A/N: A one-shot that entered my mind. You never hear much about Integra's mother, but I suddenly started thinking about her. This is based on the theory that the woman in the photograph with baby Integra (in anime episode 10) is her mother. She wears a sari in the photograph and has dark skin like Integra's.

Disclaimer: I do not own Hellsing and am making no profit from this story.

Perfection's Limit

By Nessie

I learned the lessons of life in a jungle where life is considered a privilege that you must earn for yourself. For men, this privilege may have been won through anything from hunting to battling other tribes, though in my village, this was normally the former.

As for women, life was a routine. We grew up learning to be wives; obedience was a necessary attribute and skill for a girl in India. And among all the young girls of my village, I was often told to be the worst at it. I was stubborn and hardheaded. I did not take to sewing and basket-weaving the way I was instructed to. Cooking I thoroughly enjoyed, but my interests in new tastes and recipes was frowned upon. Tradition was everything in my village. And if only to be accepted and loved by my family – a large group including both parents, three sisters and four brothers – I adopted the life routine once I had turned thirteen. Eventually, I became mostly silent and did not speak often to anyone. When I did speak, it was often a result of my true nature shining through, and after a time the people of my village got used to choosing another conversation partner.

I was a hard worker. They gave me physical tasks because the other girls preferred to sit and sew. I was sometimes sent out to find good wood for the cooking fires or to pick certain berries or even to kill smaller, pesky animals that might take advantage of a feasting table. In this I had respect but also disgrace; no man wanted to marry such a self-thinking girl. By the time I was eighteen, I was the only female in my age group not yet married. When asked, young men suitable for me said they would rather wait on incoming generations to mature than wed me. Each of my sisters disdained me.

This did not hurt my feelings. I was very pleased by this achievement. However, the summer after my nineteenth birthday, my carefully-crafted routine was torn apart. And it was not done in the way that other tribes' lifestyles had been demolished; there was no forest fire or lightning strike. There was no bulldozer building a road nor was there an enemy invasion to ransack us.

An Englishman came to my village.

Now I was an intelligent woman. Unlike some of my peers, there was more to me than the red mark on my forehead and the color of my sari. I bore scars when others shuddered at the thought of their skin being marred in any way. So I was aware that British being in India was nothing new. Despite that our independence was won from Great Britain, trade still flourished, but it was true that not too many English people ventured into the jungle where we lived.

Even so, I was completely fascinated by this new arrival. He was invited to stay in the village by our chief, for while my tribe was anything but new-fangled, we were a warm group that took in the occasional passerby. And because my family was the largest and thus used to having many people under one roof, he was assigned to sleep in our house.

Though my father and brothers warned me to be careful, as an unmarried woman I was free to speak with him. This I could do because at a young age I had begged our chief to teach me the fluent English that he knew. Not only that, but I was not afraid to speak with him, which was more than what could be said for others in the tribe. Although how anything should ever have feared this man, I never shall understand.

He was terribly kind, and when I volunteered to show him the surrounding area, he thanked me with coins. I had no need for such things in my village, but I cherished the gift at any rate because it had come from outside everything I'd ever known.

He told me his name was Arthur Hellsing. He was descended from Dutch origin and that he had never been to India before, but he had always been curious to know "what all the fuss was about." He revealed that he was the leader of an organization centered in England, and this did not surprise me. With wrinkles just beginning to crease in his handsome face and a dash of grey at his light-colored temples, he appeared very wise. I imagined he was a good leader.

I shall never forget the look of wonder on Arthur's face when I brought him to see the enormous waterfall that was only a twenty-minute walk away from my village. I explained how we gathered water here, and he seemed so taken by the way our lives worked in India, and he delighted in the wild colors that were natural to me and foreign to him. He was charming to me, and he surprised me when, upon spotting a tiger lounging on the opposite bank of the river, he exuded not the least amount of fear.

I teased him gently about nerves of steel. He only gave me a small smile and said, "I have seen far more worrisome things. I would rather see you, however. You are more beautiful even than this waterfall."

I remember blushing at such words. It was not the first time I had been called beautiful – daring young men who had wished to take advantage of my marital status, or lack thereof, had done so – but this was the first time I ever thought it might be true.

Arthur spent two months in my village, and as I showed him things about life in India, he told me about life in Great Britain. I once pointed out how unfair the situation was. In response, he gave me the most serious look I had ever seen him wear.

"I most highly agree, Anisha," he said. And then he asked me to marry him. I answered him with my first kiss.

We were wed within the week, and I made a necklace out of his coins and wore it to our wedding. While it took me much thought to properly adjust to the idea of leaving the village, the jungle, the very country and continent, I was delighted by the time it actually happened. I was born in India a poor peasant girl who gathered berries and enjoyed cooking.

I was welcomed into Britain as Anisha, Mrs. Arthur Hellsing. And the first person I met there was Arthur's best friend and butler, now my good friend and butler, Walter C. Dornez. Walter showed immediate respect for me, despite my nationality, and he took to calling me "Mistress Anisha" straightaway. I adored him just as quickly. The second person I met was Richard, Arthur's younger brother and my brother-in-law. I never adored him, and don't even now.

At first, I was flabbergasted by Arthur's wealth and status. I don't think I ever grew completely accustomed to having everything I could ever want brought to me, sometimes before I even knew I wanted it. It was his house that I enjoyed the most; not necessarily because of its grandeur but simply because of its size. I loved those first few days, when I would walk from room to room and see what each of them held. The kitchen was notably exquisite, and I taught Walter how to make my favorite native Indian dish.

There were times, too, that I felt intimidated by being free to so much space. There were rooms we did not even use, and sometimes I went in them to explore. I began to note two things about the manor. Almost every room contained two things: at least one bookcase filled to the ends and a mirror. There were many instances when I felt like I was being watched, and my compulsion was to always turn to the mirrors.

But of course there was nothing there. Only one time did I swear I saw eyes – large, red eyes that stared hard but were gone with a blink. I told myself I was imagining things because of this new place that I lived in.

I was continually awed by the modernized world, and whenever we went out to what he considered the smallest of places – restaurants, the theatre, the cinema – I felt like a child all over again. I was positively terrified when he took me to meet the Queen for the first time. But we found each other good women, the Queen and I.

Married life was truly perfect. Every now and then I would stop and wonder what I'd have been like had someone decided to marry me back in India. The thought made me brighten and fueled my thankfulness for what I had been given. I was discovering my true self in England. But despite my happiness, I could not deny a feeling of being left out from something in Arthur's life. I sometimes saw men dressed in solider-like clothes, yet I knew the uniform to not be of the British military. This puzzled me. Whenever I asked him about his work, he would use a few dismissive words and brush the topic away like dust on his sleeve. I felt pushed away.

I finally demanded the truth from him. I urged him to tell me the facts about his organization, what he did. "This is not India, my love," I said to him. "Here in your large village of London, husbands tell their wives everything."

I disliked being firm with Arthur. He had never spoken a single cross word to me, and yet there was no stopping me in my quest for knowledge. Arthur seemed almost startled when I told him how I felt that he did not trust me and begged me to believe that he was only trying to protect me. But I was persistent, and after more discussion, he agreed to tell me what I wanted to know.

The truth was a shock. Somehow I had expected it to be, for why else would Arthur have hidden it from me? Yet when he explained to me that the Hellsing Organization tracked down and killed the undead…people that had once been as alive as ourselves and were now beasts of the night, vampires…I claimed initial disbelief. I could not imagine my gentle husband, with his kind smile and wise mind, was someone who controlled such an unholy operation.

But now that he had begun it seemed Arthur was bent on making sure I understood. He took me to his office, a place that before now I believed to be sacred to him and did not often enter. A fire blazed there, for it was November and my first winter would soon be arriving. It was the only light in the room and shadows danced along the walls the way we had danced together at my tribe's festivals in India. Pulling a drawer out in his magnificent mahogany desk, he took out a small glass vial filled with a dark crimson liquid I knew instantly to be blood.

"This is my blood, Ani," he said – Ani was his pet name for me – as he held it up to the light. It gleamed intriguingly, and I silently blessed that vial for its preciousness. It belonged to my Arthur after all. "It is a sort of key to a secret weapon the Hellsing Organization possesses."

I must have looked horrible confused, and indeed, I did not understand him, so he approached me and took my hand. Placing the tiny vial in the center of palm, shades darker than his own, he closed my fingers over it. I dripped the vial as tightly as I used to grip the coins he had given me long ago.

"Listen closely, my dear," Arthur said in his rich, serious voice. "If you are ever in trouble…"

I interrupted with a little laugh because the look in his eyes made me uneasy. "My love, how could I possibly get—"

"Anisha," he cut in, using the tone he used when conducting business over the phone; unrelenting and certain. The sound of my full name had my smile falling. "Hear me. If you are ever in trouble, you must go to the dungeons." I half-shivered. He had once opened the door to the dungeons below our home, offering to show them to me. But the closed-in cold of the stone walls and the darkness beneath the manor's foundations had given me a fear as yet unknown to me, and I had been unable to proceed even a step down into the place. "I know you don't like the idea of them. But in the very last cell, there is a skeleton there. You must pour the blood of the current Hellsing heir over it to awaken it."

"Awaken it!" I cried, gripping his hand. Awaken a skeleton? What madness!

"Yes," he answered as patiently as if I had called his attention to a roach that intimidated me and he was preparing to exterminate it. "He has not been called upon in my lifetime. But my father told me of him. He is a vampire bound to the Hellsing family. Were I to need his power, which I was told is great, he would obey my every command…also my spouse's," added Arthur upon seeing my dark eyes widen. "His name is Alucard."

He must have feared some sort of panic welling up inside me, for he wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me against his chest. I rested my chin on his shoulder. "Do not worry, dear. There is nothing currently happening that causes me to think you shall have to go to him anytime soon."

At last I smiled, letting him and the warmth of the fire in the hearth comfort me. A few moments later, I directed my smile up and him. Because he had told me his secret, I was now ready to tell him mine.

"My love," I told him with the hint of a giggle, "this vial may soon be useless at any rate." He looked at me quizzically at first, but he soon caught on. His eyes were widening and his grin was spreading just as I finished my divulgence:

"I am to bear your child."

Arthur was elated by my impending childbirth, but he expressed worry to me about being a father so late in life. I did everything I could to reassure him, yet I never managed to completely settle his nerves. This was just as well, for while he was worrying so much about our baby, he had no presence of mind to realize that I was growing more drawn even as I grew with my pregnancy.

A month after telling Arthur about our child and two months into the pregnancy itself, I began to cough up blood. There was not much. A couple of spots on a silken handkerchief, a few drops along with the sickness of my first trimester. I was not alarmed, and I was not in denial. The Wasting disease (or tuberculosis, as I eventually learned it was called) was a common illness in India, and while my village had not seen much of it, there were stories from nearby tribes of the deaths that came from it. There had always been a high risk of contracting the virus. I was very careful to go unnoticed. Arthur believed I had a cold and regularly instructed Walter to lace my tea with cough medicine. Having been a bachelor for so long, my husband seemed to believe that pregnancy caused slight illness through the entire nine months. "Slight illness" was what I was perceived to have for a long time.

But this changed when I was seven months along. One day I told Arthur I had a small chest cold. He was very tender and asked if he should spend the day seeing to me, but I knew him to be very busy due to a certain vampire working outside of London, and I sent him to his work after promising to spend the day in our bed, resting. Walter checked on me often in his stead, and when he came in to deliver my three o' clock tea (just after delivering Arthur's, as usual), I was come over without warning by the worst coughing fit I had yet suffered. I believe even now that were I sitting up instead of lying down on the mattress, I would have fought it off. As it was, my horizontal posture opened my air passage more and rendered me unable to hold back the coughing. I had already been feeling faint due to my baby's seemingly unceasing kicking that day, and I swear my whole body was racked by the fit. I remember seeing Walter drop his entire tea tray, and I saw the words "Mistress Anisha!" form on his lips but could not hear them. I saw a splash of bright red blood, my blood, soaking into the pillow close to my cheek…and that was all.

I woke up in the hospital ward that was built right into the Hellsing Manor. Everything around me was clean, white, and pristine – something that had never been in India. Something I adored, but not half so much as the face that loomed over me.

I smiled. "Don't look so scared, Arthur." I meant the words lightheartedly, but my voice was hoarse from sleep and strain, and my husband did not seem to appreciate the humor in my eyes.

"Anisha, why did you not tell me?" My heart stung from how hurt he sounded, and my smile, weak as it was, faded.

Our eyes, black and blue, met like a rock in the middle of a river. "I did not want to concern you. This is a trial I've been prepared for always." And like a rock in the river, the water can never hold onto the rock. The rock can only hold onto the water…but only for a short time.

"But Ani! In this day and age, there is medicine for consumption! And we are in London, not with your tribe. I could have gotten you the vaccine, my dear, and you would have been perfectly fine!" His face was pale, and he was squeezing my hand to the point of near pain, but I did not mind.

I spoke quietly as I took in his words. "So you are saying that because I was foolish…I will not live for long."

Arthur suddenly dropped my hand, and he stood up. I went for the door, and for a brief moment of fright I thought that he was going to leave, but he stopped at the end of my bed with his back turned to me. "Dr. Travelian believes that you will last long enough to give birth to our child. But he fears…"

He looked back at me now, and I saw tears glimmering in his eyes. I felt pained at the sight of them and at how they ran down his face to catch in his mustache. "That I will not survive the birthing," I supplied for him solemnly. He nodded, and I nodded too although I did not know why. After a quiet few minutes, I said, "I accept it."

"And with such grace," he murmured, but his tone of voice held a twinge of resentment rather than endearment. "Must you be so calm about everything?" he asked. "What would you do if it was I in your place?"

"But it is not," I replied, "and for that I am thankful indeed. Oh, my love," I sighed when he bent over the bed to rest his head on my lap. I brought a hand down to run my fingers through the still-thick fall of his blond hair. I was tired, but I would stay awake as long as he was here. "Why are you so sad?"

"I've just found you," he said, on the verge of sniffling. While seeing men cry back in my village had disgusted me, I was now warmed at the sight of my husband showing such great affection for me so openly. "We've barely had a year together."

"A marvelous year," I embellished. "But a year goes away, as does everything with time. You and me." I set my other hand against my swollen belly. "Even this child, though hopefully a long, long time from now, will die one day."

"Anisha," he said, but I hushed him. He simply lied there for awhile, half of him supported by the bed. His other half was on the floor, on his knees. His hair was still soft through my fingers. I closed my eyes and hummed, a native Indian tune I knew he would find comforting in its exoticism.

"There is nothing shameful in death," I gently reminded him. "Remember that, my Arthur. My love."

A month and a half later, I went into labor. Our child was a few weeks early, and perhaps that was just as well. My tuberculosis had increased its intensity, and I was prone to fainting spells. I'd had to double my regular portions of food because more often than not I would get sick, and that was not good for the baby.

The birth was long and hard. When I was a very small girl, hardly higher than my father's hip, I once slipped on the wet stones by the river and landed on the sharp rocks that hid beneath the water. They stabbed into my back and sides, but the pain I had known than was nothing compared to this agony.

I glowed with the hardship, however, for I had always loved a challenge. And it did not matter to me whether or not a miracle occurred and I somehow lived through this agonizing task of bringing life into the world; my child would live. I would make sure of that.

Dr. Travelian was a helpful "midwife," and he encouraged me and instructed me. There were times I had to pause in the constant pushing just to get my breath and sometimes to cough. Arthur, bless him, was so frightened for the two of us – me and the person inside of me – that he was not able to do any more than hold my hand and dab my sweating forehead with a cool cloth.

I thought it would never end. There was a moment that I thought I was being cursed for being so headstrong and stubborn toward my family and that God was punishing me by forcing me to stay in this limbo between life and death, bliss and pain. But then Dr. Travelian gave a triumphant shout, and I heard the outraged cry of a newborn baby…my baby.

Arthur had showered me with feathery kisses all over my face and explained to me that Dr. Travelian would clean the child up and write down its information. I did not even know yet what gender my baby had until they brought it back into me. I held out my arms to a bundle of pink blanket that held my precious baby girl.

Tears are in my eyes now, and I have fallen in love with her at first sight. She is nearly the image of her father as she looks up at me with his great, bright blue eyes. There is already an impressive amount of white-blond curls on her head. But her flesh is smooth and soft and somewhat dark. She is pale now, but once she has grown she will have skin like mine. She will be beautiful.

I also know that I will not be there to see her.

The pain in my chest and lung and limbs is worsening, and I cannot hold her long. I groan this out to Arthur for fear of dropping her. He kisses me and says he wants a picture, if it is alright with me. I nod because I cannot deny him anything, although I truthfully never have liked being photographed. And now I am sure I looked quite a mess, with my black hair bound in stringy buns over my shoulders. I asked to be dressed in a sari earlier, for I find that I wish to die in the wardrobe of my homeland. Perhaps I am sentimental and foolish. But as I smile for Walter's camera, I feel honored and blessed.

The flash goes off, and I look down into the face of my now-sleeping baby. "May I name her?" I ask my husband without looking away from her. I can feel Arthur smiling.

"I would have it no other way, my dear."

"Integra," I told him at once. "I have been looking through your Latin books. It means worthy and clear. I believe she is both of those things." My arms start shaking, and I shoot a frantic look to Arthur, who comes right away to take my sweet little girl from me. I half-collapse back against the pillow. It will not be long now.

"Integra," Arthur murmurs, his eyes shining with the first stages of crying. "It's a beautiful name."

Walter – good, kind Walter – smiles at me and pressed two fingers to his lips. It is a special farewell. "It's perfect, Mistress Anisha."

Perfect. That is just the word that comes to mind when I look at you, my little Integra. Though my eyes may be glazing now, I can still see how perfect you are.

But it was one of the lessons of life I learned in my small, Indian village that even perfection has its limits. Perhaps this instance of perfect has found its limit in that your dark skin may cause people to ask you where your mother is, years from now. It perhaps it is the fact that for you, I must die. That is a limit I would accept just to see you and hold you once.

Oddly, my thoughts are turning to the vampire Arthur told me about. Alucard…the monster who would serve my daughter, if she ever needed him. It must be your eyes I have felt upon me, Alucard. Did you see through me when the rest could not? I imagine that you did.

Protect her, Alucard, should she ever require protecting. See to it that, if possible, her perfection never finds any limit.

My Integra.

The End

A/N: For the curious, Anisha's name means 'unobstructed.' Considering her spirit, I thought it fit rather nicely.

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