AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hello! Well, this is my first crack at Hellsing, so I do hope everyone enjoys it. Normally, I live in the Saiyuki fandom, but a friend of mine reintroduced me to my Hellsing obsession, sooo... Concrit is much loved and rewarded with hugs and cookies. If you don't like it, please be polite about saying so. That's all, and thank you for reading/reviewing. Also, thank you to Serpentnine for beta-ing this.

The evening air was rather pleasant for a change, not the usual English clamminess that promised copious amounts of dew and blinding thick fog. Full night was just at hand, but there still remained an obstinate sliver of brilliant color on the horizon to herald the sun's never ending battle with the shadows. Already the moon was holding court over a dimly studded sky, still too pale a blue to show all the stars. Below the balcony of her office the trees shivered and swayed in what would be considered a balmy breeze by anyone who had lived in England for any amount of time. By those who truly DID live in more inviting climates, it would appear crisp and a little cool against the skin. Integra closed her eyes at the invisible caresses of the wind, leaning her head back against the wheel chair Walter had all but strapped her into.

She grit her teeth at the reminder of why she was in this position to begin with, one of her hands leaving the polished wood of the armrest to touch the bandages wound around her throat. More bandages were wrapped under her shirt from where the letter opener had been jammed in, and still another section of gauze was taped securely to her breast. The wound in her throat had been the most dramatically received, but the one in her stomach was what had nearly cost her everything.

Two inches. That was all that had saved her lungs from ripping open and allowing blood to flood through the organs, effectively drowning her in her own fluids. Two. Bloody. Inches. A shiver washed down her spine, which ended up causing her to wince as it pulled on the stitches sealing up that near-fatal wound. Had she known how severely close she'd been to dying, she might have considered refraining from plunging that same letter opener into her throat. Unfortunately, the wound in her stomach hadn't been bleeding seriously enough for her to consider it would be that serious an injury. After all, the freak who dealt it seemed hell-bent and determined to keep her alive and suffering for as long as possible.

Alucard was most likely still in his dungeon, not sleeping but no doubt pondering how he might torment poor Walter this evening. She knew from his boasting as well as her own experience that Alucard rarely felt the need to rest. Unlike his fledgling counterpart, he was strong enough to tolerate such things as full-out sunlight with no more than a very dark tan to his pale skin. Resting was beneath him, but apparently giving Walter hell while she was indisposed wasn't.

It came as a mild surprise then when she felt the air shift behind her, followed by that faint feeling of the shadows being sucked and shifted into solid mass. She slowly opened her eyes, glancing to her left through lowered lashes, as heavy boots took three firm steps toward her side. Red leather swept into view over perfectly pressed black dress slacks and urged her gaze further upward to the familiar profile of her vampire servant.

Alucard was without his hat this evening, but his tinted glasses remained. He leaned himself forward so that his forearms were resting on the ledge of the balcony, narrowed eyes watching as the still battling sunlight was continuously being driven from the sky. Integra waited silently, eyes still locked on his figure. She'd known that eventually Alucard would pay her a visit, but she hadn't expected it to be the very first day after surgery. Usually, he liked to wait a few days for her to get comfortable before trying to get a rise out of her.

Minutes that extended like hours passed between them. The only movement came from the wind tugging at his bright red coat or when she adjusted the blanket Walter had insisted she tuck around herself. Slowly, the shadows finally invaded that last bit of light in the sky, eating it down with a zealous gluttony. The moon roared to full life then, shedding it's softer glows as if in smirking triumph over the brilliant sun. Integra cleared her throat, wincing a little at the sharp motion.

Alucard finally moved, the slightest turn of his head to indicate she had his attention. Other than that, he offered her nothing. No sign that he was here on business, no hint that he was there to try and irritate her into shouting at him. Not a bloody thing. Unless his intention was to irritate her through his utter lack of communication, which would have been perfectly like the vampire. The Machiavellian depths of Alucard's mind were still very much a mystery to her.

Finally, unable to stand the silence any longer, Integra offered him what she knew was a watered down version of her cold glare. "If you're here to admire the view, servant, there are other balconies you might occupy."

"This one's just fine… master," he replied, grinning wide enough to flash his fangs as he turned what was commonly a respectful title into a slur. Before, when she'd first started her mastery over the monster, Alucard had meant every drop of derision he'd put into the title. It had taken the majority of the ten years that he'd been in her service for that to change, a grudging respect growing between them. She allowed him a long leash and tacit permission to do what he did best. He, despite his disregard for authority on little matters, was as loyal to her as Walter was. The slurring of 'master' was now more or less a game between them. Alucard was, no matter how much he would argue it, a child when it came to being the center of attention. If the spotlight wasn't on him, he would tease, taunt and and irritate until it was.

Despite herself, Integra felt a little smile tug at her cheeks, which she quickly bit back before it could fully surface. This was the Alucard she knew. This was the man who was both servant and master in his own right. She watched as he tipped his head back, hat miraculously staying in place. She couldn't tell with the tinted glasses on, but she was pretty sure his eyes were closed as he took in a deep breath, scenting the air. His smile reformed itself into an almost lazy curl of lips, hiding the deadly sharp fangs he'd flashed only moments before. The breeze tugged at a few stray pieces of shaggy black hair, pulling them against the paleness of his skin. Even in this state of near stillness, he carried that predatory aura to him that was both impressive and intimidatin in one go. Not for the first time was she grateful for the seals that bound him to her. She couldn't imagine loosing such a beast onto the world uncontroled.

"You chose a lovely night to catch pneumonia, master."

"Did Walter send you up to ensure I'm resting? If so, kindly inform him I'm doing so and that there's no need to send a vampire to nanny over me," she replied with only a mildly annoyed tinge to her voice. For some reason, her butler and her vampire liked to conspire against her in regards to her health, often times tag teaming in order to get her to take care of herself. Utter rubbish is what that was! It was her health and her body. She knew her limitations, not them... Though, if she were truly honest with herself, their concern was a bit touching. But she still didn't need them fussing over her.

"Walter's… busy," he said evasively, his lips twitching even further into his Cheshire grin.

Integra sighed, pushing her glasses up with her fingers to rub at her eyes. The beginnings of a headache were coming on, she could feel it. And the cause of that headache was standing next to her, looking as mischievous as a child with a set of markers and a big, freshly painted white wall. "Do I want to know why Walter is busy?" she asked dryly.

"Are you genuinely curious, or being rhetorical?" the amused vampire asked back, his glasses tipping down enough for her to see his crimson eyes glowing with wicked delight. It was the only thing about him that seemed to almost glow. Everything else to him seemed to eat at the shadows as if his very shape relied on gathering that darkness to himself, but his eyes reflected back no matter what light they were in. Even in the night's presence, his eyes looked like fresh blood, if blood could express dark mirth, that is.

Deciding it was perhaps the best thing for her less-than-acceptable physical condition, Integra settled herself back again in her wheelchair, tipping her head along the back so she could stare up into the sky. Clouds were quickly moving in, veiling the dim light of stars from view. Even without the clouds, the murky brown lights of London invaded the heavens to cast it's artificial light in mockery of the one nature intended for the shadows. She folded her hands across her lap, ignoring the crimson eyes that now watched her closely as she closed her own lids. "I'll inquire when I'm capable of shouting at you like you deserve."

His laughter was low and quiet, suitable for the gentleness of this evening but still carrying that edge of crazed violence that seemed to always be present in his mind. "Wonderful," he mocked. "I can't wait."

"I'm sure you can't," she murmured back, letting out a sigh that sounded a little too sleepy for her liking. All she'd done for the last two days was sleep, how could she possibly want more? Oh, yes, and she also ate whatever Walter forced down her throat. And there were also the very degrading trips to the loo. It was embarrassing enough to be forced into a position of weakness, even more so when she couldn't even lower her own arse to the toilet. Walter was polite enough to assist and kind enough not to try and laugh it off. So, if one wished to be technical, then she did other things besides sleep all day, but none of those 'other activites' amounted to very much physical movement.

"How is Seras?" she inquired after a brief pause, opening one eye just enough to watch as he shifted into an upright position, his own eyes returning to whatever fascinated him about the night shrouded landscape of the manor grounds. His hair caught in the breeze and made it move like dark snakes through the air. She idly watched a few pieces twist and undulate as he spoke, her eyes narrowed and as cooly collected as she could make them in her current state of exhaustion. The last she'd been told of Seras Victoria, she was healing injuries caused by wire filaments being sliced through her skin. Walter had been most ashamed to report that to her, unable to meet her eyes the entire time. It wasn't just for Seras' sake that she inquired to the young vampire's health. It was to hear straight from one who knew best how badly the fledgling really was hurt to ease Walter's worries.

"Walter didn't harm her beyond repair," Alucard answered, folding his hands behind his back and rocking briefly on his toes in an unusual display of restlessness. Well, perhaps it wasn't all THAT unexpected. Walter most likely had Alucard on a very short leash for the present, intent on keeping the often battle-eager vampire close to the manor in case something further happened. That wouldn't sit well with someone who craved the challenges of a long, hard, bloody fight. It also explained why the bored vampire was taking it out on her poor butler's patience.

"And?" she prompted when nothing further was being disclosed.

Alucard's grin flashed wickedly again as he turned to gaze at her behind a curtain of dark hair and brightly tinted glasses. "And… she thinks you tried to commit suicide." He chuckled to himself, shaking his head in amusement.

Integra arched a single brow, a bitter smirk twisting her lips at the vampire's apparently piqued humor. She herself was horrified, and a little annoyed, that Seras viewed her actions as a botched suicide attempt. If she was going to kill herself, she'd make bloody well sure she did it properly the first time around! "I fail to see what's so funny about the situation, Alucard."

"Oh, but it is funny, Sir Hellsing! It's very funny."

She snarled wordlessly and repositioned herself in the chair to relieve the cramped muscles in her bottom and provide better circulation for her legs. She tucked her arms under the blanket across her lap against the sudden change in the breeze. Now, it blew with a hint of what true English weather was supposed to be. Cold, the promise of biting rain very shortly, and with that faint muskiness that spoke of deep forests and salt from the ocean. The sky was so dark that the clouds couldn't be seen overhead in the least, creating a solid mass of inky darkness. Even if she couldn't tell where sky and clouds separated, she could still feel their heavy, impregnated presence in the sudden preasure to the air. It wouldn't be long now before those rains would come plummeting from the sky in a 'suicide' attempt of their own.

She gave an unlady like snort of disgust at the very idea of her killing herself. "You know that wasn't why I stabbed myself," she murmured. She wasn't entirely sure if she was saying it more to convince him of the fact or herself. At the time, her actions had been justified by her steel-cold honor, but now as she sat in this chair... Doubts had unsurprisingly crept into her subconscious. She'd known even as she'd forced the blunted object into her flesh that the doubts over what she was doing would surface. It hadn't detered her determination though, not in the least.

Alucard smirked, tilting his head in her direction as if mildly curious. He was reading her thoughts, she could tell by the way he watched her, so utterly and completely still that he may as well have been part of the building. It unnerved her a little when he did that, just stopped. It wasn't human at all to be so devoid of movement, and it was a trick Alucard had perfected to the point of it being an art form. This was one of the the things that always helped ground in her concerns with her pet monster. Whenever she caught herself thinking that he was acting nearly human, he would go as still as only the undead can be, thus shattering the illusion of humanity.

"Of course I know that," he answered, his voice low and dark, but still tinged with the mocking nature he always seemed to carry with him. "It's what I would have done if that lowly creature had set fangs to me. Police Girl doesn't think like we do. She would if she'd only acknowledge the bloodlust and quench it." This last was said with a heavy bit of annoyance and anger, which made Integra turn to him with an amused smirk of her own.

"Oh, is that why you're here then? Your new playmate isn't showing any signs of breaking down?" she teased back, taking full advantage of the irritated glare he shot in her direction and the complete disappearance of his arrogant grin. It wasn't very often that she had the opportunity to get some of her own back on Alucard, but when it happened she used it for all it was worth. "She's much stronger than you had anticipated, isn't she?"

"Foolish is closer to the point, master."

Integra chuckled, then immediately regretted the action as it pulled on the wounds in her throat and stomach. "I must say, Alucard," she continued after a moment's pause to allow the ache to leave. "I do admire her determination and firmness in this regard. To be constantly surrounded and provided with what you crave, and to deny yourself that one thing. That is most impressive, you have to admit."

His only response was a disgusted scoffing sound and roll of his eyes.

She cleared her scratchy throat, fingers rising to touch the bandages over her throat at the sharp stab of pain that resulted from the act. The medication Walter had hidden in her food earlier must be close to wearing off if it was bothering her this badly. Walter had set more out for her on the table by her bed, but... she didn't want it. The pills always numbed her down and turned any clear thought she might have formed into a muddled haze that was too disturbingly similar to that freak's power. That is, right before she...

Integra closed her eyes, stifling back the cool shiver that danced up her spine. The neat littly puncture wounds over her breast felt suddenly ten times larger than she knew them to be, quickly catching on to the increase in her pulse. They wouldn't start bleeding again but they certainly felt like they were trying. With each rapidly beaten out pulse, those two tiny holes sucked at it just as greedily as those ice cold lips had sucked at her skin, catching the blood she unwillingly offered up and drinking it down. Her fingers dug hard into the arms of the wheelchair as she continued to try and will her body back to the state it had been in before.

"I had to get that tainted blood out of me," she grit out, taking even breaths and counting to herself. Slowly, her body began to respond to the calmness of her mind, a testimate to her own strength of will. The doctors had said her body might have post traumatic symptoms, such as flashbacks to the event, but it was nothing she couldn't handle. A cold splatter on her cheek made her open her eyes again and tip her head back into the black and grey sky. Another drop, this one to her blanket covered lap. It looked as if the rain was finally making it's descent from the darkened heavens. Not even the quickened winds could move that black mass, the moon itself going into hiding for fear of this storm. A bass roll of thunder came racing through the air to push against her lungs, and she thought momentarily (and with a little wry amusement) that it seemed as if Mother Nature herself was trying to beat back the throbbing of those two violating puncture marks.

The wheelchair jerked ever so slightly as she was pulled away from the balcony ledge and moved inside when the rain drops began to slap down harder. "Like I said," he replied as he leaned over and above her to see her face and flash that toothy grin at her. "It's what I would have done." She let a little smile come to her own lips as she nodded once and settled herself back a little more, the now familiar feeling of security enveloping her with his presence at her back. Alucard's faults were numerous in nature, and his penchant for irritation was most challenging at times, but she did trust him to guard her and protect her person with everything he had.

The flood gates opened just as he maneuvered her to the desk in her office, the surface of which was barely visible beneath carefully arranged piles of papers. Despite the fact that Walter was keeping everything as meticulously organized as he could, it had still horrified her to no end to see her desk in such a condition. So many reports to read through, missions to analyze, mail to read and respond to, or burn depending on who the sender was... She had far too many things to do to be stuck in this damnable chair!

Her eyes narrowed as they sighted on a small medicine cup with three different pills in it and the glass of water next to it on a silver tray in the only open space left. Obviously, Walter was dropping subtle hints as to her indifference to the pain medication. "I'm not taking this," she declared as the balcony doors clicked shut to prevent the rain from invading onto the Oriental rug.

"And I'm not your babysitter or butler. I don't care," Alucard replied with a good bit of humor to his voice. His footsteps came in slow, sure thunks across the wooden flooring. She realized that he was doing it for her benefit, moving more like a human than a vampire so that she could track his progress through the room. She knew from experience that Alucard could move as only the undead can; swift and silent, a deadly force you don't realize is on you until you're staring up from the floor at the beating heart he just ripped from your chest. She could see him now, barely, out of the corner of her eye. He was standing just a little to her right, hands behind his back and staring out the window at the nearly solid sheets of rain that drowned the cold, hard earth. The pelting of those cold, wet beads against the glass was reminiscent of automatic rounds being discharged in her mind. It made her scowl and glare again at the stacks of mission reports she should have been overseeing personally.

Integra let out a faint sigh as she tipped her head back again as far as the stiches would comfortably allow, closing her eyes and relaxing as much as she could with cramped legs and too many thoughts chasing around in her head like a dog with it's tail. Intermingled with these lists and concerns were tiny flashes of nightmare from what had happened the last time she'd sat at this very desk. With every staccato stab of her heart against her ribs, another pulsing flash would come to surface. The uneasy feeling in her stomach as she'd stared at her 'sister'. The hazy confusion as she finally noticed those eyes were not the blue of her father's but the crimson of a vampire's. She shivered as the slow, cold horror of what was going on finally slithered into her stomach once again, and the thought that there was nothing she could to do stop it. The very barest edges of her conscious thought had broken the thrall, but it wasn't enough for her body to truly react to the threat at hand.

God, those ice cold lips brushing against her throat. It made her want to peel the very skin from her own bones it was so detestable. It was the mouth of a corpse that had touched her body, a dead person's tongue coating her skin in cold saliva as it licked a line up her throat. And that breath... reeking of both the grave and old blood. It was a repulsive combination between the metalic scent of life and the musty, decaying scent of death. Then, the slim, sharp press of fangs came to her breast, and she had been grotesquely surprised at the feeling of it. Not at all painful as she'd half thought. It was most likely due to the fact that she was still under the freak's spell, but it didn't stop her from almost begging to be finished off. It had been... pleasurable. Very pleasurable in fact. So much so that it almost made her groan to think about again. Integra grit her teeth hard enough to ache so that the noise didn't leave her throat. That goddamn freak had almost rolled her completely...

That was when she'd felt Alucard's presence. The naked, searing fury radiating off her pet vampire had been enough to slap her back into a fully conscious state of being and make her violently aware of what had just truly happened. Her blood, the blood of the noble Hellsing family, had been desecrated by a vampire. Fangs had finally pierced her unmarked skin and taken not only her blood but her right to decide how and when she would die. In her mind, Alucard had killed the freak bitch too quickly for such an insult to her family and her person. No one, not even God himself, would choose how Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing would die. Even were she to choose death under sharpened teeth, she certainly would never have allowed such a detestably low-classed one to do the job. In her opinion, there was only one vampire worthy of destroying the Hellsing bloodline, and that vampire was now smirking by the window, casting a self-satisfied look out of the corner of his eye at her.

"You flatter me, Integra," Alucard commented sarcastically, but with just enough pleasure for her to know she had tickled the vampire's arrogance well and good. Thunder rumbled slowly through the beyond black sky, followed shortly by lightening that was reflected back in the lenses perched on his nose. The atmosphere helped to accentuate the fangs that showed through parted lips while deepening the shadows further so that his face appeared more animalistic than humanoid. It helped to solidify the observation she'd made on several occassions that Alucard was very much like an untamed dog. One that, oddly enough, was bound to serve her come hell or high water. And, with the way the rain was rushing to it's own death against the earth, it looked as if both were sure to come.

Integra scowled at him sternly, her gloved hands uncurling from the wheelchair so she could fold them neatly on her cluttered desk top. "I was merely stating truth, Alucard, not stroking your oversized ego," she replied cooly. The last thing that man needed was a boost to his arrogance. It was already stifling enough as it was. Her gaze slid to the side to watch as he stepped away from the window, though stepping implied making a sound. Now that she could see him, Alucard dropped any act of humanity he had used previously and was now using the silent, predatorial grace that seemed to cling to his person.

The rain was pounding so hard on the roof above it was no longer possible to discern individual drops in the clatter of noise. The only change to that blurring tempo occured when the wind would gust up sharply, whipping the droplets away from the building and causing the beat to faulter before returning with a vengeance. Alucard was now standing as close as the wheelchair would allow, his lack of warmth eminating off of him to seep through the material of her jacket and make the hair on her arms stand on end. Integra's eyes dropped from his to watch as he began to roll the sleeve of his duster and suit jacket back, her head still facing the office door to give the illusion of ignoring him completely. She knew what was coming, as surely as she knew the sun would rise in the morning.

"My offer still stands, Integra," he said, his voice taking on an alluring quality that still managed to cut through the thunder outside while remaining soft in tone. His sleeve was now rolled to his elbow, exposing a stretch of pale white skin between the burning scarlet of his coat and the more starkly white of his glove. Her eyes dropped to the extended flesh, tracing the blue paths of veins through the deceptively frail casing of skin. She'd felt his skin before, when she was much younger and so very naive, and new that the delicacy it indicated at was in reality the exact opposite. His skin was soft in texture but not human soft. It was much firmer and cooler to the touch as well. The skin of a vampire, the undead. His veins were a strikingly bright blue against such paleness, a tempting offering should she choose to accept it.

Integra hated the fact that she required a deep breath in and then it's slow release before she could drag her eyes away from that offering and up to his wide, smirking mouth. Lightening shattered through the darkness, briefly catching on his fangs and glasses. It gave away nothing as to his thought, not allowing her any expression other than that damnable grin. Her own eyes narrowing behind light weight lenses, she murmured, "Take those ridiculous glasses off, servant."

Alucard's soft snicker was drowned in another bass growl of thunder as he did as she'd ordered. The orange tinted glasses were removed and tucked into a coat pocket, revealing deep, dark crimson red eyes. His eyes were much different than Seras Victoria's, she noticed as she tried to garner any other emotion besides the perverse amusement over her request. His eyes were not the solid red of his fledgling's but something that truly did resemble the blood they mimicked in coloring. Catching odd angles of light, swirling to a darker tint that was nearly black. His eyes never remained the same shade long enough for her to pinpoint anything to his thoughts.

"It's yours if you want it, master," he continued, his voice purring seductively in her ears. The smile was fading down from it's broad smirk as well, slipping easily into a curve that was both sinister and heat producing in her. Integra merely continued to watch him, knowing full well he could sense the changes in her person but unwilling to acknowledge it herself. Her eyes dropped again to his exposed wrist as he edged it closer, one hand now gripping the back of her wheelchair behind her head. He stopped moving when his wrist now hovered directly in front of her, his fingers curled into a tight fist near her breasts. "I don't make this offer lightly," his low whisper teased, sounding as if it were whispered to her intimately in the dark.

Slowly, she unwound one of her hands from the steeple beneath her chin, her lashes lowered enough to shield her eyes from him. She traced a single gloved finger down the path of one vein, starting from where the coat allowed it to be visible and ending where it disappeared beneath the glove. She felt more than heard Alucard's pleased hum through the contact of his body against her arm. Her fingertip fell away from the coolness of his skin to return to the steepled position of earlier. "You offered this to Seras," she said quietly, turning her gaze back to his. "Most likely you offer this to any woman willing to tolerate you."

The slight edge of surprise couldn't be hidden fast enough from her. Alucard's eyes narrowed briefly, almost as if he were deciding whether to let the slur go or rip her head off and bath in the bloody fountain of her neck. She waited, portraying a calmness she didn't necessarily feel at the dark snarl that escaped through his clenched teeth.

"I had very good reasons for turning her," he growled with the first stirrings of anger. Anger was good. Anger was something she could deal with in him. It was the luring, seductive side of Alucard that caused her so much trouble internally. "Don't belittle the gift I'm offering to you!"

"And what were your reasons regarding her, Alucard?" Integra insisted, ignoring his ending statement entirely. She had always been curious why the mighty Alucard, self-proclaimed No LIfe King, would make a spur of the moment decision over a soldier she'd never really noticed beyond the fact that she was one of a few females working for Hellsing. Oh, Integra knew all her soldiers by name, as well as their families and such. What she'd never noticed in regards to one Seras Victoria was any particularly stellar combat skills. She had been a good enough soldier on paper, but nothing beyond the average person in the field.

Alucard's mocking grin returned with another light chuckle. "Not every person has to be a ruthless fighter, master," he replied. Obviously, he'd been invading her thoughts again. The anger was gone now, replaced once again with his seemingly good humor. "I chose Seras Victoria because of her loyalties. Even when faced with death, her loyalty remained to you and this thrice damned organization of yours. She is, without a doubt, the perfect servant for your cause. Her faith is in you and the work the Hellsing organization performs. Loyalty like that can't be bought and should be used to it's fullest potential."

That made Integra's brow arch, a little surprised by the answer given to her by her pet vampire. Alucard very rarely allowed her a glimpse into his reasonings, and this little peek certainly said a lot about the man at her side. He'd obviously been watching her troops a lot more closely than she had given him credit for if this was the conclusion he'd drawn in a split second about the girl. And he was right, of course. A loyalty such as what Seras offered so willingly couldn't be found in the list of mercenaries that was buried somewhere on her desk. Letting out an impatient sigh as she allowed herself to slouch back against the wheelchair, she asked tartly, "Are you suggesting I give her your job of protecting me?"

He took an outraged step back, the smile disappearing in a fierce scowl that made her own lips curl up in delight. "Her... take my position?" he scoffed indignantly. A sudden thought seemed to snap through his head, lighting his eyes and heralding the return of his ever-present grin. "Then are you saying I'm to be freed of your mastery? Seeing as Police Girl would be here to 'protect' you..."

It was now her turn to scowl at the mocking vampire's wit. "Don't be ridiculous, Alucard," she stated coldly. "To turn you loose into this world would be beyond disasterous."

"Mm... perhaps. But then again, if you were to join me..."

"Enough," she finally snapped, pushing herself away from her desk. Alucard lifted his arms away and allowed her the escape she needed. "I'm tired and can't stand your arrogance any longer this evening."

"Of course, master," he sneered, even as his long fingers curled over the handles on the back of her chair and began to push her toward the door.

The hall lights were dimmed and no servants could be seen wandering about for a final check before bed. This meant it was much later than she'd thought, edging closer towards morning again than night time. If the sun was starting to make it's return to the heavens, it couldn't be seen through the thick, inky swirls of storm clouds visible through the windows lining the hall. The rain had thinned down ever so slightly so that it now no longer resembled a solid sheet of sheening silver through the darkness. Lightening still crackled through the atmosphere, twisting and stabbing the air so that shadows intensified while all the rest of the world was thrown into blue-white light. Followed closely on the heels of this invasion into the dark came a deep, rolling reply, the thunder sounding more like the rain clouds laughing ominously than drums at this point.

Alucard wheeled her into her room, taking five steps back as she stood awkwardly, hunching ever so slightly so as not to strain the stomach stitches too badly. She grit her teeth to keep from groaning at the burning ache in her gut but was unable to stop one hand from reflexively pressing against it as the other gripped the edge of the side table by her bed. Walter had kindly left a clean set of cotton pajamas stretched on the bed, and another less-than-subtle reminder of the pain pills on the table she held in a death grip. Her blue eyes narrowed and glared at the offending cup, still too stubborn to take them. She earned this pain, and she would feel it for all it was worth. It was her own foolishness that earned her these scars. She wouldn't numb the experience for anything.

A gloved had slipped about her waist, tucking her in against a cold, hard body encased in brilliant scarlet leather. Integra looked up in some surprise as Alucard practically dragged her to the bed, sitting her down on the edge so she could slouch a little and ease the aching in her stomach. "You're being more foolish now than you ever were before," he muttered darkly, glaring right back at her as he undid her boots none too gently and tossed them aside. "Take the damn pills."

"I'll pass, servant," she bit out despite the pain, purposely emphasizing his role in her life.

"And you complain of my arrogance. There's nothing living, and very little dead or undead, that could have stood against Baobban Sith. You should be congradulating yourself for at least snapping your mind from her illusion. That's more than any human should have been able to do."

"But that freak bitch still managed to sink her fangs into me," Integra argued, helping to shrug off her suit jacket as he undid it. Most proper English ladies would have been horrified at a monster taking their clothing off, but she wasn't a proper English lady. Hell, she doubted she'd truly ever been one, even as a young girl. She'd grown up in a world where the monsters came to play a deadly game of chicken every night and sometimes the breakfast table would be a man less in the morning. Where other girls learned about proper tea etiquette, she learned how to disassemble a gun in seconds flat and shoot that same gun unerringly every time. She'd never once gone to a formal dance or been asked for an afternoon of horseback riding during the summer months. And she knew she would most likely die an unnatural death, but as God was her witness she would choose how and when.

Alucard stopped removing her clothes only when he came to the sleeveless t-shirt, bra and underwear she wore beneath her suit. Integra waved his hands away impatiently, intent on at least finishing the process herself. He stepped back, hands folded once again behind his back and head cocked to the side as if studying her curiously. The cotton was cool against her skin, causing her to shiver a little as she buttoned the top first, casting a wary glance in the direction of the pants. Bending over was going to be a nuisance but she would see it through, however painful it would be. It took two tries before, with a slight grunt of effort, she finally managed to get the damnable garment up where it belonged.

Huffing out a breath of satisfaction, Integra lay back on the bed, pulling the thick down covers over herself and staring up at the dark canopy over the bed. Between the parted segments of thich curtains, the lightening and thunder continued to fight for dominance in the storm while the rain had all about exited the fray. She removed her glasses, casting the room into instant blurriness as she set them to one side on the table. Alucard remained where he was, just far enough into the shadows that the faint silvery light couldn't touch him but close enough she could still catch the brightness of his coat.

She turned toward that figure, squinting slightly to focus her gaze better. "Why are you still here, Alucard?" she demanded, though not as sharply as she'd wished. She wanted him out of her room so that she at least could pretend the privact of her mind. For some reason, she couldn't stop running his borderline traditional offering over and over in her head. When he'd first made the offer to her, she'd thought it was only so he could be free of her. Then, she'd only assumed he offered it as a way to avenge himself for being imprisoned and enslaved. Now, however... and especially with his most recent temptations... she truly did wonder what his motives were. And after nearly dying at another vampire's fangs... Integra shook her head and resettled her frown back onto her face as she pinned the fuzzy shape of Alucard with her glare.

Alucard's head tilted further and she didn't need glasses to know the bright strip across his lower jaw was his usual impudent grin. "I'm awaiting your orders, master," he replied with what almost could have passed for an innocent tone. Unfortunately for him, she knew him too well. Innocent didn't describe a thing about Alucard. She seriously doubted it ever had, even when he'd been alive.

Sighing in frustration, Integra returned her gaze up to the canopy. "You know your orders. Search and destroy the freaks." Except... that wasn't all, was it? Once again, his offer repeated inside her head, bringing in it's wake the sight of blue eyes flashing red shortly before her incapacitated body was struck with sharpened teeth. Slowly, she turned to his still waiting silhouette, knowing he'd read her thoughts and knew what she was about to say. He was just waiting for her to voice it out loud and make it real. There was now a new order for him to follow should it be necessary. She tried to tell herself the decision was only spur of the moment but deep down she knew she'd had it made for quite some time now. What changed things now was the freak attack and her outrage at having the right to die when she chose yanked from her. It was what would give her the strength to voice this new order for her servant... perhaps.

He could sense her lingering hesitation and took the initiative in helping her voice it, meeting her half way as he'd always done in his own fashion. Alucard stepped a little closer though still far enough away that she couldn't see him properly. "And, master?" he prompted. "Are there any other orders you wish me to convey or see through?"

Slowly, and after taking several calming breaths, Integra said softly, "Should the choice to die as I wish be taken from me, Alucard, as it almost was not even a few days ago, I want you to turn me before it happens. I will not die at a lesser vampire's hands, nor will I allow anyone to take my right to die from me."

His soft rumble of laughter tickled along her skin as if the very sound had a touch like fur rubbing against her. "If you wish, master. When that time comes, I'll turn you and then kill whoever tried to harm what's mine."

"No. I want whoever would do the act left alive," she insisted firmly. She felt a bitter smile pull her lips upward in grim delight as she shifted to look in the general area of his eyes. "If it happens, I want to be the one they scream in terror from. I want their last waking sight to be me preparing to rip them to pieces. Is that understood?"

Lightening snapped through the sky, the bolts streaming downward faster than fast and tearing into the earth fiercely. The crack from its impact with the ground was drowned out by the sound of rolling thunder and rich, mad laughter. Alucard had thrown his head back and was all but howling at the invisible moon with his amusement. Most people would have shivered at the horrific picture he created, a creature gone insane in the dark during a storm. Integra merely arched a brow at his dramatics, blowing a piece of hair away from where it was tickling her nose. Bloody vampires...

"Oooh, I can't wait for that day to come, my Integra," he declared loudly, lips parting enough for her to now clearly see his fangs catching in the final spurts of lightening. "When it comes, I want to watch you bath in the blood of your enemies. You're going to make an outstanding vampire, master."

Integra allowed him his amusement, shifting carefully until she was on her side, back to him. "Get out, Alucard. And take those pills with you. Let's let Walter think I actually took them." She didn't need to open her eyes to know he had obeyed her. The sliding of the little capsules from their cup was evidence enough. The sudden warming of the air in her room told her when Alucard had finally gone for good, allowing her to relax and prepare for sleep. Sighing, she snuggled down into the covers and fought back the sickness churning in her stomach over her new orders.