Disclaimer: 'Hellsing' belongs to Kouta Hirano. 'The Waste Land' to TS Eliot.
Author's Notes: Possible AU (if something of the manga contradicts what I wrote), post-Millennium assault on London. Spoilers of the chapter 'Get Away!' regarding Pip and the Pip/Seras canon ship. I dedicate this fic to my friend Puck 3/4.
Special Thanks: Asenath, my editor, and Monica, who inspired me with Eliot's poems.
Return to the Waste Land
'That corpse you planted last year in your garden,
'Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
'Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
- The Burial of the Dead
That was traditional--water falling from the sky mixed with the salty liquid coming from your own eyes. A way to hide your own grim mood, your inner fragility; a way to shield yourself from the forces of nature. Wishing the whole world would share your pain, weep along with you,because it wasn't fair that you had to face it alone.
But that wasn't the case.
The day was bright, unbelievable cheerful. Sunlight caressed the tears of the mourning crowd, glittering like diamonds on their cheeks. Her attention drifted from the vicar blessing the fallen to the grieving. Dark-colored clothing contrasted with the impeccable white tombs that filled the Hellsing Memorial Cemetery.
Everyone appeared dead to her, not only the ones inside the caskets. It was as if the Grim Reaper had forgotten to steal their pulses but took away their spirits instead. All except the flowers--they broke the dull landscape with their display of multiple colors and shades. The blossoms were the only living guests of the burial.
It was so morose. Were they simply waiting in line to die? The next thing that would happen was Virgil offering her some small stroll through the circles of hell. These days, anything seemed possible.
"Sir Integral?" Walter asked softly, snapping her away from her brooding. She lowered her eyes, glancing at her steward--who was doomed to a wheelchair since his duel with Captain Hans. "Are you unwell?"
Integral pursed her lips in a bitter smirk, shaking her head. "No, but I'm better than them," she replied, gesturing to the freshly dug graves.
Walter said nothing more, merely remained faithfully beside the leader of the Hellsing Organization. Integral appreciated his gesture of allegiance, as she waited impatiently until the final farewell was said and the vicar uttered 'Amen'. There were too many problems to solve to waste time in ceremonies, even if it was in honor of her valiant soldiers. It pained her, but London couldn't be reconstructed by itself.
As the general public started to move, leaving the graveyard, Integral watched quietly the ones who remained: a handful of Wild Geese who had managed to survive; the Iscariot representative, Father Renaldo, who was waiting to give her courteous condolences before returning to the Holy See; and Seras Victoria, her new Captain. Seras was surrounded by the mercenaries, her eyes dry and fixed on merely one tomb, Pip Bernadette's. Integral noticed that the Police Girl's mind was wandering as much as her own.
It never ceased to amaze her how that girl had matured so much in so little time. But she could relate to how foul circumstances and the death of a loved one could change people. Integral had experienced this before.
Leaving Seras for a while, Integral stepped forward, walking towards the graves in order to drop the bouquet of white roses she was holding on them. When she turned, the Hellsing found herself face to face with Father Renaldo.
"Sir Integral Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing," the old priest addressed her. "The Iscariot Order understands your grief and will accompany you during these testing times. Father Maxwell has postponed your briefing until you feel ready."
Integral's eyes narrowed behind the veil, half loathing the fact she was being treated like a normal human who would shatterat any circumstance. She wasn't; if she were, Hellsing wouldn't have won this war.
If Integral were weak, she wouldn't be able control Alucard at all.
"Tell Maxwell I'll meet him on the already agreed date, and that I'm grateful for his concern, even if it's misplaced."
"Very well," Renaldo inclined his head and offered flowers: violets. "A gift."
Integral accepted them, "Farewell, Father Send my greetings to Maxwell and my condolences for the loss of several of his agents."
"I will. May the Grace of God be with you. Amen."
Integral made her way towards Walter, glimpsing Seras through the corner of her eye. She had left her place among the mercenaries to kneel at Pip's grave.
"She told me that she wanted time alone… To speak with Mr. Bernadette," Walter commented politely. "Should we return to the Abbey, Sir?"
" 'Speak,' you say?" Integral inquired, figuring it was a manner of speech rather than a literal statement. But one never could know with vampires. "Yes, I have to revise the damage reports and contemplate the next days' actions. We have been at war for weeks, and it's time to pick up the pieces." Her order was more a reminder to herself than directed towards Walter.
Driving through the city was a sad spectacle. The firemen and the rescue groups still hadn't finished carrying away the corpses. Working with them were special agents armed with silver bullets. In their scourging they frequently encountered an aimless ghoul.
Children feasting on their parents. Parents eating the flesh of their children. It was a macabre show of horror.
Integral wondered why the zombies didn't crumble into dust after the vampires' destruction. It galled her that after so much effort and sacrifice they were still around. Those disgusting mockeries of human beings should be exterminated! She would see that happen. The only ones who stopped her from this genocide were Alucard and Seras. In Alucard's case, this was more due to a twisted affection for her, the fruit of his raising. For Seras , it was merely because she was good, genuinely a decent person. There were no good vampires besides her, as far as Integral knew. The blood brought out the worst in beings, and they weren't usually willful enough to avoid it.
But Integral didn't hate the species: that would make her no better than the Nazis. She merely loathed those who dared to defy Great Britain's customs and menace the citizens. As for the rest, she couldn't care less. She was willing to give them a chance if they proved useful for her means. Just as she would smite those mortals who crossed her.
Hatred was counter-productive, and Integral was a practical woman.
"Sir… We've arrived."
Integral opened the door and descended from her Rolls Royce, as her driver aided Walter in getting settled in his wheelchair.
Carfax Abbey, an echo of the past.
Over the past century, the Abbey had been painted and maintained in fairly good condition. The Victorian construction was one of the few buildings that had gone unscathed during the Millennium Group's assault. She carefully ascended the staircase to the gateway. Not far behind, Walter followed, using the iBOT Mobility System in order to climb the stairs. She was tempted to pause and wait for him, but she knew Walter disliked being treated like a handicapped person. Such was the dignity of a warrior. The heavy doors opened by themselves, the noises they made piercing her ears. Integral half expected to find Alucard standing on the threshold, waiting to greet them with some dramatic speech. But apparently, the vampire had surpassed that stage.
"Walter, can you prepare some tea? I'm thirsty," Integral requested, rubbing her right shoulder lightly. The contusion she had gained in the battle hadn't yet healed fully, unlike the bruises on her face.
"Of course, Integra. Should I put those in water?" Walter asked, meaning the violets she was holding.
"Don't bother, I'll do it myself."
Integral proceeded to renew her quest to find her office. She swore this building was some sort of living maze, with its constantly-changing rooms and misleading identical-looking corridors, all featuring the same gaudy gargoyles and paintings whose eyes seemed to follow one's movements.
The air turned cold as Integral approached the end of a hallway. Steam came out of her mouth as if she were exhaling smoke. The shadows were oppressive, blocking her vision to the point where she almost stumbled into a chair.
It's either Alucard, or someone else turned the air conditioning system up to maximum, the Hellsing thought dryly as she dodged the furniture. Stretching out her free arm, her hand sought the switch to turn on the light. Nothing happened. I'll have to have the light bulb changed.
Frustrated, Integral spun around, ready to turn back. "This is what happens when we use the lair of a former enemy as a base," she muttered, annoyed.
'And that's less ironic than using a former enemy as a weapon, my Master?'
Integral froze in her path, eyes scrutinizing the surroundings, guessing that all of this was Alucard's trickery. The vampire had become such a burden lately, following her like a shadow, claiming that he was bored of the lack of conflict.
"Now that you bring up the subject, Alucard," Integral remarked, fixing her gaze on a portrait of a man with red eyes that blinked at her, "we Hellsings do have a special sense of humor, don't we?"
The man in the portrait grinned, revealing sharp teeth that glittered maliciously. "Lost, Integra?"
"No, I think I'm ion the right path," Integral smirked wickedly, pulling out a pen from her coatpocket. "You'll stop whatever you're doing or you shall gain a new mustache. And I can make it permanent." The knight held the point of the pen dangerously close to the panting's surface.
"I rather forget the times I had one," Alucard huffed. The darkness fell away, as did the icy temperatures.
Integral's smirk widened, and she slid her pen inside her pocket. "No ink, Alucard. I won't risk ruining an expensive piece due to your immaturity." With ease, Integral finally arrived at the office. Lowering the doorknob, she entered, shutting the door behind her. Alucard soon joined her, phasing through the wall.
"Ah, I see you have much work to do, Integra," Alucard pointed out. Indeed, her desk wascovered with papers. Integral grimaced. She preferred action to this bureaucractic work. War had spoiled her.
"As usual. Then you shouldn't pester me, hmm?"
"You have a lot to do," Alucard dismissed her words and continued, "But I don't." The vampire shamelessly lounged on the chair opposite hers and put his booted feet on the table, lowering his hat to hide his mischievous smile from the knight.
With a disdainful sweep of her hands, Integral pushed his feet off her working table and snagged the papers that were underneath. "You may stay, Alucard. I prefer you with me than haunting the staff," she said, taking her place on the opposite side of the desk. "Remember that the sooner that I finish, the sooner you'll be out killing things."
"The thought you want me around you is an honor, Integral."
Integral scowled. Was he laughing at her expense? She resisted the urge to shove the flowers into his mouth to shut him up for a change. She opted to put them aside and read her first folder.
"Who gave you these?" Alucard lifted the bouquet into the air and brought it to his nose. "A secret beau? When will you introduce him to us? Afraid to face Walter?" he taunted.
Integral didn't spare him much attention, instead checking the list of new disturbances outside England. "Close. They're from Enrico Maxwell."
"He was at the burial service?"
"No, he sent one of his men to give condolences."
"Ah, exchanging love gifts through envoys, how tragic."
Integral closed the file violently and shot him a bemused look. "Why so interested in my romantic life, or the lack thereof? Jealous?"
Alucard laughed viciously, that laugh sinister enough to send chills down most people's spine. But Integral wasn't 'most people' and she was long accustomed to such a trait on her vampire.
"I won't think a priest is a menace to what is rightfully mine."
Integral blinked as if she had turned suddenly deaf and couldn't hear him well. "I beg your pardon?"
"You, this place, Walter, the Police Girl. Hellsing is mine as I am of Hellsing," Alucard pointed out with a mirthful glance towards Integra. "It's a symbiotic bond," the vampire added as he tossed Integral the flowers. "It's a fitting Iscariot present."
"It is?" Integral inquired, pushing the other issue aside. When she was in a better mood, the Hellsing planned to discuss it. When it came to his pride, it appeared to be a lost cause."Violet," Alucard elaborated, bending forward like someone who was telling a secret. "The color of decay. A mockery of purple, the regal shade."
"And now you're an expert in colors and their meanings?" Integral cocked a brow. It did sound like something Maxwell would do, though. "Perhaps I should employ you as decorator. That would keep you busy."
"You forget I was once a ruler. My tailors explained this to me. The Catholics have an acute sense of the obvious. England is crumbling."
Integral threw the violets onto her table, gnashing her teeth, containing her anger. "What do you know?"
"Only what your personnel hear on the radio," Alucard replied with brutal honesty, no mockery, just a fact. That bothered her more, because, deep inside, Integral agreed that the circumstances for her country were hardly the best lately. "General panic at the existence of vampires, increasing attacks of the IRA, your Church losing faithful to the Vatican, contamination of the water supplies, diseases causing quarantines in small towns… even rumors about vampirism transmitted by mosquitoes." He gave a fanged smile at that.
"Is the latter true?" Integral asked, leaning against her seat. The rumors were outrageous. Vampirism becoming a plague? Ridiculous. But then again, apparently, Prince William himself was suffering from it. The Royal family refused to speak with her on the matter yet.
"Perhaps. Normally, the bugs avoid us. Lately, however, I noticed their behavior did seem... modified. A drop of blood from our kind is… extremely addictive," Alucard uttered suggestively. "Not as much as Hellsing blood, though."
Integral felt a tad agitated at his words. Alucard never offered such daring things to her. "Then they become vampires as well?" The whole mental picture of undead insects flying around was quite disturbing.
"No. Only humans receive such an… honor. It's not a body state. I have told you this many times: vampirism is a mind or soul condition. The lack of a pulse is only a part of it."
"Carriers." Integral rubbed her chin pensively. She would make this one of the first things Hellsing must investigate. If the mosquitoes transmitted the condition, then the circumstances that affect vampirisim shouldn't be affected, such as gender and state of purity of the victim. There was the possibility- that the damnable bugs were responsible for the sudden rise in the ghoul population. "I haven't seen a mosquito around me in my life. Which is odd. Your doing?"
Alucard inclined his head. "Who else? I can master the beasts. No one can suck your blood but me. I have the right reserved."
Integral snorted. "Figures. The mosquitoes bow to the biggest one among them."
An insistent knocking at the door interrupted their conversation. "Sir Hellsing?"
"Come in, Walter."
The steward entered, a tray with a teacup, pots and a plate with biscuits on his lap. His hands drove him towards the table. In an unnatural gesture of kindness, Alucard took the tray from him, handing it to Integral.
"Thank you, Walter," Integral smiled at her father figure. "What about those…?"
Walter paused and presented her with several papers, ads, posters and publicity regarding the 'Unliving Church.' They all featured a cross made of blood. Integral read the first lines aloud: "Blood of my blood. Learn that Jesus, the Messiah was a vampire! The undead his true chosen people. Join us and be baptized with blood for the first time. The initial steps to life beyond death…" Her eyes narrowed, containing herself from ripping apart the add. "Walter… what rubbish is this?"
"A new cult, Sir. The most popular at the moment… The people are disheartened by the Church, therefore…"
"Charlatans seek to feed on their money and naiveté?!"
"This has happened throughout the ages," Alucard assured Integral, grabbing one pamphlet for future reading. "It's a human flaw."
Integral looked infuriated. This was taking things too far… She couldn't allow these charlatans to go unpunished. However, if they didn't do anything harmful beyond deception it wasn't her area. But, with vampires involved, she didn't think it would stop at that. "Walter, contact the MI-5. We have to research this so called Church."
"At once, Sir."
"Alucard," Integral smirked, opening a drawer to take out a box of small cigars and her lighter. "You'll be back in service sooner than I thought."
"Oh, good to know. I was thinking to pose as their new Messiah if the inactivity continued."
Integral hoped he was merely joking.