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Jean [userpic]
Le Grande Opening
by Jean (givemethechild)
at August 14th, 2006 (12:47 am)

Title: Ties of Blood
Rating: PG-13
Author notes: Lavinia would just like to say that the credit for the written portion of this piece belongs equally to Jean, because not only did she beta multiple versions of it, but she also assisted in the very initial brainstorming for the logistics of the plot.

Jean also prepared what was quite possibly the most spectacular transcript that has even been made from the anime flashbacks, in order for Lavinia to make the dialogue and details as wholly accurate as possible. It was so much more than Lavinia ever asked, and made this story better than it would have ever been had Lavinia been on her own making some kind of transcript. Lastly, Jean also sacrificed her most valuable beauty sleep time to type many, many codes into the story (which they are both in agreement now is far too emphatic a story) for the posting.

Lavinia would also like to mightily thank LMI for contributing her own v. thorough beta-ing. It also brought the story to a whole new level, as well as enlightened Lavinia of her over-fondness for commas and ridiculously-long if grammatically-correct sentences.

Artist notes: Jean would like to say that it is very difficult to be witty at one in the morning and she doesn't know how Lavinia manages it, but she did find her compliments very amusing. It is also difficult to be at all coherent when Lavinia is SITTING RIGHT NEXT TO HER OMGWTFBBQ.
Also: HAHAHA BEAUTY SLEEP. that is all.



Ties of Blood


The corridor was a narrow one, the gray walls lit by a single string of bare light bulbs. It was entirely bare except for air vents low in the walls and steel boxes on the floor, the second of which contained firearms and ammunition; both vents and boxes were set at far intervals. Integra Hellsing walked slowly down the passageway, arms folded and hair mussed and slightly tangled, which was unusual. But for the first time in her short thirteen years, she did not feel the full pressure to maintain at least a minimally presentable appearance when outside her bedroom. This uncharacteristic apathy was also the reason why she was in this strange part of the Hellsing house; she had missed both lunch and breakfast that day, the possibility of hunger never occurring to her until quite suddenly a few minutes ago. So she had reluctantly quit her abode in the back alcove on the first floor of the library, where she had been lethargically keeping to herself for the majority of the past few days, and had entered this corridor through a sliding low panel in part of the wall.

This was not the normal, nor the simplest, route to the kitchens, but Integra had felt a sudden aversion to walking through the main open halls downstairs, in case she might come across those men that had arrived yesterday to meet with her uncle. Last night, from where she had been restlessly sleeping in the library, she had detected them walking the floors and calling to each other softly. She didn’t know who they were; it was now almost two days since she had seen anything of her uncle. It seemed he was locked up in her father’s – her own? – office. Distantly, Integra’s sense of duty nagged at her: she needed to go up there and demand him to talk to her, explain what was going on. Her father had named her as the heir, and she was not so much of a child that it would all be incomprehensible to her. She needed to start learning, anyway, and right away. Perhaps she would go up after supper…hopefully that would revive her to some better state than the one she had been in.

As she passed another vent, the indistinct murmur of deep voices became audible and caused her to glance sideways, a slight frown on her face. It brought out the first traces of emotion she had felt since the hours after her father died: a slow irritation, stemming from what she had just been thinking – that there were these strange men in her house and she knew neither their names nor their business.

A little farther down from the vent another panel was outlined, with a handle built into it. On a sudden impulse now, Integra approached it and peered through a rectangular pane of smoky glass, painted on the outside to look like part of the wood of the wall. The room it looked into was adjacent to the one with the last vent in the corridor, and she could see it was empty, so she crouched down to slide open the panel. It moved back noiselessly, and she stepped out onto the rich carpet of a dining room.

Just as she straightened and glanced to her left towards the open door into the anteroom, she heard a recognizable word amid the rest of the almost inaudible conversation: her own name.

Integra froze instinctively for several seconds, staring at the doorway; but as she could make nothing else out in what was being said, she moved forward, silently and stealthily, to outside the doorway. Placing both hands on the doorframe, she listened, straining to hear, but the men spoke very quietly. She only caught the words “damned locked rooms” and “run away,” before one of them said, quite loudly,

“Well, I don’t see why he didn’t just go out and call her openly the first day after the old man died. He could have taken care of it that simply, if he’s such a tough man. But apparently he needs someone at his back to off a girl –“

“Don’t complain about being paid,” the other said. “We’ve looked enough, let’s go back and report.”

They exited through the main door, which was very fortunate, since Integra did not know if she could have gotten out of the way in time. She stood, feeling completely frozen except for the pounding of her heart, leaning against the wall for several minutes. Ah, she felt something strong now: cold, slowly rising terror. She tried desperately to fight it back with reason – the immediate meaning of what she had heard seemed so ridiculously dramatic and impossible. But what other interpretation could “off a girl” have – when Uncle Richard had been so distant immediately after her father died, and hadn’t come to find her these past three days, and all his little remarks to her in private over the years that she couldn’t possibly want to lead an organization…. It all fit too well, far too well with everything she knew about her uncle.

The longer she stood there, the more she felt the fear set in, quickening her breathing – but also the sense of urgency grew that she had to do something, to clear this up, and find out definitively what the men had meant. But she had to do it carefully.

At last, her thoughts were organized into a plan of action, and with it came the energy to move again. She purposefully crossed the dining room back to the still-open panel in the wall and slipped back through it, pulling it shut behind her.

Only a few minutes later, Integra stood before the massive mahogany wardrobe found in the dressing room in a corner of the second floor, fighting a small inward struggle. She was thirteen, and only a few months from fourteen; she was practically an adult – no, a part of her mind corrected herself, she was an adult: she was the lord, leader of Hellsing now. She was certainly not a child, and she should not act like one. While the hidden passageways that ran through every floor of the house were perfectly respectable to use, what she was considering doing now was not. But she didn’t know how serious this situation could be – her life could very well be threatened – and it called for desperate measures.

With that resolve, she quickly began moving again. Stepping to the tall chest of drawers to the left of the armoire, Integra carefully lifted the vase that was on top of it, set it on the floor, and then hoisted herself onto the dresser. Reflecting distractedly that she no longer needed the footstool to help herself up, she turned around to sit on the edge, and then pulled her legs up to kneel on the polished surface. She cautiously stood up, facing the side of the wardrobe – well, the top of it seemed much nearer than it had in earlier years. Now, she would hit her head on the ceiling if she straightened all the way up.

Integra had a good amount of difficulty and discomfort as she struggled to pull herself over the hard edge that ran around the top of the wardrobe, since she had very little room now to raise herself up and gain proper leverage. To think she had used to do this often…but then she had been much smaller, she thought as she wriggled awkwardly on the dusty surface, until she was looking at the back of the wall behind the wardrobe and just below the ceiling. There was her object: the wide air vent, three feet long and almost that tall.

It was the easiest matter yet to push aside the simple locks that were on either side of the vent, but then she did not have much room, as she lay on her side, to handle the vent after she pulled it off. At one time Integra had been able to set it on top of the wardrobe beside her, but that was impossible now; finally, she lifted it over her head and lowered it down to the dresser, leaning it against the side of the wardrobe. That would have to do.

Integra took a moment to pause, think, and breathe at this point, crouching low on her hands and knees on top of a wardrobe and with an uncovered, empty air duct to her left. She was starting to imagine how ridiculous she would look if anyone happened to come in and find her here. It had been silly of her to have ever played in the vents like this as a child, and now…she was master of this house, it was hers, and here she was, reduced to this again. But she wanted to hear what was being said (“reported”) now in her father’s office – her office, where Uncle Richard had been keeping for the past few days – and she knew for a fact that this was the only way to eavesdrop without being in the room itself.

Tentatively, she placed her hands on the bottom of the duct, out slightly from the edge, and put her weight on them. It seemed just as sturdy as it had been years ago, and still quite big enough for her to crawl easily. For the first time, she could be grateful for how she was the smallest in her year. With one last glance around the room from her high perch, Integra slowly climbed inside the metal duct.

Moving the first few feet was a very gradual process, as she paused after every movement to see if the bottom was trembling under her weight, but it seemed thoroughly sturdy. She realized, after a few more feet, that she was breathing through her mouth in an effort to control her breathing and be aware of any sound. The duct was very dim, but her eyes were adjusting to the little light that came through the vents that were set in intervals in the bottom and sides of the duct as it passed through rooms. Her father’s office was some ways down, she knew.

She continued crawling at a fairly slow pace, stopping occasionally to tug at her skirt as her knees pulled at it. This did bring back memories…. She couldn’t remember exactly how old she had been the first time when, inspired by her father’s talks of how everything in the house from the foundation up belonged to her, she had decided to explore every room and passage, including the secret ones or those that had been untouched for years. This had led her to discover the large air ducts that ran above the main rooms on every floor and, treating them just the same as the hidden passageways, she had set out to crawl through them, seeing where all the large vents were located through which she or anyone her size could go in and out.

She had made two or three successful journeys before she was first caught, by Walter, as she had emerged covered in dust from a vent behind heavy, floor-length curtains in a dining room. He had seemed to be trying to conceal his amusement with difficulty, and had merely reprimanded her for neglecting the day’s studies. He must have told her father, she supposed now, though her father had only made sly references about it to her – until one day when he caught her in the vent directly above his office. He had ordered her to jump down through the register, though she twisted her ankle when she landed, and he had reproached her so severely for trespassing into his office that she never entered the vents again.

Remembering that incident now brought an unexpected ache in her chest and throat. She had always tried to make him proud of her, something he could boast about to the other knights – whenever he had shouted at her, she felt like she might actually die. It was hard to think that he wouldn’t be able to shout at her for doing the same thing again now – that she could do whatever now, and not receive his approval or criticism…no, whatever she did now, no matter how she succeeded or failed, she would never get his praise or disappointment –

A sudden sob broke through; Integra stopped, pressing her mouth to her shoulder and upper arm, squeezing her eyes shut. Oh, not now…she mustn’t cry, she mustn’t. She gasped a little, struggling to control her breathing, but then another sob was rising in her throat and she gritted her teeth. She was supposed to be the leader of Hellsing now, and here she was alone in a bloody air duct, crying, while men might be trying to kill her – Integra lowered her head, and a wretched whisper tore out of her throat: “Father…”

There was a distant slamming noise ahead of her. Integra looked up, but her glasses were blurry; she took them off to wipe them quickly on a clean section of her shirt, then crawled forward, as quietly as possible, to the next vent. As she neared it, her uncle’s voice, sounding quite angry and startlingly close, rang out.

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard!”

There was some sort of reply said, but Integra was not close enough yet to make it out. She heard what her uncle next said, though, just as she reached the register through which she could see part of the office, including the four men standing before the large desk – she assumed Uncle Richard was behind it.

“God damn it. There's only three days left until the succession ceremony. I have waited twenty years for my brother's demise. I will not have the organization stolen from me by that brat!” There was another slam, followed by the crash of glass; Integra flinched. “So why haven't you found Integra yet?” When the men did not answer, her uncle pressed on, “Do you realize that Walter will return from South America tomorrow? Do you realize how difficult his presence will make this?”

“But we've checked the building top to bottom, sir,” protested one of the men.

“No more excuses,” snapped Richard. “I want this to end tonight.”

“The sub-levels have yet to be searched, sir,” someone offered.

“But those sub-levels have already been sealed off for more than twenty years, sir,” said another – Integra recognized his voice as one of those she had heard in the parlor. “In my opinion, she's already made good her escape.”
“The sub-levels,” breathed her uncle. “Black arts room – eugenics laboratory, interrogation room – autopsy theatre – dungeon. I can think of no more fitting a place for trapping filthy vermin.” There was a slight sound of a chair moving back, and then, somehow even more audible to her ears, a pistol clicking. “The brat is hiding somewhere in the sub-levels. Kill her on sight, we can forge our excuses later. Now go.”
Integra saw the four men quickly turn and rush out of the office. A moment later, her uncle Richard – unmistakable in his purple suit – came into sight, walking at a slightly more leisurely pace out of the room.
Integra felt paralyzed for a moment above the vent. It was true. Those men – and her uncle, ordering them – were here to kill her. To actually shoot her on sight. Integra felt a wave of horror, but it was followed almost instantly with anger as she remembered how her uncle had looked into her dying father’s face and promised to support her. Voice still shaky from crying, she whispered to herself, “It's only been three days since Father died. Bastard! Do you have any human soul left in you?”
It was silent now, though; they were on their way to the sub-levels. Integra drew another breath and sat up as much as she could, clasping her hands on her knees and squeezing her eyes shut, and thought. She was utterly alone. Walter, it seemed, would not be back until tomorrow; it did not even occur to her now to try to stay in the vents, hiding, until he came back – no, she had to do something to save herself, now.

Then she remembered something else, triggered by thinking about her father and the sub-levels – one of his last instructions to her:

If you should ever be confronted with a true crisis, where all hope is lost, make your way to the forgotten underground prison. There, in one of the cells, lies your protection.

Integra opened her eyes. That was what she would do, then – and quickly, before her uncle found whatever it was himself.

She began crawling again – much quicker now, as she didn’t have to worry about anyone hearing. She continued down the duct in the same direction as before, her mind working furiously to recall where all the vents led on this floor. Her memory proved accurate when she reached the end of the duct, which was a vent identical to the one through which she had entered, though she couldn’t see anything through it – there was something hanging over it. Integra knew that something was a painting, and the room in which it hung was a bedroom.

Like almost every other large vent in the house, this one had been altered slightly so someone on the inside could also unlock and open it. Integra felt each side of the duct, near the vent, until she found a bit of string taped neatly down on either side. She let out a soft, relieved sigh, and pulled them free, one at a time; tugging gently, the locks to which the strings were tied slipped free, and the vent began to fall forward against the back of the canvas. She caught the top of it quickly and lowered it straight down, finally dropping it behind what she believed was the headboard of a bed. There was a small thud as it hit the floor.

Looking up now, Integra saw through the crack that the painting hung on a nail. She reached for the bottom of the frame, pulling it up and off the nail, and let it fall forward onto – yes, a bed. She glanced around the small room for a moment before jumping down onto the bed, avoiding the painting, and then slipping off it to the floor.

Outside the room, it only took a couple of seconds to orient herself and quickly begin walking again. She was not far from a back staircase, not strictly for the servants’ purposes, but for anyone who did not want to use the open, large staircase near the front of the house. This staircase did not go down into the sub-levels – there was only one entrance into the lower parts of the Hellsing house – but at the bottom landing she remembered another vent covered by a low, inconspicuous door to the side, camouflaged with the rest of the wall. The door had no knob, but was made to protrude out from the wall an inch, to be pulled open easily that way.

After she reached the landing, Integra did this now, and swiftly turned the locks on the vent that faced her just within the door. It fell forward easily into her hands, and she set it down on the floor as gently as possible. Revealed now was another long, low air duct that ran above the main corridor of the sub-levels. The inside of the duct seemed even darker than the previous one had – it was pitch-black but for the glimmers of light that filtered through the grates that were set in intervals down the bottom. But Integra did not hesitate a moment this time before climbing into the duct and twisting around to pull the door shut behind her.

She half-held her breath as she crawled forward, toward the first grate. Upon reaching it, she paused for several seconds, listening hard with her head close to the register for any sound of footsteps or voices – but there was nothing above her own breath and beating heart, and nothing to be seen through the grate from any angle she could manage, save the stone walls and floor. She searched the rim of the vent with her fingers for any lock or hinge, but there was nothing; it was made to be pushed up from below. Finally, she managed to get her fingernails under the edge of a part that was not as closely pressed to the floor of the air duct as the rest of the grate, and pulled it up a few inches.

But before she could get a better grip on it, the opposite side slipped out of its holding, and it fell down to the floor with a terrible, clanging crash that echoed through the halls. Integra gritted her teeth, wincing badly at the noise, but there was nothing more she could do about it: it was all the more reason to hurry. Gripping a side of the square hole tightly, she dropped her legs through, swung for a moment – and let go, dropping a distance of four or five feet before landing.

After a quick glance to her left, down the long empty corridor lit by two strings of bare light bulbs spaced far apart, and then up – even with a chair, if she could find one, she would be hard pressed to grab the edge of the opening and pull herself up – she turned to her right. Her mouth fell open in shock at what she saw.

Only a few yards from where she stood, the corridor came to an end. Facing her was a large black door with a seemingly innocent brass door handle and a square grate set in the steel, the latter just above the height of her head. But covering the door – and the wall around it – and touching the ceiling above and floor below, and the walls on either side of it – was a sigil, drawn in thick, dark red lines. Blood, without a doubt – with blood stains and splatters outside of it, both on the walls and floor leading up to the door.

Integra had been raised to be very, very afraid of designs such as this, particularly if they were in blood and utterly covering a door. She had been taught only a little about such signs, but with that and her own curious study, she could tell that the stars and circles were arranged into a spell of the most powerful binding – not upon the door, but upon whatever was held inside the room. There were other meanings too, but she could not read them – only the primary purpose of the marking.

Integra forced herself to step closer to the door. She had been hoping that the cell would be marked so she could tell it apart from the others, but this…unfortunately, there could be no doubt that this was the cell that her father had intended. It was something meant for when she was truly desperate, so it would have to be very powerful… Protection, she told herself desperately, as she took another step forward, he said “protection” – meaning I, a Hellsing, will not be harmed, but helped, by whatever is in there…. Slowly, she put her hand on the door handle.

Someone, thin like a blade, long black hair like liquid, standing so still and impassively before the doors, her doors, the doors of Hellsing, and the soldiers all around with their guns and the red and black badges of her father’s her grandfather’s her own legacy, firing with frightened faces, frightened of this quiet man in red with long black liquid-hair, and his red clothes shred to pieces –

Until he turns to look at her and red, oh God and Father he has red eyes, he’s laughing at her now with his teeth,

Then he strikes forward, a blade, red shooting in front of her eyes and the soldiers, her soldiers, are dead, he’s killing them as she has never seen before, blood so red and thick and the blade-vampire drinking it and the soldiers still there, firing, can’t they move because he kills them too they’re human tearing his neck and he looks at her again, do you see me now


Integra gasped, but the vision was over as suddenly as it had come, and she was standing again before the door stained with dark blood, her hand still on the handle, but shaking – she was sweating like she did in fencing practice, and felt the same way, though she hadn’t felt worn out at all a few seconds ago. But that – what she had just felt and seen – must simply be part of the enchantment…it must have been closely tied into the drawing of the symbols, so that anyone who comes close to entering will have flashes of what caused this binding….

Gathering her courage again, she gripped the handle tighter, pushed it down, and opened the door all of two inches when she heard loud, unmistakable footsteps behind her.

Integra whirled around, just to see her uncle Richard, with his four men behind him, stepping into the light of the last two bulbs in the corridor.

“You’ve given us quite a chase, Integra,” he said, and there was actually a small smile playing on his lips as she stood frozen and seemingly trapped with her back to the door. “I’m sure you don’t really need to hear the full explanation for this, but for the future of my country, my church, my queen, and my sacred Hellsing family –“ With almost a flourish, Richard drew his pistol from the inside of his jacket and cocked it as he aimed it directly at her forehead, “you will die.”

Integra could not help but stare up at him, feeling disbelief that he was really doing this – looking down at her with such cold contempt, seconds away from pulling the trigger without that much regret. And with what he had just said – could he really be that insane – with incredulity, she burst out, “Uncle, what kind of man are you? Can’t you understand? My father entrusted Hellsing’s future to me because he feared you would be reduced to this!”

Richard stared at her, looking speechless with fury for a moment; some part of what she had said might have gotten to him. Finally, his eyes almost protruding with rage, he choked out, “You – damn brat!”

She jerked reflexively to the side, just as there was an explosion in her left ear instantly followed by something sharp and hot, like a whiplash, striking her cheek. Opening her eyes and looking back to her uncle, she felt blood trickle slowly down her face from where it had stung.

Even though the shot had missed its intended target, the firing seemed to have given Richard back some of his control. With a sneer, he demanded imperiously, “Do you think I won’t be willing to shoot a little girl? Well, do you, Integra?” He pointed the gun back at her forehead, this time moving it so close that there was less than an inch between her forehead and the barrel, and she could not possibly pull away in time. Deliberately, he cocked it a second time, and Integra flinched. Richard laughed softly.

“After all,” he whispered, “both of us are Hellsings.”

Staring death – well-represented in both the gun and her uncle’s pitiless smile – in the face, Integra’s right hand, which was behind her back, touched the handle of the door behind her. At once, she saw another stream of memories not her own – but this time, a series of images, flashing one after another–

The same blade-vampire crouching down, the red blood dripping dripping dripping from his lips and down his chin as he snarls –

Again, but now his liquid- hair glowing white, and his arms bound to his sides – he is writhing to get away as the straps around his sides bulge in many different, in every place, something and many things trying to get out – something worse than him? Oh please don’t let them out – he screams a sound that tears at her ears –

Again, but all she can see is his face – liquid-hair black again covering half of it, of his face, but then the visible red eye opens, glowing red and she oh he sees her now, he sees me now


Then it was over, but even as the last image of his face faded, she was absolutely, horrifyingly certain that that was what was in the room behind her. Integra jerked the door shut – for a moment, the cold gun aimed at her head was preferable to the monster she had just glimpsed.

But then she looked back up at the pistol, and the man behind it whose finger was already tightening around the trigger – she heard in her ear a deep voice, and knew without a doubt that it was the voice of the vampire in the cell: “I know you don’t want to die tonight.”

He was right. This realization took less than a second, and after it, she didn’t have to think about what to do. Pushing the handle down in one quick move, she shoved the door open and flung herself inside – to the find the floor end suddenly under her feet, and she fell backwards.

Her back struck, at a downward angle, the edges of stone steps first, almost knocking the breath out of her. She slid and rolled simultaneously, narrowly missing her head on an edge; distantly, she heard laughter. Just as she started to come to a stop at the bottom of the steps, there was the bang of a gun firing behind her, and she yelped as she felt something strike the back of her left shoulder. The impact flung her forward, almost onto her face, as she grabbed her left upper arm: wet blood met her fingertips. Stunned, she looked up slowly, her eyes following a trail of her blood as it had splashed from her shoulder across the floor…

…And then she saw the figure, black but for long white hair that fell before his face. But his whole body was strapped down – the upper body to the back wall, the legs to the floor. It did not give the slightest twitch; whatever it was, it was unquestionably long dead. She stared, unable to connect it in her mind with the wild, black-haired vampire who could not be taken, that she had seen when she first touched the door handle. “What is that?” she whispered, shaken.

Richard’s voice, as he descended the stairs with the men behind him, distracted her. “Well, we seem to have a guest. Excellent.” Even from where she lay on the floor, a bullet in her shoulder and probably too unsteady from her violent fall to stand up if she tried, Integra felt fury course through her at his voice; turning her head, she sent him the dirtiest look she could manage. Richard did not react to it; he seemed quite pleased now at her helplessness. “It’s only proper for you to have an escort to take you to see your father.” With the last word, he raised his gun a third time, and with its click Integra shuddered involuntarily, turning her face away and shutting her eyes. This was it, then – there was no where else to go, and there hadn’t been anything in the cell after all –

As the blood pounded in her ears, and she suddenly felt intensely conscious of all her senses: the hard stone floor under her, how cold the air was, and the back and side of her shirt sticking to her skin as the blood soaked through – she suddenly recalled her father’s voice quite clearly, and something he had said to her many times:

Open your eyes, Integra.

She did, looking back over her shoulder at her uncle and would-be-murderer. She would die like a Hellsing, at least, with her eyes open and looking straight at her killer –

Richard, however, was not firing. He looked distracted, gazing at something past her. Slowly, he said, “What’s that?”

Despite herself, Integra turned to look too – and gasped. The body tied down at the back of the room – which had to have been dead – was now kneeling on the floor, his arms still bound down the middle of his back, but his body bent over with his face close to a small pool of blood – he was licking it – and in one terrifying instant, she realized that this was the same vampire after all. And he was licking her blood –

Behind her, someone took a startled step back and spoke, sounding shocked, “It moved! Mr. Hellsing, what is that?”

Richard sounded nearly petrified himself. “I – I don’t know. There’s no record of this. My brother never mentioned it.”

But the vampire was moving again; his face no longer in shadows, he straightened up slightly to look at them – not her, but the men past her – with blood smeared on his chin and in his hair (her blood, a furious part of her recognized; her blood on a vampire), and he breathed out through his throat as his mouth spread into a wide grin of anticipation – the same powerful grin Integra had seen in the flashes.

Then, as she recalled the images, the pieces clicked into place: a vampire, so powerful – it hit her that it was no coincidence or mistake that he was here in this cell. Recoiling slightly in horror, Integra said aloud, “A vampire? Is this how you protect me?”

Richard’s terrified voice rang out – apparently she was forgotten – “Shoot him! Kill him! Send him back to hell!”

Before any of the men had time to recover and begin to react to the order, the vampire, with a movement that looked all too easy, ripped the ties that bound his arms together. At last, one of Richard’s men began to reach for his gun, but while his hand was still in his jacket, the vampire pounced on him; with one sweep of his hand, he ripped the top of the man’s head off and held it high above his own as the fluids and chunks fell together into his open mouth, laughing hysterically as he did – like it was some ghastly show that he had missed far too much.

Paralyzed, Integra gasped, “Oh my God. Father! What were you trying to accomplish?”

The vampire suddenly dropped the half of the head, and leaped toward the rest of Richard’s men. With the first strike, he knocked one’s head all the way around on his neck – there was a crack as the spine snapped. As the man began to fall backwards, the vampire hit him again, tearing him twice through, actually through the chest with his bare hands. The man’s left half hit the ground before his right. Just as it did, the vampire ripped the man next to him vertically down the shoulder and across his torso, blood spurting out, his last breath unfinished. The vampire struck the fourth man under the chin with such force the head flew back and the skin at the front of his neck tore. Blood vessels snapping, a fountain of blood spurted up, drenching the body behind him as he fell. It all happened so fast that none of the four had time to react, to one another’s or their own deaths.

But the vampire paused after the last one fell, as he turned to Richard. Shaking, Richard wailed and dropped his gun, though the vampire hadn’t even touched him yet. But with a low chuckle and a lunge, he only tore off Richard’s right arm at the shoulder – Richard screamed – and knocked him against the far wall with the same move.

Finally, the vampire turned to look at Integra.

Suddenly able to move again, she lunged across the floor for a gun that had been dropped a few feet away, and, snatching it up, scrambled to her feet to face him. His white hair, stained brown in spots with blood, covered his face completely, but there was no doubt that he was staring straight at her. He took two steps, closer to her and to the side, so he was between her and the stairs to the door. She extended her arms out, tightening her grip on the gun with both hands as she aimed it at him.

From behind his hair, in a deep, rasping voice, he spoke: “You are the one who has disturbed my rest.”

Integra was trembling, but she shouted, “Don’t come any closer to me! Monster!”

He tilted his head back, causing his hair to fall to the side, and she saw again the red eyes that seemed to glow. He bared his blood-covered teeth at her in a grin. “Your sweet blood was the first I’ve tasted in over twenty silent years.”

She gasped – not in fear, but a sudden blaze of righteous anger, in fury – how dare he – and fired, pulling the trigger five times, shooting him straight into his face and chest. Hardly had the fifth bullet thudded into his body, though, did all the wounds smoothly close over, as though they were never there. He laughed out loud, and suddenly darted in, before she could blink, slamming his hands against the wall on either side of her head. She was knocked back against the wall, and then forced to drop to her knees, as he leaned, grinning, mere inches from her face.

“If you obey me,” he whispered, “all these powers will be yours.”

Integra was vaguely aware that she was still shaking, but her hands were tight around the gun, still aimed at his face, and she could not longer feel her shoulder, or any fear, but anger. Almost spitting, she snarled back, “Vile demon! I am the lord and master of the Hellsing family – Integra Wingates Hellsing! I would die before allowing a vampire to order me!” She pointed the gun point-blank at his forehead; never mind that it would not hold him back, she would never simply stop fighting and submit to a vampire –

He, however, leaned into the pistol. “That gun is useless against me. Give up, little girl, and listen –“

Throwing herself forward from where she had leaned against the wall into what little space she had before him, Integra shouted, “Shut up! I’ll never give up! I would die before giving up! That is my duty and pride as leader of the Hellsing organization!”

The vampire started to laugh again – softly at first, and then growing louder, throwing his head back. He exclaimed, “Wonderful! Just wonderful!” Bringing his face closer to hers than before, he rasped, “You make my blood boil. You are your father’s daughter.” Abruptly, he closed his red eyes and pulled back, to sink gracefully to one knee before her. “Forgive my impertinence, Sir Hellsing.” Integra stared at him, still holding her gun up and using her other hand to support her wrist, feeling more shocked and at a loss now than she had at any point that night. The vampire looked back up at her, his eyes back open, the red in them gleaming. “Your orders…my master?”

Master?

Integra might have continued to stare at him without moving for quite some time, if Richard, still lying on the other side of the room, had not begun to stir at this time. Whimpering, he gasped, his voice rather high, “Ri-ridiculous!” The vampire kneeling before Integra did not turn to look at him, but kept his eyes on her, as she continued staring at him, still wondering if he might not jump at her again at any second.

A little louder than before, but still shakily, came Richard’s voice - “The brat – and a beast? Damn it!” The curse was almost a screech; it jerked Integra’s attention away from the vampire, and she looked at Richard blankly. He had gotten to his feet, and was waving the gun he had picked up, looking unreal, a joke, with only one arm. “I am the leader of Hellsing!” he cried, and pointed the pistol at Integra. “Hellsing is mine!” He fired.

Integra never reacted – not even as the thin arm of the vampire suddenly flung out in front of her face, effortlessly and perfectly catching the bullet in his arm. He lowered his arm slightly and snarled, still without turning, “Your blood rots. You are not the master of this house.”

Richard stammered, sounding pathetically weak, “But – I –“

And that was when Integra suddenly realized that she’d had enough from her uncle. With a sudden move, she raised her gun again and pointed it straight at Richard, using, without thinking abut it, the vampire’s outstretched arm to steady her own as she aimed.

“What’s your name?” she said quietly to the vampire, as her eyes never left Richard.

“Alucard. That is the name my last master used.”

Alucard, her mind whispered, and then she pushed it aside and put all her focus on her uncle, who was twitching and no longer seemed like a joke but instead, interestingly enough, looked exactly the way she had felt the first time he pointed his gun at her head. What was even more interesting now was how Integra could not find the smallest amount of pity for him anywhere in her.

Looking directly at him, she said, her voice loud and clear so he could hear her, “Do you think I won’t be willing to shoot you, Uncle?”

He stared at her, mouth open.

With one strong pull of her finger, she fired.

After his body dropped to the ground, Integra slowly lowered her arms, the vampire’s – Alucard’s – arm coming down too as she rested her weight on it. She leaned back against the wall, still staring at Richard’s motionless body, and tried to feel and identify her reaction. With a small amount of detached surprise, she found a glimmer of triumph – and pride – and the remains of contempt for something that had dared to claim to be a Hellsing; but not a second of guilt or horror.

She glanced up at Alucard, who had gotten to his feet and was looking down at her, still grinning, though it was a slightly different kind of grin than the one he had before. She wondered, with a rather alarming lack of interest, if he was going to attack her now. Her body, if not her mind, was feeling so tired and heavy at once. Without warning, such a sharp stab of pain hit her shoulder – the first in quite a while – that her whole body twitched, and she grabbed at it reflexively.

“You’re injured, master,” Alucard observed.

“It’s only my shoulder,” she said shortly, gripping it hard once before letting go. “I’ll be all right.” She looked around at the mess of blood, gore, and body parts covering the room.

Following her gaze, Alucard inquired, “Do you wish me to eliminate the mess, master?”

Integra glanced at him again somewhat sharply, wondering how he would do that. But she was not going to ask; and whatever way he did it, it would hopefully satisfy his appetite, because he was still a vampire and she was still covered in blood – “Yes.”

She watched, with morbid fascination, as he descended upon the bodies and what was left of them. With what she considered unnecessary noise and comments on how disgusting some of it tasted, he sucked up all the blood he could find, both still in veins and lying in pools outside the bodies. Every now and then he would suddenly fall upon a spot with eagerness, licking the floor, and Integra tried not to think about how that was probably her blood. When this was finally done, and the room looked somewhat drier to Integra, he snapped off the rest of the straps around his sides and knelt on the floor with his back to her. A number of red eyes blinked open in his sides, and her lips parted in shock, but she did not make a sound or move. Then, with a ripping sound, a dog’s head burst from his side – it had too many eyes and teeth, and was so black, but for the gleam of its white teeth, that Integra wondered if it was not just a shadow – but then another one burst from his other side, and a third from the side of the first dog-shadow. These swept across the room, never separating from the vampire or coming near her; but they devoured the bodies of Richard and his men, snarling a little as they did.

At last, the room was clear, and the shadow-dogs withdrew slowly, melting back into Alucard’s sides. He stood up and turned to face her, grinning again, looking for her reaction. Integra stared up at him, having not moved at all since he began. Her lips were still slightly parted, and she was aware her eyes must look exceptionally large. But it was occurring to her for the first time to question if, perhaps, everything that had happened here in this cell was not some sort of wild, nightmarish fever-dream. Perhaps her uncle had really shot her again outside the door, and she was but dying very slowly. Then her shoulder gave an especially painful throb, and that ended all speculation that she was dreaming. She tightened her grip around the gun again, as an instinctive way of reassuring herself. Alucard, however, walked back to her slowly and quietly, and crouched down next to her to look at her again with interest. She was beginning to wonder now if he ever stopped grinning.

“Should you go back upstairs, master? Your shoulder’s bleeding heavily,” he pointed out, as though she might not be aware of it. Integra tried not to think about how the back of her left shoulder was out of his direct line of sight, and he had been able to tell that by other senses. She looked around again at the room – there were quite a lot of bloodstains on the walls and almost completely covering the floor, but otherwise it did not look much different than before, besides how the sole occupant was now unleashed, his broken straps littering the floor, some still attached to the wall; however, it was not like there would be anyone venturing down here soon.

By degrees, Integra struggled to her feet, still leaning heavily against the wall. Alucard straightened with her, standing quite close and still watching her attentively. She looked down again at the gun in her hand…she would have enough for which to explain when she reappeared on the main floor, without carrying a half-empty gun as well. The vampire, she forced herself to admit, would have killed or attacked her already if he ever meant to do so.

Slowly, she let go of the handle; it dropped to the stone floor with a clatter.

Her shoulder was throbbing steadily now; yes, she had better not waste any more time getting upstairs and calling for the doctor. With an effort, she pushed herself off the wall, experimentally seeing how well she could balance; she wavered slightly, then unexpectedly felt a hand on her back, between her shoulder blades. She looked up at Alucard; he smiled down at her. First time, she thought distractedly, that she would really call it a smile and not a grin. Nevertheless, she would have immediately pulled away from his hand, but she wasn’t entirely confident she could do that without falling over yet. So she took another moment to breathe, feeling the long span of Alucard’s hand brace her.



“I’m all right,” she said finally. He did not move his hand. She took a step forward, and Alucard stepped with her. He kept his hand against her back as she stepped carefully up the stairs, but once they reached the corridor she twisted slightly away from him. “I can walk on my own.”

He grinned at her more widely and dropped his hand.

Integra walked slowly down the corridor, placing each foot down consciously in a line, with Alucard moving close by her side. As she passed the fallen grate, she glanced up at the open vent from which she had dropped. It seemed like she had done that hours ago – but she had no idea of how much real time had passed.

Feeling stronger as she went, she was able to climb the second staircase up to the ground floor without assistance. She sensed Alucard’s eyes on her, watching her every breath. When she finally stepped onto the carpet, she stopped to look around; the house was as empty and still as she had left it.

She turned to speak with Alucard, only to discover that he had vanished. Integra started; she couldn’t help but feel very nervous, having brought a vampire of such power out of his cell, and now possibly setting him loose upon the house – or perhaps even a wider area.

Still glancing sharply around for any sign of him, she ran her tongue over her lips and tried – both tasting the sound of his name in her mouth, and its power – “Alucard.”

“Yes?”

She turned quickly around once, but he was nowhere to be seen. The sound of his voice had echoed slightly, making it impossible to determine any specific direction from which it might have come. After a moment, she said, “You had better not let anyone see you for now.”

She heard a soft laugh. “That was my intention. I won’t reveal myself to anyone who doesn’t already know me.”

Integra stood still, but she heard nothing else. Wondering with some unsettlement if this was going to be much of a problem – not knowing if he was present or not – she pushed it from her mind as much as she could, and set out to find Dr. Trevellian.

An hour later, she was sitting quietly on the bed table in the doctor’s office that was connected to the officers’ rooms. She had a sheet wrapped tightly around her chest under her arms, and was holding her left arm out with the elbow crooked as Dr. Trevellian passed a roll of gauze around her shoulder and upper arm. She was still eyeing him suspiciously out of the corner of her eye, expecting the questions to begin, as she had ever since she announced as matter-of-fact and dismissively as she could, “It’s a bullet wound in the back of my left shoulder,” as he led her hurriedly into his office. But he had only immediately responded by asking if she knew what kind of bullet, and, after she answered, bidding her not to speak as he tended it.

Now, however, he had finished securing the end of the gauze, and was setting down the tape and scissors. Looking at her directly, he began, quietly and with utmost respect, “Miss Hellsing. In my many years working for Hellsing I have come to understand my position very well. I offer my services, to be used however the leader of Hellsing best sees fit, in the name of the queen and my country. That is the extent of my duties and involvement – merely to serve in whatever way I am asked. I have been called upon many times, in much stranger situations than this, for injuries much more cryptic than yours. I am rarely given an explanation; but I do not ask. And afterward, I do not speculate about them, except as how the healing process might go and any complications that might arise. And I feel it is my duty now to only ask – are you out of danger?”

Integra thought of Alucard, as he had ripped apart the men, and then as he had grinned down at her. “Yes,” she said, though her voice faltered, and glancing up she saw Dr. Trevellian looking at her very seriously still. Integra took a deep breath, and said more firmly, “Yes, I am.”

The doctor held eye contact for a moment longer, then gave a quick nod and smiled before turning to put up his tools and wash his hands again. Calling over his shoulder, he said, “I would like to change that dressing sometime tomorrow. It will ache for quite a while, particularly in the mornings after you get up, and if it hurts too much, I’m giving you some mild painkillers.” With another smile, he added, “I know you’re able to read and follow the directions on the bottle.” She gave a slight nod. “You’ll end up with a small, shiny scar, but there should be no lasting damage. The bandages will be off before your uncle Mr. Hellsing takes you back to school –“

“He’s not my uncle,” Integra interrupted, suddenly and more harshly than she intended, “and he’s not a Hellsing.”

Dr. Trevellian stared at her. Integra closed her eyes for a moment – that had been far too revealing. She continued, more levelly, “And he won’t be taking me back to school. Walter always drives me back, regardless.”

After a short pause, the doctor bowed his head to her and began moving again. His voice valiantly brisk, he said, “I’ll leave you to put on this shirt – it’ll do until you get back to your room, as I don’t think you’ll want the shirt you were wearing back – and I’ll go get those painkillers.”

As the door closed behind him, Integra glanced into the mirror that hung the back of it. Suddenly, she caught a glimpse of a row of red eyes in the bottom of the mirror, where the black of the bottom part of the bed table on which she was sitting was reflected. Then they were gone, but she had no doubt of what she had seen; she stared at the mirror motionless a moment more, before ducking her head so her hair fell in front of her face, as she gave, for the first time in weeks, a very slight smile.

Comments

Posted by: Nobody's laughing now (lavinialavender)
Posted at: January 19th, 2007 06:41 pm (UTC)
HS - anime support

Oh dear, I'm sorry it's been so long. We actually have many other things in the works, and one practically ready to go...but thank you so much for nudging it, it's a great motivation to know people care, even after only one post. I'll see about getting the next one up as soon as possible.

Posted by: Nobody's laughing now (lavinialavender)
Posted at: January 19th, 2007 06:42 pm (UTC)
HS - Integra's gun

*nudging us, heh.

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