Well well well... long time no see! This is a long awaited chapter and im so sorry. I had a lot of things happen. Life and its tragedies always do seem to interfere, don't they? Well, this is not the end. This isn't close to the end. I'll update my other stories soon as well. Thank you for sticking around! Sorry if this one is so disjointed, it's hard to pick back up after a year, haha.

That's the end of this episodes Ferne's Thoughts! Come back next chapter for more! MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Wind slammed against the sturdy old windows in sudden smacks. The rain from the skies fell in a nearly apocalyptic way. The fat droplets hissed against the glass they threw themselves against. The skies overhead were stormy, and had been all night, though nobody had really seemed to notice. It almost seemed to fit the night – all the atrocities as well as the festivities seeming to have been called on by the weather. The smell of death and blood made its way faintly up through the upper floors, mixing with the smell of rain and clean furniture. Every room was dark, candles unlit; the only light into each was the light from the outside world.

Laughs and crude jokes could be heard through the heavy door of a certain servant, one that had a reputation for being disliked by the master of the chateau. This servant was often threatened when confronted by the master, but rarely punished, though other servants speculated there was a reason for that. As the young American vampiress joked with the strange one-eyed Frenchman behind the privacy of her door, other servants padded back and forth between halls, careful not to make much noise. Without her, the unannounced head servant, they were almost lost in their duties.

They had been prepared, the others. Of course they had. But very few had much experience in serving vampires. The human servants found that serving an easily tempered Vampire King hard enough, let alone the stress that came from serving his wife. But, to them, serving over one hundred of them seemed to be a nearly impossible war to fight. The vampire servants had it easier; the vampire nobles treated them with decency and respect, almost as if those servants were their own children. The human servants, however, were treated as filth. If one of the nobles were unaware of their presence and bumped into one, a sharp slap and harsh growls weren't unheard of, especially so on that night.

As badly as some servants were dependent upon Catrina, they refused to bother her on that night. Once she retired to her bedroom, they all chalked it up to her being absolutely drained of energy, tired beyond belief due to her hard work. And that assumption was just fine with Catrina. The stress that came with being a servant to royal vampires was immense, and they knew it.

So, Pip stole Catrina away with the intent to help her relieve that stress. He'd found old wine bottles tucked away in the cellar and grabbed them up beforehand. Her room was lit with the dim pale light of the cloud covered moon, her curtains pulled back to allow as much in as possible. As Pip sat on her lumpy grey bed, Catrina downed her second bottle of the old, and possibly extremely expensive, bottle of foreign wine. As she finished the last drop, she slammed the bottle down on the hard wood floor, effectively shattering it. Pip flinched.

"Honestly, this place is unbearable!" she cried, words slurring as she slammed her own body to the floor in a heap. "I hate him so much! And his stupid blonde pet." Pip narrowed his eye at the hateful words towards his host. She looked up after a moment, eyes wide as saucers and begging like a puppy dog. "Oh, I'm sorry. I forgot."

"It's fine," he whispered back. It wasn't, not by a long shot, but he'd learned long ago to not get worked up over petty words, no matter how cruel they were or who they were directed to. He focused on actions, not words.

"Well, I do. I hate them both," she sunk her head back into her arms. Her words were quickly becoming more and more unintelligible and Pip moved to sit by her, pulling her body to allow him to sit comfortably against the bedframe with her head in his lap. She settled in comfortably as well. "I hate Vlad because he's arrogant and fucking bipolar," Pip laughed at her words, "and I hate Seras because she loves that fucking monster."

"Love is love, Catrina." She huffed.

"No. It's not right. He doesn't deserve her."

"I thought you hated her," the French familiar smirked.

"I do… but not all of her. I hate the things she does, what she's done, I guess. But not her. Or her body." Pip's eyebrow arched.

"Pardonnez moi?" She ignored him, and continued giving her slurry speech.

"She's just so stupid sometimes. She's blind. He's done the one thing she's said she'd never forgive somebody for, time and time again. And he's lied to her! Over and over! Somebody needs to save her."

Mon dieu… Have I found what I've been searching for? Ask her! No, idiot! Let her keep speaking! Let her, let her!

"That haughty bastard must have planned it from the start, my Elizabeth dying. From that first time I met him, I saw treachery in his eyes. Such a king! Betraying his own master, his own Childe and lover! Nobody should trust him, let alone poor Seras." She paused for a moment to put the bottle down by her side.

"The evidence is everywhere! How does she not see? He comes back from the dead, again, to an already nearly dead master. This master continues to hold bonds and rules over his head. He just wants to fuck the pretty blonde he bit, and be free, and dictate again, oh no. Is it a crime? No, not to him. It must have been just… normal? No, um, regular? Fuck, it must have been fucking obvious!" she clapped her hands together. "He hasn't said any words of mourning, I bet. Not a single good word about the Hellsing bitch. Whenever somebody brings something up, he gets quiet and detached. But, like the doting princess set on falling in love with the prince, she's too blind to notice."

More silence from Pip as he could feel the phantom beating of a heart that no longer beat inside his chest.

"Or maybe, just maybe, he wants her to find out." Her pace began to speed up, her chest rising quickly with each steadily rising word. "Maybe he's doing it to seem obvious. Doesn't he usually like people to know he did some dastardly deed? Some part of him, deep down, wants her to know."

"I'm not so sure of that. There's a plethora of things I'll bet Alucard… Vlad doesn't want Seras to know, and things she never will know." Pip was unsure, despite his cool demeanor.

"Do you think this is one of those things?"

"Only an idiot would think otherwise." She snorted a laugh. He decided to press his luck. "So, you say he knew? That he… planned it? Part of it?" She nodded and took another swig from the bottle sitting next to her.

"Oh yeah," she said, in the most innocent voice he'd heard her conjure up. He waited a few seconds for her to continue, yet all she did was take a drink from a tinted-glass bottle. It thumped heavily on the wooden floor. He cleared his throat impatiently, receiving no attention. He nodded and smiled in-spite of himself. How absolutely silly it was for him to believe she would say something he wanted her to.

They both sat in silence for several minutes, an awkward tension filling the room that Catrina just couldn't place. She sat facing the window, listening to the muffled voices of the vampires many floors below her. She heard laughter, glasses clinking, lust-filled, heavy words spoken between two people. She heard angsty sighs and the high chirps of two old friends reminiscing after many long years of separation. Yet, in her drunken haze, she could not place the two voices she wanted to hear the most – the King and Queen.

The moon shone in blue rays, the rain on the thick glass window opalescent. Her companion appeared to glow, his body illuminated by the pale light. He laid with his eyes – eye – closed. His breathing was even and heavy, and she concluded that she must have been eavesdropping on the festivities for much longer than a few minutes. But the rain was so beautiful, its light pattering and fat drops sending her into a near meditative state. She concentrated on the howling wind whipping lightly against the outer foundation of the chateau, the flittering of the leaves. She watched the shadows of trees shake and dance beneath the glittering silver spots in the blackened sky. She wished, briefly, that she could dance like the trees.

She stood and walked over to the large glass. Placing a hand on it, she sighed. She wanted for so much, yet was stuck acting as if she hadn't a care in the world. It was in this moment, listening to the snoring of Pip and the festivities down below, that she decided upon something. With her hand on the glass, she leaned towards the outer scene and breathed hot against the window. With her hand, she traced the outline of the moon. She closed her eyes for only a moment before turning back towards her unconscious guest. Wobbling over to him, she called his name and he awoke. She sent him out of her room, unaware of the fruitlessness of his mission, and crawled into her coffin. She wriggled around, both dreading and feeling hopeful about the next night.

Seras stared out towards the silver moon. The window was beginning to frost over, the rain slowly turning to snow. The fall had turned to winter in the span of a second. White flakes began to cover the rolling hills of the countryside, turning to a sea of ivory. The guests had all left nearly an hour prior, and the moon was beginning to set. It was four in the morning and Seras thought that the night had gone smoothly. She had no need to act like such a child, overblowing the situation she was going to face. It really wasn't bad. She still smelt the heady aroma of blood in the air, blood and aged liquor. It was as close to a regal smell as she could imagine.

Vlad was speaking to one of the men he had introduced her too, one of the men she had concluded to be of importance. She'd forgotten his name, however, and wasn't about to make an ass of herself asking after they'd been conversing nearly all night. She stood on the other side of the room, lost in thoughts and the dizzying flurry of snowfall. She felt the steady vibration of Pip's slumber inside her body. It was a calming feeling, like being wrapped in a warm blanket.

For a brief moment, she remembered chilly winter memories from her childhood. She smiled at the thought of catching flakes on her tongue and playing with the other children in the orphanage. The thoughts soon turned sour with melancholy as she remembered just how cruel those children were to her, the children and the caretakers. She sighed the thoughts away and saw the reflection of her mate turn towards her and stare for a moment. She placed her hand against the frame of the window and felt the satin paint beneath her sensitive fingertips, felt the chill of it. Winter had definitely fell.

The howling wind of a light storm had passed about an hour earlier, giving way to the sideways breeze of the first snowfall. The trees no longer danced, but shivered. She felt as though she could watch the snow fall and pile up for hours, but she was interrupted from the thought as a hand fell upon her waist. She almost jumped before she looked to find Vlad towards the serene scene as well. He seemed as though he too was lost in thought. She spoke lightly, afraid a loud voice might shatter the serenity. "Are you done talking to your friend?" She leaned her head against his thick body.

"I don't have friends, Seras," he droned without moving his eyes from the window. "But, yes. He's to leave tomorrow night." He pondered something for a moment before continuing. "Assuming he can even open the front door."

"What do you mean?"

"Usually, when it snows here, it snows heavily. We'll be lucky to get less than ten inches." He sighed and looked to her. "I hope you enjoy winter." She smiled.

"I do."

"I once heard that winter brings sorrow. What do you think?"

"I think that I could never feel sorrow as long as I'm with you." He laughed.

"Wishful thinking."

As the two looked out towards the silver-specked snow, Seras shivered. She shivered – but she wasn't cold.

While Vlad was usually happy to be right, borderline ecstatic, even, he wasn't too happy to see the thick layers of snow rolling along the countryside. He sighed and held his face in his hands for a moment as he sat next to a window by his bed. He shook his head and looked back towards his sleeping mate. She gave a light groan as she shifted atop the sheets. She lay angelically in the large bed, her hair acting as a halo against the dark silk sheets. Thick blankets barely covered her vanilla skin and he had half a mind to take them away completely, just to gaze upon her flesh. They'd spent the rest of the night making love, as per usual, but last night he felt it necessary to be as passionate as possible. Something in him called out and told him to treat her as if it would be the last night he would be able to call her his own.

He hated winter. He hated snow. He hated that dreadful white powder. It had this power against him, this power to… the power to ruin. Winter had the power to ruin everything he wanted, everything he had created. His empire, his life, his unlife. Now, he had only a rational fear of his current situation being ruined. He had confided in Seras before she'd fallen asleep, and while she comforted him and told him not to worry, it placated nothing inside him.

He was certain she would find out the truth soon. She began to stir more before sitting up in the bed. The blankets fell around her and she stretched her body. She turned to him with a cheery smile. In that moment, he realized that he cherished her that smile far too much. He watched as she stood and walked towards him. She sat upon his lap and looked out the frosted window. She gave a small sound of alarm and turned to him.

"It looks like you were right!" He leaned in to her neck and planted kisses against the warm flesh. He nipped her ear before whispering into it.

"Am I ever wrong?"

"You've been wrong about plenty." His Cheshire grin found its rightful place at those words, lips curling around sharp teeth, and those teeth rubbing against Seras' lukewarm flesh.

"Like what exactly?" He closed his eyes and gave in to her embrace totally. His body molded to hers and she pulled herself closer to him, arm around his neck. She hummed as she felt their bodies vibrate as one. Suddenly, a thought came to his mind, a thought he forgot to suppress for just an instant. And he spoke.

"For you to hate me, what would I have to do?" Seras' brow furrowed and she pulled away to look into his face. His eyes opened slightly as he slowly realized his actions. "What I mean is," he hesitated for a near second, "is there anything I might do that would change how you feel for me?" Seras was unnoticing of his hesitation. She sighed and placed a pale hand on his cheek.

"How is it that you can be both so arrogant and yet so unsure of yourself at the same time?" He didn't meet her gaze but his crimson eyes showed nothing regarding any emotion she didn't know about. She was joking, but he didn't seem to recognize it, or he didn't acknowledge it at least. Feeling a bit dejected, she kissed his cheek. "Is something bothering you?"

She'd been trying to act as though she didn't notice it when he drifted off into his thoughts, as though she didn't see it when his face turned blank. She'd been trying for weeks, and it wasn't difficult. It happened rarely, when they were laying together in the early morning hours, or when he thought himself to be alone she would catch peaks of him as she came around corners or into rooms he occupied.

Seras never said anything in these moments, but not for lack of noticing, though that's what she thought that he must have thought in those moments. She didn't think about it extensively. Even after the nearly vast personality shift she'd seen in him since Integra's passing and the development of their relationship, she still thought it better not to prod into his inner thoughts. In fact, she reasoned, if he didn't tell her something it was simply because he didn't think she needed to know. He didn't want to tell her something, and she was ok with it. Overall, she didn't want to be a bother. She hadn't made him angry since before she told him she loved him, and she didn't want to risk it when they were living such a picture-perfect life.

She bit her bottom lip lightly. He didn't answer her, his eyes still staring blankly at her chest. "Vlad, I know something's been bothering you. You can tell me." As she waited for his answer, she peered out the frosty window. Miniature snowflakes drifted past and down towards the snow piles down below. She lifted a hand and began to play with her creator's hair, tousling it and running her fingers through the long strands. He leaned his head into her caresses.

"Perhaps another time," was all he said in response. Seras sighed.

"Why not now?"

"Because I said so, Seras."

"But I want to talk now."

"And I don't," he growled. Seras leaned back, unsettled by his sudden aggression. He looked up into her eyes and she recognized that familiar look of anger. Usually, this was a sign that if she continued, she would get punished. Or at least, that's what she was used to. She had the pathetic instinct to whine or submit somehow, but she pushed it back. "I'll make sure to make a note that you wish to speak about feelings Seras, but at the moment, I would rather not." The anger remained in his words.

"Well I do," she managed to pull out of her growing cowardice. She didn't want to be afraid of her husband, but he was an intimidating man. Especially when he rose his voice to her. At her words, his head cocked slightly and his eyes narrowed. The arms that were once wrapped gently around her waist were as tight as a vice around her. He pulled her against his chest roughly.

"I don't care what you want, Seras. You know better than to test me. Would you like to continue doing so? Ask again," he snarled. His words dripped with warning, and Seras felt a familiar tugging at her heart, a tugging that pulled it down into the pit of her stomach. She looked away. She looked back at the snowflakes. She almost expected him to laugh at her cowardice the way he had so many times before, but only stale silence followed his outburst. Slowly, as if he didn't want to appear to have lost or regret his actions, his grip loosened back to the way it was before – tender and sweet.

Moments passed by as Seras continued to watch the snowflakes. She snapped at herself internally for getting frightened by her own husband, the man she held such a strong bond with. Her self-judgement turned to anger as well as she began yelling loud enough in her head she was sure he would hear.

Christ, I don't care. I don't care if I make him angry. I'm not some sad puppy dog, damn it! I'm a vampire, a real vampire. If he gets angry at me, he can either talk it out like a stable person or we can fight it out like a couple of mad dogs. Either way is fine with me, she thought. She turned back to him to see that he'd returned to staring at her chest absently and decided against taking the issue further when he spoke.

"I… I apologize, Seras. I shouldn't speak to you that way. When it is time, I'll speak with you, how is that?" His voice sounded hollow, yet saddened in a way. The voice was as absent as his gaze.

"It's fine," she said quietly. She had half a mind to just read his mind and figure out what it was, but she decided against it. "Forget it." She smiled down at him and he raised his head. He smiled gently and she lowered herself for an embrace. The window to their right cracked lightly as the bitter cold slammed itself against it, so different from the warmth inside its barrier.

Pip woke up, his own bed chilled by the winter breeze. He looked around for the source, only to find that he'd left a large window open on the other side of the small room. He cursed to himself and padded across the wood floor to the window. With a sigh, he slammed it shut. He looked out into the dark world beyond the window. He could make out lumps of white in the haze, and looked down to his feet to find a small pile of snow at the floor. He groaned and lit up a cigarette. Though he was essentially a ghost, he still held on to his more human instincts. Besides, in his more tangible form, the cold really did bother him.

After walking back to his bed, he sat on the edge. He knew he could have pushed Catrina to give him solid answers. He knew it. He cursed once more. In the darkness of his room, he began to think. What if, he thought, Seras was better off not knowing? What if ignorance is better for her than the truth? It was true that Seras was living nicely, was living happily from what he'd seen, but he was suddenly very unsure about telling her the truth that he knew. He couldn't possibly go to her without all of the details anyway.

But, perhaps he could go to Alucard himself. Maybe the man truly did have a heart enough to tell Seras the truth, if pushed. But, still, the part of him that was suddenly unsure of his actions prevailed. If he went to Alucard, there would forever be a drift between the two men. In all honesty, Pip was surprised Vincent hadn't said anything regarding the suspicions Pip knew the man had. Actually, it would be so much easier on Pip if Vincent was the one to ask. But was he really that much of a coward to need another person to confront the man he'd worked alongside for so long? The man he heard so much about for so many years? The man the love of his life had fawned over for so long?

No. He'd confront him himself. It was settled. Pip blew out the last puff of smoke from his cigarette and listened around the rooms near him for any movement. Hearing nothing, he phased through the walls and into the glamorously carpeted hallway. Candles along the walls were lit, adding a golden glow around the length of what he could see. He walked along, boots muted by the plush ground.

Catrina woke up reluctantly to the sound of wind slamming against her window again. She groaned loudly as she pushed the lid of the coffin off. Her arms were weak and she regretted her decision to sleep in the coffin that day. She eventually got the lid off and sat up in the darkness of her room. There was a solid silence falling over the entire place, as far as she could hear. The only offending sound was the howling of the wind.

The small pounding of a hangover remained, sliding over her head, over her thoughts. She numbly remembered her plans for the night, the plans she'd come to terms with the night before. A sense of reluctance filled her body, swimming through her head and down towards her limbs. She didn't move for several minutes. Though unsure of herself, she was willing to take a risk to do what she needed to.

After getting dressed, she stood at her door, hand on the cold metal knob for several seconds. With a sigh, she pushed her way through the barrier and walked along the carpeted halls.

Vincent sat in his room, light from many candles brightening the small space. In the storm, any power the chateau had wired in it had gone out during the heavy storm that took place during the day. It didn't bother Vincent much though; nothing really did these days. His thumb skimmed the edge of the weathered book in his hands. Each word read passed by with numbing slowness only matched by the numbing silence of the snow.

At once, as if in response to his appreciation of the quiet, wind rapped against the walls and left the windows clattering. He sighed deeply and rubbed his eyes, pushing his glasses aside. He sat his book down on a side table next to him. In the light, the sanctuary of his room, he had time to reflect on his thoughts. That was practically what he'd done for the entirety of his stay. He'd been alienated from Seras, was unable to voice his concern for her. He'd done as Integra had asked him, but he'd done a half assed job. He knew that he should tell her his thoughts, should tell her about his suspicions but didn't want to meet some sort of resistance or sudden hatred at accusations of her lover. He needed to stay with her to fulfill not only Integra's wishes, but his own sense of parental care for her. He needed to make sure she was safe and in a good place. Right now, yes, she was safe, and good is an opinion, but she was living in safety and goodness under false pretenses. He didn't know anything he hadn't thought the moment Integra had died, and as such, he had next to no basis to accuse Alucard of murder. Even though he was convinced that was what happened.

The rolling of these thoughts in his head was repetitive and constant. It ate him up inside, as if the thoughts themselves were some sort of virus slowly consuming him. The rapping of the wind seemed to him to be a reflection of the turmoil inside, and he hated it. In the silence, he could pretend that was how he felt – calm and collected. But with every slam, he was reminded that inside he felt so much more. The self- analysis he placed on a pedestal his entire life began to be a burden to himself.

In order to avoid contact with people as much as possible as his contentedness began to crumble during his stay in Romania, he shifted his sleeping patterns. It was difficult, as he'd been trained for so long to sleep during the day and wake at night, but he did it. And now, as the moon began to peak over the heavy clouds and the stars twinkled, he began to feel tired. All of the thoughts running through his head, he was convinced, drained his energy much more than actually exerting his physical body. He kicked off his shoes, and, too lazy to undress himself, he slid into bed still in a suit.

Seras sat in a library she'd recently been made aware of, legs crossed as she sat on a book littered table. Vlad had left her to her own devices as he went to another room to do whatever it is the King of Vampires does, Seras figured. She wasn't bothered by it, however. And even though there were few books in the library that were in English, she still enjoyed thumbing through the pages of them. The subtle musty scent of old paper filled the room and she enjoyed what came up from them. It was the scent of nostalgia, a happy scent. Candles lit up the room, golden halos over the large flames.

She hummed to herself, left thumb between her parted lips, right thumb turning pages as she sat atop the rickety table. She sat behind one of the tall, messy bookcases, shielded from anybody who may walk through the door. As she turned the last page, she heard the opening and closing of the heavy door beyond the bookcase and turned. Moving a book behind her head, she saw the outline of a woman standing in front of the closed door. The outline seemed unsure, nervous. Seras called out to it. "Hello?" She immediately recognized the form as it spoke back.

"Hey, it's me." Seras watched as Catrina walked out in front of her. They both gave small smiles.

"Did you come here to read too? Good luck finding anything that's in a useful language." Seras returned her attention to the book in her hands.

"Actually, I came to… do you do this often?" Seras looked up into the tall American's face to find that she held actual interest. The small blonde smiled, closing the book and laying across her lap.

"Sometimes. When Vlad's off doing whatever, I come here. I always enjoyed reading the books in Integra's library… while there aren't as many books I can read here, it's still interesting to look through them. And Vlad's been teaching me Romanian – not a lot, but some – so I can understand a few things here and there."

"Oh." Catrina moved to find a chair. She pulled a wobbly chair next to Seras and sat. "Isn't it a bit lonely?" Seras hummed for a moment before turning to her.

"Compared to 30 years without the man I love? Not at all. Besides, it's nice to think that his fingers have been over these books as well." A shadow came over Catrina's face and Seras cocked her head.

"Seras. I'm so sorry." Seras smiled. Catrina had second thoughts about her reason for coming to the library.

"There's no need to apologize, Catrina. You were grieving." Catrina cocked her own head this time.


"I never held any grudge to you, no matter how you acted towards me. We all grieve differently, and I understand that. I grieved in a similar way when Vlad… left. Thank you, though. I forgive you."

"Seras, no, that's not-" Catrina's hands folded nervously in her lap and she shook her head quickly. "It's not about that."

"Then what is it?" Seras placed the book on the table and turned her body completely to Catrina.

"Seras, he's been lying to you. He's been deceiving you," the words exploded from her mouth, loud and sudden. Seras leaned back, confused. Her confusion quickly turned to anger.

"How dare you?" Seras hissed, feeling all too protective of her mate. She was used to Pip intruding occasionally on the boundaries of her relationship, but suddenly Seras seemed to understand the young girl's intent and the possible reason behind her strange actions as of late. Is she trying to break us up? How could she even dare to talk badly about him, to me of all people!? She took a shuddered breath and sniffed in the air she needed to speak before whispering her next sentence.

As angry as she was at the inferred attack, she remembered to not lose control, containing her shadows that were begging to punish the foolish girl for her transgressions. She nearly shuddered at the thought – she barely recognized it as her own. "What are you saying?"

"I'm saying that you need to ask your husband the truth about Integra. Ask him about his role, ask him why he didn't help fight. Have you even wondered? Ask him why I'm still here, for Christ's sake!" With the last yell, Catrina ran from the library, leaving Seras in stunned silence.

She heard nothing but the sound of her own breathing filling the room. She was unsure of why she was even so upset. Perhaps I'll humor her… She set one foot on the ground and began to walk, in angry confusion, towards her husband's study.

Vlad sat at a large desk, not unlike his former master's own, reading various letters he'd neglected for several days. He heard footsteps coming towards his door, and he waited expectantly for Seras to come bursting through the door to bother him about something or other. In fact, he was all but praying for her to come bursting through the door and rescue him from his momentary responsibility. Sometimes – regretfully – he missed the days of servitude. Returning to his old role as the master of so many was exhausting and he was aching for the days that he just had to sit in his room, drink his meals alone, and enjoy quiet solitude.

But he also enjoyed his new life. Well, it wasn't exactly new to him at all. He'd been king before, had hundreds of people bow down to him, held the lives of his subjects at his disposal, and he'd had wives before. The only difference was himself. He had grown in his own servitude. He was the same, but evolved. The plainest difference in himself he'd noticed was his feelings towards Seras, and his actions due to them. He'd never felt what he did for Seras, not for any woman he'd bed, or married for that matter. No woman he'd received as a gift, no woman he'd received as payment, no woman he'd ever met had gained his ultimate favor over all. He did love her, in his own way. Perhaps it wasn't the storybook romance or love that human women crave since girlhood, but it was his version of it, and that was just going to have to be enough for her.

And so far, it was. She seemed content, even through his violent outbursts. Rarely were they directed towards her, though there were a few times he'd wanted to rip her head off during some petty argument, but he had the tendency to be incredibly cruel towards a servant who'd made a slight mistake. In fact, several nights earlier, a servant of about fourteen had bumped into him as he walked through the halls, Seras at his side. She happened to be carrying a bucket of water, likely to clean something or other up. Immediately, fear entered the young girls eyes as they went wide and she began to scream apologies, falling to her knees with a heavy thump. Vlad's face was blank for several moments as he tried to contain the anger bubbling inside of his chest.

He was unable to, however, and grabbed the girl up by her throat, swiftly cutting off her air supply as he brought her face within inches of his own. He growled words Seras couldn't understand to the girl, he voice low but full of fury. Seras attempted to get him to put the girl down, speaking about "it's just water," something or other. Vlad didn't really take notice. He released his grip just barely enough for her to scream. The scream was cut off quickly, though, by the sound of gurgling as the vampire King's massive jaws clamped on the girl's throat, his hand now simply holding the back of her head. He threw her to the ground in disgusted anger before stomping her head to a messy pulp. He looked around to find another girl, likely the now dead one's friend, and pointed to her, blood on his hands. He ordered the crying girl to clean up the mess he'd made, before turning to a slightly shocked Seras.

She wasn't shocked for long, however, as her wide eyes narrowed in poorly hidden lust. She stood on her toes in order to reach his mouth, and she licked at the blood on his face. The feeling of her warm tongue sliding over his lip nearly sent him over a different edge, and he grinned. The continued on their way, leaving a weeping maid in the wide hall.

At the thought of this memory, his thoughts went in a different direction – Seras' changing personality. Well, perhaps she wasn't changing outright, but she was growing as a vampire. She took much more pleasure in the kill, even in watching him feed, just as he took pleasure in her feeding. She's simply allowing herself to feel the things she's always felt as a vampire. She can finally totally embrace vampirism. Perhaps she's taking it slowly on purpose? Or is she still fighting it? The final question had him shaking his head in disgust. No. She has accepted what she is. Dare I say she even likes it now? He smirked.

His eyes travelled from the pen he was clicking over and over again as he was swimming in his thoughts towards the door as the handle turned slowly.

Unable to stay asleep, Vincent decided to take a walk with his thoughts. Those thoughts brought him here, to Vlad's study. He pushed open the door tentatively, unsure if somebody was in there. There was, as he was greeted with a deep voice before the door was even open fully.

"It is common curtesy to knock, no matter where you happen to be, you know." It was the King's sardonic voice slipping through the space between the two men. Vincent entered fully and closed the door lightly. "Long time no see, Vincent. I would be lying if I said I was expecting to see you anytime soon," the vampire grinned. "So, what is it you want?"

Vincent looked around and dragged a chair from against one of the walls to sit in front of the mahogany desk Vlad sat at. The vampire's eyes followed his every movement slowly, not wavering for a moment. Vincent heard a quiet and methodically clicking and briefly wondered where it was coming from. He chalked it up to a clock he couldn't see. He sat in the chair.

"Well? Are you simply here to enjoy my presence?" Vlad chuckled, curiosity within his eyes as he pretended to be uninterested. Vincent was no fool; he could easily read the vampire after his time with him, as sparse as it was.

"Of course not," was all that Vincent said. Tension grew between the two men. Though neither spoke for several minutes. "I know."

Vlad cocked his head. "You know what, exactly?"

"I know you all but killed Integra yourself." The vampire smirked.

"And how did you come about that bit of information, Vincent?" Vlad spoke the butler's name in two sharp syllables.

"Catrina told me. But," he added slowly, "you'd have to be an idiot not to figure it out."

"Is that right?" The clicking had stopped.

"Oh, that's right." The butler sighed and crossed his legs. "So that leaves Seras. She doesn't know."

"So that must make her an idiot, yes? Well, I knew that." Vlad's face had become stone, his voice slow and steady, as if he was choosing each word deliberately. Vincent smiled inwardly at the little victory.

"I think she's just refusing to see the truth, personally. I mean, you have motive. You were a slave. Of course you would want freedom. And, further, you wanted to be with her. I'm sure she would understand. Maybe she does. Maybe she just chooses to not think about it, or maybe she agrees with you." The vampire simply sat in silence. "Maybe you should bring it up. The truth, that is. Or maybe I will." Fire lit its way through Vlad's features as he stood, a pen falling to the desk.

"You will not! You won't dare speak with her about any of this! It is not your place!" Vincent stood as well.

"Not my place? I am not one of your pathetic little subject, Alucard!" Vlad growled.

"That is not my name!" He whispered slowly, fury constricting his chest. "Never say that name again!" He parted the distance between them by pushing the large desk towards the man. Vincent deftly dodged the large obstacle, allowing it to slam against the wall. He stood mere inches away from the fuming Nosferatu, not an ounce of fear flowing through his veins.

"I will say whatever it is I wish to say, vampire. You do not control me. I am here simply for Seras. I will not stand by as she is ignorant of the truth. You won't do it? You refuse to do it? I will." Vincent felt himself lifted from the ground as Vlad gripped his collar. They were nearly nose to nose as Vlad growled.

"You are here for Seras? My mate? Then leave it be. She is happy. She is mine. We are free. Do not interfere!"

"Interfere? I'm simply doing my job. The job I was given by our former master."

"I am done with this game." He dropped the man, seemingly composing himself within seconds. "I am done with you. I am done with all of these god damned obstacles in the path of my reign. In the path of my mateship. Just in my fucking path!" Anger returned to his features as he stomped towards the cracked desk blocking the door. He pulled it back into place, forcing Vincent to move out of the way. "Leave. Get out unless you wish to die."

"Why not just kill me? Have you gone soft? Are you afraid?" Vincent took a good look towards the vampire's face to see he was staring towards his hands, anger plastered across his features. After receiving no reply, nor a fight, he took his leave.

He leaned against the door. On the opposite side, he could hear the sound of glass shattering and wood splintering, along with angered grunts and words he couldn't understand. His heart was beating nearly out of his chest. He began to walk away.

The meeting that had occurred was one of impulse. The things spoken were false. Vincent was, essentially, talking out of his ass. He bluffed, over and over, to get a reaction. His eyes were wide as he reflected on it. It was unplanned. He had nothing but a hunch to go on, nothing was proven. Until mere minutes ago.

He had become just as enthralled by his own bluffs as the vampire he had intended to strike with them. It was confirmed now. He smiled to himself as he reached his room. "He's going to break. I won't even have to be the one to tell her!" Thank god, he thought. Truly, he didn't want to tell her. He didn't want to break her heart. Poking the beast to the point of no return seemed to work just fine anyway.

Seras came closer to the study she'd been slowly strolling to. As she approached, however, all she could hear was destruction, not contemplative thought as per usual for her husband. She quickened her pace and threw open the door. Her eyes widened to find him throwing odds and ends around the room, black shadows flailing around in anger… or sadness? She couldn't immediately distinguish the emotion. It felt as if a bomb of agony had gone off in the room, threatening to infect her the longer she stood.

"Vlad? What's wrong?" she cried as she walked towards him. His back was turned towards her and he stopped his destruction, standing tense. She saw the rise and fall of his shoulders as he panted. His head twitched slightly and he stood in place, silent. She bridged the gap between them and stood infront of him, stepping between the clutter on the ground. She reached towards his face and craned her neck to see it. His eyes refused to meet her own.

"What, what is it? What's the matter?" He refused to speak. She forced his face towards her, his eyes following, begrudgingly. "Talk to me, dammit! I'm not going to stand for anymore of your distant bullshit!" She felt tears threatening to spill from her eyes in her frustration. His hands reached up to hold her shoulders sadly.

"I can no longer hide the truth from you, it would appear." Oh no, Seras thought. Her hands faltered against his cheeks and thoughts she tried to suppress came to the front of her mind. Catrina's warning ran true, regrettably. Still, she pushed it aside and focused on her husband's words, his sullen face, the utter sadness – regret - in his eyes. He continued. "I have tried, for so long, to keep you ignorant of some of my worst acts. I am a monster, Seras, and you are going to hate me." She shook her head.

"How many times do I need to tell you I won't- " she began, cut off by Vlad's sharp hiss.

"I don't care what you say! Seras, you need to listen to what I'm telling you. I love you as much as I possibly can. I love you more than I love anything, or ever have loved anything, if I even have. I did what I did for selfish reasons, I will not deny. But my selfishness included you. I wanted you, I wanted your freedom, I wanted you to be mine freely! I did what I did for us. For myself, and for you." Seras could have sworn her ghost-of-a-heart was running in her chest.

"What… what did you do?" she whispered. Her body knew the answer. His eyes looked into hers, so sadly, yet longingly. As if it was the last time he ever would.

"I am the reason Integra is dead."