Once the drinking had begun, she realized she had no idea when it was appropriate to stop. After the second glass, Integra knew she had made a terrible mistake, feeling her stomach burn, threatening to heave back what she had swallowed.
Integra hadn't meant to down her first glass so quickly–just that once the fiery liquid had touched her lips, she wanted to be done with it as soon as possible. Then Alucard matched her rate, shot for shot, and since they had nothing to talk about, there was nothing to do but drink and keep drinking.
Integra eyed Alucard warily. He was staring at her just as intensely as she stared at him. She looked down at her freshly topped-off glass, at the threatening amber liquid, both cool and fiery. She felt herself cringing inwardly. Her stomach was on fire. Her nose and cheeks and lips were tingling. She felt "fuzzy" all over, her cheeks and nose numb. She couldn't bear to lift the glass and take another drink. She wasn't even sure that if she moved her hand towards the glass, her hand would find it. Her perception of distance was exaggerated. But, she still had the wherewithal to recognize she was getting drunk. If she continued to drink, her ability to recognize her own handicap would fade. She knew she needed a reason to slow down her rate of consumption, or an excuse to stop drinking all together, before something ugly happened.
Conversation would certainly help. Of course, she was terrified of opening her mouth and finding her speech slurred and incomprehensible. She had come down here with the intention of earning Alucard's friendship and instead she was probably going to leave him thinking she was a fool.
Integra looked back up at Alucard.
He was closely watching her, silent, his eyes behind his mirrored yellow lenses unreadable.
She couldn't endure his judging face. She picked up her glass and downed it, squeezing her eyes shut. "Shall I pour you another?" she inquired without waiting for his response, reaching for the bottle.
Alucard's shoulders slumped.
He was ready to die. He shivered, wavering back and forth in his seat, dizzy and sick. While Integra was of a fraction of his mass and had no tolerance for alcohol, she had the advantage of a functioning human digestive system, some lunch in her stomach to slow the rate of absorption, and a liver that could filter toxins. Alucard didn't have a digestive system. What he swallowed immediately entered his blood stream without filtration, as if a needle had injective the fluid right through his skin. He could feel the burning liquid coursing through his veins, inundating his sinuses and tear ducts.
Alucard wanted to say, "I can't drink alcohol. I'm a vampire. Please cut my stomach open so I can let this poison drain from my body," he couldn't manage more than a weak half-grunt, half-whine. He stared helplessly at Integra, unable to admit weakness, unable to admit defeat.
An hour later, they were both hammered beyond comprehension.
Integra had played the part of the grown-up bravely, but her self-discipline could not fool her young metabolism. She found herself crouched under the stairs, waste bin between her knees, vomiting a foul fluid who's acrid smell made her nauseous as soon as her evacuating made her feel better, creating a cruel, continuous circle.
Alucard realized too late she had been fooling him with her pretend tolerance. By that time, however, his impending death had become remarkably funny. He was beyond drunk, had been transported to a reality no inebriated human consciousness had ever seen, the tissues of his flesh saturated, his pours literally leaking alcohol, his clothing soaked in the rank liquid. He lay on the stone floor in a pool of his own filth, gravity having defeating him some hours ago, chatting on good-naturedly with the ceiling in some combination of Romanian and English.
The bottle of scotch lay discarded and empty on the floor.
Alucard's familiars were hard at work to save their host.
The vampire himself lay unconscious on the ground, but his black, slithering shadows lazily climbed from his corpse. Their bleary red eyes blinked sleepily at the world. They were unformed blobs, a far cry from his hell-hound empire, but they were loyal, determined and focused. They crawled along the floor, digging their black tendrils into the grooves in the stone and pulling themselves, until enough of them had emerged from his body to be a formidable force. Then they promptly turned around, crawling back towards their master, their white needle teeth appearing from their little mouths.
Tiny black claws pulled open the vampire's shirt, sending the buttons flying in every direction. Where the buttons lay, they melted into little black pools. The pools became cockroaches and anxiously crawled back to Alucard.
Once the familiars had bared Alucard's white stomach, they viciously dove in, biting and chewing through his flesh, burrowing down inside until they punctured his stomach and streams of alcohol erupted like a fountain.
Alucard woke up with a start, jolting to an upright position. He clutched his stomach, crushes some of his own familiar which then oozed between his fingers, reformed and slithered away. With a groan, the vampire fell backwards, writhing in agony. In his panic, he vomited, the stinking alcohol sputtering from his mouth. He rolled over to his side, coughing, gasping, crying as the poison rushed up this throat and out involuntarily.
The black demon familiars crawled up the back of Alucard's neck and tugged at his slick black hair, tucking the strands behind his ears and keeping them out of the path of the evacuating alcohol. One lonely demon patted Alucard's scalp, as if in comfort.
Alucard rose onto his hands and knees, and the fluids continued to drain from his mouth and the holes in his stomach. Alcohol-tinged tears streamed from his eyes and dripped down his nose, burning as it went. He shivered and shook. When his wounds and mouth dripped dry, he found he couldn't move, his muscles locked.
Integra awoke on the bottom step of the sub-level stairs, her forehead resting on a near-full waste bin of her own vomit. She sat up quickly, her face scrunched up, feeling nausea overtake her once more, her stomach rumbling. Oh, the smell. Her stomach muscles contracted, and she was ready to start heaving anew.
Help-help-help, came an eerie little hiss.
Through blood-shot eyes, Integra looked dizzily between her knees, blinking. She fought to keep the muscles of her stomach still. With effort, she looked around.
There, in the corridor, came a…blob.
Integra blinked uncomprehendingly at it.
The blob rolled along, coming towards her. Behind it, smaller blobs followed it. The little blobs had dozens of red eyes looking off in every direction. When the black creatures were very close to Integra, some of them ran into each other and melded, while others crept up the stairs next to the girl. Slimy black tendrils extended from the unformed massed to pull at Integra's socks and shoelaces and the hem of her skirt. Their little hands had five fingers, but were tiny, like mice hands, but there were hundreds of them, all weak, but all pulling insistently as if they were demanding that she rise.
Help-help-help-help, they hissed at different intervals, a chorus of faint children's voices.
Integra reached out with her hand and touched a large blob that was close to her. She found the texture against her palm cold, slippery, and when she pulled her hand away, there was a filmy residue left on her skin. She looked at her hand and saw little black dots stuck on her skin. They suddenly animated and pooled in the middle of her palm, and an angry first erupted from the blackness and shook at her, then slithered to the edge of her hand and jumped down into the larger black blob.
Integra sighed, her stomach twisting. "Take me to your master," she commanded.
"Bloody hell," Integra bemoaned, "What a God-awful mess." She knelt down beside the vampire and tried to shake him awake. When she grabbed the lapels of his red jacket, his putrid, fluid sickness splashed up onto her, hitting her in the face.
She released him and spun around, doubled over, her hands in the air, her mouth agape and her eyes shut tightly. Yes, she was dripping in puked-up alcohol. It was on her lips, in her eyes, dripping down her bangs and her chin. "Oh my God," she whined. "Oh my God, what have I done? What have I done?"
She turned back to her semi-conscious vampire. "Oh, God," she repeated frantically, "What have I done?" She tried to think quickly. She had to clean Alucard and herself, she had to rinse away the vomit and the piss and the whatever stagnant pool of filth Alucard was laying in before they were discovered. She knew there was an infrequently used laboratory in the sublevels, and there was a decontamination room there with a shower. She hoped the plumbing still worked.
Integra knelt down once again and grabbed Alucard by the wrist and pulled with all her might. "Please! Please!" she begged impotently. "Please get up! No one can see us like this!"
After a few minutes, Alucard's eyes fluttered open and he rolled over onto his stomach and managed to rise to his hands and knees but was unable to move any further. Integra crouched beside him and snaked his long, lanky arm around her neck and tried to offer him support. He was much too heavy for her and the large vampire kept falling back to his knees. Integra found herself practically dragging Alucard to the lab.
"This isn't working," Integra said, admitting defeat. "Stay right here." She ran on unsteady legs to the lab on her own, remembering there was a folded wheelchair by the door. She went and opened the door, flicking on the yellow florescent lights. The lab was mostly empty of the old medical equipment, the counters and cabinets covered in a film of dust, but the wheel chair was in the closet, just as she remembered it. She unfolded it quickly and raced back to Alucard with it, it's rusty wheels squealing harshly.
Integra locked the wheels before her vampire, who was sitting up, but swaying. "Up you go," Integra urged, getting behind Alucard and shoving her arms under his armpits and locking her hands together, and with every ounce of her strength she lifted him up. Alucard strained and reached for the chair to aide her, putting his knees on the seat and grabbing the back of the chair, hanging his head over the back.
Integra stepped back and looked at the vampire quizzically. Had he never seen a wheelchair?
"Turn around," she told him. "Turn around. T-turn around and put your butt in the chair."
Alucard just hung onto the chair, his knees on the seat, his rear end lifted in the air. "I can't."
Integra made impatient gestures. "Just turn around and face me and put your butt in the chair."
"I can't. I don't know where I am," Alucard said.
Integra hung her head. "Fine. Fine. Just stay like you are and don't let go." She went behind the chair and she was facing Alucard. She grabbed the handles and pushed the chair towards the lab. Alucard looked around with uncertainty.
Once at the lab, Integra navigated the chair and its undead passenger through the fixtures and examination rooms until they arrive at the decontamination area. It was a wide, white room with glossy white tiles, harsh florescent lights and several shower heads and a single large drain in the center, similar to a communal locker room shower. There was a lip at the shower threshold, so the wheelchair could go no farther.
"Come on," Integra beckoned, getting behind Alucard's rump and hugging his torso and pulling him off the chair. His long, spindly legs toed their way to the floor and he managed to dislodge himself without falling on his young master, through he clutched to her for support. His head hung limply. "Oh God," he moaned. "My stomach hurts."
Integra dragged herself and her undead servant to the nearest shower head. As she let go of Alucard to reach for the faucet lever, Alucard sank to the floor, his back resting against the tile wall.
The girl turned on the water full blast and icy cold water rushed from the nozzle and doused them both. Integra shrieked at the rude invasion and Alucard howled. Integra yanked on the knob with all her strength, and after a few minutes, the chilled water began to warm up. Within minutes, a steam began to rise from the stream. The filth that they had both been caked in began to swirl the drain.
Integra kept her clothes on and allowed the water to saturate everything she wore. She had no soap, so she just scrubbed her body rigorously with her hands. She would take a more thorough shower later. Once she felt sufficiently cleansed, she went to work on Alucard. He was dressed in many layers, too many to keep on, so she sloughed off his heavy red jacket and his black blazer and unknotted his cravat and tossed it aside, opening his collar and allowing the water to sluice down his chest. She looked down at his boots and decided to take them off and rise them as well. Who knew what disgusting mess had pooled in his boots. Once she had peeled off the boots, she rinsed his feet, rubbing in between his toes.
At that moment, Alucard said drowsily, "I'm so sorry. I made a fool of myself."
Integra looked up, blinking. "How have you made yourself look any more foolish than I? This is all my fault. I don't know what I was thinking."
Alucard shook his head. "I should have told you I couldn't digest it. Not quantities like that. But I didn't want you to think less of me. I should have been honest about my limitations. I'm sorry. Damn it, did I get sick on you?"
Integra thought carefully. She realized Alucard had no memory of her getting sick. For all he knew, she had held her alcohol down and he was the only one who'd lost it. "I forgive you," Integra assured him. "Let's get you cleaned up before someone discovers us."
"You'll keep this between us?" Alucard inquired.
"It's our secret," she replied quickly.