Disclaimer: Hellsing belongs to Kouta Hirano.

Author's Notes: Edited by Urwen, one ficlet for my entry on 30 kisses. Post-war, probably AU.


Tangled

"I want to see him!" Seras Victoria demanded on the verge of tears. Her face was as red as her uniform and her eyes with pent-up frustration. She hated to act like a brat towards Sir Integral, that was the last thing the older woman needed, but she could not help her feelings, her sorrow and loss. "Please?" she added softly, her gaze cast down, staring at her boots, her fingers closed tightly on the Cowboy hat she was holding.

"The funeral director is cleaning his body and arranging it, Seras," Integral replied in a rational tone, exhaling a puff of smoke with a resigned sigh. Seras made puppy-dog eyes. "Fine," she acceded at last. "Do try not to bother them, will you?"

Saluting formally, Seras smiled. She smiled at her master, but her smile was without any semblance of mirth. "Thank you, Sir! I won't." she paused, adding before going on her way. "Don't tell Master, please?" She winced at the thought of her Master lecturing her for being too 'soft' or 'not accepting the outcome of war.'

"Seras," Integral chuckled lightly, "I think Alucard is more understanding than you give credit for. He must know already but if you wish… I won't." Seras relaxed and gave a firm nod then trotted inside the building where the arrangements for the burial of the fallen soldiers were proceeding. She walked fast, trying too hard to avoid looking at all the corpses, her former partners and companions in the battle.

Guilt was something survivors of tragedy could not avoid, Integral had reminded her of that a handful of times. Still, the feeling did not fade, no matter how she rationalised it. The fact remained: she was there, unliving as she was, and they were not. Somehow, she failed to protect them correctly and they had died to defend her instead.

Just like the Captain.

"A-are you allowed here, M-miss?"

Seras stopped her path and glanced at the tuxedo-clad elderly man. He was afraid of her, of course. She was obviously inhuman with her swirling shadow and red eyes. Vampires were not exactly portrayed in a positive light after the war.

"I'm Seras Victoria," she introduced herself. Her name was enough to ease the poor old fellow's nerves, thankfully. She was afraid she might have induced a heart attack in him.. Seras and her Master were not inside the category of most vampires, they were heroes.

"Oh, right. Charmed to meet you, Miss Victoria. Everyone knows you, of course," he smiled, extending his hand then realizing that her good one was occupied. Seras inclined her head, blushing in embarrassment.

"Likewise," she answered, clearing her throat with unusual nervousness to deal with her fame. "Sir Hellsing gave me permission to supervise Captain Bernadotte's grooming."

"I see. You're fortunate, we just finished the first stage of preparations of the body. My helpers are tending his hair and dressing him properly before the wake. I'm Charles Townsend."

"Nice to meet you, Mr. Townsend."

Charles escorted Seras to the room where Pip was located. She could have figured out which room it was, using the senses her Master always pushed her to train correctly. Then the smell hit her and her heart ached, as if she had been mercilessly stabbed. She wrinkled her nose. There was scent of Pip Seras knew so well, the masculine, sweaty distinctive aroma mixed with his own decomposition and whatever oils the workers had applied to make it more pleasant for human's sensibilities.

He's dead, I will not hear his voice again.

Seras closed her eyes, unable to cope with that, fighting the tears once more. She could not cry, Pip had not wanted her to. She forced herself to open them when Charles spoke and gestured to follow him inside the room.

"There he is, Miss Victoria."

Seras gathered courage and glanced at the workers and her dead Captain with them. He was dressed in a black suit and a neat, brown tie, lying flat with arms and legs straight. He looked ridiculous in it. It was not Pip's style to appear so formal. And his hair… She was shocked to see the strands of hair falling to the ground, the glittering scissors threatened his long mane.

"Stop!" she shouted, furious. "What are you doing to him?" They froze at her exclamation, she apparently had appeared more frightening she had intended to. "With his hair," she elaborated.

"W-we are cutting it," a woman stuttered, "F-for the funeral. He has to look g-good." The others nodded, exchanging glances amongst themselves.

"Is there a problem?" Charles inquired.

"Let me finish his hair," Seras requested, looking at the workers apologetically. "He liked his braid." He died without it. "Please? He would have liked to have his braid wrapped around his neck."

The workers looked at Charles who motioned them to stand. "All yours then, Miss Victoria. Tell me if you need anything."

"I will."

Seras approached the bed, kneeling to sweep away the cut hair. She inspected the damage. Not much, she told herself, composing her shaking form. "Good afternoon, Captain. You look different today," she greeted, and her voice expressed a strained joy. He, of course, did not reply.

Seras laid the hat on his chest and started untangling his long hair with her fingers. With her tactile senses, she sought to memorize how he felt. Then she grasped one of the combs in order to groom him better.

For hours, Seras Victoria twined and ravelled the reddish mane with precise care, wondering how long it had taken him to get himself ready in life. Her hair had always been short and unkempt, she was never able to designate time to treat it better. It was harder than it looked when she had only one hand.

You were a ponce, Captain. Stupid, romantic, heroic ponce, Seras joked good-naturedly to herself, finishing the task, wrapping the braid around his neck.

Her digits caressed the braid longingly, a braid so excessively long that it looked like a chain. She only needed to add the last touch. Her face darkened and concentrated, and part of her mass of tangible shadows was cut as a thread. She picked it up and tied it to the end of the braid with the obscure knot.

"As long you lived, your hair was always in a braid," Seras murmured, rising from the floor. "As long I do, you'll have your braid, Captain. I took a piece of you into myself, you'll be buried with one of mine." She leaned on and kissed his closed lips. "I hope you don't take this as sexual harassment," she blurted out, feeling her eyes watering and strangling a sob on her throat. "Farewell."

Seras put his hat on his head to hold it there. The contrast of it and the braid with his formal clothing was tactless. She did not care, he would have wanted to attract the attention, to look like himself.

"Miss Victoria? Are you done? Sir Hellsing has been asking for you." Seras heard Charles's voice from behind the door as he knocked on it.

"Yes," Seras smiled down at Pip and went to open it. "Leave the braid," she warned with a commanding tone foreign to her. "And let the Captain rest with his Cowboy hat."

"O-of course," Charles assured her, leading her outside. "If Sir Hellsing approves."

"She does," Seras pointed out absently, her mind was elsewhere completely.

Despite the fact that she was walking with the old fellow out the building and greeting a worried Integral on the threshold, Seras' attention was not with her boss and her eyes were not staring at the darkening sky. It was with Pip's body, feeling his long braid as her shadow tangled with his hair.