- A Kiss for Judas
Anderson only became gloomier and unstable after Dracula and Yumi's departure on the following night; he avoided all contact, declined Heinkel's advances to converse and even the Draculina's attempts at cheering him up. For two days he punished himself for his failure through flagellation, asking for forgiveness, pleading that the Lord should guide him. Even his lashings were in vain; his skin would heal immediately, leaving no bruise behind and only twp marks marring his features: the twin scars on his face, on each side of his cheeks. Both marked two important failures in his life: one of that past before his enhancing at the hand of the Vatican, and one of the present.
He growled, frustrated. Could he not accomplish even such a task properly?
During his sessions, Anderson often heard someone's steps stopping behind his door, and when he peeked under the wood he recognized Integral Hellsing's shoes. He forced herself to remain silent, holding his breath and praying she would not see him in these circumstances. She didn't, but he knew she was not fooled, for the smell of blood and sweat had been too thick in the atmosphere to escape her notice.
Anderson thought himself pathetic and he quit the self-mutilation on the third day.
He started watching the Mansion personnel, deepening in his broodiness. He saw Heinkel bickering with the butler who had apparently taken a special interest in her, following her everywhere. He watched Draculina reading a French newspaper, smoking a cigarette with her boots on the table in a very un-lady like fashion. The mercenaries did not fear him for they had never experienced his attacks; they treated him casually like a peer whose presence was refreshing if only for his being alive. He still could not face his chief.
Seeing Integral would remind him of the fact that he had failed her, that he had lost the battle and given up. That it was his fault and due to his incompetence, after all, that she would have to sacrificed her humanity, her soul and her honour to Dracula. Strangely, his emotions ran deeper than having merely unfulfilled his job. His own heart ached, as if one of his orphans were in mortal peril, though not quite. Anderson was at a loss about figuring out what was wrong.
He spent more time in the small Anglican Chapel located on the third floor, sitting in the first row in front of the presiding bench. The structure was built in the modified perpendicular Gothic style, made of stone, brick and cement. The architects had employed stonemasons and steel in hidden girders supporting the slate roof that broke the symmetry composed in the rest of the Mansion. The doors and walls that connected to the inside of the Mansion were made of glass. No one ever bothered to visit it. The personnel was constantly occupied with the cleaning and required reparations, and the mercenaries were pagans and did not attend.
"There used to be a vicar," Draculina had told him, "But the poor bloke died during the war. He tried to fight the Nazis with his faith and ended up a ghoul. Sir Hellsing told me her Majesty will be sending a female priest soon, to increase the women in our ranks."
Anderson questioned whether faith had been true in that man but then resigned -- sometimes faith was not enough, and he was the living proof of that theory. He had eaten alone and very little before ascending to pray, to medicate, to ask for guidance. His mind was troubled, staring at the wooden cross in the altar, examining each detail on the surface. He missed the shuffle in the corridor outside the chapel.
"Ah, so someone is actually visiting the old Chapel. My grandfather would be proud it was not wasted."
Anderson stood with alacrity, inclining his head towards Integral Hellsing. "Good afternoon, Sir Hellsing," he choked on his greeting. "You found me."
Integral entered to the chapel, sliding the door shut behind her. "With your height, Anderson, you aren't difficult to find," she stated, approaching to his position. "Despite your efforts to conceal yourself and to avoid my company, it was easy enough."
Anderson huffed; that was her polite way to call him a big oaf. "I apologize, I didn't want to disturb-"
"Rubbish," Integral interrupted, facing him and folding her arms. Though shorter than him, her posture and dominating made her appear a giant. He grew weaker on his knees under her accusatory stare and collapsed on the pews rather unceremoniously. It was fortunate that his regenerative skills would heal the bruises down there. "You should eat more. Your body needs more energy if you even want to get out to a mission. Especially after your little sessions days ago," she scowled him, "You are disturbing me. This self-pity is wasteful, Anderson. Your brooding isn't going to attract God's sympathy, nor mine, and your flaunted woe will plain annoy us both." He felt a heat increasing on his cheeks, for she was right, his action had been less than desirable. "Look at you! You are pitying yourself again!"
"Sir Hellsing… I-"
"Quiet Alexander Anderson," Integral bristled, sitting down, holding his gaze firmly despite his efforts to cast it down. "I have faith in you, if I didn't, I would have accepted the Count's offer that night. Now are you telling me you are truly hopeless? Because I refuse to believe it."
Anderson pushed the brooding aside. He was angry now, furious at his own past deeds. His hands closed in fists, tearing down his gloves by the tightness of the grip and drawing blood before the wounds could close on their own. His arms were trembling but he ceased at once when slender hands reached over his. They were smaller, thinner but their gentle hold was enough to calm the rage boiling in his veins. His eyes descended on these hands and then on her face. She was smiling knowingly; his cheeks kept flushing but not by the same reason than before.
"Have faith in me Anderson if you can't have faith in anything else," Integral said, before releasing his hands and standing. "Now, shall we go to exorcize my city and work on your anger management? Or would you prefer to stay in and sulk?"
Anderson scoffed, roughly rising after her, "I will follow wherever you lead, Sir Integral. I won't allow the Devil win the battle." He kept that in mind, as the blasted vampire's gloating face was not a sight he enjoyed to see.
Seras Victoria had taken both him and Integral to the centre of London as the sun had set; it was a dangerous decision to attack at night - for the poltergeists were at their most active without sunlight - but the Draculina was substantially stronger then as well. She remained behind him, guarding Integral protectively. As much as he disliked the vampire girl, he admired her loyalty to their chief.
Anderson was anxious, he had not even protested when his boss had joined the party because that would have been an insult to her determination. But as strong a fighter Integral was, she could not heal her wounds like her pet monsters were able to. If he failed…
Focus, Anderson self chastised as he started to withdraw his bible pages, Have faith.
The ghosts of Square Mile were less obnoxious than those of East End, but that did not mean they would be less vicious in battle. They approached almost shyly the living beings that dared to step in their city. Curiously, they avoided the shadow of Saint Paul's Cathedral, whose dome was half demolished.
"We recall you…" one of the wraiths murmured, his words a whisper carried by the wind. "You tried to protect us and failed…" Spite dripped his speech. "Are you going to join us willingly? Will you spread our sorrow to others?"
"We came to give you peace," Integral spoke, stepping forward. Anderson frowned, she was leaving Seras behind her. "I couldn't save you from death but I can aid you to reach salvation."
There was a faint gossip, followed by an outrageous exclamation and a piercing laugh that penetrated the ears, stunning Anderson for a moment, making it harder for him to concentrate.
"We don't need peace! We need to shed blood! To spread our pain! War for war!" a woman from the crowd cried out. "Warriors of God! Join the Legion of Dead!"
Night had fallen completely, melted light posts had been lifted to the air, thrown towards the women's direction. Seras flew to intercept them; Anderson saw her being successful with the first two but getting hit by the third, swatted towards a building violently. She collapsed motionless to the ground. Integral managed to dodge the remaining one but she was unaware of the glass shards going towards her.
"Integral!" Anderson shouted, his eyes widened, ignoring the pain of being penetrated by a flag banner on his side. Without thinking twice he extended his bible wrists and formed a shield of tick paper that retained the glass. He was at Integral's side like a lightening, furious on anyone attempting to harm her. He trusted himself with her protection, and that would not be taken away. I return her faith!
Shutting his eyes, Anderson extended his arms and white pages flew, covering the whole district. The bayonets came after, pinning the paper to the black stained walls of the buildings with the exception of that one place wherein Seras lay. The screams coming from the wraiths were like a sweet symphony to his ears -wicked spirits should suffer and be punished by their acts. He started to cackle, losing control of himself but stopped when Integral's hand squeezed his right shoulder.
"That's enough, Alexander," she ordered, "I promised them peace. They suffered enough already."
His features turned solemn, maniacal grin vanishing completely. Nodding to her direction, he chanted: "Crux sancta sit mihi lux. Non draco sit mihi dux. Vade retro satana. Nunquam suade mihi vana. Sunt mala quae libas . Ipse venena bibas!"
A soft glow expanded from their spot to the area shielded by the bible pages and in the passing moments, the light turned blindly. There was a collective anguished scream followed by a sigh of relief and then silence.
"You know, Anderson, you shouldn't strain yourself too much," Seras said entirely too chipper at his side. She was floating and watching over his shoulder as he finished seasoning the rack of lamb with salt, pepper and garlic, making to then place it in the roasting pan. "This week has been stressing for you, given all the exorcisms… And the chef wants to keep his job and not have to worry about a potential competitor!"
Anderson snarled, waving the kitchen knife around towards the bothersome vampire that kept distracting him from his task. She jumped backwards, shooting him one of her hellish lopsided smiles. It was not the Draculina in charge now, but her boyfriend.
"Get out before I include you and Draculina in the menu," he warned and then started to skillfully slice the carrot, onions, and the stalk of celery. He then diverged his eyes to check on the bouquetiere cooking inside the pots.
"Well, you know, man," she started without even trying to conceal the French accent this time, "You look like a housewife with that apron."
Anderson couldn't help but blush and staring down the white apron with small animal design on it. "You never cooked in your life, heathen!" he hissed defensively. "The clothes get stained and sometimes they are impossible to wash! Where I am supposed to get more outfits my size with London in ruins and the other cities so far away?"
"I prefer French cuisine," the thing said giddily. "Even if it's messy…" She turned to leave to his relief, "Be sure to invite me to the celebration dinner when you are done."
Anderson glowered; he was cooking for Integral and himself not for the tasteless monster. They deserved a good, nourishing dinner after purifying a whole damned city together. Her patience at his methods had been a reason well worth the praise.
And a victory against the Devil, he thought with pleasure, adding lemon juice to tender the simmered mushrooms. He heard the door open minutes after Seras had gone and he barked without turning: "What! I am busy here!"
"It's smelling delicious already, Alexander," he heard Integral commented. "The chef has reasons to fear for his job."
He spun around to face her; she was wearing the same outfit of the meeting with Maxwell in the museum except the hat. Quickly, he cleaned his hands on the apron, looking embarrassed by his previous outburst. "You look differently…"
"So do you," Integral pointed out, shooting a meaningful look to his apron, "I thought I should be wearing something special for the occasion. It is not on all nights that we celebrate such a victory together." As she approached him, his feet seemed to be glued to the ground. "I regret to inform you that the Count won't be joining us, though. Walter told me he has no business with me for now, seeing how we got rid of his blackmail possibilities. He retreated this morning after carrying the message."
Anderson snorted, "Pity, I added extra garlic to the crown rack of lamb."
Integral smiled at him, inhaling the steam coming from the pan deeply. "I can tell," she stated, "Sister Heinkel won't be able to make it either. She is missing and all her belongings have been gone from her quarters since yesterday night."
His expression hardened, smile turning into a scowl. The other night they had returned late after exorcizing the last district – West End. "Has the Vatican summoned her?"
Integral shook her head. "I just called to ask for her and they told me she was to remain for at least another week."
They stood in silence, sharing the same suspicions and the unspoken agreement that neither needed to voice.
"The Vatican will take care of it… This business doesn't concern Hellsing," Integral said to his displeasure. "But Wolfe Heinkel was a guest of my organization and the matter will be investigated thoroughly." Her reassurance soothed him, reminding why he followed her.
"Thank you, Sir Hellsing," Anderson answered, relieved by her permission.
"Integral, Alexander, you can address me by my name when in privacy," Integral corrected him. "An honour granted to a handful."
"And I will honour your request… Integral…" Anderson trailed off, hoping the heat of his cheeks and the sweat droplets starting to appear were the consequences of the increased temperature caused by his cooking.
"You earned it," Integral's smile grew slyer, a glitter appeared in her eyes. "I am glad you understood that faith was a wider word with more than just a religious application. I have faith in my men and humanity more than I do in God as an entity. That gives me the strength to see or make miracles happen. The Lord created everything after all, by making things tangible for me to believe in."
"I did," Anderson declared solemnly, reaching to hold both of her hands with one of his. "I have faith in you and your mission. I will follow you to my death," he swore fanatically. He meant it. She was a good Master to serve and also a Master that the Lord had put in his path. It was the right thing to do.
Anderson was so engrossed in his musings that he took note of her approaching too late. Her hands had released from his hold and forced his body to bend, grasping the apron. He complied, mesmerized by the expression on her face. Her expressive and determinate eyes, her aristocratic nose and her full lips… were covering his!
Gasping, Anderson pulled back after returning the kiss briefly, blushing brightly, now certain it was not because of the steam of the roasted food. "Integral!" he exclaimed, shocked. She chuckled very lightly.
"The traitorous Judas kissed his Master as he handed him to his would be assassins. Now another type of Master is kissing Judas on the lips as a prize for his loyalty," she explained before picking up a piece of mushroom and munching it. "I need to make a new call to the Vatican, Alexander. I trust dinner will be ready on time."
"A-aye, it will, Integral." Anderson swallowed hard as she departed from the kitchen. They had kissed. He could barely believe it. Despite his own awe, he had never felt such happiness since the day he had taken the Holy Vows.
"Her kiss didn't turn you into Prince Charming," a bass voice hissed in his ear, the light extinguished and shadows covering everything. "You are still a beast."
Anderson's blood boiled in recognition of the devil. He was here! Snarling, he turned around and shoved the kitchen knife, but as there was no one there, it merely struck the wall. "You-" he calmed down, controlling his temper before he could trash the kitchen. An idea occurred to him suddenly. "You lost!" he cackled in gloating triumph. "We defeated you!"
"A mere battle, Judas Priest." Even if he concealed his distaste, there was annoyance underneath his tone and Anderson was loving every second of it. He was certain he was angry – after all, the vampire had yet to mock his apron. "I won two battles already."
Anderson glared quietly then, "Yumi… Heinkel… Didn't one woman suffice, you lascivious beast?"
"The little nun is passionate enough to quench my appetite of carnal pleasures for now, Judas. The priestess was a gift for Walter and… not a completely unwilling one." He laughed to Anderson's irritation. "Don't feel too comfortable with your brief victory, fallen Paladin. I will return and have you at my feet and Integral to my side as children of the night."
The oppressive darkness of the kitchen slowly disappeared along with the Vampire King's sinister aura. Anderson's breath shortened as he was left trembling in fury at the other's outrageous words. Dracula would not claim him or Integral. He would do anything to avoid beholding his gloating smirk for the rest of his days.
The door was knocked at twice. "Is everything alright, Anderson?" Draculina asked without entering, "I sensed-"
"It's fine, Draculina," Anderson assured the girl before turning to watch the roasting process. "Tell Sir Hellsing that dinner will be ready within the hour."
Anderson pushed aside any grim thoughts and focused on seasoning the meal instead. The jealous vampire would not ruin their private dinner. He chuckled to think of Dracula being envious of him of all people! But the brief kiss still burnt on his lips and Anderson mused if she would be angry should the Judas himself want to do the kissing next time…
Author's Notes: Thanks to Lyanna Kane for editing this piece and to Dreadnot for suggesting what dish would Anderson cook. Also I appreciate the feedbackreviewers have been leaving, any concrit about the story will be welcomed the most. The pairings (in case anyone was wondering) were: AndersonxIntegral, AlucardxYumi, WalterxHeinkel, PipxSeras. It has been a pleasure, this is the end of the story.