-1"In the Pale Moonlight"
Integra Hellsing was having the worst day of her life. Well, on second thought, not perhaps the worst day of her life for the fifteen year old girl, that distinction going to the day that she was cornered by two hungry vampires in an alleyway, Still today did rank up there with the worst days that she had lived through.
The leader of Hellsing sighed and sitting on a stone bench on the grounds of the Hellsing mansion, looked down in the small pond at her feet. The moonlight from above gave the water a sparkling quality, providing a little natural magic to the normal glassy surface. It was mid- autumn and the weather was slightly chill so she drew her ice-blue satin wrap more tightly around her. The covering matched her formal gown under it. She was dressed to the nines. So why did she feel so bloody awful? Or why, she realized, swallowing a large lump that had formed in her throat, did tonight have to turn out so terrible?
Since the death of her uncle, Richard in the basement below the Hellsing mansion, barely into her teens, Integra had been educated at home, her journey everyday back and forth to school considered too big of a security risk for the Hellsing organization to undertake. And so, though she had excelled in her studies and was now undertaking university level work, she was mostly sheltered from her peers and a normal teenage social life. Well, except for Helen. Her closest friend since her early school life, Helen served as Integra's link to the normal teenage world outside the gates of the Hellsing mansion. It was the young girl then, who, even since seven, had always jostled her way through Hellsing security, demanding that she be allowed to visit her friend, Integra, each and every day. Helen didn't care that Integra was the leader of the organization. She was much more interested in talking about the new novels that everyone was reading. Or the new fashions for Fall. And though Helen was a bit overexcite able at times, Integra found that she looked forward to making place in her busy schedule to have lunch with her friend.
Though now Integra was trying to hold back from crying at the moment, her mouth formed a ghost of a smile as she remembered Helen's fun, out-going personality, her singular style. And so, it was Helen who talked Integra into getting involved in the church youth group. And in becoming one of the group's main chairs and sponsors of various volunteer activities. The organization was filled with the richer and more aristocratic young people in London. In the group, Integra could socialize and enjoy the company of her peers while doing charity for those in need. And so the young Hellsing leader had found fun and friends in her time there. But not tonight. No, definitely not tonight.
The highlight of the youth group's calendar was an autumn fundraising fest, centered around a social event, a ball. And so, Integra being one of the chairs, was asked to show a presence there. Which she did. Before the ball, however, her co-chair, a one William Daniels IV and heir to a large financial empire, had seemingly made it clear to Integra that he intended to have her as his date for the evening. But young men, it seemed to the young teen were harder to read than ghouls. A queasy feeling, not unlike that which she felt when confronting the undead, surfaced in her gut, as Integra remembered how earlier this evening William had entered the date with another young woman from the youth organization on his arm. Integra was left alone. And dateless. Though the Hellsing leader did not leave the event, thus shirking her duties, she felt embarrassed, upset and then, angry, oh, so very angry as she watched the other young women whisper about her in hushed tones as she passed them on the floor. Damn him. Damn him to Hell, she thought then as she did now.
Helen had tried to lift Integra's spirits by sitting next to her all evening, telling jokes and making fun of the young Mr. Daniels, but Helen had a date and so, could not understand the young Hellsing leader's humiliation at being the only single person at the couples' event. Relying on her training, Integra put on a brave face and pretended nothing that she heard around her bothered her. But, even as she carried out all of her chairwomen duties and looked 'utterly spectacular' as Helen's companion told her, the night and the experience had left Integra feeling angry at herself that she had let someone so insignificant as a human boy con and manipulate her. Alucard, the most powerful vampire in the Hellsing organization and the servant of the leader of Hellsing, always tried to do that. But, Integra knew the vampire's tricks and could, on good days, avoid his traps. Why then had she fallen for a human boy's?
Perhaps her naiveté was born out of a desire to do something a normal teenager would want to do, attend a ball. Her trusted butler, Walter, who seemed like a second father to her, had encouraged her attendance at the ball as well. What would he think about Daniels behavior tonight? Integra knew Walter would most definitely take her side but she did not want to go back to the mansion and tell him about her evening until her anger had abated. Integra was afraid she'd do something that would show a lack of control, a lack of discipline. Like screaming and raging and putting her bloody fist through the wall. That's how terribly bad she felt at the moment. Or crying. No, even though Walter was her most trusted human employee, she could not show her true emotions even to him. He worked for the Hellsing organization and because of that, she was his leader. No, there was no one Integra could truly talk to about her feelings, her emotions and so she decided to sit on the bench outside, on the mansion's grounds, amid its lush gardens, until she was more herself.
The silvery voice floated along the slight autumn breeze, chilling the young leader further. The powerful vampire bled out of the darkness, standing beside the seated young girl. Alucard was just what she didn't need at the moment and her annoyance showed plainly on her face when she met the monster's enigmatic gaze.
"Not now, Servant. I am busy."
Integra waved a dismissive hand at the vampire but he stood there, like a player casting a wary gaze on his opponent, sizing him up just before a confrontation. Standing tall. Still. Nearly silent.
"You do not look, busy, my Master. You look beautiful." Alucard's intense gazed moved quickly, up and down her form. The vampire's gaze was intense and unsettling but Integra knew a challenge when she saw it and so, did not look away from his eyes.
"The color suits you well," he continued when she did not respond. "Mina…once wore a gown that very shade of blue. We danced on her balcony even as the vampire hunters looked for us below. It was a wonderful night, an exciting night. I do remember it well. But above all, I remember the color, the color of her gown." Integra felt Alucard's gaze move off of her as he looked out, over the pond, into the distant trees. He smiled then, as if recalling the night he had mentioned and, in the moonlight, he faced seemed, just for a moment, more vulnerable, more…human. Then, Alucard turned back to regard Integra and suddenly, as quickly as it had left, a hard cast came back over his features once again.
"Perhaps you should tell me what happened tonight, my Master?" The vampire moved swiftly to take a seat next to Integra on the bench. The Hellsing leader found herself moving just as speedily away from him, putting a comfortable space between them. Alucard unnerved her, made her shaky, off balance, unsure of herself. Actually, Integra wished that the vampire had caused her to feel more fear. Anything instead of what she was experiencing now.
"You are the last person I would rather talk with about this," Integra said, her tone angrier than she felt. She turned on the bench, toward the monster, "You are not human. Therefore, you would not even begin to understand what I am feeling at the moment."
The vampire looked down at her hands, dark to his pale ones in the dim light, that she had placed bench between them. "I was human once," he said, his voice low.
"But you are not human any longer," Integra reminded him sternly.
"No, my Master. I am not. And have not been for many centuries. I do not regret the loss of my humanity. Truly I do not. But, I am a good listener. And tonight, it is that you need to have at this moment."
"I do not think I would like to tell you my troubles."
If not me, Master, then, who? Who can you talk with within the walls of the Hellsing mansion who will not gossip, will not tell others of your troubles? I am and always have been, apart, separate from the social circle inside mansion life. Few humans talk to me, and none, talk of the mundane things of everyday occurrences. Therefore, my Master, you know that anything you say to me will be held in utmost confidence. Not told again to anyone. I am the perfect one to tell your difficulties to." Alucard smiled slightly and Integra was reminded of a painting she had seen of Lucifer tempting Eve. He had worn a similar smile. But the vampire's seemed more sure of himself now than the Devil had been then.
"You mean to confess to, Servant?" Integra once more found the strength to meet the powerful vampire's deep, dark eyes.
"Confess, confide in. Unburden yourself to, my Master. Perhaps, if you tell me of the night, it will help to release the anger, the frustration that is inside of you."
A silence hung between the young girl and her immortal servant. Integra thought about what Alucard had said. He was correct in a way. Nothing she told him would be repeated beyond this night. No servants spoke with him unless it was business. They all treated him as the monster in the cellar. As he was. As he was always destined to be.
But Integra had lived through a most horrible night and partly, because she felt she needed someone, anyone to talk to at this moment, told Alucard of her evening in one, brief rush.
"The boy was stupid to have behaved so utterly callous," the vampire said when Integra finished. She was breathing heavily and tired with emotions that had been pent up all night. "But then," Alucard said, lightly, "what else can you expect from a mere human? You should have made me your escort for the evening. I would have never left your side the entire night."
"I am certain of it," Integra said, turning her gaze on the small pond, "but I wanted a night where I could feel as if I was just another…teenage girl. Taking you to the ball would have reminded me of who I am. All that I am responsible for."
"And is that so bad, my Master? Remembering that you are the rightful leader of the Hellsing organization."
"No," Integra sighed, the ever present gun in the shoulder holster under her gown feeling more like a anchor than a comfort, "but, Alucard, I do want to meet people…young men who are my age. I will need to marry someday to carry on the Hellsing name. To ensure that someone of the Hellsing family will be the next leader of the organization when I am gone."
Gently, the vampire reached down and took his master's hand in his. The night was cool and Integra found that his skin was not much cooler than hers.
"You could accomplish the same goal through your choosing immortality." Alucard's voice dropped to a whisper. Soothing, soft, seductive.
"I am not going into that discussion again, with you, here, tonight." Integra's voice was hard, cold, brittle. However, after such a difficult night, it felt comforting to hold someone's hand, even if it was the hand of a vampire. And so, the young girl did not pull away from Alucard's grasp.
"All right, my Master, if that is what you wish." Integra's body went rigid at the vampire's immediate agreement. She was at once, alert, aware. Alucard usually never let the topic drop so easily.
The Hellsing leader turned once again to her servant, looking at him again hard. Her face softened as she mentally considered what she would do about tonight's extreme faux pas.
"After tonight, what has happened, I do think I will resign my membership from the group. I will not give them the satisfaction of having all of them laugh at what happened to me tonight for an entire bloody year."
Alucard looked at their linked hands thoughtfully. "I do beg to disagree with you, my Master."
"I find that I do not need you to either agree or disagree with me, Servant. My mind is made up. My choice is final. I do not need them. And they, they, obviously, do not need me."
"Perhaps," the vampire agreed, "though you were never one to shy away from a fight."
"This is different," Integra insisted, "this is about human society. And the unwritten rules that govern it."
"Again, I beg to differ, my Master. The boy struck out with some blows. And now, he expects you to give up, to retreat. Which seems like what you are doing at this moment."
"And what do you propose that I do, Alucard?"
"Ignore what happened tonight, my Master. Go back to the youth group. Carry on doing your work. Pretend as if nothing out of the ordinary happened tonight. As if you expected him to arrive with a date."
"And what about the talk, the gossip? How am I to respond to that?"
"Do not, my Master," the vampire instructed the young Hellsing master, "Merely, continue doing your charity works and soon, they will all forget what happened to you tonight. Rather, they will see that you as the strong-willed person that you are. And admire you. And follow you. If you choose to quit now, you are showing that boy defeat. And he will have won. And that is not what you want to happen."
"All right, Alucard," Integra shook her head in agreement., "you are correct. I will not quit the youth group." Telling Alucard her troubles out here, in the night air, had cleared her senses. The vampire was right. She should not surrender to those petty games. The work of the youth organization was more important than being stood up at one ball. And besides, next time, with the next ball, she would be prepared. And arrive with an escort.
Integra pulled impatiently at her hand still in the vampire's strong grip as she started to rise from the bench.
"I need to retire now. Tomorrow, I will have to awaken early." The Hellsing leader hated meetings that began before nine in the morning. The way she felt tonight, it would almost be worth being turned into a vampire so as not be expected to be in attendance at the meeting. Almost.
"Of course, my Master." Alucard immediately released her hand and quickly stood as well. "Before you leave, I have one request."
"And that is, Servant?"
"To share a dance with me."
"Here? Now, Alucard?" Integra was disarmed. The young teen had expected the vampire to ask for something, anything. Anything except a single dance. She looked down at her finery. The dress was slightly wrinkled, the baby's breath adorning her hair a tad askew. Her shoes were a bit muddy from the soft ground. Really, it was folly for the vampire to ask this of her. But, Alucard was persistent and Integra knew that if she did not grant him this, he might ask, for something more complicated.
"Yes, my Master, one dance."
With a sigh, Integra walked toward the vampire. The Hellsing leader almost never wore heeled dress shoes and so, the unfamiliar footwear made her steps unsteady. She stopped walking for a moment and looked down at her feet.
"Damn," she cursed to no on in particular, "I can not even dress like a normal woman for just one evening."
"There is more to being a woman than just know how to walk in heeled shoes."
Integra looked up and met the vampire's eyes. He smiled wider. A hint of teeth glinted at the corners of his mouth in the dim light. Waiting. Anticipatory. Almost…hungry.
Had Alucard fed tonight, the Hellsing leader thought gazing at her servant? The vampire was good at hiding his needs most of the time but this small slip of his human mask made the teen shudder and rethink his request for a dance. Even if he had been a good companion tonight, there was no way Integra was going to let Alucard taste her blood. No way at all.
With renewed purpose, Integra continued walking toward her servant until she found herself directly in front of him. She held out her hands and quickly, so very inhumanly quick, was pulled, was snatched, further, closer, into the vampire's embrace. One of Alucard's large hands clasped hers as the other went to her waist. The wind blew past them and she trembled but was unsure if it was from the cold night air or his hands near intimate spaces on her body.
Pulling his master even closer to him, the vampire looked down at her.
"This is ridiculous, Alucard," Integra said, looking away from him. "we do not even have music."
"Nothing can't be accomplished without a little vampire magic," he whispered, and then, softly at first, then, louder she heard it. A waltz. A beautiful, majestic waltz.
"Dance with me, my Master," Alucard said.
And then, they did.
And after they had finished, Integra had to admit that it had been fun. The vampire was a wonderfully smooth dancer and his movements around the garden with his master were graceful as he moved with purpose. Yes, the vampire danced as he fought. All strength and beauty and grace. It was amazing to behold. And even more enjoyable to dance with him. Together, Integra and her servant moved in large, even circles around the garden, near the stone bench. They danced and danced. And Integra smiled, then, laughed, wishing that this moment, just this moment, could go on forever. But it couldn't. And so the dancing ended. As quickly as the music came, it faded. And then, totally disappeared.
In the silence of the autumn night, Integra stood in her servant's arms. And smiled.
"Thank you for this dance, Alucard. Though I was hesitant at first, I find that I really enjoyed it."
The vampire inclined his head toward her. "As I did as well, my Master."
"Now, Alucard, it is very late." Integra moved her hand to look at her dress watch. "I really now have to leave."
"Then, I bid you a good night," the vampire whispered, taking her hand and kissing it after bringing it to his lips. Alucard leaned over toward Integra and he was so tall that he loomed over her, large, imposing. Integra's pulse sped up as the vampire's mouth moved toward hers. He would kiss her now, she was sure of it. But, Alucard's mouth lingered, hovered momentarily over hers. He bent forward and automatically, as Integra moved her head, placed a gentle kiss over the pulse in her throat.
The kiss was soft, light, a feather touch brush of lips on skin. The sensation made Integra sigh and she briefly allowed her eyes to close.
"Dream of me tonight," she heard his voice whisper near her ear.
"I…" Integra started to say. Quickly, she opened her eyes and watched as Alucard reverently stepped back from her and bled slowly, back into the darkness.
The Hellsing leader moved her hands, feeling that she was holding something lightweight in one of them. Integra held out her hand in the moonlight and opened her fist to find a delicate white rose. He had stolen it from Hellsing's gardens, the rose still possessing a few thorns in the stem. Integra moved her fingers to carefully pinch off the small, pointed thorns but one was very sharp and cut her skin. Transfixed, she watched as the blood began to pool and drip out, over her skin. From far away, Integra thought she heard a small sound. Like a small laugh. Or a sigh.
Slowly, with increasing tiredness warring with other emotions the young leader did not wish to name, she made her way back to the Hellsing mansion. In the darkness, Integra walked and cursed once, loudly, harshly, after tripping on her gown. Guns and war and zombies she understood. Balls and dating were so much more complicated.