Disclaimer: Hellsing belongs to Kouta Hirano.
Author's Notes: I thank Kit Durani for editing this fic. The story is dedicated to Alucard's Familiar, whose ExI Christmas fic inspired my loved for the ship again. This is set pre-Brazil trip, after volume 2.
Lent was the time of penance, of reflection and forgiveness for every Christian in the world - the forty days prior to Easter. And on the last day of Lent, on Easter Vigil itself, Integral Hellsing was forced to meet with Enrico Maxwell once again.
"Where is he, Walter?" Integral asked, crushing her finished cigar in the astray located to her right. She was sitting in the backseat of her black Rolls Royce, glancing out at Oxford Street for any sign of Enrico Maxwell. She was not in a good mood. He had interrupted the blessed dinner she was sharing with the soldiers in the hopes of awakening a Christian spirit in the atheist mercenaries.
"I have no idea, Sir," Walter replied, turning the steering wheel to the right and entering Crumlin Road. His right hand moved to the phone, dialing Enrico's cell phone number. He waited for a minute before hanging up. "He must have disconnected his cell phone. Perhaps Father Maxwell fears being tracked."
"Maxwell better not have taken me out of our meal for nothing," Integral muttered as she lounged in her place, resting her head on the comfortable leather seat back. "He could have hired a taxi or a limousine."
"Father Maxwell gave me instructions that he be picked up by you personally, Sir Integral," Walter pointed out, his tone becoming serious. "He may be paranoid after the recent incident in South America…"
Incident? That caught Integral's interest immediately. She had read The Times yesterday and recalled an international news piece regarding murdered priests in Montevideo, Uruguay. But she had barely scanned it, she had not deemed it important at time. "The Nazis? They assassinated those priests? Then they were Maxwell's escort?"
"I am afraid so," Walter adjusted the mirror and stopped suddenly. "There he is," he gestured to a man who was standing near the limousine transport. She gathered they were not allowed there but as a knight, she was granted permissions.
Integral surveyed Maxwell, he was only carrying a small handbag and a suitcase in the other hand. The Catholic must have wanted to blend in with the crowd. Gone was the clerical collar, instead he wore a shirt and a pair of trousers, both black, and a pair of sunglasses which hid his eyes. The horn of the vehicle caught his attention and Maxwell started to walk in their direction. Walter exited to open the door for him and he slid inside the Rolls Royce, beside Integral.
"Good evening, Father Maxwell," Walter bowed and shut the door before circling the car and entering himself.
"Finally, it was cloudy, I thought I was going to get rained on," Maxwell commented, annoyed. "Oh good evening, Hellsing."
Integral frowned, crossing her arms in disapproval of his rude greeting. "Greetings, Father Maxwell," she answered acidly. "You should take off your sunglasses, there's no sun and I'd rather be able to see your eyes."
"I'd rather not," Maxwell responded in a defensive tone, reaching for the shades and pushing them further towards his eyes. His gesture stunned her, he sounded almost… wounded.
"Where are you going, Father?" Walter interrogated, starting the engine and the road back to London. "You didn't give me directions after this."
"Westminster. The Cathedral, butler," Enrico replied in a pretentious tone, waving a dismissing hand in Walter's direction. Integral was tempted to order her steward to slice it off. But it was Lent, so she let it go.
"Maxwell, what's the emergency that couldn't wait until I finished dinner with the rest of my soldiers..."
"Your men are either monsters or heathens, Hellsing," Maxwell gave a slight shrug, and then smiled slyly. "I did you a favour, sparing you from boiled eggs with such creatures." She glared at him and his grin widened at her anger. Perhaps, they were not good Christians but they were her people, thus they deserved respect.
"Is that all? My patience is waning."
Maxwell said nothing at first, just opened his suitcase and searched noisily for something inside. Intrigued she peered around the edge of the suitcase's lid, taking a glimpse of the contents – folders marked as confidential in red and many opened envelopes bearing the Section XIII crest. He shut the suitcase suddenly, he had noticed her peeking. "Ah, ah, ah, my dear Integral. That's cheating."
Her brows knit, leaning back she attempted to find his eyes behind the sunglasses. Integral had acquired a certain amount of practice dealing with Alucard, while she could not distinguish his emotions she did note that he was not looking at her. "What are you hiding exactly?"
"The results of my intensive research," Enrico commented in a murmur. "The possible location of one of Millennium's strongholds." Integral remained silent, allowing him to continue. "I was sent a month ago on a tour to South America," he elaborated. "The issue was so delicate I couldn't leave it in hands of an amateur. Contacts with the governments, with underground subcultures and guerrillas; something only a professional could handle."
"The art of deception," Integral added in a velvety tone. Enrico gave a small bow from his seat. "And you were successful, I gather."
"Yes and no. For the small victory was followed by a bitter loss," his hooded eyes met hers, sharing a fleeting quietness before turning away. Within that instant, she sensed something was wrong with Maxwell, he looked vulnerable.
"The massacre in Montevideo."
"They had followed us since the Amazon Forest," Enrico explained. "We were going to spend Holy Week in Uruguay then return to the Vatican to inform them of our discovery. I was going to fax the files from my office. Obviously, it didn't go as I had planned…"
"Hmm. And what did you find out?" Integral pursed her lips, looking through the window behind Maxwell. London was left behind as the car moved into the borough, they were entering Westminster already. She tucked a blonde strand behind her ear. "Aren't you going to tell me?"
"Tomorrow," Maxwell grinned. "After the Mass."
"Don't toy with me, Maxwell," Integral warned through gritted teeth, she narrowed her eyes. Why he was giving her pointless spin? Once he told her they could part ways and not disgusted one another with their mutual presence. He would be alone and… Unprotected. "You have no bodyguards with you," she muttered, realizing the reason why he had stopped in London.
"Now you're thinking, Hellsing. No, my entire escort either died or stayed to cover my back as I managed to escape the country. I had new orders; to see you first and inform you before my return to the Holy See," Maxwell nodded, looking smug at her slowness to grasp the dire circumstances he was in. "Father Anderson himself will take the train to greet me after the popular mass tomorrow evening but in the mean time, while I have no men… You will value my safety for my information."
Clever bastard, Integral thought, pondering her next move. She could always steal the documents using strength. He was alone inside her territory. The deaths of her men at the hands of the mad Paladin still lingered. It's Lent, just for this time, I'll forget that. "I suppose that putting a gun to your head and demanding the information is not very diplomatic. Therefore, for the time being, I will assign two of my guards to watch you."
"Only two?" Enrico asked in that sheer arrogance that managed to infuriate her like no other.
"One of them will be Alucard, you should be grateful," Integral smirked at his pained expression. "He'll feel at home, the Cathedral looks Byzantine enough." She waited a few seconds to savor his aggravation, she could be a thorn in his side as well.
"Won't your dog melt at the sight of a Catholic construction?"
"Doubtful. Alucard died as a Catholic. Maybe he could aid you in tomorrow's mass, how does that sounds?" Integral proposed enthusiastically. "Even I shall attend to watch that."
"Save your troops, Hellsing. I would rather be killed than spend a minute in that Nosferatu's company."
Integral snorted before starting to laugh. "Don't be so gullible, Maxwell. I can't believe you thought I was serious. If I sent Alucard that would defeat the purpose of protecting you. He is still rather eager to put a bullet between your eyes for your sow comment," she told him. That would teach him to play high and mighty in her city again. "However, I might send Seras Victoria instead," she took another pause to enjoy his once again annoyed expression. "Unless you beg me not to do that."
"Say it," Integral insisted.
They stared at each others until Maxwell agreed, sighing. "Please, Sir Hellsing, don't send your monsters to sleep under my bed."
"Alright." Integral was pleased, that was the closest she would get to a real request from Maxwell. So she did not push her luck again. Her foul mood was gone, the mere utterance of 'please' coming from his lips made up for her loss of dinner. Maxwell huffed, clearly disliking the thought of her indulgence.
"Sir Hellsing, Father Maxwell, we have arrived," Walter pointed out as he stopped the Rolls Royce in front of the Cathedral.
Integral appraised the Byzantine construction, so unlike any of the more Gothic churches of London. Even in the dark, she was able to enjoy the view of the St. Edward's Tower, the campanile and the dignified West Front with its finely balanced pillars and arches. The night, however, made it difficult for her to distinguish the reddish colour of the mosaic in the façade. As much she hated to admit it, the Cathedral of Westminster was much more beautiful than the Anglican Abbey. Enrico opened the door and held it for her to exit, a taunt to her knightly chivalry.
Integral raised a brow and exited the vehicle. "Walter, call Captain Bernadette and tell him to send five of his Geese to guard Maxwell," she ordered, after that she walked with Maxwell to the gates, making sure the path was secure. The doors were open, an aged priest greeted Enrico, they exchanged Latin phrases before he was dismissed by the Iscariot.
"He's arranging my chambers," Enrico informed her, standing in the illuminated threshold. Integral nodded and stopped next to him. "Are you going to wait until your men arrive?"
"Yes," Integral replied, assenting. "Are you going to wear those sunglasses inside the church as well?" Enrico grimaced, looking away. Instead of repeating herself, she reached for the shades suddenly and took them.
Maxwell's face contorted in anger. He dropped his handbag and grasped her forearm, tightening his grip there. "Give them back, Hellsing. You shouldn't steal my belongings." Integral did not flitch at his tirade, his assault was rather weak, and his strength was not beyond average. Why the hell was he so easy to rile? Normally he was sarcastic and collected. But now… with his tensed jaw, flared nostrils and reddened eyes…
The red was not from an unnatural cause, there were dilated with bags beneath them. He had been crying. Wordlessly, Integral placed the shades back over his nose, jolting them with her fingers, never ceasing her study of his reactions. "Release me," she said calmly, before twisting her arm from his grasp. Maxwell's breathing steadied and he took a step back before bending to pick up his fallen bag.
"You brought that on yourself, Hellsing. What you did was impertinent," Maxwell snapped, his tone, while scornful, carried a trace of embarrassment.
"It's not my place to question but... why you were crying?" Integral asked softly, as if she was trying to speak with a spooked horse or an insane vampire, unable to restrain himself. She had more experience with the latter.
"It's none of your concern."
Integral scoffed, not forcing the issue. Instead she chose to remain silent for a good five minutes, feeling the breeze that blew their hair to wind. It was long enough for Maxwell to grow restless.
"Father Renaldo," he said finally with a resigned sigh.
Integral blinked, tilting her head. She recalled the aged priest who had come with Maxwell to the meeting at the museum. Walter and himself had chatted while she and Enrico discussed Millennium. "What about him?"
"He was a member of my escort group."
Integral opened her mouth, catching his hint immediately. The old priest had died to save him, like the rest. She had never considered the possibility of Maxwell caring for anyone but himself. Yet, here he was, dressed all in black to mourn both: his colleague and Christ.
"I'm sorry, I wasn't aware. My condolences for your loss."
And she was sincere. Integral could gloat and taunt, sting him now that the Catholic git was weak and could be broken easily. But she was not Alucard, she still held some empathic understanding of human beings. She expected him to growl and spit that he did not need her pity but he only stared intensely at her, speechless. The moment was shattered by the sounds of the bells tolling on the high tower.
"The Lord has died for our sins," Enrico murmured, looking up. "God be with you." It was his turn to accomplish the task of riling her instead. Maxwell bent down and kissed her cheek, very near the corner of her mouth. His lips brushed over her skin, as she burnt in outrage. "Kiss thy neighbour. Even the beggars. Rejoice for the Lord has risen from the dead." He murmured in her ear before leaning away.
Integral was stunned at first, unable to react properly. It was not a lascivious action against her person, he had not sexually harassed her. However, his kiss had lingered longer than was considered Christian. The tolling stopped and she could hear a car engine approaching, she glanced at the street and recognised the lights of her Organization van. "Your nannies have arrived at last, Maxwell," she stated, not bringing up the kiss. His face was unreadable as if he had not decided himself if her silence disappointed him or relieved his shame.
"I have something for you before you go," Maxwell told her and carefully placed his suitcase on the ground. He opened his handbag and scoured the inside for a moment until he pulled out a box wrapped in yellow with a red ribbon. "Open it."
Cautiously, Integral did as he said – taking the box and unwrapping it, revealing a colourful red and yellow cartoon box with carved hearts. There was an inscription in Spanish: "Huevos de Pascua Bon o Bon."
"They are chocolate Easter eggs," Maxwell told her, fairly shiftily. "Father Renaldo suggested that I buy them for Sisters Yumiko and Heinkel, two of my subordinates, they loved them when they traveled to Argentina two years ago."
"Why are you giving them to me?"
"Because… it's Easter and for this day, I forgive your offences against me and your Protestantism," Enrico commented, smirking. "As you are a heretic, you should enjoy the vestiges of the pagan holiday more than a True Christian. And because you need to gain weight, you are far too skinny. "
"I don't have anything to give in exchange," Integral mentioned, feeling her lips curled up in a smile almost against her common sense. Enrico laughed, shaking his head as if he knew something she did not.
"You already did, Hellsing."
"Boss," someone called her. Integral glanced to her right, looking at the mercenaries saluting courteously. "Captain Bernadette sent us."
"Register the perimeter," Integral ordered, gesturing to Maxwell. "You must protect Father Maxwell from any harm in my absence."
"Dismissed, all of you," Integral waved her hand and saluted. "We shall meet tomorrow then, Maxwell."
"Certainly, Hellsing," Enrico inclined his head. "You are invited to attend to the Mass, I will aid in the presiding."
"The trip from South America must have strained you," Integral noted, mirthful. "You are confusing the holy Abbey with this Catholic snake den." She turned to leave, walking through the darkened path in direction of the street.
"Hellsing," Enrico shouted after her. Integral stopped in her tracks, turning slightly. "For the Easter Spirit sake I will ask this. Will you forgive me for my future transgressions? For what I must do against you?" He had removed the shades from his eyes, they glimmered with a strange emotion she could not place.
Integral shook her head, "I don't know. That depends on what sins you shall commit. Probably not, I am not your confessor, Maxwell. Good night." She continued, turning before noticing completely the longing in his gaze.
"Goodnight. And by the way, Hellsing," Maxwell added, "Father Renaldo did not die. I thought he did until recently but he was only wounded on his shoulder. Some tears are for joy." She did not need to look at him to know he was smirking smugly. She twitched, making a mental note not to assume around Enrico anymore, under any circumstances.
Integral arrived at the car and entered, telling Walter to go home now. Integral looked at Maxwell for one last time before he became a shining yellow spot without features in the night. He moved inside the Cathedral when the rain started to pour down on the streets.
It had struck her how strange his request was. Integral had left aside their past faults, following the spirit of the Lent. Besides, as unpleasant as Maxwell could be, his transgressions were rather minor. The blood of her two fallen men was on Anderson's hands not his, even if he was the responsible for the regenerator. But she could not speak for the future.
Absently, Integral cut the plastic that wrapped the box and opened it, taking one of the chocolate eggs Maxwell had given her. The Lord died on the Cross to free them from the weight of their sins. But she was not like Him, she could not pretend to forgive and forget all offences. Especially his. A gut feeling told her the ones to come would be serious.
"Sir?" Walter interrupted her thoughts.
"Happy Easter, Integra."
"Likewise, Walter," she smiled at him and watched how the water dripped outside the car. Pushing the gloomy apprehension away, Integral took a piece of chocolate and started to eat it, indulging in the sweet flavour of the egg. She was bound to duty and human failure, therefore, to Maxwell's dismay, she could not be all forgiving.