Play-Play: An Out-Take from "Starved"

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AN: I originally wrote this as a cabin scene for "Starved"- an ongoing story where Integra and Alucard find themselves stranded on an island together. What should be a disaster proves to be a relief. Outside the insulated bubble that is the Hellsing mansion, the two have time to reflect on their respective pasts and timidly discuss the future.

I was more or less pleased with this scene, but it made the chapter too long and it wasn't a significant enough event to dedicate a whole chapter to it, so I cut most of it out. Then I re-discovered it, read it, remembered liking it a lot and cursed myself for being so utilitarian.

You don't need to be familiar with the story to enjoy the scene, but the set-up is Integra and Alucard are dozing on a sofa in a cabin, waiting for fairer weather, and Integra is preoccupied with visions of Alucard's future, post-Hellsing, when his demon familiars come out to play.

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Integra still had an important decision to make. As soon as she returned to Hellsing, she would decide at last.

Alucard needed to become a mature and autonomous person, capable of functioning independently without the guidance of some benevolent human caretaker. And he needed to be beyond reproach, so that no one would challenge his independence and freedom.

Making him a member of the Hellsing family would lend him some legitimacy. It would also provide him with money and resources when he'd need it most-when she was gone and the inevitable power grab began. She smirked; she'd like to see those cowardly old men challenge Alucard for any of her assets.

Integra frowned.

That would make Alucard her sole kin. He would inherit her title and become the Director of the Hellsing Organization.

Integra rolled over and buried her face in the blankets.

He was capable of shameless mass murder, wiping out the innocent along with the guilty. He'd never hesitated to show horrific cruelty. And he was proud of it.

She could give him all her patience and understanding. And he would still be a vampire. He wouldn't change; only her perception of him would change, and she knew he was a trickster and a manipulator. He could possibly exploit her if she showed him this weakness. He wasn't a child, as child-like as he may be. And he wasn't a man, even if he had the urges of a man-and sometimes the hopes and dreams of doubts of a man. But she couldn't change his murderous nature, and any fate short of slavery, detainment or death guaranteed the No-Life-King would rise to power again.

She peered at her sleeping servant.

So then.

That was the nature of the challenge.

No matter how impossible the goal, she had an important task to see through. A task more important than protecting country and crown and cross. Before all other responsibilities, her first responsibility was to Alucard.

No discussion was needed. Their goal was mutually desired.

She found a lock of Alucard's hair and spooled it around her finger. She couldn't get that sad, questioning, youthful face out of her mind. Begging for acceptance. Begging for a second chance.

"I could call you 'mommy'. I could swing by your wrist. I shaved off ten years. Do you like it? Give it a few days. It might grow on you. Let me prove my virility, the way humans do. Is there some other place I can focus my adoration? You gave me your life jacket, and I didn't deserve it. I was a failure for a father. You should have let me die."

Integra curled Alucard's black hair around her index finger and released it-watching it spool and unravel again and again.

The hair giggled and sought out her toying finger, delighted by her playing.

Integra smiled and teased it again.

The hair made a soft, laughing noise and swatted back at her finger.

They were like piranhas. Integra knew those little monsters could shred the flesh from her bones with their invisible, needle teeth. And while she knew they were part of Alucard, they were not Alucard. They had only one master, he, and they had no loyalty to her. And yet, they were so easily amused. And Integra found herself easily amused by them, by their hissing little voices and their tiny, exaggerated movements. Defeated foes and long-digested enemies, their individual identities long forgotten, had somehow conglomerated into this child-like, curious mass that was Alucard's physical body. This was the part of Alucard that was an illusion. It was under these queer familiars that his real self existed.

The hair slithered away, laughing from Integra's tickling, and then crawled back to swat at her hand some more. Little smiles appeared in the hair. Then sleepy eyes began to open.

Play-play, they whispered.

"Go back to sleep," Integra urged softly, seeing the little red eyes blinking at her.

But the hair didn't want to. The tiny demon familiars crawled back to the vampire and poked at his back, tugging his scalp, trying to wake him up. Play-play, they whispered darkly. Play-play.

"Naughty," Integra chastised, waggling her finger at them. "Let your master dream."

They responded immediately by returning to her, taking more mischievous swipes at her judgmental finger. Ooooh, play.

Alucard sighed contentedly, drowsily.

Integra paused. She watched him, waiting to see if he was going to wake up.

The little demons seized the opportunity to conquer Integra's exposed hand. They piled over her. A gleeful Yay! was just barely audible to her human ears.

Alucard smiled slightly, his eyes still closed. Somewhere, distantly, he was aware of their epic battle and victory, and he was happy for them. He could also feel Integra's warm skin under those familiars, and that pleased him as well. Everything was good.

Integra leaned in close and whispered in Alucard's ear; "Go back to sleep."

The vampire's face started to relax, his lips slightly parted, and his hair snuggled back to the hollow under his neck, ready to join in the vampire's slumber. But one thick stubborn lock refused to leave Integra alone. It snaked around her pinky finger and tugged.

"What do you want?" Integra asked it.

The hair insistently tugged her hand closer and closer to the vampire.

It pulled until it had dragged her hand under Alucard's neck, wrapping around her wrist aggressively, proud in its victory, and unwilling to let her get away.