Disclaimer: I don't own any of the Hellsing characters, places, etc.
Alucard went over in his head for the thousandth time what it was that kept Seras clinging to her humanity. For the un-life of him, he couldn't figure it out. He had offered her great gifts and she had accepted, and now to look over her shoulder when it was too late? It was childish nonsense.
Her tawny hair flashed in the moonlight, the strawberry blond tresses cropped short and fringing those guileless blue eyes. They were such a vivid color, almost angelic in her shy face with round cheeks. He watched her heft the Harkonen onto her shoulder without even thinking about its weight, and recalled those dazzling eyes peering over the restraining sleeve of that filthy Vampire whelp in Cheddar. He saw them in his mind behind her standard issue pistol and the soft tremors that had scampered up and down her arm as she beheld him for the first time.
They were so vividly clear in his mind, the only things apart from the drifting moon that stood out in his memories of that night. Watching her behind that pistol had triggered something in his chest, something he hadn't felt in a while.
"Do you want to come with me?" The terror had drained out of her and she'd accepted her death. So now this? This peculiar despair and desperate clawing for what she no longer was. It made frustratingly little sense to him.
The Harkonen struck its target and Alucard felt the explosion rattle through the ground. Seras looked well pleased with herself and lifted her chin proudly, until Pip indicated the flaming cardboard victims and terrorists burning indiscriminately. Pip doubled over in laughter and Seras seemed to flap about in uncertainty. Alucard smiled and phased into Walter's workroom, where the former Hellsing Trash Man developed various Hellsing weaponry.
The aging butler was poring over literature at the moment, the latest models of automatic weapons and firing mechanisms. He didn't even bother to look up from his work, instead turning the page and skimming through it until he placed his index finger at a good stopping point.
"I'm sorry Alucard, I haven't any new toys for you," he stated, but Alucard wasn't interested in the hunt right now. He gave the books a cursory glance and then fastened them on his longtime coworker and, at some level, friend.
"Why do you suppose she refuses to take blood?" he asked so blatantly that Walter had to shake his head and readjust his monocle.
"I'm sorry, I believe you were speaking about Miss Victoria, correct?" he asked to be certain he'd heard properly.
"She still refuses to accept what she's become," Alucard said with more growled frustration then he'd initially believed he possessed. "She was given the choice,"
"At gunpoint under terrible duress with only the fear of death being her alternative rationale, perhaps combined with a bit of vengeance," Walter answered smoothly, seemingly recovered from his initial surprise. Alucard tilted his head.
"Isn't the fear of death what generally prompts you humans into accepting Vampirism?" he asked.
"I suppose," Walter shrugged. "But do take into consideration she did not make the choice at her own leisure. It was rather a spur of the moment decision."
"Even so, there is no going back," Alucard snorted, rather offended that his gift should be one accepted without understanding it fully. The great Alucard did not offer immortality to just anyone. Even if at the time she had not understood the gravity of his offer, it should have made some sense to her now. "She had better learn to accept it and make herself worthy of being my fledgling," he stated irritably, feeling uncharacteristic frustration. Her terrified eyes flashed back into his mind, fear rippling through them like raindrops on a lake surface.
"That's hardly the way to get her to accept herself, Alucard," Walter chided. Alucard grinned crookedly.
"You always did make for the better parent," he smirked. "Why don't you make her understand then?"
"Don't shirk your responsibilities on me," Walter laughed. "I can raise a human girl into a fine Knight, if I do say so myself. But teaching a frightened girl how to let go of being a human and accept herself as the same creature that she hunts is very different. No, my old friend, I fear you will have to shoulder that burden alone."
"Some help you are," Alucard chuckled, and found him no further along in his solution then when he'd begun speaking to Walter. He phased out of the room and climbed through Integral's wall, aware that she had just finished with a phone call to the other Knights.
"Useless worms who've forgotten their spines," she grumbled to him, and Alucard reconsidered asking her about Seras. The thought of his fledgling made him briefly touch her mind and he found her trying to subdue her elation at Pip's present compliment on her marksmanship and still maintain her irritation for the quip about a great profile view. He left her to her happiness and returned to Integral.
"You always seem surprised at their consistent worthlessness," Alucard jibed, lifting up one of her paper weights as she selected a thin cigar. Absently he recalled how she had coughed until tears ran down her face the first time one of the other commanders had handed her a cigarette, and then the burning resolve to learn to smoke a cigar so the soldiers would stop laughing at her. He watched her eyes focus intensely on the match she used to light the cigar, how hawk-like they were in their precise attention and fathomless as they guarded her thoughts.
Well, guarded them from humans. He amused himself by reaching into her mind, where he found her wishing rather vividly to strangle Sir Penwood with the phone cord. There was a touch of sadistic pleasure at such stress relief. It never failed to amuse him how she unconsciously forgot to bring out her own figure in her imagined self. She had spent so much time emulating a man's strength and presence that even she had forgotten how much of a woman she was. The thought suddenly died like an ember, only the emotion glowering while she apologized with great effort to the imagined victim and to God.
Alucard suddenly found himself comparing his master to his fledgling. Of the two, Integral's eyes belonged on a Vampire more then Seras' belonged on her own face. Really, Integral would make a stunning dark Queen, those sharp cheeks and the silky threads of her white-blond hair. She held herself with such a deeply ingrained command and this subtle perfume of feminine beauty of which she was unconscious. She would be a cunning and brutal Vampire, a remorseless mistress of darkness.
"You seem unusually pensive," she said, the match dancing a reflection in her eyes. Alucard extracted himself from his thoughts and focused on a response.
"I was just admiring the woman you've forgotten you've become," he answered with a smile. She shot him a look of warning, but shirked the words like a bit of snow on her shoulders. Alucard felt Seras' body temperature sky rocket as Pip said something running amusingly parallel to what Alucard had just said, and the ensuing brainless words that flooded out of her mouth.
"While you were thinking such useless thoughts, I've been on the line with the other Knights. They're rather disconcerted over the latest edition to the Hellsing collection." Integral changed the subject and shot him a swift, piercing glare. How amusing that the subject he came to speak with her about should present itself without damaging his pride by himself mentioning it. "Her performance thus far has only proven her to be slightly more useful than a human and much more trouble to house. The Knights feel that the sum of her parts is not worth the extra expenditure and leap of faith, Alucard. What do you plan to do to prove them wrong?"
"She at least has boosted the men's morale," Alucard dodged the question, aware that Seras was sitting in a group of them cleaning the Harkonen as they cleaned their weapons. He felt a flash of delight as she laughed at a joke not aimed at her.
"Alucard, she's a dedicated soldier here but I need her to become much more valuable in order to persuade the other Knights not to order her execution," Integral brought him back to the point with the mental equivalent of pumping his skull full of silver bullets.
"Since when do you let the Knights order sir Integral Hellsing around?" he asked to mask his sudden flash of alarm. If he was given such an order, the most he could do was refuse it and be put back into slumber. Even if he did get Seras to drink his blood so she could escape, there was no way she would evade the Hellsing agency. On top of that the Vatican would simply love the chance to hunt down one of the Hellsing "pets."
"Hellsing is the sword arm of the Queen, and even if I argue and fight and persuade, her orders will come to a point when they are final. Seras Victoria needs to be properly trained post haste."
"So what would you do with such a timid soul?" Alucard asked with a smile that twisted his face in an ominous challenge.
"She's not a frightened green recruit fighting for God and country, Alucard," Integral answered, and her eyes landed on him coldly. "She is fighting for the validity of her existence. The moment you changed her, you took responsibility for her. I don't know if you've realized how much responsibility is yours in educating her."
"You assume I changed her on a whim?" Alucard demanded, incensed.
"I told you not to be selfish," she replied pitilessly. She laced her fingers and rested her chin on them. "Or is this anger that you find yourself unequipped to tutor her in an appropriate fashion?"
"You should worry more about your own weakness before the other Knights," Alucard replied with as much acidity as he had ever used towards her. He was already halfway through phasing from the room when she spoke again.
"It's your uncertainty that will kill her. Surely that must weigh on even your black soul." Her face was a dark mask befitting a Vampire Queen, Alucard thought in spite of his rage. He made no answer, afraid he would betray how deep a chord that had struck in him. He had waited hundreds of years to find one suitable to follow him and after giving that gift to even so challenging a one as Seras, he would never give her up.
"Police Girl," Alucard boomed. Seras jumped and the Harkonen crashed to the ground in a pile at her feet.
"M-master!" she greeted him. The startled mercenaries around her were just beginning to collect their wits after Alucard's sudden thundering introduction and the ensuing clatter of the heavy Harkonen. Tabis beside her put his feet back down on the floor after narrowly saving them from the long Harkonen barrel.
"Come with me," Alucard said curtly, suddenly becoming visible. He melted into the locker room and seemed to defy the harsh fluorescent lights. His coat gleamed like wet blood and the stray tendrils of hair fringed his soulless red glasses like dripping ink.
"Y-yes master!" she stammered, scrabbling to pull the Harkonen back together as quickly as she could.
"Now." Alucard barked. She fumbled another piece and heard it clatter noisily. A hand on her shoulder again caught her off guard and she whirled around. Her forehead brushed against the scruff on Pip's chin and she felt the heat radiating from him.
"I'll get eet," he said in his thick accent. He gave her a push up and she stumbled a few steps forward. She glanced back at them, and saw several shoo her off and one cross himself. She moved outside the barracks and glanced around under the moonlight for her master.
"Go to your room, Police Girl," his voice grated inside of her skull almost painfully.
"What's wrong master? Have I done something to anger you?" she asked aloud, still uncomfortable simply thinking at him.
"I will tolerate this no more," he answered sharply. "This foolishness will stop. You're not some mere human any longer."
"W-what do you mean?" she squeaked, her throat constricting and prickles rising along her flesh. She had a growing sense of unease coiling in her guts like a boa constrictor.
"Address me in the same manner I address you, Police Girl!" he boomed so loud she jumped and her legs stumbled to a halt. He had never shouted at her before, never used a tone with her that conjured real fear. She swallowed the lump in her throat and realized that Alucard and Integral must have had a terrible fight. She focused and cleared her throat.
"Wha-" she started, and then stopped herself. With some effort she emptied her mind and reached out beyond her skull in a manner she had felt him do a number of times. She felt blindly, floundering as she hunted for his mind. She felt something familiar and latched onto it.
"Master?" she asked timidly, and felt no small degree of shock. She felt a back go ramrod straight and then saw a pair of gloved hands splayed in dismay over books. She blinked and fumbled a bit, and settled herself a bit deeper in the thoughts. There were pictures welling in her mind suddenly, flashes of light on metal, the pencil smears on his fingertips and the old designs, the different ways to effectively kill vampires and monsters, and…Integral's tea? "Walter?"
"Miss Victoria?" Watler asked, and his voice seemed to hum through her lungs.
"O-oh. Sorry Walter. Wrong um…wrong mind…" she gave him a bit of a nervous chuckle and tried to untangle herself. She caught an unwarranted memory of a woman's dark hair streaming through fingers and a sharp tooth on the right side of her mouth. "S-sorry!" she exclaimed, scrabbling to get out and finally breaking free. She drifted for a moment of confused vertigo and felt her body collapse somewhere, the distant jolting of her own spine and the uncouth introduction of the ground to her backside. "Master?" she called out.
There it was. The cold and dark mind that rooted through hers from time to time reached out and took hold of her. She breathed a sigh of relief, trying to orient herself. She couldn't see anything, and was only vaguely aware of her other physical senses. There was the overwhelming aura like a dank blanket draped over her shoulders of Alucard, a quintessential essence of grave dirt and stolen blood.
"Master, what's wrong?" she asked him, grasping at the formless essence, terrified of unraveling and losing herself. She felt dangled thousands of feet in the air, the only sensation that of tingling pinprick feeling all over her body, the same as when she sat on her legs too long. "Why are you upset?"
"Your foolishness to this point has already caused enough trouble," he answered mercilessly. Seras shied away from his presence as if burned, but he seemed to wrap talons about her and imprison her. In a way, it was comforting to have defined boundaries. "If you wish to fulfill your role here in the Hellsing Organization, you should take this more seriously. You do realize that your weakness has let others down before?" he added as an extra poison bite. Seras flinched again and felt a swell of memories flood her. "You're no human. Accept it."
She recalled with vivid clarity so many faces of people who had died. She knew every detail of her human police Lieutenant's face, the crinkles around his eyes when he smiled and invited her to share Christmas dinner with he and his family. She recalled clashing on her first day as a police woman with the man who became her closest friend. The first Hellsing officer to smile at her, the first one to compliment her, the first one to slide over and offer her a seat beside him, the one with dimples, the guard who slouched so badly on guard duty and yet had the best walking posture she'd ever seen, the one that wanted to take his girlfriend dancing that fateful night…
If I had been stronger…she thought miserably, feeling Alucard's words more painfully then the bayonet Father Anderson had thrust through her neck. Maybe they could have gone on then…
"The past is over and done," Alucard cut through the increasing whirlpool of memories. "You choose now if you will let others die."
"I don't want them to die!" She felt her body shake its head, somewhere below. "I don't want any of them to die!"
"Then you're going to have to do what I tell you."
"Please master! I'll do anything to keep them from dying! Anything!" she promised, feeling him wrap her up tighter in whatever hold he had. She clung to it, drawing solace for the first time in months. She felt safe, lost somewhere formless and contained all at once.
"You're going to have to forget this human nonsense," Alucard said almost gently. Seras snuggled deeper into him as he would not have physically allowed her.
"I want to do as you say master…but…" she hesitated.
"There is no reason to hesitate, Police Girl." He chided. "Don't you understand what it is that I have given you?"
"I don't know if I understand …I want to make you proud, and I want to serve Hellsing well, but…but…" How did she explain to Alucard, the king of Vampires, that she was afraid? Would he even understand that it was losing herself that scared her even more then the prospect of needing to take blood?
"Those are ridiculous human thoughts," Alucard responded as she had feared he would. He suddenly became a very cold entity around her, like frozen winter. The comfort and security faded away, replaced by saddened despair and determination to prolong the last bits of her humanity. Who was to say she wouldn't become as twisted as her great and powerful master?
"You wouldn't understand, master," she informed him, and wriggled loose of him. She sensed his surprise at her sudden withdrawal and she groped blindly for a way to get back to her own body.
Those were big, dew-drop tears in her eyes. Pip squatted down on his haunches next to Seras' frozen form, her face upturned towards the moon. He put a hand carefully on her shoulder to try and wake her from her trance, but while her eyes were as dazzlingly cerulean and clear as ever, they could have been frosted by cataracts for all they could see.
"Poor girl," Pip sighed, thinking she looked rather striking with the moon hanging like a sickle in her eyes. He was suddenly compelled to touch her soft skin, and so eased his fingers beneath her chin. She was baby-smooth to the touch. "Just a kid," he tisked.
Seras suddenly gasped and a spasm went through her body. Pip was startled by her sudden revival and tried to pull his hand back, but her head followed and found its way into his chest with a rather forceful thump. He wheezed a bit, and then realized that while she sat on her hands and knees, her forehead was still leaning against him. He caught his breath and waited for her next move.
"Pip…" she said softly, her voice shaking. Slowly her head lifted and she looked up at him. Her eyes were near to overflowing with tears, eyebrows drawn together. "Is it so terrible to want to stay me?" she asked him, and the mercenary felt the muscles in his back wind tighter. Cautiously, he put a hand on the back of her neck and pulled her face into his shoulder.
"Non, chere," he answered, and put his head down on her hair. He slipped his fingers through the tawny strands and felt her shoulders tremble and the first teardrops land in warm spots on his knee. Her muscles tightened suddenly and he heard her fingers crunch in fists across the gravel, and then she swiped tears from her face. Pip let her pull back from him and stand up, a hard set in the line of her mouth and her tear strung lashes gleaming around her determined eyes.
"I'm going to the firing range," she stated, and set out at a determined pace without looking back. Pip crossed his legs and watched her go, contemplating the swing of her shoulders and the white shine of moonlight on her hair. It really was too cruel sometimes the pressure heaped on her small shoulders. Even though she was a Vampire, Pip usually felt compelled to protect her. There was something about the way her eyes fixed on him for direction and guidance as her commanding officer, and the implicit trust she had in him. She was too innocent for the life that had she had been reassigned.
"You're very 'arsh, do you know zis?" Pip asked, aware that Alucard was standing behind him on the gravel path. It wasn't so much that Pip had heard his boots crunch, but the distinct aura that accompanied the No-Life King.
"The sooner she learns to accept things, the better it will be for her," Alucard replied remorselessly. "Such a pitiful display of weakness."
"You really 'ave no clue about women," Pip laughed, and shrugged his shoulders. He stood up and brushed gravel from his coat. "None of you 'Ellsing brutes know ze first sing, not even ze lovely Sir 'Ellsing. Ah, such eez ze tragedy of ze English." Pip patted his pockets down and found his cigarettes. He took his time lighting it up, sensing Alucard's interest pique and wanting to make him suffer for his treatment of Seras. When he'd taken a pull he finally looked back at Alucard, whose red glasses gleamed unnaturally bright in the darkness. "Your little Police Girl, she eez a woman, yes?"
"Hardly," Alucard smirked, one fang gleaming in the moonlight. Pip shrugged his shoulder and blew out smoke like a dragon. He smiled.
"Talk to 'er, don't command 'er,"
"I was talking to her," Alucard snorted.
"Eef zat was talking to her," Pip pointed after Seras. "I would 'ate to sink what commanding 'er would look like." He gave Alucard a rather dark smile. "Be careful wiz zat one. She eez deep loyalty, a good girl. 'Erz are ze type zat will shatter after trying so 'ard. Talk, Vampire. You must talk wiz women." Pip took another pull of his cigarette and felt that was everything he could say. Lecturing Alucard would do nothing but confuse him. It was apparent that this was the first person Alucard had wanted to take care of in a long time.
"A fascinating bit of advice," Alucard said, physically no longer present. While he sounded amused, Pip hoped he was seriously taking to heart what had been said. For Seras' sake if nothing else.
"Eef you're not careful, I'll steal 'er for myself," Pip warned jovially. "She'd look better on my arm anyway!" he added, laughing. Goosebumps prickled up his spine at the thought of Seras' shy fingers settled in the crook of his arm, maybe her head on his shoulder, trailing his fingers down to –
"That's enough, mercenary." Alucard warned him with a great deal of amusement. "After all, what fun is it to tease her if she's not here to blush at you?" his laughter echoed in Pip's head, and the mercenary laughed too.
"Ah, what a place zis 'Ellsing eez," he shook his head. He wanted to follow after Seras, but decided against it as his stomach growled. There was also the added threat of Alucard not wanting witnesses at a potentially warm moment between he and his fledgling. "I sink today is 'ot dog day…" he distracted himself.
Alucard watched Seras' shot improve a bit over the course of an hour. He was a patient creature, but a slight twinge of uncertainty kept him hovering in the shadows. She was unaware of his presence, and her mood had evened out a bit after she'd gotten used to the pattern of fire, reload, and fire. Shells littered the ground at her feet, winking like frozen embers.
It had been a strange thing to hang on to her mind and feel it cling to him so tightly, frightened at being beyond the limits of her body so fully for the first time. She had been unusually delicate, even for her. He had been afraid to break her. The ensuing abrupt departure as he'd tried to be gentle in explaining to her that she needed to let it go had disconcerted him further. Wasn't what he said true? Didn't she understand that it was impossible to be what she had been? Didn't she understand that it was dangerous for her to continue in this vein?
"Police Girl," he said, determined to get his point across this time. He made himself known as she finished another cartridge. She didn't turn immediately, but finished reloading and put the gun down by her side. The harsh white fluorescent lights streamed down on her and made her tawny hair and pale skin look off-tone and sick. She turned slowly with a calm expression and looked at him. Alucard kept his face schooled into its usual indifference, not certain what her aloofness meant. She studied him with a calm intensity, and then her eyebrows came together and she gave him a timid smile.
"I'm sorry, master. Sometimes I can be so childish," she reached up with a nervous hand and mussed her hair, self conscious of his unwavering gaze. "I don't mean to be a bother…I'm just…"
"Frightened?" he provided the word and took long, smooth strides towards her.
"Yes," she answered, her smile falling and her hand dropping to her side. Her eyes studied the cold pavement beneath their boots as he came to stand beside her, studying the target she'd been decimating. Her shots were more precise these days.
"I have given you eternity," he told her, and neither of them looked at the other. "And yet you still fear?"
"It's silly. I'm being foolish," she admitted with a miserable little smile on her face.
"You're afraid of not being the same girl I decided to change," Alucard said, reaching back into his memory of their last confrontation. A little blush leaped into her cheeks as Alucard pulled out the Casull, the long silver barrel gleaming cruelly. He aimed, and blew the head of the target off.
"Y-yes," she nodded. "Master…I'm so sorry, but I've lost so much…I-I couldn't bear to lose myself too," she confessed in a stammering rush. Her eyes were fixed so intensely on the ground and the muscles in her forearms stood out as she clenched the hand gun. Alucard heard the metal crunch, although Seras seemed still oblivious. He pondered how to explain it to her.
"Just as you are no longer a child, you will no longer be a human," he gave it an initial try. Seras looked at him, puzzled. "And as you now attain a new level of being, just as you grew from girl to woman, you are not required to give up the essence of yourself," he tried to clarify. "Being a Vampire does not mean that you cannot be Seras. Only your needs have changed, not your soul and desires."
"You mean…?" Seras frowned, almost afraid to hope she understood.
"I didn't change you for what you'd be," Alucard supplied as bluntly as he would allow himself. In truth, he had not changed her because he was thinking ahead, but because her eyes had been so beguilingly innocent and so perfect. It seemed a sin to close them forever before they had learned anything about the world. And a greedy, selfish part of him – essentially all of him – had been curious to see the world again through eyes yet jaded.
Seras seemed to understand and a warm smile spread across her face. Her eyes settled somewhere on his chest, not quite bold enough to look him in the eye and express her great joy at his answer. He felt moderately uncomfortable with her looking so affectionately at him, and to dispel that he blew a hole through the target's heart.
"Master…" Seras said, lifting her eyes finally. "Is it okay…to not be completely ready yet? I want to make you proud, but…"
He warred a moment with that sense of urgency and the impending decision of the Knights, but glanced once more at her face turned to him with radiant trust and even some affection. He felt an odd sense of vertigo.
"Alucard! Seras!" Came Integral's voice on the overhead speaker. "Be prepared to move out. We have a freak to deal with." She barked her orders and Alucard promptly felt the moment vanish.
"We'll continue this later," Alucard growled ominously, frustrated that he should be disrupted so rudely. Seras had jumped, and wiped the surprised expression from her face to nod.
"Yes m-!" she stopped herself and took two seconds to readjust her speech path. "Yes, Master!" she addressed him properly. He gave her a crooked smile. She could be coaxed into learning other arts, and he felt necessity would prompt her to take blood as she grew more accustomed to the Vampire ways. It was by no means over, but they had reached a shaky plateau. From here they could begin building the foundation, to Hell with the Knights and anyone else that interfered. He had taken hundreds of years to find a fledgling, and she would not be taken from him.
"I wonder whose fangs are in whose heart?" he mused idly, phasing out of the room.
"What master?" Seras asked, and Alucard stumbled slightly in surprise as he made his entrance into Integral's office.
"It's not important, Police Girl," he replied. So, she was already good enough to hear his unguarded thoughts? How intriguing.
"I trust you've made progress then?" Integral asked. Alucard looked at her and realized he was grinning.
"Did you expect otherwise?" he asked haughtily. Integral smirked.
"I'm still waiting to lay my bets on which of you will ultimately be victorious," she responded. Alucard laughed, although he secretly felt himself wondering the same thing.