AU: Omg! This chapter feels like a terrible soap opera. As does much of my fanfiction. Well, hardly. Sorry about the lack of updates. I just moved into a new apartment, and I'm getting internet hooked up fairly soon (in fact, by the time this is posted, I will have had internet to do so. Internet that I pay for myself. GO ME! WOOOOOO!!!) Okay. I'll shut up now.
A Dhampir Story
After the harsh words, raking through the sleepy silence like razor blades, D left to go outside. The children were safely tucked away, but food had already disappeared down their hungry gullets. The forest was full of bountiful meat that could be cooked over Mouka's dancing, leaping flames. It was a good day. Alucard stayed in the sanguine darkness away from the sun, positioned in front of the basement door. Vampires did not usually awaken during the day in thirst. They slept in death's embrace for the time when light seared the snow-covered hills. Except Alucard, who was less like a walking corpse and more like a living statue with his perfect aquine nose and unmoving eyelids.
He stood with his hands clasped behind his back, his essence choking off every iota of light from the corner where the basement door was located. His angular, sharp nose and hollow cheeks were pale, but his inky dark hair fell messily across his crimson eyes, which pinned on the tiny warm bodies nestled in the dormitory room, his brain and body echoing with D's earlier command to keep guard over the children.
D hunted the daylight snowscape for sustenance in the wilderness. He swept down on a small family of gigantic roe deer and slew the weakest with a decisive blow from the longsword. The carcass steamed when he dragged the butchered animal back to the orphanage. He had often gone with Zhou to hunt for food beyond the electric walls as a child; one of his lessons dedicated to the survival of a living bounty was to hunt for them and provide them with food - just enough to endure the journey to his payday. Those few jobs were rare. Zhou had showed him even more when they had traveled with their ill-fated rebel army.
Panting lightly in the frigid air, he did not want to think about Zhou. He didn't want to think about anything. He didn't want to think.
Because in the basement, a new monster slept. She would wake up so very thirsty - so very hungry. He didn't want to face that. His stomach turned over in his body cavity, his heart hammered so hard - just once - every time he thought about night fall.
He hated his father. He hated him almost as much as himself.
While the cooling meat slid underneath his fingertips, Mouka emerged from the guard house, rubbing his eyes. He had been instructed to stay in there, and with the chimney cleared, he had put the kindling D cut earlier that morning to good use.
"You work too hard," Mouka chided. He pulled out a long knife and started to portion the meat. They had very little in the way of spicing the meat to make it pallatable - most of the giant deer were mutants, but some were still more or clean clean of genetic impurities. Their meat tasted no different than the ancient, unaltered deer of ages past.
Genetic impurities. Was D the same thing as the deer walking in the trees? Then what was Alucard? Somehow, the phrase "father of lies" played in D's mind and he had a long pause before he answered Mouka.
"I prefer to keep myself busy." A still, deadened animal heart lay in a small bag. The dhampir set this aside. It was somehow something he had wanted to keep aside for - something. It was still warm.
Mouka smiled. "I can cook all this in my room so the kids don't wake up all ravenous." He grinned, his white scars standing out against his darkened skin. His falcon was lurking in the skies, watching, staying away. The battle against the slaver's had frightened her away and she was still wary of approaching the human companion that attracted such ill company.
"I'd appreciate it."
"You should try to rest." Mouka's eyes locked onto D's face, his breath vaporing into the air. "You shouldn't stay up so much during the day... You're-"
"I'm fine." It was so hard to maintain the familiar, machine-hard coldness. All of that was shredded to pieces in the face of his father, his own blood. He felt his power pulsing through every pore in his perfect, untouched skin. "I'm... exasperated."
"Miranda's going to have to go away, isn't she?" Mouka said, and his voice was almost child-like. The man had adored her since she had been human. He had loved her more honestly and openly than D himself; another score mark against the dhampir. If only he had let her be, let her walk away from him, let her hate him as she had, then becoming what he hunted would have been an unpleasant underthought.
Yet when he thought of her presence, thrumming with renewed strength, the touch of her lips at his skin and her fingers buried in his hair, his heart raced. He wanted her to stay - but he would only hold her back from herself. He had so much left to teach her, too.
With all the years behind him, D felt as if he was running out of time.
"I don't know yet. I don't want her to leave. But the thirst is a battle of willpower that few can win. Especially among the newly fledged." He let the thought hang for a moment, as pieces of animal flesh lay in neat piles, cut in perfect squares.
"I want her to be happy," Mouka muttered. "That's the very heart of it, and I think that's what you wish as well. Somehow... we've got to make that happen." His eyes glistened with passion. "Do you think there could be a way...? I mean, if we let... if we let you-know-who...?"
"No." The voice that broke from D's throat was twisted and hard with emotion, jagged like rocks at the bottom of a cold, thrashing sea. "Never."
"But in the end, it's whatever Miranda decides. Why are you being so goddam selfish?"
The dhampir twitched, fury twitching its angry fingers through his sinews. But Mouka was right. The frank and unassuming human had a way of saying what was truth without fear of the consequences. He stood up, picked up the mutant venison meat, and carried it to the guardhouse, where it would all be smoked and cooked throughout the day.
Some of the meat was left to be frozen in the snow and thawed later for those that preferred their meat bleeding. The man's footsteps crunched in the snow as he walked away. His presence had been scraping at D's psyche for as long as he had been talking to him. D pressed his left hand to his forehead and stared at the blood-stained ground. It was animal blood, but it was still blood. The ridiculous urge to bend down and lap it up from the snow was pulsing under his tongue.
"D, what are you so worked up about now?" His Symbiot grumbled harshly. "What do you think? Maybe being one of daddy's little soldiers will do her some good." He grinned. "Being a formless, spiritual entity that feeds on the suffering of others doesn't sound like a bad existence."
"It is when compared to being a vampire."
"Then what are you belly-achin' for? Why won't you let her be a bloodsucker, a do-gooder bloodsucker?"
"A Noble is still a Noble. None can be trusted. The thirst makes them what they are."
"You won't even give her a chance to prove herself to you. You thought so yourself a few minutes ago: you still got stuff to teach her and show her."
"When Zhou taught me, I had time. We don't have that luxury. I tried to teach her before. Now she's been blooded and it's too late. Besides. Zhou only knew that his methods would work for only a dhampir." Surprisingly, the hunter's lips quirked into a sort of smile. "We only need half as much blood to survive. Not even that." The smile faded quickly, like a pleasant dream. "It's not so true for the Nobility. New Nobles - ones that have existed for only the past two millenia - do not boast the same pedigree as my father. They will need to feed more often than those who come from a deeper line that claims Nosferatu heritage in their family tree. There are probably only three in the entire world now. Two of them are in space, gliding the centuries away in a starry paradise few can ever know. One of them walks among us now." His expression went dark and furious as he looked toward the shadowy hilltop where Alucard had been standing beneath the shadows of the trees alone.
Rhea had not yet made her appearance. It was without a doubt that she was waiting - waiting for some formula of events to call her forth. Was she then watching, even now, as D conducted this mysterious conversation with himself? What would she think of the Symbiot creature that lived in his hand, countless ages older than D himself?
With the animal heart set aside and still warm, he took off his glove and exposed his hand to the chill. He lifted the butchered animal heart and placed it against his left hand. His left hand fingers squeezed down; the heart seemed to shrink. Not only that, the quiet horrible sounds of tiny teeth began to gnash in the snowy quiet. Then it was over. D wiped the blood off in the snow and returned his glove to his hand.
Finally he tore himself away from the chilled animal blood and made his way up the hill without stirring a single flake of snow. The clear blue waters beneath the ice beckoned. It would be chillingly nice to simply float beneath there, so far removed from the harsh hot bloody reality that pervaded the earth above.
"The children are all sleeping. They won't come to for awhile; they've had such an ordeal. Come," said his father as he reached the top. "Look."
D stood beside him and looked.
The lake was frozen straight to the middle with about an inch layer of ice. But beneath the fading gray ice, dark enormous shapes moved beneath its surface. "Do you think they are starving under there in those cold black depths?"
"I think there is a bountiful world beneath there that no one else can see." D looked on as the enormous creatures bellowed in silence in the water. "Father. You must call to Rhea."
The man's dark countenance grew even darker. His lips pulled back in a heathen grimace and he felt every inch of muscle across his immortal body tighten in defense. "Call to her?"
"She hasn't shown herself to you?"
"I shouldn't have to call to her if she invited me here. I'm not familiar with the the hospitality of the dead." His voice hardened with annoyance. "I'm not here of my own free will, remember."
From the hilltop, D could see the entire compound. He could even see the grave clad in snow. His own adventures in the little cemetary were masked by the freshly fallen snow. The tiny grave with the miniature skeleton within was untouched after D had completed his investigation.
"Why haven't you ventured in there?" D asked politely. Alucard did not follow his gaze; he knew exactly where 'there' was.
Almost in a childish voice, the No-Life King answered. "Because it doesn't feel right." His skin goosebumped. He had not experienced the peculiar sensation in millenia. Then he shook off his discomfort and straightened his back, a lilting horrible laugh erupting from that grimace of a smile. "I don't think I know why. I want to." Something calls me and repels me and I don't want to see it. As long as I exist, I never want to see what lies down there.
D looked at the profile of his father and shook his head ever so slightly. There was a small apologetic smile on his lips. "I know you're not a coward. Would it help if I let Mouka go with you?"
The Nosferatu snapped his eyes toward him to peer at him. His lips curved into a delicious smile. "I will wait until I feel the time is right. Would that be sufficient? That will leave you enough time to decide what to do with your woman."
So the jab was well deserved. D relaxed slowly, his hands unflexing underneath the black cape hung about his broad shoulders. He felt the sun, in spite of the leaves and clouds creeping steadily across the sky. He could smell blood and decay everywhere - but more blood now. Thirst crept along his veins, a creeping cold that would be devestatingly inconvenient should it reach his heart.
Alucard fixed his eyes on the dhampir. "You're going to be ill if you persevere." He reached out, but D immediately brushed the other's hand away from his cheek. "Maybe you won't feed from a human. I've seen you've had no qualms about feeding from others of your kind."
As soon as he said it, D's eyes grew icy. He stared at his father without offering him a reply. Of course he had not forgotten about the cruel and final brutality he had delivered on the one who had once called him 'brother'. He quivered noticably as the thirst possessed more of his limbs with weakness and need.
"You let your woman drink from you; your own code of honor doesn't allow you the same luxury, does it?" Once again the Nosferatu's hand lifted D's hair from his cheek and touched it. From his feeding, his skin was comparably hot on D's frigid skin. D expelled a faint hiss of air through his teeth. Alucard bared his teeth in dissatisfaction. "I would see you strong. Not weak. So I'm offering you a rare delicacy, boy. You would be wise to take it."
His palm cupped D's cheek. Alucard felt the dhampir's jaw working, teeth grinding and muscles bulging beneath his fingertips. He passed his thumb across D's lips. How stubbornly they clamped shut! He could detect the hard outline of his fangs, fiercely straining not to open and finally clamp on something hot and warm and with just enough give to be a challenge.
"You don't need much of this." Alucard pressed his lips to Rhea's, heard her soft desperate intake of breath. She fought a little; arms pushed at his chest. Her eyes fluttered shut as his hands, hot with her blood stoking his veins with heat, whispered down the entire length of her fragile body. It was just such a touch she needed; not the rough mortal eagerness to reproduce but an attention to detail that so many mortal men lacked. Her breath gasped out of her in a high moan while he--
D pulled away, but the memories continued to unravel as Alucard's taste lingered on his tongue. He fought at them, clawed at them with his own psyche but they came unceasingly.
It was Integra he desired. She commanded every ion stirring in his immortal flesh. She made his blood turn warm and cold in turns,, made his days sleepless and terrible with visions of her falling apart to age. He saw her before him all her glory, perfect skin marred with scars that were well deserved, only her flawless blonde hair falling about her naked shoulders. She woke from her sleep as soon as his chill presence pervaded the room. They were bound by blood ties older than Integra herself, so of course she could feel him even when he was far away. Her cool eyes took in his shameless voyeurism. Her sleep plumped lips curved into a heartless scythe of a smile. "Come, servant." The sound of her voice purring in the dark. Her heart pounding harder as her voice betrayed her. The whisper of sheets as she slid them from the rest of her body. Blood pulsed just beneath the surface of her skin.
"This is..." He breathed just that much harder. It was not because of the content of the vision but the heartache that was the constant undercurrent. He felt alive, surehearted, and warmer now than he had ever felt before. Someone's iron arms had him around the shoulders like a body manacle and kept him standing straight. "I would have preferred to be spared that memory."
"I didn't mean to." Alucard's voice was husky; was he experiencing the same vestigial memory by sharing his blood? "I had no intention to reveal your... ah, conception."
D's vision spun as someone else's hands ghosted over his skin. Someone else's voice panted in his ear, moaning and whimpering as someone else's pleasure mounted, flowing through him and around him, encapsuling his flesh in a warm and perfect circle of unity. Closing his eyes only filled in the visual emptiness. He opened them again - quickly. He ached. His body hummed with unwanted energy. His heart hammered unrepetantly.
"What is th-this?" He pulled away from Alucard. He staggered a bit, putting distance between them. Better. This was much better. Now he could see the hillls around him, the orphanage, the lake, the dark shapes swimming slowly beneath the icy surface. Cold, not hot. Still, not full of violent, passionate motion. He rubbed his eyes with both hands, his nails gently raking his skin. The pain helped root him firmly in the here-and-now. But he was still flush with desire, the taste of blood and lightning still on his tongue. He looked behind him at his father, who stood calmly, hands clasped behind his back, his coat billowing behind him.
"I'm sorry again." Alucard smiled sadly. "Thus are the kinder nightmares that plague me." His eyes were a smoky crimson, swirling with the images D suffered. Then he turned and walked away, his eyes glistening with a purpose as he strode toward the graveyard.
D stood like a statue, waiting for the last phantom fingertips to quit their travels on his skin. He stared after his father in the meantime, wondering if he dealt with such things in his hours of sleep, or whenever he simply closed his eyes.
Alucard tried to shake off the feeling lingering on the surface of his skin - and just on the surface of the stone egg sitting cold and sharp in his chest. The graveyard was bigger than the Nosferatu remembered. Actually, the entire orphanage grounds had changed very little except maybe an additional building in the courtyard. Whatever use it had been put to had lost its importance centuries ago. But here, the community cemetary had become larger. After years of service to the orphanage, the guardians would either chose to retire or live out their days in the building reserved for those off duty. So most of the gravemarkers had names Alucard did not remember. Others, like the sign outside, were decayed beyond knowing.
Of course - he had remembered every face that day, every man and woman standing in the courtyard when he had come to this orphanage. Why had he come in the first place?
He had wanted to see how his son had survived the long, agonizing walk across his property, navigated the confusing dimensional maze of the forest road, and somehow had the sense of good direction to stumble upon an orphanage for half-breeds. Alucard had allowed the establishment to exist, simply and unbelievingly because he couldn't be bothered to destroy it. He had seen the tremendous strength of will the young Deron had displayed during his tough treatment against disobedience. But he had no idea the boy would suffer the pain of daylight just to find shelter.
It was a blessing in disguise. For he had found her - a human woman with just enough of the same fire, the same fury that could destroy whole worlds - to spark his interest in humanity once again. And that terrible word he could no longer say. Family.
Beneath the earth in this cemetary, the history of the orphanage after Rhea had left to stay with him and birth their first and last child lay as brittle white bones. Brittle white bones that told him nothing about where their only child had been taken. If it was well and truly dead.
He growled, a pervasive chill creeping beneath his feet. Through his calves. A whisper? If someone - or something - was going to show up, it better happen soon or he would soon grow too bored. The frigid air steamed around him as he began to reach, listening for the horde that boiled at his fingertips - his minions, the numberless millions he had devoured over the centuries. If anything malignant existed here, it would fall prey to either one type of attack or another. Physical attacks were his specialty, but his minions hungered for the metaphysical denizens of the netherworld just as much.
Another whisper traced its chilling fingers across his awareness. His breath shuddered; he barely breathed anymore, but for some reason, being among so much old dead, he felt less like a monster and more human.
Ridiculous, he thought. Don't you dare let the sentimentality of such a miserable place get to you.
But the cold feeling was creeping up his legs, sinking deeper than simply flesh. He shivered; his fingers clenched and unclenched and the tattooes beneath his skin on the tops of his hands burned hot and fast.
He had only a split second to respond. To a Nosferatu, that was an infinitismally large amount of time. He focused his body, mind, spirit - and simply moved. The offending sensation did not disappear, but the cold seemed to melt in the sudden gust of wind of the movement. The night air boomed, alive with the power to execute a manuever that was so quick. His coat shuddered. He stared at the spot where he had been standing and realized the snow was a bit shallower there than before, as if someone had recently disturbed it.
The reason why he had felt so cold was the figure standing where he had been. A ghostly figure. Ankle-deep in snow - except her feet simply vanished beneath the snow without any impressions around it. No way she could have fallen into place - there were no trees, no planes, where she could have jumped down.
Her beautiful hair was long and unbound but did not move with the wind. It was as if she stood half-way in this plane of existence, and the ethereal winds of the land of the dead alone swayed her now. She looked exactly the way he had seen her that day when he had personally visited her humble estate.
"Rhea. How is death?" He fought harder than he should have had to keep his voice level and calm. He smiled coldly. He rarely saw ghosts anymore. Most of his phantoms floated only in his mind, while he waited alone in his castle.
"I've been waiting for you," she said, sounding not like a spurned young woman but a lonely widow. "Why didn't you come?"
The truth was wrung out of him without his realizing it. "I was afraid." The backs of his hands continued to pulse and ache. Were his sigils responding, now that some of his own blood taken flowed in his son's veins? Did it awaken the archaic pact that Abraham van Hellsing had written on his skin? On his very soul?
I don't have a soul. That was an instinctive, if not long-repeated, response. Maybe his tattooes hummed like this because of the closeness of the dead creature standing in front of him.
"I doubt," she responded coldly, "that you were ever afraid of me."
"I hadn't known worry or frustration in a long time before I met you." His words were somewhat thick. Then he took a bracing gulp of ghost air and grinned menacingly. "So what is it you've come to tell me? That I will suffer for all eternity for what I've done? That you will visit upon my wretched body a thousand agonies, a billion deaths--"
"No. To thank you." Rhea sighed an eternal sigh. She raked her hands over her hair and looked at him. "To explain. While I can still stay. I wish you would listen. I hope you will. And understand."
"I wanted to ask you for your forgiveness." Her eyes watered yet no could ever fall. She looked at him so soulfully, it made his heart give a painful and unfamiliar movement toward comfort - but there was none to be had.
So, an undying Nosferatu stared at a ghost of a mortal woman, not a breath of air whispering between them. His eyes devoured every iota of her. Strangely, the more he tried to focus, the less he could really see until he took the long view. The hard, cold lump sitting in his chest gave a sudden, sharp twinge.
"The reason why I stayed all this time." An endless period of time passed, as if a terrible storm brewed just out of sight, beyond a fragile pine wood door, growling and rumbling. Pregnant with rain, the clouds trembled. Then the deluge. "I... I killed our child."
The chill that seemed to threaten to overtake Alucard returned - in a different incarnation. The graveyard: what a perfect place to play out such a scene. His eyes narrowed, and a helpess rage seized him at once. His minions seethed like an acid lake at his command - but what more could he do to the dead ghost before him?
"Perfect!" He laughed loudly. "You had me convinced!"
The ghost looked sad and pained as she watched him rant, her hands clasped in front of her.
"All along! A child, finally, and you had it all figured out from the very beginning! Yes, you demonic, crafty woman! You could never hurt me but in that way, knowing completely and fully how badly I wanted that child!"
"I didn't do it to hurt you, but I realized that it would. That's... why I'm sorry. Please understand."
"Understand?" He stepped forward, a wild look in his eyes, which were now a burning livid red - like two twin suns, fiery in their sockets. "What is there to understand? Murder is senseless, there is no understanding that. The only reasonable response to it is more death - that is the level of reasoning in this world, years later. Death! Death for everyone but me!" He held his hands out to her, talons instead of fingers. "So explain it to me, in detail, why you killed the child I wanted so badly that I gave up everything I held dear."
"Because one of the things you gave up... was someone I cared about. I loved Deron like a son and you threw him aside. It wasn't right. At the time, you had enchanted me with every power you had. I was only human." She closed her eyes, like a blind ghastly Homer. "Then one day, pregnant with your child, I realized it wasn't fair to Deron. Deron, who had done nothing to you, who suffered the most. That this new child should have all of your love and Deron none seemed so utterly, completely unfair. I didn't want a child if it meant that Deron would suffer more and more. I thought of a way that would compromise the baby's health so you wouldn't find out I'd done it." She picked her words as carefully as she could, even if she was still describing infanticide. "I stopped taking the prenatal drugs you had prescribed. I would put them under my tongue, spit them out. I poisoned my body. You thought I was just sick. Now that I realize it, it was still murder... and after the child was born, I admit I went mad... because I didn't want to see it die."
She remembered the awful screaming that came from her. The limp tiny body, lifeless, in her hands. Her soul seemed to rip itself in half with guilt. When Alucard had turned her out of his home, fury and loss written all over him, for a moment she thought he seemed almost human - and that made it even worse.
"Is that all?" Alucard whispered. "You wanted to avenge my other child?" His voice changed subtly. He wanted to grab her and shake her - but his hands were not designed for seizing hold of spirits. "I would have done anything you asked... I would have done anything, if only you hadn't done that."
Rhea pressed her lips together, opening her eyes. She was beginning to fade. "I don't know if you would have. I'm so sorry, Alucard... I'm sorry I hurt you. Please. Do me just one thing before I disappear. Don't take this out on Deron. Please. It wasn't his idea, so don't hurt him. I beg you. I'll never rest in peace if you do."
She was vanishing, starting from her feet, all the way to the top of her head. She held herself as if she might burst apart. But she vanished. A pale glowing light remained, and then it traveled skyward and away, wherever spirits vanished to.
The day was fading too, when he was standing there for a long time, staring at the empty space in the snow. He did not need any of the air he was breathing hard and fast through his teeth. His jaw ached. His eyes burned and a terrible weight seemed to disappear, reshape itself, on his chest.