Disclaimer: Hellsing belongs to Kouta Hirano. This was written for fun without profit involved.
Author's Notes: Written as a Valentine's Day trade with darklion612 (fic for art ), proof read by Lavinia Lavender. Set in the Manga when Integra was still a 17-18 years old Master. Google Valentine's day superstitions of England to understand Alucard's… reasoning. ;) Almost-spoilers/hints for the end of the Manga—I guess?
Nnn, Alucard murmured as he stretched his sluggish limbs, walking through the ample halls of the Manor. The staff took a moment from their respective hectic schedules to gawk at his presence. It was unusual that he was up in the morning; the vampire absolutely hated waking up early after such a lovely night hunting. He wouldn't have bothered without orders from Integra's or if it was any day but this one. He halted his path to melt inside the thick walls of the building, taking a shortcut to reach his Master's private quarters. He was still fifteen minutes ahead of her waking hour; he calculated she would stir if he approached near enough.
Integra was a heavy sleeper, and yet somehow she managed to wake up in the nick of time when he drew too close to her personal space. She had noticed the vulnerability of her position and secured a small pistol under her pillow in case a less friendly presence visited while she slumbered. Her room had changed during these past five years they had spent together.
Alucard remembered when he first visited his Master's chamber. Back then she was still a budding young girl with wide blue eyes and easily tinted cheeks who stared at him in wonder; her room was delicately furnished, adorned with satin curtains and porcelain dolls. Two years ago, she had decided to remodel it completely, getting rid of ostentatious ornaments and stripping it of any semblance of vanity. It became a nearly empty Spartan chamber with a lot of free space to store her limitless files of paperwork. Consequently, it became exactly like her office, but with a bed in middle. He was unbothered by this decision. Her job and personal life were almost one and the same; that was perfectly in agreement with his position.
He couldn't wait to see her reaction this year. Each year was different, ranging from embarrassment, amusement, rage or a mix of the three in distinctive variations the vampire drank in and enjoyed immensely.
Alucard's good mood evaporated along with his wide smirk even before he put a step into the bedroom.
Frowning suspiciously, the vampire phased through the wall to glance at the vacant quarters. The bed was already made, the papers were piled on her desk and there was a fragrant pine scent that indicated the maids had already done their job. How? His Master was nearly as much of an early bird as himself. He focused on sensing her lifeblood, finding her in the most obvious location: her office.
In a few minutes, he was standing behind the back of Integra's chair, facing Walter who was pouring tea and lifting an eyebrow at his sudden entrance. The good old Angel of Death; if he hadn't known him better now, Alucard could almost have sworn he caught one of his cocky smiles flashing briefly on his lips.
Integra turned her head to acknowledge him with a nod; she didn't seem surprised to see him. He was slightly disappointed in that, but didn't show it; Alucard had at least thought she wouldn't purposely break the yearly tradition he had begun.
"Good morning, Alucard," she greeted him lightly, picking up a scone from Walter's tray. "I'm just having breakfast. Maybe Walter would bring something for you." She glanced at the Butler, who bowed.
"Milady… Master Alucard, would you prefer O or A today?"
Alucard sneered, leaning on the wall with crossed arms, not bothering to answer that. Walter left the office, not before gracing Alucard with a warning gaze which he promptly ignored to address his young Master. "You awoke earlier today, Integra."
"So did you," she remarked without missing a beat, unfolding The Times after gingerly picking up her teacup. "I had a phone call half an hour ago – a special request I made yesterday, the delivery is tonight." She paused, and he felt how she scrutinised his reaction. "Are you sulking because you didn't catch me this year?"
"Heh. You knew what it was all this time?" He had to chuckle. Integra seemed flustered for a second, and then shrugged off that reaction. Just as he liked it.
"Subtlety was never your strong point, servant," the knight pointed out sharply, averting her eyes briefly from Alucard to the newspaper. "I don't know if I should be disturbed or flattered you went native by embracing English holiday superstitions, but for the time being I will let that insolence pass. At the least, I give you credit for not attempting any American rubbish with me," she murmured, studying a murder headline closely.
Alucard began to laugh; his hilarity echoed in the office. However, it wasn't contagious. Integra stared at him with a barely stoic face, lips tensed into a frown.
"Bravo! Wonderful! I expected such a reaction from you, Integra!" He made a sweeping bow and retreated slowly into the wall. "I will take my leave now, Miss Hellsing; enjoy your breakfast."
"Wait," Integra said abruptly, so Alucard stopped his exit, head sticking out of the wall like a prized trophy. He recognised a tacit "Where do you think you are going? I haven't finished yet!"in her order. "No more early visits every year?" The vampire grinned, showing his sharp teeth.
"As long my Master desires." He looked her in the eye for a complete minute.
"Good enough," she muttered, making a dismissive gesture. "You shouldn't waste your time in bloody superstition."
Alucard didn't retort; he simply melted into the shadows. First his hair became inky and lost its solidity, then most of his face, including his sharp mouth, and finally his glowing eyes. They disappeared like the flame of extinguished candles. His Master seemed to forget that vampires and all creatures of the night continued to be superstitions to many as well.
"Are you certain this is wise, my Lady?" Walter questioned her for the fourth time that day. He trailed after her, pushing the special delivery on the dinner cart as he escorted her to the basement. Integral glanced at him over her shoulder. Although his concern was appreciated, it was unwarranted in this case. She had pondered for days and concluded this was a good decision.
"I want to see his reaction," the knight explained again with a slightly impatient ring in her voice. She hated to repeat herself, even to Walter. "He is mistaken if he thinks he's the only who can play this game." Her steward tutted and lifted an inquiring eyebrow as though he expected an ulterior reason; Integra felt her face warm and struggled to stop the rising blush. "That is all, Walter," she finished with a strained calmness. That is all it is, she reminded herself. He was convinced, or pretended to be, and mercifully dropped the subject. They finished their walk wordlessly, arriving at Alucard's room.
The vampire had fallen asleep in his monstrous chair again, eyes closed, surrounded by a litter of empty blood packages and with his boots on the table. Integra noticed how peaceful he looked – and frighteningly dead. His chest didn't rise and fall as a normal person's did; he wasn't alive, and this reminded her of their difference.
"Do I leave from here?" Walter asked in a hushed voice. Integra nodded, uttered quiet thanks and watched her butler reluctantly walk out.
"Integra, my Master… are you going to serve me dinner?"
Alucard's question startled her; it was like a sultry, heavy breath inside her ear that ran into her spine and travelled through her entire body. She turned around and gazed at him; he was still sitting in the same lethargic position, eyes open and expectant. As always, he hadn't touched her, but he didn't need to lay a finger on her for her to feel him so close. Integra focused regardless, clearing her throat and motioning to the hooded cart.
"I brought something different for your dinner today," Integra commented, tugging her lips up. "Why don't you lift the hood?" Oh, yes, she had been anticipating this moment. She would savour it for all it was worth. She followed the vampire's suspicious motions as he rose and walked to the cart. He had already smelled the fresh blood and knew it wasn't hers. She felt his burning eyes on her while he reached for the hood and lifted ah--
Integra's smile curved into a grin when she saw the surprise dawning on Alucard's face. There was something else… softer in his look. Longing? For a second, she allowed herself to share that as well.
"Hoh…" Alucard whistled, appreciating the sight for certain. On the tray was a fresh human heart of a recently deceased. She had called contacts to provide the organ for tonight, if possible, when one was inadequate for transplant. "Is this…?"
"My valentine to you, Alucard," Integra affirmed. "So you wouldn't resort to old traditions, I decided to upgrade to the modern take."
"But I'm an old fashioned monster, my Master…" He shot a hungry look to the gift. Integra was sure he wasn't devouring it immediately to spare her the grotesque sight; he was acting like a gentleman for once. "But I can grow fond of the newest trend. Thank you for your generosity." He bowed briefly and pushed the cart inside his room. Integra whirled and was beginning to walk away when she heard him say: "Before midnight…"
"What is it?"
"Look at the horizon, Integra. For me."
Integra found his request quite odd, but she didn't inquire further; she turned to depart, listening to the slurping noise of the vampire feasting on his succulent treat.
It was close to midnight when Integra finished reading the reports. There were no activities of Midians tonight, which relieved Alucard and her of duty. She stood from her chair and opened the balcony door of the office, walking out to take fresh air. She wasn't accustomed to humouring Alucard's strange requests; however, she was curious to find out what he was planning now.
Five minutes until midnight, Integra thought, glancing at her wristwatch. This was probably a poor jest or a waste of her scant time. She had played enough for today. The knight was about to light a cigar she had just fished out her pocket when she heard a squeak and the noise of batting wings in the dead of the night. She looked up, squinting with the artificial lighting to spot the source: a bat flying overhead. A bat with glowing red eyes.
The meaning dawned on her only after the rodent had faded into the dark. She puffed at her cigar, shaking her head, caught between amazement and amusement. Sometimes, she had to wonder about his peculiar thought process and his awkward manner to copy human traditions. The lengths her servant was willing to try to test her reaction against marriage superstitions in Valentine's Day.