A Hellsing / The Shadow crossover story
by Elsa Bibat
Disclaimer: Hellsing was created by Hirano Kouta, and is copyrighted by Gonzo/Pioneer LDC. The Shadow was created by Walter Gibson; its characters are copyrighted by Conde Nast Publications. Doc Savage was created by Lester Dent (a.k.a Kenneth Robeson), Conde Nast Publications, and Bantam Books.
Chapter 4: Tea
The sun was bright and beautiful.
Dame Integra Helsing rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and yawned, blinking back the powerful onslaught of the sun's morning rays in her eyes. Dressed in pajamas and a voluminous woolen bathrobe, bunny slippers slapping lightly on the carpeted floor, she was the very image of a beautiful young woman just awakened from her sleep and ready to face the challenges of the new day.
It was an image she didn't much care for. It was the main reason why she was taking the servant's stairs down to the kitchens. Most of the staff were about cleaning, and no servant would be using this particular set of stairs right now since they led to the family kitchen, a subset to the main kitchens added by her late mother, Dame Parvati Helsing.
Her mother had been obsessed with matters of privacy and familial connections, and sometimes felt that dining in the main dining room every day was just too elitist, and reduced the personal contact that she had always felt important in a family. Being raised in a rather cramped household in Bombay, she felt that a small dining room/kitchen would be a good place for her family to bond, and she was right. Integra could still remember the delightful dinners that she and her parents had shared. The smell of her mother's curry and sound of her father's laughter would be the strongest of memories associated with the smallish room, but there were others: Her mother letting her help cook the delectable treats that she still sometimes hungered for, balls of flour and cheese fried in oil, coconut strips dipped and boiled in brown molasses and, so strangely non-Hindu, chocolate fudge. Her father telling her of the family's legacy while her mother watched on with an uneasy look on her face, a face already thinning and turning pale from the cancer; Listening to how mother had lost her entire family to the rakoshi, feral vampires from the Indian subcontinent, her suicidal vengeance trip afterwards and how her father had saved her at the last minute with the assistance of mother's old friend and mentor, a Doctor Savage.
The memory of the name made Integra purse her lips and pause in midstep. Doctor Savage? Yes, that was why the name "Clark Savage" was so familiar, and Walter did say that he was an associate of her mother's. It seemed she still had friends she didn't know about. Integra just shook her head and brushed away a lock of hair and continued her downward trip. Enough time for that later.
The family kitchen was still used mainly for the purpose of intimacy, though Integra thought her parents might disapprove of the times she dragged Alucard into the kitchen to eat with her when she was younger. She sometimes cajoled Walter into dining with her there, although the butler was clearly uncomfortable because of his ingrained training. One does not dine with the master, after all. But in her youth, she looked around for eligible surrogate family members and the two were the only ones available.
Strange that her family would include a psychotic vampire and a butler that had a confirmed body count of more than a thousand human and inhuman enemies, but an orphan could not exactly choose who to make family, a thought that was rather appropriate as Integra turned down the final spiraling steps and smelled the wafting odor of freshly brewed tea.
The sunlight glinted off her short blonde hair as Ceres Victoria sat in what had become her chair beside the little round table that was the family kitchen's centerpiece. Her ruby eyes were hidden by those horrible sunglasses she always wore when in daylight. Dressed in what was probably her only sleeping outfit, a rather thin ankle-length nightgown with ruffled sleeves, the sort of nightgown that one would usually only see worn by boarding school girls or on young ladies at the turn of the century. Ceres' bare feet were playing with themselves, the white smooth skin of her ankles alabaster in the light. She was nursing a cup of blood tea, a peculiar mixture of tea, water and blood, since vampiric digestion seemed to allow any liquid items mixed with the vital fluid, her left hand slowly stroking a rabbit that she had gotten from somewhere.
It was a picture of beauty and innocence, radiating a soft sensual aura that was nearly erotic, but made Integra's spine shiver all the same. Her father had once told her that some vampiric bloodlines radiated that field of seduction like a bait for the unwary. Alucard's bloodline was one of those. Though the elder vampire almost always went out of his way to be a total ass and present a slovenly appearance, his handsome features and the majesty of his presence still shone through. His fledgeling, it seemed, was still unaware of what she was doing to most of the people in her vicinity, most probably because most who come in contact with her were aware that she was a vampire, and knew of her sire as an entity that could make sure Hell was a place they'd be wishing for after he got his hands on them if they ever messed with her.
Fortunately, the aura lessened whenever she was in the field or on active duty. Unfortunately, at times when she was relaxed the effect seemed to double in strength. Walter and Alucard, two of the three people Ceres would usually encounter on her downtime, were immune to the aura, mostly because Walter had survived several years of exposure to something similar, and Alucard because he was the bloodline's progenitor after all. The third person who usually encountered Ceres was Integra herself, and she neither was a vampire nor had she experienced the full power of Alucard's aura.
What was initially an attempt to gauge her new vampiric charge's abilities and personality became a daily habit of sharing morning tea. Integra had been trained to need only three hours of sleep every twenty-four hours, and Ceres, like her sire, was what vampires considered a "daybird". They both had a need for tea at the exact same time in the morning, about nine o'clock. A weird friendship had blossomed between the two, both knowing enough to keep their professional faces when doing work and letting their hair down during their morning encounters. It almost seemed like a game, Ceres trying her best to put a smile on the face of the older woman while Integra tried her best to keep herself as grumpy as possible, a difficult task indeed while being assailed by Ceres' seductive aura and her strange — for someone who was undead — propensity for good cheer.
Thankfully enough, her parents had each taught her a few meditative tricks that they believed would help her in carrying the burden of being a Helsing. Still, even with her mental focus, Ceres managed to convince her to go on a shopping expedition. The shopping trip was not exactly the complete and total disaster that most people would usually imagine when a rather perky undead girl with a liking for brightly-colored funky outfits and a rather dour living girl with a propensity to dress in men's clothing get together to shop.
The experience was, Integra loathed to admit, rather fun. It was an entirely normal shopping trip, with both women looking for appropriate outfits. It was a bit uncomfortable, mostly because of Integra's constant close proximity to the young vampire in various states of undress, but after all was said and done, it was quite the success.
Also, not all of its success could be attributed to Ceres' attraction aura. Integra liked Ceres well enough and they connected in a certain way that the elder woman could not understand. There was a strange feeling of sisterhood that she felt with the younger girl that was difficult to explain.
The last Helsing was not exactly the most sociable person in the world, and most of her other friendships were mostly gained after periods of struggle that would sometimes be called epic. Ceres had managed to worm herself into her good graces with such seeming ease that it made Integra uncomfortable.
"Good morning, Dame Integra!"
Integra blinked and finally noticed that she had been gazing at Ceres for several long minutes. Thankfully, the vampire had not noticed her arrival until now.
"Good morning, Ceres. My tea ready?"
"The pot's nearly on the boil. There." Ceres stood up as the whistle of the teakettle alerted the room of its heated contents being ready. Her nightgown flattered her petite figure well and it made her bust seem—
Integra shook herself. Control. Control. She walked to her chair and sat down with a relieved sigh.
"You know, Ceres, you really should get a new set of sleeping clothes."
"What? Is there something wrong with it?" The young vampire had set the kettle on the table and bent around looking for a rip or a tear. It drew the nightgown tight against her lithe curves in such a way that made Integra's mouth go dry.
"You don't wear anything under that, do you?" Integra asked with a slight tremble in her voice, as she quickly poured herself a cup as she turned her eyes away to look outside.
"Well, no. I like the way it feels on my bare skin and it makes me feel more relaxed." The delivery was so innocent that it almost bordered on pornographic. Even though she was looking away and Ceres was wearing her sunglasses, Integra could see in her mind's eye that wide-eyed naive look on the vampire's face that she always found strangely attractive.
"Er yes, well, I would prefer if you got a pair of pajamas or wore a bathrobe over it. Who knows who might see you in that thing?" Plus, it would contribute a lot to my peace of mind. "Actually, don't worry about it. I'll have Walter get you both and have them sent downstairs."
"No need to trouble him, Dame Integra. I'll just go out and buy some next time."
"Will you stop doing that?!"
Integra was about to say that Ceres should stop smiling that way because it made her so damn sexy but she caught herself. "Stop using my title. I've told you that there's no need for formality with me when you're here." Integra made herself smile to put the young vampire at ease. "Even Walter doesn't call me by my title in this room."
"Um sorry about that." Ceres, it seemed, had finally mastered the act of biting her lips without drawing blood. "Just can't help myself, I think. Dad always drilled me on acting right. Can't have me embarrassing myself and my family, can I?"
Integra shook her head and gave Ceres a small honest smile. "We can't and we won't, dear. But if you ever use my title again in this room, I'd have to use your title, too."
Ceres' eyes widened. "I have a title?"
"Of course. You've died in the service of the organization, haven't you?"
"That's always how it works. Technicalities. So, technically you are a Knight of the Order of Hellsing, one of the lesser degrees of knighthood, but a knighthood nonetheless, Dame Ceres."
Ceres giggled. "Don't say it like that, Da— Integra. It makes the name sound pretentious."
"So see to it that you don't call me 'Dame' in this room."
"All right, all right, Integra, if that's how you want it."
They both settled into a comfortable silence as they both drank their tea.
Integra noticed that Ceres was giving the rabbit on the table a blank little look. She herself was curious to what made the vampire take an interest in keeping a pet.
"Having trouble with your little friend?"
The younger woman shook her head in the negative. "I'm just wondering what to do with him. Alucard gave him to me."
Integra suppressed a spurt of jealousy. For whom that little jerk of her heart was for, she didn't know. "Alucard rarely gives gifts to anybody, Ceres. I should think you'd be happy." I know I would be.
"Well, it's not exactly a gift." Ceres had left off stroking the rabbit and started to twiddle her fingers and her mouth was puckered into what Integra thought of as a sexy little pout, a thought that Integra crushed as quickly as possible. "He said it's my next lesson."
"I have to kill George here."
Integra spared the little lapine on the table a curious glance. "I would think that giving a name to something you have to kill would not exactly be conducive to the act."
Though unseen, Ceres' eyebrows gave away the fact that she had just rolled her eyes upward in a gesture of helplessness. "I didn't give him a name, Integra. Alucard stole him from some little girl."
Integra's eyes narrowed. "He took him from her? Personally?"
"Well, I'm guessing he pulled George out of the yard or something like that. He doesn't like being seen by little kids. For a vampire, Master has this weird hang-up with children."
I know. "So, you have to 'drink' from little George here?" Integra suppressed any outward show of her ingrained instinctive disgust at any thought of drinking blood. She was aware of what her charges did, but she didn't have to be forcibly reminded of it. "Is that the problem? Is he forcing you? Because, if he is—"
Ceres interrupted Integra before she could get into full steam. "No, no, no. It's all right. He's not forcing me into anything. He just suggested I make George here into a little snack. He backed off when I said no. It's just that "
The young vampire looked hesitant. To Integra's eyes, she looked a bit nervous. "What's the problem then?"
"Well me and Alucard were having a little conversation about killing George here when he called me something."
"I know, I know. Sounds bloody stupid. It was such a small thing anyway. I just remembered him saying it about a few minutes ago. It was such a I don't know the word it just had the right ring to it that I didn't question him when he called me that, you know?" Integra just gave the petite blonde across from her a curious look, an eyebrow arched.
"It's not as if he was being serious, though you can't tell with him " Ceres trailed off once again, to Integra's displeasure.
"So, what did he call you?"
"I well "
"C'mon, girl, spit it out!"
"Well, he called me his 'sweet little bride'."
Integra blinked. "What?!"
Ceres flinched, alerting Integra to the fact that she had screeched that last statement. She drew a deep breath and composed herself and repeated the question in calmer tone. "What?"
"He called me his bride. I'd understand it if you get angry, Integra "
"Why should I be angry? Do I look like I'm angry? Do I sound as if I'm angry? Am I angry?"
"Er well "
"I'm not angry. There. I'm flatly stating it out. I am not angry."
"Okay, if you say so "
"Shall we continue this conversation?"
"Well, why does Alucard calling you his 'bride', worry you?"
"Er I was going to ask Walter what it meant—"
"Why Walter and not me?" "Ah Walter knows a lot of things about—"
"And I don't?"
"I didn't want to worry you about anything." The words tumbled out quickly, so that they could not be interrupted. The room settled into a frozen silence.
Integra could feel Ceres being scared, a trick she had learned from her mother. Why is she scared of me? I sit with her each morning to share tea and she's scared of me. I mean, does the fact that I'm willing to spend my time with her signify nothing to her? Why, I should be frightened of her, damned creature of the night that she is. Another bright slash of fear pulsed across Integra's senses and she looked across the table at the pale undead girl. Ceres was hiding it well, but she obviously wanted to leave.
For some strange reason, after a few moments, Integra realized she didn't want her to. For a short moment, she felt ashamed at frightening her vampiric charge. She breathed deeply and calmed herself. To calm Ceres, she reached out and put a hand over the undead girl's right hand and smiled. The vampire's hand was cold as a corpse, but she smiled anyway. "I'm sorry. I'm still just a bit high-strung."
Apologizing to a vampire would probably gall her normally, but this particular vampire was special, in a way. "So, you were going to ask Walter about?"
Ceres had calmed down and offered a little smile of her own. "I was going to ask him about what Alucard meant by him calling me that."
"Well, as I mentioned, you should have asked me. If there was anything wrong with your sire, I should be the first to know about it."
"All right, Integra, the next time I want to know anything about Alucard, I'll just ask you."
"Good. Now, you want to know why he called you his 'bride'?"
"Well, I think so."
"Most vampire's of your master's age have a harem of fledgeling vampires of the opposite sex to be their companions. They are usually called as either 'brides' or 'grooms'. Alucard had a set of them before he was bound."
"I said 'had', didn't I?"
"I'd assume you'd want to know what brides did?"
"I shall assume your hesitation as a 'yes' and will tell you anyway. Brides usually acted as the elder vampire's representatives or as agents to his will. Also they did most of the menial work for their elders."
"And that's why they're called brides? Shouldn't they just be called 'wives' or something?"
"No the term is mostly from slayer parlance—"
"Well, it refers to the fact that once a person has been given the dark kiss and turned into a vampire, the elder usually "
Integra was sure that her cheeks were red by now. "Well, what did Alucard do after he turned you?"
"Er wrapped me in a curtain and carried me out of the town."
Integra blinked in surprise. That meant Alucard didn't—
"This is very important, Ceres. You were a virgin weren't you?"
Integra had this distinct feeling that if Ceres were mortal, she'd be blushing tomato red. "Well, yes. I still am. Is that important?"
Integra gaped at her. "Still?"
"Yes. Why is—"
"One of the more important things that makes a person a prime candidate for turning is the fact that he or she has had no sexual intercourse in his or her life. A virgin."
Ceres was obviously blinking with the way her eyebrows were going up and down.
"Does that mean Master's a—"
"No. That's another part of the ritual. The elder is supposed to deflower the newly turned vampire. Are you sure—"
"W-well, everything was a blur and I— It felt so good when he bit me, it was like flying and I got sort of What's sex supposed to feel like, Integra?"
Oh, great. The image of her being a sexual consultant for a vampire was almost too much for her and the absurdity of the situation took her near to the brink of laughter. "I'm not exactly the person to ask that particular question."
"Let's just say that in some circles I'm called, not exactly politely or respectfully, the 'Iron Virgin'."
"I mean, you're so beautiful and—"
Integra really didn't need for Ceres to tell her how sexy she was; she'd had enough of that during the shopping trip. Besides, it wasn't exactly helpful for her self-control to hear someone she found attractive telling her that. So, to forestall the incoming barrage of praise, she interrupted the young vampire before she could continue.
"We're getting off-topic. Are you sure Alucard didn't " She left the question hanging.
"Pretty sure. I don't exactly check that sort of thing. Maybe you can—"
"I'd rather not, thank you."
"Er ask a doctor to check?"
Integra was thinking of someone else doing the checking, so it was with a definite effort that she suppressed a blush. "No. Besides, it would be rather moot with your vampiric healing, wouldn't it?"
"Ah, yes. Sorry about that."
"So are there any more problems?"
"Well, you've answered what 'bride' generally means, but I don't think that it answers my question."
Integra nodded. That was a definite puzzle. "Then, you should look it up, Ceres."
"Look it up?"
"Hellsing has the largest library of vampire lore in the entire world. Even Iscariot cannot match our library. It was left untouched by the Valentine assault, thanks to you and Walter. Maybe there's something in there that would help you."
"I'll tell Walter to give you free use of it."
"Er thank you." Ceres smiled at her.
"No problem, my dear."
Integra finally noticed that hand was still on the young vampire's hand and slowly pulled it away.
"Well, it seems I'm finished. I should be going downstairs."
"Good day, then."
"Good day to you, too."
Ceres stood up and put her teacup in the wash basin. She moved to leave and hesitated beside Integra, who had started to read the Times.
Ceres stood beside her holding George in her hands and had a strange look on her face.
"I— Well, thanks for talking with me. It really means a lot to me."
Then, Ceres blurred with vampire speed and gave Integra a friendly kiss on the cheek. She then wafted out of the room like the wind.
The last Helsing was frozen. Then, with arctic slowness, she reached up to feel the cold place where dead lips had kissed her. With Ceres' departure, everything seemed to go to normal. She abruptly realized what she had just shared with the young vampire and the strange combined emotions of horror and pleasure enveloped her. For some strange reason, she had this urge to slam her head on the table. Repeatedly. A question ran on endless repeat in her mind. Why do I keep on doing this?
To be continued.
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