Of all the words to describe Sir Integral Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing, 'feminine', as perhaps evident by her name itself, was not one of them. Indeed, from the very day she had had the mantle of leadership abruptly thrust upon her, she had taken care never to be seen of as such.
Her voice, the way she held herself when she walked – these things had been among the first to go. She would not, could not, afford to be taken lightly, and quickly learnt that neither could she be above shouting at people when the need called for it. And later on, she had learnt that, in the more dire of circumstances, a much lower, dangerously softened voice would perhaps achieve what sheer volume could not. In the times when each careful syllable would fall from those lips like a whip-crack, people knew – they just knew – that Sir Integra meant business. This, complete with a slightly arrogant tilt to the head, shoulders back, eyes up, a rapid pace of walking that had her underlings often scurrying to catch up… Integra made sure of all these things, at first, because she did not feel she had a choice, but it was not so very long before she acquired a certain comfort with them. By the time she had finished with her twenties (she discarded those years like she had her old clothing), it was if she had never been any other way, never truly existed in a time before then.
And the clothing itself… well. Away with those pretty skirts. No more crisp white blouses with puffed sleeve, or socks pulled up to the knee. She kept the glasses, but abandoned her previous skin with an almost undignified enjoyment.
She had never really been one to care overmuch for pretty appearances. Beneath sweet dresses and quiet, earnest manners, there was a desire to become more – a desire that became partially fulfilled when she was allowed, encouraged even, to don darker, subdued colours, and wear plain trousers and jackets (the suits came later, along with the cigars).
Her one concession – the Hellsing organisation's one concession – was her hair. She left it loose and allowed it to grow. In part this was because, however masculine she wished to be, she had no desire to look, as one rather unlucky man had put it crudely when he had thought nobody much was listening, "a chick in drag."
Integra was reminded of the other reason every evening.
Bathing was not something she took pleasure in per se, but being clean most certainly was. She might spend much of her life in a dank and gloomy place, might surround herself with all manner of undesirable humans (or non-humans, as the case may be), all in the name of protecting that which she had sworn to. But she would never suffer herself to become filthy with it all, and so the ritual began. She ceased showering in the morning, choosing instead to bathe late at night, when all was quieter and she had a little precious time to herself.
And if, during these quiet hours, she chose to remain in the bath for longer than was strictly necessary – longer than it took to scrub well and rinse off – well, that we her prerogative. Proof, to herself perhaps, that not quite everything about the old Integra had been shoved roughly, unsentimentally, away. Rather, they were simply hidden under her suit whenever showing the slightest hint of femininity was to show weakness. To practically beg to be taken advantage of.
She looked at herself in the mirror now, as the bath robe slipped silently from her shoulders. Definitive proof that she was indeed Woman lay beneath; proof that she dared only bare when she was alone. Not even Walter, who was closer to her than anyone else and who she respected more than anyone else in return, could guess at her shape underneath those thick layers.
Breasts, still high and firm that were usually and intentionally flattened by the masculine cut of her clothing. A waist that was, if not waspish, certainly not as non-existent as said clothing might make it appear. Legs that were not lacking in length, nor in a kind of wiry strength.
And all of these things were belied by broad shoulders and an expression that could have been carved from stone. Add her usual demeanour and those suits she now always insisted on wearing, and it was no wonder that men and women alike were intimidated at best. At worst, she supposed they whispered to each other about it, no doubt calling her all manner of things. Nobody knew.
Integra did not care. She did not have the time or the patience to care, and only let out a soft sigh as she slipped into the water, feeling it scalding at her skin. That was fine, too. A little pain was nothing, and soon enough her body would adjust to the water's temperature.
She thought about all this, and more, as she felt her muscles begin to relax, and she rubbed a hand absently up her leg. Her skin was still soft and supple, even now. Yet one more thing that was constantly hidden. Her legs were quite smooth, too – she supposed from the way in which she scrubbed them every night. Smooth legs were beautiful.
She snorted at this train of thought, well aware that nobody in their right mind would describe Sir Integra as beautiful. She was far too stern, too cold for that. Men wanted women who were soft and pretty and pliable, not unyielding and severe. Certainly not women who had gotten firmly used to answering to the title of Master.
Probably not women who kept a gun near their selves at all times, either.
Her other hand strayed upwards towards her chest.
And she? What kind of man did Sir Integra desire, if she desired at all?
The first few times she had caught herself thinking of this, she had been afraid. Afraid of what that sort of thinking led to. Afraid of what others would think if they knew. Afraid of her own body, lest it betray her as she knew bodies were wont to do. Terribly afraid, above all, that thinking like this of any sort was simply wrong, unforgivable.
She had taken to showering again after that.
But then, some years later, she grew angry at herself for this. What was she, Master of a whole organisation whose God-sworn duty it was to jump at her every order without question, really afraid of, and why? Was she some Catholic, that she must feel shame at what was a perfectly natural bodily function? Indeed, she should be proud of it, for it proved she was Human, and Human meant not Vampire, nor any other creature that was condemned to an eternity of darkness.
One hand was on her thigh now, the other stealing up past her breast, massaging a little at the waterline there.
Of course, she did not need a man to feel complete. She did not want one even had she the time to commit to such a relationship. Desire she might have felt, every now and again, and then only when she could afford to. Neediness she did not.
But she did not need to want nor to understand neediness in order to ponder, those nights when she felt especially restless, what it would be like to give up the burden of total leadership. What must it be like, she wondered, to rely on someone else rather than to have absolutely everyone rely on her? What must it be like, for even one solitary evening, for her to give up the role of Master? What must it be like to be released of that weight, and perhaps to leave it to someone who was yet stronger, more powerful, more authoritative? Would she herself answer to such a one? Would she-
Integra gave a gasp at the sudden pressure on her neck, before realising they were her own fingernails pushing at the skin there, feeling it give way under her touch. Not quite enough to pierce it, although had Integra wished it, she could have done so. She shivered, and the water lapped about her where her body had disturbed it. Curiously, her neck had always been her most sensitive spot, even before…
Integra's eyes closed as she allowed her shoulders to submerge as well, her hair now floating around her, whispering on her shoulders and gliding over her arms. It was the heat, she told herself, the heat of the water and the steam rising from that, making the air, too, grow close and stifling, making her breathing grow heavier, her heart beat more rapidly, her fingers searching more desperately-
She shot up with a splash, quite sure she had heard something else than her own breath. Something was there, watching her as she… but this was her own private bathroom, and she could not fathom that anyone would dare…
She got out of the tub anyway, her eyes darting about for any sign of an intruder. But there was only herself, reflected in the mirror again now, face flushed and so obviously guilty. No way for anyone to come in unseen, and no corner in which anyone could hide. Nobody, except-
She froze, hair dripping down her back, heart still beating faster than she would have liked. From fury, she told herself.
"Alucard", she said, and it was with a supreme self-control that she did not yell.
She only had to wait a moment.
He appeared from the wall itself, a face with a mouth too big for it, spreading outwards in a wolfish grin as though her anger was no more than a game. Her eyes locked on to hers, and then looked her noticeably up and down. His grin grew wider, if such a thing were possible. With an effort, she made no attempt to cover herself with her hands.
"You called?" A voice made of crushed velvet.
Her voice shook with barely suppressed rage. "Get. Out."
He laughed then. This was a game to him, and she was not sure who had won.
"As you wish, Master." Just enough stress on that final word, the barest hint of sarcasm for her to detect, and then open her mouth to-
To what? Defend herself, as if she had been caught in the act of something of which she must be ashamed? To deny what he had seen? To scream at him for his obscene nature? To order him to-
Thankfully, he disappeared before she could not anything of these. His face disappeared last of all, completely detached from his body, his eyes and grin and very teeth mocking her. Because he had seen all of this before, she now knew, had actually chosen to give himself away tonight, for whatever reason his perverse mind had settled on.
Integra waited several minutes before moving to dry herself off properly with a towel and dressing herself in sharp, jerky movements. Long enough, just, that she could leave the bathroom at a dignified walk, her head held high as it usually was. Long enough, too, that her temper would not get the better of her – at least, not tonight.
Her fingers fluttered up to her neck again before she could stop them, feeling out the tiny dents in the skin there that had no quite yet vanished, and fought down a snarl.
She would settle this game later.