Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Kouta Hirano (mangaka), Yasuyuki Ueda and Showji Murahama (producers), Chiaki J. Konaka (screen writer), and various publishers and distributors including but not limited to Pioneer, Gonzo, and Young King Ours magazine. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Posted by: Elspeth, A.K.A. Elspethdixon

Ships:  None.

*Author's Note: Several blatant hints given out in the anime and manga have been noted, and a certain individual's background has been filled in accordingly. *

Free at Last

            The echoes of the gunshot ring through the room, sulfurous smoke hanging in a faint haze around the Jackal's barrel.  Across from me, the bank of shattered medical equipment hisses, blue flickers of electricity crackling across its surface before dying out with a sputter.  It is dead.  Silent.  Good.  The steady, high-pitched tone it had emitted had been annoying.  But now it is dead.  Dead, just like…

            Beside the door, one of the hospital's green-clothed personnel cowers in terror, making faint whimpering noises.  I think I have frightened her.  I do not take the pleasure from that knowledge that I normally would.  She feels my gaze on her and emits a small squeak of terror, fleeing out the door and down the hall in the direction of the nurses' station. 

            Walter and the police girl are equally silent, their eyes flickering from me, to the destroyed monitors, to the bed the three of us are currently arranged around.  I do not think they expected me to kill the annoying machine.  Hellsing will probably have to pay for it.  No doubt that is why Walter looks so unhappy.

            The silence hangs in the air another moment, before the police girl breaks it, slumping over the bed and sobbing into her hands.  Really, after the past fifteen years one would think she might learn better than to succumb to such weakness.  Tears are for humans, not for us.  They accomplish nothing.  Vengeance is always a more appropriate response than grief.  Except when it is not possible, as now.  In such cases, anger will do nicely as a substitute.

            It is her fault, of course.  One would almost think she had planned it this way, facing her death not from some enemy who might then be exterminated in a properly painful fashion, but from her own cells, turning into poison.  How am I to avenge her properly when her killer was her own body?  Her own body, and her own damn stubbornness.

            I told her that those plastic bags of chemicals the doctors pumped into her veins would not save her, told her that the only substance that could save her was hers to drink, if only she would ask it.  She had only to order me, command me, request me, even, and she could have died to rise again, a true No Life Queen.  One little request, and she would have called me master.   The balance of power would have been inverted, the long contest of wills over.  For twenty-five years I had taunted her and tempted her, offered the immortality someone with her strength of will deserved.  It was a battle of sorts, her iron beliefs against my so tempting offer of power.  I knew how determined she was, how strong, and yet, and yet…  All these years, it never really occurred to me that I might lose.

            "M-master?" 

            The police girl is staring at me.  Walter is staring as well, eyes oddly intent in that ever-more-lined face—a few decades, and he will die, which is a pity, as he is one of the only humans I have ever respected.  Why are they looking at me like that? 

            Oh.  It may have something to do with the fact that the corners of the room seem to be filling up with shadow and red light.  Odd.  I normally have better control than this.  With a conscious effort of will, I pull the swirls of darkness back into myself.  Not that I actually care about any of the pathetic humans in this building, but it would not do to lose control.  That sort of thing is reserved for combat situations, when one is free to have fun without worrying about incurring one's master's wrath.

            More tears from the police girl, shining in her eyes as she stares piteously at me, like a lost child looking for guidance.  "What do we do now, Master?"

            She really should not call me 'master.'  She chose her own freedom years ago, drank my blood a second time and severed the bonds of control between us, and yet that particular form of address continues.  And she complains that I still call her police girl.  All these years, and she still has not figured out that I will not use her name until she uses mine.  And she is still crying.  Walter is crying as well, though he is doing an admirable job of hiding it, but she really ought to know better.  She is above that sort of thing, or ought to be.  We who walk in the night have no room in our lives for tears.  I can't remember the last time I cried, even as a child.  I know that I did not when the Turks captured me, when my family died, or even when Radu[1] betrayed me.  Radu.  I have not thought of him in centuries.  My lips very nearly curl at the memory.  A weakling, groveling his way into our captor's good graces and then into his bed.  I was ashamed to call him brother.  The police girl would have made a much better younger sibling.

            "M-master?"

            She is still speaking, rubbing tears from her eyes and sniffling, still holding my master's limp hand in one of hers.  Tears.  I think perhaps I shed tears the first time someone staked me, but tears of pain do not really count, and anyway, the experience turned out to be more of a blessing in disguise.  Knowing precisely how much pain being impaled causes makes it even more satisfying to inflict said pain on others.

            I ignore the police girl's questions, reaching out instead to remove my master's spectacles.  I fold them, and place them in the pocket of my coat, then use two fingers to close her eyes.  Others might say that she now looks to be simply asleep, but I am far too intimately familiar with death to ever make that mistake.

            There is blood on her lips.  She coughed several times, before that machine started its irritating drone.  I drag my fingers across them, bringing them to my lips and sucking the blood off the way I used to suck honey from them as a child.  It still tastes sweet, like liquid sugar, like finely aged wine.  I always liked sweet things, though I tasted them rarely in those long ago days when I still ate.  It has been centuries, of course, but I do not think that the finest candied apricots a Turkish emissary ever tried unsuccessfully to placate me with were ever this delicious.

            There are sounds near the door.  A doctor is there, staring in horror at the shattered wreck of the medical machines.  Why the destruction of said machines should cause so much distress is a mystery to me, as obviously, they do not work properly.  They did nothing to help my master, merely made distracting noises, much as the doctor is doing now.

            I open several eyes in the shadows behind the door to get a closer look at him, and he lets out a small shriek reminiscent of the nurse's and flinches back, about to flee the same way she did.  Walter catches his arm before he can, and begins speaking quietly to him, silencing his babble about gunshots and demons with cool, practical statements.  Nothing is wrong.  Everything is under control.  No, Sir Integra's body is not to be taken to the morgue, nor is it to be autopsied.  No, there are no next of kin; it is to be released to himself, Walter Con Dolneaz.  Yes, a priest's services would be appreciated.

            No next of kin.  Finally, it dawns on me.  Integra was the last Hellsing.  Now that she is dead, my servitude to that bloodline is over.  There are none left to bind me.  I am free.  More power than a hundred lesser vampires could hope to attain, thanks to a century of experiments, and all of it mine to use as I wish, without restriction. 

            No wonder the police girl is looking at me uncertainly.  Our slavery is over.  Our chains gone.  We are free.  I am finally free.

            So why am I not happy?

^_~

[1] Radu the Handsome, in case anyone is curious, was Vlad the Impaler's younger brother.  The two of them were kidnapped by Turks as children, and Radu submitted to his captor's will and converted to Islam.  His brother did not, and went on to massacre large numbers of Turks in creative ways later in life.