Helena swiped her hand across her face,pretending to wipe away sweat whilst actually licking the blood off her palm. It was only her first day in the VAD and she was already covered in bodily fluids. Honestly,how had a duchess been reduced to this? Granted,her stint as a duchess had been some time ago,whilst she was fully human, but she still felt the entitlement of peerage. She had to resist the urge to suck the blood out of her apron and instead looked up to see a new wave of injured soldiers being carried into this makeshift tent that purported to be a field hospital. With a start, she realised that she recognized one of the young men being carried in on a stretcher. Was that Bobby Walden? Or should she call him Lord Robert? Still,she was older than him,both physically and in terms of turning so she absolutely refused to title him. The scandalous to say the least circumstances of his turning also disinclined her from using his title. He was the companion to a wealthy,unmarried lord, also a vampire and the rumour mill had been turning long before they had announced it. Relations such as theirs were considerably less frowned upon in the undead community,but there were some who staunchly did not accept them. He had been turned maybe fifty years after her,at nineteen, whereas she was twenty-three. The mud-spattered (eww,mud, she despised mud) stretcher bearers plonked him down on a bed near her and she scurried over to confirm her suspicions. It was him!
"Walden, Robert Walden"
"Private Walden. What seems to be the issue? As I cannot see one." This last was muttered so that only he might hear. He chuckled.
"None,but they insisted on bringing me in. Shrapnel wounds,mostly. Looks bad,but healed before I even arrived."
"You know,Bobby, I am rather surprised you are still a private. I would have thought Will would have bought you a commission before now."
"He tried. I insisted on working up under my own merit."
"Don't suppose you've got any sanguis, have you?"
"I find transfusion bags are a great help. Goodness knows you need it. How many downed that they would not bring?"
"You mean corpses? Too many,that's how many, Helena. I did consider turning them, but god knows I'm too inexperienced to be a sire. Will hates it,you know that, so he won't teach me, he only really did me because, well,you know..."
"You are close?"
"Exactly. And I couldn't expect you to,either. Barbaric, what he did."
"I find myself too used to the cruelty of man and indeed of men to hate my sire overmuch. He was a viable suitor, I could hardly turn him away now,could I?"
"This is why I'm glad I'm a man."
"Burke, kindly stop chatting to the patients rather than tending them."
The shout of Sister roused Helena from the conversation and she hurried off to tend the more human patients.
That evening, when everyone else was asleep, she reappeared at his bedside.
He glared at her.
"How many what?"
"I told you. Too many."
"I did not mean ours. I heard the reports. Mostly strong brave men-"
"Have some respect, Private! As I was saying, strong, brave men reduced to gibbering wrecks because of what happened today. And this is not ordinary shell shock,I have seen some of those in my time-"
"Forgot you served before."
"Bobby, stop interrupting me. This is the kind of terror that you really only get from nightmares or hallucinations, but they saw it for real,happening right in front of their eyes. So I shall ask you again and you will tell me straight, mindless of my delicate sensibilities, as usual. How. Many. Of. Them. Did. You. Kill?"
"A lot. I- I frenzied."
"You did WHAT!?"
"They shot Michael."
"I do not recognize the name."
"He's- he was human. My best friend outside the coven. They killed him, Hel, they killed him and I just lost it and-"
"Please, calm down. I will get you some sanguis. Which would you like?"
"Preferably a spiked one."
"You know I cannot condone that. I shall get something fresh."
"No,don't. They'll need it." He gestured expansively to the room.
"Is there anything they can't have,but I might?"
"Indeed. I earmarked a few for disposal, they had started to disintegrate, I could not give our men that. You are sure you do not mind?"
"I'll take what I can get. I don't want to see another one of ours die because I got peckish."
A thought suddenly struck her.
"You said you wanted to turn them, yet you did not do so. Why not?"
"There were too many, I wouldn't've coped."
"What tosh. I did not mean all of them anyhow. I meant Michael. You wished to save him, did you not?"
"He wouldn't let me. I kept saying to him, I said 'Mikey, God, Mikey, let me do this. It doesn't have to be like this, Mikey, we could live forever,I can save you' and he refused. Said he didn't want to see everyone die around him. Said he wanted a girl that he could grow old with,rather than watch her wither while he kept his youth. He made me promise not to try."
"Goodness. I do not think I have seen you in this sort of agitated state in...well,ever. I think you ought to write to Will. He will tell you what to do,how to recover."
"He didn't want me here. He asked me not to go. He said he'd seen the horrors of war and he had no interest in letting me do the same."