Monday mornings were something to be seen at the Hellsing mansion.
As a rule, the Hellsing Organization never shut down for weekends. They were ready and available 24 hours a day to come to England's defense at a moment's notice. However, Hellsing's sister agencies lagged on weekends. When those agencies returned to full capacity Monday morning, Hellsing was overwhelmed with weekend reports of suspected vampire activity that needed to be investigated. It was always a flurry of activity, flared tempers and paper work. For years it had been a problem. For years, little had been done to correct the problem, but Hellsing adapted and made do. Walter, of course, over saw the entire production.
It was barely dawn, but the evidence of Monday was already clear. The sounds of percolating coffee makers, the trumpet of choice to rouse the Hellsing household, drummed noisily throughout the first floor. Almost immediately, a swarm of cooks and maids bustled their way through the foyer to the kitchen to prepare Sir Integra's morning meal and to prepare the conference room for the busy day of meetings that lay ahead. They had to be ready on time. Sir Integra would be on her way down any minute.
And already, changes were being made to the schedule.
"Ok everyone," Walter announced, stepping into the bustling kitchen. "Scrap the brunch menu, Sir Integra has decided to reschedule the budget meeting." He tapped his pen nervously on the daily planner, making mental calculations. "Oh, and put the flatware away, she's not having breakfast in the dining room. Prepare everything on trays. She'll be taking the rest of her meals, and meetings, in her bedroom. She's too sick to get up."
This caused a visible disruption in the pattern of chaos scurrying around him, and it also raised a chorus of moans.
"I don't care about your miserable little lives," Walter said dully to the disgruntled noises. "You know what this means: I want every maid upstairs immediately to prepare Sir Integra's room for guests. Now, you all know it's highly inappropriate for a sick, underdressed woman to conduct business meetings from her bed….so make it appropriate. I don't care what you have to do, but dress it up, make the room smell nice and clean and airy. Give the guests a place to sit. Set up chairs and…"
A servant passing by grunted, "She's gonna shoot us if we touch something she doesn't want us to touch. I know better then to set foot in her bedroom."
"Well, yes, " Walter conceded with apathy, "Some of you may not be coming back." He jutted his thumb towards the direction of the stairs. "Get up there. Her first meeting is at eight, sharp. Bring her fresh sheets and a new quilt, prop Sir Integra up with plenty of pillows and…"
"I'm not touching her bed while she's in it," another nervous maid said. "I'm not touching her." Before Walter could say anything back, another maid suggested in complete seriousness, "Start picking up her dirty laundry for her before you touch the bed. Make a show of it if you can, especially if she left her knickers on the floor. She'll be so pissed, she won't even notice what you do to the bed."
Walter just groaned. He really ought to reprimand these girls for their tasteless, trashy mouths, but there wasn't any time. "Whatever, just get it done." He decided to take this moment to flee from the chaos and go upstairs and warn Sir Integra that her very, very personal sleeping place was about to be invaded by every hired hand in the house. She certainly wouldn't appreciate being suddenly barged in upon without warning. He hurriedly made his way up the stairs.
Walter opened up Sir Integra's bedroom doors and briskly walked into the dim room. "Excuse the intrusion ma'am, but the maids will be in here in a moment. Why don't you take the opportunity to shower?" He threw open the drapes and turned expectantly towards the bed.
Sir Integra was an unmoving lump under the covers. "Mmm."
"I can bring you coffee?" Walter offered, fetching her bathrobe from the wardrobe.
"Nnn." Slight shifting, then stillness again.
"At least take the time to change into fresh night clothes, maybe brush your teeth. I'll find a comb for your hair, we'll put it up in a nice bun."
Her head poked out from under the covers, like a fox peering out from under a log. Blinking drowsy eyes at her servant, she muttered, "You're planning my hair, too?"
"It speaks volumes," he replied without skipping a beat. "It's a, uh, a caricature thing. It says, 'I admit I'm sick, but I'm not disheveled. I can't get out of bed, but that doesn't mean I can't be professional.'"
The woman slowly sat up, her achy bones shifting. "Librarians wear buns. So do waitresses. I don't think a hairstyle can come to my defense."
"It may be superficial, but we're taking a big risk continuing with your meetings while you stay in bed. We need all the defense we can find, even if you do find it silly."
Sir Integra shook her head at the older man. The logic of a normal person. She had decided that Walter was relatively normal, anyways, and that she was somehow scarred for life. Normal-people-logic escaped her. She had always found it helpful to trust Walter, regardless of her reservations, as he lived in the real world and Sir Integra lived in a reality of her own making.
He was a long black shadow hunched over the work bench, meticulously cleaning his guns.
"Isn't it a little early to be preparing for battle, Master?"
Alucard smiled, pulling back the hammer of his Jackal. The clip was empty of course and when he fired, the trigger made a satisfying, sharp click.
Seres peered around her master, examining the weaponry he'd laid out on the workbench. They ritualistically shared this space, or rather, Alucard didn't mind that Seres hovered over him while he worked. It was a rare occasion they spent time together. This work room gave Seres an excuse to be with her master and talk to him from time to time.
Apparently, it was Alucard's intent to carry more then his usual guns this evening. The double barrel shotgun with the sawed off barrel sitting there on the table was an unusual and base addition to his collection, as was the Remington. Messy, inefficient weapons not suited for killing vampires. Seres regarded these unfamiliar guns with a raised eye brow.
"They're good for killing humans," Alucard answered the police girl's thoughts.
She blinked. "Planning on killing humans tonight?"
He ignored her. Alucard plucked up the Remington and examined the magazine. "Hellsing doesn't allow the soldiers to carry these kinds of weapons anymore. But they won't throw them away because we can never have too many guns in the house." Alucard replaced the magazine and set the weapon down. "So no one will mind if I borrow it."
Seres came around the table. "No one will mind," she asked, "or no one will notice?"
"It's Monday. They already have a lot on their minds. I wouldn't want poor, tired Integra agonizing over the possible reasons I'm taking liberties with her inventory."
She frowned at him. It was normal for him to be evasive, as he seemed to be dangling bits and pieces of a puzzle in front of her nose on purpose. He wanted her to know his mind this time. "We don't even have our orders yet. What are you gearing up for?"
"Our neighbors are dropping by for lunch. I'm going to entertain them."
"Our who? We don't have neighbors."
The larger vampire tucked away his weapons under his coat. "That Irishman and his Italian friend."
Seres's color visibly dropped a shade, a freakish appearance when considering she was already a pale vampire. "When?"
Alucard began walking out of the room. "This afternoon," he answered with a shrugg. "This evening. However long it takes for a private plane to fly from Rome to London."
Seres chased after him. "You're the only one who knows?"
"And I'd like to keep it that way for now," he answered. "So try and contain yourself."
"What are you planning to do?"
"Why can't anyone else know?"
Alucard chuckled at this. "When you bring a gift to a lady, it loses it's meaning if she first has to tell you that she wants a present."
Seres was appalled once she understood what he meant. "Is this what you do? Instead of bringing Sir Integra flowers to say you're sorry, you bring her the heads of her enemies?"
A smile. "I'm romantic like that. Besides, flowers from me would unnerve her."
"Yes. I'd rather get a bloody head from you. You strike me as a bloody head kind of guy."
Somehow, either the joke was sailing past Alucard's head or he was ignoring it. "That's what I thought."
"How did you even find out the Iscariots were coming?" she asked.
"I invited them." Alucard looked very satisfied.
"What's wrong with that?" Alucard asked in mock defensiveness. "Gentlemen used to call out their enemies, quite politely, for duels all the time. Why should I have to wait for them to trespass on our soil? We hate them. They hate us. We should kill each other, like civilized people."
Seres stared at Alucard. "That is the most… absurd reasoning I've ever heard."
Alucard shrugged again. "Integra would understand my logic."
"I doubt that."
"She would," he said, and meant it. Since she had been a child, although they disagreed on many things and argued about everything, they shared a common reasoning, a common logic. Nothing was more assuring then knowing someone who always understood where you were coming from, especially when no one else could wrap their heads around your ideas.
With this in mind, Alucard had decided with resolution, right or wrong, respect or no respect, he needed Sir Integra on his side again. These petty feuds between the two of them had to end. Even if it meant he himself had to give in. He couldn't expect his master to compromise with him any further, as by now she felt burned and used by him somehow, and all she wanted to do was fight him. He had to be the first to offer peace.
He had learned his lesson from the basement.
It was better to seduce and entice then to torment and harass.
"This information is disturbing," Father Renaldo huffed. "I demand an explanation, Sir Hellsing."
Sir Integra smiled into her tea. "It's the gentlemen's way of settling their differences. Surely you can't argue with my logic."
The man seated across the bed folded his arms in distaste. "It's simplistic and barbaric. I can't imagine this indulgence has been met with any official approval."
"You mean her majesty? Of course not."
"I was thinking more along the lines of your comrades sitting at the Round Table."
"This isn't official business." Sir Integra gently set town her tea cup on her night stand and neatly folded her hands on her lap. "This is entertainment between two spoiled children from two opposing empires. It's a cockfight, a pit bull ring."
"This is most unusual, unprofessional…"
Sir Integra waved him off. "I'm certain that Paladin Anderson is just as enthusiastic about this opportunity as Alucard is. And I can imagine Enrico Maxwell is just as curious to see the outcome as I am. If he wasn't, he wouldn't have sent you." She reached for her tea and sipped it again.
Father Renaldo gritted his teeth and stood up in a huff. "The Vatican has better things to do then play games with heathens. I'm sure Father Maxwell would come here himself to tell you so if he didn't think this was some kind of trap to assassinate him. But the Iscariot Organization won't back down from such a brazen challenge. We'll kill your pet vampire, rest assure." He stormed out of Sir Integra's bedroom, the armed guards standing at the door eyeing him as he went.
Sir Integra sat quietly in her bed, holding her tea, listening as another set of guards escorted him out of the house. She waited until she heard the heavy front door latch shut before she began to scream.
He was in her room in a flash. "Ma'am? What did he want?"
Sir Integra's eyes were aflame, her jaw clenched, her fists shaking. When she spoke, every word was halted. "We're going to find Alucard. Get every soldier we have, wake up whoever is still sleeping in the barracks, stop all training duties, call all off duty men, get them here now. Alucard's going back in the basement." She took a deep, shaking breath. "He's going to have a few years of 'time out' to think about how bad he's been."
"What happened? What's going on?"
"He pretended he was me and wrote a letter to Enrico Maxwell, forged my signature, stole my family seal, and invited Alexander Anderson to come to London for a friendly duel to the death."
Walter's monocle fell from his eye.
"All with the official Hellsing seal on it. With my name. My name. My signature. Asked them if they'd like to come to London. Invited them." She flung the tea cup across the room, shattering it against the wall. "Now we can't attack these terrorists for invading the country because I apparently invited them. And I've given them permission to use London as their battlefield."
"B-but Ma'am, you haven't! Just explain to them…"
"Explain what! That I can't control my vampire? That he just does whatever he wants, and 'Oh, don't mind Alucard, he just won't behave'? 'Sorry for the confusion'?" Sir Integra glared down at the floor, her exhausted body trembling in spite of her weak state. "No, instead I have to pretend this ridiculous idea is really mine and let it happen."
Walter cautiously approached the raving woman. "Please, ma'am, calm down. I'm sure we can find a way to get through this situation."
But Sir Integra was inconsolable. She was lost in her own thoughts, grumbling now and rambling furiously. "That little shit. That little…that little horror, that worthless little bastard." She looked up at Walter, her eyes grown wild. "He's going away. Do you understand? Get the soldiers, I want him to be taken down the second after his kills that Catholic scum."
"Sir Integra, please, your nerves…"
"They'll only have one chance, understand? Invincible or not, he'll be exhausted after such a fight."
Walter was at a loss, thinking fast, trying to come up with some plan to occupy Sir Integra before she screamed herself into a stroke. Besides, he knew the current soldiers occupying Hellsing weren't strong enough to take down Alucard. Years ago, this thing had been attempted before, and he had seen the bloody results. "We don't need to gather troops to take care of Alucard. Let me talk to him. There's no reason why you have to allow this battle to take place at all."
Sir Integra laughed at her butler, though there was no humor. "And what is it you intend to say to him? What can we do at this point to reverse the inevitable? I just sat here and played along in front of one of Maxwell's personal bodyguard, confirming this duel. If I go back on what I've said, the only person who loses in this situation is me. I'll be humiliated!"
"Then don't go back on what you said. Have Alucard go back on it." Walter shrugged helplessly, scrambling for words. "Let it be his embarrassment. You won't have to have anything to do with it."
Sir Integra swung her legs over the side of the bed, tossing her mane over her shoulders. "No, he'll never back down from a fight. And he won't allow himself to be humiliated as a punishment." Carefully, as Walter watched tensely, she lifted herself up to her feet, holding onto the bedpost tightly for support. "This battle will go forward and I will play along."
"And afterwards? What will become of Alucard?"
"Well." The woman tied her robe closed. "He didn't learn his lesson after 20 years in the dark, what will another 20 years mean?"
"So you won't do anything?"
"No." She gazed at him wistfully, her lips slightly pulling back in a ghost of a smile. "I have…a very special plan in mind. I've been thinking it over for some months now, even more so since I took my vacation." She hobbled slowly out of the room, looking at nothing. "Actually, the germ of this idea has been rolling around in my mind ever since I was a little girl. I really think that there's only one way to handle Alucard and it's time I stopped kidding myself."