballs split between Walter and the radio. "When is the English entry, then?"

"I don't believe we entered."

"And the Romanian?"

"I don't believe they were invited."

"How charming." Another patch of eyes developed on the portrait above the mantelpiece, and Alucard's voice continued from that direction: "I feel more unified already."

The German singer finished his tune, to genteel applause, and the announcer reported that the next entry was French. Doleful strings and a tinkling piano led into a soprano that rippled like a lake under a strong breeze.

"Ah, I begin to understand the appeal," purred Alucard. "She sounds attractive. Blonde, I expect. I like blondes."

He had to be awfully bored in his own right, to be poking at Walter in such a cheap, transparent way. Walter got to his feet. "The fair sort are quite charming, I suppose," he said, folding his hands behind his back, "but I could be persuaded to dance with the dark."

There was a soft shoop as Alucard dropped out of the ceiling, polished shoes first, and landed gracefully on the carpet. A waterfall of black hair followed -- he was in the white-suited teenage shape he'd used during the war -- and cascaded into place at his back, not a lock out of place. "A gentlemanly offer, Angel of Death."

Walter held out a gloved hand.

Alucard took it, then changed shape where he stood, stretching to half a head taller than Walter with a wild mop of short hair framing his catlike smile. The hand in Walter's grip morphed into something wider and more knuckly.

"If this is your way of saying you'd like to lead," said Walter, unruffled, "I'm game."

They danced, slow and formal, as the music played on. Walter had let his French slip since the war, and romantic ballads were never his focus to begin with; all he could gather was that the singer was making a plea to a lost love.

"Foolish, superstitious humans," said Alucard with quiet amusement. "You can't replace centuries of national conflict with singing at each other. You'll be at war again soon enough."

Privately, Walter agreed. Out loud, he said, "Don't write off humanity's efforts so quickly. Remember, we also have football."

The song drew to a close a few measures later. A woman from Luxembourg took to the microphone next, singing in a cheeky, up-tempo rhythm that didn't lend itself at all to ballroom dancing.

Walter let himself smirk. "I don't suppose you know how to jitterbug?"

Alucard snorted, fading to an insubstantial mass of shadow in Walter's arms. "Call me back if a Romanian contestant does turn up," he said, out of a mouth that was the only distinct feature he had left. "Or if any of these songs are about vampires."