Awakening
By sf
Apr 18 - Apr 19 2003

Rating : PG-13
Rated for some swearing and some violence.

--

Sometimes she awoke to light.
Now she awoke to darkness.

It gave, making way for murky grayness, accented by the black lines of the surrounding walls.

She reached for her spectacles, found them situated on a bedside table, and slipped them on.

The darkness continued to give way, and now she could see stone, the outline of handmade bricks, uneven and chipped. Where am I? brushed the surface of her consciousness, then was pushed away and labeled as irrelevant. This had to be Hellsing Mansion. There was no other place she could possibly be. Why, just last night--

--but last night was a murky blur of confused events. She remembered blood, a lot of it, she remembered ... a fight of a sort? Alucard had been there, and Seras, and Walter, the stalwart members of Hellsing institute...

Now what was it she remembered about fighting to the bitter end?

"Nonsense," she announced to the darkness. Her throat was dry. The word came out hoarse and hesitant.

Pushing herself out of bed, she placed her feet on the floor. It was a moment before she realized that she could not feel the expected chill of stone. Her feet were shoed. A belated, cursory check was sufficient to establish that she had somehow ended up abed fully clothed.

Suspicions grew in the back of her mind, little black demons with high gibbering voices. She silenced them at once. Speculation was futile. She operated on facts and evidence. Something was amiss here, true, but she would find her answers, not dream them up.

Yet she could not shake the chill of unease as she crossed the room.

Her gloved hand came down on the doorknob.

Blood splashed across her vision. A mad man, waving a shotgun, running into the room--

--she jerked her hand back from the doorknob as if she'd been burnt. Tentatively raised her hand to open it again, then realized that she was standing in the corridor.

She took a deep breath, and hesitantly tried the door again. Nothing happened; neither did the door yield. It had locked itself behind her.

Shrugging and feeling the growing urge for a cigarette -- and maybe a glass of water -- she ignored it and continued on her way. It was brighter in the corridor, and murky gray had given way to murky green. She thought she recognized the place -- it looked suspiciously like the corridors in the Hellsing basement.

Dungeon, a voice said insidiously at the back of her mind.

She trailed a hand over the stonework. Algae and mould came away, a green smudge on her fingertips. An older part of the mansion, then. The area where the vampires were housed had been scrubbed clean of moss.

Her purposeful footsteps fell, echoing down the deserted length.

--

There was dust over everything. There was dust over the table she found, and over the bottle standing on the tabletop. Once it had held whiskey. Now it held dust.

It was odd, she reflected, with a flicker of trepidation. Finding dust within a bottle was a rarity. It looked as if it had been standing here for years... no, decades. Yet from all her wanderings, she was certain that this was the table Alucard sometimes used.

For dramatic impact, if nothing else. He always had a dramatic streak in him, and there are few things more dramatic than sitting stretched out at a rickety wooden table, a glass of whiskey in one hand, waiting for your foe to somehow blunder into the basement and find you.

The thought made her pause.

Normally -- and even that normal was relative -- she had some inkling of where Alucard was. It was like an itch at some inaccessible spot in the middle back, that simply couldn't be scratched.

That feeling was eerily absent, which meant that Alucard was either miles away, and even that was unlikely, or that he was currently a puddle of blood on the floor somewhere.

Not that it was cause for worry, of course. Sometimes, she suspected that he, the great, immortal, unstoppable Alucard, allowed his enemies to blow him to bits just so that he could piece himself together again and scare the living daylights out of his quarry.

"Showoff," she muttered. But now there was a growing sense of urgency at the back of her mind. She wanted answers and she wanted them now -- like why she was in a bed in the lower rooms of the Hellsing mansion, why Alucard was conspicuously absent... and then there was the persistent and growing desire for a cigar. Or two. Or a whole pack, and a glass of that whiskey to wash it down...

She stepped away from the table, and her gaze fell upon a dried splatter of darkness against the stone walls--

--and there was gunfire, and blood going everywhere, and people falling around her, and someone screaming, and she was thinking oh god don't let that be Walter and then Seras, who'd been encamped beside her, firing the halconnen, suddenly wasn't there any more and--

The hard impact of her palm against her forehead brought her back to reality. She had nightmares as a matter of course. Still, falling into them while apparently still awake hinted at vampiric interference.

If this is Alucard's idea of a joke... she thought savagely.

--

"Where..." she ground out, "...the... hell... is Walter?!"

She tramped up the final stair of the seemingly endless staircase, and stared balefully into the gloom. The climb wasn't the problem. But my shoes pinch like mad. Which is odd, considering that they used to be comfortable. One would almost suspect that they shrunk with age.

But now that she was on the grounds and could take a good look around...

This is Hellsing mansion, certainly. Or at least a very good replica.

Because Hellsing mansion, no matter the time of the day, was never shrouded in such complete and utter darkness. Nor was it ever in such a state of disarray, save in the aftermath of a massive attack.

...She could feel her heart rate accelerating.

There were bullet holes in the walls and the lamps, chandeliers inclusive, were in pieces. Whole chunks of the pillars and the tall, winding staircase, had been blown away. Doors hung loosely off their hinges, similarly riddled. Sections of the ceiling had collapsed, and if she looked all the way up, past the second and third floors, she could see the starry sky above.

If the upper levels were wrecked, that would explain why she'd been in the basement. It would suggest dark reasons why no one was present. She was acutely aware through some sixth sense that not a soul stirred upon the ground. The air was deathly still, dusty with the air of chipped plaster and brick.

Nothing. Not a sound. Not even a cricket.

Instinctively, she went for her sidearm. The pistol was there, loaded. Retrieving it with a certain amount of grim relief, she went through the standard weapons check.

And found that it was jammed. Jammed, by god... the hammer refused to cock. The trigger was stiff. Even the magazine seemed to be stuck.

Damaged, she thought in disgust. It must have been damaged...

The distant shuffle of footsteps reached her ears. She glanced up sharply, trying to see through the gloom. There was a clang of metal. The gate.

She moved to discard the pistol, then decided that it still held worth as a blunt weapon. Or a psychological one. Gripping it tightly, she drifted through the shadows in the direction of the front door.

He was there -- it was a he, she was sure of it -- a lone human silhouetted by the glow of the street lights. He was standing by the gates, pulling a chain around them.

One of the Hellsing staff...?

"You there," she called out, the words cutting through the smothering silence. He jumped and glanced up, and she could feel his shock. Then he saw her, standing by the front door, and relaxed slightly.

"Hey, you're not supposed to be wandering around inside the mansion without a guide, ma'am," he replied. "And good thing you appeared when you did, I was just about to lock up."

She frowned in confusion.

"Come on, ma'am. The building's not too safe. Reckon it's about to fall down any time. And that's not even counting the rumors that it's haunted by a vampire or two."

"This is Hellsing mansion, isn't it?" she asked.

"Well, you could say that it was Hellsing mansion," the man replied, chuckling. He pushed the gate open.

She could feel a chill growing in her spine. It might have been the night breeze, whispering through the wreckage. "What happened here?"

"Well, well... if you want the whole story we'd better sit down. There's a bench just there by the old fountain..."

"It's a long story?"

"Well, first I gotta tell you about the Hellsings, and that's quite a story in itself. As to--"

"I know about the Hellsings." No little irony there. And obviously, the man didn't know who she was. "Just tell me about the mansion. Why was it wrecked?"

"Its a long story in itself. The short version is that no one really knows. You know about Hellsing and..." his voice dropped conspiratorially "...the vampires?"

So. The secret was out. Perhaps it wasn't so surprising in the aftermath of the wrack and ruin of the mansion. Perhaps it was just hearsay. Many little secrets slipped out, and not all of Hellsing's operations were as secret as she would have liked them to be.

There was something nagging at the back of her head, but she couldn't tell what it was.

...Blood. A thought whispered. In the darkness...
She saw Alucard fall backwards, perforated. Heard Seras cry out in panic. Saw the trail of steam that indicated contact with silver.
Silver. The bastard had used a shotgun with silver bullets...
Remembered -- dreamt -- remembered -- grabbing the curtain and yanking it back to allow the moon to shine through, remembered -- dreamt -- remembered, releasing another seal...

"Ma'am? You okay?" the words of the real world brought her back.

She pinched the bridge of her nose. "Thoughts just wandering. So tell me what happened."

"Well, they say that Hellsing used to hunt vampires, and now the vampires struck back in force. Officially, it's said that there was a terrorist attack by unnamed parties, and they blew the place sky-high. But..." he glanced around, a nervous gesture, and his voice dropped to almost a whisper. "I've been around inside and..."

"...and what?"

"There's blood all over the walls. You don't get that in a normal terrorist attack. Sure, the whole place is riddled with bullets, and blast marks, but there're strange words and writing--"

--and saw the blood creeping together as the moonlight fell on it, felt the released surge of power--
"--and they cleaned out all the bodies, but there are some things just are just plain...unnatural, if you get what I mean."
--and then the sound of gunfire and a sudden stabbing rush of pain--
--and the fury
How dare they how could they and--

"Gives me the creeps, this place does. They say there's still a vampire around..."

--And yelling Alucard! and a shadowy enemy and the whisper of Alucard's voice in the back of her mind amidst the chaos I don't have enough power--
--and Walter...
where was Walter? and Seras were down and--
--And This is a foe whose likes we've never seen before--

"And I get this chill whenever I take people round the basement. There's one door that's locked, completely jammed. No one can open it, and frankly, no one wants too."

--And the voice went on as more silver bullets streaked across the room--
--And she could feel the world tilting out of proportion as she fell, clutching at her chest--
--And there was blood seeping through the cracks in her fingers to fall to the ground--
--
ALUCARD--

"Folk say that they did experiments on vampires. Designed a super vampire, they did, then locked him in the basement."

--ALUCARD--

"And no one ever found 'im, but, methinks he's still there. Down there and waiting."

--If you die now, master, it's all over--
--Shut up, Alucard. Now is not the time--

"But you know, they also say that they got the last vampire that night..."

--If now is not the time, then there is no more time--
--Kill him, Alucard! He's getting away!--

"Because now there aren't any more vampires..."

--Face it, master. We're dying--
--We're not dying, you ass! We're--
--Blood running through her fingertips, and her vision tunneling. And there was just the glow of the full moon--

"...just a bedtime story to scare little children..."

--The last hurdle before victory. How far will you go to win?--
--Not that--
--All you need is one vampire. One to create many. And there is only one Hellsing to stop them. And that Hellsing is dying--
--I'm not dying--
--I can't die now--
--Not here
--
--Not now--
--Not while there's still so much to be done--

"...say that they never existed, but they've never been here. Tell you what I saw. There was this pile of dust upstairs. A tattered red coat and a tattered red hat, and dried blood all over the place..."

--Alucard you bastard, don't die on me--
--As much as I hate to admit it, I don't get along well with silver--
--You BASTARD--
--And she released the final seal--

"...and a pile of dust. Not just any dust.. it was jet black, it was just this pile there, and no others like its like anywhere else. And you know what they say happens to vampires when they die..."

--And there was a low chuckle of--
--It's too late, master--
--It's never too late--

"And the funniest thing of all is that..."

--Master, if there ever was a time--
--I'm never going to forgive you, Alucard--
--A chuckle. Oh, I won't be here to worry about that--

"...they never did find..."

--And red flashed across her vision and the world was filled with blood.
--And when it cleared Alucard's voice was just a whisper
Well done. It's over.

"...Integra Hellsing."

And the two worlds collided and splintered and became one.

And there was just the night breeze whispering through the wreckage.

She took a step. And another. And another, until she stood in front of the fountain. It no longer worked, of course, but rain water had collected in the basin.

And it all made sense now. Dust everywhere. Dust in the bottle. Mold everywhere. Leather gone hard and cracked. The gun, jammed from disuse.

The continued absence of Alucard's presence.

To a vampire, there is no was. There is no will be. Every moment is now, a series of nows stretching out along the line of forever...

She bent over the basin, and the water was a dark mirror, casting her reflection back at her.

And I never noticed before, did I? That I could hear footsteps from the gate while inside the mansion...

"Tell me," she said to the curator, "How long ago was this?"

That I could see in pitch darkness.

"Funny that you should ask," his voice came back.

That I never did open that door, did I?

"It was, exactly to the day..."

That even rumor couldn't have traveled so fast. That if everything had happened last night, the police would still be crawling over the place.

"...One hundred years ago."

How far will you go to win?
I'll never forgive you, Alucard.

In the basin, her eyes reflected a deep red.

--
END
--

Afterword :

I could continue this. My original plot bunny, dating back all the way to last year, was going to continue this as a search for Alucard and a demand for answers, and a lot of things. But I never got round to writing that, and I don't think I ever will, seeing all the other fics I have to work on. But it's a good idea, and maybe one that I'll save for another night where I just feel like doing a follow-up.

(And because I happen to like the ending of this fic, and turning it into a chaptered multipart would have spoilt it.)

This fic was a dabble into the deeper world of Hellsing, which I find notoriously difficult to write for. Naturally, it doesn't follow any sort of continuum at all, either manga or anime. (One day I will write more Hellsing fics. One day, I say.)

And I now I need to go and write something funny.

sf, 2003.