AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story won't be a long as some of the others. It's focused on the first few days that Alucard and Integra came into each other's company and how they got to know each other in the dungeon.
Enjoy & Review!
THE CAGED BEAST
When the gun went off, she didn't hear it.
When the body hit the floor, she didn't see it.
There was sweat in her eyes and her hear was pounding so loudly that the rest of the world was entirely drowned out. Her body trembled from the adrenaline and she could smell blood, blood, and more blood. Something was rattling. The gun in her hand. She gripped it tighter, tight enough for her little knuckles to turn white.
Then the support under her wrist was gone, and her hands fell like a ton of bricks. The gun's barrel met the stone floor with a loud "clack".
"You can let go now," said a voice she didn't recognize. She blinked, then wiped the sweat out of her eyes with one hand and quickly gripped the gun again. The vampire kneeing in front of her let out an amused chuckle. His hair, almost as long as her entire body and white as a bone picked clean, tickled her leg. She quickly pulled it under her and aimed the gun at his forehead.
He didn't move. She wasn't sure why she did that. After all, he just saved her life. But instinct and her father's words had long taught her not to trust vampires, and she intended to follow them.
"Are you going to shoot me?" he asked.
She swallowed thickly. "Maybe."
"You are quite unobservant." He motioned at the pile of bodies on the floor, but she did not take her eyes off him. "Did you not see those men waste their bullets?"
She said nothing. She had noticed, and of course guns were ineffective against vampires. She knew that. It was pride that made her do it. At the moment, she was completely at the creature's mercy, and she liked to think she had a fighting chance, just in case he was saving her for last. He had a look in his eyes, the way a cat would look at a wounded bird.
Not fazed in the least by her fighting intent, he stood and rose to his full height. The light pouring from the dungeon doors allowed her a good look at him. He was very tall, easily over six feet, and very thin. His body was beyond gaunt, as was his face, which was sunken and bore a gray hue. His hand hung the entire length of his torso, almost to his knees. His arms and legs were long and graceful. Every inch of his skin save for his face was bound by an oddly designed leather strait suit, broken straps hung here and there.
He had been left down here, at least for her entire lifetime. The leather looked beyond old. It was decrepit. By all definition, he should be dead, which he apparently was until a moment ago. The stinging wound on her reminded her how he came to be – the taste of her blood.
Had it been Richard's blood, would he have followed her uncle? She didn't want to think about the consequences of that turn of events.
He looked at her with his sunken red eyes. Eyes of the undead. She shuddered. The barrel of the gun lowered slowly until it hit the floor again. She wanted to ask him some questions, but it was pretty hard to decide which one to start with. Seeing her hesitation, the vampire ran a hand through his long hair and turned away.
"Have you ever seen a real vampire feed?" he asked, stepped to the nearest body.
She shook her head. His back was turned, but she knew he somehow saw.
"Then you may not want to stay for this."
Shakily, she stood, one hand on the wall for support. Her knees chattered weakly. It was difficult to walk, but she somehow managed to get to the stairs, where she gripped the railings and climbed the steps one at a time. Behind her, she heard the wet echo of fangs sinking into soft flesh. She didn't want to turn around.
"Alucard," she muttered to herself. Such a unique name. Until now, she never thought vampires could have names, it was always something that died along with their humanity.
The dungeon door was heavy, but she closed it behind her.
When she reached the ground floor, reality hit her like an arrow to the gut and she nearly collapsed on the drawing room floor.
Everyone was gone. Her father was dead, his body in the ground. Walter, as well as most of the household staff, were gone, sent away by her uncle. The only people left had been her uncle and his thugs, all of whom were now food for the vampire, which her father had apparently left in the dungeons.
Hellsing's secret weapon, that's what he had said. Should she find herself in trouble, she should go to the dungeons.
The house had never looked so big as it did now, and silence had never seemed so loud. She dragged herself to the nearest sofa and sat down in it, unsure of what to do next. There was no way to contact Walter. She didn't even know where he was. He won't be back for another five days at least. Her uncle had given himself plenty of time to get rid of her. Walter didn't even know his master had passed on. She was sure Richard didn't contact the butler so he could rush back to her defense.
She was the new family head. That fact carried enormous weight. Her body was numb. There were just too many questions. What should she do? Who should she contact? What was going to happen next?
What happens when the vampire in the basement emerges?
That one bothered her the most. That thing was going to be inside her house, alone with her. Night was falling outside. The red light of dusk veiled the room with a bloody red. Alone in the night with a vampire. He was bound to finish feeding soon. What could she do once he realizes she was the only one in the house with no help or witnesses?
She sat in the sofa and waited. Ten minutes. Then twenty. Then an hour. The vampire did not appear. Another hour passed. She turned on a lamp and sat in its light. It did not make her feel any safer.
Finally, she stood up and exited the drawing room, turning on every light she could find along the way. The vampire was nowhere to be seen. She even peeked nervously down to the dungeon. The door was still shut. Whatever it was the vampire was doing, he has not emerged from his prison.
Integra did the only thing that made sense. She made herself dinner. Toast and fried eggs. At least there was plenty of food in the house. She wouldn't die on an empty stomach. She ate in the kitchen, not wanting to sit at the large dining table alone. Until this moment, she hadn't realized she was starving.
After dinner, the vampire still did not emerge. Images of the creature covered in the blood of her uncle and his men entered her mind. One of them had lost half his head right in front of her eyes. It was too much. Too much for a child. She tried to block it out. It wasn't as easy as novels and soap operas made it look.
Time crawled by in the empty house. The grandfather clock her father always hated ticked away in the corner of the library. When Integra was five years old, he once lifted her up and let her draw on the cuckoo bird with a green marker when it popped out on the hour. A sob threatened to escape. She suppressed it. There was no one around, but she still refused to cry. She was tired. So very tired.
Not wanting to climb the stairs to her bedroom alone, she found an old blanket in a hall closet and laid down on the drawing room couch. She left the lights on and tried to doze, but her eyes wouldn't close. Every time sleep drew near, she would hear some phantom noise that brought paranoia. Midnight came and went, and she was still awake, dark circles underneath her blue eyes.
Finally, she sat up again. Her brain was buzzing from exhaustion, but she knew she would not be able to sleep. Not right now. Gathering up the blanket in her arms, she got off the couch and sought a different course of action.
She walked around the house, mindlessly wandering. The library, the dining room, her father's office, now hers, the meeting room where the chairs seemed enormous. Some time later, she found herself at the door leading to the dungeons once more.
There was a symbol drawn on the door, a round insignia whose outer line would break when the door was opened. It must have kept the vampire inside all this time, sealing it away. How long exactly had it been down here? Years? Decades? Centuries even? She was pretty sure this house wasn't that old, but then again, there was a lot she didn't know.
She laid a hand on the door, and hesitated. She wasn't sure what she was doing down here. Why come here again? The vampire may not even be inside. It may have gotten loose and was either roaming the house or has fled, leaving her completely alone. That would be fine with her. Integra took a deep breath and clutched the blanket. She was too tired to think this through. She just wanted to make sure whether it was still here.
The heavy door creaked open slowly.
She stuck her head inside. At first she saw nothing, but as her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she could make out the figure kneeling on the floor, the only moving one among the five still ones.
The vampire named Alucard looked up. Her heart leapt.
"Good evening, master."
She stood at the top of the stairs. Perhaps thinking she had no intention to descend, Alucard returned to his task. Around his knees were long strands of silvery hair, strewn about carelessly. As Integra watched, he rolled another strand around his finger and cut it away with a pocket knife. She recognized it as her uncle's.
"What are you doing?"
He rolled another strand. "Trimming my hair, master," he replied. The word 'master' was strangely comforting. Each time he said it, she felt just a bit braver. "I thought my appearance was getting to be rather ghastly."
She walked down a little further and saw that in addition to his hair, he had also torn away most of the leather bindings. Not merely taken them off, torn them up like an animal. Bits and pieces lay on the floor, like the skin of a fresh kill. She guessed he must have been glad to be rid of them. His bare torso was well-muscled and as pale as his face. Though he wasn't so ghostly white as before, she noticed. His skin had taken on a slightly rosier sheen, and his face didn't look quite so skeletal anymore. There was a single splash of blood across his taunt stomach.
He cut away the last strand of hair, set the knife aside, and stood. His hair, now silvery gray instead of a dry white, was tousled and loose, just touching his shoulders. He shook a lock out of his red eyes and bowed to her, catching her off guard. She almost bowed back.
"What can I do for you this evening, master?" he asked. "I apologize for my appearance. There was a time when I could perform such physical alterations on my own, but I fear it would take some time for me to recover after the imprisonment."
He didn't say that last word with bitterness or resentment, merely stating it as a fact. Integra took another step down and eyed the bodies on the floor apprehensively. The scent of flood was overwhelming. She shielded her nose with the blanket. There were streaks and spots of red everywhere. The walls, the stairs, the floor, even the railing. The vampire seemed to read her mind.
"I apologize for the mess," he said. Turning, he picked up the nearest body as if it weighed no more than a doll, and moved it to the corner, then repeated with the others until they were tucked away in the shadows, out of sight. "That is the best I can do now. Should you return tomorrow, I shall try to tidy up some more."
She didn't want to go down, but seeing how Alucard had made such an effort to clear the floor, she took a deep breath and walked to the bottom of the steps, careful not to slip on any blood that had not yet dried and wrapping the blanket around herself to shield from the chill. "Are you going to stay down here?" she asked.
He smirked as if it was a joke. "That, master, is up to you."
"What do you mean?"
"My previous master, your father, had ordered that I should stay here until my new master orders otherwise. That is you. Therefore, until you give me the freedom to venture from this room, I am to remain here."
The amount of power she had over him shocked her. Integra looked around the vampire's stony prison. It seemed such an awful place for one dwell, dark and full of the stench of the dead. But then again, he didn't seem to mind. After all, he himself was no longer among the living.
"OK," she said, sitting down on the bottom step and pulling the blanket tightly around her body, no longer afraid. "Then you will stay down here, until I decide I can trust you."
"I cannot even step out of a room without your permission, and yet you do not trust me?"
Integra yawned, suddenly very sleepy. "I will decide when I can trust you," she said groggily.
Alucard chuckled. "You really are that man's daughter."