Pairing: Alucard x Anderson
A/N: Here's the chaptered hopefully!plot fic following 'Discipline. AU, spoilers for whole manga. [3,756]. The disaster at London awakens something sealed within the British Museum.
[A/N: Many, many plotbunnies… Follows Discipline.]
Psalms for the Fallen
The morning sun in England was a gray, lifeless blanket in winter, even in Cornwall, but it still made him feel sluggish. Alexander Anderson didn’t bother to get up or acknowledge the voice, remaining where he was, lying on the grass with his head cushioned on his arms, the dew fresh over his coat. In his peripheral vision, he saw Sir Integral Hellsing pause over the grass, and then circle him, her gait fluid, catlike, noiseless. She wore her power like a cloak, unassailable, distant and cold, beautiful like Minerva, maiden, aloof and human, and vaguely, he envied her the lifeblood that still pulsed in her wrists.
“How long has it been since you were turned? Two months? And you can withstand the sun, turn to shadow, shapeshift to a wolf, and all without taking blood. Impressive, Paladin Anderson. Were you ever freed to become a true No Life King, you could become one of the most powerful vampires that have ever existed.”
Integral continued to talk, and despite the sunlight, his heightened senses gave him an overload of information – the rich ashy earth of her cigars, the faint vanilla of her perfumed hair, the starch of freshly pressed shirts, kippers, coffee, oats. If he closed his eyes he could hear her heartbeat, loud and thudding; below, half a metre under the soil, a shrew, a beat high and thin as it scurried; the wet slow pulse of worms; high above, the light patter of gulls’.
“Nae langer ae Paladin.” His voice sounded weak and thick to his ears, and he coughed, cleared his throat. “As ye ken, Protestant bitch.”
His sire’s Master merely chuckled at the insult, harsh and mirthless. He could scent the gunpowder under her suit, the greasy oil of the derringer. “Alucard told me why you chose to follow Hellsing, Anderson.”
“Ye would tread upon the lion an’ cobra; the young lion an’ the serpent ye will trample doon.” Anderson closed his eyes under his glasses and quoted the psalm from memory, heard and scented the grass crushed under her heel as she turned to regard him.
“Personally I think it unwise to hire another creature possibly as insane or as rabid as Alucard, but I do not care, Anderson. We need your blade, for now. And the moment you overstep your bounds, the moment you become any more of a monster than you already are… we will kill you. That is my word to you and my promise.”
“Aye.” Anderson opened an eye. “If Ah take another step awae from God, cut me doon, Sir Integral Hellsing. If ye promise me that, Ah will follow ye.”
Integral smirked. “I understood that that was your wish without having to be told, Paladin Anderson. But it did surprise my servant – as much as he can be surprised. Are you here in the sunlight because you know he hates it and will not follow?”
The fallen priest did not respond, listening to his mimed breathing, instead, of habits of living that he could not break, in silence with Hellsing’s master. One cigar was smoked to nothing, and he heard the guillotine snip as she prepared another for her lips, as she turned to leave. The buzz of the insects and the heartbeats under the soil became a roar in his ears, as he turned himself inward and out.
“Someday,” Anderson mused then, as Integral circled to return to the mansion, the wind of winter pulling her long coat tight over her narrow hips, “Someday, Ah will step across the border, an’ take my true death as Ah see it. Before God. At the place o’ my birth.”
“When we no longer need you, you are free to do what you wish. But not one more step will you take away from God.” There was some pity in Integral’s tone, between one breath and the next, then her voice was harsh again. “Not another step, Alexander Anderson.”
“For Ah know my transgressions, an’ my sin is e’er before me.” Anderson closed his eyes again. In the sunlight, under Heaven, even tainted, unclean and forsaken, his monster’s heart was briefly at peace.
The dead do not often dream when they sleep, and therefore, Alucard was somewhat annoyed to find himself standing in the ruins of the Great Court of the British Museum, his vision blurred around the edges as they would not have been in reality. About him, faceless men and women walked, circling the Court to the upper levels, occasionally stopping to admire the frescoes, in utter silence, their movements measured, identical, doll-like.
Alucard frowned. He could not smell anything but stone, and he was fairly sure that the last he was at the Museum, its Great Court had not been covered by intricate frescoes of beautiful, semi-naked women clothed in clinging white tunics devouring men and children. If it had been, he would have been more amenable to visiting it even during normal opening hours.
Now he forgot his irritation at the dreamwalking for a moment, admiring the detail; here, an impossibly beautiful blonde woman drenched her silken locks in the blood from a severed wrist; there, a blinded woman with heavy breasts and a snake’s half beneath her waist wept crimson tears as she curled around the bodies of broken children. Curious. Very curious.
He pushed past the crowd a little further, to read an inscription on the walls that seemed to hang just off the stone, shimmering in gold.
Neu pranse Lamiae vivum puerum extrabat alvo.
Stone and ashes and sand, old magic, the devouring of one’s children. Alucard closed his blood-red eyes for a moment and remembered a time where he had been curious about the existence of others as himself. One of the oldest of his kind, the No Life Kings.
“Meroe. Queen of Libya. Lilith. Scylla’s mother. The Witch Queen. Lamia.”
“Yes.” A voice agreed, echoing around the silent halls is parchment dry but feminine, amused, ancient, speaking not so much in English, but to blood-memory, in his mind. “Vlad Tepes. Once, you sought me out, child, do you remember?”
“Only to find an echo of your voice encased in a fragment of obsidian within a buried temple in Libya, my Lady. You said that your body was lost, your power shattered.” Alucard smirked lazily. Child. He had not been called that for almost four centuries.
The world trip to find others like him had been illuminating. He’d killed those that were weaker or bored him, spared some, crippled others; but all the Old Ones had long vanished into myth, perhaps having never existed at all. He had found evidence of the remains of a handful, and of all the artifacts he had located, only Lamia’s had echoed to the touch of his blood.
“I thought my body lost, yes, yes. But you, you, child, lovely child, you have awakened me.” The serpentine whisper took on, for a moment, the veneer of maternal approval.
Alucard thought back on his recent schedule, filled with the menial boredom of annihilating one pocket of ghouls after another, and drew a blank. He didn’t quite remember playing with ancient seals, magic, items or artifacts of late, by accident or by device. “I do not recall doing so, Lady Lamia.”
“The fragment of my body lay in this building within which you stand now in your dream, Vlad Tepes. Sealed within a sculpture of a hydra, its Holy Writ weakening over the centuries, until it reacted to the strong blood magic you invoked and was destroyed.”
Ah yes. The sack of London. Alucard smirked lazily. “I am glad to be of service, my Lady. I hope you enjoyed your stay in London.”
“This city of death… I like it, Vlad Tepes.” A papery laugh echoed around him.
“England is mine,” Alucard growled, shifting in a moment to shadow, reddened eyes winking up like jewels in his writhing darkness, menacing, but the laugh only deepened, playful.
“Do not worry. I do not intend to linger, and I do know our kind are so very territorial… especially the males. It has been so long since I was free… so very long, child, and this new world amuses me. You can have your ‘England’ when our kind once again bestride the earth.”
“No, we are-”
“But first, Vlad… first of all, here is a gift, my repayment to you.”
Pain seared through his palms, white fire that seemed to consume his hands in the dreams, ravenous and flickering, and Alucard snarled, surprised by the assault, clawing his way back to consciousness, the echo of papery laughter beneath him, then silent as he flowed out of his coffin in shadow and coalesced atop it. And stared.
The gloves he wore were now pure white.
Van Hellsing’s seals were gone.
Anderson sat up sharply as he felt a sudden jolt of power through the blood-link, looking about wildly. He recognized that for what it was – for some reason, Alucard had deactivated the binding seal upon himself – but he did not see or sense any ghouls, nor had he ever felt such a massive surge. It seemed as though Alucard himself did not care to contain such power: it leaked out into Anderson despite the priest’s frantic attempt to dampen down the link and avoid further contamination; he was shadow before he knew it, writhing in the sun, blasted out of his human form by the backlash.
Pure, raw power sang in his veins, fierce and wild and uncontrollable, he was losing himself and he couldn’t… Anderson was aware that he was laughing, hysterical and insane as he clawed blindly at the grass, his fingers shadow then human then clawed, a sibilant hissing in his ears like the slither of a hundred serpents, the surge of power both ecstasy and agony and everything in between. He was invincible, endless, immortal, greater even than a-
Then he jerked back as pain seared through his head, his undead flesh feeling as though it was suddenly on fire, heard, now, the distant, dull clink of a casing hitting the ground, the deeper, mechanical boom of the Harkonnen being reloaded.
And he was himself again, stunned, staring at his hands as his flesh healed. “Wha’… the hell?”
Squinting, panting as his senses slowly returned, he noticed the policewoman at the doorway to the mansion, her massive weapon leaning against her shoulder, her expression frightened, and she pointed upwards, wordlessly.
What he had thought at first to be a passing cloud was a storm of bats, which milled for a moment in the sunlight as though undecided, then swarmed away, to his east.
“Alucard? Wha’ the hell did that bastard do?”
He didn’t need to be called twice. Irritably, he picked himself up from the grass and sauntered back to the mansion, pausing when he passed Seras. She was shaking uncontrollably, her shoulders bowed, and from her arm sheathed in black leather, shadows boiled in a scythe-shaped, restless wing that only returned to her flesh when she caught him staring. At that, Seras smiled weakly, one of her hands going to the back of her head as though embarrassed by her weakness.
“Integral-sama has summoned us.”
“Aye.” Anderson paused, then, more gruffly, he added, “Thank ye.”
Seras blinked at him for a moment, uncomprehendingly, then she brightened. “You’re welcome, Anderson-san.”
They floated up, through the stone, until they reached Integral’s office. Within it, the master of Hellsing paced, her hands tight behind her back, smoking fitfully, not even pausing when Seras saluted. On her desk was a mahogany box, bound in silver chain, the lock at the top polished and carved intricately with writ. It hurt his eyes to even look, and he noted that Seras avoided even trying.
“Alucard has broken the seal,” Integral began curtly. “That which binds him to Hellsing as a servant.”
That explained the surge in power. “How?” Anderson demanded, appalled. Alucard was the most powerful vampire currently in existence, even in Iscariot’s extensive files. Freed to do whatever he pleased – London’s bloodbath could well be considered a minor disaster in comparison. And also… God forbid… the monster would truly be free to exert all of his considerable, unfettered will on Anderson himself.
That thought disconcerted him, angered him at the same time. He would not become the plaything of an insane monster. Even now, in the sin and shame the creature inflicted upon him on occasion, Anderson could preserve his core of self, going through the motions, meditating afterwards or reflecting on the Holy Writ. He was not sure how long he could hold against an Alucard with no limits, and Anderson shuddered, remembering the heady surge of pure power he had felt out on the lawn. It had been addictive, even that taste, so very seductive, tempting him to lose himself to it.
If Seras had not shot him, had not forced his sense of ‘self’ back together in that moment of agony, Anderson did not know what would have happened.
“I do not know,” Integral said sharply, her stress surfacing for a brief, snappish moment, then she calmed herself with a few angry drags of her cigar. “It occurred while he was sleeping.” Another agitated circle, around her desk, then she paused, her blue eyes narrowed. “The both of you…”
“Were knocked flat by the backlash, but otherwise… fine, Integral-sama. Though Alucard has gone to London.” Seras added, as an afterthought.
“I could see that.” Integral scowled out of the window. “Che. What timing. And why London? There is nothing in London now.” Tensely, she dug her fingers into her suit. “I will report this… this disaster to the Round Table. And then I will set off to London myself.”
“That leaves the matter of the two of you. Seras Victoria, Alexander Anderson. You are both his childer.” Integral faced them, seemingly unarmed, and yet Anderson could smell no fear. He smirked, slowly, realizing what she meant, while Seras had to blink.
“Ye think we’ll be turnin’ on ye.” Anderson drawled. “Now that Alucard is free.”
It was a tempting thought. With her gone, he would indeed be free. Again, even within Iscariot’s files, the Hellsing family was the only one born with the sheer accident of bloodline that allowed them, with rituals and strength of will, to place bindings upon the monsters known as the No Life Kings. Research into why this was so was mere speculation: the family’s ancestry before Abraham Van Hellsing was scattered at best.
Then he realized that it was the monster within him speaking, which tempted him, and with some effort, forced his eyes back to the blue of his humanity. When he looked back at Integral, he noticed her watching him, and she smirked, faintly, before turning to regard the other vampire.
“Integral-sama!” Seras sounded horrified. “I wouldn’t.”
“Alucard’s will is strong, and now he is unfettered.” Integral said coldly. “Perhaps it would be a matter of time before he takes over what remains of both your wills.”
“So what d’ye suggest?” He could guess.
“Neither of you have drunk Alucard’s blood, which means that neither of you are yet free of his influence.” Integral tapped the box. “But by my bloodline I can bind you to my service. It won’t break your bond with your Master, but if Alucard exerts his will on either of you, perhaps it would serve as a counterbalance to prevent you from losing yourself.”
“But,” Integral glared at Anderson for the interruption, “It will limit your abilities. Confine you to the form nearest to human. You’ll need to know the casting for release that will contact me for permission.”
“An’ if we refuse?”
“Then I destroy you both now.” Integral said, her gloved hand on the hilt of her blade, her eyes narrowed and still unafraid. “Damage control. One freed vampire is already a disaster. The fact that the two of you appear unaffected, that he has left the both of you here without a word, can only mean a handful of things.”
“One. Something has happened in London that broke the seal, and he has gone to investigate. Two. He broke the seal himself, and has fled the area for now to regroup his thoughts. Either way, you are both now liabilities to Hellsing, especially if your Master remembers to call you.”
“I trust him,” Seras said, doubtfully. “He was loyal to you, Integral-sama.”
“You can imagine I need reassurance,” Integral said evenly, staring hard at Seras, and after a moment, the policewoman’s shoulders drooped.
“Maa… of course I will accept the limiter, Integral-sama.” Seras sighed. “I’m disappointed that you even thought I would refuse.”
Integral’s gaze swung to Anderson, who grinned, feral, pleased. “Evil will slay the wicked; the foes o’ the righteous will be condemned. Much as Ah dinnae like this… ye promised me, woman. One step from God.”
Seras looked between them, uncomprehending, but Integral nodded slowly, and drew a key from her pocket, unlocking the box. Within it was a dull stone, that flashed briefly to amber when Integral picked it up. “A stone from Golgotha, stained with His blood. With this I bind you, as my ancestor once bound the Impaler.”
Alucard hated the sunlight. It made him sleepy, and he wanted nothing more now than to return to the cellars and lie in his coffin to wait for dusk. As it was, he was having a little problem concentrating on keeping all his bats on course to London; some flagged, or were worried away by the winds, and it recalled to Alucard all the myriad number of reasons why he never traveled like this save where necessary. There was nothing more embarrassing than realizing several miles later that parts of oneself were still flapping frantically in a tree somewhere, not to mention nothing more undignified than having to scour underbrush and the crowns of trees for little black patches.
He was sleepy, it was cold, and the wind was annoyingly strong for a cloud of bats attempting to reach London in a single group, and the only thing that kept his mood up was a certain malicious pleasure at how pissed Integral had to be at this moment. Alucard had to admit that he liked his ‘Master’, enjoyed needling her and being at the brunt of her foul moods, but freedom… to have freedom was a joy he had not experienced for far, far too long.
He would seek evidence of Lamia in London, and then call his little pets to him and depart for Romania, Alucard decided. Out of this gray little country with its distressing fogs and miasmic rains. As a favor for Integral he would contain England from Lamia, perhaps, but it was a secondary thought, unimportant. Give her sixty years or less and she would, after all, be dead from age, if nothing else, though he did so wish her bloodline well. They tended to be all so very entertaining, the Hellsings.
So. London. British Museum, if only to confirm that he had not somehow started hallucinating since yesterday. And then summon Seras and Alex when night came, take care of any remaining business, retrieve their coffins and hijack some means of conveyance to Romania so that he did not have to fly. Seras could, but Alex was rebellious enough that having to carry the priest to Romania would be a hassle. A train, perhaps. Or a carriage, if he wanted to be nostalgic. The first class carriage of the former would be an infinitely more comfortable place to celebrate by first having a glass of fine wine – a Chateau D’Yquem, perhaps, or a bottle of Dom Pérignon champagne. And then fucking dear Alex through the nearest flat surface.
A wicked chuckle echoed through the unnatural swarm of bats. He was looking forward to that indeed. Sweet, delicious, predictable Alex. The priest was very unlikely to enjoy Romania, and he would certainly object strenuously to the change in roles, from servants of Hellsing back to proper dominion, but he would likely accept it in time. As to Seras, Alucard knew the female vampire would follow him, even with her newfound strength of will.
Still, Alucard knew that before all of that happened, he had to make some effort to speak with Lamia about her ambitions. Humankind was too numerous now, and united, too strong for the old ways. Even in Romania he had not tried to rule overtly; and even so, ruling in the shadows, he had been defeated. A vampire that called too much attention to itself would eventually be defeated by a human, and the fallout of a Holy War directed against their kind would be inconvenient.
He was not too concerned about himself – he had learned since his defeat to Van Hellsing – but his little fledgelings were not only inexperienced and young but also prone to the strangest little human eccentricities. Alucard would not put it beyond Alex to give himself up to the Inquisitors, or Seras to try and stay by Integral’s side. Perhaps they already had. No doubt they would have sensed his freedom.
The consideration disturbed him for a moment, enough that the cloud of bats halted, indecisively, then turned again towards London. He had more pressing matters. But just to be safe, he sent a summons through the blood-link to the both of them, to meet him, and was astonished to feel something wrong.
The links were there, but they were now unclear. He could feel his childer, but could not force his will down the links. Irritable, he examined the threads of the interference in his mind, as he flew on, and recognized the twisted, runed pentagon signatures of the Hellsing line.
His next laugh was insane, pleased, and malicious all at once. Trust Integral to act so quickly! His ‘Master’ was worthy indeed. Still, with the amount of power he had now, it would only be a matter of time before he shattered any interference, but it would delay him in London.
Perhaps that was her plan. Delay him long enough so that she could bind him again.
Unfortunately, he now had the benefit of a century of Hellsing manipulation and engineering, and he was more powerful than the vampire her ancestor had faced. He did not wish her harm, but he would not hesitate if she stood in his way.
But first – London.