AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is the counterpart to True to You. Generally a role-reversal for Alucard and Integra. It is not actually a sequal or in any other way related to True to You. I also officially credit the patching of certain plot-holes in this story to Elin-darling, my fabulous editor. Do check out her stuff. It's fantabulous.
Enjoy & Review! Check out the livejournal for other upcoming stories.
It was always at night that they moved. Stealthily in the dark, invincible by nature. They were strong. They were confident. They were vampires. By the light of the moon they preyed upon humans, feasting on their blood, taking their bodies as loyal servants, or as loyal as ghouls could be. In every aspect, they had it made. Despite the weaknesses they posses, they were powerful. Nothing could take them down. Especially not humans.
That was, of course, a false notion.
Alucard mused on this irony as he planted three more bullets in the leading vampire, a woman about thirty years old with a head of bushy brown hair. She had been young as far as vampires went, and quite powerful for her age, agile and smart. But she made the mistake of thinking she was invincible, like the young ones tended to do, and that made her an easy target for someone more experienced.
She shrieked in agony. Alucard didn't particularly enjoy the sound, as some may think. But it didn't really affect him either, killing his own kind. These young ones were reckless. If it were up to them, there would soon be no humans left to prey on, and they would eventually turn on each other. Such fools.
As the vampire crumbled to dust, her eyes bulged and stared at Alucard one last time. He was used to that look. They were always surprised that he, a fellow Median, worked for humans. They always had the same misconception, that humans were weaker. But that was alright. They were too young to have learned. Only he, one who had lived through history in person, had obtained the truth the hard way.
Lights washed the alley from behind. The clean-up crew was coming, which meant he better make himself scarce. Not all personnel in Hellsing were familiar or comfortable with his existence, and he was perfectly fine keeping it that way. Attracting attention to himself would only bring problems he didn't want to deal with. Besides, there were only a few in the organization who truly mattered.
Two of them were at the scene. Alucard hid a smirk as he drifted off into the shadows. His fledgling jogged past, the Harkonnen cannon in her arms. She seemed much too small for such a large weapon, although the same could be said for her breasts. But in both cases, she appeared perfectly at ease with them. Two of the Wide Geese were speaking to her as they followed. Unlike her master, Seras Victoria had always melded with the humans as if she was still one of them.
The bodies of the ghouls were gathered and the dust of the vampire cleaned up. There was some alarm. A casualty had occurred. It was regrettable, but not out of the ordinary. The body with the Hellsing insignia on its arm was covered and loaded into a vehicle after it was inspected for bite marks. Alucard snuck past the busy troops and approached the luxury car parked just outside the alley.
Standing next to her car, Integra ignored his presence as he remained in the shadows, but when she spoke, he knew she was addressing him directly.
"One level-three," he said. "Six casualties. Five civilian. One Hellsing."
There was a slight twitch just under her right eye, a tiny tightening of the facial muscle that no one but Alucard caught. For several long moments she stood there, her eyes fixated on the scene in the alley.
"Any further orders, master?"
She tapped her fingers on the hood of the car lightly. It was a sign that she trying to thinking, but was finding it hard to do. "No," she replied simply after a few seconds. Then, without another word, she re-entered the car, slammed the door behind her, and he heard her give the order for the driver to head back to the mansion.
Alucard waited a while longer before emerging from the shadows, making two of the younger troops jump in surprise. But it wasn't them his red eyes followed. As his master's car disappeared around the corner, he contemplated his options.
Something was bothering her. Though something was usually bothering her in this line of work, it still made him curious. There were two things he could do: leave her alone for the night and let her work it out for herself in peace, or seek her out at the mansion and badger her a bit, offer some unsolicited advice and possibly receive a silver ashtray to the head.
He picked the latter.
After all, she shouldn't be alone after such a beautiful, bloodlust-filled night.
Per his usual entrance, Alucard emerged from the ceiling before Integra's desk. But this time he was greeted by a surprise – she wasn't in her chair. It was empty, as was the desk, whose surface was devoid of papers or half-smoked cigars. The usual signs of her frustration were absent.
"Did you need something?"
He dropped from the ceiling and turned. His master was by the door, her arms crossed and her face half-hidden by a river of blonde hair. She was facing one of the side walls, in front of the portrait of her father.
Alucard removed his hat and bowed. "Good evening, master."
"When the moon is out and blood is in the air, it will always be a good evening for a vampire."
"What simple pleasures you have." She turned away from him and he saw her gaze up at her father's face. Alucard stepped next to her and did the same. There was a sense of longing in her eyes that she usually kept hidden from others.
"You miss him," he said matter-of-factly.
Integra nodded. "I do."
"And you worry that you can't live up to him."
She didn't answer. Instead, she turned and walked away from him, back to her desk, where she sat down and began to search through the nearest drawer for cigars. He'd hit the nail on the head. Alucard waited for her to find and light the cigar before going to her desk and leaning against it. She blew a perfect smoke ring into the air. It wasn't something she'd ever practiced, just something she was naturally good at. Despite the known health risks, he liked to watch her smoke. It gave her an air of power and mystery that always tickled his senses.
"You're right," she said, leaning back in her chair. She was calm. A little calmer than usual. He could feel the turmoil in her mind but for some reason she wasn't lashing out or snapping at him for disturbing her. "You're absolutely right. Is that why you came up here today?"
He shook his head. "Of course not. I merely came to see what's bothering you. Are you going to deny that something is?"
"No." She tapped the cigar over the ashtray on the table and sighed. "I made a mistake today, Alucard."
"You are referring to the soldier who died. I'd have thought by this point you'd understand that not every life lost on the battlefield is your fault."
"If a life is lost while I am in charge. It is my responsibility." The cigar was in her hand but she didn't put it back into her mouth. Instead, it lingered in the air, its light slowly dying out. "It's times like this that I wonder whether I'm really fulfilling my role like I'm supposed to, if I'm living up to what my father expected. Or," she paused, "if I'm failing because I worry too much about the past."
Alucard arced a brow in surprise. "You think you are failing, master?"
"Sometimes I do." Her eyes drifted back to the painting again. "And then I think if it's because I don't concentrate enough on the present. Too many things from the past affect me, and while I sit here and think about it, people die one after another. So much time I spend dwelling on the past." She chuckled sadly. "What a pointless endeavor."
Alucard laughed. Integra regarded him in surprise.
"Is this funny to you?" She wasn't angry. Instead, she sounded genuinely curious. "Does a being such as yourself find the tendency of mortals to dwell on the past humorous?"
Alucard cleared his throat and looked at his master, serious but at the same time a bit amused. "You are wrong, master," he said.
"First, you assume that because I have lived for centuries that I no longer treasure the past. While it is true that I rather not allow it to swallow me, I do not ignore it. The older one becomes, the more important one's past experiences are, because age without wisdom is worse than nothing."
Integra said nothing, but she puffed on the cigar just before the last pinpoint of fire went out.
"Second, you think that thinking of your past is only a distraction from the present. That is wrong. Only by analyzing your past can you learn to deal with the troubles of the present. How else would you learn otherwise?"
"Not everything of the past is worthy of analysis, Alucard."
"Your third mistake would be your quickness to think that."
Integra smirked. "You don't know everything."
"Nor do I pretend to. But in this aspect, I know more than you."
"And it would be your mistake to assume that."
"Is that so?" He leaned down in front of her, his face inches away from hers. He heard her heart speed up just a bit. But she did not pull away. Her human pride would not allow her to show discomfort in front of her vampire servant. He bore his eyes into hers. "How can you be so sure?"
She pressed a hand against his shoulder. He knew she meant to push him away, but she didn't immediately. For a brief moment her hand was on his shoulder and their faces almost touched. So very close. Just a hair's moment…
Then she turned away and stood.
"I'm retiring for the night," she announced, straightening her jacket and avoiding his gaze. "I've had enough of your philosophy for one night. Now if you'll excuse me, I must get some rest. There's work to be done in the real world."
Alucard smirked to her retreating form. "The real world doesn't forget its history, Integra," he said.
She paused at the door. "That is true," she replied. "But it works for the present and towards the future."
With that, she was gone. Alucard stood also. He strolled to the portrait of Arthur and looked at it. It was a picture painted after his imprisonment in the dungeons. The Arthur in this picture was older, wiser, like a gentleman past his prime. It was fortune, he supposed, that Integra didn't know the wily, drunken Arthur that he knew, who usually had a bottle of whiskey in one hand and the Queen's orders in the other.
"Your daughter is a silly girl," he said to the portrait. "She thinks by forgetting the past she can make the present easier to deal with."
The portrait said nothing, but Alucard knew that the Arthur he once served would agree.
"Since you're conveniently absent, I suppose I'll have to teach her this lesson in your place."
The portrait once again said nothing, but the vampire already knew what the man would say if he was alive.
"And no, it's not just an excuse to sneak into her bedroom."
He waited another hour before carefully emerging from a corner of Integra's bedroom. She was sleeping soundlessly on her side, the covers pulled up to her chest. He would be disappointed that so much of her was hidden from sight, but he knew that even if she slept without the burdensome covers, there wouldn't be much to see, since she wore men's cotton pajamas to bed every night.
It was a pity. She was beautiful when she slept. As he approached the bed, he could hear her soft, rhythmic breathing as her chest rose and fell. Every now and then she would moan gently and her eyelids would flutter. Was she dreaming? Her dreams were hardly ever pleasant.
Her hair laid splayed out behind her. Alucard reached out carefully and touched the edge of her conscious. Her sleep was rather restless. Her thoughts were racing even though her body was utterly exhausted. It didn't help that she usually slept less than six hours a night.
You're so tired, Master, he thought. Dealing with the present is wearing you out.
She turned onto her back. The covers fell to her waist. He wondered what the chances of him convincing her to wear something less confining to bed would be. Nonetheless, she looked amazing. Only in sleep was she most natural, most at ease, and her lovely face wasn't tainted by worried frowns and premature lines. Only in sleep did she look her age.
But he couldn't look at her all night. By unspoken rule, he was not allowed in her chambers, be it day or night, so he had to be quick. Probing her mind carefully, he found a small opening, and made the connection.
Her dreaming landscape was vast.
It took him a moment to adjust once the environment solidified around him. He looked to one side, then the other. There was no end anywhere.
Surrounding him was a gray desert. The colorless sand shifted underneath him as he walked. For the most part it appeared empty, but every now and then something would catch his eyes. There were trees, nondescript plants with leaves the color of blood. Then there were rocks, dark and cold, bearing marks that looked like the faces of people. Dead soldiers, living soldiers, Convention members, vampires. These were the markings of her current life, he realized, the things that her world revolved around. It was a dull, gray world indeed.
There was a statue of the Queen. Then a large silver cross. Wind brushed past him and he heard them carry whispered words.
…your responsibility, Sir Integra…
…you have not done your job…
…a woman in the position of power cannot…
…do not forsake your duty…
He waved them away just as the doors began to appear.
There were two columns of them, lined up and all facing the same direction like soldiers awaiting orders. As Alucard walked down the center, he noticed that some were open while others were closed. On each door, there was a picture or label.
One had the face of Arthur. This one was open. Another had the image of Walter, also open. There were a few more familiar faces, including his own, each with their own door. All open. One bore an image of the bible. Though open, the contents of this one seemed a bit muddled and chaotic. He didn't blame her. In this line of work, the interpretation of one's faith was bound to become just a bit twisted.
As he ventured further down the line, more closed doors began to appear. Time was reversing itself. He saw doors leading to early memories of Integra's schooling, her life with Arthur, her first few difficult months as director. About half of them were open. Further down the line, there were less than half, and then…
"Who are you?"
He started. A few yards ahead, standing in the middle of the two columns, was a little girl.
"Who are you?" she repeated. "What are you doing here?"
She was Integra. He had no doubt of it. But this was not the Integra he knew. Or even the one he met ten years ago. This one was younger. She looked no more than eight. Her face was fresh, with remnant traces of baby fat, and her blond hair was shoulder-length. On her face was a pair of round wire-rim glasses. He stopped in his step as she regarded him with big blue eyes.
"I'm just here to visit," he answered. She studied him a moment longer, then grinned broadly. At that age, she had not yet learned suspicion and cynicism.
"OK," she said brightly. "But you can't go any further." Raising one delicate little hand, she pointed at the doors behind her. "All of these doors are closed, and I have to stay with them."
He'd found it. Alucard smiled inwardly. "Why are they closed?" he asked. "Don't you want to open them so you can come out, too?"
She tilted her head. "I do," she said. "But I'm not supposed to."
"You don't want to be locked up here forever." He offered his hand. "Let me help."
At nine a.m., Walter rapped lightly on Integra's door. When no response came, he suddenly became very frightened. The Hellsing director hadn't overslept since she was fourteen years old. Had something unspeakable happened?
Worried, he pushed open the door and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw her on the bed, sleeping soundly. He stepped a bit closer to the bed, made sure she was breathing, then went to draw the drapes.
As sunlight hit her face, she rolled onto her side and groaned. Walter smiled. So she was human after all. All those late nights had finally caught up with her for once. He opened a window to let in some fresh air as Integra sat up, stretched, and rubbed her eyes.
"Good morning, Miss Integra."
She looked at him sleepily and yawned. Her hair fell over her face and instead of brushing it away, she blew it out of her eye. Walter blinked in surprise. It was a habit she'd dropped before she turned ten.
"Morning, Walter," she said, and smiled a bright, sunny smile that he hadn't seen in many years. For some reason, paranoia crept into the butler's heart again. In a split second he assumed the worst had happened as his mind worked wildly. Integra had been kidnapped and this was an imposter. Or someone's brainwashed her and…
He snapped back into focus. The young woman on the bed rested her arms around her knees. No, this was Integra. He couldn't know Integra better if she was his own daughter. But something felt strange. What was it?
"Yes, Miss Integra?"
"Did Daddy come home last night?"