All righty, fic. Time to end your misery with a miserable end.
Disclaimer: instead of proofreading this, I said, "aw, hell with it," and posted. You've been warned.
The main hall was almost unrecognizable under the guise of festive decorations and fill of young women and their dates from their sibling school, the Forest Glen College for Young Gentlemen, or some such title.
Integra paused at the entrance, wavering between entering and escaping back to her room. Leslie's firm hand on her arm made the decision for her, pushing her into the hall before Integra could protest.
"The dress looks gorgeous on you," Leslie assured her. "Or rather, you look gorgeous in that dress."
"Thanks," Integra said through gritted teeth, fingering the dark red material of the dress with resignation. How very like Leslie to so innocently choose such a provocative dress for her—provocative in Integra's mind, anyway, the color being the exact same shade of blood and the neckline doing little to protect her neck. She'd had her misgivings last night, even before Leslie had presented her possible dress options with a flourish, but the fact that this dress had been the most conservative of her choices only confirmed her suspicions that Leslie had no grasp of respectable fashion. But at least the knives that Walter had given her were easily concealable, one strapped to each arm under her gloves. "You look lovely too," she complimented belatedly, looking around the hall for some way of escape.
"Thanks!" Leslie gushed, adding, "Rafael should be here soon," which only fueled Integra's desire to remove herself from the hall.
"I'm going to go get something to drink," Integra told Leslie, after spotting a table laden with glasses of punch.
"Okay," Leslie said distractedly. "There—I see Rafael!" she said brightly, but Integra noticed her good cheer seemed a bit forced. "Don't run off," Leslie chided as Rafael drew closer, further confirming Integra's suspicions that Leslie was more nervous than she let on.
"I won't," Integra promised, smoothly extricating herself from Leslie's slightly trembling grasp and navigating through hordes of couples until she reached the punch table.
There, she thought with relief, I'm safe. Settling against the wall with a glass of punch in one hand, she had a good vantage point of Leslie and Rafael, although she doubted that the vampire would try anything untoward in such a crowded room.
Leaning against the wall more comfortably, she sipped her glass of punch and did her best to look unnoticeable.
Unfortunately, Alucard chose that moment to waltz up to her, resplendent in a formal suit and tie, with a worryingly calculating look on his face. It was strange, Integra thought idly, how she never noticed him until it was too late to slip away from him.
"My lady, a dance with me?" Alucard asked amusedly, his lips quirking into a half-smile as he offered her his hand.
"No," Integra hissed, aware that such a move would draw attention to them. "Go hound someone else, you fool."
Looking appropriately mollified, Alucard shrugged his shoulders in elegant defeat and moved away. "You would do well not to treat me so harshly," he scolded, before turning from her. "Until later, then."
Integra watched him go with little remorse and brooded over his comment. As odd remarks went, Alucard's tended to top the list, but this one was especially daunting. A warning, almost.
She raised her glass to her lips again, only to freeze when she saw Rafael and Leslie leaving the hall through the door that led to the gardens. It only took a brief glimpse of Leslie's panicked expression for Integra to push away from the wall and set off after them.
Along the way she saw Alucard give her a mildly questioning look. Sighing, she made her way over to him and rapidly murmured, "Rafael, Leslie, in the gardens—follow if I'm not back in five minutes," before increasing her pace towards the gardens.
Stepping outside, she breathed in the cool night air and turned to where she heard voices—specifically Leslie's tinged with nervous dread.
"I'm fine, Rafael, I don't need—"
"I must insist that some fresh air will do you good," Integra heard Rafael interrupt smoothly, and a bit menacingly.
Concerned for Leslie's wellbeing, Integra ducked under a hedge archway and came upon a very distressed Leslie sitting on a garden bench, with Rafael standing behind her, one hand pressed forcefully down on her shoulder as if he were preventing her from standing up.
"Ah, Miss Integra," Rafael hailed smoothly, seeing Integra enter the hedged-in patio. "What brings you here?" he inquired, tightening his hold on Leslie's shoulder.
Integra blinked. "I…wanted a bit of fresh air," she answered warily, "I found the hall to be…confining."
Leslie gave a strained laugh. "You always were on the claustrophobic side," she said lightly, "always wanting to…escape." She punctuated her last word with a pleading look, which her boyfriend thankfully did not see from behind her.
Rafael smiled dotingly at Leslie. "I was just telling Leslie here how she could benefit from some fresh air," he said, giving Integra a smile. "She tires so easily, you know," he sighed, ruffling Leslie's hair in an affectionate manner. He looked back at Integra and narrowed his eyes. "Actually, Leslie, why don't you rest here, I would like to walk a bit with Integra," he continued, not quite phrasing it as a question.
Leslie looked at Integra with alarm. "If Integra…doesn't mind," she replied carefully, trying to gauge Integra's feelings on the matter.
"I would love to," Integra answered, wondering if five minutes had gone by yet. "Where to?" she asked.
"Oh, not far," Rafael responded vaguely, holding out his arm.
Integra took it hesitantly, gave Leslie a reassuring glance and mouthed, "Go back to the hall when we're out of sight," before following Rafael through another doorway and past a fountain until they were out of earshot.
Integra immediately tried to break away from him, but Rafael held fast to her arm and twisted it behind her, violently agitating the shoulder that had just healed.
Integra gritted her teeth in pain at the mistreatment of her shoulder, but managed to bear it silently.
"I thought I made it clear when I shot you that you were not to interfere with my plans," Rafael hissed malevolently into her ear.
" I'm afraid the only thing that you've made clear is how much of a prick you are," Integra said spitefully, twisting to face him. With her free hand she managed to palm one of her knives and slam it into the side of his throat. "Unfortunate that I missed your heart," she muttered.
His only reaction was to thin his lips in disapproval, extract the knife, and throw it aside. "Name calling is rather juvenile, wouldn't you say?" he asked, while Integra stared at him and tried to mask her shock at how little the knife had affected him. "But if that's how you want it to be, then so be it," he finished in a hiss.
Without warning Integra felt a fist slam into her face, splitting her lip and triggering a most horrible pain in her jaw.
"I had hoped that I would not have to resort to physical violence again," Rafael said with a regretful look, as blood began to drip from Integra's split lip. "But I hope you realize that I could do worse to you than punch you."
"That's not very chivalrous of you," she heard a welcome voice say. "Punching a lady," Alucard continued, lingering on the last word almost lovingly as he came into view from another doorway, his hands in his coat pockets and a faint air of disapproval about him.
"If I were you, I would keep away, sir," Rafael warned arrogantly, flashing Alucard a glimpse of his lengthened canines and his unnaturally bright yellow eyes.
Undaunted, Alucard held up a handgun in retaliation and smiled coolly. "And if I were you, I would reconsider your attitude."
The sight of the firearm momentarily startled Rafael. "What are you doing with a gun?" he asked in surprise, staring at the intimidating weapon with grudging admiration. "You're packing some serious firepower for a teacher," he noted.
"You're packing some serious repercussions for accosting another student," Alucard retorted sternly, holding his gun in a threatening manner. "I'd advise you to stop your nonsense at once and come back with me to the headmistress's office about your behavior."
Rafael stepped towards Alucard with a feral grin and appeared even more inhuman when his eyes took on a permanent golden gleam. "I'm afraid I can't agree to that," he snarled.
"You're a vampire, I take it?" Alucard asked, holding his gun level with Rafael's head. "Responsible for the murders?"
"Yes, very good, I am," Rafael answered proudly, taking another menacing step towards Alucard, while Integra noticed that Alucard's hair was beginning to move and he was holding on to his human persona with difficulty.
Alucard smiled grimly. "Come closer and I'll shoot you," he threatened.
Rafael returned his smile with a snarl. "I'd like to see you try," he challenged, taking another step towards Alucard.
Integra flinched at the sound of a gunshot and opened her eyes only to see with confusion that Rafael was still moving and apparently unharmed. Alucard had missed—no, not really, Integra realized after reassessing the situation—Rafael had dodged, and Alucard hadn't deemed it necessary to readjust his aim. Which meant that he must be planning something else.
Integra met Alucard's eyes and realized he was awaiting her order. "Alucard," she said quietly, so that Rafael wouldn't hear, "Your chew toy," she nodded towards Rafael.
"You'll have to aim better than that, my friend," Rafael was saying smugly as Alucard began to stretch leisurely. "My reflexes are most excellent—as a vampire, you know, I find I'm particularly good at dodging bullets."
Integra heard the sickening, squelchy sound of tearing flesh and watched as a semi-corporeal hellhound grew out of Alucard's shoulder and then solidified. "Dodge this," she heard him purr, before the dog leapt at Rafael and fastened his teeth around his throat in a manner that Integra could only describe as graceful. Or if it were possible to tear out another person's throat with elegance, Alucard managed it with stylish efficiency.
Still quite taken aback, Integra watched with trepidation as Rafael gave an undignified, strangled screech of terror and disappeared into the abyss of the dog's mouth. The dog, in turn, took his leave, returning Alucard to his normal, humanoid state.
"Your shoulder just sprouted a dog head, didn't it?" Integra finally managed to ask, her voice not as steady as she would have liked.
"No," Alucard outright lied in demure tones, before tossing his coat over Integra's shoulders in an affectionate manner. "It's cold out here," he purred mildly. "You must be freezing. Let's go get some tea." And then before Integra knew what was happening, he had wrapped his arms around her and relocated to his office.
"That, my liege, was teleportation," Alucard identified for her, still holding her in a protective embrace.
Integra inhaled deeply and found that Alucard smelled faintly of wood varnish, the maple and lacquer combining to make her nose prickle every time she breathed in. For some odd reason, the smell also faintly reminded her of chocolate.
"You smell like tea," Alucard observed, interrupting the strange, shock-induced turn Integra's thoughts were taking.
"That's because I drink a lot of it," Integra replied reasonably, extricating herself from Alucard's arms. "School is stressful, and tea calms my nerves."
"You shouldn't be so dependent on dried plant matter," Alucard said reprovingly, taking his coat back fro her. "To be a truly good leader, you should be self-sufficient in every way."
"I make the tea myself," Integra offered, freezing when one gloved hand took hold of her chin.
"Not adequate," Alucard criticized absently, eyes glowing hungrily as he caught sight of her split lip. "Rafael was rather brutish to you, wasn't he?" he noted, a completely unreadable look on his face that made Integra extremely nervous in regards to her personal well-being.
"Your lips," he continued, his face still a smooth, blank mask of no emotion. "They're bleeding."
"So they are," Integra said neutrally.
Alucard blinked and turned away. "What would you say to a nice cup of tea?" he asked more politely, turning to heat up some water in a small, squat electric water heater before Integra had a chance to reply.
"What do you have?" Integra asked curiously, relieved that Alucard hadn't pursued his desire to drink her blood.
Alucard checked a drawer. "Just Ceylon," he answered, "but it's the finest. Grade A, fresh, flavorful…everything one could have in tea."
"Sounds perfect," Integra said, strangely at ease with Alucard's show of engaging in the mundane British habit of making tea. "I'd love some."
"Very well, Countess," Alucard said breezily, pulling out a chair for Integra to relax in.
Integra stilled. "Countess?" she repeated incredulously, fully aware of the weight behind that particular form of address.
Alucard did not reply, filling the consequent silence with the sounds of clinking teacups and pouring water. "Here you are," he said, gingerly handing her a cup of tea.
Integra sat down and accepted the tea gratefully, closing her eyes to inhale a strong, earthy scent that was subtler than coffee but more evident than most dark teas. She opened her eyes to see Alucard watching her amusedly from his own chair, one hand propping up his chin. "What?" she demanded, taking a tentative sip of her tea and wincing when the hot liquid agitated her split lip.
"You drink tea like I drink blood," Alucard answered. "You savor every part of it."
Integra shifted uncomfortably. "Perhaps I'm just really fond of tea," she said warily.
Alucard smiled. "And I'm just really fond of blood," he countered.
Integra stared at him. "You can't seriously always be wanting blood," she said quietly.
"No," Alucard agreed readily. "You're just making me out to be that way." Integra blinked at him, confused. "The real craving is for the intimacy of feeding."
Integra looked up at him in shock, unsure of where this conversation was heading. Trembling slightly, she set down her tea on the edge of Alucard's desk. "Surely you've fulfilled that by now," she said softly, wishing she were wearing something other than a low-cut, blood-red dress.
She looked up to see that Alucard had moved from his chair to her side. "Reflect on this," he began, "why did you think I agreed to bind myself to you?"
Integra stared at him, her mouth parted to reply, only to realize that she didn't have a real answer to his question. "I…I'm not sure," she murmured.
"Oh, well," Alucard continued pleasantly, "think on it. And if you are quite done with your tea, then I'd like to attend to more pressing matters."
Rather bewildered, Integra cautiously accepted Alucard's proffered hand and stood at his insistence. "What pressing matters?" she asked.
Alucard gave her a small smile. Integra couldn't tell if it was genuine or not in the dim light of his office. "I cannot allow you to leave without attending to your injuries," he replied. "I would be very much remiss in my duties."
"Injuries?" Integra repeated blankly. "I don't have any injuries," she protested, "except for my—"
"Bleeding lower lip," Alucard cut in, leaning towards Integra menacingly. "A magnet for possible infection, bruising…and me." With one last reassuring smile he closed the distance between them and kissed her. Actually kissed Integra, not just an accidental kiss that splattered blood from the hospital combined with bloodlust could justify, but one that Integra reluctantly returned, letting Alucard pull her closer to him with his gloved hands around her shoulders and the back of her neck.
Alucard drew away before Integra could come to her senses and do so herself, and she stared at him in a daze as he relaxed his hold on her to one hand on her shoulder and the other around the small of her back. "The bleeding's stopped now. And now that you are more presentable…I believe I asked you to dance earlier," he said quietly. "You declined, and I told you that you would regret doing so."
Integra blinked, still disoriented from a kiss that had just begun becoming French. "I…"
"Here is my revenge," Alucard purred, before teleporting them to the middle of the hall where the dance was still going strong.
Oddly enough, no one noticed their sudden presence, only that Integra and the most sought-after teacher at the school were dancing together. "Oh lovely, a slow dance," Alucard said, beaming. "Try to escape, and you'll only make a rather dramatic scene," he whispered lovingly into her ear. "Use what schooling you have in dance steps and we'll finish this dance appearing as a doting teacher and pupil enjoying a dance."
"I doubt we will actually succeed in conveying such an innocent image," Integra hissed angrily, deciding that if Alucard was going to ignore the fact that he had kissed her, she would do the same.
"Mm," Alucard commented in a noncommittal murmur with an air of complete indifference. "If it's any consolation, you dance well," he complimented.
"Thank god this song is almost over," Integra said in reply, "everyone is staring."
"If by everyone, you mean your friend Leslie, then yes—oh, and the Vatican pest, too, it seems," Alucard said sweetly.
At that, Integra faltered in her footwork, stumbling almost noticeably, but Alucard caught her. "What did you just say?" she asked, beginning to turn her head.
"No, don't look at him, he'll just like the fact that he's been noticed," Alucard warned, guiding Integra towards a chair as the song wound down to its end.
As soon as Alucard had detached himself from Integra and wandered away, Leslie approached her in earnest. "Oh, Integra, you're safe!" she said. "I was so worried when you left with Rafael! And then you waltz in—literally—with Dr. Acula, and aren't of the mind to check in with me?"
Integra motioned to the empty chair next to her. "Fine then," she said, "I'm checking in. I'm fine, Rafael has been taken care of, and you're all right, I hope?"
Leslie nodded, her relief evident at the mention that Rafael was gone. "Absolutely wonderful," she reiterated. "Thank you, Integra," she said, smiling. 'For everything."
"No problem," Integra murmured distractedly, noting that Maxwell, with a glass of water in one hand, was currently confronting Alucard. "Excuse me a moment," she said, nodding in the direction of Alucard. "I have to tie up a few loose ends."
"Oh yes," Leslie began eagerly, "just what is going on between you and Dr. A—"
"Have a dinner roll," Integra offered, snagging one from a nearby table and inserting it into Leslie's open mouth. "Works every time," she muttered in a satisfied tone at Leslie's look of outrage, before continuing on her way to Alucard.
"Now run along, choir boy," Alucard was saying in a menacing voice, "before I castrate you."
As Maxwell noticeably paled, Integra raised an eyebrow at Alucard and he smiled, making Maxwell turn around. As he did so, he tipped the contents of his glass onto Alucard. "Oh, sorry, silly me," Maxwell apologized, without turning back to Alucard, "I get clumsy when people try to intimidate me."
"I'm fine, don't worry," Alucard said smoothly, earning a look of surprise from Maxwell, which quickly became consternation when he saw that the water spill had had no effect on Alucard.
Integra frowned at that, and then realized the glass must have held holy water. She looked at Alucard for confirmation and he smirked. "Maxwell," Integra said sharply, "how unfortunate to see you again."
Maxwell thinned his lips and regarded Integra with a sneer. "I am as dismayed as you must be to meet once again," he returned snidely. "But I thought you might like to know that the police's verdict over the vampire behind the murders here is incorrect."
"We know," Integra said shortly. "It has been taken care of."
Maxwell's eyes narrowed. "Then where is the real murderer now?" he challenged.
Alucard gave him a feral grin. "In my tummy," he replied menacingly. "And if you do not vacate these premises—"
Maxwell backed away. "I am needed back at the Vatican," he said abruptly. "I hope we do not meet again, Miss Hellsing."
"As do I," Integra murmured vehemently, watching him flee with vindictive pleasure.
"Well, I think that's enough excitement for one night," Alucard said after Maxwell had left, mopping his soaked suit with a napkin. "I'm going to retire to my rooms," he continued. "Follow five minutes after I leave," he commanded.
Integra nodded and went back to where Leslie was still sitting with a glower on her face. "I wish you'd stop stuffing baked goods in my mouth to silence me," she said sulkily when Integra was close enough to hear her. "And I want an answer to my question."
"Dr. Acula is an employee and family friend of my organization," Integra said succinctly. "Somewhat of a…father figure," she lied.
"Oh," Leslie said, looking disappointed. "I was hoping more for an illicit love aff—"
"I know you were," Integra sighed fondly through gritted teeth. "Sorry to disappoint."
"Oh, don't worry," Leslie said brightly. "That just boosts my chances with him." Integra stared at her in horror. "Although," Leslie continued, "that other man you were just talking to—the blond one—he was rather dreamy too."
"That's it," Integra said, standing up in disgust. "You've just lost the right to even speak to me. I'm leaving."
"Your welcome for the dress!" Leslie shouted after her indignantly.
"I'll return it tomorrow," Integra promised, with an absent wave, heading out of the hall towards the basement.
Once she was sure no one would see her, she ducked around the corner down to the stairs to the basement and knocked on Alucard's door. "Enter," she heard him say through the door.
She opened the door and slipped inside, closing the door behind her and searching out Alucard in the near darkness. "What did you want to see me about?" she asked.
"Nothing much," Alucard answered vaguely from his couch. "Come, sit," he invited, "have a drink."
Integra edged over to the couch suspiciously and sat down cautiously. "It's against the rules to serve alcohol to students," she pointed out, accepting the glass of champagne he handed her.
"It's also against the rules for teachers to kiss students, but you didn't seem to mind that," Alucard murmured.
Integra stared at him in shock, shaken by the abrupt rupture of what she thought had been a tacit agreement to never again mention that earlier instance in the evening. "Touché," she finally managed, unsure of how to otherwise retaliate.
Alucard grinned at her triumphantly. "But more importantly," he continued dismissively, "let's have a toast to a job well done."
Integra looked from her glass of champagne to Alucard's empty hands. "Toast with what?" she asked blankly. "You haven't got anything to drink."
"Oh, don't I," Alucard murmured, his fingers gently caressing her neck.
Integra stared at him. "What am I supposed to do, bump my glass against my neck?" she demanded.
"Never mind the logistics," he purred, mouth poised against her neck. "Are you giving me permission?" he queried.
"You did give me champagne," Integra replied. "I suppose it's a fair trade."
"Then let's drink to the future of Hellsing," Alucard said, eyes glowing slightly.
"Cheers," Integra murmured wryly, sipping her champagne and questioning her sanity as Alucard's teeth sank into her skin.
A/N: Thought it was about time to finish off what was a turning into an extremely prolonged demise. I think I updated…what…three times in one year? That's absolutely shameful. I'm ashamed of myself. For that, and for ending this fic on a bad note. A bad…author's note. But a bad note in general, too.
Thanks for reading, if you do. Anyone still out there. I don't think I'm making sense. And I can't wrap my mind around what's wrong with this chapter. If I ever figure it out, I'll make it better. As for not editing this chapter as thoroughly as I should, I apologize. I'm sorry, fic! It reflects badly on me, doesn't it? Don't answer that.
And I'm still upset about this ending. It's going to follow me through the end of time and space. Like bad wolf.
P.S. If you didn't catch the above reference, YOU HAVEN'T LIVED.
Well, fic, it's been real.